Tag Archive | David Hartley

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 18: WINNERS

It was a huge party here at the dragons’ lair this week, with loads of entries battling over the FF crown and over the penultimate Golden Ticket for the Flash Dogs’ prized anthology. This week in addition to some new faces, we saw the return of a few beloved and missed faces, which warmed our hearts. We like all your faces!

And thank you above all for continuing to share your extraordinary writerly talent here, and for torturing tantalizing our dear captains so. Did I laugh hysterically as they wept and anguished over their decisions, writhing in pain from the stress of it all? No, of course not — certainly not, never; that would not have been nice.

P.S., totally unrelated topic: can anyone recommend a tonic for sore ribs?

P.P.S. REMEMBER!!! Tomorrow’s the last chance to earn a Golden Ticket anywhere. Join us here Tuesday, April 14, at 7am Washington DC time for our first-ever Flash Dash. One prompt. Thirty minutes to write. And the prize: a Golden Ticket and a Flash! Friday coffee mug, YEAH BABY!!!


Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

First up: let’s award that gorgeous, sparkly thing!!!! The winner of the first Flash! Friday Golden Ticket — for her inventive, clever tale “Pay Attention” — is


Becky, please contact me here with your email address, and Flash Dogs HQ will be in touch. Congratulations!


Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark A. King say

I know you hear it a lot, but the stories this week were simply incredible. Our job was not hard, as most of the stories were just fantastic – the only hard part was leaving some behind, knowing that you might be saddened that your story was not picked. This doesn’t make them inferior; what any individual gets out of reading a story is highly personal and can’t be predicted. Keep going! Next week might be your week.

While I’m here, I know our beloved Dragon Queen will be seeking applications for judges soon. It is hard work, but the most rewarding work you can get in writing circles; for every hour you give, you will get back multitudes more in terms of inspiration and happiness. Which leads me on to say I’ll be so sad when my time is finished and I no longer get to work with the genius of my fellow judge. –MK



For visions of aging James Bond actors and reflections of a tired 007: Josh Bertetta, “The Manliest of Man’s Manly Men

For cheeky reference to St. Peter (the keeper of heaven) as “Pete’s a good guy”: N J Crosskey, “Heaven’s Gate

For mischievous reference to judge Shoemaker (but it’s judge King that has the red wig in reality): Carolyn Ward, “Old Dog, New Trick

For giving us the chills: Joidianne4eva, “Suffer the Little Children

For a Special Brew of dietary delight: A.J. Walker, “Alas Smith and Jones

For the art of keeping it simple and doing the best things in a story really well: Valerie Brown, “The Thaw. ” 



Michael Seese, “Spare Change

MK: Sometimes a story has winning characters, or mesmerising plot, perhaps an unforgettable beginning, or an ending that completely changes everything. With this story, it has wonderful elements throughout. For me, it was the ending that made it really stand out. The ‘voice’ of a character is fundamental to a story and this was done well; but the ending made me re-read it time and time again. ‘It’s nearly quitting time. Soon, I will sit down with my counterpart, and divvy up the souls. Those who gave, He can call His. The others…’

TS: The twist completely took me in on this one. At first, I was imagining a typical street-side beggar, expounding on the sadness of humanity that passes a needy person on the curb. When I got to the part about the artist’s portrayal, I got that wonderful “Oooohhh” moment when I thought that it was perhaps an angel or even Jesus himself, coming among humanity in disguise. So when the ending finally swung around and I realized who was the actual narrator, I got chills. They’re multiplyin’. 😉 Really enjoyed the frame on this: begging fore and aft. It wraps it up into a nice bedeviled sandwich. Well done!

Michael Seese, “Amazing Disgrace

MK: Firstly, I have to say that I loved the title. Unexpectedly, we had a large number of religious stories, and nearly all of them were excellent. This one appealed to me as Amazing Grace is a wonderful hymn (and there were references to the lyrics in the story). But this story has a message that transcends religion, goes beyond time, and mirrors the fall of angels to the fall of mankind.

