Tag Archive | Erin McCabe

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 1: WINNERS

Welcome back! That glass of wine made for such a fun way to kick off Year Three (scary, too; in some ways it was a bit like handing the wedding mic to Uncle Joe – you know who I mean – for a toast). Remember not to get too comfy, as fun new challenges wait in the wings here at ol’ FF. First, of course, TOMORROW IS FLASHVERSARY results day, with loads of prizes flung in every which direction, including the first-ever Readers’ Choice award based on YOUR votes.

This Friday’s regular contest will be judged by Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker and Mark King. If that doesn’t stoke your competitive edge and fire up your imagination, I don’t know what will.  

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The Team One Dragon Captains (TODC?) of Joidianne /Image Ronin say

J: Judging the entries this week was quite a treat. So many of you chose to not focus on the glass of wine instead weaving it into a much larger tale that captivated and held my attention throughout this weekend. I adored the way that many of you thought not only outside the box, but outside of the entire continent. We were treated to tales of quiet betrayal, heartache and loss that sent me wheeling with imagery. For that, I think you all deserve a round of applause!

IR: So, first week and we found ourselves taken aback by the scale, ingenuity, bravado and talent of the Flash! Friday community. Thank you to her Dragoness for entrusting us with this task, as stepping behind the curtain has been both terrifying and exhilarating.

As I’m sure you all appreciate the role of two judges, split geographically and temporally, was both a challenge and a negotiation of subjectivity. Thankfully there was little blood spilt, but it needs to be acknowledged how hard your creative submissions were to split apart. You guys are incredible and your writing is what makes Flash! Friday such a vibrant community to be part of.

We both judged this blind, so when the winners are revealed it’ll be as much a surprise to us as you. So here we go.

(Note: Joidianne’s comments are placed first throughout.)

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Title Nod: Mark A. King, “Judge, Dread.” Simply because anything that refers to my (IR that is) childhood hero is hard to ignore.

Hinting at a Bigger Picture: Anthony Marchese, “The Northern Border.” Loved the concept of a conflict called the Schism Wars … here’s hoping we find out more about this place in the near future.

Pulling at the Heart Strings: MT Decker, “With an Empty Cup and an Open Heart.” For making me begin to write the IR offspring sage, albeit bad, advice.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

D.B. Foy, “A Man Looks At His Life.” There was just something about this piece that completely captivated me. Maybe it was the personification of the alcohol woven throughout the piece or maybe it was the way that from the narrator’s first sip it became everything and anything he needed it to be. All in all, this was a brilliant use of the prompt and stunningly original.

Like Alice I tumbled down this particular rabbit hole, plummeting faster and faster as our cursed narrator reflected on his constant companion. The piece took us down the theme of alcoholism and the function as part of what we are, never apologising, but stripping back layers of a love affair that had stood the test of time.

Margaret Locke, “And They Lived…” I’m not usually one for clichés but these were all tied in so well with narrator’s misery that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. The ending is one that will stay with me for quite a while so it deserved an honourable mention. A playful lament to the resentment of time and unfulfilled dreams resonated due to that final image of a woman who believed herself as fragile and empty as the glass she held in celebration.

Erin McCabe, Homesick.” If I had to choose a favourite piece that fully captured the essence of a complete story in just a few words, this would have been it. The quiet melancholy that this entry carried made my heart hurt and the ending pretty had it shattering into tiny pieces. This is such a brilliant tale that it would be a dishonour not to at least mention it.

I really enjoyed this piece too, the delightful playfulness of the opening that then takes us meandering through London. The tourist gaze of our narrator deconstructing a reality that reflects their own sense of self. Culminating with that perfect note of an ending.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Solitary.” The loneliness of this piece is what captured me from the start. The fact that the narrator delves into this fantasy world made up of possible interactions makes the loneliness all the more felt and the way that the fantasies suddenly vanished leaving the narrator with that single wineglass as evidence of how solitary an existence he/she is leading makes the piece all the more potent.

The solitude of excess and the devotion of the acolyte to their saviour, were something that lingered long after I had read this piece. The sadness and resignation, acceptance and contentment that permeates what seems such a simple tale is atmospheric – laced with the absolute mundanity of our existence (Campbell’s soup and golf).

SECOND RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “The Betrayal.” Revenge will always be one of my favourite tropes and the author captured the very essence of it here. I love the little insight into Tom’s mind and the way that he figured out what had happened but above all I enjoyed the quietness of his vengeance. The tale approaches the matter in such a cold and calculated manner that it leaves you satisfied and horrified at the end. A sublime piece overall and I think this one will linger in my mind for a while.

