Tag Archive | Jacki Donnellan

Sixty Seconds III with: Chris Milam

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 Chris Milam.  Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD THIRD win at Flash! Friday (woot!). Read his previous #SixtySeconds interviews as well as his bio here. Then take another minute or two to get to know him better below. (Note that three-time winners are never held to the word count rule. Chat away, Chris!)

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?  Nothing revelatory with the kitchen prompt, to be honest. I instantly saw a mother and son at breakfast. I wrote the first paragraph without having any idea how to include the prisoner picture. As the story unfolded, I knew a tale of hardship steeped in love and tragedy needed a father character of some sort. The story wrote itself after that.

2) You’ve been writing for FF a good while now. How has your approach to the prompts changed since you started? I think I approach the prompts in a less literal way. Not always the case, depends on the prompt, but I always try and do something a bit different. I usually know where a high percentage of writers will go with their stories and I focus on taking a less-traveled route. In a contest, it’s important to write a story that doesn’t mirror the vibe and thoughts of others. Originality is always the goal, and one I fail at often.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing? Writing flash fiction has certainly helped with poetry. Brevity is the key to both, and the process of condensing and excising unnecessary words applies to poetry as well. On the rare occasion when I write an essay, flash fiction can be found all over the page. Usually it’s a smear of overly-descriptive prose, a bad habit of mine, that reveals itself. Poetry, flash and nonfiction all aim to impact the reader in an emotional way. It’s the duty of words, a plunging of the reader’s mind with a profound precision.

4) In your first interview, you said you were writing a “surreal fairy tale” for your daughter. How’s that going? What are you working on these days? Well, the story for my daughter is currently languishing in my documents. It’s more laborious writing a children’s tale than I ever imagined. Hopefully, I’ll return to that story and create some magic. Time will tell. I’m currently focused on the #FlashDogs anthology. I have the rough draft of one story completed, and I’ve written the first couple of paragraphs of a second story. I’m not pleased with either one. A bit pedestrian. Plenty of time to fix them, though. And I will.

5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites? I don’t enter the weekly contests as often as I used to but a few I enjoy are: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and Angry Hourglass. Also, I’m always lurking on the sites of various online magazines and journals. Always reading. Always learning.

6) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet? To new writers: just write. That’s all you can do. Take those strange thoughts in your head and spill them across the digital vellum. Don’t be afraid to fail. We all do. But you can’t fail or succeed if you don’t write. Take a chance. Push the envelope. Create. Write. Have fun.

For the seasoned folks who haven’t won FF? It’s all subjective. Keep writing. Keep entering. I know some of the people who haven’t won. I’ve read their stories. I’ve seen their talent. Don’t let not winning yet define you. It shouldn’t. It doesn’t. Believe in your ability to work the word and keep plugging away. A crown isn’t required to be known as a fabulous writer. 

7) Tell us something about your writing life. How often do you get to write, and how do you balance writing and responsibilities?  I usually have an adequate amount of time to write; balance isn’t a major issue. My problem, at times, is motivation and self-doubt. I can easily slip into a lazy, negative mindset which isn’t conducive to writing. I’ll question my abilities, my reasons for writing and what the whole point of flash fiction is, when I’m in a dark mood. I’m always engaged in a bloody battle with my demons. It’s exhausting. Good times.

8) What’s your writing process like? When I write, it’s all about coffee, solitude and music. And doubt. I tend to take a break from a story and pace the floors like a madman. Back and forth. Yelling at myself. Sometimes out loud. Then more coffee, more words. More pacing. Look at Twitter. Fill a jar with teardrops. More coffee etc.

9) What are your biggest writerly pet peeves? I’m not a big fan of cheeky, goofball humor in a story. It’s an arduous endeavor for even the best of writers. Sometimes, a story that is all inner-monologue can be a pet peeve of sorts. I’m guilty of this one quite often. I prefer movement in a story, not just a writer’s thoughts. The whole “Show don’t tell” applies here. Twist endings can be a turnoff, at times, when not done properly. If the entire story is uprooted by an implausible turn of events at the end, it’s a waste of the reader’s time.

10) Final thoughts? Shout-outs are in order for the folks doing all the heavy lifting for the #FlashDogs anthology: Mark King, David Shakes, Tamara Rogers, and Emily June Street. Not only are they putting this massive project together, but they’re also extremely talented writers and kind human beings. I applaud them.

