Tag Archive | Hannah Heath

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 42: WINNERS!

Welcome back! You’ve proved yet again to be the fiercest writing dragons anywhere; every time I’m sure you couldn’t possibly set a new record or outwrite yourselves, you do. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve written that exact sentence every week for the past two months. Writers everywhere are going to be battering your doors down for your magical writing secrets. Thank you again for writing these stirring, disturbing, funny, dark, frightening, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing stories. And thank you for being the totally off-the-charts, supportive writers you are. HUGS FOR EVERYBODY! -oops. Apologies to whoever I just scratched with a talon.

And finally: a MASSIVE thank you to those who donated to the Flash! Friday lair this week. We have plans in the works for Flashversary (coming up CRAZY! FAST! December 5) and Year 3, most of which will cost a gem or two. (One hint (shhhh): did someone ask for a winners’ anthology, hmmmm?) Thank you, thank you for your support.

Reminder note: Flash! Friday entries are judged 100% blind; judges — we currently have a panel of five — see neither authors’ names, Twitter handles, or community comments until after results are submitted.        

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Judge Aria Glazki (who deserves an award of her own; only imagine the herculean task this week!) says:  None of us expected such an abundant turnout of writers–and stories–but then this community never goes for the expected. The one predictable factor, of course, is the range of style, form, premise, and emotion in your stories.  An outsider may think reading nearly 100 stories on the same prompt can become tedious, but due to your talents and imaginations, it truly does not.  While I can highlight only a few of the submissions, I encourage everyone to explore them all and find your own favorites.

Here are this week’s Special Mentions:

(Judge) Margaret Locke,*  “We All Have Our Roles to Play.” – So unexpected, with a dark twist to the humor. The narrative here leads the reader along a curious path, before finally putting everything in crystal clear focus.  Well crafted. (* Judges are permitted special mentions, but not official awards).

Rasha Tayeket, Untitled. Standout imagery: “Windows rattled more violently than the fat rolls on his stomach”; and Sacrifice: “a woebegone Mary Poppins.”

Hannah Heath, “The Lucky Toy.” I especially enjoyed that this story didn’t take the prompt at face value, showing us the strength of a mother clinging to the memory of a lost child, despite that memory making her look “like some gothic parlor maid.” A nice reminder that our internal world cannot be seen by strangers on the surface.

Nancy Chenier, “Fidelity.” A compelling story told within a strict form but not trapped within it, poetic yet complete. I especially enjoyed the lines: “Her parasol parody / Against the tempest” — what a vivid statement.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Eliza Archer, “It’s My Job.” Storm deities might not be loved, but I loved the humor in this piece. The rhetorical questions gently force the reader into a more active role, even while not depending on a specific response to make the point, which is oh-so-subtly, and intelligently, manipulative. There are too many great lines to quote, so go read it! 

Voimaoy, “The Dragon’s Daughter.” This story took a timeless tale of a young girl believing the grass is greener, then made us take a step back, refocusing on the father’s heartbreak at his loss. Efficient characterization (“As any loving father would”; “parading happily in platform shoes”) shows us these personalities and leads to the powerful final image of the dragon’s tears and claws ravaging the island, establishing a new mythology.

Stuart Turnbull, “Hanami for the Kami.” The respectful, mutual relationship between Sakura No-hana and the storm here, juxtaposed with her distanced approach to humans (“people like a bit of theatre”), is quite compelling. From the prayer, to that final image of her dissolving into blossoms, tugged about by the storm — the same storm that could “toss [boulders] around like a Mongol invasion fleet” but doesn’t destroy her — this was a nice read. 

Brian Creek, “Most Valuable.” At first glance this story seems predictable: a girl left behind after a tragedy takes her parents is desperate to find them, to see the bodies. But then the urgency is turned on its head, as Sozuku gives up her slight protection (the umbrella) to break quarantine. The previous lines, her interest all still work perfectly, while entirely refocusing the picture we have of the girl’s hidden inner world, her true interest in her parents.

Rebecca Allred (won Vol 2 – 3), “Truth or Dare.” This story combines an inventive premise with some lovely imagery (“lashes thick as spider legs tangle together”) and a hint of mystery for a piece that runs shivers up the spine. While we, like the narrator, are left in the dark as to what causes such visceral reactions to the mask, we know from the first line (“the maid outfit is so cars will pick her up”) that these men aren’t innocent, suspicion which is subtly reinforced throughout with just a few well-placed words.