Like many tales this week, including our winner, the notion of poison and deception were recurring tropes this week. The coldness that Jodi notes takes us delicately in hand leading us gently towards the fatal closure. In particular the line “an incarcerated man, like a glass of Cabernet, longs only to breathe.’ Will be one I will treasure for a long time to come.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Matt Lashley, “Internet Dating.” I must admit that this was a personal favourite of mine. The author managed to paint a vulnerable picture of the woman that had me feeling sympathetic not only for her dating choices but also for the way that she saw herself in this detached manner that suggested a number of not so nice things about her self-esteem. The only odd thing that I picked up on was the mention of the hammer and the reason for its presence was such a brilliant twist that I have to applaud the author’s ingenuity.

Like Jodi, for me this piece just worked and easily could have taken winner’s status. The title was a delight, setting the tone and also forcing the reader into a perspective that is eventually subverted. The reflective quality of the first paragraph, the visceral imagery of our narrator’s body, the disgust and delusion, was note perfect. The ending as brutal as the mind we meander within.

And now: for her second win, and our first win of Year Three, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

TAMARA SHOEMAKER!!!

for

“Distortion”

The brilliance of this entry starts with the title along with the first sentence of the piece. It captures the reader’s attention and lends to the overall distortion woven throughout the words and that skewed perception makes the betrayal all the more felt. Because just like the narrator, the reader’s understanding of what is happening is, in the end, also distorted. Brilliant writing and an overall astounding piece. 

Like a trip-hop journey through sensations and emotions the tale weaves the reader back and forth through a rich tapestry of seemingly perfection into a realm of betrayal. The imagery and pace of the piece, at points nearly hypnotic moved us beyond the simple notion of a glass and into a realm of deceit and desire.

Congratulations, Tamara! Below is your second winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated and sparklier than ever 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!

Distortion

It is the distortion that I do not see.

It wavers, offset, unbalanced, against a backdrop of perfection,
Deep hues blending one into another like the shift of twilight into dusk into night.

Beauty spills from the scene, and peace, the scent of
Warmth,
And tranquility.
Fingers lacing my hand,
A casual brush of my hair behind my ear.

So that when you smile, I don’t even notice the cracks in the smooth granite,
The weeds in the white lilies,
The scorpion that hides in the sand.

When you look at me with the familiar smile-creases,
When you lean in for our mutual touch,
When you raise your glass in toast to me,

I never notice the poison that swills the wine.
It sinks deep, unnoticed, into the purple liquid.

And on top, on the shimmering surface,
The picture tilts.

FFwinner-Web

Sixty Seconds III with: Erin Mccabe

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Erin McCabe. This is her third win (the first were in Year One; she’s long overdue!). Be sure to check out her bio and previous interview at her winner’s page! Read her winning story here, then take one minute to get to know her better.

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece? The isolation of the girl in the sea who to me seemed to be waiting with silent resolve.

2) What do you like about writing flash? To start something without a plan, let it evolve, finish it and submit within an hour, is incredibly satisfying.

3) How has your flash changed over the past couple of years? Through greater practice, I definitely feel my pieces evolve faster now and have a stronger and more confident voice.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers? For me the ending of a story is paramount, it must be purposeful and leave the reader feeling utterly satisfied.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and whyImage Ronin never fails to impress me with his entries each week, which always range in diversity, flow and tone.

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which? I have submitted entries to the Mid-Week Blues Buster. Admittedly, I struggle to find time to write for any others.

7) What other forms do you write (novels, poetry, articles, etc)? I concentrate mainly on flash and short fiction, I’ve just had my first one published – The Dead Files, Edition 5.

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Definitely black comedy and horror, most of what I write ultimately ends up having dark edges, often unintended.

9) Tell us about a WIP.  I need to fully develop the Zombie short written for The Dead Files; it’s a persistent and annoying writing itch.

10) How do you feel about dragons? A deeper love for Dragons developed when writing my entry for Flashversary 2013 (the prompt was a carved dragon’s head).

Editor’s Note: Flashversary 2014 kicks off at 12:01am THIS FRIDAY!!!! Don’t miss it!

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 51: WINNERS

Welcome back! This is the biggest week of the year for Flash! Friday, with the Splickety judge crew’s results from the latest contest today and Flashversary THIS COMING FRIDAY!!!!!! More about that in the days ahead — please be sure to follow Flash! Friday on Twitter so as not to miss a thing.

But FIRST: oh, do I love the gang over at Splickety. Thank you, Lindsay, Andrew, Sarah, and Bonita for taking time out of your holiday weekend to serve as dragon captains for us, and for sharing your keen perspectives. BIG. FANS. of yours, and even bigger now. Thank you! -And to the FF family, a quick reminder that they are offering a subscription deal in honor of our community; this deal is good through Wednesday, Dec 3. (Note for the (rightfully) suspicious: Flash! Friday does not get a cut. This is all just for fun and as thanks to you!)     

