Tag Archive | Brett Milam

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 42: WINNERS

Welcome to the results party!! It’s always such a fun adventure, picking out favorites from the glittering heap. And speaking of glittering: WHAT A FABULOUS kickoff to #Pyro!! (Go read the story & critiques, if you haven’t already!) I couldn’t be more thrilled by the good-humoured, constructive, kind feedback on our very first offering (and thanks to you, Writer, for your courage in going first!). Can’t wait for our next round this Saturday. I loved seeing myriad perspectives on a single piece — so insightful. Thanks, y’all.

Coming up TOMORROW: a #Spotlight interview with writing phenom Lisa Crayton. Y’all may not know her yet, but you’re going to love her. She’s a freelance writer, mentor, editor, and respected conference speaker (of particular interest to me is that her book on Toni Morrison (with whom I have a slight obsession) is being republished in 2016) — she has so many interesting things to say on writing and connecting with agents/editors/publishers. You won’t want to miss this.  

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Ever grateful for the powerhouse judges of Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver & Holly Geely, for their combined efforts. I have it on good authority that tears were shed (on less good authority regarding what sort of tears, however). Here’s what they have to say:   

HG: Dear friends…Once more I am floored by your talent, and yet I must wonder – why was the depressed robot the most popular character? Who out there needs a hug? C’mon, bring it in. My arms will enfold you.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let us delve into the goodness that is the Adams prompt. For the record, my favourite part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series is the oblivious whale falling to its death (closely followed by the bowl of petunias) which should give you a feel for my sense of humour. When I saw the prompt this week I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

FI:  Do I have to turn in my writer/reader card if I haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide? Hopefully not… I cried tears of laughter over the movie and have meant to enjoy the book ever since (no worries – my fellow judge is a fine connoisseur of all things Adams).

Your stories reawakened that sleeping intention! So many of you captured that tone, that voice, that hilarity (genius!), while others took the prompt a whole new direction (a boldness I’m quite pleased with), and all with wonderful results. Hopefully, our judging does them justice.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Revenge that Tastes of Strawberry: Nancy Chenier, “Dining at Starpost.” HG: I love it when the cocky customer gets what’s coming to him. You want to be a stubborn jerk? You pay for it, son.

A Beverage that Does the Trick: Evan Montegarde, “Galactic Jack: When a Good Whiskey Just Won’t Do.” HG: Anything that begins with a guy in underpants and a purple robe is bound to end well. Where can I get some of this drink?

For the Most Dizzying Use of Bureaucratic Drivel: Clive Tern, In Response.” FI: For both the laugh and the headache, I thank you.

For Working in a Few of the Best Sci-Fi’s on Bookshelves: @dazmb, “Tyrell High School.” FI: A clever alphabet soup of several of the best sci-fi’s on bookshelves. Miss Voight-Kampff’s empathetic head tilt especially tickled my brain.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Evan Montegarde, SAD2434 and His Box of Crayons.

HG: As a huge fan of crayons, I approve of their use in this story. SAD2434 (fantastic acronym, well done) tugged at my heartstrings. His heroic efforts to amuse himself made me cheer. That ship needed a real dressing down. I hope your crayons last too, SAD2434. I love you. Good luck. 

FI: Haven’t we all wanted to crayon someone’s face now and then? No? Just me? Never mind… SAD2434’s irritability is amusingly human.

Geoff Holme, “Bad Day at the Office.” 

HG: Dear writer… you win at life. “I’m afraid Elvis has left the building.” If you know me at all, you know how I love a punny ending. (I bet you did, didn’t you? I bet you were trying to trick me into choosing you, weren’t you? It worked, writer. It worked.) This is fantastic, a marvelous use of the depressed robot. 

FI: I wonder if a spoonful of peanut butter might make our irascible Elvis feel better. Great job telling through dialogue – not easily done! –  An amusing end makes this a fun read.

Craig Anderson, “Dozing Off.”

