Tag Archive | JM6

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 40: WINNERS!

Howdy, and welcome back to a (surprise!!!) EARLY results post! Special thanks to our judge for slaving over many a candle to pull off this incredible feat. (Over seventy stories judged in well under the deadline?! SHOW OFF!) Thanks so much, dear, valiant Margaret!!!  

Second: thanks to y’all for your (once again) over-the-top amazing tales, EACH of which spurs all of us to write better every day.

And finally, thanks to those of y’all who made a donation this week to support the Flash! Friday community. This contest will always be free, but it takes a lot of time and effort to keep it going. We’d also love to offer more in terms of tchotchkies and prizes. Your financial support is very deeply appreciated.     

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Judge Margaret Locke says: Wow, people. The sheer numbers of the stories alone this week is enough to make this judge feel like she’s run a marathon, which is a feat in and of itself, since I. Don’t. Run. Add to that the intensity, the poignancy, the brilliance of so many of the entries, and I tell you, I feel as if I’ve run the gamut of emotions, as well.

You don’t make it easy. But you make it worth it. Two things I want to note before delving into the winners: 

  1. If on any given week you don’t make it into the top whatever, don’t give up. While excellent story writing always shines through, there’s a great amount of subjectivity to this here judging gig. I agonize and I worry and I wonder if I’ve made the right call. I have to pick what speaks to me most, but frankly, I’m just a fellow writer myself, and I know my picks may vary from other judges’ picks, or what you yourself might have chosen.
  2. However, as I said in my judging guidelines, presentation counts. PROOFREAD. Proofread again. I have had to rank stories lower than I might otherwise because of typos, grammatical errors, missing punctuation, and the like.

It also really does catch my eye when authors search for a unique take on the prompt. There were numerous stories depicting the main character’s physical experience of running, numerous tales of people running from destruction, a number of stories incorporating illness as part of war. There’s nothing WRONG with that, of course, and well-written stories that follow familiar or obvious themes are still accolade-worthy. I’m just noting that the ones that break the mold do snag attention.

OK, enough of that! Onto this week’s winning stories!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

TITLE: “This is Suicide (But You Can’t See the Ropes),” by joidianne4eva frames the story well, and is so arresting in and of itself.

HUMOR: “The Battle of Marathon,” by Mark A. King. The title is wonderful, playing off history and then the contest of the story, but I particularly loved the line, “Today this, tomorrow we’ll be saying elevator, faucet and spelling things without the letter U”. Made this American Anglophile laugh out loud.

RHYTHM: “The Enemy Within,” by Rachael Dunlop. A number of stories wrote about the personal experience of running, but this one made me feel as if I were running along in rhythm to the story.

LINE: “Refugee,” by Van Demal. “Insurgency. It even sounds like a disease.I just loved that – went back to read it numerous times.

LAST LINE: “Oracle,” by Nancy Chenier. “In war, truth is the first to perish.” Brilliant line – so emotionally evocative, and yet so factually succinct.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Jacki Donnellan, “The Winner.” I so appreciated bits of humor injected into what was otherwise a large number of depressing stories (no wonder, given the photo and the word prompt). This story amused me with its irreverence, its cheekiness, its use of the phrase, “Completely Non-Competitive Games.” This reminded me of some of the “sports teams” my children have been on, and I enjoyed the main character’s flippant war against this overly P.C. way of life.

Catherine Connolly, “Silent Struggles.” Of all the stories chronicling battles against illness and/or against the self, this one spoke to me the most, with its rich, poetic imagery, including fabulous phrases like “pared me to planes and edges.” I even like that I’m not quite sure what the main character is battling, but given s/he says, “I will not rush to get there. I know how this race ends,” suggests to me it’s someone who knows they’re facing death, but who is carrying on anyway, even if slowed from a run to a crawl.

David Shakes, “Photojournalist Hits The Wall.” Talk about opening a story with a bang! What a layered, loaded question. I simply loved it. A photojournalist as main character was a unique perspective, as well. I enjoyed the plays-on-words with “ran” and “snapped,” the varies uses of which pulled the lines into (pardon the pun) sharper focus. The poignancy of the last paragraph, and then the shocking last line, in which the photog’s focus seems to be less on the victim he helped, but more on the fame he lost, really struck me and stuck with me.