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The judges from Splickety say: Wow! On behalf of all the Splicketeers, we’d like to thank Flash! Friday and its dragon mistress, Rebekah, for hosting a handful of us this weekend. Creativity abounds in this dragony corner of the flashiverse, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it. We had a great time combing through your awesome submissions—reading them, ranking them, and squabbling over them. Rebekah gave us permission to use pillow fighting in our story-selection process, so we did. And by pillows, we mean swords.

In all seriousness, this was a tough assignment. There were too many good stories to choose from! With four different judges weighing in, you can imagine we had a fair amount of overlap but also some differences of opinion. Coming of Age is an emotionally charged, personal theme, so it’s unsurprising that different stories resonated with different individuals. But after some unscientific synthesizing of scores and opinions, a little discussion, and the aforementioned sword fighting, we’ve landed on our top picks for the week.

At Splickety, we have some flashy preferences. Strong characters, for one, both in the sense that the characters are well defined, but also in the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sense. We also love clever or gut-wrenching twists, humor, and tight writing. In case you’re wondering, we also like the serial comma. But we didn’t grade down for that.

Congratulations to all the winners — and, really, to everyone who entered. There were many enjoyable, well-written entries that aren’t mentioned below. But we feared the Internet would explode if we included every single one we liked. Thanks again for hosting us, Flash! Friday. Flash on, writers! And we hope to see some of your names land in our submissions inbox someday!

Time to Bolt,

Andrew, Lindsay, Sarah, and Bonita for Splickety Publishing Group

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Creative Title: Margaret Locke, “Weathered Patterns.” We loved the meaningful twist on a familiar phrase (weather patterns).

Great First Line: Catherine Connolly, “Water Baby.” With a poetic lilt and creative use of alliteration, Water Baby has a solid first line. We couldn’t help but read the rest after an opening like that.

Best Hook: Michael Seese, “Red.” This was an emotionally wrenching story all the way around. We were yanked in, almost against our will, by the fabulous hook.

Best Use of Umbrella: James Marshall VI, “The Price of Growing Up.” Because there is no better use of an umbrella than a makeshift boat for a piskie. Ever.

Best Last Line: Anne Odom, “The Ceremony.” We squirmed our way through this story, then literally laughed out loud when we reached the brilliant last line.

Best Umbrella Line: Craig Anderson, “If Only I’d Known.” Many of the stories made creative use of the umbrella, but we particularly loved the symbolic use of the photo prompt in “If Only I’d Known.”

Most Awesome Use of Second Person: Tamara Shoemaker, “Goodbyes.” The deft use of second person in Goodbyes had several of our editors saying, “Hey, get out of my head!” In a good way.

Great Twist: MT Decker, “At the Edge.” The reading process for “At the Edge” went something like this: Nice. Good day at the beach. Sweet description. Nice sense of longing. Good coming of ag—ACK!!! We love reading experiences like that at Splickety.

Best Reason to Look Up Unfamiliar Mythology: David Shakes, “Seven Tears for a Selkie.” At least one of our Yankee editors had to look up the term “selkie.” After browsing through the basics of this cool bit of mythology, it was a delight to read “Seven Tears for a Selkie,” which makes beautiful use of the fable.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Chris Milam, “The Blinking Sand.” We love the use of descriptive language in “The Blinking Sand: (“seashells that littered the sand became startled eyes in her ailing mind,” “Unseen bodies protected by a granular blanket with orbs of various hues darting around for the visitor sheathed in a lustful cloak”). The sad, poetic words give the reader a sense of Jennifer’s “fractured” mind. We’re not told about the suffering Jennifer experienced. Instead, we’re shown the traumatic events, as if through a veil—just enough to understand what’s happening and why Jennifer seeks refuge among the “panicked eyes.” The story also ends on a hopeful note, as we learn of Jennifer’s new life, “aglow with the color of redemption.”

Nancy Chenier, “Out of the Shallows.” We tend to like stories told from a non-human point of view, and being in Maris’s head was no exception. The twist at the end (“her flimsy fins become wings”) was a compelling one. There was a solid sense of how Maris experienced her world through strong word choices (shatter, harden, gnash, leafy), giving rich texture to an immersive story.

Marie McKay, Blue World.” Extra-terrestrial alien or disturbed youth? We’re not entirely sure. Either way, we enjoyed crawling into the young man’s head…and we wonder what that says about us. It’s an interesting contrast to show very normal teenage angst (“They say I’m weird,” “their words sting,” “I don’t talk much”), unhealthy but common ways of coping (“I cut little vents in my skin”), and then the outlandish explanation for this young adult’s troubles. Whether the character is an actual alien or not is irrelevant. Any teen who has been ostracized can relate to the need for inclusion in a world beyond our own. The author wisely employs a close first-person point of view that not only keeps us guessing but connects us to the character’s emotional state.