TS: I grew up with Amazing Grace as one of the songs with which I was most familiar, so reading this skillful twist hit home. This piece really spoke to me. Loved the description of “a man’s fall from grace.” “No, it’s a series of steps, steps taken willfully despite, or in spite of, the ever-steepening grade that I tried to convince myself was not a decline at all.” That’s a line that will stick with me for a long time. Of course, wrapping up the piece with Dante (who happens to be one of my favorites) was an excellent choice. Wonderful job.

Nancy Chenier, “Dreaming of Midsummer Nights.”

MK: Perhaps you know by now that we are both partial to beautiful words, and oh, what words and images this story gave us: ‘grubby perch of his fingers’, ‘glossy thorax’, ‘ichor oozed bitterness’, ‘ floral sprites’ and ‘hyacinthine perfume of the passages between worlds’ – just some of the wonderment served to us. I’m off now to find the Goblin Traders, before Tamara gets there.

TS: Fay! Robin! Goblin Traders! Where do I sign up!? Obviously, someone has found my penchant for sprites and all things fantasy. What an incredibly imaginative take! I groaned out an “Ewww” for the butterfly consumption, but was incredibly relieved to find out that Robin didn’t eat some poor Fay by mistake. I love the fantastical twists throughout: “(not Fay!)” “In earlier days, Robin would have marked it in night dust for a midnight exchange.” “…the coin shivered, then turned into an acorn.” Really enjoyed this one. Great job! And Mark, you’re too late, I’ve already found the Goblin Traders and treated them to “tea.” They’re in eternal sleep now. But nice try. 😉


Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea, “New Recruit

MK: I love the fact that the lead character is a girl in the story; the picture was ambiguous, but most chose to depict the person sitting as a man or boy. This is such a brilliantly poised story. We have beautiful words and images such as ‘world a great disco-ball’, ‘shattered panels of mirrored glass’ and ‘reflective chaos’. Then we have the layered emotional context and character building of ‘fill of life’s lemons’, ‘considered disposable’ and the wonderful ‘mosaic of unrealized destruction’. We also have the seasons appearing as characters (nice work), before it draws to a conclusion we can almost see coming. A street-savvy entry – well done.

TS: The first phrase that caught my attention in this one was: “…she would be the shattered panels of mirrored glass…” Gorgeous line with crushing imagery, which then carried through the rest of the piece in fragments of theme. I saw the shattered panels again in Bug’s cold hardness, in the willingness to roughly grind her misfortunes in someone’s eyes, and in the “mosaic of unrealized destruction.” Such a solid statement of character, which is what we were particularly focusing on this week (the Spy). I, like Mark, enjoyed the switch to a female lead. It was different, and we quite loved a street-savvy Katniss Everdeen showing up in the story (who, as you may know, also had to buy her ticket to “freedom” through the “mosaic of unrealized destruction.”). Nicely done!


Betsy Streeter, “The Ballad of the Spy and the Assassin.”

MK: Such a fantastic title; it drew me in from the very start. I love this gloriously skewed take on love. There is someone for everyone, they say, and in this story we have love crossing the professional boundaries and spanning the globe while the shadows of Istanbul conjure images of blood cleansed daggers. I thought this was the keystone of the piece, ‘You work in secrecy and silence and I am a blaring siren’ – it says everything about their roles and their relationship in a fraction of words. Delightful.

TS: What a fantastic, twisted, interesting, I-can’t-look-away-it’s-so-*insert adjective here* take on the prompt! The first line pulled me in; so much pathos in just these words: “The thing I miss the most…” And then the author goes on to wrap me up into a love story, and SUCH a love story; who ever thinks of the assassin and the spy together? I love this: “No one can hide from you. Except for me.” It’s that line that pegs the Spy as the other half of the Assassin, that pulls the two together into a perfect, completed puzzle. Which makes the last line so much more heart-breaking: “I ran my fingers over its tattered edges and checked my messages for the next job.” *sob* Beautifully done.


David Hartley, “The Invisible Man.”

MK: It is rare that a story will knock us both sideways and we find it really hard to pinpoint exactly why. I suspect this story may not appeal to everyone, but this is the very point of writing, it was magical to at least two people this week, so I know for sure that many of the stories that we haven’t picked will be magical to others.

