Tag Archive | Brett Milam

Sixty Seconds III 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)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Chris Milam.  Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD THIRD win at Flash! Friday (woot!). Read his previous #SixtySeconds interviews as well as his bio here. Then take another minute or two to get to know him better below. (Note that three-time winners are never held to the word count rule. Chat away, Chris!)

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?  Nothing revelatory with the kitchen prompt, to be honest. I instantly saw a mother and son at breakfast. I wrote the first paragraph without having any idea how to include the prisoner picture. As the story unfolded, I knew a tale of hardship steeped in love and tragedy needed a father character of some sort. The story wrote itself after that.

2) You’ve been writing for FF a good while now. How has your approach to the prompts changed since you started? I think I approach the prompts in a less literal way. Not always the case, depends on the prompt, but I always try and do something a bit different. I usually know where a high percentage of writers will go with their stories and I focus on taking a less-traveled route. In a contest, it’s important to write a story that doesn’t mirror the vibe and thoughts of others. Originality is always the goal, and one I fail at often.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing? Writing flash fiction has certainly helped with poetry. Brevity is the key to both, and the process of condensing and excising unnecessary words applies to poetry as well. On the rare occasion when I write an essay, flash fiction can be found all over the page. Usually it’s a smear of overly-descriptive prose, a bad habit of mine, that reveals itself. Poetry, flash and nonfiction all aim to impact the reader in an emotional way. It’s the duty of words, a plunging of the reader’s mind with a profound precision.

4) In your first interview, you said you were writing a “surreal fairy tale” for your daughter. How’s that going? What are you working on these days? Well, the story for my daughter is currently languishing in my documents. It’s more laborious writing a children’s tale than I ever imagined. Hopefully, I’ll return to that story and create some magic. Time will tell. I’m currently focused on the #FlashDogs anthology. I have the rough draft of one story completed, and I’ve written the first couple of paragraphs of a second story. I’m not pleased with either one. A bit pedestrian. Plenty of time to fix them, though. And I will.

5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites? I don’t enter the weekly contests as often as I used to but a few I enjoy are: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and Angry Hourglass. Also, I’m always lurking on the sites of various online magazines and journals. Always reading. Always learning.

6) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet? To new writers: just write. That’s all you can do. Take those strange thoughts in your head and spill them across the digital vellum. Don’t be afraid to fail. We all do. But you can’t fail or succeed if you don’t write. Take a chance. Push the envelope. Create. Write. Have fun.

For the seasoned folks who haven’t won FF? It’s all subjective. Keep writing. Keep entering. I know some of the people who haven’t won. I’ve read their stories. I’ve seen their talent. Don’t let not winning yet define you. It shouldn’t. It doesn’t. Believe in your ability to work the word and keep plugging away. A crown isn’t required to be known as a fabulous writer. 

7) Tell us something about your writing life. How often do you get to write, and how do you balance writing and responsibilities?  I usually have an adequate amount of time to write; balance isn’t a major issue. My problem, at times, is motivation and self-doubt. I can easily slip into a lazy, negative mindset which isn’t conducive to writing. I’ll question my abilities, my reasons for writing and what the whole point of flash fiction is, when I’m in a dark mood. I’m always engaged in a bloody battle with my demons. It’s exhausting. Good times.

8) What’s your writing process like? When I write, it’s all about coffee, solitude and music. And doubt. I tend to take a break from a story and pace the floors like a madman. Back and forth. Yelling at myself. Sometimes out loud. Then more coffee, more words. More pacing. Look at Twitter. Fill a jar with teardrops. More coffee etc.

9) What are your biggest writerly pet peeves? I’m not a big fan of cheeky, goofball humor in a story. It’s an arduous endeavor for even the best of writers. Sometimes, a story that is all inner-monologue can be a pet peeve of sorts. I’m guilty of this one quite often. I prefer movement in a story, not just a writer’s thoughts. The whole “Show don’t tell” applies here. Twist endings can be a turnoff, at times, when not done properly. If the entire story is uprooted by an implausible turn of events at the end, it’s a waste of the reader’s time.

