Tag Archive | Clive Tern

Sixty Seconds IV with: Foy S. Iver

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 Deb Foy (again, again, again, again!!)Read her winning story here. Note that this is her FOURTH win!!! Head on over to her winner’s page to read her previous winning stories & then come back to get to know her better.

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece?   

The picture was gripping but “Lawyer” did nothing for me. (Is there anything more boring than the legal system? No. The answer is no.) I scratched out two different drafts: one involved a time-traveling demon-attorney (already taken), and the other centered on a suicidal lawyer with feelings of insecurity thanks to the manly men in his lineage (lovely, right?). Those ideas died before the ink dried.

When I visited the prompt a third time, I reconsidered the character requirement. What else is a lawyer? An advocate. Someone who intercedes for another. And the picture? Images of being in the cockpit, careening toward the iron-hard face of the carrier, took over. How would the body respond? What chemical reactions would ignite? Everyone is their truest self in the face of death so who was this guy? What memories were rushing at him?

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are enthralling, and whether you believe in an afterlife or not, the testimony of “life flashing before your eyes” is well known. My faith is the crux of who I am. If I were the pilot in those moments, the idea of Christ as our advocate, our “lawyer” not only for things already achieved and regretted but also for that fearful separation of body and spirit, would be what held me through impact. And the hymn just fit too perfectly to not include it. (BTW: My history buff brother informed me later that the pilot DID survive – does it get better than that? Nope.)

2) Your four wins have all been within the past four months, which is just crazy; you’ve also won over at Flash Frenzy and MicroBookends. Aside from being a flash fiction rockstar, what are your writing goals–where would you like to see your writing go this next year? Five years? What would be a real “win” for you in that sense?

A “real win,” and the ultimate goal, is to know others enjoy and find inspiration in what I write. (And millions of $$.) Whether they’re reading on pixels or paper, I want my readers wrestling with questions they hadn’t before, discussing issues they’d avoided, and arriving at a better understanding of why they believe what they believe. I want everything I write to have meaning, to have purpose.

Goals for the next year? Now that’s a fine question! Let’s see… in the next year I’d like to get a 2nd draft down on any of my four WIPs (maybe even finish it). For the next five years, I will (note the pretend confidence) completely transition from a worker bee to an artistic bee. Writing might not be the most profitable profession but, for me, I think it’ll be the most rewarding.

3) Still plugging away at your NaNo novel? how’s that going? can you tell us anything about it? and what’s it like forging through a longer work as opposed to flash? 

Yes and no. After recently losing my USB (clever me!) with the most up-to-date version of my 2014 NaNo book, the gears ground to a halt. Grmbgrmbgrmrm. For a month, I putzed around in other WIPs, moped, pouted, grumbled, and cursed my negligence. Then one day – voila! – I found it safely tucked in a pair of infrequently worn pants. *Cue Hallelujah chorus* With my confidence and the USB restored, my goal for May is to hammer away at that rough stone and see if there’s a diamond hiding inside.

Now if I told you what the story’s about–well, okay! I guess you can have the blurb:

“Diversity is the enemy of peace.” This is the philosophy that’s kept 24th century America from falling into factions. When Di’Angelo discovers Nohemi, a 12-year-old Infiltrator, he must decide whether to harbor her as a political refugee or report her to the State. In a society devoid of dissimilarity, their friendship will threaten universal concordance, proving that nothing is more divisive than our differences.

Like I said, it’s a work in progress. Novel-length is so much harder than flash; a book won’t write itself in 24 hours and get feedback within 72. I need patience.

4) You’ve talked in the past about taking risks in writing. Could you expound on that? What does “risk” look like in a contest such as FF? in a novel? 

What’s the point of writing if you can’t take risks? It’d be boring, right? Actually, if you know your audience (or in this case your FF judge), taking risks isn’t that risky. This past week is a perfect example. My writing can be vague; I leave a lot unsaid.  My thought is, people are smart. You don’t have to lay everything out there for them to “get it.”

I was comfortable letting the lawyer piece be mostly subtext because I’ve gotten familiar with Mark and Tamara’s styles. Both of them are incredible writers and say far more than most with fewer words. When reading their stories, you ALWAYS know there’s a deeper meaning. With We Rest on Thee, I trusted them to understand what wasn’t explicitly stated: that Christ is the ultimate lawyer. It might seem risky but it all goes back to knowing your audience; I wouldn’t have submitted the same to a more literal judge.

