Tag Archive | Charity Paschall

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 11: WINNERS

HOLY MOLY, PEOPLE! What a joy to see the community burn up the board this round. Brian Creek took the prize for making the 1,000th comment; but truly, this milestone is thanks to the many, many, many of you who took time out of your full schedules to invest in your fellow writers. And when it comes down to it, it’s not the number of comments that matters (as much fun as we had counting!). It’s YOU, and the safe, welcoming community you are. And I’ll stop there today lest I get all maudlin and weepy and accidentally set something on fire.  

(Again.)

Next up! DON’T MISS TOMORROW’S exclusive interview with the founding members of the Flash Dogs. And then comes Warmup Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. Then it’s the fun of Flash! Friday all over again! 

Finally: don’t forget to claim eligibility for FEBRUARY on the Wall of Flame. Once March 1 rolls around, the wall will glow ONLY with names of those who’ve earned the #RingofFire badge in February. Meanwhile, I’m toying around with the idea of a prize at year’s end to whoever’s earned the most #RingofFire badges…. 

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Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayWe had another great turnout this week. The flash fiction community refuses to make our job easy, and we’re glad. It really is an honor to be able to read and judge so many great stories. Speaking of judging, we would like to share a little bit of our judging process for this week. We felt like some great stories were unable to make our shortlist because they failed to meet the requirements for the story element portion. This week’s story element was setting, and the setting you were asked to write about was “moon”. Many of the stories were really good but failed to incorporate the moon as a crucial part of the setting. For our shortlist we favored the stories that used “moon” (in any incarnation) as a setting, as opposed to using “moon” as an object. It might seem a bit trivial, but focusing on the story elements will help us all become better writers.

Well, that’s enough of the boring stuff; let’s move on to the results:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

It will make you double take: Clive Newnham, “…and the moon.” The first time through it seems as if the characters are drifting through space, and then you realize they’re not. You will read this one at least twice.

Most unique setting: Holly Geely, “Poor Things.” This writer really used some out of the box thinking to take us into a completely different landscape (albeit an undesirable one).

Best… um… Something. Mark A. King, “***SPAM***Lunar Realty Inc — Special Offer.” {{Editor’s Note: Which, for some TOTALLY STRANGE REASON, wound up in the lair’s actual spam file.}} A unique story structure (Spam email) in the second person POV which will inspire some grins, lolz, and/or ROFLz.

What Happens When Cute, Funny, and Sad Are Mixed. Rasha Tayaket, “Nursery Rhymes.” This had us smiling at first and holding back tears in the end.

Story That Can Double As a Playlist. Charity Paschall,Just for Fun. This is a unique idea that seems like loads of fun (Warm up Wednesday challenge perhaps?).

Ideas For the Real World. Colin Smith, UntitledWouldn’t it be great if something like this could happen in every town?

Superb Monologue. Deb Foy, “Elegy for the Earth.” We would love to see this performed on stage.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sarah Miles, Guess How Much I Love You.” We each debated how to rank this story because it was so well done, but did not utilize the moon as a setting prompt as fully as others. But how could you not be drawn into Jamie’s story? Too young to know what his father was doing to his mum (although there’s just a hint of what Daddy might be doing to him), and still innocent enough to believe his mum’s promises of an escape beyond his wildest dreams, you want Jamie to escape but know that he’s much more likely to spend the rest of his life being laughed at until he cries than ever walking on the moon. Heart-wrenching tale.

Rasha Tayaket, Stuff.” This was a story that just snuck up on you. It starts like a stereotypical argument between the arrogant husband, too stubborn to ask for help, and the over-packed wife, dragging half of her belongings on vacation while hectoring her husband. But there are hints that there’s more, until we’re smacked across the side of the face with the titular “stuff” that she was so reluctant to leave behind. What an imaginative view of the future, combining an almost magical vision of how new lives will be created with the horror of disposability of the weakest among us.