HG: This is a spectacular use of the depressed robot, the age-old question of what would happen if the machines took over (and had a dark sense of humour), and it includes sound advice: “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” Well done, writer; this is hilarious. 

FI:  A machine with an existential dilemma, Doze-master 3000 is exactly the type of antihero I adore! He thoroughly stole my heart. In fact, I’d take him to Paris in an instant. Charming voice, no excess word fat, and character progression in 160 words. A fine piece of flash.

David Parkland, “The Infinity Machine.”

HG: Even when one does not know one’s own purpose, how can one resist pressing the big red button? (One, or six, or nine…) This story has a clever, shivery feeling and I like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and press a big red button.

FI: Such a fascinating concept! A machine adrift in that dark void, creating something from the nothing, maybe even all the numbers in existence. What sealed it for me is that familiar curiosity – even a robot can’t resist pressing the red button.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Brett Milam, “Hollow.”

HG: “There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t fight another machine.” The title fits the story in so many ways. Hollowness, literal emptiness, loneliness… It makes me sad in a helpless way, and somehow I understand the robot’s pain even though I don’t have a similar experience to draw upon. Beautifully done. 

FI: Another story that won me over for the trim, simplicity of it. The voice in “Hollow” is perfect, cold, distant, matter-of-fact and ties everything together from John’s death to the slow wait. It, too, raised questions of the relationship (dependence?) between humans and their technology. Anything that makes me think gets high marks in my book.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Sydney Scrogham, “Without You for the Last Time” 

HG: She died choosing him.” What is this in my eye? It can’t be a tear, I don’t cry. DON’T LOOK AT ME. (In all seriousness, though, this is truly beautiful and thought-provoking in such a unique way.)

FI: I adored this one for the questions it provoked: what lengths would we go to to keep our loved ones alive? If we could extract human consciousness, the soul, and upload it into an immortal body, have we really saved the original being?

The prose is clean, clear, and minimalist – William Strunk Jr would’ve been proud- and all the other elements of good flash are there, from the first line to the last. Who could stop reading after an opening like “He knew he’d outlive her”? The rest follows suit until that final paragraph brings this original twist on love and lose to a reverberating close. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Demolition.” 

HG: I am Victory, and you are Defeat” is, for me, the best closing line in the bunch. Something about this story makes me feel small; not insignificant, only small. It touched something in me I can’t usually reach; A+, writer. Well done. 

FI: I asked that your story sear itself to my memory, and this one has.

Gorgeous prose, meaning woven throughout, and distinctly unique tone kept bringing me back for “just one more read.”

It’s a clever wordsmith that can bring me from laughing at the oddities of depressed robots and horrendous poets, to hushed awe over a reflection on a single yet universal victory some 2000 years old.

It’s no small thing to take a prompt as concrete as a house about to be bulldozed and give us an abstract view.

You know your craft well, dear writer.

And now: for her second time, fabulous creature!! — join me in congratulating our 

DRAGON WINNER

Steph Ellis!!!

for

“Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite”

HG: This is a heart-wrenching tale of woe, tearfully sculpted from the broken dreams of a broken man.

I’m totally kidding. This is a hilarious romp in which the enemy threatens to “haiku on your face.” I don’t know what that means, but I desperately want to see it. This was a clear choice for winner; a bad poem about bad poets. It’s just like the movie Inception. Okay, not really, but it’s magnificent. My new favourite line from a poem ever: Byron swallowed, sensed the threat; From this man of beef.”

FI:

Two things you’ve done especially well,
Mysterious writer friend.
You’ve captured Adams’ cheeky flavor,
And did so to an end.

For while we laugh and cringe at him,
Lord Byron could be us.
At first so proud of his creation,
Cruel jeers send him running to the dust.

Was he bad or simply cowed,
By common negativity?
So oft, as writers, we heed the harsh,
Believing truth must lack civility.

