Tag Archive | Laura Butler

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 7: WINNERS

WELCOME to results day!!! So. Much. Fun. Thanks to all of you for your patience, your praise of each other’s stories, and above all, writing stories so marvelously strong that you give our brave dragon captains conniptions. :cough cough: Assuming dragon captains could have conniptions, obv.

We had nearly 80 entries this week; don’t forget to keep track of your own participation, as battling at Flash! Friday three times in a month will earn you the Ring of Fire badge. This week, that’s just about 80 of you dragons already a third of the way there! (The first round of eligibility will include February 6.)

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Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayWhat fun it was judging this week. We had a difficult time trying to narrow it down to the final ten, and finding an order to those ten was even more difficult. This week team three only had two similar picks, but after some rereading, re-ranking, and a very intricate point system (it’s actually not that intricate), we managed to siphon out winners.

But before we get to that, we would like to share some thoughts on this week’s stories:

  • Many of the stories were understandably similar. It’s difficult trying to think of something unique when many of the elements have already been chosen for you, but because of that, it is more important than ever to try and stand out. You will all be better writers for it.
  • This week’s required story element was setting. We would recommend focusing on the story element (no matter how you interpret beach). Bonus points were given to stories with strong settings.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Use of Structure: Mark A. King, “Mirror/Mirror.”  The structure to this was very creative and well executed. Mark used structure to his advantage.

Maximizing Setting: Natalie Bowers, “A Tangled Web.” It took place on a movie set, but (as with all good movies) the lines blurred and we forgot where we were.

Best use of a historical figure who was really a monster as a foil for an old woman who had earth in her poppy seeds: Clive Tern, “Uncle Joe and the Babushka.”

Funny Reads: Reg Wulff, “The Danger Zone.” For some (all) men, a pretty face can always get us to be just a bit stupid, can’t it?; and Rasha Tayaket, “Among Us.” Two aliens and one beach. This one should be read aloud.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tinman, Strands of Memory.” Another story that masterfully works the required story element. With one line, “The sunrise was a thin pink line of icing on the purple-green sea”, we are immediately thrust into the character’s world. The hints of comedy are genuine, which really helps bring the character to life.*side note: The Hoff vs Godzilla would have been spectacular.

Brian S. Creek, Waiting.” This story shared a similar theme with many of the others, but the open ending really sets it apart. Is Edith going crazy, is her husband really coming back after being gone so long, or is death finally coming to reunite her in the afterlife with her husband? This piece does a great job of storytelling with the negative spaces, letting the reader fill in all the blanks.

Laura Carroll Butler, “Nonna.” A lot of the stories this week were sad, seeing endings in the lines of a face of a weatherbeaten old woman, but this story put us in the shoes (or bare feet) of some young people sharing her beach. College students, expecting one kind of spring break and then finding another, learning lessons that they didn’t know they were seeking. The kind of story that brings an infectious smile to your face, not by being silly, but by warming places deep within

Michael Seese, “The Boy With the Hazel Eyes.” Are monsters born, or are they made? What happens when someone we love changes into someone we recognize, but only on the surface? A well-told story about change and war, love and loss. In another contest, we probably would have ranked it higher, but the beach wasn’t as central to this story as some.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Megan Besing, “Drifting Memories.” Our minds sometimes get cracked as we get older, but cracked isn’t entirely destroyed, and sometimes a glimpse of the person that was sneaks out from the person that is. We can’t always imagine our parents or grandparents as young people, but just like us, they were young once, their lives filled with stories. This tale weaves both of these themes into a powerful tale, and speaks to humanity and love hidden from plain sight.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Annika Keswick, “New Tires.” This one snuck up on us (like good flash fiction does). The first time through we think the old lady is being described, but then we get hit by that Eureka moment. Reading the second time through is just as satisfying (if not slightly more satisfying) because we can now see the obvious. The ending is very uplifting, stating a universal truth without trying to force it on us.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Phil Coltrane, “The Last Pilgrimage.” This is a great example of presenting the required story element in a unique way. We have a beach in this story, but the impending apocalypse really changes the scenery. The tone in this piece also made it stand out. While many of this round’s stories had a character missing or wanting something, Gretchen is accepting of the end. She becomes passive entity whose story comes to an end with a “Close parenthesis”. It is a fitting last line for this type of apocalypse.

DRAGON WINNER

DAVID BORROWDALE!!!

for

“Under the Pier, Where Lives Are Made”

Flash stories don’t come a lot more powerful than this, cramming a ton of story into 201 words. Using the old woman’s visit to the beach as mismatched bookends to the story provided a wonderful intro and outro – at the beginning, she could be reflecting on happy memories, but at the end, we know differently. Set in a time both distant and familiar, we feel her love and her loss, both for her man and for her bairn. You don’t have to have suffered a loss like hers to feel the power of her story, but if you have, it resonates strongly. The last line was haunting. Very well done.

