Tag Archive | Eliza Archer

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 45: WINNERS

Isn’t winners’ day sooooo much fun?? No matter who’s judging, I love reading your comments on stories, I love seeing which stories stood out for our judges, and seeing winners’ names is as yummy as a fresh Cadbury bar. Grateful to all of you for showing up to write with us & encourage each other. And again, thank you for your critique help on Saturday’s #Pyro. That honest, concrete feedback is gold, lemme tell ya — the story and critical comments are well worth the read.

Don’t forget that coming up this Friday we’re opening up applications for the next round of judges, who’ll kick off Year Four for us in December. Judging is where the fun is; it’s also the most critical part of this contest, and we couldn’t keep going without y’all. Please consider becoming a Dragon Captain! Advance details here.   

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver, for daring to take on the White Whale. They say:   

FI: I’m breathless. Something about this prompt called out the poets in you, dear writers. There were so many captivating images of ocean swells, so many moments of levity turned raw with hurricane force, so many brackish life truths that parched my tongue. How is it possible to choose? More than any other judging round, I had to look to the mechanics, the emotion, and meaning behind each. Even if your story isn’t on the winners’ podium, it’s likely etched on the walls of my heart.

HG: I’m not as poetic as my dear partner, and after reading all your masterpieces, I really wanted to go to the beach. As the weather has turned and it’s already getting below 0° (Celsius) at night, that’s not the best idea. I had to settle for a drink on ice while I pondered my choices. It never ceases to amaze how many people with so much talent come together, week after week, to enjoy each other’s work. Righteous.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

BEST OPENER IN THE WORLD: Geoff Holme, “Whale Meat Again.” FI: MD 2 txt talk? 2G2BT! UCMU. 🙂

BEST ABSTRACT TAKEBetsy Streeter, “Coffee Brings Clarity.” FI: A diner, gnat, and reticent admirer born from a Moby Dick prompt. Writer, you have skill.

GREATEST TITLE EVER TITLED: Craig AndersonSon of a Beach.” HG: I have officially been tickled.

BEST OBSESSION EVER: Colin D. Smith, “Obsession.” HG: If he finally succeeds at the game, will he then corn-relish his victory?

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Michael Wettengel, “Boneyard

FI: Housed in the bones of a whale – such a powerful metaphor! Crisp, visual-laden sentences plant me firmly on that salty landscape; strong voices turn my head, looking for a weathered father and his incredulous child; purpose, guiding it all to the close, makes “Boneyard” an unforgettable piece of flash.

HG: “That’s what we thought…That there’d always be more.” Here’s an important life lesson. The characters in this story are exactly how I imagine future generations will be. Lovely story with a tragic ending.

F.E. Clark, “Seeking Yesterday

FI: “Seeking Yesterday” charms and terrifies. Fairytale poeticism masks a darkly relevant theme: mankind chasing immortal youth. How poignant that our princess spends her best days sequestered, pining for what’s passed. This gem stood out for its Brothers Grimm quality and its unique take on the prompt.

HG: I agree that it has a fairy tale vibe, but it also echoes society’s pressures of today, and an obsession with beauty that doesn’t do anyone any good. Every word in this story is important and in a short time, something so important is driven home.

AV Laidlaw, “Memento Mori.”

FI: Here again another flash with ocean’s depths of meaning. I could think of countless evils manifested in the whales’ plight. How we try to right what’s wrong, fail, and agree to move on, never speaking of the bones because we couldn’t affect change. The short, clean structure works well with the narrative style, bringing greater power to those last bitter lines.

HG:  The format of the story is what grips me here; the single final line on its own, with so much tragedy wrapped up in such a short sentence. The poor whales.

Caitlin Gramley, “You Can’t Ignore Me.” 

