Tag Archive | Amy Wood

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 32: WINNERS!

Happy Sunday, and welcome back for our newest contest results! Tragedy and woe played large roles in your themes, which feels especially fitting given this week’s headlines. Thank you for taking the time to share your worlds and skills with us. Come on back tomorrow, if you’re in the mood, to get an up-close-and-personal look at one of your fantastic tales at #FlashPoints.

One last reminder (waaaah!) for the #DogDays contest, whose deadline is this Tuesday, July 22, at 11:59pm Washington DC time. Lots of stories already elbowing their way to the top — be sure to add yours!!! Link here and in the sidebar.

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Judge Aria Glazki says: The creativity and diversity of this week’s stories are simply astounding. Not only did you have allusions to different cultures and religions, showcasing the assortment of backgrounds within this community, but you also addressed the full range of relationships, from the truly disturbing to the heartbreakingly self-sacrificing. Like in the Olympic arena, we went from one impressive performance straight to the next. I almost wish there was a code of points for flash fiction — my job would have been much easier! Many lines caught my attention, and ranking stories meant making unbelievably tough choices. So well done, all around!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Flawless imagery: Mark A. King, “The Weight.” “A sound. The splatter of colour.”; Marie McKay, “Balance.” “My image sits in little glass cages mounted on living room walls” (oh the layers!).

Maggie Duncan, “In A Distant Voice.” Wonderful growth to the character aided by the subtlety of what spurs it. A lesson she could only learn for herself and yet probably wishes she hadn’t.

Michael Seese, “Big Sister.” Such strong use of perspectives with the quoted lines and of time passing. Unexpected horror growing so naturally from a sibling relationship we had assumed was adorable and entirely normal.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

ifemmanuel, Untitled. “Left foot, right foot” — four simple words, and yet they give this story such a solid sense of rhythm, while also underscoring the character’s feeling of being trapped: as herself, in the background, in this world of gymnastics.

Rasha, “Redeem.” A short moment but with so much weight behind it. The use of numbers was subtle yet perfectly methodical, just like a winning gymnast, allowing the last line, “Ten. Ten. Ten.” to have immense impact

Lisa Shambrook, “Balance.” This story tells us everything we need to know in its first line, even though we can’t understand it yet. So it takes us through a lifetime of hurt, leaving us with a powerful yet understated image and filling out the bookended first line with all of that emotion.  Very well done. 

Nicholas Stearns, “Way to Salvation.” The first sentence here immediately grounds us in the world of the story — “Excited howls from hounds and men echoed through the dense forest.” We’re dropped straight into Anna’s emotions, trapped between an internal fear and an external threat, in a unique story that’s at once entirely unrelated to gymnastics and yet perfectly suited to the prompt. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Amy Wood, “A Star is Made.” This story is unexpected in a wonderful way. The initial, potentially off-putting pride of the mother — comparing the other gymnasts to “workhorses” — is flipped with the context, becoming sympathetic defiance — “So I’d sold my soul to get her healthy, what of it?” What would a mother do for her sick, dying child? Absolutely anything, and don’t you dare tell her she can’t.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Brett Milam, “Tumble.” I kind of hate that my position this week meant I had to read this story multiple times, because it is just so incredibly horrifying (and I don’t do well with horror). Such vivid descriptions, and the line, “She was perfect, once.” is so simple on its own, but becomes, in this story, absolutely haunting. And to top it off, we get a thought-provoking commentary on the world behind the perfection and smiles. 

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Champ.” I love how this story lets our own preconceptions from the image lead us astray, then strengthens those preconceptions with the flash back moments, then turns it all on its head. The lights? Not a spotlight, but a cop car. The audience? Not thousands of fans but a cop. The inevitable, promised day? Not the shining Olympic moment but the low point on a self-destructive path.  Each of those moments draws us down the wrong path and yet entirely holds up even when we know where the story’s going while rereading.

And now: joining the sparkly group of three-timers, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

KARL A. RUSSELL!!!

for

“The Routine”

What a journey for this character. The disappointment and shame all still there, all still driving her, and yet taking a back seat to the fun twist of her new life, and of coming into herself.  “Diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes” sums it up perfectly. Once, she’d been considered subpar, with tear-filled eyes, denied even a trip to the museum, and now her gymnastics opens every world for her, even those denied others, sparkling like diamonds and there for the taking. This triumph is even stronger with the juxtaposition of the discipline and submission to rules her gymnastics teacher must have wanted to instill, and the life Cherry built with those skills. “In your face…and thank you.” A wonderful balance (no pun intended!). Editor’s Note: The Flash! Friday dragons love this story too but would like to make it clear their personal hoard of diamonds, should such a thing exist, is off-limits.

