Tag Archive | Chris Milam

Fire&Ice Sol 6/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Mondays are one of our favorite days here at Fire&Ice. It means a new, shimmering Sol 7 winner’s crown to forge for you, and the bestowing of Sol 6’s, with all the feasting and hymns and resplendence in your honor! In our most recent Flash! Future follow up, we shared an interview on trauma and empowerment with the immortal Toni Morrison, and in it she speaks to how she honors her characters by revealing them as they are: “complicated, interesting, mysterious people,” not larger than life, but rather as large as life itself. This is how I see our little community; each of us brings our own beauty, our own complexity. For enriching our lives with your words and presence, we thank you!

♦♦♦♦♦

Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 6’S JUDGES SAY:

Betsy Streeter: Boy oh boy do the writers have things on your minds this week! This felt like a bit of a therapy session. And the vividness of the various “commutes,” after months and months of lockdown — it’s such a strange double life we lead now, memory plus current state plus hope to regain what’s in the memory… all at once. Seems like the prompt being a train, something we maybe can’t/don’t access – or if we do it feels like a gauntlet – really set off some things.

As a cartoonist, I’m on this endless quest for the lyrical line and the turn of phrase, and I so admire the various ways little worlds shine through with each story. I especially enjoyed Mark A. King‘s “The Driver/The Loop” and its hopeful phrase, “with every loop, there is a chance of a new beginning.” Like Nicola Liu in Untitled,” I too have wondered if goo on the floor of the train is some form of life making First Contact. MJ Bush‘s “Bea Yourself” was a great portrayal of being on public transit with a kid. Dr Magoo‘s [Note: Eric Martell!] “Riding the Red Line Into Heaven” just opens right up at the end in such a lovely way. Pippa Phillips‘ “Root and Thread” went a WHOLE other place with the prompt, which I always admire. And Phil Coltrane‘s “To Get To The Other” is a terrific example of world-building through narration, with “So glad they don’t have six legs like me.”

Karl A. Russell: So, my first pan-global judging session brought a wealth of wonderful short pieces. It’s great to see so many of you returning every week, and I’m pretty sure that I recognised some of your distinctive voices coming through loud and clear. That feeling of recognition – of being amongst friends – is one of the finest things about the return of Flash! Friday and it’s one more reason why I’ll keep coming back for these few precious weeks. Once these comments have winged their way to our fabulous hosts, I’ll be heading over to see if my suspicions were correct…

But first, we have some winners for you. It was very pleasing (and a huge relief!) to find that Betsy came to the same conclusions as I did, but there were so many great stories along the way that I have to mention. I loved the bleak despair of Chris Milam‘s “Goodbye,” the rhythmic language of Becky Spence‘s”Beneath” and the startlingly surreal lobster of Voima Oy‘s “Rush Hour Afternoon.” The visual playfulness of Mark A. King‘s “The Driver | The Loop” was another stand out, and the cynicism of Allison Garcia‘s “Essential?” cut so close to home right now.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

First Visit by Tinman

BS: Perhaps because I’ve recently gone through this process with the loss of a lifelong family friend, whose presence just keeps popping in and out of my consciousness, this writer’s description of that strange, disorienting, in-between place of grieving really struck me. Well done.

KR: A meditation on loss and finding yourself newly alone, with the absence of dad’s dad-jokes keenly felt and cleanly detailed.

RUNNER UP

Untitled  by Helen Laycock

BS: I loved seeing all the ways writers played with point of view with this prompt, and this one felt uniquely special. So much character and story contained within, and the ending is just sublime and heart-level.

KR: Taking the low-level photo prompt and staying there, this story gave us a shoe’s-eye view of the daily commute. Some fun, well-written observations (and a lovely soul/sole pun) helped this one reach the podium, and those final lines sealed the deal. Sad and stunning.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

PEG STUEBER!!!

for

Untitled

(“Our lives, are measured, in clicks”)

BS – I found this one compelling right away. First, the use of the social media language as this “world” everyone is inhabiting, together yet alone – the use of “click” and “fwoop” and even “/endrant” which took the language one step further into the Reddit/radicalization space. Using so few words to sketch all these realities, again right next to each other yet isolated, and then the lurch into the dark and deadly side of this out-of-control technology – so timely, and also multi-dimensional. Really great.

KR — This stood out from my very first read through. The snapshots of different worlds, all the lives about to come to a crashing halt, made it feel so much bigger than the 93 word count, and despite the brevity, each of those lives felt distinct and real. The prompt was cleverly integrated, and the repeated “click….click…” mirrored the motion of the train and gave the writer an easy way to hit the word count without massive rewrites. Best of all, that sudden lurch into a very real horror at the end reminds you that you never know what your fellow commuters are going through… 

Congratulations, Peg! Here’s your winning story:

UNTITLED

Our lives, are measured, in clicks.

