Tag Archive | @drmagoo

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 46: WINNERS

Welcome to results day!!!! So glad you’re here. Thanks for taking the time to write & comment, and thank you for coming back to see whose names are inscribed in gold on the trophies this round. MWAH!

Quick VERY COOL note: judge apps are already coming in for the first panel of Year Three. You’ve still got some time, but not a whole lot, to apply too and join the AWESOMEST dragon team anywhere; check out the details here

Final note: today it’s deep thanks and (sniff sniff!!!) goodbye to outgoing judge Betsy Streeter. Betsy, it’s been a privilege having you on the FF team this last quarter. Thank you for all your hard work and general wacky awesomeness. Can’t wait to read Silverwood for myself. Is it March yet???    

♦♦♦♦♦

Judge Betsy Streeter says:  Thank you so much, Dragonness, for asking me to be a judge. There is nothing that improves your writing like doing a lot of reading, and Flash! Friday is like receiving a great learning experience on fast-forward each week. I’ve loved having the chance to share thoughts on the pieces, and to be really thoughtful about them out loud, and I hope it’s been helpful to get feedback in that way – everybody please keep writing!

Now for comments on this round: Something about this particular photo, and its vintage, and the notion of bankruptcy took many writers to similar places this week – both in terms of story and in terms of tone and dialogue/dialect. I haven’t seen a set of stories that were this convergent before!

Having said that, there seemed to be two forks in that road: Pushing the idea around until it became something new (a twist, a reference to a TV show, perhaps even aliens), or sticking with it as a pure expression of a time and place that really seems to resonate with people.

The stories that struck me grabbed onto a detail, or a moment, or a conversation, and held it until it yielded something that implied a larger story or situation – opening up a new world in the process.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

David Borrowdale, “The Art of Keeping the Horse Between You and the Ground.”  David took that idea of failure/falling and applied it to the sometimes precarious act of riding a horse, and beautifully conveyed how our efforts not to let our world fall apart can take the form of both literally and figuratively climbing into a different place.

Stuart Turnbull, “The Gift Horse.” This is a great example of a small exchange implying a large story. Like in many Westerns, family bonds hold even in difficult circumstances. But choices must be made, and families must try to look out for one another even when they are just offering a least-worst alternative. This is classic Western, and the writing carries it out: “This ol’ nag looks in worse state than the one that left you to flit back to her folks in Mobile.”  

Matt L, “Untitled.” Many stories jumped into a particular tone and dialect, and this one did it particularly well. It reminded me of the speech at the beginning of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in which a small-time criminal’s many transgressions are listed out at length. The writer here really committed to the voice, and the content of the story supports it. Westerns have a certain craftiness and intelligence to them even when the characters seem to be just simple folk. I loved the use of squash.

♦♦♦♦♦

THIRD RUNNER UP

Eric Martell, “Untitled.” This story is so authentic in the dialog, the tone, and the delivery. I love: “unless you squinted, you couldn’t see that horse anymore.” Also wonderful: “nowadays luck trumped breeding every day of the week and twice on Sunday.” This is a great meditation on the fact that social standing falls apart right along with the economy, and how that can tear apart a person’s dignity and sense of who they are.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Karl A. Russell, “Too Big to Fall.” This is a great example of taking a premise and pushing it farther and farther, drawing on known fairy tales and blending it with another narrative. Karl here tells a huge story in very little space, containing it all in one expression of the rage you know is just under the surface in hard times. And this phrase: “returned home to the shotgun and the pot.” It’s almost a poem.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Holly Geely, “Christmas Dinner.” I kept coming back to this one, such a small moment between two characters but conveying so much. The contrast between the invented and outlandish story and the real circumstances lets the reader feel a creeping desperation. No action takes place, but it is implied and that’s what creates the tension. I found myself really wanting that horse to still be outside come spring.

And now: for her very first time EVER, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

GRACE BLACK!!!

for

“Depression Glass”

This is another I kept coming back to. It beautifully conveys how grief and loneliness are made worse by the loss of the small but meaningful parts of one’s life, and how those parts are encapsulated in shared everyday objects. It took me right to my grandmother’s house. A life built over time, torn asunder, and uprooted into another home. Somehow it’s just not enough, and the narrator knows it never will be. The glass is unmoored.

Congratulations, Grace! Below is your super cool/hot stunning winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega sparkly winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Depression Glass

I watch birds now, their various wingspans, as I sip my coffee. Overpriced coffee from oversized mugs, brewed in coffeemakers costing more than my monthly wages when I was still a productive member of society.

That sounds ungrateful though, which I’m not or at least I shouldn’t be. My granddaughter has kindly taken me into her home. A home I never could have provided for Vera, but then times were different.