Silly us, t’isn’t so! Truth is bold,
But also kind – we want critique not criticism,
Let’s hope Lord Byron learns this fact,
Before his passion fails him.

Congratulations, Steph! Please find here your smartly updated winner’s page (let me know if you’d like to rewrite your bio in verse? cuz that would be totally COOL). Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for details regarding your second Sixty Seconds interview! And now here’s your winning story:

Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite

Byron Grimshaw eyed the crowd
Gathered at his door
Better than at Open Mic
The chance he’d waited for

He inhaled the dusty air
Puffed out his pigeon chest
“Hark my fellow countrymen,
Beneath my bosom’s breast …”

“Lurks a Primark padded bra
And poncey pink silk vest”

Determined not to yield his spot
To hecklers, he declaimed
Words that he intended
Would endure, spreading his fame

“Down Durham’s dreadful dreary roads
Yellow monsters chewed up brick,
As the bard orated ….”

“You really are a p…”

The words were lost amid a stir
As the foreman pushed towards him
Bulldozed his way up to the front
Clear threat behind his warning

“I’ve tickets for the match tonight
Son, you’re a right disgrace
If you don’t come out here pretty quick
I’ll haiku on your face”

Byron swallowed, sensed the threat
From this man of beef
Meekly slunk out of the house
And ran off down the street.

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Sixty Seconds IV with: Chris Milam

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 Chris MilamRead his winning story here. Note that this is his FOURTH amazing (if not terribly unexpected; have y’all read this guy’s stuff??? SO. GOOD.) win!!! Be sure to check out his winner’s page to read his previous winning stories and interviews & then come back here to get to know him better. (Note: 4x winners aren’t bound by word count in their answers.)

1) What about the prompts inspired your story, particularly the concept of a “theater of solitude”?

My first thought when viewing the prompts was I didn’t want to use a typical film/play type theater. Paired with a prisoner, I instantly saw a man sitting alone in his house watching home movies, a man who can’t let go of the past. And when you can’t let go off the past, solitude usually follows. You become intimate with ache. Then you spiral into the void.

2) Here at FF we’ve got a pair of strong writers in you Milams. Tell us something about Brett we don’t know or that might surprise us.

I can say that Brett is a generous person. I know of an instance when he gave the pizza delivery guy a huge tip, like $50 or something. He helped an out of state friend financially and emotionally when that person was going through a serious personal matter. He’s not bashful about opening his wallet or his heart to help those in need. Also, Brett is a pretty solid Ping Pong player. He has cat-like reflexes. He morphs into a ginger puma when a paddle is placed in his hand.

3) Tell us something about YOU that would surprise us.

I cry a lot watching movies and documentaries. Seriously, I’m like a blue-eyed spigot of tears. I watched Castaway for the first time in forever the other day. The scene when he loses Wilson in the ocean… COME ON!! I crumbled.

Also, I battled an addiction for over a decade that I finally defeated about three years ago with the help of therapy and a massive dose of self-determination. 

I’m a bit obsessed with the big cats of Africa, especially the leopard, the solitary hunter. And cooking shows. The culinary arts fascinate me.

4) So you’re a writing superhero by night. Care to tell us something about your day (non-writing) life?

I live in Hamilton, Ohio, a town just north of Cincinnati. I have two children, a son and daughter. Honestly, I’m a pretty boring guy. I prefer a night at home to a night on the town. Books, music, and sports are my refuge, my escape. Netflix is my mistress. I’m always reading. Always drinking coffee. Always plotting against that formidable foe known as self-loathing.

5) You’re a proud Flash Dog, with stories in the soon-to-be-released Solstice anthologies. Give us a hint as to what we might expect in your stories there. And are there any other writers whose Solstice stories you’re particularly looking forward to reading? What’s it like, writing for an anthology?

I truly struggled with my anthology stories. As all writers know, there are times when the words just don’t materialize. The creativity is lacking. Frustration sets in. But you have to plow forward and do the best you can. I spent weeks in the revision stage trying to improve my tales. It was a draining process. And knowing I’ll be published alongside so many talented writers, I’m more than a little nervous, and a bit intimidated as well.

