Tag Archive | JM6

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 17: WINNERS

Howdy! color me OVER THE MOON HAPPY–you all rocked the prompt this week. I am absolutely bonkers for the way y’all gave the judges so much to work with in addition to a guy running down a giant Colorado dune. That’s exactly how it’s done, and in STYLE. Really truly wonderful work from each of you. Thank you for sharing your time and magnificent talents here at Flash! Friday. 

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Dragon Captains Pratibha/Sinéad O’Hart say

Sinéad: What an assortment of riches to choose from this week. Stories of derring-do amid the dunes, archaeological mystery, otherworldly locales, despotic kings, and imaginings of a land without water – this week’s Flash! Friday entries had it all, and more. As a fantasy/SF nut, I was thrilled by the amount of SF-tinged tales on offer, but the ones which stayed close to home were just as moving. Thanks, you guys, for coming out in force and creating tales of such power and variety this week – but let me tell you, it made our job as judges very hard indeed! Lucky Pratibha and I are such ladies, or the ‘negotiations’ could have descended into fisticuffs…

Pratibha: Like our dragonly hostess tweeted, this week’s tales were out of the box. The great sand mound sent all of you running and sliding in so many directions that it was dizzying, in a good way. All of us in this community have come to expect such brilliance, and sometimes I forget how difficult it is to put a complete story with memorable characters into so few words. All of you do this week after week, chiseling new stories in less than 24 hours. What a talented bunch that attracts and assimilates new writers each week. So without further ado, here are the results.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Classic Movie Evocation: Michael Simko, ‘Running

Pratibha:  I loved the visual aspect of this story. I also liked the sprinkling of humor throughout the story.

Sinéad: Another great setting (and set-up) and the lines: ‘[S]ome of the locals kept chanting that we were all going to hell. At the time I thought they objected to our bicycle shorts. Now I know better’ cracked me up. But it gets a Special Mention for reminding me of one of my favourite movies, Tremors.

Special Mention for Indiana Jones-ing: Brian Creek, ‘Misread

Pratibha: “The Temple of Doom” indeed.

Sinéad:  Out of several similar stories dealing with the Big Nasty being awoken somewhere in the desert, this was the most memorable. Plus, who doesn’t love a story about hubris? This made me wish it could be turned into a movie, so that I could watch what happens next. Someone get on that.

Special Mention for Hilarity (And Best Use of a Prop): Bart Van Goethem, ‘Uh-oh

Pratibha: This one gets a nod for its brave experimentation.

Sinéad:  Need I say more? Sound effects, visual effects, and making a judge almost choke with laughter, this story had everything (besides enough words).

Special Mention for Use of Seasonal Imagery: Jessica Marcarelli, “Crucifix

Pratibha: I loved this for its somber tone and its religious imagery.

Sinéad:  It being Easter, several Crucifixion/Resurrection-themed stories cropped up in this week’s offerings, too. This one was memorable, and touching, and also managed to make wonderful use of the prompts.

Special Mention for Humour: Phil Coltrane, “Dude, What a Buzzkill!

Pratibha: I loved the lighter touch on the prompt.

Sinéad:  Great setting, great dialogue, great characterisation, and lots of humour, this story was huge fun. It managed both to be completely ‘out there’ and yet totally believable, which was an achievement!

Special Mention for World-Building: Nancy Chenier, “Preventative Measures. ” 

Pratibha: The story captures the human need for intimacy and freedom and one man’s brave attempt to pursue both. 

Sinéad: It stood out for me because, out of loads of stories set on desert planets or in sandy wastes, it focuses on a relationship, and it doesn’t just satisfy itself with finding new ways to describe how hot/inhospitable/horrible the place is. 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

JM6, “Running to Samara

Pratibha:  Ever had that caught “in-between” feeling. This story cleverly captured that fear of caught in a life of limbo without the release of death.

Sinéad: I loved the idea of the Between, and the Waykeepers, and the delicate touches with which this story creates its setting. I also loved the closing lines, and the desperation of the narrator to avoid an eternity in a place where s/he can never truly die. It exhibits skilfully executed tension, as well as an engaging voice and well-sketched characterisation.

Emmaleene Leahy, “Poking the Beast With a Stick

Pratibha:  I loved the opening paragraph with its clever and engaging style. The idea of time being measured in tin cans is hilarious. The best (or worst) blunder ever.

Sinéad: This story is clever, and well-imagined, and creates an intriguing world in a tiny space. Some of the imagery was very accomplished, including the ‘guts… like dirty washing’, but it was the idea of the only two people left after a nuclear holocaust being the person responsible, and that person’s boss, which grabbed me, as well as the ‘blunder’ being a slip-up at a nuclear power plant. What a great set-up! (Though my inner pedant won’t let me pass without saying this: it’s ‘desert’ when you mean a sandy place, and ‘dessert’ when you mean a slice of chocolate cake. And here endeth the lesson).