Congratulations, Karl! Here’s another brilliant winner’s badge for your wall! Here also is your gold medal updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by so I can interview you yet AGAIN, lucky dragon, for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

The Routine

Cherry stepped into the deserted gallery and paused. The silence was heavy, expectant, like the moment before the tape clicked in, everyone waiting to see what she could do. Hopefully no one was watching her now.

Bending low, moving to a rhythm heard only in her heart, Cherry began to dance. She kicked and leapt, one graceful step after another, seeing not the museum but the gym floor. In her curiously doubled vision, she saw Miss Rushworth and her team even as she saw the glass cases and display boards. She had never been to the museum before, denied that treat when her clumsy dismount cost them the final, and the ancient shame reddened her cheeks as she made her final leap.

With a perfect dismount, she cleared the last alarm beam and took the glass cutters from her belt. Inside the case, the diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes.

“In your face, Miss Rushworth…”

She reached inside.

“And thank you.”

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 29: WINNERS!

LOVE all the directions you took our wacky nuclear guy this week. Who knew so many stories lurked in that odd mask? (You did, obv.) Couple of reminders before moving on to results: 

  • FLASH POINTS is back with a vengeance on Mondays, where one of your stories will be lovingly chopped to bits and analyzed up, down, and sideways. 
  • Our new judge panel starts this week, yeeeeeehaw, kicking off with dapper Craig Anderson (aka @TodaysChapter)! Can’t wait for them to strut their fine judgy stuff!
  • DOG DAYS of SUMMER special contest w CASH PRIZES kicks off Tuesday, July 8. Ohhhh I’m giddy. Don’t prod me too hard or I may spill the secrets every which way.

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Judge Jess West says: Well folks, it’s all I can do to write this with a steady hand and dry eyes. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you all these last few weeks, or how well I’ve come to know you through your writing. Each of you has touched my heart in some way: some as like-minded friends, others as sources of inspiration, and a few as teachers who have played a part in the writer I’m becoming. I have a heavy heart as I write this, but you know what? That’s silly. The end of my judging only means the beginning of rejoining you all as a writer. Though I will miss lurking behind the scenes – I think the confines of the dragon cave have gotten to me, I’ve become quite good at lurking, and even enjoy it – I can’t wait to get back in on the action.

So, I’ve dried my tears, and done a little happy dance, and now I’m ready to humbly offer you my thoughts on this week’s entries.

Cheers,

Jess

Oh, and Bart… I’m coming for you, buddy.

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SPECIAL, SPECIAL MENTION

Margaret Locke, “The Days Are Long, but The Years Are Short.” Let me begin by saying I was *very sorry* to have to disqualify this story, but after counting it every which way I could, and even calling in for reinforcements, “The Days are Long” came up 2 words – 2 measly words I tell you! – over the limit. But it deserves a place in the list nonetheless because before I’d checked the word counts, “The Days Are Long” had made it into the short list, specifically for its unique take on the prompt that weaves a bit of reality into fiction.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

John Mark Miller, “We Were.” Terrifying, but very real possibility of the extinction of the human race.

Amy Wood, “Rough But Poetic Justice.” Aptly titled, poetic justice indeed.

Craig Anderson, “Resolution.” What a twist!

Hannah Heath, “The Accident.” Another great twist, totally didn’t see that coming.

Karl A Russell, “If You Were the Only Girl in the World.” Down to the last, and this war still rages on.

Brett Milam, “Gunny.” Elicits a great deal of emotion, specifically of the “I want to kill that antagonist so hard” variety.

Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “We All Fall Down.” Great build up of tension by creatively using the “clicks” to heighten suspense.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Rasha, “Ever After.” This is another one that formed a lump in my throat. The characters are well formed, and the circumstances are clear. This story makes good use of the photo prompt as a reference to a memory, an event, that leads to the highly emotional decision, and heart-wrenching consequences.

