Archive | November 2020

Fire&Ice Sol 15/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! As if the latest round of Fire&Ice winners weren’t exciting enough, did you know it’s also Doctor Who Day, Fibonacci Day, Eat a Cranberry Day, and National Espresso Day? It’s also NaNo Day 23 (38,341 words, or whatever beautiful number of words you’ve written). Wherever this Monday finds you—whether snacking on cranberries or not—here’s to another sunrise, and another day conquering the white page together. We’re glad, as ever, you’re here.

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 15’S JUDGES SAY:

Mark King:  I am sad that this is the last time I get to judge. Thanks to the majestic Ice and Fire dragons for their faith and trust in us, and for all the work it has taken to bring this magical place back. Thanks also to the folk behind the scenes who help to get the stories to judges each week. Much gratitude to Steph who shares my timezone, has a great work ethic and has impeccable taste in great storytelling. As writers, you did wonders with the prompt this week, I enjoyed every story and the ones I picked tended to just stand out in some small way. Some quick mentions: Betsy Streeter‘s “Untitledfor the image of grasshoppers and great use of dialogue. Tamara Shoemaker‘s “Soul’s March,” for the creepy and unsettling feeling. Maggie Duncan‘s “Fix Our Eyes Not on What is Seen” for the concise and very effective structure.


Stephanie Ellis: November already and my last time as a judge! Seeing Flash! Friday come back has been wonderful, even though the past few weeks have seen me somewhat absent for a variety of reasons; that being said, I’d like to thank Deb and Rebekah for inviting me to take part, it’s been an honour and a privilege to work with them and Mark. The quality of submissions was excellent, as always, and this week I found the majority of my choices went to those I regarded as a story, rather than an introspective or ‘scene’ piece. I needed to engage with the characters and the stories chosen allowed me to do that. In addition to those on the rostrum, I’d like to mention a couple of other stories. Laurence D‘s “King of the Hillwith its termites having distinct human speech and accents, and Tinman‘s “Transfer of Power,” with its finger pointing to the future destruction of mankind via a growing army of mutant insects, were both great fun and hugely original.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Museum of Nobodies” by Arvind Iyer

MK: It’s a reverse mirror to the superficial and branded world of influencers. I loved how the story took me to other places, transporting me, almost by word-teleportation – handy we can travel like this with stories when we can’t go physically.

SE: In these days of celebrity status and global powers, us lesser mortals often feel unseen and disregarded and this writing recognises that fact, and in doing so, it also reminds us we are somebody and that there are millions like us.

Be Careful What You Wish For by Geoff LePard

MK: It’s approaching panto season in the UK so while it probably wasn’t the author’s intention, I loved the thought of this missing eccentric British tradition somehow living on as a termite-mound genie in a story.

SE: A hugely entertaining story; sometimes we just need that touch of humour in our lives and I thought this was perfect. A termite genie granting the wish that would be the downfall of Terrance and Susan.

These Days by Karl Russell

MK: I loved the world-building in this one. The global nature of it. Those amazing images of buildings being like the termite mounds. The great name-dropping of Scorsese, London, Manhattan, Tokyo and Layla booming across the post-apocalyptic landscape. 

SE: A ghost with no one to haunt, such a sad thought. Bleak description of a post-apocalyptic world which we could head towards, if we’re not careful. Although maybe, we are already ghosts haunting ourselves.

RUNNER UP

The Land Remembers”  by Voima Oy

MK: This is a highly creative take on the prompt. It appealed to me in several ways. It was unique, it included a familiar tale of ‘progress’ at the expense of nature, it included wonderful images: At night, they gave off a strange glow, like cities at night.” It reminded me of the film, Avatar, only much, much better. James Cameron needs to take notes from this story.

SE: There is magic in our planet: our ancestors have often mentioned hidden energies or forces beneath our soil which affect us and our lives. This story gives this ancient magic a sci-fi feel, as the planet draws up its defences against the developers. Beautifully written.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARCANE EDISON!!!

for

Notes On a Life Lived

MK – I’m a sucker for an intriguing title, so this drew me in. Then the story grabbed me tightly from the opening and didn’t let go He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.”  In the middle, we have this amazing image, “We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.” 

There is a mastery of storytelling and structure and pacing, yes, it’s showcasing in a microscopic space, just what flash fiction can do. And that ending, what a life. It makes you think and be thankful.

SEThis is a story which must resonate with many of us, as grandparents get older and we drift apart, moving on with our busy lives, knowing they are still there in the background – until they’re not – and we realise we have failed to make time for them, to listen to their stories, thinking our own so much better. This delicate showing of ‘the life lived’ at the end is poignant, an emotional gut punch to those left behind. If only they’d talked. An imaginative take on an image whose markers called to mind those rows of white headstones in a war grave cemetery. Wonderful writing.

Congratulations on your back-to-back win, Arcane! Here’s your winning story:

Notes On a Life Lived

He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.

Nightfall, he, Grandmother and I would sit within the perfume of the plum orchard. Small words uttered as he split purple flesh with his blade, revealing the sweetest yellow flesh.

As the seasons faded into years I returned less to the cottage, till one day I never did.

When she died he moved into the city. Living in a small terraced house with dirty windows. Each time I visited, he would seem smaller again, as if every breath I took stole directly from him.

Seasons faded into years.

We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.

Sat in pews. An old man struggled to the front, hands trembling, eyes blurring, medals clinging to his chest.