I guess if my stories had a theme, it would be relationships, because that’s what’s at their heart. Our need for companionship and acceptance, no matter how strange, sad or profound, is something I tried to explore.

Also, being paired with Voima during the editing process, I had the luxury of reading her stories. You folks are in for an exquisite treat; her tales are magic on the page. And we did a collaborative story that I’m proud of and hope everyone enjoys. Working with her was an absolute pleasure.

6) You’re a fairly new fiction & flash writer. Are you an avid reader? What prompted you as an adult to give writing a go?

I’ve been a reader my entire life. I remember the bookshelf at home being lined with my dad’s John D. MacDonald books, the Travis Mcgee series. I’m sure those books made an impression on me. The only writing I did in the past were saccharine poems to various girls/women. I was that guy, the corny poem dude.

What prompted me to write two years ago was overcoming the addiction I mentioned above. I needed something to fill the space. I started a blog and wrote some horrific stuff. Just awful. But I kept writing, learned from others, improved. Writing became another form of therapy over time. I was at my bottom a few years ago, and to sit here today, being a 4 time winner of Flash! Friday and having been published by some fantastic journals, is pretty damn surreal. It’s baffling because I have no idea what I’m doing. I just sip coffee in the dark and write.

7) What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written (and why)? least favorite (and why)?

I tend to hate everything I write. Every word. Every punctuation mark. But I guess my favorite story would be “Check the Fridge.” It was the first time a story felt right to me. The dialogue and flow. The humor. The underlying emotions. The story ended on the right note.

My least favorite would be “Savannah Smiles,” a violent tale about a psychopath who kidnaps, tortures and kills a Girl Scout. Just senseless and gratuitous mayhem. Garbage. But he does eat her cookies at the end, the Savannah Smiles, which is still kind of funny to me.

8) You’ve said you’re a big Stephen King fan. What’s your favorite work of his, and why? He’s famous for representing his genre well, of course; what writerly things does he do really well? what could writers of other genres learn from him (or from any of your favorite writers)?

Stephen King was an influence on me in my younger days. I can remember reading Christine as a kid and I was like a possessed Plymouth Fury? Yes, please. Hard to say which one is my favorite because I love so many. Thinner, The Green Mile, Needful Things, Different Seasons and Misery would all rank highly on my list. The author Walter Mosley said it better than I can; he praised “his almost instinctive understanding of the fears that form the psyche of the American working class. He knows fear and not the fear of demonic forces alone but also of loneliness and poverty, of hunger and the unknown.”

My tastes have changed over the years. I’m more inclined to submerge myself in the prose of Donald Ray Pollock, Cormac McCarthy, and Khaled Hosseini these days.

9) What’s next for you in your writerly life, now that your stories for the Solstice anthology are done?

I would love to attempt a novel of some kind. Just about everyone who urges me to write a book would prefer I write a memoir type thing, based on the experiences from my pretty insane past. Places I’ve been. People I’ve met. Addiction and all its tentacles. The malignant tumor that is depression. There’s definitely a story there but reliving your mistakes and whatnot isn’t the easiest of endeavors. Shall see. But I prefer to write fiction.

10) Anything you’d like to add?

I think you deserve a shout out, Rebekah. You give us creative weirdos a place to play. You provide a platform for all of us to hone our craft, to grow as writers, to support and encourage one another. Without Flash! Friday, I’d probably still be writing nonsense like “Savannah Smiles.” Thank you. You are cherished by everyone.

