Tag Archive | H.L. Pauff

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 33: WINNERS!

Thank you for coming to the winners’ party! It’s always a good time here at Flash! Friday, despite this week’s tempests and shipwrecks (maybe because of them??), and I’m so grateful for your generosity in sharing your time and talents with this community. 

Thanks also to the over 900 of you who have voted so far at the #DogDays contest. You’ve got a little over 24h left (until 11:59pm Monday, DC time). Be sure to read the stories & vote for your favorite if you haven’t already. We’ve got some strong leaders, but a lot can happen in 24 hours! If your favorite is short votes, be sure to tweet/ Facebook/ megaphone for votes on their behalf. 

Find the Dog Days voting page here and in the sidebar. Winners will post at 7:30am Tuesday morning. 


Judge Phil Coltrane says: My experience with the Flash! Friday community is that it’s an amazingly talented group with a wide variety of writing styles and genre preferences. I already knew that judging the contest would be a challenge.

Imagine my trepidation to learn that the prompt for my first judging experience was a painting based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’ve made no secret that my childhood interests were space and science fiction, not sailing ships and Shakespeare. {Editor’s Note: Caliban made me do it.}

Many of your stories were enjoyable reads on their own that excelled in certain areas — so many that it almost seems unfair to nominate a winner. But judging is a solemn and important duty, and failure to do so carries penalty of dragonfire. So, without further rambling, here are this week’s winners.




H.L. Pauff, Untitled. We join this romance already in progress: a plan gone awry, and a heroine whose hopes are literally sinking before her eyes. Between her two contrasting choices: “the Baron’s bedchamber” vs. “the icy water”, she chooses an almost certain death as a free woman. An impressive use of genre conventions to hint at a backstory too large for the word limit.

David Shakes, “The Rising Tide.” A rallying cry set to common meter: this stiff-upper-lip commander makes no illusion: “The worst is yet to come…” The following stanzas hammer home the hopelessness of this growing metaphorical tempest, yet there is still hope for the greater cause of freedom, and a future “absolved of all our sin.” Beautifully written to fit the rhythm of the poem.

Kat Lewis, “What You Smell Before Death.” From its pulp horror title to its graphic imagery of the Kraken, this story is pure horror. All we see of the protagonist is his powerlessness: imprisoned on a ship, unable even to raise alarm about their oncoming doom. We see a snapshot of his three last moments: of imprisonment, of horrifying freedom, and of his life. The imagery builds a Lovecraftian atmosphere with a limited word count. 


Eliza Archer, “Secrets.” Here we see a fascinating study of the interplay between freedom and control, love and hate, that draws the reader into this retelling of The Tempest. Although Prospero retains the illusion of control, his magic appears limited — to hatred, to secrecy, and to harm. It is Miranda’s own spells that “bridge the gaps” to provide the love and care needed to secure their freedom. Yet Miranda’s “spell cast out to net true love” again imposes control, securing her freedom and future by ensnaring her Prince.

Far from being a pawn in Prospero’s plans, this Miranda is much more in command of her own destiny, though possibly not so different from her secret-keeping father as she might like to think. As a whole, this reinterpretation provides us a better developed characterization of Miranda that is more relatable to modern readers.


Laura Carroll Butler, “Away.” “Every picture she drew was a masterpiece, anything she wrote was Shakespeare.” The parallelism of this line drew me into the story. These are the lies we tell our children, but reality will always have more burger flippers than Bards. Nor is this father perfect: although he promises his daughter the world, we see him pass out “with the smell of whiskey on his breath.” Yet he is not a bad father: the story’s central theme is the contrast between the clear-cut lines and neat happy endings of fantasy and the harsher truths of the real world.

Her father was not a perfect man, and she is not a princess in waiting, but “the best of many lessons her father taught her” is that gift of reading. It is that gift that carries her through the daily humdrum of her mundane reality by enabling her, for brief times, to get away. These are flawed, human characters to whom we can relate, and a powerful idea that we readers implicitly understand. 


SJ O’Hart, “Ariel.” From beginning to end, this story makes a plaything of language, to good effect. Phrases such as “logic forbid” and “Newton’s own English” help paint a picture of a rigid, logical society. The anastrophe at the end, “universe entire,” is reminiscent of Shakespeare, both tying this logical world together with the references to The Tempest, and signaling a reversal in the protagonist’s fortunes.