10) Final thoughts? Shout-outs are in order for the folks doing all the heavy lifting for the #FlashDogs anthology: Mark King, David Shakes, Tamara Rogers, and Emily June Street. Not only are they putting this massive project together, but they’re also extremely talented writers and kind human beings. I applaud them.

Quite a few writers have truly inspired me and I’ve learned a great deal from reading their work. Whether I’ve long been a fan or they’ve written something recently that caught my eye, these folks deserve a mention: Grace Black, Jacki Donnellan, Voima Oy, David Borrowdale, Carlos Orozco, Marie McKay, Steph Ellis, Foy Iver, Tamara Shoemaker, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam. You guys can sling the prose. And to be honest, I could’ve named any #FlashDog here. Every single one of you continues to astound and inspire me.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 15: WINNERS

Happy Monday! Such fun, kicking off a week with winners and prizes and sparkly fiery confetti. And, obviously, TimTams WHICH, I will have you know, coincidentally guest starred in a Daily Science Fiction story last week called “Garbage Trucks of Discontent” (it’ll be posted at their site on Wednesday; because I find this whole TimTam thing hilarious, I will be sure to let y’all know when ).  

NO SPOTLIGHT interview tomorrow: these are a great deal of fun!! But I’m taking this week off so I can finish reading Silverwood and then interview our clever Betsy Streeter all about it.  

However, coming up we’ve still got Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then, because time travels entirely too fast, it’ll be Friday. Again! 


Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayThis week we had some extremely original stories. Every story was different enough that we didn’t feel like we were reading a different draft of the same story, which is very difficult considering you all are so limited by photo prompts and required story elements. You can never make it easy, can you?  Again, just a reminder, we gave the edge to stories that fully incorporated the required story element which this week was setting.



Geoff Holme, “Character Assassination.”Best use of dialect. This is one you need to read aloud. 

Ray Morris, A Pirate’s Life For Me.”- Be careful what you wish for! Let this story remind us (in a humorous way) that what we want to say isn’t always as obvious as we think.  {Note: Lest you think Ray’s a newbie — a note that he won Flash! Friday’s very first public contest back in January 2013, with a scant 50 words. Oooo! ahhh! Here’s the link.}

Luccia Gray, Mary’s Alone.” – One of us had this as the best story of the week, but it didn’t really utilize the setting the way we’d hoped for. A chilling portrayal of bullying, control, and fear. 

Josh Bertetta, Eric Doesn’t Care For Titles.” – We loved this story – it was funny, clever, and well-written. But it seemed a little too much like it was written for *us*, and not to tell the best story possible for the prompts. Still, a wonderful read. 

Rasha Tayaket, Heat.” – Haunting. Just haunting. Might have to join up with the teller and get some aluminum arrows our own bad selves.  



Reg Wulff, Warrior’s Song.” What we liked about this one was the uniqueness of the story while still being very believable within the picture prompt. A kabuki theater is not that farfetched, yet this was the only story that tested that idea. The plot was delivered skillfully, waiting until the last minute to reveal the twist. Very well done.

Brett Milam, The Forgotten.” This was one story whose first line gives us a superb description. “The dark pus of my brain dripped between the fingers of yesterday’s mistakes.” This line uniquely describes what remembering something forgotten feels like. The broken sentences throughout help enhance the feeling of things forgotten. In reality, who remembers things in flowing prose? It’s all bits and pieces that battle to surface, and we believe this piece captures that.

Brian Creek, “Taped Transcript of Officer Mitchell.” This story experimented with format, which helped it stand out from the rest. The first piece of information is very detailed which helps to gently lower the reader into the story. From there on it’s very believable dialogue that wins us over. This is one that we wished could keep going, but holds its own as is.


Jessica Franken, “Libero.” What happened at the archery match? The sadness of one kind of loss (competition) blends into the anger of another kind (love gone wrong). The line “We all laugh a little, except Kristi and Erin, whose parents are divorcing.” tells so much in just a few words. We can picture the girls there on the bus, see their faces, hear the nervous laughter. Mr. Anders might not get his target, but what damage can he do along the way?


