Tag Archive | David Borrowdale

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.

FFwinner-Web

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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.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 12: WINNERS

HURRAY, and welcome to the Results Show! I’m never sure which day of the week is my favorite. Getting to read your stories on Wed & Fri, or partying like mad with the winners, or smushing the champ under a microscope for an interview, or the cool new Tuesday thinggie where I get to hassle professionals in all parts of the writing biz. Who are we kidding; all the days are my favorite. Except maybe the long, depressing darkness that’s the weekend. Anybody wanna guest post, to brighten those days up? Just say the word.

Speaking of which: TOMORROW!!! We continue our Tuesday #Spotlight exclusive interview feature, this time with the founding editors/publishers at Crosshair Press. Want to know what The Other Side looks like?? Don’t miss it!

And then comes Warmup Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. Then it’s back into the furious maelstrom of Flash! Friday! 

FINALLY: Have you earned the February #RingofFire badge? The Wall of Flame is being updated today; only those with February badges will stay. Let me know ASAP if your name belongs there!  

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Dragon Captains Sinéad O’Hart/Pratibha say

Sinéad: This week’s stories shared many themes. At one point during the judging process, I did a search for the word ‘mother’, for instance, and was astounded by how often it appeared. Despite Nature’s caprices and cruelties, it seems as though the idea of it being a ‘mother’ is well-rooted and instinctive. Many stories took the idea of ‘mother’ Nature and its relationship with mankind, and two of our podium-placed tales feature the word in their titles; these two stories, it seemed to us, took a fresh and unexpected approach to the idea of Nature as a mother. We wanted to reward the stories which took side-swipes at the prompts, this week; many tales featured parched and bloody-lipped survivors, barely clinging to life as they battled their way through deserts both literal and figurative, but the tale we eventually placed as the winner is one wherein Nature itself is the narrator, in the voice of the sorrowful sea. In a week which saw tales of strange futuristic worlds of sand-burials and mechanical whales, as well as sinking ships, messages in bottles and at least one Monty Python reference (which made me chuckle), choosing winners, as well as Honorary and Special Mentions was a massive challenge. All credit to the writers who brought us to unknown and uncharted territory with every tale, and to our Dragon Queen for her inspirational prompts.

Pratibha: Another record-shattering week here at Flash! Friday! There were 83 shining, scorching, wave-crashing, sand-blasting stories that kept the judging team gasping for breath. Nature appeared cruel at times and apologetic at others. The wild varieties of the stories proved once again that the mysterious powers of Nature still elude the human mind, and yet the human spirit survives on sheer hope and toil. The ship, sea, sun, and sand took on various personas propelling the stories in sometimes unpredictable directions, sometimes humorous. I think we need a special champion category for humor.

I would like to bow to all the writers who tackled the whimsical prompt and spun the tales of conflict. It was extremely difficult to choose the winners in this round.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Unique Acrostic Effect: Mark A. King, “Z – A of an Apocalypse.” This story deserves a Special Mention for its unique acrostic effect, reminiscent of a countdown to destruction. Striking images, like that of the oil tanker ‘rust[ing] on the sand dunes of London‘ gave it huge power and visual appeal. The images grow more and more disturbing as the tale continues, until the final devastating line – ‘Apocalypse is now‘. This was a stunning piece of work.

For an Interesting Premise: Chris Milam, “Saulė.” This story gains a Special Mention for its interesting premise. A shipwrecked man (we presume) who goes from raging at the merciless sun to feeling a grudging respect, and eventual affection, for his one-time tormentor, we thought this tale offered a fresh and interesting take on the idea of man vs. Nature. The image of the sun’s rays like ‘orange tentacles… loop[ing] around [his] wilting body like a flaming octopus‘ was particularly accomplished.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

David Borrowdale, Coping With Loss.” 

Sinéad: This story deserves an Honorable Mention for superlative narrative and literary effect. It was so stylish and accomplished that it invited me to read and re-read. I loved how the tale emerged as the words were pared away, just like the ship rusting in the desert (or even Nature’s attrition of humanity and all its futile constructs more generally), as well as how it encapsulated the idea of Nature’s power to give and take life with impunity. An amazing story.

Pratibha: I loved the author’s insight into grief and suffering and their degenerative effects on mind. The slow decay of bodies and minds of the couple is skillfully shown through the shrinking paragraphs.

Tamara Shoemaker, Timely Conversation.” 

Sinéad: This story deserves an Honorable Mention for its use of two aspects of Nature – mortality and Time – and how it weaves the visual prompt into the story by using it as a metaphor for loss and grief. I loved the personification of Time and its gentle regret that it cannot slow, or go backwards, and the character’s admission that even if he could be granted another minute or another hour with his loved one, it would never be enough. Poignant and unsettling, and told from a unique perspective, this story stuck in the mind.

