Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 18: WINNERS

It was a huge party here at the dragons’ lair this week, with loads of entries battling over the FF crown and over the penultimate Golden Ticket for the Flash Dogs’ prized anthology. This week in addition to some new faces, we saw the return of a few beloved and missed faces, which warmed our hearts. We like all your faces!

And thank you above all for continuing to share your extraordinary writerly talent here, and for torturing tantalizing our dear captains so. Did I laugh hysterically as they wept and anguished over their decisions, writhing in pain from the stress of it all? No, of course not — certainly not, never; that would not have been nice.

P.S., totally unrelated topic: can anyone recommend a tonic for sore ribs?

P.P.S. REMEMBER!!! Tomorrow’s the last chance to earn a Golden Ticket anywhere. Join us here Tuesday, April 14, at 7am Washington DC time for our first-ever Flash Dash. One prompt. Thirty minutes to write. And the prize: a Golden Ticket and a Flash! Friday coffee mug, YEAH BABY!!!

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Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

First up: let’s award that gorgeous, sparkly thing!!!! The winner of the first Flash! Friday Golden Ticket — for her inventive, clever tale “Pay Attention” — is

BECKY CONWAY!!!

Becky, please contact me here with your email address, and Flash Dogs HQ will be in touch. Congratulations!

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Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark A. King say

I know you hear it a lot, but the stories this week were simply incredible. Our job was not hard, as most of the stories were just fantastic – the only hard part was leaving some behind, knowing that you might be saddened that your story was not picked. This doesn’t make them inferior; what any individual gets out of reading a story is highly personal and can’t be predicted. Keep going! Next week might be your week.

While I’m here, I know our beloved Dragon Queen will be seeking applications for judges soon. It is hard work, but the most rewarding work you can get in writing circles; for every hour you give, you will get back multitudes more in terms of inspiration and happiness. Which leads me on to say I’ll be so sad when my time is finished and I no longer get to work with the genius of my fellow judge. –MK

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For visions of aging James Bond actors and reflections of a tired 007: Josh Bertetta, “The Manliest of Man’s Manly Men

For cheeky reference to St. Peter (the keeper of heaven) as “Pete’s a good guy”: N J Crosskey, “Heaven’s Gate

For mischievous reference to judge Shoemaker (but it’s judge King that has the red wig in reality): Carolyn Ward, “Old Dog, New Trick

For giving us the chills: Joidianne4eva, “Suffer the Little Children

For a Special Brew of dietary delight: A.J. Walker, “Alas Smith and Jones

For the art of keeping it simple and doing the best things in a story really well: Valerie Brown, “The Thaw. ” 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Michael Seese, “Spare Change

MK: Sometimes a story has winning characters, or mesmerising plot, perhaps an unforgettable beginning, or an ending that completely changes everything. With this story, it has wonderful elements throughout. For me, it was the ending that made it really stand out. The ‘voice’ of a character is fundamental to a story and this was done well; but the ending made me re-read it time and time again. ‘It’s nearly quitting time. Soon, I will sit down with my counterpart, and divvy up the souls. Those who gave, He can call His. The others…’

TS: The twist completely took me in on this one. At first, I was imagining a typical street-side beggar, expounding on the sadness of humanity that passes a needy person on the curb. When I got to the part about the artist’s portrayal, I got that wonderful “Oooohhh” moment when I thought that it was perhaps an angel or even Jesus himself, coming among humanity in disguise. So when the ending finally swung around and I realized who was the actual narrator, I got chills. They’re multiplyin’. 😉 Really enjoyed the frame on this: begging fore and aft. It wraps it up into a nice bedeviled sandwich. Well done!

Michael Seese, “Amazing Disgrace

MK: Firstly, I have to say that I loved the title. Unexpectedly, we had a large number of religious stories, and nearly all of them were excellent. This one appealed to me as Amazing Grace is a wonderful hymn (and there were references to the lyrics in the story). But this story has a message that transcends religion, goes beyond time, and mirrors the fall of angels to the fall of mankind.