JM6, “The Important Thing.” By the end of the story I got the distinct impression that Julie was in a bad way and it was somehow the reporter’s fault. There’s a lot of world behind this story; it’s one of those that I could easily see expanded, and would definitely like to read.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Carin Marais, “Shells.” This one really stuck with me, especially because of the “I wanted to, but didn’t” that repeatedly translated to “I wanted to comfort you, but I didn’t want you to lose hope.” “Shells” really tugged at my heartstrings. My favorite part was, “Only broken shells remained. Shells of cities, shells of people, shells of souls, shells of prayers…” Great imagery with emotional connection all in one powerful punch. 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Bart Van Goethem, “I Am Invincible.” What I loved the most about this one was that the author took a cliche, “If looks could kill…” and turned it into a delightful spin on the dragon’s bidding, perfectly demonstrating the opposite of Patience. When I went back and looked at the name, I wasn’t surprised to find out who it was. Next week, when I rejoin the fray, I’m coming for you, Bart! Your consistent clever wit is a technique I hope to learn, a talent I hope to emulate. Can we get this guy a Medal for Consistent Excellence?

FIRST RUNNER UP

Carlos Orozco, “Close Enough.” What impressed me the most about this piece is the sheer volume of personality, not just of one character, but two. On top of that, the dragon’s bidding was put to excellent use by delineating these very different personalities with dual use of patience, both as it is and its adverse twin. One of these characters patiently awaits the inevitable, the other does not. Though there were no marks of distinction within the dialogue such as ‘he said’, there was no doubt in my mind which character was speaking. That is dialogue and characterization done right. Carlos made the best use of the prompts this week, in my opinion, to draw a concise dividing line between two characters. Well done!

And now: what a joy, after such a very long time, to crown Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

MAGGIE DUNCAN!!!

for

“Mindfulness”

Typically, I struggle for hours at the end of a round of judging to pick just one winner, but this week Maggie outdid herself. From the very first read through, I got chills with this one. I still get chills reading it. That’s what gives a piece real staying power. I can’t quote the words, or give you a name of the narrator, but I can tell you exactly how it made me feel. The first paragraph tells us what’s going on, and places a great deal of weight on the narrators actions. The second paragraph sets us up, giving us hope. I found myself breathing shallowly, crossing my fingers, hoping not only would the narrator have good news to share, but that he/she would feel the pride of being the one to deliver that news. And at the end of that paragraph, I was certain of a happy ending. Maggie whisked me off my feet, brought me to the heights of hope, and tossed me off the side of the cliff. I was devastated at this twist. Aside from the emotional impact, the world building is exemplary, there’s no doubt where we are and what’s going on. Though the people behind the airlock are safe, and will celebrate their own happy endings, our poor Checker will not share in their joy. That is truly tragic. Maggie, you’ve broken my heart, but I gotta give it to you, this was some damn fine writing. Very well done!

Congratulations, Maggie! Your imperial supreme winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your crowning achievement-ed, updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Mindfulness

Procedure here is all important. The temptation is to throw on the anti-radiation suit and get to the surface to sample the soil and air. Checkers must don their protective gear with slow, calm deliberation. A single, unseen hole or tear is a death sentence.

The samples over the past two years have crept steadily toward optimum. Every Checker wants to be the bearer of the good news, and it fell to me. I checked and re-checked the readings, but I could reach only one conclusion: In a few months we could return to the surface.

Back inside, I remove my mask, hoping my smile will herald the news, but I see the technician back up, hand over her mouth. My lip just below my nose itches, and I rub it. My fingers come away bloody. The technician closes the airlock.

I’m alone on the surface, awaiting the inevitable with slow, calm deliberation.

Procedure here is all important.

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 13: WINNERS!

It’s time to say thanks & farewell Her Extreme Judginess M. T. Decker. If I were more awake I would wax eloquent for several paragraphs on the depths and sparkliness of our gratitude. But rest easy, dear ones–I am not awake, which means you will only be compelled to read a few short lines: THANK YOU, Mary, for your time and dedication. What a blast it’s been having you aboard the FF judgeship. Thank you, thank you!

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Judge M. T. Decker says: Wow!  What a long strange trip it’s been. When I signed on as a judge, I had no idea how much work I would need to put in, and no idea how much I would learn in the process.  I am, as always, amazed and humbled by the work, the art you all have created here, and if I have one regret it’s that I can’t just say “Everybody wins.”

There were some amazing stories this week, and you all took me on an incredible journey. I am both sad to be finishing up my phase as a judge and happy that I will once again be able to write with you all.

Some friends asked me “What does it take to write a winning story?” “Why does one story win when another doesn’t?”

When I started as a judge I knew that some of the answers were subjective, and as I’ve judged I’ve realized that the rules that apply to longer stories are the same for flash: you have to make the story count.  Even with something you can “read in a flash” you want to walk away satisfied: and that is something very hard to do in 150 words.