Brett Milam, “Death Throes.” Oh, that opening line. Those opening paragraphs. Visions of suicide bombers from recent news reports flashed through my head, even though we discover, of course, that this is not a current events story. Still, it haunts because of the modern parallels, and because it mixes moments of childhood in with an awful, terrifying situation in which we hope children would never be involved. The line “War was always egotistical” is horrifying accurate.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “At War.” This story snagged my attention more on the second and third read-throughs than the first, because after knowing the ending, I could appreciate how well-crafted the beginning was. The vocabulary that echoes the language of war, the repetition and yet variance of body parts mentioned in the first paragraph; both of those uses of language drew me in. And then comes the line about “The Olympics is war without guns,” a line echoed at the end. Such a strong – and true in many ways – statement, and how well it contrasts with the ending, in which, indeed, no gun was used to win, but it was clear it was all-out war, with brother killing brother. 

SECOND RUNNER UP

JM6, “Report From the Front.” When the first story hooked me right away, I wondered if it could hold its own against the stories to come. It did. The dead-pan announcer giving the play-by-play as if it were all a game, a horse race to be run, was surprisingly effective at emphasizing the true horrors of war – and how, from a safe distance, many of us watch, merely spectators to repeated atrocities. The humor in lines such as “Others perished from sniper fire by belligerent separatists unable to field a team of their own” magnified the absurdity, and again the horror, of war. The last paragraph, so succinct, echoing newscasters and sportscasters from days gone by, drives home the sense of futility about it all.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “The Great Race.” First of all, I love the double implication of the title, referring to both the literal footrace, but also to the human race, which often sees itself as invincible. And then comes the opening line. What? A brontosaurus in a story about war and marathons? I knew this one was going to be different, and funny. Vivid descriptions, such as “huge purple tongues of fog,” enhanced the story, and I loved the rather tongue-in-cheek delivery, especially in lines like, “A stegosaur was willing, but there were fears he would forget the message by the time he arrived.” Just when I wondered if the author was going to tie the story back to the prompts at all, they did, moving from dinosaurs to hairless apes, and delivering that marvelous last line, “Death is what is chasing you.” Well done.

And now: taking the crown for her first time at Flash! Friday is

DRAGON WINNER

TAMARA SHOEMAKER!!!

for

“Vain Race”

Oh, the poetic language of this story grabbed me from the start. I’m a sucker for the emotional punch rendered in rhythmic and/or poetic language, and this story knocked me over. The set up in threes, each part repeating and yet differentiating itself from the one that came before, worked. The echoing in the lines “Nightmares / A bullet / Cancer crosses the finish line first” was simply fantastic. The richness of the language throughout the story set it apart – such vivid imagery, such emotionally evocative turns of phrase, made me feel as if I were running along with these suffering souls. Such a sad tale, but wonderfully rendered. Well done, Tamara! Well done!

Congratulations, Tamara! 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:

Vain Race

One runs from fear, the monsters of his past slavering at his heels.
His father’s fingers press against his throat,
Anger distends his features, twisting, purpling, panting—
Daddy’s familiar face the scene of a monster.
Death from fear or flight to freedom? Nightmares cross the finish line first.

One runs from love, tears and kisses shrouded in but a memory
The taste of her lips haunts his dreams,
Shivers across the flesh of his arms.
Mea culpa, my Father. I have sinned in the arms of a married woman.
Death from vengeance or flight to freedom? A bullet crosses the finish line first.

One runs from death, the Reaper’s cold breath shimmering in the darkness behind.
The pain creeps into his lungs, pulsing, aching.
He inhales, and a knife slices down deep inside.
He coughs, wipes the blood that bubbles past his lips, speeds his pace.
Death from bleeding lungs or flight to freedom? Cancer crosses the finish line first.

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 29: WINNERS!

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Jess

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

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SPECIAL, SPECIAL MENTION

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

SPECIAL MENTIONS

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

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

Craig Anderson, “Resolution.” What a twist!

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

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

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

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

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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

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

THIRD RUNNER UP

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

SECOND RUNNER UP

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

FIRST RUNNER UP

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

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

DRAGON WINNER

MAGGIE DUNCAN!!!

for

“Mindfulness”

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

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

Mindfulness

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

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

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

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

Procedure here is all important.

 

FFwinner-Web