ClickClick…clack. ClickClick…clack. Staccato heartbeat of the train.

Click…click…click…click. “What’s for dinner?” “IDK, Mexican?” “Thumbs up emoji.”

Click. ClickClickClick. Click…fwoop…click. “I swear, these PEOPLE.”

Snap. Fwoop. Click..clickClick……click..click..click. Fwoop. “Found this cute rubber duck on the train. r/hiddenducks #awesome #HideandSeek”

ClickClickClick. Click. Click. Loud sniff. Click. “OMG, I can’t believe…with HER???” “How?” “You bastard, it’s OVER!”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. ClickClick…clack. ClickClick…clack. Click. “As our needs have not been met, and our voices go unheard, perhaps now they will listen. This blood is on your hands, President.”

BOOM.

/endrant

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 52: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all: welcome to our final regular results show for Flash! Friday — combined today with Saturday’s Flash Dash results (still rather mind-boggled that an 11-year-old managed to write an entire funny little story in the 30 minutes!).

As for the wealth of gorgeous, dragonish love you wrote Friday, I’m going to reserve my comments for Friday, when it’s my turn to say thanks. Remember we’ve a grand finale party this Friday (Dec 11) with Flashversary: mugs, posters, books, and all kinds of magnificent prizes at stake. I hope you’ll come back to write one last time. ♥ 

Tomorrow is our final global #Spotlight, this time featuring the lovely F.E. Clark from Scotland. Be sure to join us! Haggis optional. 

Last for today: an enormous round of thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy and A.J. Walker. I’ve loved this pairing: Voima’s poetic spirit, A.J.’s tongue-in-cheekiness (and Catherine’s faithful blinding of the tales–thank you too!). Your thoughtful choices, your funny and poignant comments, your cheery spirits, your enthusiasm, every bit of it. And especially to A.J. who, I think, may have given me more dragons than anyone. Thankful til I die? Oh yes. And beyond. ♥♥♥  

♦♦♦♦♦

Up first: Flash Dash results!!! love the frenetic world of Flash Dash, getting a little peek at how brains work, how stories are born. Your stories were sheer delight, and yes, some fantastic creativity, everything from genies to werewolves. A literary buffet, y’all. Thanks to all of you!

Special mention first up for 11-year-old Crystal Alden, who defied the time limitations and wrote a creative, cheeky story with a strong start and hilarious finish. Great job, Crystal — you had me laughing aloud. Read her story here.

⇒⇒ The winner of the $20 Flash Dash Cash prize is

Nancy Chenier

Strong voice, spot-on pacing, and OH MY LANDS what a last line, executed with perfection. You’ve earned this one, baby. Watch your inbox for details on how to get your loot. Congratulations! And everyone: read her winning story here.

♦♦♦♦♦

Now for the final regular round of Flash! Friday! Here are Dragon Team Eight’s final comments:   

V — Thank you for all your great stories. Epic and  intimate, tragic and funny and brave — each unique and special.  It has been an honor and a privilege and so much fun to be part of this Flash! Friday community. To come together, to share  stories is  a remarkable thing. It takes tremendous amount of time and effort to make this place, this creative space.  Thank you, Rebekah, for everything. 

And I could not ask for a better co-judge than AJ. Your sense of humor and positive spirit is a delight–not to mention your own amazing talent.  Thank you, AJ for making Dragon Team 8 great. Thank you, Catherine, for sending us the stories. We could not do this without you. You are an essential member of Dragon Team 8! 

With the closing of MicroBookends, and Three Line Thursday on hiatus, we bid farewell  to other inspiring places for very short poems and stories. Thank you, David and Grace, for all your hard work. Thursdays and Fridays will be different now. 

These are very special places–here, we can come together. To me, the comments from other writers are part of the appeal of Flash! Friday, Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends.  People feel free to interact, encourage each other, appreciate a good line, or a fantastic ending.  This means so much to a writer, especially a writer who is just starting, or beginning again, this thing that we all do.  

Friendships have been forged here. Lives have been changed here. Writers have been born and grown here. 

The community continues to grow and change, inspired by each other.  We know writing can be a lonely business. Life can be demanding, and sometimes it seems impossible to write at all. Yet we need imagination and stories more than ever. We need possibilities. We need to imagine better futures.  We will write on, I do believe this. And we are not alone.