Sarah Cain“An Ocean between Us.” The bittersweet emotion of “An Ocean between Us” really pulled our heartstrings, reuniting us with our memories of young adulthood and with the emotional rollercoaster that is parenthood. We were expecting a tale of lost romance when the main character is boarding a plane but “Melissa remains behind.” Instead, the author provided us with a twist—the main character is releasing his/her child into the world. “An Ocean between Us” was the only story that showed the coming-of-age process from an outsider’s point of view.

We loved the imagery (“She is a bright grace note in the melancholy symphony playing in my heart”) and the author’s clever use of mundane things (airplane “safety precautions,” the plane “[rumbling] down the runway”) to reflect the emotional tension inside the main character.  

THIRD RUNNER UP

Steph Ellis, “The Key.” We felt “The Key” really unlocked the coming of age theme. Eva is transitioning from a world of childhood innocence where red had no place (“colour of blood, of danger”). We understand how sheltered she’s been (“never glimpsed what lay beyond [the wall]” “never seen the moon before”). But the moment she sees the moon, she “understands its call.” The color red takes on new meaning for her, illustrated by the sharp final line: “Red was the thirst to be slaked.” Whether this is the literal thirst of a vampire or werewolf (given the reference to the moon), or the metaphorical thirst of a young woman, we know we like it. Maybe a little too much.

SECOND RUNNER UP

KM Zafari, “Aftermath of Neptune.” Aftermath of Neptune” is a piece of juxtapositions: happy beach versus nightmarish coastline, whimsical love versus nonsensical death, and the line “destroyed but free.” This line—and the story in general—paints a vivid picture of the cost of freedom. That cost is not only the broken bodies strewn across the beach, but also the main character’s innocence in her brutal, war-tainted coming of age.

We also like the clever reference to Neptune. In addition to being the Roman god of the sea, Neptune is known for his violent, tempestuous character, as well as his power-plays for Jupiter’s position as king of the gods. This is particularly fitting for a story that takes place on a beach but also comments on the ravages of war and tragic loss of innocence.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Sinead O’Hart, “Sunken Treasure.” We really liked this title and the way the author creatively alludes to “sunken treasure” several times throughout the story, both literally and metaphorically (her mother’s feelings, the tin can buried in the backyard, the sinking memory).

We liked the cadence of the story—the way the words rolled like the sea that isn’t actually there in this piece. The metaphorical uses of the umbrella and ocean were a fresh take on the photo prompt.

As in our winning piece, the main character of “Sunken Treasure” displays inner strength to which we’re drawn. We also loved the overtones of forgiveness. Though our main character is moving on and getting out of a bad situation, we still sense her love and empathy for her mother (“[her] eyes blazing with pain,” “I know she loves me,” “I feel her with me,” “my memory-Mama”). And despite her justified resentment of her mother, we get the sense that she would not allow bitterness to take root in her heart.

And now: for her THIRD WIN but first of Year Two (cutting it close!!), it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

ERIN MCCABE!!!

for

“Tyranny”

From the very first line, we sense the main character’s oppression. It’s their sea, their ridiculous umbrella. Our curiosity is piqued and we’re interested to know why she feels so stifled. As we continue through the story, the main character grips us with her strength. While ratcheting up the tension in the previous lines (“it will come for you” “it will find you”), our main character takes her stand (“Good.”). At Splickety, we’re suckers for strong characters, and “Tyranny’s” young lady is no exception. We love the build of the last line—all the angst, frustration, and violence poured out on the main character’s oppressors. But then the story ends on a hopeful note with the word “freedom.”

We liked the clean style that managed to be poetic without dipping into overly flowery territory. The language throughout the story is simple but beautifully employed with the use of strong verbs (grasping, cursing, churning, scream) and vivid imagery (“the desire for change consistently castrated,” “obedient and crushed under the weight of your own humility,” “I shall ride it over their corpses and out of this dead place”).

Due to the skillful use of several different elements, “Tyranny” has emerged as our overall winner. And though it may sound weird to say, we love “Tyranny”! Well done.

Congratulations, Erin! Below is your VERY OWN Year Two winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated and modernized 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!

Tyranny

Slowly, I walk into their sea, grasping their ridiculous red umbrella, all the while cursing them under my breath.

I stop, as instructed; a young girl left standing waist deep in the swell of the sea, mind consumed by contempt, stomach churning with impatience.

Here, the expression of outrage is outlawed, the desire for change consistently castrated.

They say this act, this rite of passage, must be passive.

They say if you aren’t contrite, obedient and crushed under the weight of your own humility, it will come for you.

They say if you aren’t sweet, subservient and unspeaking, it will find you.

Good.

Casting their umbrella into the sea I scream until my lungs ache and all of the old men have cleared the edge of the beach.

When it arrives I shall mount the terrible beast and with all my bravery, wit and hatred, I shall ride it over their corpses and out of this dead place, towards freedom.

FFwinner-Web