Tag Archive | AJ Walker

Sixty Seconds with: Catherine Connolly

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 and final Flash! Friday winner is Catherine Connolly.  A longtime Flash! Friday writer, Poised Pen writing group member, and even a one-time guest judge here!, she’s undoubtedly familiar to all of you. Her win this week, especially as her first and our last, couldn’t be more perfect. Please take a moment to read her winning story on her winner’s page here or at the bottom of today’s interview, then take another couple of minutes to get to know her better below. Since it’s our final Sixty Seconds interview, I’ve lifted the word count restriction. Dearest Catherine, take it away!

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece?  Dragons – given the timing of this week’s nostalgic bidding! I couldn’t resist working backwards from the last line, given it seemed so appropriate.  I’ve also been fascinated by the concept of word worlds and the interaction between words and the reader since studying Stylistics a couple of years back, so put a slight spin on that in light of the photo prompt.  Having combined the two in terms of concept, the piece wrote itself very easily after that.

2) How long have you been writing flash? For a couple of years, after @zevonesque brought several pieces of his flash to Poised Pen meetings and Flash! Friday was mentioned.  I’ve been writing flash fiction consistently ever since.

3) What do you like about writing flash?  Many things!  Initially, I began writing flash as a variation on the ‘little and often’ method of writing to produced finished pieces within reasonable timeframes and to make them manageable, as my previous writing had been sporadic and I hadn’t written consistently, save for essays whilst studying, for a number of years.  The brevity of flash still appeals to me and encourages me to think carefully about word choice – and how many I really need!  I do think, however, the changing prompts challenge me to write stories outside of my norm, which stretches me as a writer.   There are certainly a number I would never have attempted had it not been for a specific prompt which encouraged me to think at a slant in terms of genre or style.  Flash is also great for experimenting with form to great effect – I’ve seen great examples of this from both Josh Bertetta and Karl A. Russell previously.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers?  Write many and often. Read many and often. Repeat.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why?  Too many FlashDogs to mention, so each and every member of the Pack. Talented writers, all and thoroughly lovely people – a number of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person now on more than one occasion.  A special shout out to FDHQ too – both past and present – for all of their work to date and for producing a number of fabulous anthologies to highlight the work of the Pack.  They work incredibly hard and it is always appreciated.  The Poised Pen people – my writing group – are also a great and friendly bunch.  Some of the FlashDogs have met a number of them too now!  @zevonesque was actually the first person to introduce me to the concept of flash fiction, Flash! Friday as a community (and Twitter too!) and is a great advocate for flash as a form, as well as a thoroughly seasoned judge for a number of the well-known competitions.  None of my flash fiction would be here, save for all of their original encouragement, for providing a supportive community of writers and, sometimes, prompting me to read or share at meetings!

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which?  As many as possible, time allowing. Flash! Friday aside, currently mainly Angry HourglassLuminous Creatures (which I understand is coming back for another round in January-February). Previously, Three Line Thursday and Microbookends (not nearly as often as I would have liked), plus others now sadly missed (Mid-Week-Blues-Buster, Race the Date, Trifecta, anyone?).

7) What other forms do you write? Poetry on occasion and short stories.  I’ve also got the beginnings of what I think is likely to be a novelette sitting in a Word file on my computer for expansion.   I’d actually love to try writing a script or play at some point, subject to the right idea presenting itself to me!

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Dark, speculative fiction or mythologically based stories.  It’s great fun to write your own rules as you’re going along!

9) Tell us about a WIP. I’ve been working on contributions for pending FlashDogs and Poised Pen anthologies.  Flash and poetry – with a drabble to complete!  A couple of flash pieces are calling for expansion too.  Currently, however, an idea for a world made up of of nightmares and a child protagonist is whispering itself to me…

10) How do you feel about dragons? Their Mother has created an incredible community and nurtured numerous fledgling writers with her time, energy and generosity.  Thank you, Rebekah.  Now it’s for all of us to fan the flames, to continue to support one another and carry on sending our stories out into the world.

♥♥♥

Catherine’s winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
its end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

Advertisements

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 52: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all: welcome to our final regular results show for Flash! Friday — combined today with Saturday’s Flash Dash results (still rather mind-boggled that an 11-year-old managed to write an entire funny little story in the 30 minutes!).

As for the wealth of gorgeous, dragonish love you wrote Friday, I’m going to reserve my comments for Friday, when it’s my turn to say thanks. Remember we’ve a grand finale party this Friday (Dec 11) with Flashversary: mugs, posters, books, and all kinds of magnificent prizes at stake. I hope you’ll come back to write one last time. ♥ 

Tomorrow is our final global #Spotlight, this time featuring the lovely F.E. Clark from Scotland. Be sure to join us! Haggis optional. 

