Tag Archive | James Marshall VI

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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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 




“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.


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!)     


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



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.



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.  


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.


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.


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 





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!


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.


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.


Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 47: WINNERS

Hurray!! Isn’t results day a blast?? Thanks to the hardy folks who ventured into the strange (and curiously chocolate-tasting) waters of Flash! Friday this week. It’s a great pleasure reading the stories of regulars & newbies alike. Here’s to a long future of flash fiction addiction together!

Speaking of NaNoWriMo (because if you’re a WriMo like me, everything you read in November relates in some way): this post would be a fantastic place to share your progress thus far. You can track my own journey in the little widget in the sidebar over there, but I’ll comment below too. It’s not pretty. But it’s fun. 

YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME to throw your hat in the ring to be a judge in Year Three. We’ve got some heroes already, but not enough (looking for EIGHT). Will you please consider supporting Flash! Friday in this way? Details here

Final (tragic) note: how to thank a judge like Aria Glazki, who has so faithfully and tirelessly sifted through your masterpieces for these past months? I can’t think of a way, other than to say YOU’RE AWESOME, ARIA!!!!! and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t wait to read your own stories again! It’s more than ample consolation for losing you as judge. Thank you for everything.      


Judge Aria Glazki says: What a whirlwind this experience of judging has been, in terms of both the emotional rollercoaster guaranteed from reading each week’s stories, and the unique combination of fear of making the “wrong” choices and pleasure of highlighting my favorites.  This community is so strong, not only in your individual talents or even the sense of camaraderie and support, but also in your willingness and ability to learn from each other so as to grow as writers. The intimidation I felt when our amazing host Rebekah first asked me to serve as a judge has been replaced by an equal, or perhaps greater, sense of intimidation at soon rejoining you all among the ranks of writers.  Nevertheless, it’s been a pleasure!

Now for this week’s stories. When I first saw the prompt, I had absolutely no idea what you would all concoct — and even still, you exceeded any and all expectations, in the variety of tones and in the imagination behind your premises. Social commentary wove its way into quite a few pieces, but without blatant moralization, provoking thought as great writing does. Ultimately, standout pieces captured emotions, claiming them and pulling them along for the duration of the story, manipulating and demanding responses as though effortlessly


Margaret Locke (current judge panel), “Signs of Spring.” Often, extended metaphors falter, but this one was flawless, a seamless reflection of the detached devastation of this couple.

Annika Keswick, “Frozen.” Visceral descriptions and great imagery, such as: “Lashed by sound and color, I scan the gyrating mass swirling around me.”



Stella Turner, “Blind Faith.” This story is filled with layers and subtext right from the first sentence, which works as such a strong warning when seen in retrospect from the end of the piece. The solid social commentary was woven in subtly yet effectively, underscored by the regret of those last three words, “Wish I’d remembered.”

James Marshall VI, “The Elements of the True Faith.” The balance of solemnity (“sacred portal”; “intoned”) with such a popularly known “chant” created a nicely lighthearted piece full of humor.  


Carin Marais, “Memento Mori.” This story managed to be extraordinarily creepy (capturing souls in speaking portraits!) while remaining heartbreakingly sweet.  On the one hand, the thought of trapping a soul, preventing it from moving on, is eerie and disturbing, but Gerhardt’s concern — “She’s not in pain?” — makes it clear early on that the intent isn’t malicious, and the final image of this couple ascending to heaven together is touching (though possibly somewhat selfish). Overall, we’re kept off-kilter, bouncing between the two reactions, but in a way that encourages thought and further consideration. “Whispers cluttered the air” is also a fantastic image.


Tamara Shoemaker, “Blame Apportioned.” Talk about heartbreaking! The first line sets up a clear dynamic of a sinner (of unknown proportions) seeking redemption from the moral guide, setting the mysterious sin as the focal point.  The misdirect of the familiarity — “I knew the concern that creased the corners of his eyes” — keeps us on this fairly standard path of confession. Then we get the shivers of cockroaches, and an avalanche of hints starts us on a different path — the Father’s knowledge of the secret sin could be as innocent as seeing it in action, and yet hints at the double entendre of more intimate knowledge; the “residue of kisses” (what a perfect phrase to show how unwanted the memory is) exposes the sin; the inability of the “sinner” to confess clinches it. Suddenly we’re turned around entirely, filled with dread the narrator ultimately confirms as the title of “sinner” passes from one to the other. This ability to guide our expectations and emotions through the text sets this story apart.


Holly Geely (second week as first runner up!!), “With Improvements.” This story took the prompt in a wildly different direction than the others, capitalizing on the holiday with the allusion to Dr. Frankenstein.  The flippant dissociation of the doctor and his assistant from the atrocity that they have committed, the horror they have inflicted on this other life — “‘You’re welcome,’ Doctor Edgar said, and Buster served him a celebratory beverage” as the reanimated, patchwork monk huddles in tears — may be the most terrifying aspect of all. While the tone remains light overall, perhaps even humorous, the monk’s new reality remains clearly presented, demanding compassion from the reader where it’s missing from the other characters.

And now: for her very first time EVER (I love first time champs!), it’s Flash! Friday 




“Seed of Life”

This story pulls no punches, dropping us right into the middle of a (hopefully) foreign situation wherein a monk is carving up a woman’s heart, and not only that, but the woman is conscious as it happens.  But as soon as we think we know the monk is the villain — he does seem to be torturing someone, after all — we’re reminded not to judge the situation too quickly, as the “surgeon” expresses empathy for his victim. A sense of dark ritual is introduced with the rule that “her heart had to be flush and ripe with excitement, or this was all for naught,” then tempered by Mikkal’s frustration, not with the the ritual, but with having to perpetuate the pain of the woman. Our understanding is demanded even more strongly when we learn this entire ordeal is to breathe life into a generation of stillborn babies. And in the final, cruel twist, we’re left saddened and horrified by the information that this ritual requires repetition, all too soon. Ultimately our sympathies are claimed by the torturer, who (unlike his victims) is obligated to repeat this horror multiple times, and who therefore remains “silent amidst the celebration.” What a full world was built here, both ex- and internally to our narrator.

Congratulations, Brittni! Below is your super sparkly winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega fabulous 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!

Seed of Life

The monk took another slice of the woman’s heavily petalled heart. She didn’t move. Her chin simply quivered.

Mikkal wished he could ease her pain. She had to be awake throughout this entire process. Her heart had to be flush and ripe with excitement, or this was all for naught.

He peeled away another layer, but still could not see the seed. Frustrated, he wondered how much more she had to sacrifice for the hearts of the nation.

Blood trickled down her arms from the shackles above her head. Her eyes fluttered. She was drowsy, but Mikkal pressed on.

Another slice.

And another.

Until finally, nestled between the last two slices of her heart, laid the seed. He slipped it in the mouth of the first stillborn child.

“Breathe!” He shouted. And it did.

They all did.

Parents cheered.

Silent amidst the celebration, Mikkal stared at the child with the seed. He did not look forward to their next meeting.