Tag Archive | James Marshall

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.    

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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:

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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:

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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.

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 24: WINNERS!

I was all prepared to give my usual “welcome back, you incredible writers” speech (one of my favorites!), when I had to do a double take. Make that triple. Unless I counted wrong — which, as I was a Lit major in college, is entirely possible — there were 51 entries this week. FIFTY-ONE entries in a week with a prompt of an alien mailbox near a top secret government research facility.

I always knew y’all were good. But this week you took it to a whole other area (get it? AREA). Cue Twilight Zone music.

FIFTY-ONE!! 

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Judge Alissa Leonard says: If we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that combining mailboxes and aliens results in BILLIONS of dollars of debt, human abductions, time travel, conspiracies, UFO chasers, mysterious disappearances, and alien invasions with some desert adventure thrown in for good measure… Perhaps the aliens should use a post office box? Thank you all for your offerings; they were out of this world! Let me tell you about some of my favorites:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Worldbuilding: Winter Bayne, “Paid in Full”; James Marshall, “Reminder Notice”; and Bart Van Goethem, “The Takeover.”

Beginning: Tinman, “You’ve Got Mail”

EndingLaura Emmons, “Alien Discovery”

MoodChris Milam, “Transference”; Joidianne4eva, “Plant My Roots (On Barren Ground”)

CharacterizationMegan Besing, “Saturday 1:07pm”; John Mark Miller, “Special Delivery”; Clive Newnham, “SPECIAL DELIVERY”; Betsy Streeter, “Steve, Keeper of the Box”; Carlos Orozco, “The Alien”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

A.J. Walker, “Settler.” Your first paragraph set up a life of peace and contentment – painted a picture of hard-earned solitude. You had me hooked there. I loved the line, “That was a matter of life and mum.” Seriously, that is brilliant. Because we all know, if you don’t call mom, you’ll be dead.  🙂 I also really enjoyed your clever take on the name and bill issue. It was unique and unexpected, and it tied into the characterization from the first paragraph perfectly. Very nicely done.

Katrina Ray-Saulis, “Dear Robbie.” The relationship is what caught my heartstrings with this one. A “goodbye” note from Gram to one who teased her and joked with her, but obviously loved her. He drove out to the spot where they found her car every year to write her a letter about his life – so sweet. So sad and hopeful and beautiful. And then the reassurance… Loved it.

Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Bounty.”  This one entertained my world-building brain so much! “Wanted dead, alive, or in stasis” set the scene very well. I enjoyed the deadpan bounty hunter – nothing fazed him. He checks that the cloaking device is working by the fact that no one screams. He considers incinerating the entire place so that no one can get the same info, but decides not to because it’s “probably not worth the fine.” –Probably?! Then he adds petty theft to the guy’s rap sheet. It made me laugh and filled me with so many questions! 

 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Casey Rose Frank, “Not My Boat.” Your characterization is brilliant. The bored, business-like creditor; the paranoid (and wrongly accused) man; and the pranking alien combined to make this a hilarious read! Seriously, when Mr. Smith said, “What would I do with a boat?” I could see him flailing around in the desert. And then the end… the “large blue face wearing groucho glasses” peering through the curtains. I busted out laughing.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Overdue.” Oh, how I want this to all work out! I love the characterization of the little boy and his fascination with Buzz. He tries to be brave and “set his voice to ‘Hero,’” but it doesn’t work perfectly. I could picture this goodbye scene between so many fathers and sons and it broke my heart. Then the end… “I tucked three dollars in its fold telling Dad to put it towards the bill for his journey home.” So sweet and heart-wrenching!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark Morris, “Paid in Full.” Wow. This one knocked my socks off! The idea that the aliens would pay off your overdue bills is an amazingly fascinating concept – completely unique and enjoyable. I am dying to know the consequences for putting more than one bill in there per month… Please? 🙂 And yeah, the catch. It seems like such a reasonable question… That last line floored me. Seriously. Then my mind FILLED with questions: These people seemed like friends: were they? Did he seriously just sell out his friend? Does he find random people and convince them to go with him? And, really, what kind of person values a person’s life as less than one overdue bill for internet??? Mind: Blown. 

And now: for her third time overall, but first for Year Two, it’s Flash! Friday  

DRAGON WINNER

ARIA GLAZKI!!!

for

“Bargain”

Brilliant. Perfect. Just… Wow. Your language was so evocative I needed a drink of water: “baked alive” “groan scratched its way out of my throat” “blistering sunlight” “grit scraped my eyes” “taunting me with the waste of water”. I felt sore and parched and I also felt that “blissful instant of relief” when the shadow fell over him. The captor is so very outlaw-esque, and I want to see more of her! I suppose that’s one way to get out of your debts… We start the story being “baked alive” and finish it with the possibility of two more weeks. It’s quite the ultimatum. And it floored me. It was seriously perfect and sucker punched me right in the gut. Beautifully written, wonderfully evocative, and very fun characters. Loved it.

Congratulations, Aria! Your brand new-to-you (isn’t it fancy!) winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Bargain

Waking up isn’t easy when you’re being baked alive.

A groan scratched its way out of my throat as I opened my eyes to the blistering sunlight. Soreness in my shoulders and ankles dissuaded me from moving.

One of only two shadows on the sand moved. Grit scraped my eyes as I tried to blink the motion away.

“Oh shut up.” The shadow fell over me for a blissful instant of relief, chased away by her grin. “How ya doin’ down there?”

“What the hell you stupid—”

“Ah, ah. Careful.”

The scorching spotlight found my face again. She spat, taunting me with the waste of water.

“You owe me,” I reminded.

“Well now, that’s why I’m here. You forget that little issue, and I’ll cut you free.”

“Are you off your—”

“Or.” Her shadow moved out of sight. “I could just leave you here, while I come up with the money. Shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks.”