Last for today: an enormous round of thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy and A.J. Walker. I’ve loved this pairing: Voima’s poetic spirit, A.J.’s tongue-in-cheekiness (and Catherine’s faithful blinding of the tales–thank you too!). Your thoughtful choices, your funny and poignant comments, your cheery spirits, your enthusiasm, every bit of it. And especially to A.J. who, I think, may have given me more dragons than anyone. Thankful til I die? Oh yes. And beyond. ♥♥♥  

♦♦♦♦♦

Up first: Flash Dash results!!! love the frenetic world of Flash Dash, getting a little peek at how brains work, how stories are born. Your stories were sheer delight, and yes, some fantastic creativity, everything from genies to werewolves. A literary buffet, y’all. Thanks to all of you!

Special mention first up for 11-year-old Crystal Alden, who defied the time limitations and wrote a creative, cheeky story with a strong start and hilarious finish. Great job, Crystal — you had me laughing aloud. Read her story here.

⇒⇒ The winner of the $20 Flash Dash Cash prize is

Nancy Chenier

Strong voice, spot-on pacing, and OH MY LANDS what a last line, executed with perfection. You’ve earned this one, baby. Watch your inbox for details on how to get your loot. Congratulations! And everyone: read her winning story here.

♦♦♦♦♦

Now for the final regular round of Flash! Friday! Here are Dragon Team Eight’s final comments:   

V — Thank you for all your great stories. Epic and  intimate, tragic and funny and brave — each unique and special.  It has been an honor and a privilege and so much fun to be part of this Flash! Friday community. To come together, to share  stories is  a remarkable thing. It takes tremendous amount of time and effort to make this place, this creative space.  Thank you, Rebekah, for everything. 

And I could not ask for a better co-judge than AJ. Your sense of humor and positive spirit is a delight–not to mention your own amazing talent.  Thank you, AJ for making Dragon Team 8 great. Thank you, Catherine, for sending us the stories. We could not do this without you. You are an essential member of Dragon Team 8! 

With the closing of MicroBookends, and Three Line Thursday on hiatus, we bid farewell  to other inspiring places for very short poems and stories. Thank you, David and Grace, for all your hard work. Thursdays and Fridays will be different now. 

These are very special places–here, we can come together. To me, the comments from other writers are part of the appeal of Flash! Friday, Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends.  People feel free to interact, encourage each other, appreciate a good line, or a fantastic ending.  This means so much to a writer, especially a writer who is just starting, or beginning again, this thing that we all do.  

Friendships have been forged here. Lives have been changed here. Writers have been born and grown here. 

The community continues to grow and change, inspired by each other.  We know writing can be a lonely business. Life can be demanding, and sometimes it seems impossible to write at all. Yet we need imagination and stories more than ever. We need possibilities. We need to imagine better futures.  We will write on, I do believe this. And we are not alone.

AJW — When #Team8 were put together all those months ago and the schedule set down, little did we know that we’d end up judging the last of the regular Flash! Friday challenges. It has been an honour to serve our most lovely Mother of Dragons, Rebekah. We’ve all enjoyed the anticipation in seeing what photograph, what phrase or book was to be our touchstone each Friday. Sometimes they floated our boat, sometimes they went up in flames. But always there would be fireworks somewhere, somehow, and Fridays won’t be the same without it. I have sent a personal message to Rebekah and so won’t get too schmaltzy here, but needless to say she has been a star and can be justly proud with what she created here.

This week’s stories have been smothered in thick gloopy love and affection for this special place and the keeper of the keys. The ‘beautiful girl who lived here’ turned out to be Rebekah, and she was either a resplendent dragon herself or very close mates with one (or at least an egg).  

To Voimaoy — THANK YOU!  For your patience and understanding. And being an all-round great judging partner. It has been a true pleasure. and I think we have worked well together. Cheers  x.   Thanks as ever to Catherine for forwarding the stories to us so we could judge them blind. Thanks too to everyone who entered this week – I trust that you have all mopped up the tears from your keyboards and that none of your computers exploded into flame from tear damage (I’m sure insurance for tear damaged electronics is impossible to get – more chance of getting Dragon Cover).

After toying for a millisecond with the idea of making everyone a winner, that was discounted for being a cop out; someone deserves the last badge after all. It was a really tough call picking the top ten or so and then drilling down to the winner, but we have. So, without further ado, here’s our call:

♦♦♦♦♦

MENTIONS

Chris Milam, “Table for One.” A bite of reality

Karl A. Russell, “The Girl and the Egg.” A door, an eggshell, magic!  

Bart Van Goethem, “Rebirth.” Refreshingly unsentimental–with a wonderful one-word ending.

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Carin Marais, “Arad’s Dragon.” V – A beautiful story of friendship — the epic economy of flash

Bill Engleson, “Thanks Stan.” AJ – Hey, I like humour, and this one made me laugh. Snappy dialogue. Simple idea. Not being allowed within 100 yards of a maiden again. Poor lamb. Thanks for the laugh!   

Stella Turner, “Sins of the Flesh.” V – Dark, dark, humour–Love this take and the turns of phrase–“sliced bread, butter knife”…and “caught devouring bacon” 

Jennifer Terry, “#TimelessBeauty.” AJ – Loved the emotion in this piece. Getting old gracefully, perhaps not confident in oneself, then a nice uplifting end. And of course I’m a big Twitter fan so it needs a mention (Twitter has been great for us writers, hasn’t it?) #uplifting 

Geoff Holme, “Aubade.” V – Although a late entry, this deserves mention for a lovely tribute–Aubade is a song of parting, and greeting a new dawn.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Craig Anderson, “Mother of Dragons.”