AJW — When #Team8 were put together all those months ago and the schedule set down, little did we know that we’d end up judging the last of the regular Flash! Friday challenges. It has been an honour to serve our most lovely Mother of Dragons, Rebekah. We’ve all enjoyed the anticipation in seeing what photograph, what phrase or book was to be our touchstone each Friday. Sometimes they floated our boat, sometimes they went up in flames. But always there would be fireworks somewhere, somehow, and Fridays won’t be the same without it. I have sent a personal message to Rebekah and so won’t get too schmaltzy here, but needless to say she has been a star and can be justly proud with what she created here.

This week’s stories have been smothered in thick gloopy love and affection for this special place and the keeper of the keys. The ‘beautiful girl who lived here’ turned out to be Rebekah, and she was either a resplendent dragon herself or very close mates with one (or at least an egg).  

To Voimaoy — THANK YOU!  For your patience and understanding. And being an all-round great judging partner. It has been a true pleasure. and I think we have worked well together. Cheers  x.   Thanks as ever to Catherine for forwarding the stories to us so we could judge them blind. Thanks too to everyone who entered this week – I trust that you have all mopped up the tears from your keyboards and that none of your computers exploded into flame from tear damage (I’m sure insurance for tear damaged electronics is impossible to get – more chance of getting Dragon Cover).

After toying for a millisecond with the idea of making everyone a winner, that was discounted for being a cop out; someone deserves the last badge after all. It was a really tough call picking the top ten or so and then drilling down to the winner, but we have. So, without further ado, here’s our call:

♦♦♦♦♦

MENTIONS

Chris Milam, “Table for One.” A bite of reality

Karl A. Russell, “The Girl and the Egg.” A door, an eggshell, magic!  

Bart Van Goethem, “Rebirth.” Refreshingly unsentimental–with a wonderful one-word ending.

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Carin Marais, “Arad’s Dragon.” V – A beautiful story of friendship — the epic economy of flash

Bill Engleson, “Thanks Stan.” AJ – Hey, I like humour, and this one made me laugh. Snappy dialogue. Simple idea. Not being allowed within 100 yards of a maiden again. Poor lamb. Thanks for the laugh!   

Stella Turner, “Sins of the Flesh.” V – Dark, dark, humour–Love this take and the turns of phrase–“sliced bread, butter knife”…and “caught devouring bacon” 

Jennifer Terry, “#TimelessBeauty.” AJ – Loved the emotion in this piece. Getting old gracefully, perhaps not confident in oneself, then a nice uplifting end. And of course I’m a big Twitter fan so it needs a mention (Twitter has been great for us writers, hasn’t it?) #uplifting 

Geoff Holme, “Aubade.” V – Although a late entry, this deserves mention for a lovely tribute–Aubade is a song of parting, and greeting a new dawn.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Craig Anderson, “Mother of Dragons.”

V — This one had me in tears.  It is heartfelt and beautiful in its simplicity–“The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free” to “How magnificent they are.”   This is a testament to the economy and power of flash. Wonderful and generous writing. 

AJW – ‘The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free.’ Well, that first line says it all doesn’t it? Like so many of the stories this week the heart is well and truly on its sleeve, on a badge, on the T-Shirt and in bright flashing neon, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Bookended (don’t get me started on Microbookends please) by last line; ‘I gave them wings, now they must fly,’ it is an instruction. Or at least a call to try. You’ve all got an extra hour or so on Fridays from now on; see what you can do with it…

Graham Milne, “The Auction.” 

AJW – Lovely idea, perfectly written. Who’d have thought dragons could have had their teeth pulled and fire put out by Capitalism? Picturing the once-proud beast with paddle No.68 having to bid for their supper/maiden is a super/supper idea. ‘Faded scales that once glittered’ perfectly encapsulating the idea. 

V — I agree with AJ: it is a sad commentary on Capitalism and the current state of affairs in this materialistic world. It  is so well done, and I love the take on “dragons bidding”  too!  We need magic and humor more than ever.

Steph Ellis, “Legacy

AJW – If someone can sort out the music, it could become an anthem for the FlashDogs and the ‘brothers and sisters’ we’ve found through writing here at FFF. Some powerful phrases and another call to arms/pens. I especially liked ‘‘take their fire, and burn down the battlements, breach the closed doors, of literati’s elite.” I’m feeling emboldened just repeating it!  And yes, we do see “the Dragon horde gather.’ 

Stirring stuff – get out those power chords!  

V – Forged in a “volcanic nursery” out of the “monotonous monochrome of the safe and the known” — these are   powerful and moving  words. This is an anthem, and a manifesto. Write on!