Quite a few writers have truly inspired me and I’ve learned a great deal from reading their work. Whether I’ve long been a fan or they’ve written something recently that caught my eye, these folks deserve a mention: Grace Black, Jacki Donnellan, Voima Oy, David Borrowdale, Carlos Orozco, Marie McKay, Steph Ellis, Foy Iver, Tamara Shoemaker, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam. You guys can sling the prose. And to be honest, I could’ve named any #FlashDog here. Every single one of you continues to astound and inspire me.

Advertisements

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 4: WINNERS

I knew it, knew it, KNEW IT. Give you crazy writers a spying kid, and there’s NO END to the mayhem you’d uncover. One photo: nearly 75 stories. Reading them, I marveled over your skill for the millionth time. And then I got to thinking how much time we spend stressing over everyone else’s novels out there. People have already written dragon novels, spy novels, horror novels, desperately sad child novels. But just look at you. From the very same prompt, you created over six dozen completely unique worlds. You astound me. (You also astound the poor, brave judges, who requested space blankets and emergency chocolate for their recovery period.) Anyway, it made me think that who cares how many other dragons, spies, horror, or sad kids already fill the shelves. The world still needs our dragons (etc), you know?

It’s a new writerly year, and perhaps you, like me, have set lofty goals for the months ahead. I’ve just added a new one to my list. Worry less, I’m thinking. Write more! –Let’s do so together, shall we?

♦♦♦♦♦

The Team Three Dragon Captains of Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell say

This week the FF community came out in full force (70+ stories), and Team Three has one thing to say before we get to the judging: you never know how difficult something is until you get a chance to do it. We have a new appreciation for all judges past, present, and future. Good thing the Dragoness has such wonderful powers of persuasion, and for that, we should all be thankful.

This week we received some wonderful entries and trying to narrow it down was no easy task, but winners needed to be crowned.  The goal was to get down to ten stories each and hope there would be similar picks, but overlap would make things too easy and the world hates easy. The beauty of team judging in matters as subjective as judging stories is that your pieces were picked apart and viewed from two different perspectives. We pooled together our top ten lists and read anew. Sure enough, there were stories from each other’s lists that we enjoyed, and in the end a consensus was reached.

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Facial Description: Jacki Donnellan, “Invisible.” “Since she left us his face looks sort of plastic and hard whenever I talk about her.” Can you feel the scorn? Imagining that face makes our skin crawl.

Blink and You’ll Miss It: Michael Seese, “Kid Spies.” “I wait, and write down in my super-secret journal everything I learned about tracking girls. I should share this intell with Dad. Maybe he can use it to find Mom.” This story is very light and humorous employing the use of Booger Guns and Cootie Rays, but hidden in the comedic folds is a hint at a larger, darker story.

Best Opening Dialogue: Tinman, “For Your Ears Only.” “If I could offer a hint about hiding,” said the voice behind him. Louis spun, startled. “It would be ‘never rest your drink on top of the thing you’re hiding behind’,” These lines of dialogue help create and cement the characters clever, suave manner right off the bat.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Phil Coltrane, A Shaky Town Knight and the Fiefdom of the Bell-Bottoms.” Phil used the title to great effect here, transporting us to the 1970’s, with more than a touch of whimsy. The young boy at the heart of the story was trapped in a world where everyone was exposed to myths, but not everyone had access to their magic – a familiar feeling to many. William’s heartbreak was vividly rendered, and it was easy to share in his pain.

Voima Oy, Howard Street.” This piece does an excellent job of stringing us along while dropping hints of what’s happening. We are unaware of what has transpired, but the mention of dodging surveillance cameras and rival gangs tips us off to the idea that the main character is in a bad way. Things start to get perplexing when buildings start to appear and disappear. We feel disoriented, which helps us relate to the character who is also confused. The last clue we get as to what has happened are the names of his dead friends. The last word, “home”, implies he has crossed over and joined them.

Sandra Hessels, Candy Jars.” The candy store that grandmother described in this story was brought to life, and while reading it, you could see the brightly colored candy and smell the sugar wafting through the air as you walked the aisles. We also felt the challenge that she and her sisters faced – living in a world where there was just never enough unless they were willing to take what belonged to others. But even in darkness, there are still the glimpses of light from the candy store, and you could feel what that meant to three little girls so long ago. 

David Shakes, Cure.” The heartbeat rhythm in the opening sequence and its use in the middle cements the idea of the city’s “electric heart”.  The word choice throughout the piece really attacks the senses. We cringed at the thought of the exhaust fume and urine stench.  The final resolve: a sacrifice for a mother’s happiness.  Nicely executed. 