TS: I grew up with Amazing Grace as one of the songs with which I was most familiar, so reading this skillful twist hit home. This piece really spoke to me. Loved the description of “a man’s fall from grace.” “No, it’s a series of steps, steps taken willfully despite, or in spite of, the ever-steepening grade that I tried to convince myself was not a decline at all.” That’s a line that will stick with me for a long time. Of course, wrapping up the piece with Dante (who happens to be one of my favorites) was an excellent choice. Wonderful job.

Nancy Chenier, “Dreaming of Midsummer Nights.”

MK: Perhaps you know by now that we are both partial to beautiful words, and oh, what words and images this story gave us: ‘grubby perch of his fingers’, ‘glossy thorax’, ‘ichor oozed bitterness’, ‘ floral sprites’ and ‘hyacinthine perfume of the passages between worlds’ – just some of the wonderment served to us. I’m off now to find the Goblin Traders, before Tamara gets there.

TS: Fay! Robin! Goblin Traders! Where do I sign up!? Obviously, someone has found my penchant for sprites and all things fantasy. What an incredibly imaginative take! I groaned out an “Ewww” for the butterfly consumption, but was incredibly relieved to find out that Robin didn’t eat some poor Fay by mistake. I love the fantastical twists throughout: “(not Fay!)” “In earlier days, Robin would have marked it in night dust for a midnight exchange.” “…the coin shivered, then turned into an acorn.” Really enjoyed this one. Great job! And Mark, you’re too late, I’ve already found the Goblin Traders and treated them to “tea.” They’re in eternal sleep now. But nice try. 😉

THIRD RUNNER UP

Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea, “New Recruit

MK: I love the fact that the lead character is a girl in the story; the picture was ambiguous, but most chose to depict the person sitting as a man or boy. This is such a brilliantly poised story. We have beautiful words and images such as ‘world a great disco-ball’, ‘shattered panels of mirrored glass’ and ‘reflective chaos’. Then we have the layered emotional context and character building of ‘fill of life’s lemons’, ‘considered disposable’ and the wonderful ‘mosaic of unrealized destruction’. We also have the seasons appearing as characters (nice work), before it draws to a conclusion we can almost see coming. A street-savvy entry – well done.

TS: The first phrase that caught my attention in this one was: “…she would be the shattered panels of mirrored glass…” Gorgeous line with crushing imagery, which then carried through the rest of the piece in fragments of theme. I saw the shattered panels again in Bug’s cold hardness, in the willingness to roughly grind her misfortunes in someone’s eyes, and in the “mosaic of unrealized destruction.” Such a solid statement of character, which is what we were particularly focusing on this week (the Spy). I, like Mark, enjoyed the switch to a female lead. It was different, and we quite loved a street-savvy Katniss Everdeen showing up in the story (who, as you may know, also had to buy her ticket to “freedom” through the “mosaic of unrealized destruction.”). Nicely done!

SECOND RUNNER UP

Betsy Streeter, “The Ballad of the Spy and the Assassin.”

MK: Such a fantastic title; it drew me in from the very start. I love this gloriously skewed take on love. There is someone for everyone, they say, and in this story we have love crossing the professional boundaries and spanning the globe while the shadows of Istanbul conjure images of blood cleansed daggers. I thought this was the keystone of the piece, ‘You work in secrecy and silence and I am a blaring siren’ – it says everything about their roles and their relationship in a fraction of words. Delightful.

TS: What a fantastic, twisted, interesting, I-can’t-look-away-it’s-so-*insert adjective here* take on the prompt! The first line pulled me in; so much pathos in just these words: “The thing I miss the most…” And then the author goes on to wrap me up into a love story, and SUCH a love story; who ever thinks of the assassin and the spy together? I love this: “No one can hide from you. Except for me.” It’s that line that pegs the Spy as the other half of the Assassin, that pulls the two together into a perfect, completed puzzle. Which makes the last line so much more heart-breaking: “I ran my fingers over its tattered edges and checked my messages for the next job.” *sob* Beautifully done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

David Hartley, “The Invisible Man.”

MK: It is rare that a story will knock us both sideways and we find it really hard to pinpoint exactly why. I suspect this story may not appeal to everyone, but this is the very point of writing, it was magical to at least two people this week, so I know for sure that many of the stories that we haven’t picked will be magical to others.