FI: I love a left-fielder! The ‘cost of obsession’ was a popular element but “You Can’t Ignore Me” sucks you in, almost convincing you that the voice is inside your skull. The syntax drives that impulse to heart-root, compelling you to get up and check the stove (did I turn it off?), or the lock (maybe I only thought I turned it). For me, it resurrected dead memories of compulsive prayers whispered in the dark, never good enough for the ears of God. Absolutely gripping, friend.

HG: You…wow…Whether or not it was the writer’s intent, this story captures the essence of Obsessive Compulsive disorder. I had to take a moment after I read this one, it strikes so close to home. Beautifully done.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “She, An Island

FI: That second line gives it all away and yet somehow we don’t see it until the fourth paragraph. Genius use of both the island and whale elements; neither felt strained. The whole piece leaves me yearning to know her backstory and yet afraid of what that glimpse might reveal. She sees the whale as benevolent but is he…? Was the man behind this manifestation responsible for her plight? We’re left to wonder.

HG: Beautiful imagery conceals the tragic twist of the ending, and makes you wish for Anne’s better island. Few words hint at something deeper, like the ocean, and the revelation that perhaps she’s only there in her mind is heartbreaking.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, “And the Whale” 

FI: Such a slow and careful unfolding! We see colors, hear songs, and feel the meaning in each before it is all given in that final line — even the title must be read through it. Each sentence is strong but the one I love the best is, “Megs wears levity like water wings, but what good are inflatable cuffs against a hurricane?” Their dichotomy couldn’t be drawn any sharper: the unquenchable hope of the mother and the tidal wave of fear drowning the father. A heart-bursting fiction that bleeds like reality.

HG: Adorable, sad…it has everything. I’m not sure how the almost-dad pictured the sea monster, but I’ve got a kind of stork/kraken hybrid in mind. The island and whale metaphors are consistently sweet (and great use of the Jaws theme).

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The Mighty Whale That Skims the Apocalyptic Skies.” 

FI: Moby Dick goes Steam Punk? Yes, please! Not only did you recreate the original theme in a fantastically unheard of setting, you turned your spyglass on that symbiotic dance every good antagonist and protagonist must perform. What is one without the other? Gorgeous language, strong world building, and perfectly paired bookends. I only wish this weren’t flash, but a fully developed novel in which to lose myself.

HG: I second the novel notion, consider me second in line when this is out for sale. I love the idea of the sky-whale (nightmarish memories of D&D notwithstanding) and the “vermillion-stained apocalyptic skies.” The title is huge for such a short story – and the story doesn’t disappoint with its scale. Awesome.

And now: for his perfectly gorgeous third win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

Mark A. King!!!

for

“The Framework Bird and the Ringing Singing Tree”

FI: Dear Writer, you’ve chopped into my chest cavity and tapped my lifeblood. Women who feel unwanted or unworthy will always have a refuge in my heart, and you’ve given us such a devastating portrait of this all-too common reality. I adored how you weaved in the “ringing, singing tree” (though its name is flipped), and I thought it worked well either as a reference to the musical panopticon or as a nod to the German tale “Das Singende, Klingende Bäumchen.” Your story arch is tangible and encouraging; we watched her travel from self-loathing to self-acceptance beneath that odd, metal tree. Your words are poetry and the message so fitting in today’s airbrushed society. Here’s to hoping that all the beautiful framework birds come to love what they see as unbeautiful.

HG: Ah, if only this was a feeling with which so many of us did not have to be familiar…In poetic verse you have captured sadness and hope. “In the winds and rain, she is accepted.” Isn’t that the truth? I can’t find the words to express the feelings this has awoken in me. A strong, clear winner, and a beautiful story.

Congratulations, Mark! Sheesh, after you won once, it would seem there’s no stopping you! Congratulations! Your winner’s page has a fresh coat of dragonpaint; your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Stand by for scintillating questions for your newest #SixtySeconds interview. And now here’s your ringing singing winning story:

The Framework Bird and the Ringing Singing Tree

She is but a jumble of blunt shapes encased in scrawny skin.

She is a framework bird.