The take is vastly different. We have the characters beautifully described as birds, their personalities, their movements, even their undercover names are fabulously articulated through the variety of birds. However, there is also a sense of the story itself darting, watching, soaring, preening and deceiving through the very clever way the words are constructed within the sentences. This was brilliant and breathless avian adventure and one that we truly adored. Congratulations to you.

TS: I read this story over and over because I loved the bird-like quickness of it. The structure perfectly aligned with the content, and was so skillfully done, I had to enjoy it again and again. I love the idea that the Spy and his cohorts had bird names; loved that everything they did was with the startling fleetness that comes with birds. This sentence blew me away: “But a ruffle of feathers, a quick preen and there; the drop is made. He waits, casual, then swoops away.” So quick and light, like the “sparrow, starling, swift” (alliteration, did you notice?); this entire story played out in my head as vividly as if I was sitting in front of a screen watching it. Brilliantly done; hats off to the author. This is one that will go in my bank of stories “I wish I had written, ’cause it’s just so awesome.” 🙂

And now: for her 3rd time, it’s the dearly loved and very talented Flash! Friday




“Street Level”

MK: This style of writing immediately resonated with me. It reminded me of so many of my favourite films that involve cities of darkness, corruption and crime. There were elements from Blade Runner (and many other great films) that captured me in a stranglehold. In this story we have wonderful images that also define the characters ‘purple-stained cheek’, ‘crimson lips whisper’, ‘rose blossoms of lipstick’ and ‘sweet smell of deceit on his shirt’. We have the repetition of ‘I spy’ – leading us to question who the narrator might be and also acting as the glue to what initially looks like separate stories. But this is the true winning element of this story, for the characters and stories are linked. The sadness of the abandoned boy becoming ‘solider’ for his mother who walks the streets ‘seducing the night’, he is a victim caught in a crossfire of words and violence. The cold bed of the wife – her husband cheating, but he’s seeing the woman from the first paragraph with ‘crimson lips’. And so it goes on. Emotion. Great writing. World building. Complex and deep characters. Story progression. All in 200 odd words: and that my friends, is why Flash! Friday is the greatest show in earth. My warmest congratulations to the winning writer.

TS: I was going to try to add something brilliant and profound onto what Mark already wrote, but he already said everything I wanted to say. If I were to copy over every phrase that I absolutely loved about this piece, the entire thing would be copied and pasted –> here. I was truly amazed by everything about this story, but particularly loved the repetition of “I spy with my little eye,” the tragedy that weaves through in the various stories, which, as Mark said, are all linked into one. The imagery, holy schnikeys! The purple stain “a badge of honor.” The “rose blossoms of lipstick” and the “sweet smell of deceit.” “I spy a little girl whose mom makes pancakes while family life is laundered.”

This piece is incredibly gripping and vivid with a strong voice. Ingenious. Congrats; I’m completely bowled over.

Congratulations, Marie! Such a pleasure seeing your name back up top again; it’s been too long!! Here’s your updated, magnificently fiery winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Street Level

I spy with my little eye the kid with the purple-stained cheek. A badge of honour bestowed on him since his mom started seducing the night. Her crimson lips whisper from hidden corners the price of dark secrets and lies. So the kid becomes her little street soldier beating back horrible names with his armory of sticks and stones.

I spy with my little eye the wife whose bed is cold while her husband kisses crimson lips. For now, she ignores the rose blossoms of lipstick on his neck and the sweet smell of deceit on his shirt.

I spy a little soldier looking lost early one morning, panic filling his hollow, sleepless eyes. He knows what he’s going to find before he even starts searching.

I spy a little girl whose mom makes pancakes while family life is laundered. The blood spatter on clothes, a distorted echo of the passion her husband once sought. Stains removed, ironed out, folded away into drawers. A disinfectant smell clears the air. Domesticity restored.

It is then I am seen.

The police bundle me into the back of their car; they don’t listen when I say: I spied with my little eye, the fallout of criss-crossed lives.


Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 39: WINNERS!

