Archive | November 2015

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 51: WINNERS

Welcome to Monday and our results day! Have I ever told you how much I love Mondays? I love them dearly. A whole week of days to spend. How decadent! How luxurious! No mistakes yet (as dear Anne “with an e” Shirley would say — by the by, happy birthday, Ms Montgomery!), nothing but hope and promise and fresh, abundant grace to fling to the world’s corners. Thank you for being a part of this particular Monday, last one of November, as we welcome a whole new month tomorrow (!), and very soon another year, can you stand it?! May we put all those hours to good use. I want your gorgeous novels in my grubby talons.

Two more global #Spotlights left, one tomorrow with Carin Marais sharing from South Africa, and next week our final one with F.E. Clark from Scotland. What a thrill these interviews have been; I’m so grateful to all of you who took (and are taking!) part. Thank you!

And please remember to mark your calendars for this Saturday, December 5, at 11:30am Washington, DC time, for our final Flash Dash (with Cash)! You’ll have 30 minutes to write & post your story, and there’ll be a cash prize for the winner.

Finally: a treasure trove of thanks to Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier and IfeOluwa Nihinlola. You’ve faithfully navigated continents and bus schedules to bring us textured, nuanced, thoughtful choices and comments, month after month. I have long respected you both as writers and judges, and I expect great things out of both of you in the future. Thank you for giving of your time and marvelous brains to the FF community. You’re awesome, both. Thank you.  

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Here are Dragon Team Seven’s final comments:   

NC: Our last round falls over Thanksgiving weekend in the US. I’m grateful (and am going to miss) everything about this place. Flash Friday has done incredible things for my confidence and productivity as a writer. I’m ever indebted to Rebekah for providing an incredible environment for whelplings to try their wings. Thank you, oh, Dragony One. I look forward to following your future endeavors. Thank you, too, to my partner in crime, IfeOluwa. It’s been amazing working with you across the many time zones. Lastly, I’m grateful for this incredible community for coming together, crafting mind-blowing fiction week after week, and encouraging one other with positive feedback. You have my awe and appreciation.

Going back to story element + picture prompt left me nostalgic indeed. Despite the home stretch for NaNoWriMo, we still ended up with forty-three predatory tales stalking the streets of Stockholm. Thank you for sending off Dragon Team 7 in such style.

INToday, I’m that little child in Sound of Music, who crawls up the stair, with her eyes on the audience of family and friends as she sings goodbye. It’s been amazing being both a judge and participant in Flash! Friday. I cannot thank Rebekah enough for this space, for the work she has done these three years in providing a place where I’ve learnt and grown. And also, to Nancy, my partner during this judging round, who does all the hard work with seemingly-effortless brilliance, I say a big thank you. You all have written stories of great quality every week, and seem eager to do this on and on for the rest of time. I thank you for being such fantastic writers, and for submitting your stories for us to take a look at. O dabo. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Voima Oy, “Hunter’s Moon.” NC: Gloriously ethereal. I feel like I’m stalking a dreamland with the red-booted hunter, and I’m left haunted by the image of the dark-haired girl “waiting for the light to change”.

Stephen Shirres, “Where Is He?” IN: Hunter arrives on the scene with all the emotions, thoughts and movements of the hunted, and keeps the subterfuge till strength is sapped from the hunted, who thinks he’s the hunter.

M.T. Decker, “The Hart Is a Lonely Hunter.” NC: the wordplay in this is the most exquisite I’ve read in a long time. That the hunterly puns are sustained line after line just blows my mind.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Karl A. Russell, “The Nice Guy.”

NC: I love the set up with her on the edge of the tub like La Femme Nikita, leading me to believe she’s an assassin. That misconception stays with me all the way until the second half of the climactic sentence: “all the evidence his wife needs”. I’m left feeling as sheepish as the target. And the nice guy (sort of, as he’s an adulterer) wins in the end (again, sort of). 

IN: The word ‘shooting’ in the first line of this story carries with it two connotations that keep the tension for the first part of this story: shooting bullets or shooting images? Midway, I realise it’s just a camera. Nice Guy will survive, just might lose his wife. But again, Nice Guy does what nice guys do and I’m not sure he’ll lose her after all.

Firdaus Parvez, “The Hunter Games.” 

NC: Pop culture references from the title to the panicked request for beaming up. This one made me laugh. I could just imagine the hazing that would go on in a future like this. Grunts are sent on frivolous missions and unceremoniously dumped to find their own embarrassing way out.

IN: This read funny when I imagined Mike as Wes Crusher of Star Trek: TNG, making doughnut runs on earth as punishment for messing up the holodeck and Will Riker and Geordie behind the transporter consoles, having a good laugh. All of that is longhand for: I enjoyed this piece enough to think of it in terms of Star Trek.