Oh, one last thing. If you’re reading this, Mr. David Shakes, please consider revealing the whereabouts of Karl Russell. Unburden yourself, mate. Salvation can be attained. Your soul can be redeemed. It’s up to you, sir. Karl’s bones deserve a proper burial. {Editor’s Note: Karl, if you’re reading this, know you are loved. And remembered.}

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 25: WINNERS

AND NOW it’s time to bid an official, tear-soaked farewell to our glorious first Dragon team: Image Ronin and Joidianne. We haven’t seen the last of them, I’m quite sure: but it’s the last we’ll see of them (for now…!) in their capacity as judges. Their tireless thumb wars over choosing winners from among a community of spectacular writers has been a great deal of fun watching. Thank you so very much, dearest IR and Joidianne, for giving of your time, your talents, and above all, your writerly hearts to this community. We are so very grateful!

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Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne say: 

So here we are. When the ever supportive and patient Rebekah gave Jodi and me this opportunity, I was terrified and delighted in equal measure. Genuinely reading each and every one of your stories, teasing apart, narrowing down, selecting the few has been a privilege. We’ve learnt so much through this experience, not only in terms of writing, but the reality of what Rebekah has dealt with week on week since @flashfridayfic was forged into splendid dragon being. 

Yet our time has come to an end, and heaven knows I’m miserable now. Yet with every cloud a silver lining.

So firstly a round of applause to this wonderful cabal of fantastic writers. It has been a joy and an honour to collaborate with you all, and we both feel richer for the experience.

And a standing ovation for Rebekah, for without her support, patience and reassuring emails ….

Well, let’s just say you’d be still waiting for our first results to be posted.

So, tears welling, we bid adieu, its been a blast, and now I know it’s over I can simply sit back and panic over what I’m going to submit next Friday.

Till we cross pens again, here are our final finalists.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Morrisey-esque lyricism: Carlos Orozco (outgoing Team 3 Dragon Captain!), “In Limbo.”  –“the simultaneous feelings of being satisfied and not, tug on what most writers would call his heart”

Most Disturbing Juxtaposition: Mark A. King (outgoing Team 2 Dragon Captain!), “The Hospital.” “She comes with her distended belly and eyes of wonder.” “She comes with her skeletal body and eyes of knowledge.”

Ridiculously Satisfying End Line: David Borrowdale, “Respect Your Elders.” “Let them squabble, I thought, as I rocked backwards and forwards on the patio Mam and I had laid together. Her legacy is more than mere possessions.”

The Frankly Mr Shankly I’m a Sickening Wreck Award: Voima Oy (incoming dragon captain!), “The Singers.” They sang of the vanished days of job creators, of a Land of Opportunity across the sea.”

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brett Milam, “The Darkest Night.” 

J: This was a heartbreaking tale and one that I had to reread several times for the simple twist that came at the end.

IR: A well written, I nearly wrote executed but managed to avoid the pun, narrative that dealt with a complex scenario. Albert’s desires, fleeting memories that evoked the underlying current of a barabarism [that] begins at home.

MT Decker, “Double Edged.” 

J: This left me with so many questions. Who wrote the letter? Were they the ones who had been defeated or were they truly the victors? And the letter in itself was so haunting that I was unable to get it out of my head. Brilliant take and I’d love to have read more.

IR: Please, please, please let me get what I want! Answers, resolutions, something to calm this itch that refuses to be narratively scratched. An intriguing take on the prompt, that left me as beguiled as bewildered.

Clive Tern, A Tower to the Heavens.” 

J: This made me laugh way too much, the tone of the piece from the very beginning reminded me a bit of a Monty Python sketch and it honestly didn’t disappoint when I realized that the construct was actually the tower of Babel.

IR:  A comedic slant that took us into a realm where the certainty of one’s own talents are wrenched asunder by complacency and the might of things beyond our control. Bigmouth strikes again, I can only surmise.

Carin Marais, “Defeated Draugr.” 

J: This take on the prompt was absolutely heart-wrenching, the fact that the ghosts were trapped there, stuck in a moment of such sorrow, one that seemed to be eternal was a harrowing thought but it created such a powerful scene as well.

IR: The Queen is Dead, and I was drawn into this realm of eternal pain and loss. The imagery of the eternal couple, trapped within confines where there is a light that never goes out, was evocative of LOTR. Nicely done.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Maggie Duncan, “Mother of Exiles.” 