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 23: WINNERS!

I hope you’ve had a fantastic weekend filled with all sorts of writerly goodness. It’s always a pleasure seeing you here Fridays, and I love that each week we’re joined by brave new faces. Thank you so much for contributing your amazing stories and for helping push each other onward and upward in our joint pursuit of writing magnificence. And a special thank you to all of you who made contributions toward the running of the Flash! Friday contest; I am deeply touched by your kindness. I’ve said it from the beginning: you are a community like none other. Here’s to another inspiration-filled week! 

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Judge Pratibha Kelapure says: Dear Friday Flashers: once again, you have outdone yourselves. I thought I was keeping up with my reading, but the stories kept coming, and I kept adding to the potential winners list. 🙂 So, honestly, if your story did not make it into the final winners circle, don’t fret. It is the nature of any contest. In each story, there is something striking and worth commenting on, and I do keep the list of those great lines, descriptions, or observations for each story.

This week’s nostalgic and happy picture-prompt combined with the ‘comeuppance’ word-prompt, inspired many stories of revenge and murder.  And what imaginative ways of slaying the tormentors, cheaters, stealers, mass murderers, and bad politicians! And what a wide variety of stories! Some people remembered the stock market crash of 1929 and Great Depression that followed. Some people dug up the history of the first Oscar and gave the K9, Rin Tin Tin, his well-earned honor. A brave few even traveled to the future to either solve a ‘cold case,’ or to deliver a comeuppance. The regulars dazzled me with their original takes on the prompt and flawless execution.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Worldbuilding: James Marshall VI, “No Happy Endings”: He has built a dystopian counter-culture. Image Ronin, “Metteur En Scene”: A world of theater; chinchin.unicorn, “Before He Cheats”: A vibrant bar culture.

Humor: Karl A Russell, “It Should Have Been Me”; Tinman, “A Whiff of Cordite”; drmagoo, “Cheese and Onions”; Jacki Donnellan, “The Wardrobe Mistress”;

Ending: Image Ronin, “Metteur En Scene”; Laura Carroll Butler, “The Way of All Flesh”; Aria Glazki, “Hero’s Uprising”; William Goss, “The Last Dragon in the Family”;

Dialogue: Whitney Healy, “THE DECREE”; drmagoo, “Cheese and Onions”;

Language: Katrina Ray-Saulis, Untitled; Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Lesson Learned”; Aria Glazki, “Hero’s Uprising.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

M.T. Decker, “Shades of Grey.” This is well thought out, witty, and humorous story. The Grey Lady trying to get the colors into the period photographs is a familiar character of an eager intern. A realistic portrayal of office dynamics!

Brett Milam, “Whiteface.” It is a story of a son denying his father’s legacy, but having a difficult time doing so. “He showed me how to become someone else. But I became him.” In a short span of 150 words, Brett manages to show the character transformation. The line, “Laughs subsided, but infamy subsisted forever” is truly memorable.

Craig Anderson, “Twins.” A twin laments his inferiority and compares himself to a movie sequel, “[..] sequel, an inferior attempt to recreate the magic of the original.” If you think this is imaginative, brace yourself for the jaw-dropping, table turning development.  “It’s my turn outside, my time in the spotlight. Time to collect my prize.” 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Joidianne4eva, “In the House of the Rising Sun.” Joidianne conveys the pain of an abused and ignored orphan in a few potent words. “He wore his silence like the dirty clothing that covered the scars on his back and the fragile curl of his ribs.” She used both the prompts in a subtle and original way. The sinister actions of the “no-name” boy are silently implied, never stated explicitly, leaving a lot to reader’s imagination. A perfect ode to silence!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Leading Ladies.” The story is told in second person point of view, a tricky proposition; but Marie does it effectively. The striking simile, “She enunciates her taciturn fury while her arms wave like a drowning woman’s” took my breath away.  She draws a believable portrait of the motel clerk, “(L)ipstick has leaked into the tight cracks above her mouth.”  The ending is surprising, but we can recognize the sentiment of the protagonist. Well done! 

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

DRAGON WINNER

STEPH POST!!!

for

“Ain’t That Something”

This is another interesting twist on the theme of revenge, funny on the surface, but sad and ironic on the inside. The dialogue sounds authentic. The accidental female bonding between the two female rivals is heartwarming. The image, “The circle of wolfish men,” is vivid and so is the image of Alice, “keeping her eyes on the empty martini glass trembling between her fingers.”  I had to take a double take to see the “wolfish men” in the picture prompt, but I am sold on the concept. The choice of rattlesnake as a weapon against the cheating husband sounds naïve, but is quite plausible for the simple-minded characters like Alice and Scarlett. I like this for the great character portrayal, dialogue, and the double jeopardy for the unsuspecting cheater. Bravo!

Congratulations, Steph! Your brand new (quite sparkly!) winner’s badge awaits you impatiently below. Here is your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Ain’t That Something

Alice had heard you could put rattlesnakes in their beds. Men.

“That’ll shake em up, let me tell ya.”

This from Scarlett, her husband’s mistress, teetering on gold high heels from one too many highballs.

“This girl on the chorus line with me, she said she put a rattler under her boyfriend’s sheets once. Said he never ran around on her again. Ain’t that something?”

The circle of wolfish men, including her husband, had thrown their heads back in raucous laughter, their mouths as wide as manholes, and pressed in even closer.

Alice, sitting three stools down, keeping her eyes on the empty martini glass trembling between her fingers, had wondered where the hell you could find a rattlesnake in Chicago. She had almost dared to ask, when they had found themselves eyeing one another the powder room’s mirror, but Scarlett had winked at her first.

“Corner of Knox and 53rd, honey. Just knock once and ask for Vinny.”

 

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