The take is vastly different. We have the characters beautifully described as birds, their personalities, their movements, even their undercover names are fabulously articulated through the variety of birds. However, there is also a sense of the story itself darting, watching, soaring, preening and deceiving through the very clever way the words are constructed within the sentences. This was brilliant and breathless avian adventure and one that we truly adored. Congratulations to you.

TS: I read this story over and over because I loved the bird-like quickness of it. The structure perfectly aligned with the content, and was so skillfully done, I had to enjoy it again and again. I love the idea that the Spy and his cohorts had bird names; loved that everything they did was with the startling fleetness that comes with birds. This sentence blew me away: “But a ruffle of feathers, a quick preen and there; the drop is made. He waits, casual, then swoops away.” So quick and light, like the “sparrow, starling, swift” (alliteration, did you notice?); this entire story played out in my head as vividly as if I was sitting in front of a screen watching it. Brilliantly done; hats off to the author. This is one that will go in my bank of stories “I wish I had written, ’cause it’s just so awesome.” 🙂

And now: for her 3rd time, it’s the dearly loved and very talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

MARIE MCKAY!!!

for

“Street Level”

MK: This style of writing immediately resonated with me. It reminded me of so many of my favourite films that involve cities of darkness, corruption and crime. There were elements from Blade Runner (and many other great films) that captured me in a stranglehold. In this story we have wonderful images that also define the characters ‘purple-stained cheek’, ‘crimson lips whisper’, ‘rose blossoms of lipstick’ and ‘sweet smell of deceit on his shirt’. We have the repetition of ‘I spy’ – leading us to question who the narrator might be and also acting as the glue to what initially looks like separate stories. But this is the true winning element of this story, for the characters and stories are linked. The sadness of the abandoned boy becoming ‘solider’ for his mother who walks the streets ‘seducing the night’, he is a victim caught in a crossfire of words and violence. The cold bed of the wife – her husband cheating, but he’s seeing the woman from the first paragraph with ‘crimson lips’. And so it goes on. Emotion. Great writing. World building. Complex and deep characters. Story progression. All in 200 odd words: and that my friends, is why Flash! Friday is the greatest show in earth. My warmest congratulations to the winning writer.

TS: I was going to try to add something brilliant and profound onto what Mark already wrote, but he already said everything I wanted to say. If I were to copy over every phrase that I absolutely loved about this piece, the entire thing would be copied and pasted –> here. I was truly amazed by everything about this story, but particularly loved the repetition of “I spy with my little eye,” the tragedy that weaves through in the various stories, which, as Mark said, are all linked into one. The imagery, holy schnikeys! The purple stain “a badge of honor.” The “rose blossoms of lipstick” and the “sweet smell of deceit.” “I spy a little girl whose mom makes pancakes while family life is laundered.”

This piece is incredibly gripping and vivid with a strong voice. Ingenious. Congrats; I’m completely bowled over.

Congratulations, Marie! Such a pleasure seeing your name back up top again; it’s been too long!! Here’s your updated, magnificently fiery winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Street Level

I spy with my little eye the kid with the purple-stained cheek. A badge of honour bestowed on him since his mom started seducing the night. Her crimson lips whisper from hidden corners the price of dark secrets and lies. So the kid becomes her little street soldier beating back horrible names with his armory of sticks and stones.

I spy with my little eye the wife whose bed is cold while her husband kisses crimson lips. For now, she ignores the rose blossoms of lipstick on his neck and the sweet smell of deceit on his shirt.

I spy a little soldier looking lost early one morning, panic filling his hollow, sleepless eyes. He knows what he’s going to find before he even starts searching.

I spy a little girl whose mom makes pancakes while family life is laundered. The blood spatter on clothes, a distorted echo of the passion her husband once sought. Stains removed, ironed out, folded away into drawers. A disinfectant smell clears the air. Domesticity restored.

It is then I am seen.

The police bundle me into the back of their car; they don’t listen when I say: I spied with my little eye, the fallout of criss-crossed lives.

FFwinner-Web

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