Her petite, gloved-white hands flapping around as she’d prattle on about some sale at the nursery. “Lilacs,” she’d said. She fancied gardening, and hated horses, but her hands remained petal soft even in the end as I held them between my own calloused monsters.

Milk-glass cups—we used to drink our coffee from—are kept on the top shelf of the hutch I built, collectibles now. We don’t drink out of them.

“Lilacs are in bloom.”

“Ah, yes! How are the birds today, Grandpa?”

“They don’t change.”

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

Advertisements

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…

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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!

THIRD RUNNER UP

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.” 

SECOND RUNNER UP

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!

FIRST RUNNER UP

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

DRAGON WINNER

JOHN MURRAY LEWIS!!!

for

Untitled

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:

Untitled

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…”

“Whose?”

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

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

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 38: WINNERS!

Holy cow, people. Just when I’m like, It’s just not humanly possible to write better than the little dragons did this week, there you go, writing still better. AND this week y’all exploded the Flash! Friday records in the number of stories (almost 70) and comments (nearly 600), WOW. But you want to know a secret?? If next week only twenty of you show up, or only ten, or shoot, if it’s only you (and me), I will be no less grateful. The way you invest in each other by spending hours reading & commenting on each other’s stories, tweeting other writers’ work, and blogging about each other? That’s the very heart of Flash! Friday, and what I’ve always dreamed it would be. I’ve said it before but will say it again, and again, and again: you are making a difference in each other’s lives. You are also redefining on a weekly basis just how powerful flash fiction can be. Thank you.   

♦♦♦♦♦

Judge Phil Coltrane (who, if you’re looking for him, will be napping the next few days) says: Once again, I am amazed by the level of talent displayed by the community. We asked for stories that include an alien, and you delivered big-time: friendly aliens, hostile aliens, absent aliens, alien telemarketers, alien whales, and even (somehow) human aliens. On top of that, you delivered to each other a huge outpouring of constructive comments. The magnitude of this week’s alien invasion was overwhelming.

But the Dragoness doesn’t pay me to be overwhelmed. I loved (and read repeatedly) so many of your stories, so even if I was unable to mention yours this week, I sincerely hope that you will come back next week to make things even more difficult for the next judge. {Craig Anderson says, Gee thanks.}

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Liz Hedgecock, “Re-Entry.” A poignant story and a reminder of the alienation that can be felt by those who are deployed far from their homes and loved ones.

Craig Anderson (3x winner & current judge!), “GOTO 10.” It may be the friendliest programming language ever designed, but this story turns two lines of BASIC code into a homicidal alien invader.

Bart Van Goethem, “360.98.” Not many stories can include an alien shapeshifter bodysnatcher, an indifferent cat drinking milk, a Kuiper belt object, and the length of a stellar day, and make it all make sense.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Michael Seese, “Passengers.” What drew me into this apparently light-hearted tale was the dialog — a guy talking of being “on the cover of Newsweek” and “a date with a centerfold” as the two astronauts await their recovery team and dream of their fame.

Karl A. Russell, “A Conspiracy Theory.” Here, the author perfectly captures the language of a conspiracy theorist presenting his lunatic theory. A few leading questions — “Don’t you think that’s strange?” — combines with a barrage of factoids in a breathless attempt to turn unrelated trivia into something sinister.

The author even strays into meta territory (“Karl A. Russell loves his Disney films, see, and he’s here week after week”) as he builds toward his conclusion: “It’s the only explanation. Inside men. Your silent invasion. Mind control.” A well-executed and researched conspiracy theory, complete with the requisite alien invasion.

Eric Martell, “From the Frying Pan….” There is a larger backstory: we know that a “battle that had caused our ship to have trouble,” that “Houston got nuked,” and now the astronauts are in real trouble.

As the title suggests, their problems continue to worsen — the two astronauts have no way of getting home, and one is now unable to safely communicate a new, unexpected threat: “the thing that didn’t need a spacesuit and had twelve arms.” Eric compounds conflict upon conflict, starting with important but distant problems, while saving the revelation of the immediate alien threat for the end, where it will have the most impact.

Pauline Creighton, “Darkness.” Blaise Pascal said, “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.” This is the concept that drew me into this story. After a “fruitless ten year mission to find alien life,” he returns to Earth to find, to his horror, that there is no other life out there in the darkness of space, nor any surviving humans left anywhere on Earth.