THIRD RUNNER UP

Voima Oy, “Land of Opportunity

Pratibha:  I loved how the contemporary sounding dialogue turns into something quite imaginative and “out of this world.” It is clever.

Sinéad: This one made me laugh, and then it made me think, and then I began to realise how clever and well put together it is. It was wonderfully imagined, slightly bonkers (in a great way), and the last line – when read in conjunction with the prompt image – is very funny. I also loved the idea of a creature in an early stage of evolution being spoken to by its ancestors – that really tickled my funny bone!

SECOND RUNNER UP

Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “A Bad Day at the Office.”

Pratibha: I love how this story superimposes usual office politics on the SF background. Both prompts are incorporated creatively. The writer paints a vivid and painful image: “sprinting down the dunes, microscopic shards of silicon berating my unprotected skin.”

Sinéad: I thought this story was another great imagining of an SF desert planet in a week where they seemed popular! Again, it focused on a person and their individual struggle, which made it so good. It features a very relatable protagonist (who among us cannot identify with their struggle?), it has a wonderful concluding line, and I loved how it sets up an entire history between our narrator and the venomous Calloway, as well as hinting at a future conflict as soon as the character is beamed back aboard the ship. From its engaging first line (‘Trusting Calloway, that was my first mistake’), this one grabbed me.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “Heart of Glass.”

Pratibha: I loved the creative use of the prompt. The story is touching, and the ending is optimistic and powerful. The somber and introspective tone of the narrator appealed to me. Loved the phrase “infinite land of purgatory.” The title is brilliant too.

Sinéad: From its great title (which set me humming straight away) to its wrenching ending, this was another tale I loved. It made excellent use of the prompts, and I loved how it reimagined the sand dunes as a cityscape, and the picture it painted of the protagonist and his/her struggles. I found it very touching, and I loved the sense of burgeoning self-forgiveness and possible hope for the future – and also the aspiration at the end, that this person will not let their circumstances define them. Such a fantastic way to conceptualise the struggle between the person and their environment as depicted in the prompt image.

And now: for her 2nd time, it’s the very talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

RACHAEL DUNLOP!!!

for

“A Story Between Me and Thee on the Occasion of Our Shipwrecking”

Pratibha: This is a clever tale of revenge.  The blunders of the enemy are piled a mile high. I liked how the story was told in the tongue-in-cheek fashion. I loved the visual images such as “decidedly not-aflame sleeve.” The imagery in the last paragraph is like a slow-moving camera picking every moment of action.

Sinéad: I think this story has it all. It makes fabulous use of the prompts, it has clever punning, it has a great setting, it’s well written, it’s funny and clever, and it has such a fresh and exciting use of voice, creating an entire character and backstory with such skill it seems effortless. It also has a fabulous title and I love that the ‘baddie’ doesn’t get killed at the end, so the only option for him is to swim to the desert island and spend the rest of whatever life is left to him in the company of the person who shipwrecked him. I also loved the dragon, ‘as likely to breathe fire out the back as out the front’ – I giggled quite excessively at that.

Congratulations, Rachael! Here’s your updated, fiery winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

A Story Between Me and Thee on the Occasion of Our Shipwrecking

I have a blunderbuss on my shoulder and a dragon in my pocket. Don’t believe me? Look. What? I never said it was a real dragon. That’s just what that little firearm’s called. A dragon. As likely to breathe fire out the back as the front, and then you’re in trouble, flames licking up your arm and you searching for a pail of something cold and wet to stick it in. Not that you’ll find any such on a desert island like this.

Meanwhile, your enemy has sailed away, laughing up his own decidedly not-aflame sleeve, and you’ve one shot left. He thinks you’ll save it for yourself, for that moment when you just want off this island, fast, and if death is the quickest way, bring it on. But there’s his blunder, because there’s not a man alive with arms long enough to shoot himself with a blunderbuss. Be a shame to waste it, though.

You take aim, squinting against the whip of sand in your eyes. His eyes go wide, then he’s lowering the row boat off the side, thinking to escape. Too late. Your shot strikes his gunpowder store and all goes up. All except the row boat bobbing towards you on the incoming tide.

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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.      

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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

SPECIAL MENTIONS

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.”

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

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.  

THIRD RUNNER UP

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.

SECOND RUNNER UP

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.

FIRST RUNNER UP

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 

DRAGON WINNER

BRITTNI HILL!!!

for

“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.

 

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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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