The story veers from the expected by comparing the father-daughter relationship to Ariel and Sycorax. In fact, the more obvious Miranda and Prospero comparison initially seems more fitting: his strict discipline keeps his daughter under his own control, shielded from “frivolous” knowledge, for his own ends.

It is only through her plotting and manipulation that she becomes Ariel, a spirited force of nature, and gains her own freedom. In the end, although she escapes from a prison imposed by her father and by society at large, her drastic actions in doing so force us to wonder: what force has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting universe? Overall, the author’s masterful use of language builds the setting, and lends a sense of unity to the story.

And now: for her very first time (woohoo!), it’s Flash! Friday




“Siren Song”

From the beginning, this story takes the unforeseen path of interpreting the prompt as Greek mythology rather than Shakespeare. In mythology, we often encounter murderous monsters whose motives remain a mystery. Perhaps no monster could be less sympathetic than the Siren, a creature in the guise of a femme fatale, whose sole purpose in life is to lure sailors to their watery graves with their alluring song. At first glance, writing a first-person character piece about such a monster seems an odd choice.

The Siren’s thoughts are completely preoccupied with her victims. She knows nothing of who they are, nor how she appears to them, but only that they are “nothing more than slaves” to her song. Yet she wonders (habitually) whether they deserve such a fate. She even engages in rationalization — “[p]erhaps they were vicious mercenaries” — and briefly entertains the thought of setting them free.

The plain language of the Siren’s thoughts conveys that she is not a cackling witch, a mindless creature, or a being of pure evil. Her motivations in luring her victims have nothing to do with the victims. This Siren is philosophical about these sailors, almost to the point of showing compassion.

I liked that the story manages to hint at the prompt’s obvious themes of romance, heartbreak, loneliness, and death, without actually being about any of those things. It’s a quiet, introspective piece — set against the events of a grisly shipwreck at the hands of a mythological monster. In the end, the Siren of this story is a creature free to speculate to herself as much as she wishes, but just as the doomed sailors were enslaved by their own appetites (whether pure or prurient), this Siren is also a slave to her own very literal appetites.

For its original take on the prompt, its creative exploration of the thoughts of a maligned mythological creature, and the ending revelation of the Siren’s true motives, “Siren Song” is this week’s winning entry.


Congratulations, Taryn! Below beckons your compellingly new winner’s badge for your wall. Here also is your rapacious, starving 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:

Siren Song

Dulcet tones carry across the restless waves, whispering promises of a love doomed to never be. I pace along my rocky hunting grounds and wonder what the doomed men see me as today. Do the loyal sailors see their wives stranded alone? Or am I a long-lost love, or a beautiful red-headed fantasy? Whatever mirage my song has thrust into their minds, it is working. Soon their ship, and their bodies, would be broken on the rocks at my feet.

As the men, now nothing more than slaves to my call, force their vessel ever closer, I wonder, not for the first time, if they truly deserve such a bloody end. Who were these sailors I had ensnared? Perhaps they were vicious mercenaries, or simply trying to provide for their families. Ought I grant these unfortunate souls their freedom? But as the ship and her crew shatter and drown, I know it matters not.

Because I am so hungry.





Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 10: WINNERS!

Howdy! Welcome to the results for Vol 2-10; let’s jump right in! 


Judge Whitney Healy says: I had a difficult time judging this week: many competitors chose to write with open-ended conclusions that sometimes confused me while others used allusions to mythology or other parts of history with which I was not familiar. Some of the entries took more time to evaluate because I had to do the research to fully understand the allusions–which is always okay, of course: I’m a life-long learner and an English teacher, so I like having to do some “homework” in order to fully appreciate a response.