Mimi N., “Acceptance.” Even in a world of magic, everything has a price. Danny was about to lose his dad, and was out of options, save one. His meeting with the Fae woman was wonderfully described, and you could feel his anguish being transformed by her wisdom not into happiness, but into the titular acceptance. A father might well pay that price to save his son, but when their situations were reversed? Ah, now that’s a price too high to collect. Although, you’re left wondering if things would have been different if Danny had met a different magical creature.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “The Meeting.” A twist from many of the stories this week, where the protagonist wasn’t hiding from someone, he was waiting for someone. The author painted with a vivid palette, using colors to great effect, and it was easy to see exactly the scene they described. Both characters might be flawed, but they need each other, and we got to see the beginning of their journey.

SECOND RUNNER UP

James Marshall VI, “Discretion.” We learned a lot about the unnamed narrator and his companion, Dominique, in so few words, and were left with enough hints to want to know more. Whatever group they’re part of – be they human or otherwise – is not hidden, but they are secret. They’re not overburdened with morality, but don’t kill without a purpose. Just a glimpse into their world was enough to leave us wanting more.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Siren Call.” This piece pulls on the parental heartstrings from the start. Relating the mom’s excuse to a bowl of soggy Cheerios is stellar. It’s as if we can feel the bland, soft, mushy texture of the words sitting distastefully in our minds; but the cheerios also provide insight as to what type of breakfast this child has every morning (two birds one stone). We finally learn the reason why the mother doesn’t have time for her son and it is summed up in a bombshell of a last line “The wild draw of the city held too much attraction, and its siren call drowned the whimper of the boy who hid in the corner”.

And now: for her very first time AT LONG, LONG LAST!, raise your glasses: it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

CASEY ROSE FRANK!!!

for

“Find Me”

At first glance it seems like this story is simply about a game of hide-and-seek, but after rereading we can tell there is something more sinister hiding under the surface. Subtle hints such as a drooping face when asked if the characters will switch roles or the mother’s voice getting fainter implies the hider will not be found. This piece also uses more than just sight descriptions. The smell of Ivory soap on skin and the butterflies in the stomach when looking for hiding spots helps incorporate all the senses in a completely satisfying way. The narrator’s complete obliviousness when he/she says, “Now I wait” is heartbreaking and haunting. The inconspicuous nature of the conflict also forces the reader to seek it, therefore, looping the reader into a real game of hide-and-seek. Very clever writing.

Congratulations, Casey! Below is your wonderful and not-so-subtle winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new 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 now, here is your winning story!

Find Me

“Hide, Baby, hide real good so I’ll have to search real hard to find you.”

“And then it’ll be my turn to find you, right, Mama?”

Her face droops a little. I think that she likes being the seeker best too when she says, “I expect that’s about right.”

She pats the top of my head and I smell Ivory soap on her skin.

She places her hands over her eyes and begins to count.

I grin and run down the alley, out into the bigger world, her numbers growing larger and fainter.

This is the biggest game of hide and seek I’ve ever played and I can feel my stomach dance as I run through all my choices of hiding spots.

I find a spot that hides my body but lets me peek out so I can watch Mama’s face when she’s stumped over where I am. I’ll giggle to see her searching so hard.

Now I wait.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 41: WINNERS!

Happy Monday, and happy Results Show! I’m sorry to report I’m posting this on a half-cup of very, very bad coffee from a new tin this morning; it would seem their definition and my definition of “drinkable” are at odds. I’d use the rest of the grounds as fertilizer, but I love my plants too much. Please feel free to post suggestions regarding what I should do with it…

A pleasure, as always, to read your marvelous stories, and what a joy to once more see several shiny new faces. Many of you took the out of the box challenge to heart; we had chairs as transfigured aliens; men in love with buildings; metaphor, allegory, Merlin, and even a cameo by Photoshop. Glorious, every last bit. Forgive the crumbs of story at my lips, but one can hardly devour stories such as these in a ladylike manner.    

♦♦♦♦♦

Judge Betsy Streeter (who–did you see?! has a new book coming in March) says: Well, this week was a job – a whole lot of entries, first of all, and an extremely wide range of interpretations of the prompt (hats off to the promptress!)

Thusly, there are quite a few Special Mentions this week:

First of all I’d like to recognize some terrific titles. A good title can set the mood, pique curiosity, and set up the tone for the piece:

Stuart Turnbull, “Song of the Night Owl,” evokes mystery and escape,

A J Walker, “Bishop to Castle Four,” sets up a battle of wills,

Jacki Donnellan, “Cardboard Castles,” hints beautifully at the contrast between past and present,

Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Sir Erik the Western Star-Hero of Erelia” – I just want to read this. Period.