To all the doubters who think flash fiction is “nice” because people just don’t have time to write or read a proper story? I dare you to read even ONE story from this past week’s contest and claim that again with a straight face and/or without lightning crashing on your head. These writers are good.  

As for you dear crazy flash fiction people! You clearly, like me, have some kind of serious flash fiction obsession problem. I couldn’t be more grateful to you for commiserating with your fellow Flash! Friday addicts here week after week. Thank you for joining us! Come back Wednesday for the champ’s interview; come back Friday to do your awesome thang all over again.     


Judge Craig Anderson (you should see the post-battle mess of his poor brain!) says: Who knew that a simple stone shack on a deserted island could house so many wonderful stories? It has been fantastic to see the community grow these last few weeks as more and more people have joined the fun. It positively warms my heart to see our little flash family flourish. Try saying that five times really fast!

The toughest part of being a judge (apart from the judging obviously) is not being able to read all the wonderful comments on everyone’s stories, which are often just as much fun to read as the stories themselves. These all get stripped, along with your names, for the sacred judging scroll, which is hand written in unicorn tears before being delivered by tiny fire-breathing owls. No expense is spared in the name of fair and equitable judgery-ish-ness. On a totally unrelated note, don’t tell tiny fire-breathing owls how cute they are if you like your eyebrows.

One or two of you took on the optional ‘Stella challenge’ this week, leading to a cavalcade of Stellas. Some were hunters, some were prey, some were young and some were old, some were human, some were not and one of them was quite literally a pregnant planet! More than one was a dragon, just like our very own stellakateT. I hope that ‘our’ Stella enjoyed the surprise when she popped by to check out this week’s stories 🙂

Anyway, enough of my ramblings; on to the important business of the results…



Eliza Archer, “How It Began.” The opening line for this one did such a great job of setting the scene – “I’m pretty sure I was born between a rock and a hard place.” The ending was a fun twist that tied this tale into a wider mythology

SJ O’Hart“Star of the Morning.” Some beautiful imagery in this one, and I loved the idea that the baby’s first steps would be on the soil from the “land o’ your mothers.” There was a really sweet, almost sentimental tone throughout

TanGental, “On Fertile Ground.” This story slowly built up to the haunting imagery of babies springing from the ground. This was incorporated nicely into a fun punchline, which quickly flips the tone from horror to comedy

Brian Creek, “Doubt.” The demon in this story reminded me of a venus fly trap, an innocent exterior with a less than fun surprise inside. A crying baby would certainly be a very effective way to coax passers by into your lair! The poor knight doesn’t get to save a baby, but at least he grants a temporary reprieve to the rest of the traffic passing by

Drmagoo, “Labor Pains.” I loved the concept of this piece, with the planet having a surprise birth of a second moon. There was some great imagery and fun language (Stellaquakes!). Just how does a planet get pregnant? Answers on a postcard

Adrienne Myshel, “The Lair.” I enjoyed the twist with this one, as the entire King’s army surrounds the home of an innocent sleeping dragon only to find themselves at the mercy of a “mercy-blotting” sneaky dragon daughter in disguise. Serves them right!


Allie Lahn, Untitled. This was a story grounded in a sad reality, and I really felt for the protagonist as she delivered the baby of the local Tacksman. It’s never explained why this child was the tacksman’s, but enough detail is provided to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. The mother’s frantic searching of the baby’s features in the hopes of little to no resemblance tells us all we need to know. In one short sentence the full enormity of the situation becomes apparent: “Given time, the boy could grow to resemble the man that he would call his father.” The Mother’s sense of hope that perhaps all will be ok is short lived with the final sentiment, “over time, men only grow into their monsters.” 


David Hartley, “Rock Monster.” I loved how this story incorporated a sci-fi theme into such a pristine and low tech setting, immediately creating an interesting contrast. The ‘monster’ is quickly established as non-threatening, casually bumbling around consuming stones with its “doorway mouth”. This is followed by a great moment where our hero tries to reconcile the creature standing before her with the fearsome ‘Scourge of St. Kilda’ she has been sent to hunt down. Perhaps a case of over exaggeration from the villagers? 