 

 

SECOND RUNNER UP

The Imaginator, “A Beautiful Girl Lived Here” 

AJW – Who doesn’t like a bouncing bosom (or preferably two)? And I must say we don’t see enough corsets in Flash! so thanks for that. Seriously, a well-crafted story. I liked with the simple use of ‘pon and ‘neath to give us an idea of the time of the setting (although maybe it could be contemporary Morecambe?). The description of the woman ‘a force of nature’ and the effect she had on both the menfolk and the women was very visual. I could picture the scene perfectly, even through to the unfortunate end and the ‘entrails on the moonlit cobblestones.’ 

V — I couldn’t agree more. This story reads like a folktale, and it’s as visual as a movie (a classic Hammer film, perhaps?). A “force of nature” indeed. and what a powerful ending!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Subject.” 

AJW – A neat original take with so few words to play with (I think it could make an excellent longer piece) it brilliantly shows Rebekah’s realisation of what she was and what she’d done. I loved the dawning of reality as she sees her eyes in the reflection in a shard of glass and then her ‘fingers becoming talons’.   The use of the font change to end the story was simple and perfect. Well done.

V –  The writing throughout is stunning in  economy  and confidence–“the truth of what she was, of what she’d done”.  And the final word –the Greek letters for “Dragon.”  Yes!  Powerful and fierce and beautiful.  This one is for the Dragon Queen.

And now: for her very first time (no, this couldn’t be more perfect; yes, I cried when I saw her name), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

CATHERINE CONNOLLY!!!

for

“Through Lettered Lands

AJW – Time for more olde powere chords? Maybe not. An almost perfect piece (I’m overlooking the added apostrophe (damn autocorrect) – sorry Geoff) and a fitting winner for the last of the regular FF. It perfectly presents us – the writers – from simply ‘writ(ing) a sentence on entering’  through to the creation of entire worlds yet to be mapped, and presenting the writer as an explorer: Lovely. The third stanza in particular stood out for me: ‘Take care little wanderer, they told me -/ once hunted, few care to return from/ the beauty of script scribbled in spaces/ blank, ‘til creation begins.’ A fitting epitaph. Don’t you think?

V — It is an epitaph, an epic poem–but most of all it is a story — our story — it beautifully describes the writer’s journey from initial hesitance to curiosity, and on into ever-expanding lands and worlds into the uncharted unknown—

“It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me 
take it wherever you go
its end starting whole new beginnings…
Explorers seek it, perpetual”  

In the as-yet unwritten future — “All write upon entering — Here Be Dragons.”  

Beautifully done!  

Congratulations, Catherine! I can’t imagine a more perfect writer nor more perfect story to take the very last Flash! Friday dragon crown. Here’s your lovely, brand new winner’s page; apologies for the tear stains. Watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
it’s end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

FFwinner-Web

Sixty Seconds VI with: Karl A. Russell

No, you aren’t imagining things: Karl A. Russell has won TWO WEEKS IN A ROW, this latest one making his sixth win (which is a record both for him and for the FF community). Read his bio and stories, and find links to his previous interviews at his winner’s page here. To celebrate his sixth win, he’s spending this #SixtySeconds interview by giving us Six for Six. What does that mean? Here’s Karl to explain: 

♦♦♦

Inspiration:

  1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative
  2. The quality of being inspired
  3. A person or thing that inspires
  4. A sudden brilliant or timely idea
  5. The drawing in of breath; inhalation

Inspiration comes in the strangest ways. My story this week came about because I’m reading Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright to my six year old daughter at bedtime. The plot is building up towards the Literary Dog Show, with Homily Dickinson, Plain Austin, Georgie Elliot and chums all ready to display their prized pooches for judges Pippi Shortstocking and Hands Christmas Anderson, but Charles Cabbage’s attempts to construct a steam powered brain are threatening to derail things. While Ada Lovelace doesn’t actually appear in the book, she popped into my thoughts just the same and proved to be a very popular choice for my story.

But what else inspires me? I could list my faves as usual – comic books, cider, music, cider, movies, cider – but I’m sure you’re all as bored with that as I am. So instead, in honour of my sixth win, here are the six flash writers who consistently inspire me to put the time in, to experiment, to push myself and to try harder.

1) Chris Milam (@blukris) really shouldn’t need an introduction here, but if you want a reminder of who he is, here’s his winner’s page.

Chris is the master of atmosphere, swathing his tales in a fog of cigarette smoke, coffee steam and alcohol that most writers would struggle to cut through. Luckily, his words are more than sharp enough. His characters tend towards the downtrodden, the broken and the helpless, hanging on for one more drink, one more misguided assignation, and it’s a wonder that any of them make it past the final paragraph alive, but like Timothy in his recent tale for Bartleby Snopes, they just keep on going.