In her stomach, the emptiness of self-loathing. In her mouth, the tang of acid reflux, the sour aftertaste of self-induced sickness.

She walks away from the whisperers. The airbrushed magazines. The imperfect reflections that stalk her.

She hops in the swaying heathland. Treads the foothills of stubble fields. Flitters beneath skies of wonder and fear.

She sits beneath the Ringing Singing Tree. Warped trunk and jutting boughs, its canopy holding up the sky. Its metallic tubes howl in the crosswinds, and ping in the pitter-patter rains.

In the winds and rain, she is accepted.

Beneath the Ringing Singing Tree is where the framework bird heals her wings.

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 44: WINNERS

Thanks for your patience, y’all! Super long day here at the lair. Good news is, we’ve got lots of delectable winners, so I’ll keep my yapping to a minimum this week, except to say YOU’D BETTER COME BACK TOMORROW: on the #Spotlight docket we’ve got Andye from Reading Teen and YADC. She’s a YA book blogger as well as the founder of an incredibly active “YA Book Lovers” group in Washington, DC, and she’s got quite a few things to say about books these days and what keeps her reading a new author. You won’t want to miss this frank, inside-the-brain-of-a-seasoned-reader post.

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier & IfeOluwa Nihinlola, for their courage in taking on a vast field of Mr. Darcys to choose their favorite (how does one choose a favorite Mr. Darcy?!). They say:   

NC: I haven’t had this much fun livening up a rainy day since curling up with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I love, love, love the kaleidoscope of stories that emerged from Jane Austen as a starting point. Thanks yet again to Holly Geely and her swift powers of anonymizing so we over here at Dragon Team 7 could set to blind-judging these spectacular tales in a timely manner.

IN: It seems I always come here, in these comments, to gush about what wonderful stories get poured out here weekly. But I can’t help it. Thank you all, again, for a round of fun, charming, wonderful stories. And a great thank you to Holly Geely who strips these stories and makes them easier to judge. 

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Most Impressive Parody of an Overwrought Victorian Title: Peg Stueber, “Whereas The Olympiad from their Throne on High, do Design to Demarcate the next Branch of the Family Tree“. Also, an appreciative nod for depicting how a mixed pantheon might behave had it emerged in the 19th century.

Bowl-Me-Over-With-A-Metaphor Award: Richard Edenfield, “Treehouse“— Oh, that quality of chandelier light! Oh, what a devastating turn Astoria executes! Oh, what a delivery from Mr. Blankenship! So. Much. Fun.

Most Rollicking Austen Mashup since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Eliza Archer, “Austen in Space“. The preservation of the primary quirks of multiple characters in so small a space is splendid.

Most (Appropriately) Crackling Language Award: Marie McKay, “The Dance” — Such sprightly diction! Birl, whip, snap, scuff and tap! Demented skirl of bagpipes. This little scrap of folklore danced right off the page.

Best Mess: Jenn, “No Regrets.” This story was wonderful and would have been an HM except for its missing the required word count. A whole wedding is contained in this story, in one sweeping take, like a montage of well taken pictures.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Casey Rose Frank, Not Suited for Suitors.

NC: My first take of this tale has the tension ramping up between mother and daughter, with the addled “aunt” being used as a tool for the mother’s cruelty. Their conflict rakes across surface of the polite words like talons. The reader gets the impression this isn’t the first time the mother has used the odd “aunt” to torture her daughter, a transparent ploy to deflect her own dissatisfaction over her daughter’s apparent unmarriageability. In this reading, the “I love yous” passed between them feel excruciatingly insincere. Here we have a succinct “show” of passive-aggressive cruelty — one of the only expressions of power available to women in times when a girl’s value remained solely in her marriageability. Both players are subject to it. This is the way Mother lets off steam from the pressure of caring for her sister. With the reality of the “aunt” being a parrot, sympathy shifts. It’s the mother who is addled and earnest, and the daughter who is burdened with being the caregiver.   