In the tradition of all the best action movies her superiors are more than happy to shoot first and ask questions later, but the creature has other ideas. David could have gone with a more direct approach here, with Momma suddenly appearing to save the day, but instead he plays it far more subtly. The baby’s cry for help is answered in the far distance, and in that moment both the reader and our protagonist have the grim realization that she’s switched from hunter to prey. By allowing the reader to experience the hero’s surprise alongside her it makes this moment all the more powerful. I’m just hoping Stella escaped in one piece!


Mark A. King, “After Pompeii.” This story contained some beautiful language, used to great effect. One of my favourite lines was, “I watched the sins of greed, the exchanges of coin for touches of flesh, and choice of ignorance over the obvious.” This could just as easily be describing a modern day city, but in this case it is the doomed city of Pompeii. This single line captures the essence of an entire tragedy and how it came to pass.  

That tragedy itself was described just as powerfully, as “lava flowed, and choking dust cemented lungs,” our narrator watches from the skies, powerless to help. When the dust finally settles, the survivors look to place blame and “A god of fire and wing was an easy target.” Of course mankind would have been better off taking a closer look at their part in the proceedings rather than blaming the poor old Dragon! {Editor’s Note: SERIOUSLY! Time and again!}

The banishment to St. Kilda initially looks like an improvement, a chance to start over, but unfortunately one set of problems has been traded for another. This time it’s “Distended bellies giving fleeting life for tetanus to take it back – infected knives ripping at umbilical cords.” Mark again does a wonderful job of conveying a terrible reality in so few words. The difference this time is that our narrator refuses to idly sit by; instead, he adopts a baby girl and brings her under his protection. It is left up to the reader to decide just what this entails, but I like to think that the dragon decided if he can’t save them all he’d at least save this one. It’s both an admission of defeat and a last glimmer of hope, a great way to wrap up this moving tale.

And now: taking the crown is one of our newest dragons. Huzzah to Flash! Friday





I’m sure I say this every time, but picking the winner was a particularly tough task this time around! There were a lot of great stories to choose from, covering a huge range of subjects and styles. All of the finalists stood out in their own way. John’s story was one that really jumped out at me on my first read through, due primarily to the amount of twists and turns he’s managed to squeeze into 160 words!

The story begins with Margaret carrying baby Ian across a moor. There are immediately ominous undertones; the use of the phrase “did as she was told” suggests this isn’t something that she wants to do, and I found myself curious as to what happens next. It’s a strong opening, one that drew me in immediately. 

The tension continues to build, with Margaret telling herself to be brave, like Ian’s father. It’s a nice way to lead into the backstory, which is succinctly told but leaves much left unsaid. The gossip in me wanted to know how Margaret and Father Macquaig found themselves in such a compromising situation, but it’s smartly omitted as it’s not relevant to the story being told. Sometimes the hardest part of flash is not what to write but what to leave out! 

Not being familiar with the baobhan sith I googled it (here), and it’s a suitably Scottish beastie for this tale. I love it when an author goes the extra mile to incorporate small details from the setting – it could have just as easily been a vampire or generic demon waiting in the barrow, but the inclusion of this particular nasty helps to reinforce the time and place this tale takes place. 

Leading into the conclusion I was expecting a tale of sacrifice, perhaps the gory details of the terrible deed that Margaret did for the sake of the wider good. What happens instead is much more interesting. After psyching herself up to perform the unthinkable Margaret finds herself face to face with Agnes, another woman from the same village, cradling a “bloody bundle”. Agnes reveals that she brought the ‘chosen child’ and have a guess who the father is? It seems Father Macquaig may have to spend a bit of time on the other side of the confession box! With this switch up the story suddenly becomes a dark comedy and in a final self-aware nod this is emphasized by baby Ian’s first laugh (which I chose to imagine as a bond villain-esque cackle). 

A second read through only makes the story more enjoyable. Knowing the ending means we can now see Father Macquaigs act for what it is, a desperate attempt to get rid of the evidence. How many young girls have made this same sacrifice before them? Is there even a Sith lurking in the barrow, and if not what’s happening to those babies? The story left me wanting to know more, and that’s what makes it great writing and this weeks winner.