David Shakes, “The Sky is Falling.” From the first line we can tell the situation is hopeless, but the dad still pretends survival is possible to keep his son hopeful. The difference in mood from father to son is stark, and that juxtaposition makes this piece all the more heartbreaking. In the end, the characters’ roles are reversed and it is the son who has accepted their untimely demise while the father can’t help but weep. The image of the father and son hugging under the light of a giant moon and waiting for the earth to swallow them is very powerful, beautiful, and melancholic.

Mimi N., “Alone, Together.” This piece delivers exactly what the title said it would. The main character isn’t alone yet, but she might as well be. She hears the madness of isolation creeping up through the beat of Stefan’s heart. It’s ironic that hearing that heartbeat does little to soothe her. Instead she goes outside (by herself) and looks at the Earth. For her, the view of Earth and the fantasy of floating home does more for her sanity than the company of someone else.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jamie Hershberger, “Down on the Corner.” The first thing that pulled us into this piece was the creative use of the moon setting. Rather than giving the characters a moon under their feet or over their heads, the writer gives them a street called Moon. Also, the character descriptions in this are great. Saying the mother “smoked Virginia Slims” does much more for her character than simply saying she was a smoker. Finally, the last bit of bitter news reveals some vital information, answering many questions we didn’t know we had.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Alicia VanNoy Call, Bring an Extra Suitcase.” While the first person to set foot in any given place is an explorer, the day will inevitably come when explorers will be replaced by tourists, surrounded not by the staggering beauty of a world unexplored by the human experience, but by the detritus of a more “civilized” age. And yet, if one cocks an eye at just the right angle, there’s still magic to be found among the wonders of the universe. A wonderful story that finds beauty among the strip malls.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Brian S. Creek, “Oxygen.” This was a chilling story of an astronaut accepting that he or she was on a trip with no way of getting home. Except that there is a way home, through a hypoxic delusion taking us back to the astronaut’s childhood home. A masterful interweaving of the prompt setting and photo – the astronaut was on the moon, but also on Hope Street, where dreams of the future always reside.

DRAGON WINNER

PHIL COLTRANE!!!

for

“Runaways on Hope Street”

This story was one of the few we both had in our top ten (doesn’t happen often).  The piece was only 202 words, but it felt like a novel.  The required story element was also successfully used with the moon playing a crucial role in the story. We could feel the longing in the little sister’s gaze as she looked up at the moon while her brother told fantastic stories to comfort her. The story also did a great job of hitting all the little details. For example, describing the stars as uncaring counters the romanticized idea of the wishing star. Another little detail that makes the story successful is the word choice when the characters gaze “heavenward”. The brother’s story sounds like a heaven of sorts that’s placed in a much more tangible location (the moon). This places a silver lining on a grim ending.

Congratulations, Phil! Please find below the rights to a your fourth winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here are 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!

Runaways on Hope Street

“Tell me it again, Rudder. About the Moon.”

Roderick embraced his kid sister, for warmth as much as affection. The wind ripped straight through his ratty coat. “They’s a huge castle up there on the Moon. Bigger even than this factory. But clean, ’cause the Man in the Moon has hundreds of servants to scrub away the grime.”

Blue eyes admired the bright orb. “It looks like ice. Is it cold?”

“No, Winnie. Up there, the sun’s so bright it makes everything glow like a gas lantern.” He leaned against the icy brick wall, gazing heavenward. Uncaring stars twinkled in the winter sky. “And they’s clear lakes, and open grassy fields for miles and miles and miles. Just like when we was young.”

“It must be real warm there, Rudder. I can feel it now.” Her shivering stopped. “And Daddy is up there?”

“Yes. Daddy went to be a servant to the King and Queen of the Moon. They pays him in diamonds, and dresses him in purple silk, and lets him stay in their castle.”

Sleepily, the girl closed her eyes. “When can we see him, Rudder?”

“Real soon, Winnie.” Roderick, too, closed his eyes. “We’ll be with ‘im real soon.”

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 30: WINNERS!

WHAT a huge week this is, so huge I can hardly stand it. In prep for Tuesday, I’m not running a Flash Points tomorrow. But then…. hang on to your hats, because it’s the DOG DAYS OF SUMMER contest, hurtling into a fist-fighting, trouble-making, rabble-rousing existence Tuesday, July 8, at 7:30am Washington, DC time. Did I mention there’s prize money?? And bragging rights. Oh yes. Bragging to high heaven, and a chorus of cheering draggins all along the way. Don’t miss it!