IN: So this story is about a mother and daughter talking about a would-be suitor for the daughter, in the presence of an aunt who serves as a witness (and a tool) in their expert-level game of passive aggression. But there’s just enough suggestions in this story to make me side-eye its realist intentions. A suitor from a lovely plot of land. A chestnut squirrel shooed away from a perch outside the sitting room window. Methinks this “aunt” may be as human as the squirrely suitor.

Michael Seese, “The Garden Factory.” 

NC: My favorite part of this is how the repetition of the maxim on knowledge goes from seeming like an arrogant declaration at the beginning to one of self-deprecation at the end. Also, how “knowledge” takes on its more concrete iteration in its notorious arboreal form. The concept of fallible demiurge plays out wonderfully in the image of a more-or-less benevolent CEO mulling over the pros and cons of his/her enterprise, gaining my reserved sympathy as I read. Of course, from the title (and from the enduring cleverness of the dragon-flashers), I knew there was more going on. The reveal that he is indeed a demigod proves a satisfying one and makes the maxim come alive.

IN: The narrator of this story, the CEO/Manager of an enterprise, sounded like a grumpy god with a creator’s version of buyer’s remorse. But, really, that is just what he is. He goes from cocky, to ambivalent, to sorry all in a day’s work. The writer of this piece takes us through all that using what reads like the opening monologue to a tragic play set in an Olympus that is staged to look like a factory. Now, we just have to wait for the rest of the play to unfold.

Paz Spera, “Brunch.”

NC: The final line made me laugh out loud.  The conflict in novels from the Regency era so often play out in conversations, where the dialogue becomes a duel of words between the two players, the point of the duel not immediately apparent. “Brunch” accomplishes a such a verbal fencing over the unspoken challenge as to who has the most insufferable mother. This story is a perfect illustration of the line from Fight Club noting that a person doesn’t really listen to what other people say, but instead spends the time waiting for his/her turn to speak. One of the most hilarious bits for me was in the way the men appeared with her mother in clandestine locations: the shed, at the breakfast table, then in the sauna. One cannot shake the suspicion that these men might have been the mother’s lovers first.

IN:  We’ve all been part of, or overheard, these conversations where the participants seem to be in a game of “my suffering is worse than yours.” Those bizarre dialogues that are like a game of verbal ping-pong, each return trying to be harder than the previous till one person smashes the conversation out of play and admits defeat. Now imagine two ladies in this game, and the ping-pong is their mothers trying to set them up in the weirdest of ways and you’ll see how this made for one hilarious read.

 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Steph Ellis, “Pruning.”

NC: I admit, it took me a second read to crack open this tale. Even in my initial confusion, I was drawn in by the conflict over the granddaughter, intrigued by the rewritten will, won over by the tight imagery in the pruning especially as it was coupled with Samuel’s strange relish in the work. I got to the closing line and thought, “Okay, wait, what exactly is being pruned here…?” Once I reached that “Ohhh” moment (which was more of a rub-palms-together-in-sadistic-glee moment) this one became a favorite. The third read (and all successive readings) made me squirm and wince as I re-imagined the last two paragraphs: snagging blades, hacking shears, the description of the wilted matriarch (“she splintered easily”!!!), the heaping detritus. Cutting out the rot from the family tree that would stand in the way of Jenny’s legacy. Such ruthlessness. So very well played. 

IN: Confession: this story bamboozled its way into my list. I had no idea what it was all about, even after the third read, yet I couldn’t leave it out of my list. How do you drop this off: “The blades snagged, the twig too dense for his weak steel. Samuel fetched his shears, hacked back to the root of the problem, tossed the cuttings onto the growing heap of detritus. Next came the matriarch, her petals, long-since faded, adorning a mere husk. She splintered easily.” Nah. Don’t ask about what old Samuel is hacking. Just know the story is here—all great imagery and dark mystery—for good.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Competition” 

