Archive | July 2014

Sixty Seconds with: Taryn Noelle Kloeden

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Taryn Noelle Kloeden.  Read her winning story here, then take one minute to get to know her better.

1) What about the prompt inspired you to write your winning piece? I saw the woman and knew I wanted her to cause the wreck somehow. Siren was my next thought!

2) How long have you been writing flash? I’ve been knowingly writing FF for a few months, but have been writing very short works for years.

3) What do you like about flash? It’s a great way to sharpen skills like characterization, pacing. Plus it keeps me writing even when I’m “too busy”.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers? Don’t overthink it. I have found my best stories come when I write sans judgement. Judging is for editing!

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? Evan Montegarde‘s a Flash! Friday regular who takes the prompts in unexpected but inspired directions. He’s also my dad!

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which? Can’t say that I do, but I love Flash! Friday so might search out some more! {Editor’s Note: find a list of more contests here!}

7) What other forms do you write (novels, poetry, articles, etc)? My main project’s a fantasy series called The Fenearen Chronicles, but I also write short fiction and creative non-fiction.

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Fantasy is my go-to “home genre”. It’s what I grew up reading and I love the freedom it affords!  

9) Tell us about a WIP. The Fenearen Chronicles is a YA epic fantasy series. I’ve written the first book and am halfway through the second!

10) How do you feel about dragons? Alas, I’ve never met one. {Editor’s Note: WHAT!?} Although I have a pet snake who is kind of a mini-dragon (minus the fire-breathing).



Tom Sawyer, “The Solemn Oath.” Public domain artwork by True Williams.

I don’t know about you, but my nerves are totally shot. If you’ve been watching the voting these past five days, you’ve seen the crazy NASCAR-style intensity as various writers jostled for various places. The writing (and reading) worlds turned out in magnificent numbers to support these ten finalists. Have I mentioned recently how incredible you all are?!

Some thanks are in order:

* To the voters, some of whom went to extraordinary lengths to find devices on which to support their favorite writer, turning in a whopping 1,400+ votes.

* To the Flash! Friday community, for supporting these finalists with comments, tweets, Facebooking, votes, and just generally being awesome in your awesomely awesome awesomeness.

* To the ten finalists. Though the final winner was chosen by wheeling, dealing, and conniving in the spirit of Tom Sawyer, each of you deserves a medal in your own right. Your stories were fresh, funny, creepy, original, crisp, sweet, raucous, and a wonderful read in every respect. Hats off and heartfelt congratulations to all ten of you:

MT Decker

Rasha Tayaket

Karl A. Russell

Tamara Shoemaker

Kristen Falso-Capaldi

Robert Marazas

Margaret Locke

Alissa Leonard

Mark A. King

Toni Morrow Wyatt

FINALLY: Please come back tomorrow (Wednesday) to celebrate the latest Flash! Friday winner, Taryn Noelle Kloeden, and read her #SixtySeconds interview. And then come back Friday for the next Flash! Friday contest, because writing doesn’t stop with a single contest on a single day, no matter how deliciously dragony. There is always writing going on, and you are always welcome here.


* 2nd runner up, with 264 votes: MT Decker

* 1st runner up, with 274 votes: Toni Morrow Wyatt

And in FIRST PLACE, with an astounding 461 votes, our first-ever Dog Days summer writing contest winner:


Congratulations, Margaret! You fought hard for this one — don’t think we didn’t see you trying to get Colin Morgan and Benedict Cumberbatch over to vote for you! — and for that conniving alone, the win is unshakably, unquestionably, entirely, absolutely deserved. In addition, your story so beautifully encapsulates summer mischief, and your final line adds a powerful layer of depth which turns the story on its head in the best kind of way. Great job, and congratulations! Wear your Tom Sawyer paintbrush with pride.

***All three winners please contact me here at your convenience to discuss how you’d like your winnings.***

CONGRATULATIONS again to all of youwhen a writer wins, we all win!!!! — and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.


Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 33: WINNERS!

Thank you for coming to the winners’ party! It’s always a good time here at Flash! Friday, despite this week’s tempests and shipwrecks (maybe because of them??), and I’m so grateful for your generosity in sharing your time and talents with this community. 

Thanks also to the over 900 of you who have voted so far at the #DogDays contest. You’ve got a little over 24h left (until 11:59pm Monday, DC time). Be sure to read the stories & vote for your favorite if you haven’t already. We’ve got some strong leaders, but a lot can happen in 24 hours! If your favorite is short votes, be sure to tweet/ Facebook/ megaphone for votes on their behalf. 

Find the Dog Days voting page here and in the sidebar. Winners will post at 7:30am Tuesday morning. 


Judge Phil Coltrane says: My experience with the Flash! Friday community is that it’s an amazingly talented group with a wide variety of writing styles and genre preferences. I already knew that judging the contest would be a challenge.

Imagine my trepidation to learn that the prompt for my first judging experience was a painting based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’ve made no secret that my childhood interests were space and science fiction, not sailing ships and Shakespeare. {Editor’s Note: Caliban made me do it.}

Many of your stories were enjoyable reads on their own that excelled in certain areas — so many that it almost seems unfair to nominate a winner. But judging is a solemn and important duty, and failure to do so carries penalty of dragonfire. So, without further rambling, here are this week’s winners.




H.L. Pauff, Untitled. We join this romance already in progress: a plan gone awry, and a heroine whose hopes are literally sinking before her eyes. Between her two contrasting choices: “the Baron’s bedchamber” vs. “the icy water”, she chooses an almost certain death as a free woman. An impressive use of genre conventions to hint at a backstory too large for the word limit.