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THIRD RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, (won Vol 2 – 38) “True Skin.” A unique take on relationships, underscored with imaginative imagery – Nori’s voice is “a reedy flutter”; “the sky curdles”; “Nori’s shivering spectre.” The juxtaposition between Umi’s cold-hearted dismissiveness of Nori (“As if the human heart could fathom love’s abyss”) and her unyielding love for the second serpent, whose presence is depicted at first by the waves, is especially telling, splitting a reader’s sympathies. Though the imagery is solid throughout, it is the love triangle portrayed by vivid metaphors (the lover who is dead dissuading her from the lover who isn’t; the waves scattering the spectre’s essence to disprove his argument; the coldness of a deep-sea serpent mimicked in Umi’s treatment of Nori) that makes this story special.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Eric Martell, (won Year One–Round 32 & Round 45), Untitled. This story had my interest from the skirt that “flared fetchingly” — what a great image to put us into the mood and right into Marcus’ head. Of course, it doesn’t last long, as we quickly see the tempers and motives of both characters, and ultimately the protective vindictiveness of the girl in the “little maid’s skirt.” Jenna’s flippant approach to the poison (she drank it herself!) is mirrored well in her physicality, with the flouncing skirt and hopping off the bed, balancing the darkness of her obviously meticulous plan.  The attitude in the final line is the clincher.

FIRST RUNNER UP

UK_MJ, “The Footlocker.” The heart-touching nostalgia in this piece required mentioning. The layers of remembrances particularly stand out, underscoring the mix of a sweet past and the sadness of grief. We have the overlay of the present loss on the memories of loving times of “sifting through an old man’s [even older] memories” and the comparison of the forgotten footlocker with the current heightened memories of saying goodbye, brought to the conclusion of a fantastic use of the prompt’s image, and the relic of the “ancient gas mask” that had once saved Trixie’s grandfather’s life but couldn’t keep him alive forever. Poignant and touching.

And now: because twice in 7 weeks isn’t (apparently) enough, it’s three-time Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

MICHAEL SEESE!!!

for

“Drowning”

The dialogue that isn’t dialogue is the brilliance of this piece. In retrospect, the initial image sets up the possibility of both murder and suicide, but the following lines appear to be the internal dialogue and uncertainty of someone in desperate straights, contemplating something equally desperate. Only when she decides to say no, to find that inner strength, do we learn her demons aren’t internal but are in fact the physical and very distinct presence of her lover; that this back and forth isn’t her attempt to make a decision but a literal devil’s advocate, who is willing to take more drastic measures when the subtlety of conversation is insufficient. The twist of the ending that nevertheless makes such undeniable sense, conveyed through a risky yet perfect stylistic choice, steals your breath with the final line.

Congratulations AGAIN, Michael! Below is the comfortingly familiar winner’s badge for a third wall. Here are your updated winner’s page and your latest winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by for an email about this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Drowning

The rain-swollen canal seemed eager to taste another victim.

They’ll never find the body.

Bodies are just containers put on this Earth to house the soul while it finds its path.

Water cleanses all sins.

Is it a sin to fall in love? To believe in love? To believe love could happen to her?

An affair with a married man? Think of the shame it will bring.

Why must there be shame? If they stayed, perhaps. But why couldn’t they run away together? They were happy. Or so she had believed. And now that they were three…

And what of the child? What kind of life can your bastard expect? It would be better for all if you would just take that step…

“No!” she said, finding strength for the first time in her life. “I can’t do it!”

She turned to face her lover.

I know, he said, applying an emotionless palm to her chest. But I can.

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 29: WINNERS!

LOVE all the directions you took our wacky nuclear guy this week. Who knew so many stories lurked in that odd mask? (You did, obv.) Couple of reminders before moving on to results: 

  • FLASH POINTS is back with a vengeance on Mondays, where one of your stories will be lovingly chopped to bits and analyzed up, down, and sideways. 
  • Our new judge panel starts this week, yeeeeeehaw, kicking off with dapper Craig Anderson (aka @TodaysChapter)! Can’t wait for them to strut their fine judgy stuff!
  • DOG DAYS of SUMMER special contest w CASH PRIZES kicks off Tuesday, July 8. Ohhhh I’m giddy. Don’t prod me too hard or I may spill the secrets every which way.

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Judge Jess West says: Well folks, it’s all I can do to write this with a steady hand and dry eyes. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you all these last few weeks, or how well I’ve come to know you through your writing. Each of you has touched my heart in some way: some as like-minded friends, others as sources of inspiration, and a few as teachers who have played a part in the writer I’m becoming. I have a heavy heart as I write this, but you know what? That’s silly. The end of my judging only means the beginning of rejoining you all as a writer. Though I will miss lurking behind the scenes – I think the confines of the dragon cave have gotten to me, I’ve become quite good at lurking, and even enjoy it – I can’t wait to get back in on the action.

So, I’ve dried my tears, and done a little happy dance, and now I’m ready to humbly offer you my thoughts on this week’s entries.

Cheers,

Jess

Oh, and Bart… I’m coming for you, buddy.