Congratulations, John! Below is the mega sparkly winner’s badge for your wall(s). Here also please find your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:


Margaret did as she was told, carried her baby across the moor to St. Kilda’s Barrow. She’d named him Ian, after his father.

She had to be brave, like Ian’s father, brave Father Macquaig. How he had trembled when she brought the baby to his rectory door, when she told him the child was his, when they prayed together; when he told her, then, of the baobhan sith and how it could only be sated by the blood of the chosen child—this very child!—sacrificed in the barrow of St. Kilda.

The barrow was close now, an island in the mist…

Something was not right. Father Macquaig had instructed her to remove the entrance stone, but the stone was already gone.

Inside the barrow, Margaret found another village girl, Agnes, cradling a bloody bundle.

“The chosen child,” she cooed. “His own daughter…”


“Brave Father Macquaig’s!” Agnes said, weeping reverently.

Beneath Margaret’s cloak, Ian laughed for the first time.





Flash! Friday # 33 — WINNERS!

Thanks for your patience, everyone! Here are the results for Round 33. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for the return of Flash Points, in which one of your stories will be torn to shreds (in a good way, of course).   


Judge Anthony Marchese says, I apologize profusely for the delay; I’m sure everyone was biting their nails in anticipation. I regret that I have not had many chances to sit down and add my own stories to the fray in the past several weeks. Nevertheless, I always find a moment to check out the week’s prompt, if only just to gawk at the fascinating photos our hosts find for us. This week was no exception. My mind immediately went to work thinking up ways the picture could be used, and obviously yours did too.



Doctor Mike Reddy, “How to Survive An Argument With a Dragon.” For his clever character who stops to think about the dragon’s place in evolutionary history, as I would.

Erin McCabe, “The Day the World Stopped.” For appealing to my interest in “end of the world” scenarios. What caused the New Ice Age? Comet? Supervolcano? Nuclear winter? No; it just happens. 

James Mender, “A Dragon in the Dust.” For his unbelievable tale – and skeptical audience.

David Hartley“Expedition.” For haunting imagery. 

Keith in RKE“Don’t P*** Off the Host.” For a good laugh.


Craig Anderson, “Flameo and Dewy-wet.” Craig gave us a beautiful tale of forbidden love. At the start I thought the story wasn’t going to appeal to me, and I thought the tale was going to be tragic. But this story won me over. It ended perfectly, and by the final line I knew I had to include it among the winners.

And a roaring welcome to the winner’s dais: our Flash! Friday 



for “Engineering Dream.”  I hesitated at first to pick this one because I know I’m biased towards sci-fi (most of my own writing is in this genre). But in the end I had no choice: I just had to give you credit for this unique take on the prompt. Now all I can see in the photo is coolant and a reactor. That’s talent – in 200 words you completely changed my point of view. Amazing work. Congratulations.

Congratulations, M.T.! Here are your Winner’s Page, your very own electrifyingly crafted eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Please contact me asap (here) with your email address so I can interview you for Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds feature.

Engineering Dream

Alex waited anxiously as the engineering review board studied his request to preserve a derelict spaceship. The fact that the craft was still functional after a century and a half indicated that studying it could give them a better understanding of how to improve their own craft, which rarely lasted thirty years with constant maintenance.

“This is the reactor core and cooling system,” he said, as the images appeared on the overhead display.

Instead of the customary cooling rods and tanks one would expect, the reactor was made up of a series of caverns. Waterfalls of coolant cascaded down the one wall into a flowing pool that surged past the glowing chamber of the reactor itself only to be filtered through the rocks and recirculated in a perpetual, sustained cycle.

“The design of the HTBD drive is amazingly efficient and self-contained,” Alex assured them.

The board nodded, appreciating both the beauty of the design as well as its functionality.

“I see why you want to study this,” the chairman agreed. “But this note is rather confusing…”

‘Not really,” Alex said. “It’s why we call it the HTBD Drive.”

“Here, there be dragons?”

Alex smiled; this was where things got interesting.