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Judge Craig Anderson says: So I promise I will never again sit at my computer on a Sunday and excitedly proclaim, “Where are the results?” From the outside I always imagined the judges’ task to be a quick and simple one, something to be undertaken with a cup of coffee and a big smile on your face. One quick read through, maybe a second just to be sure, and then Bob’s your uncle, knock up a quick email with the winners and you’re done in time for breakfast. How very wrong I was!

Fast forward to my first stint as a judge and my deeply furrowed brow and ever growing stack of empty coffee mugs as I re-read all your entries for the umpteenth time while the deadline rapidly approached. I could honestly find things to love about every story: there was darkness, comedy, spaceships and time travel. You all did a fantastic job of making my task rather more difficult than I had imagined it. I’m not complaining, though; it was a very enlightening experience and has taught me a great deal about the subtleties of flash and just how much difference a few words can make. I also want to take a moment to thank all the previous judges for vanquishing a similarly challenging list of awesome stories.

So please find below my list of SM’s, HM’s, Runner ups and the Winner, and rest assured that I came up with them as fast as was Dragonly possible! 

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

JUDGE Phil Coltrane, “Conceived in Liberty.” Very clever personification of the countries, with America as the rebellious teen and England as the frustrated but ultimately powerless parent.

Evan Montegarde, “Her Majesty’s Independence Day.” I enjoyed the concept that the entire revolution was just a cunning ploy by the Queen to avoid the Kings amorous advances. Fifteen babies!

Charles W. Short, “Life Development Reports from the Gamma Zeta 12 Sector.” A fun and zany twist on the prompt, with a couple of ‘small’ oversights leading to hilarious consequences.

Ian Martyn, “It’s a Man’s World.” America could have been a very different place due to some second rate quills, although Bob would have been pleased. Thank goodness for Mildred!

William Goss, “She Served Wisdom.” I really liked the use of various smells to paint a picture of these powerful men. Also loved the title!

Charity Paschall, “Martha’s Declaration.” I loved Martha’s more direct approach and how she gets right to the heart of the issue in far less time than the men.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Allison Garcia, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Incorporating dialect into the dialogue was a great way to quickly establish the characters. This is always a tricky thing to do well, but here the balance is spot on. There were some really nice touches, comparing the ‘hardship’ of Thomas sleeping in his chair for a few days with the slaves’ straw beds really helped to provide some context to how difficult the slaves’ lives were in comparison. “You get underfoot and the missus gonna send you to another family” reinforced that same theme and reminds us that these people are not free or equal. This story deals with some dark and difficult themes, but then flips the tone with that last line, which was still funny after multiple read throughs.

Brian Creek, “America Can Wait.” The tone of this piece was great, playing with the reader by making them think it was going one way only to change directions at the end and turn into something much lighter. This contrast really worked and made the punchline that much stronger. There were lots of little touches throughout that gave each person character, with Benjamin pushing his glasses back up his nose or Thomas gazing out the window at the city with his part already done. To me it also helped to humanize these great men, they may have been working on one of the most important documents in history, but they still have to eat!

SECOND RUNNER UP

Pratibha Kelapure, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Big City.” I love how Pratibha effortlessly worked several of the themes from the declaration throughout this story. The first line set the scene and established the struggles this couple were going through and gave context to the wife’s frustrations. I also thought that, “When did the pursuit of happiness become the pursuit of money?” really spoke to how much times have changed since those men in the painting outlined a path to a better life. I could really picture this couple, working all kinds of hours to make ends meet and get a fresh start, thinking of the future and a better life for themselves, only for that ending to take it all away! I still get shivers thinking about it. I’m never working late again! {Editor’s Note: Not 5 minutes off the judges’ panel, and 2nd runner up?? WAY TO GO, Pratibha!}

FIRST RUNNER UP

Bart Van Goethem, “The Declaration of Independence.” This story really jumped out at me as a highly relatable scenario. We’ve all had those decisions that we’ve agonized over for days only to find out that the resolution is nowhere near the herculean endeavour we imagine it to be. The voice of the narrator stood out, those short sharp sentences perfectly capture the protagonists agitated mood and the build up to the big confrontation. I could feel her preparing herself for a fight, only to blurt out her demand to be met with an anti-climactic victory. I love that to her it is a major statement, the start of a new chapter, but to him it’s just dinner. The title was also a great fit for this piece and a nice way to tie it all back to the prompt.