V — This one had me in tears.  It is heartfelt and beautiful in its simplicity–“The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free” to “How magnificent they are.”   This is a testament to the economy and power of flash. Wonderful and generous writing. 

AJW – ‘The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free.’ Well, that first line says it all doesn’t it? Like so many of the stories this week the heart is well and truly on its sleeve, on a badge, on the T-Shirt and in bright flashing neon, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Bookended (don’t get me started on Microbookends please) by last line; ‘I gave them wings, now they must fly,’ it is an instruction. Or at least a call to try. You’ve all got an extra hour or so on Fridays from now on; see what you can do with it…

Graham Milne, “The Auction.” 

AJW – Lovely idea, perfectly written. Who’d have thought dragons could have had their teeth pulled and fire put out by Capitalism? Picturing the once-proud beast with paddle No.68 having to bid for their supper/maiden is a super/supper idea. ‘Faded scales that once glittered’ perfectly encapsulating the idea. 

V — I agree with AJ: it is a sad commentary on Capitalism and the current state of affairs in this materialistic world. It  is so well done, and I love the take on “dragons bidding”  too!  We need magic and humor more than ever.

Steph Ellis, “Legacy

AJW – If someone can sort out the music, it could become an anthem for the FlashDogs and the ‘brothers and sisters’ we’ve found through writing here at FFF. Some powerful phrases and another call to arms/pens. I especially liked ‘‘take their fire, and burn down the battlements, breach the closed doors, of literati’s elite.” I’m feeling emboldened just repeating it!  And yes, we do see “the Dragon horde gather.’ 

Stirring stuff – get out those power chords!  

V – Forged in a “volcanic nursery” out of the “monotonous monochrome of the safe and the known” — these are   powerful and moving  words. This is an anthem, and a manifesto. Write on!

 

 

SECOND RUNNER UP

The Imaginator, “A Beautiful Girl Lived Here” 

AJW – Who doesn’t like a bouncing bosom (or preferably two)? And I must say we don’t see enough corsets in Flash! so thanks for that. Seriously, a well-crafted story. I liked with the simple use of ‘pon and ‘neath to give us an idea of the time of the setting (although maybe it could be contemporary Morecambe?). The description of the woman ‘a force of nature’ and the effect she had on both the menfolk and the women was very visual. I could picture the scene perfectly, even through to the unfortunate end and the ‘entrails on the moonlit cobblestones.’ 

V — I couldn’t agree more. This story reads like a folktale, and it’s as visual as a movie (a classic Hammer film, perhaps?). A “force of nature” indeed. and what a powerful ending!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Subject.” 

AJW – A neat original take with so few words to play with (I think it could make an excellent longer piece) it brilliantly shows Rebekah’s realisation of what she was and what she’d done. I loved the dawning of reality as she sees her eyes in the reflection in a shard of glass and then her ‘fingers becoming talons’.   The use of the font change to end the story was simple and perfect. Well done.

V –  The writing throughout is stunning in  economy  and confidence–“the truth of what she was, of what she’d done”.  And the final word –the Greek letters for “Dragon.”  Yes!  Powerful and fierce and beautiful.  This one is for the Dragon Queen.

And now: for her very first time (no, this couldn’t be more perfect; yes, I cried when I saw her name), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

CATHERINE CONNOLLY!!!

for

“Through Lettered Lands

AJW – Time for more olde powere chords? Maybe not. An almost perfect piece (I’m overlooking the added apostrophe (damn autocorrect) – sorry Geoff) and a fitting winner for the last of the regular FF. It perfectly presents us – the writers – from simply ‘writ(ing) a sentence on entering’  through to the creation of entire worlds yet to be mapped, and presenting the writer as an explorer: Lovely. The third stanza in particular stood out for me: ‘Take care little wanderer, they told me -/ once hunted, few care to return from/ the beauty of script scribbled in spaces/ blank, ‘til creation begins.’ A fitting epitaph. Don’t you think?

V — It is an epitaph, an epic poem–but most of all it is a story — our story — it beautifully describes the writer’s journey from initial hesitance to curiosity, and on into ever-expanding lands and worlds into the uncharted unknown—

“It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me 
take it wherever you go
its end starting whole new beginnings…
Explorers seek it, perpetual”  

In the as-yet unwritten future — “All write upon entering — Here Be Dragons.”  

Beautifully done!  

Congratulations, Catherine! I can’t imagine a more perfect writer nor more perfect story to take the very last Flash! Friday dragon crown. Here’s your lovely, brand new winner’s page; apologies for the tear stains. Watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
it’s end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

FFwinner-Web

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!!!

♦♦♦♦♦

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!

♦♦♦♦♦

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

♦♦♦♦♦

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. ” 

♦♦♦♦♦

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