David Shakes, “The Rising Tide.” A rallying cry set to common meter: this stiff-upper-lip commander makes no illusion: “The worst is yet to come…” The following stanzas hammer home the hopelessness of this growing metaphorical tempest, yet there is still hope for the greater cause of freedom, and a future “absolved of all our sin.” Beautifully written to fit the rhythm of the poem.

Kat Lewis, “What You Smell Before Death.” From its pulp horror title to its graphic imagery of the Kraken, this story is pure horror. All we see of the protagonist is his powerlessness: imprisoned on a ship, unable even to raise alarm about their oncoming doom. We see a snapshot of his three last moments: of imprisonment, of horrifying freedom, and of his life. The imagery builds a Lovecraftian atmosphere with a limited word count. 


Eliza Archer, “Secrets.” Here we see a fascinating study of the interplay between freedom and control, love and hate, that draws the reader into this retelling of The Tempest. Although Prospero retains the illusion of control, his magic appears limited — to hatred, to secrecy, and to harm. It is Miranda’s own spells that “bridge the gaps” to provide the love and care needed to secure their freedom. Yet Miranda’s “spell cast out to net true love” again imposes control, securing her freedom and future by ensnaring her Prince.

Far from being a pawn in Prospero’s plans, this Miranda is much more in command of her own destiny, though possibly not so different from her secret-keeping father as she might like to think. As a whole, this reinterpretation provides us a better developed characterization of Miranda that is more relatable to modern readers.


Laura Carroll Butler, “Away.” “Every picture she drew was a masterpiece, anything she wrote was Shakespeare.” The parallelism of this line drew me into the story. These are the lies we tell our children, but reality will always have more burger flippers than Bards. Nor is this father perfect: although he promises his daughter the world, we see him pass out “with the smell of whiskey on his breath.” Yet he is not a bad father: the story’s central theme is the contrast between the clear-cut lines and neat happy endings of fantasy and the harsher truths of the real world.

Her father was not a perfect man, and she is not a princess in waiting, but “the best of many lessons her father taught her” is that gift of reading. It is that gift that carries her through the daily humdrum of her mundane reality by enabling her, for brief times, to get away. These are flawed, human characters to whom we can relate, and a powerful idea that we readers implicitly understand. 


SJ O’Hart, “Ariel.” From beginning to end, this story makes a plaything of language, to good effect. Phrases such as “logic forbid” and “Newton’s own English” help paint a picture of a rigid, logical society. The anastrophe at the end, “universe entire,” is reminiscent of Shakespeare, both tying this logical world together with the references to The Tempest, and signaling a reversal in the protagonist’s fortunes.

The story veers from the expected by comparing the father-daughter relationship to Ariel and Sycorax. In fact, the more obvious Miranda and Prospero comparison initially seems more fitting: his strict discipline keeps his daughter under his own control, shielded from “frivolous” knowledge, for his own ends.

It is only through her plotting and manipulation that she becomes Ariel, a spirited force of nature, and gains her own freedom. In the end, although she escapes from a prison imposed by her father and by society at large, her drastic actions in doing so force us to wonder: what force has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting universe? Overall, the author’s masterful use of language builds the setting, and lends a sense of unity to the story.

And now: for her very first time (woohoo!), it’s Flash! Friday




“Siren Song”

From the beginning, this story takes the unforeseen path of interpreting the prompt as Greek mythology rather than Shakespeare. In mythology, we often encounter murderous monsters whose motives remain a mystery. Perhaps no monster could be less sympathetic than the Siren, a creature in the guise of a femme fatale, whose sole purpose in life is to lure sailors to their watery graves with their alluring song. At first glance, writing a first-person character piece about such a monster seems an odd choice.

The Siren’s thoughts are completely preoccupied with her victims. She knows nothing of who they are, nor how she appears to them, but only that they are “nothing more than slaves” to her song. Yet she wonders (habitually) whether they deserve such a fate. She even engages in rationalization — “[p]erhaps they were vicious mercenaries” — and briefly entertains the thought of setting them free.

The plain language of the Siren’s thoughts conveys that she is not a cackling witch, a mindless creature, or a being of pure evil. Her motivations in luring her victims have nothing to do with the victims. This Siren is philosophical about these sailors, almost to the point of showing compassion.

I liked that the story manages to hint at the prompt’s obvious themes of romance, heartbreak, loneliness, and death, without actually being about any of those things. It’s a quiet, introspective piece — set against the events of a grisly shipwreck at the hands of a mythological monster. In the end, the Siren of this story is a creature free to speculate to herself as much as she wishes, but just as the doomed sailors were enslaved by their own appetites (whether pure or prurient), this Siren is also a slave to her own very literal appetites.

For its original take on the prompt, its creative exploration of the thoughts of a maligned mythological creature, and the ending revelation of the Siren’s true motives, “Siren Song” is this week’s winning entry.


Congratulations, Taryn! Below beckons your compellingly new winner’s badge for your wall. Here also is your rapacious, starving winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Siren Song

Dulcet tones carry across the restless waves, whispering promises of a love doomed to never be. I pace along my rocky hunting grounds and wonder what the doomed men see me as today. Do the loyal sailors see their wives stranded alone? Or am I a long-lost love, or a beautiful red-headed fantasy? Whatever mirage my song has thrust into their minds, it is working. Soon their ship, and their bodies, would be broken on the rocks at my feet.

As the men, now nothing more than slaves to my call, force their vessel ever closer, I wonder, not for the first time, if they truly deserve such a bloody end. Who were these sailors I had ensnared? Perhaps they were vicious mercenaries, or simply trying to provide for their families. Ought I grant these unfortunate souls their freedom? But as the ship and her crew shatter and drown, I know it matters not.

Because I am so hungry.