In the end, he himself is the alien: isolated, alone, and surrounded by darkness no matter where he chooses to go. A unique interpretation of the prompt, and an unsettling story overall.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Avalina Kreska, “Sugar & Spice And All Things Nice – That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of.” This story works on an emotional level: the heartbreak of dealing with a loved one’s degenerative terminal illness. We learn of Liam’s life — including his astronaut training (“being blasted into the sky”), his love of motorcycles and girls (“kicking up dust on Dad’s old Harley, leathered girls riding pillion”), and some unspecified accident (“the computer malfunctioning”) — through his father’s memories, since Liam himself has none. He is reverting physically and mentally through childhood, and has little time left.

A touching story with parallels to coping with Alzheimer’s, and with a slightly irreverent ending in the spirit of this week’s contest that plays with the typical after-school special — “that’s what you get for sleeping around with alien girls. You never know where the hell they’ve been.”

SECOND RUNNER UP

Sarah Cain, “Good Business.” When I read “astomuts,” I was hooked on this fun story about alien bartender Jin and his patrons, Gus and Flann. What I liked most about this story was the oddly down-to-earth nature of these aliens. Unlike most other stories, these aliens wish neither help nor harm upon Earth. Instead, they are ordinary blue-collar blokes, tipping back a few and watching a TV show.

The friendly rivalry between the bar patrons, arguing over our space program (“Geez Gus. It ain’t astomuts. It’s astronauts.” “Moon, shmmoon. So what?”) the way we might argue about sports teams or current events, serves to establish that these four-armed aliens aren’t so different from us. The last line sums it up for the bartender: “Humans were crazy weird, but great for business.” It’s the author’s natural-sounding dialog that makes the crazy sound normal, and connects us to the story’s alien characters.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Voimaoy, “Cats in Space.” If cats told legends, they would read like the one in the story. “We are the wondrous strange. We pass between the walls.” It is a legend filled with both wonder and self-importance — both of the cats in the myth are described as “beautiful,” and the legend claims that they “have always been sailors’ familiars.” Their self-importance continues into the present: “We have so much to teach you about gravity and doors.”

The humans’ opinion of these cat people is less lofty: “difficult to work with,” and “[c]haotic as the random decay of subatomic particles.” Yet the cat people’s claims of importance must have some merit, or the humans would not put up with their demanding ways. They even admit that “there was no denying their talent for navigating the seas of quantum foam.”

It’s hard to say what makes this story so appealing. Whether it is the juxtaposition of the cats’ conceited opinion of themselves and the humans’ views of them, the beautiful language of the legend, or just the idea of cats as alien navigators, this story successfully captures a fun and fascinating idea.

And now: taking the #flashfiction world by storm, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

NANCY CHENIER!!!

for

“Mission Control”

This story hits the ground running, providing tension, setting up the two characters Marvin and Meuller, and establishing a conspiracy between them, all in the first paragraph.

The rest of the story is an emotional see-saw, with Marvin and Meuller’s reactions always opposite to that of the rest of mission control. As the conspiracy unfolds and the returning Gemini space capsule goes off-course, “the eggheads went into a tizzy.” Yet at a time when the tension in the room is mounting, Marvin can slightly relax, “going through the motions,” because he already knows that this is “not a program error.” Soon after, when the astronauts correct the problem, this swings in the other direction. As the rest of mission control rejoices, “Marvin’s heart stopped [… he] gaped at the ashen expression of the director.”

What could compel these two men to commit such a betrayal of the astronauts? It seems the most frightening enemy is the one we don’t see — this alien threat is mentioned only as a “secret malignancy.” Upon realizing that this “secret malignancy” will soon be on Earth, nothing remains for Marvin to do but to go home and be with his family.

The word economy from packing so much into the beginning of the story, plus the constant contrast of Marvin and Meuller’s reactions against the rest of “the eggheads” and the subtlety of the alien menace make this a powerful story.

Congratulations, Nancy! Below is the super 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:

Mission Control

Beads of sweat dripped onto his console as Marvin hit enter. His glasses fogged, but he could still make out the erect figure of Meuller, the director, facing him across the floor. He gave a nod, barely more than a blink.

Ten seconds later, the eggheads went into a tizzy.

“They’re off course!”

“What the hell?”

“Can we fix it?”

“Not before entry!”

Marvin hunched over his console, his quaking hands going through the motions.

It was not a program error.

Though who would suspect otherwise on Gemini’s mission, already fraught with malfunction?

“Woohoo, Cooper!”

Marvin’s heart stopped. A cheer rose from the control stations.

Marvin gaped at the ashen expression of the director.

Cooper “corrected” the course from aboard. The capsule would land safely—along with its secret malignancy.

Marvin’s toddler would be sleeping, wife awake, waiting for him. “Can I go home?” he piped.

To the bewilderment of Houston’s personnel, the director tightened his jaw and nodded.

 

FFwinner-Web