Bill Engleson, “Morning on the Verge

NC: Long after I read this one, two images refuse to leave my brain: a festering finger rubbing plaque back into bleeding gums (I mean, really: Bravo), and the sleeping-bagged woman crunched in a doorway with a “noisy medley of old grey socks”. I enjoyed the transformation of dark heart, from accusation to self-reflection.

IN: This piece is effortlessly dark and sober. There are faux-questions, faux-apologies, faux-discoveries. The choice of sentences and narrator’s uncertain voice gives this story a certain duality. Nothing is certain, but, in the end, the narrator is on the verge of realising the truth about himself.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Wish.”

NC: Beautifully tragic symmetry in this one, with the wishes gracing the first and last lines. I’m mourning right with the narrator, who hunts for puzzle pieces in the crowd for hints of the deceased lover (I love, too, that the genders of the mourner and the deceased could be any configuration at all). The reveal that it was death by suicide—It’s so hard to be told in a note—is simple as it is heart-rending.

IN: We’ve all being there: seeing parts of people we love in other people. There’s that urge to report the details to our loved ones: I saw someone with ear lobes like yours today. The absence of that ability to tell, and the hints that there was even no motivation to observe or tell in the first place, makes this such a sad story. The disembodied nature of a suicide note makes the absence even more poignant.

THIRD RUNNER UP

M.T. DeckerOld Friends

NC: There were a few tasty vampire-esque pieces this week, but this one stood out. One, for the fact that the entities don’t necessarily have to be vampires. Any immortal being would work. Two, for the shifting of tension throughout. The opening offers a perfect layering of mystery and conflict: the mystery of the stranger is overshadowed by the mystery of the Aldruna herself, who has been around since the ‘old days’ for longer than a normal lifespan. And then there are the suspicious villagers to contend with. Their banter ramps up the tension as it does the mystery (“How old a friend are you talking?”). The reader is not quite released on the “smolder” line (nor is Aldruna) as sexual tension replaces the danger.

IN: This read like the opening of a western. Say a western like the Rango, that story of the fearless chameleon. Okay, maybe not that last part. But Nancy helped me make the vampire connection and I realised how well layered this piece is. Something about the sparse descriptions and the loaded references opens it up to multiple perspectives. Then that conversation just keeps the tension intact like a loaded spring.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Foy S. Iver, “The Miserable Ones” 

NC: Oh, magnificent world-building! The compelling voice (of a flippant hunter droid) makes me overlook the fact s/he regards human life as disposable. Love the vernacular throughout: son of a bleeder, bit-strapped, Cog. The line “You can’t trust anything that volatile” says so much about the values of our new overlords. Despite the sneer and speciesist attitude of the narrator, it’s obvious that Val has maintained the best of his humanity, and thus completely deserving of sympathy—and perhaps the hunter felt it too: the failure mentioned in the opening may be that Jav let him go, again. I want to read a novel version of this in the worst way. {Editor’s Note: MWAHHAHAHAHA! Very funny.}

IN: Apparently, robots/droids can be sassy too, and in the worst way possible. The dual possibilities in the ending make for an interesting reading. Jav either kills Val, fails humanity; or lets him go and fails justice. Just by considering the dilemma of his situation, Jav seems to have failed already. And that last line, the emotions laden in the calling of the name as a greeting: Perf!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Nicolette Stephens, “The Cuckoo Clock.” 

NC: I was all set up for this one to be humorous what with a clock “standing the test of time” in a long-vacant house. Was I ever in for a surprise. The POV seems to be standard omniscient but turns out to be third person limited to that of the clock itself—a creepy discovery. The use of the door slamming as a transition from vacancy to new residents is brilliant. The liveliness of the concrete details in that transition paragraph sharply contrast to the emptiness of the previous paragraphs. The figurines evoking a smile from the unwitting woman for their “lifelike” appearance creates sinister irony, which is confirmed in the last line. Love the link between time and patience.

IN: At first, the use of ‘loomed’ in the first paragraph looked out of place to me with the clock references. But as the story progressed and the clock became more detailed, it seemed perfect a description for such a patient hunter that, essentially, loomed over the telling of the story itself. Through sensuous imagery, we are made to know the new residents of the house just enough to be scared for what horror the swinging pendulum has in store for them.

And now: for her very first time (and in the nick of time!), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

BECKY SPENCE!!!

for

“I Spy With My Little Eye

NC: The strength of this one is the way in which it zooms (pun slightly intended) into the details–leaning into the eyepiece, grainy monochrome streets—thus involving the reader in the investigation. The narrative leads the reader along, equating the hunter with a photographer, perhaps a private investigator, at worst a stalker (ten shades of grey is not quite fifty, but could signal a possessive lover). As all of the best twists do, the twist surprises but doesn’t come out of nowhere. “He had to move quickly…” takes on unexpected meaning, from racing to the location depicted in the photo to the sudden surrealism of plucking an entity directly from the photo itself. The apparent cruelty with which he treats his subject might as well be that of a possessive lover. The final note left me with shivers. A well done flash.