Alicia VanNoy Call, To Fly.” The first description in this just pulled us in and didn’t let go, “I stand at the edge of the lot, where the pavement is cracked by dandelions.” That one sentence created the setting in ways that nothing else could. The characters in this were also great. Here we were given the one who died for an idea bigger than both of them, and the one who kept his/her promise so that the first’s death wouldn’t be in vain. And all of this was executed in 208 satisfying words.


Michael Seese, “Bulls-eye.” All’s fair in love and war. Gloria thought it was love. Ted declared war. In just a couple hundred words, the author shows us the aftermath of a love gone bad and then – just maybe – hope, not for reconciliation, but for acceptance. A lot of flash stories try for a twist at the end which ends up invalidating the whole story, but this one brings clarity.


Taryn Noelle Kloeden!!!



Whether you believe in spiritual reincarnation or not, the knowledge that whether as matter or energy, all that is is all that has been and all that will be is a powerful one. But while we always hear about those who were King Arthur or Leonardo daVinci in past lives, if we have lived before, we’re all much more likely to have taken an arrow to the chest. This story paints life after life in bits of powerful detail and brought a fascinating idea to a beautiful telling. It takes a deft hand to have five distinct (by one count) settings in such a short story, which means that details need to be sharp and to the point. Each scene as brutal as the last, each death as meaningless. “All that there ever was, so there is now.”

Congratulations, Taryn! It’s been a while — couldn’t be more pleased to see you back at the top! Here’s your freshly updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature (can’t wait to hear — officially — what you’ve been up to!). And now, here is your winning story!


“Energy is not created nor destroyed, all that there ever was, so there is now.” Dr. Howard scratched the words ‘Conservation of energy’ across the dusty blackboard. Physics, the only class I ever failed.

The sky is above me. But it’s not all puffy clouds and soaring birds. Smog paints the stratosphere in jaundiced hues. There are power lines and buildings framing my spotted vision.

Last time the sky was cerulean. And I wasn’t alone. There were men all around, sporting musket holes, and trading groans.

But the time before, the sky was black. So were my robes, my hair, my blade’s sheath. I never saw the arrow coming, but I did feel it burrow into my chest. Blood welled, leaking with each shuttering thump of my foolish heart.

“The atoms in your body were forged in stars, breathed by mammoths. All that you are will never disappear. It will merely change shape.”

Warped sirens. The cold pull of blood-loss sinking me into the asphalt. I’ll be the headline on the 6:00 news. ‘Twenty Year Old Stabbed in Broad Daylight’.

Knife, musket, arrow. Burning in the heart of stars, raining, freezing, digesting, growing, decaying. I feel it all.

All that there ever was, so there is now.


Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 9: WINNERS

Today, it will please you to learn, is National Read in the Bathtub Day. I inform you of this first in case your plans did not already include reading in the bathtub and you need to change around the day’s itinerary. If you’re looking for reading material — which bathrooms ought to offer anyway — and have not read all of this week’s compelling tales, allow me to recommend them to you. The stories our judges awarded Honorable Mentions and above to are directly linked. Don’t miss out!

Remember to join us back here tomorrow for the first part of our interview with Flashversary winner Maggie Duncan. And come back Wednesday for our second Warmup Wednesday feature: lots of fun writing and chatting. And, obviously, chocolate, which this week is brought to you by dragon captain Tamara Shoemaker, who came over to the lair this weekend (pic proof here; we’re joined by Margaret Locke & Allison Garcia) and taught us the proper way to eat Tim-Tams. (“Eat” being a rather generous term for the slopping/gnawing thing the event actually was.)

Finally, CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who earned the Ring of Fire badge this week. Please be sure to visit the Wall of Flame to get to know your fellow dragons. Note: if you earned the badge but haven’t requested it yet, please contact us here with the required info. Three stories in a calendar month, and the badge is yours to flash for that month!


Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark A. King sayWow, did everyone make us live up to our position as ruthless judges this week! Ninety stories, and all of them so, so good. After anguished emails back and forth, we finally made our shortlists, only to discover that even with our shortlists, we still had more than half your stories in consideration. We culled, and culled again, and each time it was quite painful. When we hit 1st Runner Up and Winner, we liked both of them so much that we considered drawing straws to see who won. We didn’t actually do that (the Atlantic is a wide stretch to reach the straws), but there was an ultra-slim margin between our choices. So now you know that though the ones below are splendid examples of flash, so were most of the rest of the stories submitted this week. We hope that you still received recognition for your quality work in the community comments even if your story did not make it on this particular list. And now, without further ado, here we go!



Best Line: Deb Foy, “Life is a Curious Thing.”  “Then, without trying, that single line got its perpendicular mate.”

Fantastic & Vivid Word Pictures: Clive Newnham, “Little Heaven.” 

Unusual Twist on the Prompt: Sarah Miles, “Piece of Mind.”

Making-Us-Feel-the-Raw-Bite-of-War with the “unsexy shadows”: Brett Milam, “A Fallen God.”

Most Dance Steps in One Flash Story: Reg Wulff, “The Dance.”

Most Fleeting Moments in a Row: Charles W. Short, “Harrison Crosses Camphertown Square.”



Sydney Scrogham, Quitting Isn’t Complicated.” 

MK – I feel it’s time to tell you about some of the discussions we had… I mentioned to Tamara that I had the utmost respect for great romance writers. It is, in my opinion, the hardest thing to get right. This was a great example of something I enjoyed. Fantastic description here, “sitting crisscross applesauce, and he picks at the hem of his brown t-shirt. My hands sandwich between my legs as I bounce my knees up and down against the grey-blue couch cushions—like a butterfly without flight”. I also enjoyed this, “My face lifts with warmth and I release the breath I’ve been holding” – understated, yet very powerful.

TS – Subtle, well-written romance that avoids cheese and goes straight to the heart is one of my favorite things to read. The author of this piece, I felt, captured that balance perfectly. I love how zoomed in we are at the start. The descriptions are really, really well written. “My hands sandwich between my legs as I bounce my knees up and down...” This is my constant position anytime I sit – I love how it’s described. Also, Mark was teasing me about my love of “story frames.” The repetition of the first line and the last line – the beautiful artwork inside those perfect ends – the emotional twist at the finish – this whole piece was just really well done.

Carin Marais, Blue Ribbons.” 

MK – An incredibly sad story and one that removes us from the rain itself, as the story informs us from the very opening line, “There should have been rain.” What a great start. The follow-up line is incredibly sensory, with “black clouds, thunder, and the tick-tick of hail on roofs before the ice stings your skin as it falls and bounces on the black tar.” We have more examples later, with cicadas and bees, flowers and cut grass, all leading up to the day at the undertakers. Congratulations on a brilliantly executed and highly evocative take.

TS – I totally agree with Mark; this is so evocative! The sensory language flows so richly: “Perhaps it should have been autumn. Yellow and red leaves. The smell of fresh compost in the back garden. The rough bark of the apricot tree beneath my hands and knees as we scaled the branches.” I could feel myself sinking into such a world as I read this, could nearly smell the compost and the crisp autumn air. The final line drives that home with: “For a moment I smelled mulberries.” Horrendously sad, and even more emotional with the exquisite use of sensory appeal to underscore it. Gorgeous.

Nancy Chenier, “Slobber and Sympathy.”

MK – Wonderful take on the prompt. Great line here, “alien skeleton”, to describe the umbrella. This was also lovely, and heart-warming (not knowing what was coming next), “The wistfulness in those two words makes your tear ducts tingle.” For me, the Point of View deserves a mention.

TS – Really enjoyed this. I love the fact that the main POV thinks they have the umbrella guy figured out three times before the final line, which swings way wide of what the original understanding was. I felt that this was understated and subtle, which shows a lot of writing finesse.


Becky Spence, “Distraction.” 