In my novels, I try to incorporate at least one controversial element. Not to be bellicose. But to keep people thinking, and, hopefully, interested. You know the saying; “Well behaved women seldom make history, and pleasantly bland books never make classics.” Okay, I added that last part.    

5) What’s your take on publishing today? do you see yourself going the traditional agent/big house route, small press, indie?  

These days I’m leaning more toward Indie, thanks to the brave women who’ve gone before (looking at you, Margaret Locke and Tamara Shoemaker). Also, if working for a non-profit with grants has taught me anything, it’s that I want freedom in creativity. Restrictions and regulations are water to flame. That and I doubt I’d have the patience to wait 6 months for a response from a big house pub.

6) Favorite book so far this year? Favorite new or new-to-you author? What upcoming book(s) are you excited about? 

This question panicked me (I haven’t been reading as much as I should). But I’m going to have to give favorite book of 2015 to Margaret Locke’s “A Man of Character.” I don’t do romance, but hers had enough paranormal happenings to feed the fantasy beast. Plus, Eliza! (Shameless plug: tune in May 27th for the Insider Interview.)

Books I’m excited for: the second FlashDogs Anthology, baby! It’s been such a thrill working with my FlashDog partner on stories for this next book, and hers are brilliant. It makes me excited for the rest. I’ve convinced my entire family (and we are legion) to buy it.   

7) Talk about writing as a craft: do you make a conscious effort to grow as a writer, or do you feel it happens organically? You’ve been writing a long time–what are some ways you’ve already grown? what would you like to grow better at?  

Both. Organically, through participating in weekly contests and occasionally judging for Finish That Thought or Micro Bookends. Consciously, through the Shenandoah Valley Writers Critique Group. It’s hard to find encouraging feedback that’s also honest, but we’ve got a good team and I learn something every time I’m in the hot seat. The group recently critiqued a story I’d written in my teens/early twenties. It’s a speech-tags-poor-punctuation-to-be-verbs colossus. They were kind.

There’s so much I want to improve! Punctuation and grammar are Mount Everest. I’ve reached base camp with the rest of that snowy face waiting to be conquered. Then there are genres-jungles I need to explore, comfort zones I need to venture out of, grooves trying to bog me down. It’s a process.

8) Have any writerly pet peeves–what drives you crazy in novels/stories/flash?

I don’t enjoy stories that fall back on sexualized violence for cheap attention. You know the ones. Guy pissed at uninterested girl, kidnaps her, chains her in basement, and takes out his sexual frustrations on her. Same with child abuse stories. It’s lazy shock value. That’s not to say we shouldn’t write about evil. If we’re true to the human experience, we must. Evil exists. But while the stories that expose it are raw and terrifying, they have a purpose. They’re not looking to hook readers then dump them feeling dirty. Sexualized violence is prevalent in all forms, flash to novel. A good writer shouldn’t have to rely on it.

9) Shout out time: who in the FF community inspires you? 

Oh, good! We get to end on a happier note. J I could mention so many brilliant writers but I’ll narrow it down to two:

Clive Tern – I’ve had the pleasure of reading some of Clive’s longer works, and I envy his ease of blending science and fiction. I had to ask him his background because his imagery and terminology feel seamless. (He could’ve had me believing he was a Cosmonaut.) One day I hope to be able to write Sci-Fi just as well.

Holly Geely – Holly is one of those writers who can take your heart, warm it with a tender story, then rip it into bloody halves at the final line. Her writing has the same emotional remnants as “Cliché,” a flash piece in the first FlashDog Anthology written by our own Rebekah Postupak — though, thankfully, she doesn’t usually go that far and instead keeps me laughing. Humor is not my strong suit (what? you’d noticed?) so I’m hoping one day she’ll teach me her art.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 7: WINNERS

WELCOME to results day!!! So. Much. Fun. Thanks to all of you for your patience, your praise of each other’s stories, and above all, writing stories so marvelously strong that you give our brave dragon captains conniptions. :cough cough: Assuming dragon captains could have conniptions, obv.

We had nearly 80 entries this week; don’t forget to keep track of your own participation, as battling at Flash! Friday three times in a month will earn you the Ring of Fire badge. This week, that’s just about 80 of you dragons already a third of the way there! (The first round of eligibility will include February 6.)