I’d like to talk a little bit about the prompt. Every week I look at the prompt almost as soon as I get up so I can reflect on it myself before I start reading, often thinking about what I may write myself if I were competing. This week’s prompt really caught my attention: I actually thought it was a Salvador Dali painting, for the colors and angles echoed of the recognizable Melting Clocks. With my knowledge of Dali (way back when in my Art Appreciation class in college he was the artist I chose to research), mentally I painted my own picture of what I’d write–something bizarre or unexpected. Then, when I revisited the picture just before judging, I realized it was a photo and not a painting! Interesting, I thought. Judging this week could be fun.
Before I begin, some of you deserve some mentions. Those mentions this week are EmilyKarn1 (your writing echoed of Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”), Allison Garcia (I really liked your piece, but it was over the word limit), HLPauff (I love how you implied the genie was being punished by his master), and SJOHart (It’s rare to see Death portrayed as a powerful temptress: I liked it). I’d additionally like to note Rebecca Allred‘s Gravid–this piece had so many layers, and it is something all mothers could relate to. All of you created tales that made me smile, think, or empathize. Thank you for sharing your work! 




Sarah Cain, “Honor Your Mother.”  I appreciated this story because it was circular in style and because it hinted at the personal beliefs you may have underneath your text: it was actually one of the first that “wow”ed me, and, boy, does it make us think. We really should value the little time this planet may have left. 

Charles W. Short, “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” In college I minored in psychology, heavily interested in what makes the human mind tick (or fail): PTSD is a disorder that always made my heart pain for those afflicted, and your tale reads exactly like a testimony, confession, or session: excellent work.

Scott Vannatter, “Preparing for the Storm.” Echoing of the imagined post-apocalyptic fight for survival, this tale made me hungry to learn more about what the people were preparing for. Was it really a storm, or was it something much, much more? What exactly are the “night-crawlers”.  A chilling piece that I enjoyed reading.

Maven Alysse, “Sloth.” This piece is an excellent metaphor for the deadly sin of sloth, as our “hero” (though perhaps more tragic) begins to “clean out” his penance. I thought this piece mirrored the very action (or inaction) sloth is: laziness, apathy, and jealousy. An extremely multi-layered response with a lot of symbolism.


Jeffrey Hollar, “Dimensional Difficulties.”  By the end of this somewhat sci-fi story, all I wanted to know was what was underneath the text. What were they researching? How did our hero go so wrong? It was a piece that made me want to hear even more.


Caitlin, “Relenquished.”  In a post-apocalyptic tale unlike most that we’ve seen in recent popular culture (no zombies, no scientific disease–only the power of nature), we see how the strength of family is what counts in times of crises. I particularly liked the line “filled with the trinkets of another lifetime”–there is a LOT of symbolism here. Those “trinkets”, on the surface, may seem only mementos, but I believe they represent what was and what was lost. I also appreciated the use of dialogue used to tell the story. A read I think you should consider extending.


Marie McKay, “The Chosen.” Marie, I am partial to sci-fi, so perhaps you were playing my taste, but regardless, this tale was extremely well-crafted. I appreciated the use of a long opening paragraph describing your setting of Novus. In the opening you also took the time to develop the crew just enough so a reader knew what kind of characters they were: strong, carefully chosen, and capable. Then, you changed to a rapid-paced dialogue between the explore sight and control: and as readers we discovered how “lost” our explorers really were, all while your played on the concept of time (which most of us associate with sand). I appreciated the mystery the ending of your story evoked, and I found myself applauding the tale, as it was one of the few “unexpected ending” pieces that still felt complete enough. A story I could find myself reading over and over again and still be entertained.

And now: presenting first time Flash! Friday  




“The Sands of Space and Time”

From the opening, this story had me hooked. In fact, my very first note was “This is what I have been looking for!” In so few words, you persuade a reader into believing everything you say about lost civilizations, a reader nodding as you make your points naming the lost. Your structure also lends itself to make a reader think: you mix lengthy, descriptive sentences with short, harsh fragments that read as points in your argument. By the end, unlike the other pieces, this piece taught the lesson of perseverance without actually saying that the subjects had to be patient, dedicated, and so on. I appreciated lines like “They proudly build upon our Sands, yet for all their mighty works, despair: threescore and ten are there years, and then they die…” I mean, look at this line! There is so much underneath the text, so much wisdom and truth: there is pride, ownership, desperation, perseverance, darkness, secrets, and defeat! And so well-written! Those are the kinds of sentences that cause the metaphorical weep for their pristine perfection. A standing ovation have you received.

Great job, Phil! Your winner’s badge greets you eagerly below. Here is your brand new, hot-off-the-presses 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 here is your winning story:

The Sands of Space and Time

We’ve watched their history. The passing of nomadic tribes. The rise and fall of city-states. Carthage. Babylon. Karakorum. Empires and peoples come and gone. San. Bantu. Boers.