MK – I have to hand it to you all. I didn’t think about the office blocks or windows overlooking the scene, but many of you did. In this story we have the drudgery of office worker, Rich, staring out of the window. “Distracted he watched the rain, stared through the translucent patterns, saw the artificial light catch in the hypnotic molecules,” not only places the character, but creates beauty with the rain drops. There is a real sense of Walter Mitty about Rich, with many of the following lines, especially this, “Thunder cracked loud and invasive, office buildings all around, perfect for a sniper, for a single shot of death. Still the faceless man stood, relentless he was unmoved by the noise, by the torrential rain, pouring upon him.” We get the confirmation of daydreams at the end, by which time, we’ve been transported around the world and back again, back to Rich and his mundane office job. A very different take on the many office stories. Original and well written.

TS – The stream-of-consciousness style for this piece was a little different, but I thought it worked really well. The piece is a wrap-up of Rich’s daydreams, one thought colliding with the next as he stares at the man out of the office window, so anything less than stream-of-consciousness wouldn’t have felt as dream-like. Heavy skies falling down,” “tears of the world,” “droplets dancing on the pane“… This is the kind of imagery that leaves me breathless and hypnotized. Beautiful story.


Phil Coltrane, “Visions in a Morning Sunstorm.”

MK – I deeply connected to this as I thought it was the best example of a real-life character. Yes, I know it’s just a picture, but I can see, and more importantly, I can feel the fabric of the life this man lives and the life he has lived. It’s not mentioned, but I can taste the dust and concrete; I can feel his excitement and joy for living – and this is a truly wondrous thing to do as a writer. I adore the title. We’re more familiar with the word “sandstorm,” yet a “sunstorm” is something that conjures colour, heat and feeling. This really sets the tone, “Retirement is for old people, and I’m barely seventy years young.” We then have visions from earlier days, “When I was a child, this was all cornfields” and “…at night I dreamed about life in the big city”. My father is a builder, so I can vividly see this; but you don’t need to have lived it to appreciate the craft of the great writing, “…worked our magic across the landscape, metamorphosing horizontal agriculture into vertical architecture”. The writer gives us clear and joyous links between the practical work of construction site and the majesty of a storm. This was simply fantastic, “I see the sparks from the welding torches setting the girders into place. Thunder claps like the staccato rhythm of the riveters, and the bass rumble of the earthmovers.” Despite the great images, I still come back to the character, the life he’s lived and the life he’s still living. Bravo.

TS – This story does an excellent job of connecting the past fleeting moments to the present/current rainstorm/prompt. Rain slapping broken pavement connects to sparks of welding torches. Thunder equates with staccato rhythm of riveters. Lightning flashes with bustle and children laughing. Such a great interlacing of past and present images.

Also enjoyed the ring of fire in the sky; I wondered if it was a nod to the Dragoness’ Wall of Flame she’s introducing? I, too, loved the use of the word “sunstorm.” Such a vivid term, accompanied by lots of rich mental pictures in my head. Well done.


Emily June Street, “A Fleeting Dream.” 

MK – This story has everything. It is a prime example of the art of flash conveying an entire novel in the space of 200 words. Indeed, I’ve read many 400 page novels that struggled to deliver a single percentage of this story. The opening is clear and simple – it gives us the backstory without any wastage. This is a great example of how to save those precious words for later. With this line, we have the hopes and dreams of both characters, ‘She had imagined greenery, a garden, goats. She had dreamed their children, eyes like his. “We’ll have a healthier life in Costa Rica,” he had said. “Rainforests and eco-living.”’ There is then clear transition to a new phase of the story, on in which we learn that all is not well, ‘She has tried and failed to make friends, to learn Spanish. “Gringa, macha, men hiss when she dares to walk out—old-world sensibilities rule here. Men see her as loose if she ventures out alone. Women wonder where her babies are, why she doesn’t attend church,” this part not only tells us the human story, but paints a vivid picture of the new world. The line, ‘Once-easy love now strains,’ is just perfect. Despite attempts to build happiness from inside, it is impossible to do, as ‘Concrete stretches beyond her window. Leaving the city requires hours of driving in diesel-tainted air. There is no garden, no goats. Her neighbor begs for money to buy crack.’ A dream turned vividly to nightmare in a truly brilliant flash fiction story.