IN: Like Nancy, I came out of this story with thoughts of the possibility of the characters in this story being a couple. This happens for me because of the way the story’s male character searches out the lady. (See where his fingers caressed the image as he scanned for his target? Creep!) The story also begs for a reading about the kind of power the man has over the lady: about how he hunts for her and removes her from a scene she clearly wants to be part of; and how he silences her by putting her in a jar, a vacuum of his own choosing.

Congratulations, Becky! What fun seeing you take the dragon crown in one of the very last opportunities: your writing has kept us all enthralled for some time now, and it seems only right! Here’s your brand new winner’s page. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

I Spy With My Little Eye

He picked up the photo, placed it beneath the microscope. Leaning into the eye piece the metal was cold against his socket. It scraped cruelly against his skin. His fingers caressed the image. Scanning for his target.

It was easier in colour. Something bright to pick up on, a dash of red or a tone of blue, a spectrum to seek. In black and white it was light and shadows. Only a contrast to work with, ten shades of grey.

He heightened the magnification, twisting the microscope tight to his eye. Searching through the grainy monochrome streets. There! She was there, at last. He had to move quickly before he lost her again.

Reaching into the photo, his fingers pruned as the chemicals gnawed at his skin. He pinched his fingers around her, plucked her from the scene. Selecting a jar from the shelf he dropped her into the vacuum, tightened the lid on her screams.

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 51

So glad to see you back — thanks for coming! And Happy Thanksgiving to our dear American dragons who, I trust, loaded up on (roasted) pumpkin (roasted) pie, as dragons are wont to do this time of year. 

Today marks the 2nd to last round of Flash! Friday before our final Flashversary. (For those of you who missed last week’s announcement, Flash! Friday will be closing up shop following December 11’s Flashversary contest. Which, by the by, has loads of prizes, like a small mountain of books, Flash! Friday posters and mugs, and WHO KNOWS WHAT MADNESS MAY TAKE ME?!?! Tell your mother, tell your friends, and let’s make these final couple of contests the BIGGEST EVER!)  

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Announcements:

  • ONE FINAL #FlashDash, that ridiculous, harried contest where you’ve only got 30 minutes after the prompt posts to write your story! the date has been chosen: it will take place SATURDAY, December 5, at 11:30 am New York time. Mark your calendars, because I won’t be tweeting personalized reminders for this event. Cash prize for the winner! 
  • Reminder: I will leave the Dragon Emporium open through December 31, in case you want to grab a FF mug or any other souvenirs. On January 1 the store will close permanently.

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DC2Today it’s our last wild round of flash fiction judged by Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier & IfeOluwa Nihinlola. Only two more chances to win our FF champ e-badge, so you’ll want to be sure to read their judge pages (just click on their names!) to see how to curry favor in the finest of styles. 

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.  

* Today’s required word count:  150 words +/- 10 (140 – 160 words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (min 140, max 160 words, excluding title/byline), and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new or forgetful, be sure to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday.

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.

AND HERE IS YOUR NOSTALGIC PROMPT:

The beginning of Year Three featured a double-edged prompt, and that’s where we’re going today: both a photo and a required story element. To be eligible for today’s contest, your story must include BOTH parts.

(1) Today I’ve chosen character. The below character (not gender specific) MUST play a CENTRAL role in your story. Make it obvious, y’all.

 hunter

 

(2) REQUIRED PHOTO PROMPT (your story MUST RELATE to the below photo):

Stockholm cityscape. CC2.0 photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho.

Stockholm cityscape. CC2.0 photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho.

 

Sixty Seconds IV with: Marie McKay

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)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Marie McKay.  She’s one of those rare and beautiful writers who has been with us from the beginning (her first week was Year One, Week 26!). Today marks her FOURTH win, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her. Take a moment to read her bio & her winnings stories here. Then take another minute or two to get to know her better below. (Note that four-time winners are never held to the word count rule!)

1) What about the 100 Years of Solitude prompts inspired your winning piece?  The words ‘inescapability of family’ really triggered my story. The world of Carers, I am one myself, can be riddled with contradiction and guilt. It’s very easy to feel guilty when you need time to yourself; after all, you love the very person you need time away from. It quite often takes an outsider to tell you it’s acceptable to be kind to yourself. Carers and the job they do can go unnoticed. I do think societies need to look after their Carers.