NC: The craft of this one inspires pure admiration. It really is flawless writing: the consistent use of the Darcy mug as a symbol; the concrete imagery finessed to convey tone, conflict as well as physical descriptions (knuckles “white where they grip the skin”, “pain slicing his expression”, “wrap my fingers around the warm acceptance”) ; the irony in the husband’s assuming that there must be another flesh-and-blood man turning his wife away from him; the tight dialogue; the fabulous opening line echoed yet transformed in the final line from married fragility to the “warm acceptance” of single-hood. I liked the voice of the POV character so very much: the honesty in her recognition that she’s the cruel one about to hurl painful words, the wry humor sneaking in on “This may be a long night”, the way she allows him to believe it’s another man because that would be easier on him. The husband is very much a Mr. Collins-like figure, and like in the source novel, the Elizabeth-like MC refuses him, but here it is in favor of the idea of a Mr. Darcy, an idea that allows her full self-expression.

IN: How do you write perfect flash fiction? An opening line that cannot be improved upon. Dialogue that is well tuned without wasting words. Short declarative sentences ramp up the story’s tension with simple descriptions. Characters who are, somehow, made whole in such a confined space. A feeling of melancholy set without resorting to any sentimental shorthand. And a good ending. Of course perfect stories are hard to come by, but this comes close. Really close.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Foy S. Iver, “1:3,999.” 

NC: Good speculative fiction is tough to pull off in flash as it tends to require extra world-building while still leaving room for character development and plot. I love that we are introduced to the MC with her worrying over what a mysterious “he” will be like, emotionally engaging us before we find out she’s a “non-organic”. The reader is set up (since we all know the source material) to expect this time be some kind of matchmaking. The few lines depicting her readjustment of her chances of being picked up reveal a slice of the MC’s abilities while also revealing her desire to be picked up. It is demonstrated through her internal dialogue and the filter of her perspective, that despite being a non-organic, Azile cares: she has fears, desires, and preferences. Her anxiety over Mr. D comes clear in the sustained weather metaphors she uses to describe him: “storm of a man”, “severity brewing”, “cold”. I like how Fits W and Mr. D enter as antagonistic then slowly become differentiated as Fits leaves and we get a peek at vulnerability from Mr. D. I appreciated, also, the fleeting allusions to a larger world (the curiosity-piquing hostile Assignments) and to potential conflict (Why is he unwanted?). Such details run the risk of being distracting rather than enhancing, but here, they serve to extend the tale beyond the word count.

IN: There are so many reasons why this story shouldn’t work: It’s SF without the advantage of a story to draw details from and hint to, hence the need for heavy world building on low word count; almost every line introduces something new; it switches point of view slightly; and that title. But it really works. Like all good SF, it pointed my attention to something that isn’t easy to talk about in today’s terms: slavery. It also hints at a kind of forbidden (impossible) love. I like how the voice of Beta-31 reflects all the confusion and innocence and naiveté of someone thrust in the weird world of another, and how the story complicates the larger-world of Mr. D and Fits-W with hints to its restrictions and rules, so they don’t look like mere caricatures. All these in 223 words.

And now: for a stunning, back-to-back win, marking our first-ever SIXTH win — here’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

Karl Russell!!!

for

“Prometheus in Love”

NC: Be still, my beating SF- and alternative-history-loving heart! There is so much story, here, and it’s masterfully put together. Where to begin? The first line: does it catch my interest? You bet. “Lovelace” is a very distinctive name and if you know anything about her or her poet father, Lord Byron, a whole world opens up in that one line. Even if the reader doesn’t recognize Ada (deemed the world’s first programmer—Wiki her) and her work on Charles Babbage’s difference engine or the influence Byron exerted over her life despite her never having met him, the flush tells the reader enough. Tension is well-established right from the get-go, begging the question: What is she looking for in her mechanical partner? 

The diction of the dialogue is consistent for the time period. The banter does the triple-duty of establishing character, character motivation, and the conflict. Meanwhile, the interspersed lines of description give us tantalizing peeks at the machine and ground us in the setting.