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SPECIAL, SPECIAL MENTION

Margaret Locke, “The Days Are Long, but The Years Are Short.” Let me begin by saying I was *very sorry* to have to disqualify this story, but after counting it every which way I could, and even calling in for reinforcements, “The Days are Long” came up 2 words – 2 measly words I tell you! – over the limit. But it deserves a place in the list nonetheless because before I’d checked the word counts, “The Days Are Long” had made it into the short list, specifically for its unique take on the prompt that weaves a bit of reality into fiction.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

John Mark Miller, “We Were.” Terrifying, but very real possibility of the extinction of the human race.

Amy Wood, “Rough But Poetic Justice.” Aptly titled, poetic justice indeed.

Craig Anderson, “Resolution.” What a twist!

Hannah Heath, “The Accident.” Another great twist, totally didn’t see that coming.

Karl A Russell, “If You Were the Only Girl in the World.” Down to the last, and this war still rages on.

Brett Milam, “Gunny.” Elicits a great deal of emotion, specifically of the “I want to kill that antagonist so hard” variety.

Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “We All Fall Down.” Great build up of tension by creatively using the “clicks” to heighten suspense.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Rasha, “Ever After.” This is another one that formed a lump in my throat. The characters are well formed, and the circumstances are clear. This story makes good use of the photo prompt as a reference to a memory, an event, that leads to the highly emotional decision, and heart-wrenching consequences.

JM6, “The Important Thing.” By the end of the story I got the distinct impression that Julie was in a bad way and it was somehow the reporter’s fault. There’s a lot of world behind this story; it’s one of those that I could easily see expanded, and would definitely like to read.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Carin Marais, “Shells.” This one really stuck with me, especially because of the “I wanted to, but didn’t” that repeatedly translated to “I wanted to comfort you, but I didn’t want you to lose hope.” “Shells” really tugged at my heartstrings. My favorite part was, “Only broken shells remained. Shells of cities, shells of people, shells of souls, shells of prayers…” Great imagery with emotional connection all in one powerful punch. 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Bart Van Goethem, “I Am Invincible.” What I loved the most about this one was that the author took a cliche, “If looks could kill…” and turned it into a delightful spin on the dragon’s bidding, perfectly demonstrating the opposite of Patience. When I went back and looked at the name, I wasn’t surprised to find out who it was. Next week, when I rejoin the fray, I’m coming for you, Bart! Your consistent clever wit is a technique I hope to learn, a talent I hope to emulate. Can we get this guy a Medal for Consistent Excellence?

FIRST RUNNER UP

Carlos Orozco, “Close Enough.” What impressed me the most about this piece is the sheer volume of personality, not just of one character, but two. On top of that, the dragon’s bidding was put to excellent use by delineating these very different personalities with dual use of patience, both as it is and its adverse twin. One of these characters patiently awaits the inevitable, the other does not. Though there were no marks of distinction within the dialogue such as ‘he said’, there was no doubt in my mind which character was speaking. That is dialogue and characterization done right. Carlos made the best use of the prompts this week, in my opinion, to draw a concise dividing line between two characters. Well done!

And now: what a joy, after such a very long time, to crown Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

MAGGIE DUNCAN!!!

for

“Mindfulness”

Typically, I struggle for hours at the end of a round of judging to pick just one winner, but this week Maggie outdid herself. From the very first read through, I got chills with this one. I still get chills reading it. That’s what gives a piece real staying power. I can’t quote the words, or give you a name of the narrator, but I can tell you exactly how it made me feel. The first paragraph tells us what’s going on, and places a great deal of weight on the narrators actions. The second paragraph sets us up, giving us hope. I found myself breathing shallowly, crossing my fingers, hoping not only would the narrator have good news to share, but that he/she would feel the pride of being the one to deliver that news. And at the end of that paragraph, I was certain of a happy ending. Maggie whisked me off my feet, brought me to the heights of hope, and tossed me off the side of the cliff. I was devastated at this twist. Aside from the emotional impact, the world building is exemplary, there’s no doubt where we are and what’s going on. Though the people behind the airlock are safe, and will celebrate their own happy endings, our poor Checker will not share in their joy. That is truly tragic. Maggie, you’ve broken my heart, but I gotta give it to you, this was some damn fine writing. Very well done!

Congratulations, Maggie! Your imperial supreme winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your crowning achievement-ed, updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Mindfulness

Procedure here is all important. The temptation is to throw on the anti-radiation suit and get to the surface to sample the soil and air. Checkers must don their protective gear with slow, calm deliberation. A single, unseen hole or tear is a death sentence.

The samples over the past two years have crept steadily toward optimum. Every Checker wants to be the bearer of the good news, and it fell to me. I checked and re-checked the readings, but I could reach only one conclusion: In a few months we could return to the surface.

Back inside, I remove my mask, hoping my smile will herald the news, but I see the technician back up, hand over her mouth. My lip just below my nose itches, and I rub it. My fingers come away bloody. The technician closes the airlock.

I’m alone on the surface, awaiting the inevitable with slow, calm deliberation.

Procedure here is all important.

 

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