Writing, as you all know, is part mechanics, part art.  The mechanics are a constant: spelling, grammar wording.  These form the framework from which you hang your art, they are the pigments with which you paint, and the sounds from which you compose, and if they are not solid, the story cannot stand.

There are times when proper grammar and standard ‘rules’ are forsaken for the sake of the story, that is artistic license, but it still has to flow and resonate with your readers.  That’s why there are rules:  to have some common ground in how we transmit our thoughts.

The more I judge, the more I realize that writing is part alchemy.  You have these elements that you combine and work until you strike gold.  The only problem is: everyone else writing in a given challenge is also experimenting with their words, tweaking the sounds and meanings until they produce their ‘secret sauce.’

In the end – it is the construction and flavor that make the story, and in any given competition there can only be one winner, and so we focus on saying why a story won, rather than why a different story didn’t win.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Amy Wood, “A Student’s Tale of Woe.”  This story touches on the theme of interpretation in a very intriguing way.  It gives us a tantalizing glimpse into the mind of a student as they are forced to push the boundaries of their understanding, and the image of “committing ritual suicide with my fountain pen,” is an imaginative look into not only the dislike, but the personality of the student in question.  I have to admit, that on more than one occasion, I have contemplated the same action. 

Karl A. Russell, “Betty’s War.” Here we are taken into a war unlike any we have seen before.  The descriptive narrative helps us to understand that she is not dealing with your standard ‘infestation.’ She expresses some small amount of sympathy for the small, uniformed creatures she’s been dealing with, but in the end she still treats them more like bugs in the garden.  The twist at the end and her reaction are priceless.

Chris Milam (Wisp of Smoke), “Beholder.” This story, like “A Student’s Tale of Woe” deals with interpretation, and yet manages to keep the theme unique and relevant.  It speaks to the heart of art: mechanics and artistic merit while comparing and contrasting two different points of view on the subject.  This story is both insightful and entertaining, leaving us to contemplate which path is the best.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Jon, “Farewell Opportunities.”  This story draws the reader in with enthralling imagery, comparing the battle to a Renoir, and a Renoir when viewed from the distance, you see one thing, but up close what you thought was clear is actually something else entirely.  Throughout the story, we are given subtle hints and poetic images that fill the canvas and a picture unfolds before us.  We see the newly fallen join the ranks of those watching.  From the touching beginning to the bittersweet ending we are given a glimpse at the hereafter.  This story is both touching and sentimental and it made me glad I read it.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Maven Alysse, “Putting on Your War Face.” With a judicious combination of dialog and description this story provides the image of tired tavern wenches, working in the environment one would expect when dealing with soldiers fresh off the line.   This image is supported throughout the story until the final line when the writer elegantly turns the story on its ear, revealing that sometimes—no matter what the circumstances:  boys will be boys.

And now: for his second time (in recent weeks, too!), it’s Flash! Friday  

DRAGON WINNER

PHIL COLTRANE!!!

for

“L’Enfer, C’est La Guerre”

This story provides a beautiful metaphor for that moment between – between life and death, between mortality and eternity.  Like “Farewell Opportunities” it shows a world that isn’t quite what we think, but in this story the reader is taken inside the life and thoughts of one man.  We see the change that comes with understanding and the regret that comes with knowing there is nothing you can do now to change what you have done, and in that moment there is the stirring pain of regret.   In the end, as the final bugle call is sounded, we are left to wonder what seeds the protagonist has sown, and where they will lead him.  This story left me wondering exactly what Colonel  Boniface would find when he answered the call.  Truly chilling and touching.

Very nice work, Phil! Another winner’s badge waits for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for another round of interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

L’Enfer, C’est La Guerre

“War is Hell,” the barmaid reminded him, placing a mug of pale lager before him.

Until now, Colonel Boniface had never understood the sentiment. He lived for battle! Primping for the mirror in his dress blues. Saluting his men as they charged bravely past him, into the fray. And how the ladies loved an officer! (War widows needed comfort, too.)

And his Angelique, ever faithful, waiting at home.

Boniface regretted nothing, until that bullet found his brain.

“Vive la mort,” was the motto painted across this tavern’s wall. Time had no meaning here. Golden Horde, Napoleonic infantrymen, soldiers from conflicts past and future, all passed through. Some were heading home. Others…

“Angelique… I’m sorry,” he whispered.

The barmaid’s dress twirled as she turned away, head held high, cradling a dozen empty beer steins. Outside the tavern, a bugler played his muster call.

Boniface drank his beer — a final comfort — and looked to the door with dread.

 

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