There is a recognizable beginning middle, and end, each with a distinctive movement: the opening, where the mechanical man seems to have the advantage over Ada; the middle where Ada alludes Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, another prominent writer of her father’s time (and friend of Byron), and the end with the machine reprogrammed more to Ada’s taste, the advantage ending with Ada. The transitions between them are smooth, taking place each time with attention turned to the work Ada is doing on the cards. The middle section lays out Ada’s intention in the context of the Romantic period, and the machine’s response echoes the very arguments that poets and artists who happened to have an XX chromosome pairing came up against time and time again throughout history, Mary Shelley included. The ending is satisfying because Ada sticks to her purpose, undaunted by her own baggage (the suggestion of daddy-issues) nor society’s circumscription of women’s creativity to procreation. Okay, I think that might be quite enough gushing. Thank you, anonymous wordsmith, for an entertaining read.

IN: There are many things I can say about this story, but none as good as a thank you to the writer and a plea that you read Nancy’s comments again.

Congratulations, Karl! I don’t even know what to say to you this week, other than CONGRATS, and you’ve left me wondering what on earth I’m going to bother you about for your sixth interview! Please find here your re-updated winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. And now here’s your winning story:

Prometheus in Love

“I am sorry Miss Lovelace, but I cannot replace your father.”

Ada felt her colour rise. 

“My dear sir, I hold no such intention.”

The brass gears in the corner of the repurposed sitting room whirred in mechanical mirth. 

“Forgive me, but for one so versed in the creation of patterns, you seem keenly unaware of your own. Have you not always found yourself drawn to the older, educated gentleman? To what end, save to fill the void formed by the Lord Byron’s absence.”

Ada nodded thoughtfully and returned to the repetitive task of punching intricate patterns in the strengthened cards.

The machine hummed in ozone scented satisfaction.

“Tell me sir, are you familiar with Mrs Shelley’s work, her Modern Prometheus?”

“I am aware of it.”

“Indeed. I found it a most stimulating treatise. To think that a man might create the semblance of life from little more than workshop parts and the application of his own intellect. I wonder; might a woman ever hope to achieve such a thing?”

“Why would she, when it is her purpose to create life in the traditional manner?”

Ada slid the freshly punched card into the bronze lined slot.

The machine clattered noisily, assimilating the new commands.

“Good morning machine.”

“Good morning, Ada my love.”

Ada smiled, satisfied, and applied her attentions to the next card.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 40: WINNERS

It’s Monday!!!! (“Not for me!” some of you are saying — Stella, I see that scowl! –but alas, work kept me out late today. Thank you for your patience. [Yes, even if that patience masquerades as a scowl. You don’t fool me one bit, you cute, fluffy bighearts.])

As it’s so late, I’ll keep announcements brief: join us TOMORROW!!! (Tuesday, in case tomorrow for you happens to be today already) for a super fun #Spotlight interview with our own Holly Geely, who’s dishing on her brand new book, The Dragon’s Toenail. And yes, of course she’s giving away a free copy! Because PAAAARTY!!!!!

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy & A.J. Walker, for judging so magnificently. Your time and effort are so deeply appreciated! Here’s what they had to say:   

V– Some stories just never grow old, and I hope we never grow too old for fairy tales. They are more than magic. They are alive. These stories are timeless, changing, ever new. They are tales of  love and betrayal, losses, hopes, memories and dreams. They are as old as life, young as the sense of wonder. This time, they sure inspired you! Thank you for sharing your contemporary takes on these tales. I so enjoyed these spirited characters and lively, compelling stories. There were so many wonderful stories, I wish I could  mention them all!  