Next, many writers delved into some wonderful language, clearly taking risks and trying things out. Bravo.

Casey Rose Frank, for evoking the senses: “Then,” with “cracked pepper verve” and “chocolate and tobacco.” Lovely.

Mark A. King, “Castle of the Kurds,” affects you immediately with the phrase, “numb from the weight of armour.” I could really feel that. I now do not wish to be a knight.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Castles of Air,” so much good description here. The mud, the pigtails, the aspects of old photographs and painting.

Brittni S. Hill, “I Take Thee,” read this one for cadence and also for how the consonants of the words work together to make it flow.

Gabor Z, “Yearning,” evokes the senses in so many ways. I could really feel this one. Just read it

Nancy Chenier, “Re-Inspiration,” for the sharp language that reinforces a tense mood, like “a gust of heat and heartache.” Wow!

Now the Honorable mentions:

♦♦♦♦♦

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Mark A. King, “Crusading on a Sunday Afternoon.” Right from the title, this story is a wonderfully unique take on the prompt. You know it’s unique when you read about “Power Rangers bedding.” And if you know anything about Minecraft, yes, you can spell stuff with the clouds. The uniqueness is subtle though, which is what makes this work. Great job! 

Grace Black, “Free Verse.” Wow, there is so much in this story. You can read it more than once and get something different. My favorite phrase, though, is “6000 miles from where his head now rests.” Again, it’s subtle, and lets you draw the meaning out. Just great.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Waking.” This one needs to be set to music. What a wonderful example of a dream state, and the cruelty of encroaching reality. Plus, phrases like: “A sacred revel of dancing shadows and fancy flights.” Lovely and heartbreaking too.

Okay now on to the Runners-Up and Winner. These were chosen for completeness as well as language, cadence and story, and how those elements work together:

♦♦♦♦♦

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jacey Faye, “Reflexes.” This opens with a wonderful contrast between here (cold) and there (warm), which parallels the narrator’s state of mind contrasted with his or her ex-lover’s perceived better circumstances. That contrast plays nicely into the notion of losing control, flipping a switch, acting on instinct. Being unable to trust oneself. And the tone matches it. Terrific.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Josh Bertetta, “Aperture.” This one brings to mind the horrors of the Middle East for me, and the plight of the journalists there. Weaving the larger story with the personal one, contrasting the messiness of war with the idea of black and white. That’s a great deal to accomplish, congratulations.

FIRST RUNNER UP

James Marshall (JM6), “Persistence.” This piece has a unique twist to it, but it’s served up in a way that blends with the story so it doesn’t feel like it has to explain itself. This is difficult in flash fiction, where a large premise can overwhelm the length of the story so easily. The dialog is spare, which you would expect with characters who have clearly been having the same conversation for a long time. Again, so much accomplished. Amazing.

And now: seizing the fiery crown for his first time at Flash! Friday is

DRAGON WINNER

CARLOS OROZCO!!!

for

“Like a Dali Painting”

This: “He spent the days lying in bed fully dressed, except for his oxfords which he kept by the door.”

Can’t you just see this person? It is these tiny details that can bring a whole story into view so quickly. This piece then gets dangerously close to magical realism, as the main character forgets his purpose and even his fiancée’s face. I almost expected tiny birds with pieces of paper in their beaks to begin flying missives in from the balcony or something.

And then there’s the phrase, “promised to write her a vow that would make even the apathetic weep.” This conveys the main character’s perhaps overblown sense of his own prowess.

Finally, the environment consumes the writer’s perspective on reality. Time and space bend and lose their meaning. The language here is lovely and disturbing at the same time.

This is a great example of using a metaphor, but enslaving it to the story rather than the other way around. Terrific job, bravo and congratulations!

Congratulations, Carlos! Below is the breathlessly sparkly winner’s badge for your wall(s). Here also please find your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Like a Dali Painting

Three months in the hotel and he hadn’t been inspired to write a single word. He spent the days lying in bed fully dressed, except for his oxfords which he kept by the door.

His fiancée frequently called, and he’d tell her, “just a few more days.” But the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months. He started forgetting why he’d come to the hotel. He’d proposed then promised to write her a vow that would make even the apathetic weep; that, he was certain of. But what he wasn’t certain of was why it mattered. He wasn’t even sure what his fiancée looked like anymore.

Replacing the memory of her was the vista; the long, languorous curtains, the sharp angled doorframe, textures of the distant castle, and the surreal curves of terrace guardrails. It was like a Dalí painting. Lying there he felt forgotten by time, and he was content in letting forever pass him by.

 

FFwinner-Web