Tag Archive | Carlos Orozco

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 27: WINNERS

It’s coming up on a HUGE week in Flash Dog Land: in case you haven’t heard (not possible!!), the newest, most compelling flash fiction anthology, Solstice: Light/Dark yet is hurtling into publication on June 21. Make sure you’re following @FlashDogs so you won’t miss a thing. In honor of this event, tomorrow our Spotlight feature will shine on the Pack Leaders themselves, Mark A. King and David Shakes. Be sure to come back for this exciting, behind-the-scenes look.  

In the meantime, it’s another goodbye-fest here at Flash! Friday, as we bid a fond and grateful farewell to Eric Martell and Carlos Orozco in their capacity as dragon captains. They’ve judged your stories faithfully and with excellence, wrenching themselves out of deep and comfortable naps beneath large, warm rocks to do so. Now that’s love! –They’ve promised we will still see much of them as they write and share stories here; help me chase them down if they don’t, k? THANK YOU, dear friends, marvelous writers, for giving of your time and hearts to this community. We’re so very, very grateful.   

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Dragon Captains Eric Martell/Carlos Orozco say: 

Eric: The best part about judging for Flash! Friday is that you have to read all of the stories. You can’t let life get in the way and miss all the wonderful writing – so you see the brilliant things people come up with week in and week out. The worst part about judging for Flash! Friday is that you have to choose! Every week there’s about twenty stories I consider for my top choice, plus a bunch more that Carlos liked and, when I re-read them, see them in a different light. Then you say “this is the best one!” Ha! Best! So I’m going to be glad to turn that choosing over to someone else. But thank you to Rebekah for giving me the opportunity to read all these stories and the responsibility of choosing. I only hope I haven’t messed up too much.

Carlos: First off, I’d like to thank Rebekah for giving us this great, safe place to write. She does so much behind the scenes to keep this contest rolling week in and week out. It’s truly inspiring. Believe me when I say, I would probably not be where I am with my writing if it wasn’t for the dragon lair. With that said, if you ever get the opportunity to judge, do it. It not only gives back to this flash fiction community, but your writing will also get better. When you’re up late on Saturday night trying to cut your list of 20 down to 10 and trying to justify why story A should make it and not story B, you really see what separates the good from the spectacular. Then you have to write why that story felt so right (trust me it’s a lot harder than it sounds). But in the end, you start seeing similarities in what makes a story a winner. Once you have that, it’s like: Eureka, I have the secret formula for winning.

Now that we’ve gotten our tears and goodbyes out of the way, let’s get on to what you have been waiting all weekend for.

This week gave us many great stories about prisoners, theaters, prisoners in theaters, and theaters inside of prisoners, but per norm, the unique takes on the prompts are the ones that stood out the most. Also, this week was the first week where we both agreed on the top spot (battle to the death averted).   Now without further ado, let’s get to the winners:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best description of the man in the photo: Mark A. King, “The Unreliable Narrator.” “…his smouldering Oscar Wilde look about him, his unruly cravat, foppish hair and come-hither eyes.” With this description, we had no need for the photo.

Funniest title: Tamara Shoemaker, “Ungrapeful Audience.” This was a very funny piece that did the title justice.

Cliff hanger that needs an answer:  Clive Tern, “Across the Fourth Wall.” Was Aloise caught or did she fall to the floor? We NEED to know.

Best description of a theater:  Steph Ellis, “Curtain Call.” Amazing description of an abandoned theater. This one did the theme justice.

Angler of the week:  Michael Wettengel, “Inspiration.” This opening line hooked us in, hard.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Andrew Laidlaw, “And Then is Heard No More.” So much story here, and so much yet to tell. We don’t know who the prisoner is or who the guard is, but we know they’re playing roles – the prisoner pretends that he hasn’t been beaten and the guard knows that *how* the prisoner says it could determine what happens to him. We really wanted to read more of this one, so compelling a picture it painted.

Liz Hedgecock, “Monologue.” This was a perfect marriage between humor and horror. Our protagonist is haunted by that one commercial he did. While some seek fame by going viral, this person was destroyed (enslaved) by it. He will forever be the “Oat bar guy” unable to continue his career in acting. Our final verdict for this story “It’s SO good”. 