They live and die upon the Sands, those fleeting giants of the Earth. For all their towering height, their length of time upon this world is short. Ten thousand of us would not match their height. Ten thousand of their years is but a blink to us. They proudly build upon our Sands, yet for all their mighty works, despair: threescore and ten are their years, and then they die, and are buried in our Sands by their progeny.

The first of us to come to Earth, in countless ages past, was fruitful and multiplied, and (thanks to exponential growth) subdued the earth. Our forty-five-greats-grandparent was progenitor to us all, the Sands who fill the deserts and the beaches.

Mankind, too, will pass; we Sands will carry on.


Flash! Friday # 20 — WINNERS!

What a way to celebrate the TWENTIETH round of Flash! Friday (where does the time go?? it was just born!). You all take my flames away (in a good way); it’s such a pleasure seeing familiar faces and new ones too each round.  Keep coming back, and keep commenting on each other’s stories; YOU are making this contest the vibrant and awesome thing it is. Thank you.

Remember to check back Monday to see which story will be highlighted at Flash Points, and join me Tuesday for Dragon Munchies and my own unbalanced fiction.

WEDDING NOTE: The deadline for the flash fiction bridal shower (#DFQWBS) for Fairy Queen Anna Meade  is Monday, Apr 22. Still time to add your wedding-themed tale! Details here.


Judge Patricia McCommas says, This was a difficult decision, as all the stories were really good. I would give them all an honorable mention just for putting forth the effort to share their creative muse (comedic or not) with us! I loved all the different approaches, and I love LOVE judging. What a privilege reading the myriad creative stories from a single pic. Thank you, writers!



  • Marissa Ames“Katherine.” Didn’t see the end of this story coming. Well done.
  • Marie McKay, “Daisy, Daisy… Daisy?” I really loved the originality of this story, especially once it was explained to me what photo bombing is <g>.
  • Clive Newnham, “Chevalier de Seinparis.” Very creative and original. Love the inclusion of French.
  • Aria Glazki, “Untold Trauma.” Great job incorporating the expressions in the photo. 


Curtis Perry“Poor Eugene.” Hilarious and well done.


The Imaginator“Quiddany.” This was really funny and creative, with the story matching the expressions in the photo perfectly.


H.L. Pauff, “Cold Feet.” Excellent and creative. I had to read this several time to catch all the nuances. It wasn’t until the third reading that I realized all her responses were related to what she was viewing. LOL. Very funny. 

And our Be Careful, Little Mouth, What You Say



Excellent! Well written, creative and original. Love the twist at the end.

Congratulations, Beth! Here are your Winner’s Page, your eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Please contact me asap with your email address  so I can interview you for Wednesday’s “Sixty Seconds” feature.

Don’t Fight the Muse

Ronald was furious. “Look at this crap that gets published. You’re supposed to be my muse! I know I’m capable of writing something better than this hack! What do you think you’re doing just sitting there staring blankly while I’m struggling to write. Start doing your job!”

Even after this impassioned plea, Ronald could not get a response out of Helen. She continued to act as if she could not even hear him. In the past she used to offer advice, suggest ideas for stories, or give him quotes that were supposed to inspire his creativity. Ronald rarely used her ideas and often blamed her for leading his writing astray, but at least in the past she had acted like his writing mattered to her. Now she treated him like an invisible spirit whenever he sought her help. Her behavior was completely unacceptable!

“Are you going to answer me? Look at this tripe! I am definitely a more accomplished writer than this fool. Why is C.J. Whittaker getting published when I’m not? Are you deliberately sabotaging me?” Ronald continued to rant until his throat was sore, but Helen never even blinked. After an hour of yelling, he stormed out of the house and spent the rest of the evening at a nearby tavern.

Helen sat silently for several minutes after he’d gone, then she calmly went into the library and sat down at the typewriter. She had a new idea for a story, and she knew her editor was anxiously waiting for another piece from C.J. Whittaker. As she began typing, she wondered vaguely if it had really been necessary to choose a pseudonym so different from her own name. After all, Ronald apparently wasn’t smart enough to realize when he was reading a description of himself.