If you want a story that pins you like a butterfly on a board and hits you like a hammer, Chris is your man.

My personal favourite: House Arrest

2) Way over on the other side of that coin is Casey Rose Frank (@CaseyRoseFrank).

Although her only winner at Flash Friday is a heartbreaker, I normally associate Casey with a kind of upbeat positivity that she seems to embody in everything she does. (I like to imagine that if one of Casey’s tales met one of Chris’s, it would be like a collision of matter and anti-matter – I feel like I’m taking a huge risk just putting them next to each other here).

If you need a smile, a sweet natured tale with a sprinkling of magical mischief, go Casey.

My personal favourite: Communing With Nature

3) Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Even that name is poetry, a mystery to conjure with as much as anything this wonderful writer has invented.

Voima’s hallmarks are weather, SF concepts and the strange poetry they create when she welds them together. Her tales make you feel the wind between the stars, the light rain of a Martian Spring and the melancholic loss of Autumn’s turning. Even her tweets are more poetic than anything I could aspire to.

Voima is your go-to writer if you want a tale which will linger in your heart long after it melts from your mind.

My personal favourite: Same Time, Next Year

4) Next up is the only writer on this list that I’ve met in person, and someone whose world building skills are on a par with the Magratheans, Catherine Connolly (@fallintofiction).

Despite being one of my nearest flash colleagues geographically, Catherine’s work transports me further than most. Her speciality is a darkly fantastic tale set in a world so real that you have to wonder if it actually exists somewhere, just waiting to be discovered. Revelling in ritual, peppering her stories with strange names and telling observations, Cath weaves tiny tales that seem like fragments of a much larger, fully realized epic.

Read Cath’s work if you want to be plunged headlong into an alien culture, with a breathless rush to learn the rules before it’s too late.

My personal favourite: In Loving Memory

5.) One of the joys of flash fiction is the opportunity it affords for experimentation. I’ve played around with acrostics, palindromic stories and utterly garbled language a few times myself, but my fifth writer takes it 411 7H3 W4Y. Step forward Josh Bertetta (@jbertetta).

 Josh has very quickly established himself as a writer of great range and depth. While his “straight” fiction is polished, professional and affecting, it’s his startlingly quirky experiments with the form that really stand out for me. At first glance they can appear undecipherable, but if you take a moment to let your brain reset itself to his new language, you will find that they are not only readable but perfectly suited to the story they tell.

 Read Josh to see how style and content can work together to produce something utterly new.

 My personal favourite: 7R4NSP051710N

6) My final choice is a bit of a left fielder as she is far less prolific than I would like. She’s the most dedicated flash fanatic around and has fearsome writing skills, but has never ever received that coveted Flash! Friday trophy, and almost certainly never will.

I’m talking, of course, about our own dear dragonness, Rebekah Postupak (@postupak).

For three years now, come hail, rain or shine, through all the ups and downs of life, Rebekah has ensured that we always have a warm, welcoming space to come and practise our craft. Even when events have conspired to make it an odds-on certainty that the contest will have to skip a week, there she is, dead on the stroke of midnight, posting a prompt and forcing us all on to ever greater heights.

I actually did a double take when she recently tweeted about work; be honest now, how many of you thought, as I did, that she ran this place full time? Between the contest, the results, the winners interviews and the general maintenance, that has to be a full time job, right? And the Ring of Fire Badges? And the Spotlight features? Warmup Wednesday? Flashpoints?

‘Fess up Rebekah – When exactly did you perfect cloning, and just how many of you are there?

And if all that wasn’t inspiring enough, our host has those aforementioned skills. As you’d expect from her introductions, Rebekah has a wicked sense of humour (and yes, a tendency towards dragons) but her playful prose works in any setting, as I found when I blind judged Micro Bookends recently.

Read Rebekah. Just because you must.

My personal favourite: In Memoriam

 And there you are: my Six for Six. These are the people I measure myself against when it comes to language and impact, feeling and verisimilitude and out and out commitment. I’ve never read a clunker from any of them, and I don’t expect to, and with every new story I read from them, I feel the need to up my game, again and again and again. They cover every definition of inspiration, right up to that sharp intake of breath.

Note: The hardest part wasn’t choosing the six, just not carrying to sixteen, or sixty. I could have included Stella’s coldly twisted revenge tales, Shakes’ eye for an arresting image, Bart’s laugh-out-loud wit, Tamara’s endless inventiveness (and ability to somehow have a story written before the prompt has finished posting!) – the list of awesome Flash! Friday writers goes on and on and on. Here’s hoping that the contest does too!