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Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayWhat fun it was judging this week. We had a difficult time trying to narrow it down to the final ten, and finding an order to those ten was even more difficult. This week team three only had two similar picks, but after some rereading, re-ranking, and a very intricate point system (it’s actually not that intricate), we managed to siphon out winners.

But before we get to that, we would like to share some thoughts on this week’s stories:

  • Many of the stories were understandably similar. It’s difficult trying to think of something unique when many of the elements have already been chosen for you, but because of that, it is more important than ever to try and stand out. You will all be better writers for it.
  • This week’s required story element was setting. We would recommend focusing on the story element (no matter how you interpret beach). Bonus points were given to stories with strong settings.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Use of Structure: Mark A. King, “Mirror/Mirror.”  The structure to this was very creative and well executed. Mark used structure to his advantage.

Maximizing Setting: Natalie Bowers, “A Tangled Web.” It took place on a movie set, but (as with all good movies) the lines blurred and we forgot where we were.

Best use of a historical figure who was really a monster as a foil for an old woman who had earth in her poppy seeds: Clive Tern, “Uncle Joe and the Babushka.”

Funny Reads: Reg Wulff, “The Danger Zone.” For some (all) men, a pretty face can always get us to be just a bit stupid, can’t it?; and Rasha Tayaket, “Among Us.” Two aliens and one beach. This one should be read aloud.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tinman, Strands of Memory.” Another story that masterfully works the required story element. With one line, “The sunrise was a thin pink line of icing on the purple-green sea”, we are immediately thrust into the character’s world. The hints of comedy are genuine, which really helps bring the character to life.*side note: The Hoff vs Godzilla would have been spectacular.

Brian S. Creek, Waiting.” This story shared a similar theme with many of the others, but the open ending really sets it apart. Is Edith going crazy, is her husband really coming back after being gone so long, or is death finally coming to reunite her in the afterlife with her husband? This piece does a great job of storytelling with the negative spaces, letting the reader fill in all the blanks.

Laura Carroll Butler, “Nonna.” A lot of the stories this week were sad, seeing endings in the lines of a face of a weatherbeaten old woman, but this story put us in the shoes (or bare feet) of some young people sharing her beach. College students, expecting one kind of spring break and then finding another, learning lessons that they didn’t know they were seeking. The kind of story that brings an infectious smile to your face, not by being silly, but by warming places deep within

Michael Seese, “The Boy With the Hazel Eyes.” Are monsters born, or are they made? What happens when someone we love changes into someone we recognize, but only on the surface? A well-told story about change and war, love and loss. In another contest, we probably would have ranked it higher, but the beach wasn’t as central to this story as some.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Megan Besing, “Drifting Memories.” Our minds sometimes get cracked as we get older, but cracked isn’t entirely destroyed, and sometimes a glimpse of the person that was sneaks out from the person that is. We can’t always imagine our parents or grandparents as young people, but just like us, they were young once, their lives filled with stories. This tale weaves both of these themes into a powerful tale, and speaks to humanity and love hidden from plain sight.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Annika Keswick, “New Tires.” This one snuck up on us (like good flash fiction does). The first time through we think the old lady is being described, but then we get hit by that Eureka moment. Reading the second time through is just as satisfying (if not slightly more satisfying) because we can now see the obvious. The ending is very uplifting, stating a universal truth without trying to force it on us.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Phil Coltrane, “The Last Pilgrimage.” This is a great example of presenting the required story element in a unique way. We have a beach in this story, but the impending apocalypse really changes the scenery. The tone in this piece also made it stand out. While many of this round’s stories had a character missing or wanting something, Gretchen is accepting of the end. She becomes passive entity whose story comes to an end with a “Close parenthesis”. It is a fitting last line for this type of apocalypse.

DRAGON WINNER

DAVID BORROWDALE!!!

for

“Under the Pier, Where Lives Are Made”

Flash stories don’t come a lot more powerful than this, cramming a ton of story into 201 words. Using the old woman’s visit to the beach as mismatched bookends to the story provided a wonderful intro and outro – at the beginning, she could be reflecting on happy memories, but at the end, we know differently. Set in a time both distant and familiar, we feel her love and her loss, both for her man and for her bairn. You don’t have to have suffered a loss like hers to feel the power of her story, but if you have, it resonates strongly. The last line was haunting. Very well done.