Phil Coltrane, “Matinee of Torment at the Theater of Lamech.” Starting off like a noir crime story and ending like a foray into the world of Edgar Allen Poe, this tale of one man’s revenge against the woman who had spurned him and his comeuppance was a joy to read. A man who celebrates killing his wife by watching her on the silver screen? What a compelling and remorseless character, Humphrey is.

Carin Marais, “An Audience at Bedlam.” This story is told almost entirely through the audience’s dialogue, and it works well. We get a very strong sense of how the caged man feels.  In a way it’s like the audience is telling us those things. But before we get a chance to feel bad for the man, he lets his ego out, trying to perform for his fans. It’s in this action that we get the feeling that perhaps he did something to deserve being put in the cage.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Mark Morris,Brother Computer’s Final Final Show.”  A takedown of reality television, a dystopian future, and a zombie story all wrapped in one. Quite a lot to put into 209 words! Painted with tons of descriptive terms which set the scene easily (view-screen, time-code, MoltoCon, paddock, dying and already undead), plus some inventive character naming which set the story in a world both like ours and not, we’re brought into the story along with our narrator, Brother Computer. A lovely and sad tale.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “The Long Run.” We liked this story because the setting enslaves the character in this one. He is bound by what most other actors seek: success. It is the flipping of traditional beliefs on their heads that makes the story stand out. And the image of the crowd devouring the actor’s soul was very vivid and maniacal. It felt like something from a nightmare.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Michael Seese, “The Fourth Wall.” This story did a wonderful job of revealing the theater and the prison that can hide within the commonplace. Samantha and Jonathan live the American Dream, but not *their* dream. Terms like “Middle Generica” show that they’re trapped in roles which were defined for them, but which don’t have meaning for them. The picture of ennui and antipathy that the author paints is one which can make us all question our choices – are we living the live we’re choosing to lead, or choosing to live a life that we feel has been chosen for us?

And now: another new member of the Quad Club: celebrating his own FOURTH win, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“House Arrest”

The first line “He slid the CD, a meal of memories, into the mouth of the plastic device” took our breath away, and it only got better from there. From “He was a human tree on the couch, rooted in the fabric” to “Newspapers piled up on the porch like black and white firewood”, every description in this was deliciously original and we were beyond envious. This writer showed a strong command of the language, twisting and contorting each word and phrase to tell a great story. The pacing was also well executed. Like the depressed protagonist we lose track of time and slip into the monotonous routine of daily life. Ordinary objects become fantastic (mailboxes gaining weight, lawns turning into extraordinary landscapes), but it doesn’t matter to us because the story also drops us into that dark place. Well done. 

Congratulations, Chris! What a pleasure seeing you nab your FOURTH win! Your writing, often dark and disturbing, always haunting and beautiful, nabs readers’ eyes and imaginations each week, so it’s only fitting. 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:

House Arrest

He slid the CD, a meal of memories, into the mouth of the plastic device. It accepted his offering with a grinding, mechanical thank you, a sound that became his friend over time, his partner in torment.

Images leaked from the television, coating the walls and his face with the chaotic light of evacuation. He was a human tree on the couch, rooted in the fabric, sedentary, except for his eyes. They shimmied in their sockets, pulsating blue, as they drank the beauty on the screen and devoured the colorful silhouettes that crawled through the darkness like radiant serpents.

Over time, he had moved his bed into the basement. And the refrigerator. The microwave. He turned a storage closet into a matchbox bathroom. This theater of solitude became a damp penitentiary of the past. Daily, he slammed the mental bars, turned his key of regret, and did his time.

Newspapers piled up on the porch like black and white firewood. His lawn grew into a suburban savannah. The mailbox gained weight.

Richard couldn’t differentiate between dusk or dawn, snow or sunshine. The outside world was as foreign to him as happiness.

He snatched another CD, stabbed Play. Caged bones and iced soda, their trip to the zoo last summer.

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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.

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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)

Matchlight

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.