2) You’ve been writing with us since Year One, and this is your 4th (!!) win. Tell us about your flash fiction journey. I started on a site called CAKE which was a wonderful site for new writers. On that site, I ‘met’ SJ O’Hart who had written on FF, so I quickly joined in. My stories do tend to be dark, and I do like the spaces to do some of the work. I think I’ve developed my style to a degree, but there’s a long way to go. I like to experiment with form – and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but playing safe all the time in flash seems to me like a wasted opportunity.

3) You’ve written SO MUCH flash with FF. What are a couple of your favorite prompts (and/or favorite stories of others’ and/or yours that rose from them)?  Oh, I could be here forever! I loved Jacki Donnellan’s Flashversary winning story. Jacki’s writing style is crisp and beautiful. I loved Casey Rose Frank’s story ‘She Walks‘ that was in response to the Pilgrim’s Progress novel prompt. It is haunting and clever. All of Chris Milam’s winning stories (any of his stories, in fact). Steph Ellis’ first winning story, ‘Holiday Deals‘ (I was runner up that week, but I’m not bitter because her story booted mine right out of the dragon’s lair.) Mark A. King’s ‘The Dance of the Origami Girl and the Porcelain Boy‘ is breathtaking. Prompts I loved, a photo of two women in safety glasses, allowed me to write one of my own winning stories,’The Factory.’ The picture prompt of the three guys looking at fish tanks along with the word prompt ‘farmer’ caused quite a stir, and it allowed me to write a story that was a blatant tribute to Flash Friday and its High Dragoness. But as I said, I could go on forever.

4) What’s going on in your writerly life? During the summer, I had the privilege of meeting Sarah Miles who writes at FF and runs the publishing company Paper Swans Press. I was included in their anthology ‘Schooldays.’ I had the great pleasure of reading my flash piece at the Edinburgh Book Festival, as a result. And now, I am currently working on my Flashdogs anthology stories!

5) Flash is so different from how it was a few years ago–so many writers these days are SO GOOD. How can writers take their flash to the next level? Stay away from cliche.

6) What’s a writerly bad habit you have (or used to have) that you’ve overcome (or are working to overcome)? I think the problem I need to overcome more than anything is confidence. I constantly battle with a voice inside my head that tells me I am a terrible writer and that I am kidding myself that  I can be at all successful. And even as I write this, I am thinking, ‘hey maybe that voice is right.’ {Editor’s Note: WRONG. And a pound in the Self-Deprecation Jar, please.} It has stopped me from buckling down and finishing longer projects. 

7) What have you read lately that you really loved, and why? The Girl with All the Gifts’ by Mike Carey is wonderful. It is like reading a horror version of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda.’ It is terrifying, dark and incredibly touching. ‘Girl on the Train’ is another great read. The unreliable narration makes for a gripping story. I am reading ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan, at the moment. I think every writer should read Sebastian Faulk’s ‘Birdsong’, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ and Ian Bank’s ‘Wasp Factory.’ I say this because I think each of them has a very interesting narrative technique- and they are just plain good.

8) Name drop for us! who are some writers in this community you’re always excited to read? who are we going to see on the bestseller lists? Well, this one is difficult because, obviously, I cannot name all of the writers I admire in the FF community, there are too many. I love all the Flashdogs, of course. I will only be able to name a few, here: Rebekah Postupak, Mark A. King, David Barrowdale, Grace Black and Rebecca J Allred. These four are terrific writers themselves and are so very generous with their own time. Chris Milam and SJ O’Hart  are incredibly talented writers whose work I can only admire. Steph Ellis, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam have such beautifully dark imaginations. Voima Oy, Casey Rose Frank, Foy Iver, F.E. Clark and Tamara Shoemaker for their poetic prose. It truly does go on… and on… and on.

9) Do you belong to any IRL writing communities? online? Talk about the Flash Dogs! I only participate online. I take part in a few competitions other than this one: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and The Angry Hourglass. A writing community that I am very proud to be a part of is Flashdogs. They are an incredibly supportive and welcoming group of talented writers. They have inspired me immensely.

10) Final thoughts/comments/encouragement/advice for the community? My final thoughts, well, I think it’s probably obvious that I am about to tell you how much I am going to miss Flash! Friday. It has been a big part of my writerly life for a long time. However, I cannot remain sad for too long when I think of FF, because I am truly joyous at the opportunities it has given me and other writers. Rebekah Postupak, you are a truly gifted writer who has given so much of your time to others. The foresight and imagination it took to come up with the site at all is part of the reason I consider you a leader in flash. The other reasons are manifold. Whenever I’ve had the privilege of reading your work, I have seen how stylish, versatile and effortless your writing is. You have been a teacher. I have read every Flash Points you were kind enough to share, and your knowledge of flash fiction and literature, in general, is staggering. You have championed all of us, when indeed you, yourself, are The Champion. I am forever indebted. Thank you.