Congratulations, Dave! Below is a haunting, powerful winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is also your brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Under the Pier, Where Lives are Made

She returns each day to the place her son was started. She shackles her bondi-blue foldaway to the railing, and lets the salt-wind rustle her memories.

***

Under Saltburn Pier it was, in 1941. Billy Hurles was her man, and he was going off to fight Hitler.

“Give me something so I don’t forget you,” he said.

“A lock of hair?”

“No.”

So they crept under the pier to be alone. But other couples were there, and she saw her own distaste reflected in the eyes of other girls. It was over quickly. She kissed him sweetly, and told herself she’d done her bit for the war.

***

She knew she couldn’t keep the bairn. She’d accept, in time, that he’d be better with a proper family; without the shame. Perhaps one day she’d see him again. But the bairn was born blue; quiet, tiny and unmoving. A priest came into the room that was already crowded with men.

“Shall I bless the child? Help him find his way to the Lord.”

“You shall not,” her father said.

***

She returns each day to the place her son was started and prays he is at peace: some days she looks up, some days down.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 5: WINNERS

Happy Monday, and welcome to the latest #FlashFridayFic results show! I’ve a feeling Joan would have loved many of the adventures you all plotted out for her this week. Or, if she didn’t, she would have loved beating the living daylights out of you to avenge her reputation. Fiery lass, she was, and unafraid of sharing her words with the masses. Not too far afield from many of you, I expect…  

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Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne sayThis week we’ve been regaled with everything from angels to demons. We’ve had the pleasure of reading through tales of heart-breaking loneliness and sorrow while the damned crept across our pages, hidden beneath flowery language designed to mask their true intentions. We’ve listened intently to whispers of mystery and happiness while we tried to unravel the meaning behind your words. Jeanne d’Arc has leapt from our computer screen, clothed in the imaginations of countless authors, bloody yet unbowed, and for that we have to thank every single one of you that participated. It was a marvelous selection of tales and we can’t wait to see what you manage to come up with next time around.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Line: Mark A. King, “Construction.” “ … where the builders hung over the edge of the steel bones like handsome angels with hate in their heart.” 

Bravely tackling 3 POVs in one tale: Elizabeth (formerly Dragonsflypoppy), “Gone.” 

Fear inducing line: David Shakes, “Predetermined.” “…and he shall be known as the Prince of Pestilence, the juvenile pariah of nations.”

Most Inspired Use of One Word Dialogue: Josh Bertetta, “A Walk at Night.”

Best Closing Line: Brett Milam, “An Awakening.” “Human flesh was not like wood, but naturally it would be just as stubborn.”

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Clive Newnham, Yesterday’s Tomorrow.” 

This tale carries such a haunting cadence that I find myself longing to read more. There are so many questions left unanswered, but I think these questions really bring the story together because the reader is free to interpret it as they will and the story, like Jeanne’s, will live on.

In light of the recent events in Paris it was understandable, indeed moving, that we would find tales wrestling with the relationship between image and society. No more so than in this tale of a dystopian realm where questioning is the ultimate crime. #jesuischarles

Liz Hedgecock, Teenage Kicks.” 

This was such a brilliant glimpse into the life of a young Jeannie. I love her rebelliousness and how the author has managed to show the difference between what her family wanted for her and what she wanted to accomplish for herself in a few witty words.

There were, unsurprisingly, a multitude of tales that took on our fair maiden and her well documented life … though few explored the little known teenage years of Joan D’Arc Aged 13 3/4 … fun, playful and with a satisfactory ending that left one smiling. 

Tinman, Ring of Fire.” 

The artist’s interpretation of Joan is one that made me smile. After all, she did spill forth words like fire, so to be portrayed as a magnificent fire-eater could be said to be her due.

That final line, our heroine, fist braced to ward off another bout of heartburn, made me chuckle in delight. The rest was pure farce, though with the lightest of touches to convey the sense of community and desire that made up this circus troupe. —Oh, and no clowns; couldn’t agree more.

Michael Simko, “Guardianship.”

This take is one that truly managed to embody the idea of the ambiguous phrase ‘For the greater good.’ In the angel’s eyes there is no greater good than to serve the person he is assigned to, even if it means harming someone else in the process. What really hits me is the tiny hint of empathy and sorrow that he feels for his ‘lady’; but not even that is enough to stir him from his task. A lovely look at morality and manipulation is managed in just a few words here.