And now: for his second time, it’s beloved & highly talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

KARL RUSSELL!!!

for

“A Declaration”

This one really jumped out at me on my first read through with some powerful imagery. “An archaeological stratum of family life” painted a vivid picture of the basement in very few words, and naming the ship the Independent was a nice tie-back to the prompt. “She pinched hold of the mast and snapped it with a shocked giggle,” was a subtle way to show that destroying the boat wasn’t necessarily her original reason for venturing into the basement, but I could feel her surprise at the joy associated with that first piece breaking off. 

The more times I read it, the more I filled in the backstory. I found myself imagining a neglected wife upstairs, increasingly jealous of the object of her husband’s attention, until she’d had enough. The destruction of this fragile object perfectly represented the end of their marriage, and the celebration of the birth of the country was a nice parallel to her own personal celebration of her new beginnings. All in all, the various pieces worked really well together to create a very compelling story with a lot of depth for so few words. 

Congratulations and welcome back to the dais, Karl! Your rebellion-crushing winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your freedom-ringing, 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:

A Declaration

The basement was cool and dark, the music and fireworks a distant rumble. Cath pulled the light cord, blinking as the strips stuttered into life, revealing shelves of retired toys and forgotten hobbies, an archaeological stratum of family life. She was feeling tipsy and rarely came down here, and her eyes misted as she saw racquets and bicycles and happier days.

At the workbench where Mike spent his evenings, she peered intently at his handiwork. The ship was minutely detailed, a masterpiece of care and attention, down to the tiny name painted on the hull: The Independent.

With thoughtless ease, she pinched hold of the mast and snapped it with a shocked giggle. She thought of all they were celebrating upstairs, the new world born from so much destruction, and she swept the ship to the floor, stomping the balsa wood to shards.

Then she placed the divorce papers in the virgin space and went back upstairs for the fireworks.

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 22: WINNERS!

Welcome to the awards ceremony for Vol 2-22 and our Peter Pan (or not-so-Peter-Pan) collection of tales (did I mention Judge Jess is more of a Cap’n Hook gal??). As ever, a humdinger of a ride with all you crazy dragonlings. Thanks to beloved familiar writers & to you brave new ones for joining the party! We always have a great time here, proved this week yet again. Thank you. Your time and participation mean so much.

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Judge Jess West says: Greetings, flashers! With so many five star flashes this week, choosing twenty was nearly impossible. After agonizing over the choices for hours, I’ve finally managed to narrow it down to a reasonably short list. A few of you surprised me with what I thought was a clever and unique twist on the coming of age prompt. I’ve always equated a girl’s “coming of age” with the time of the red dragon, but you guys took it somewhere else entirely, to my astonishment and utter delight! (Yes, I’m a little twisted.) Although Rebekah suggested a Peter Pan-ish feel, several of you took real life cautionary tales and familiar favorites alike and gave ’em a nice, dark twist. If you know me, you know I love those. Some of you just jerked the rug right out from under me, and I’ll save my comments on those for last. Thanks again for an incredible week of judging, and I hope to see you all again in a few. 

P.S. In The Sins of the Mother, a classic tale of lost boys and the one who would never grow up is brought to life -and present day- by our very own judge, Prathiba Kelapure. While her story isn’t eligible for placement, hers was the best use of prompts, including the photo, the dragon’s bidding, and the not-so-subtle hinting of our beloved dragony hostess, Rebekah Postupak.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Laura Emmons, “Fighting the Wolves.” A flash fiction piece full of conflict, with metaphorical wolves aplenty.

A Dark Moon in Orbit, “The Turning.” A sorrowful tale full of rich descriptions, and incredibly touching.