AJW– Well, Rebekah once again left Team8 with an unenviable task (and the sad loss of not entering for such a week of possibilities – we’ve had the Arabian Nights and now the Brothers Grimm flip!). There was a strange lack of dragons considering there was an entire 300 words to play with – as most of the authors seemed to want to take Rapunzel’s locks to task (and not a single shampoo and blow dry in any of them). There were some nice comedic pieces and punning for me to get my canines into. There seemed to be a fair bit of moralising and ‘justice’ and not much schmaltzy love stuff at all – so much cynicism you guys! 

Anyway, what big eyes you lot have! All the better for reading the results I guess…

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Brevity: A.V. Laidlaw‘s “Reduced Brothers Grimm” (11 words), Geoff Holme‘s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” — (0 words) the title is the story — and Geoff’s other story (although late) “Small Ad” (17 words), an inspired take on Hemingway’s classic of the baby shoes. 

For Romance: Margaret Locke, “If Only All it Took.” This is such a charming story of the fairy tale and Prince Charming ideal. Cinderella or Belle — Beauty and the Beast?  This is a story within a story. The romance is delightful–“Yes, she really liked  Deveric Mattersley.'”

For Reality: Josh Bertetta, “Reign and More Rain.” In this world of struggle and suffering and refugees, “Where is God and justice? Life ain’t no fairy tale.”

For One Mean Girl with a Gun and a Only Just Cleaned Cape. Craig Anderson, “Basket Case.” AJW- The cocky girl with the put downs (and the ultimate put down) is just brilliant. Though I’ve now vowed never to approach a young lady with a basket – just in case.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Colin Smith, Lifeline” & Eric Martell, “Aloft on Wings of Fire.”

There were many fine tributes to 9-11 this week, and these two are at the top: Rapunzel in her tower was powerfully evocative. These stories in particular stood out to me for their vividness. The feel of the braid, the voice repeating “let down your hair to me”; and Rapunzel as savior — beautiful and haunting, both. 

Phil Coltrane, “The Night Princess.” 

Love the fantasy elements of this story — The Enchanted Forest, where “snow whirled through the summer air.” and the Castle of Ice. Minuella becomes the Princess. Sareel the Siamese cat turns into a lynx. 1000 nights pass in one night. At the first touch of sunlight, everything is gone. Time to get back for breakfast.”  To me, this story is pure magic.

Holly Geely, “So Much for Tradition.”

Starting with “Twice upon a time,” this story is fearless and funny. Princess Snapdragon’s outspoken character and her choice of true love are a refreshing twist on the traditional type of fairy tale. The ending is great — “The king and queen were miserable, but they were jerks, so who cares?”

Eliza Archer, “Change of Heart.”

The viewpoint from the letter writer was perfect. The help yourself book, a basket with the returned baby. Made me laugh – which is never a bad thing – and perfect pathos too.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Dave Park, “Expensive Lesson.”

V – A tailor is charmed by a lovely lady who promises to bring in more business to his shop. Instead, she takes advantage of him and nearly drives him out of business. This is like a classic tale. And there is a moral, too. “But she’s so nice!”  “Nice is different from good,” his mother says.  

AJW – I have to say that this was brilliantly written and sexy – even if it was written as the polar opposite of a bodice ripper. I feel complete and utter sympathy for the poor sap and his cynical – if quite correct – mother. His forlorn hope that the work would flood in whilst he still got to look after his favourite (none paying) customer is all too believable. I hope she gets her comeuppance in some other fairytale and that life improves for poor Konrad. But I too am now living in cuckooland if I expect that to happen.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The First Requisite for Immortality” 

V – “If only her death had been final”  –Is there is such a thing as death online?  “They knew her better than we did.” The grieving parents find their daughter’s life on social media–“the touch of flesh replaced with the touch of screen.”   It is  a  timeless tale  of love and loss, made even more heartbreaking by contemporary technology.   Beautiful writing, thought-provoking piece. 

AJW – This seems to hit many a nail squarely on the head. As everyone grapples with technology which only seems to grip us further around our everything our lives are lived, replicated and saved to the cloud (and GCHQ). And yet we do see stories in RL of families living almost vicariously through FB and the like. Trying to hold on to something they never truly had. It can seem so sad. The story truly got the sadness, loss and the forlorn hope and belief across. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Karl A. Russell, “Becoming Grandma.” 