The notion of power and the question of the true nature or our narrator is skilfully unpicked. The ownership/connection that is hinted at from the outset leads us down one particular path only to find the rug artfully and expertly pulled out from under us at the last moment. 

Clive Tern, “Foul Justice.”

I couldn’t pass this tale up because it has all my favorite tropes… horror, the undead and revenge. I ask you, what’s not to love?

This tale took a different slant to the prompt, taking us into the moments after the burning of Joan D’Arc. The sensation of the aftermath of her fiery demise evocatively captured. The horror tinged ending perfectly bringing closure and hinting at the carnage to come. 

Betsy Streeter, “A Wish, Or a Promise.”

This story was heartbreaking in its simplicity, innocence is woven into every word exchanged between the brother and sister and the ending, with its reference to the inevitable loss that will soon face the two children, is one that will not leave me any time soon.

A simple, elegant, yet heart wrenching tale that toyed with our understanding of the innocence of youth and the fragility of existence.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Grace Black, “Unraveled.” 

The first thing that came to mind after reading this was the punishment of Sisyphus. There is a lingering air of inevitability that makes me ache for the narrator and his/her trials. The final line truly cinched this feeling, and it’s one that will stay with me for a while.

The opening, the imagery of awakening in a world bound around you, was intoxicating, then that line “silence is loudest with the absence of chatter” perfectly sets up the rest of the scene. The tension between silence and chaos, a mind racing against the consciousness of being was artfully captured. Indeed, the skilful merging of the cinematic alongside the interior was what drew me into this realm. The sense of wrestling with oneself, a battle seemingly as old as time itself, wonderfully captured.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tam Rogers, “Kicking Up Dust.” 

This tale is one that has so many layers that I had to read and re-read to actually get the full picture, and I still feel like I’m missing so many things. What caught my attention first was the flow of the words, but then the meaning behind each line (or my interpretation of the meaning) reached up off the page and I was hit with this feeling of absolute desolation. Such a brilliant piece of work I admit I still haven’t fully managed to grasp.

“Grit sticks to my lips, bones cut my flesh.” As a young man my world was shaped by the lyrics of The The’s dystopian tinged album Infected. That line was as great as any of that fabled touchstone, a line I wished I had written. The sensory laden opening meander, a world of sugar and indulgence slowly sliding into a realm of dirt and grim was just wonderful. The rage and anger, resentment and despair … a work of beauty and challenge and a worthy runner up.

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

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“Wireless Echoes”

J: If there was ever an award to be given for wordplay, this tale would deserve it. Just like the computer system, we’re presented with varying levels of processes designed to portray an almost visceral need for companionship and understanding. Beneath it all there is this throbbing ache for the character Faith that really hit me; even as her purpose to heal the narrator fills me with warmth, the question of her own fate is one that lingers.

IR: The opening line hooked me in deep, setting up what felt like a descent into a William Gibson neuromancer inspired maze. The subsequent unravelling didn’t disappoint. With each binary twist we delved deeper into this relationship that the writer captured with lyrical prose. “Vacant bones” that led to “gigabytes of ache,” the intersection of flesh and date wonderfully dissected. Yet the surface of information was peeled back to reveal the pain and despair that lingered at the core of this tale. A majestic ode to pain that left me reeling in a digital realm.

Congratulations, Chris! Below is your gorgeous, comfortingly familiar winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Wireless Echoes

We were birthed from machines. Armed with digital missives and vacant bones, we found one another behind a blinking cursor and gigabytes of ache. No skin. No voice. We yearned and soothed with prose typed from plastic keys.

Faith wasn’t only her name. She believed in soul mates and the fairy tale of true romance. She worshipped at the altar of sonnets and serendipity. Men had derailed those notions repeatedly.

Her poetry spoke of loss. Of fading heartbeats, like a wisp of crimson smoke dissolving in the night air. Her messages, her electrified ink, told stories of fractured encounters.

She lounged on my synthetic lap. I asked for her sorrow and a purging of the loneliness. Her analog heart spilled throbbing blood across my screen. I cleansed it with a sympathetic text.

I was the therapist. She was the savior. Her melancholy ruminations suffocated my own pain. Faith reached through the machine like a replicated angel and healed me.

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