Pratibha: This story is really powerful in the personification of Time. I loved the concept. I also liked how the author weaved in the dialogue with the second person point of view.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “Three Mothers.” 

Sinéad: We were both struck by the topicality of this story, and the poignancy of the child’s realisation that the scientific advances that will save his or her unborn sibling will come too late to save him/her. The details here – the crumpled tissues and the bottles hidden in the laundry basket, and the child’s pretense at a smile mirroring the mother’s – gave the story an urgent poignancy and power. I was also struck by the mention of mitochondrial disease, which can be caused by problems with mitochondrial DNA (inherited from the mother), and how this means that both the child’s life and death have come from their birth mother, as well as ‘mother’ Nature. This story took an interesting and fresh look at the idea of mother Nature and motherhood in general, contrasting the ‘flawed’ mothers with an idealised, and impossible, ‘third’ mother, from which only life – and not the inevitable death – would come.

Pratibha: I think my partner has already said everything so brilliantly, that I might have said. So I will just say ditto.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Sarah Miles, Mother Knows Best.” 

Sinéad: This was a heartrending tale. It was another which stayed with me, and I was moved by the contrast between the expectant mother – who so loves and wants to protect her tiny child – with the seemingly impersonal cruelty of mother Nature (partly personified in the efficient, brisk and unfeeling nurse), who takes life as easily as she gives it, with no thought to what, or who, is left behind. The contrast to the winning tale was interesting, and I loved the harsh irony of the tale’s title and the nurse’s parroting of the platitude that ‘mother Nature knows best‘. Why do we assume this is true, we are left to ask? And what does ‘best’ even mean? The final image, of the woman on her hands and knees releasing a ‘feral howl‘, so reminiscent of the childbirth she will now not experience, was one I found particularly affecting.

Pratibha: Although this story refers to the photo prompt only metaphorically, the emotional punch of the story is powerful. Does Mother Nature really know what is best for the expectant mother? The story asks the question and makes the reader think.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Katie Morford, “Illusion.” {Editor’s Note: Ms. Morford is one of the founders of Crosshair Press, the star of tomorrow’s Spotlight interview.}

Sinéad: This tale employs some beautiful language, particularly the line: ‘A lake shimmering bright in the desert, luring naive hopefuls to cast off their anchor lines and abandon reality for a vision‘, and its concluding note – that of mankind staking a claim on another day – just one more! – while knowing, at the back of it all, that their struggle will ultimately amount to nothing, was powerful. The image of the decaying ship, like a giant animal, being consumed not only by the sand, but also by Time itself, was memorable, and I enjoyed the interplay between the survivor and his plants, from which he ‘coaxes life‘, despite admitting they are tougher than he is. I enjoyed this tale’s defiant spirit, and although many tales took a similar perspective, this one stood out.

Pratibha: This philosophical story moves through the actions of Man and Nature trying to outdo each other in a wave-like motion. Any achievement by Man seems like an illusion because it quickly results in a counter-move by Nature. This idea is delivered through beautiful and rhythmic language. The real illusion is the Man’s belief that he can conquer Nature. But “Nature’s a patient enemy. It wears away the illusion.” Yet, Man remains defiant and hopeful. I loved the layers of the story. It is the story of a marooned man and on the higher level, it is the story of Mankind.

DRAGON WINNER

DEB FOY!!!

for

“Remorse”

Sinéad: This story gripped me from the get-go. Narrated by the sea itself, which was an unusual and striking perspective, I was taken by the tale’s focus on the sorrow felt by Nature at the necessity of claiming an innocent life, and how – while it has no choice – it regrets the fact that a child has died, and the effects this event has on the bereaved family. I felt the conflict (humanity vs. Nature) was very well handled, and I loved the subtle working in of the visual prompt: ‘Ever after, she was a ship marooned in a desert ocean… The garden bloomed that year, small apology.’ I also felt the story handled the father’s grief very skillfully (albeit, it made for upsetting reading), and it was one of several tales which stayed in my mind, nagging at me, after my initial read-through. A powerful and deserving winner.

Pratibha: Several stories attempted to personify the forces of Nature, but this one stood out because of the brilliant execution. The complete story unravels in a sincere apology from the ocean that took a young life, but the ocean itself is subject to the Nature’s laws. “We’re bound by strictest laws; directives we dare not defy.” The conflict between Man and Nature takes on a deeper meaning at this point. Well-developed characters, human as well as ocean made this story rise to the top. Bravo.

Congratulations, Deb! Please find below the rights to your second 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!

Remorse

<Story removed at author’s request>

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