TS – So, so much story packed into such a small amount of space! Absolutely agree with Mark that there are novels out there with less story than what is right here in this little flash piece. Some of the phrases were delicious bites to feast on: “She had painted paradise in her mind.” “Happiness is between your ears.” “Once easy love now strains.”

The downward spiral is so heart-breaking. I’m pulling for the brilliant dreams that I see at the beginning, but with lines like “Down pours the rain,” and “Where is he?“, I can feel the foreshadowing, and am drawn in. A silent clock ticks time toward a dark resolution in phrases like “She sits inside, watching the rain.” “Afternoon rolls into dusk.” “He disappears for hours.”

In the end, that final line: “Water rises to the crack beneath the front door,” provides dark brilliance as we realize that the protagonist is drowning in a flood of grief and broken dreams. Exquisitely written.


Nancy Chenier!!!


“Ripple Effect”

MK – Stunning. Mesmerising. Layered. These are the sort of words that don’t fully do this piece justice. Near the start we have the word “petrichor”, a word I’m not familiar with, but on reading the definition, what a perfect word. The writer gives us this, “Her form shivers like the reflection in a wind-ruffled puddle.” Shortly followed by this, “What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?” The first is a wonderful visual image, the second seems like philosophy given to us by powers beyond our comprehension. Yet it is more than that; it is an early glimpse of the story yet to be told. We have the heart-breaking vision of Cecilia about to be hit, “the tragic song by heart: her giggles, the staccato of her stamping feet, the squeal of tires, her mother’s ragged cry, the fade in and out of sirens.” The writer then combines beauty with the seemingly mundane, “a carousel whirl of colors. Red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella. She stomps and hops and crows the magnificence of her splashes. The driver’s too busy balancing an apple pastry on his latte thermos to notice.” There are many more wonderful lines, but this deserves special mention, “The squeal and thud cuts my pantomime short,” as we get frantic physical action from the narrator combined with the accident itself, conveyed in a minuscule package of words. Then we get the reveal at the end, for the tragic events have cast a ripple across time that Cecilia’s grandfather saw before she was even born. A truly magical tale, told with the best very skills of a flash writer.

TS – I don’t know that I can add much more than what Mark has already said. This piece absolutely floored me. Some of my favorite phrases are the ones with layers upon layers (which were nearly all of them). I could keep unwrapping each phrase and stumble on some new gem or point of genius.

What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?” followed by its mirror image near the end: “The violent death of a child ripples both ways across the pool of time.” These two lines add such a stunning frame to the piece.

The author of this piece struck at this mommy’s heart with their description of the girl: “red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella.” Her “carousel of colors” paints such a vivid mental picture that my heart lodged in my throat when I realized that the driver was too busy with his pastry and latte. Stunning detail. Fantastic imagery. Absolutely flawless story.


Congratulations, Nancy! Please find below the rights to a second heartbreakingly fabulous winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Ripple Effect

Whenever rain spatters the Paradise parking lot, she rises from the pavement like petrichor. Her form shivers like the reflection in a wind-ruffled puddle. What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?

Five years, I’ve watched shadows replay Cecilia’s last moments against curdled clouds. I know the tragic song by heart: her giggles, the staccato of her stamping feet, the squeal of tires, her mother’s ragged cry, the fade in and out of sirens.

Here she comes now, a carousel whirl of colors. Red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella. She stomps and hops and crows the magnificence of her splashes. The driver’s too busy balancing an apple pastry on his latte thermos to notice.

I leap forward waving my arms. It startles her from her puddles. There’s a flash of recognition, but my snarling face chases her between the parked vehicles. Away from harm.

The squeal and thud cuts my pantomime short. Her mother screams.

I’d witnessed her death since before she was born, and hell if I’d just let it happen. The violent death of a child ripples both ways across the pool of time. The death of an old codger like me won’t – not even if he’s her grandfather.