AJ Walker, “In Push to Restart.” The creeping darkness of the tone escalates subtly, making for a bigger impact in the end.

Chris Milam, “The Weed.” This one deserves a spot in the short list for Best Antagonist.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Lunacy.” Jealousy, betrayal and murder make good bedfellows, and Taryn certainly used that to her advantage in Lunacy. Two sisters, one man … murder is inevitable.

M.T. Decker, “Destroyer of Worlds.” Highly entertaining with a twist I love and didn’t see coming. Mary made my day with this one.

Scott Vannatter, “Crisis of 1885.” I was waiting for something much worse to have happened than what the girl was trying to relay, getting just as angry as the mother. The relief I felt at the end added to the humorous impact.

Charity Paschall, “No More Secrets.” Another of those characters I’ve become quite familiar with, Rapunzel, makes an appearance in this dark retelling. Charity brings an element of magic into a story that could have happened in the past or in present day.

FOURTH RUNNER UP

R. A. Williamson, “Dark Water.” This is tragic tale told in poetic prose that took my breath away. R.A. uses second person POV as it’s intended, successfully amping up the emotional impact. It takes a writer with guts to add 2nd to his arsenal, and a writer with talent to pull it off.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Maggie Duncan, “Primogeniture.” The world building here is impressive. Marrying for status, sacrificing to a powerful being, and murmuring incantations all work to set the scene and tone. Maggie Duncan treated us to a beautiful but dark blend of Historical Literary Fiction and Speculative Fiction, possibly a new favorite of mine.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Tinman Done Badly, “Too Young.” The opening paragraph promised a Cinderella story, and I was curious to see where this author would take the tale. This version held elements of humor and unexpected disappointment for our beloved protagonist. Tinman’s Cinderella is a far cry from the docile creature we’re familiar with. Full of personality, both in Cinderella and the insensitive Fairy Godmother,  “Too Young” is as memorable a Cinderella story as the first. And that last line, “Can I keep the shoes?” was sheer brilliance!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Joidianne4eva, “Like Glass in Your Mouth (And Stone in Your Veins).” With an ominous tone right out of the gate, that third paragraph raised the fine hairs on the back of my neck. I fell in love with visceral descriptions in the place of emotions. That last paragraph was a real kicker – the deed done, Lucille seems almost clinical in her detachment as she makes a mental to-do list. For impressive depth of a character and a good, dark twist, “Like Glass in Your Mouth” comes in at a close second. 

And now: for an impressive, knock-your-socks off THIRD TIME (but first time in Year Two), it’s Flash! Friday  

DRAGON WINNER

CRAIG ANDERSON!!!

for

“The Hard Way”

A young girl’s despair was evidenced in her desperate pleas, still hoping against hope, and immediately I was emotionally invested, hoping right along with her. Mary’s mother, full of compassion, reassured her that she would learn to control the inevitable curse. A few quick lines of dialogue allowed me to hope that the girl may find some measure of relief amidst the turmoil she would soon face. Alas, with the close of “The Hard Way,” we all learned a lesson about impulse control. Unfortunately, for Mary that lesson was horrific beyond imagining. I do believe her mother was right, one night was enough. Horror with an emotional punch raises Craig’s tale in the ranks, all the way to the top.

Congratulations, Craig! Your brand new winner’s badge awaits you eagerly below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

The Hard Way

Mary’s sobs were muffled by her mothers lap. She finally came up for air. “Are you sure it will be tonight Mama? Perhaps the curse will skip a generation?”

Her mother gently shook her head, “I remember when I turned sixteen all those year ago and the curse was passed to me. I was so very afraid, but there is nothing to fear. In time you will learn to control the hunger, just like my mother taught me.”

Mary rubbed at her eyes, “How did she teach you?”

“There is only one way to learn such a lesson, the hard way.”

“Did you learn quickly?”

“It only took one night.”

The clouds finally shifted from the full moon. Mary felt her body ripping and reforming, and then there was a terrible hunger. There was only one source of food in the room. Her mother didn’t make a sound as Mary devoured her, and the lesson was learned.

 

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