Telling a tale never before shared.

Of parachutes, fighting behind enemy lines.

Of capture, the torment of the prison camp.

Of liberation, the gift the soldiers had given Grandfather.

For his leadership, fearlessness and love.

An odd shaped knife.

Flash! Future: The ReVisit

WELCOME BACK to the Future! What a blast Deb and I have had these past few months sharing parts of our personal writerly journeys with you. I don’t know much of anything myself 😀 , which makes this lifelong road of listening and learning a rich and glorious adventure! What a joy sharing words from writers whose unique perspectives and fresh approaches to stories have changed the way we see the world and our role as writers in it. In case you missed any of them, here’s a quick recap:

Following the theme of learning, in these few remaining weeks we want to share with you some tools and resources that motivate and challenge Deb and me as word-students. And I’m going to start—if you’ll forgive me—with a quick look to the past. 

Flash! Friday was a contest that ran from 2012-2015, and in that period, as now, we often enjoyed the privilege of interviewing or featuring various professionals in writing and publishing. Some of those original interviews chase me still. There’s a trove of encouraging advice to be found in them—as in the Flash!Future posts listed above—that we hope will continue to inspire you (as it does us) even after Fire&Ice closes. So please pour a fresh cup of coffee and join me in this meaty, practical, helpful/hopeful (re)visit to three memorable Spotlights. 

One of our original logos, 2012

Interview with Carol Tice, award-winning freelance writer, writing coach. 

[Carol Tice] I can’t emphasize enough that people should not be too reliant on Amazon. They need to be creative. I hear from people all the time who say, “I put out my ebook and nothing happened!” or, “I wrote my novel, and now I’m going to start blogging to promote it!” I don’t want to be the one to tell them they did that in the wrong order. 

You need to think about what you can do to get people excited about your book. You want to think of a marketing schedule to create multiple inflection points for people to get excited about it.

Interview with Lisa Crayton, award-winning author (including two-time recognition as a Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers), freelance writer, editor, speaker. {Sidenote: Do. Not. Miss. her powerful & practical thread from July on “25 Ways to Amplify Black and POC Voices.”}

[Lisa Crayton] It always comes down to, Is your writing up to par?

You need to be in critique groups for your genre. It’s important to let people critique your work, and be willing to learn from them and revise. Be sure your work is evaluated by people in your own genre, those who are an authority on your specific kind of writing. Above all, you have to be teachable. It’s not enough to come to an editor and say, “My mama liked it, my friends liked it, my friend’s brother wanted to put it on a t-shirt….” Regarding interest in your work, it’s a different story when you can tell editors or agents your work has been through a critique group and you have rewritten it a number of times.

You have to be brave enough to hear constructive criticism. To improve your writing, take free online classes, or low-cost classes at your local community college, where you have people telling you the truth about your writing. 

Interview with Jeff Gerke, writer (including writing craft books for Writer’s Digest), editor. (Note: his original interview now includes a personal 2020 update for Fire&Ice)

[Jeff Gerke] I struggled… for years. I mean, if novelists who do all the craft stuff wrong can become bestsellers, and if novelists who do all the craft stuff right usually don’t become bestsellers, what in the world am I doing, you know? Why am I spending all my time and energy in this training if it apparently doesn’t amount to a more successful novel or novelist? It couldn’t be that readers just prefer bad craftsmanship. It had to be something else.

It finally occurred to me that what the bestsellers were doing—even if they did it with poor craft—and what the non-bestsellers weren’t doing—even if they did it with great craft—was snaring the reader and not letting go.

So now all my teaching has shifted. Now I’m all about what will engage the reader.

 

Fire&Ice: Sol 15/19

§ Rebekah says: Our sunset draws nearer: after today Fire&Ice has just three regular contests plus the grand finale to go! Included in that timeframe will be a focus on you, via our Flash! Future Sunday feature. [The deadline to submit for that is the same as today’s Fire&Ice: 11:59pm tonight, Washington DC time. Guidelines here.] As for the grand finale, well, we intend to go out with a roar (by which I mean prizes, of course 😀 ). Deb and I welcome you to take a deep breath and race with us to what’s sure to be an exciting finish. Thanks for being here!

QUESTIONS? Tweet us at @FlashFridayFic, shoot us a note here, or tap any of the judges.

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Fire&Ice Guidelines: 

Time: The Fire&Ice contest is open between exactly 12:01am to 11:59pm on Fridays, Washington DC time (check the current time here). Entries submitted outside of this window are welcome, but will be incinerated ineligible to win.

How to Play: Write and submit an original story 1) based on the photo prompt and 2) including EITHER the fire dragon or ice dragon‘s requirement. Pay attention to the 3) varying word count constraints! Story titles (optional) are not included in the word limit. At the end of your story, add your name or twitter handle, whether you chose the fire or ice dragon’s element, and word count. That’s it!

Be sure to review the contest rules here.

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JUDGES: Today’s judges are Mark King and Stephanie Ellis. Check out their bios on the Fire&Ice Judges page.

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AND HERE IS YOUR PROMPT:

Each Fire&Ice prompt includes 1) a photo, 2) a required element (choose between the fire dragon or ice dragon’s offering), and 3) a specific word count. Your story must include all three requirements to be eligible to win.

Photo for Sol 15/19

Fire & Ice Prompt

Required elements:

Fire dragon option: include something/someone unseen

OR

Ice dragon option: include something/someone foreseen

Today’s word count: 180-190