V – This subject matter of this story is grim indeed—“Once her hide is clean and dry, I stand in front of the dressing table mirror to try it on…”  careful not to rip the “liver-spotted skin.”  It is the Wolf becoming Grandma — “tucking my tail into the spare folds around her belly. …her scalp flicked nonchalantly across my shoulder like a stole… If not for the handsome lupine head, I could almost pass as human.”  The voice  keeps the description from becoming gratuitously brutal.  It is a macabre story of transformation. The red lipstick hiding the red thread mending the torn lips is the perfect touch.  I thought of Silence of the Lambs, the music Buffalo Bill danced to…

AJW – Leaving the contents in the tub for later. Gruesome indeed. And a nightmare to get the rings out of later. But if the wolf can handle a lipstick I’m sure a cleaning cloth will be simple. Honestly though, a thoroughly engrossing read told with fabulous detail and seemingly effortless. A deserved runner up.

And now: for her second time — but first since November 2014 — it’s this week’s sparkly

DRAGON WINNER

CARIN MARAIS!!!

for

“Bones Beneath the Juniper Tree”

V – I admit I was not familiar with this story, but I found out more on Wikipedia. It is a famous tale from the brothers Grimm and it has been made into an opera and a film.  In the original, there is a bird and a millstone, and justice prevails.  The story here takes a more tragic turn. It starts out as a fairy tale, a happy ever after that no one at the Twilight House believes.  The reality of the present situation is sad. The true story is heartbreaking. As Marleen unwraps her brother’s bones — “What was she supposed to have told the young woman who came to see her every week, she thought. No-one really wanted to know the truth. Hear the details of how your stepmother killed and cooked your brother. How your father shot her when he found out. How he drank himself to death. How you still saw the blood and the bodies each night in your nightmares.”  The writing here is so spare and clear — bare bones and beautiful. 

AJW – Simply presented story told across just two paragraphs and as creepy as it gets. I could almost smell an old people’s home. How many of these are full of people with pasts too scary to contemplate? It seems that she is too wily to tell the truth whilst probably thinking that they couldn’t handle the truth anyway – whilst those asking the questions of the old girl know there’s something else there somewhere – and equally don’t really want to find out. Perfectly balanced story, paced well – no rushed beginning or end. Just a scary old lady with a past and a handkerchief of small bones. Well done. Sleep well.

Congratulations, Carin! Such a joy to see you in the dragon crown again at last. Please find here your freshly updated, gold-and-emerald glowing winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

Bones Beneath the Juniper Tree

“And then suddenly my brother was standing there again and he was alive. And the body of my stepmother had disappeared into thin air. And we danced and sang and were glad to have each other once more,” Marleen said as she knitted.

No-one in the common room of the Twilight House looked up. They’d heard too many variations of the story.

“And you believed this really happened?” the social worker asked, making a note of getting Marleen to a psychiatrist.

“Of course,” Marleen said. “We lived happily ever after and father married for the third time and was happy until the end of his days.” She knitted faster, not caring that she’d dropped nearly half of the stitches in the short time the woman had spoken to her.

At last the woman left and Marleen returned to her room. She took out the bundled handkerchief from its hiding place in the corner of the locked trunk at the foot of the bed. Making sure no-one could see her, she unfolded it and stared at the small bones hidden inside the cloth. What was she supposed to have told the young woman who came to see her every week, she thought. No-one really wanted to know the truth. Hear the details of how your stepmother killed and cooked your brother. How your father shot her when he found out. How he drank himself to death. How you still saw the blood and the bodies each night in your nightmares. No, she thought as she hid her brother’s bones again. Better to tell of beautiful birds and millstones crushing her head. Better to say we lived happily ever after. Better to forget all of the bones buried beneath the juniper tree.

FFwinner-Web