J: This caught my eye because of the concept that it explored, the understanding that behind every historical or great moment there are people who have lost and hurt. It was a brilliant idea to interweave into the prompt, and the fact that they were building something that highlighted what they no longer believed in made it even more poignant.

IR: The notion of unwritten history, the history of the common voice, permeated this piece. Like a boy with a thorn in his side, the pain and regret that in turn forged a community, was eloquently delivered. The bitterness at the end, the stains of a past that tainted everything, left me wanting more. A really intriguing approach to the prompt.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Colin D. Smith, “Future Hope.”

J: In the midst of the tales of despair inspired by the prompt, this was a lovely unexpected twist because defeat doesn’t extinguish hope. The writer managed to capture that perfectly with this fill and the image of a half-built pyramid… after all, there’s always next time.

IR: “The gasp of the audience, magnified in the echo chamber of my mind.” Such a wonderful line that took me back to those formative years when the snap of failure recurred more than dreams of victory. My cheeks flushed crimson as I read this piece, feeling for our fallen hero, only to find my heart delicately played with as the father’s true intentions manifest. This charming man whose desire to heal led to a heart-warming and tender tale that took the prompts on an unexpected journey.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Tamara Shoemaker (outgoing dragon captain from Team 2!), “Potpourri Dreams.”

J: I loved the wordplay here. The utter despair and futility woven throughout seemed to grow with every word, and it left me hoping that there would somehow be a happy ending — even though I was fairly sure that wasn’t in the cards. A compelling read from start to finish.

IR: That opening line, cinematic Imax description of something intimate and laden with regret, drew me straight into this tale. The imagery never lets up, wonderfully capturing a relationship where love has been replaced by apathy and despair. Barbarism indeed begins at home. Elegantly brought back to our petal beginnings, the tale leaves one incredibly satisfied.

And now: for his THIRD time, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

JOSH BERTETTA!!!

for

“Be Careful What You Wish For”

J: This was such an original take on the prompt and I loved it all: everything from the innate curiosity that drove the group to build without true understanding of what they were building it for, the hopes that each of them had, and then how easily it was flipped from innocence to darkness. This was absolutely stunning from start to finish and well deserving of the winner’s spot.

IR: The characterisation and development of this piece grabbed my attention. From Mary whose desires were based upon fleeing an abusive legacy, to Mo hand in glove, seeking a second opportunity, with each description this group were clearly defined and depicted. The ultimate defeat, how are pride and desire can bring us all low, was wonderfully “executed”. A worthy winner.

Congratulations, Josh! A true pleasure to see you back at the top–and only weeks before you join us as a dragon captain, no less. Here’s your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

Be Careful What You Wish For

“If you build it they will come.”

That’s all the blueprint said.

Knowing neither what “it” was nor who “they” were, they built it anyway.

Abe, the aged wanderer, hoped “they” would give him a place to rest his weary bones. On work release, Mo, the law-breaking career criminal, wanted freedom. Mary, a young woman, prayed for a baby so she might give the love she never received. Long ignored by his family, Joe, the youngest of twelve brothers, wanted power and recognition. Justifying her drinking for being bored with life, Teresa the lush sought none other than God.

Upon completion an inscription appeared above the threshold.

Abe read in it “Invitation.”

Mo saw in the word “Instruction.”

Mary, “Incarnation;” Joe, “Interpretation.”

And Teresa? “Intoxication.”

They argued over who was right and who was wrong. They called one another names. Some even threw punches.

And the doors finally opened, a light pouring out from within.

They stopped, their mouths agape. Some fell to their knees, believing their dreams about to be realized.

Then “They”–the demons of jealousy, anger, greed, self-centeredness, and self-righteousness–came.

They saw what had become of the five, how they debased themselves in their wanting to be right.

Then, They conquered.

FFwinner-Web