Congratulations, Dave! Below is a haunting, powerful winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is also your brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Under the Pier, Where Lives are Made

She returns each day to the place her son was started. She shackles her bondi-blue foldaway to the railing, and lets the salt-wind rustle her memories.

***

Under Saltburn Pier it was, in 1941. Billy Hurles was her man, and he was going off to fight Hitler.

“Give me something so I don’t forget you,” he said.

“A lock of hair?”

“No.”

So they crept under the pier to be alone. But other couples were there, and she saw her own distaste reflected in the eyes of other girls. It was over quickly. She kissed him sweetly, and told herself she’d done her bit for the war.

***

She knew she couldn’t keep the bairn. She’d accept, in time, that he’d be better with a proper family; without the shame. Perhaps one day she’d see him again. But the bairn was born blue; quiet, tiny and unmoving. A priest came into the room that was already crowded with men.

“Shall I bless the child? Help him find his way to the Lord.”

“You shall not,” her father said.

***

She returns each day to the place her son was started and prays he is at peace: some days she looks up, some days down.

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 33: WINNERS!

Thank you for coming to the winners’ party! It’s always a good time here at Flash! Friday, despite this week’s tempests and shipwrecks (maybe because of them??), and I’m so grateful for your generosity in sharing your time and talents with this community. 

Thanks also to the over 900 of you who have voted so far at the #DogDays contest. You’ve got a little over 24h left (until 11:59pm Monday, DC time). Be sure to read the stories & vote for your favorite if you haven’t already. We’ve got some strong leaders, but a lot can happen in 24 hours! If your favorite is short votes, be sure to tweet/ Facebook/ megaphone for votes on their behalf. 

Find the Dog Days voting page here and in the sidebar. Winners will post at 7:30am Tuesday morning. 

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Judge Phil Coltrane says: My experience with the Flash! Friday community is that it’s an amazingly talented group with a wide variety of writing styles and genre preferences. I already knew that judging the contest would be a challenge.

Imagine my trepidation to learn that the prompt for my first judging experience was a painting based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’ve made no secret that my childhood interests were space and science fiction, not sailing ships and Shakespeare. {Editor’s Note: Caliban made me do it.}

Many of your stories were enjoyable reads on their own that excelled in certain areas — so many that it almost seems unfair to nominate a winner. But judging is a solemn and important duty, and failure to do so carries penalty of dragonfire. So, without further rambling, here are this week’s winners.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

H.L. Pauff, Untitled. We join this romance already in progress: a plan gone awry, and a heroine whose hopes are literally sinking before her eyes. Between her two contrasting choices: “the Baron’s bedchamber” vs. “the icy water”, she chooses an almost certain death as a free woman. An impressive use of genre conventions to hint at a backstory too large for the word limit.

David Shakes, “The Rising Tide.” A rallying cry set to common meter: this stiff-upper-lip commander makes no illusion: “The worst is yet to come…” The following stanzas hammer home the hopelessness of this growing metaphorical tempest, yet there is still hope for the greater cause of freedom, and a future “absolved of all our sin.” Beautifully written to fit the rhythm of the poem.

Kat Lewis, “What You Smell Before Death.” From its pulp horror title to its graphic imagery of the Kraken, this story is pure horror. All we see of the protagonist is his powerlessness: imprisoned on a ship, unable even to raise alarm about their oncoming doom. We see a snapshot of his three last moments: of imprisonment, of horrifying freedom, and of his life. The imagery builds a Lovecraftian atmosphere with a limited word count. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “Secrets.” Here we see a fascinating study of the interplay between freedom and control, love and hate, that draws the reader into this retelling of The Tempest. Although Prospero retains the illusion of control, his magic appears limited — to hatred, to secrecy, and to harm. It is Miranda’s own spells that “bridge the gaps” to provide the love and care needed to secure their freedom. Yet Miranda’s “spell cast out to net true love” again imposes control, securing her freedom and future by ensnaring her Prince.

Far from being a pawn in Prospero’s plans, this Miranda is much more in command of her own destiny, though possibly not so different from her secret-keeping father as she might like to think. As a whole, this reinterpretation provides us a better developed characterization of Miranda that is more relatable to modern readers.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Laura Carroll Butler, “Away.” “Every picture she drew was a masterpiece, anything she wrote was Shakespeare.” The parallelism of this line drew me into the story. These are the lies we tell our children, but reality will always have more burger flippers than Bards. Nor is this father perfect: although he promises his daughter the world, we see him pass out “with the smell of whiskey on his breath.” Yet he is not a bad father: the story’s central theme is the contrast between the clear-cut lines and neat happy endings of fantasy and the harsher truths of the real world.

Her father was not a perfect man, and she is not a princess in waiting, but “the best of many lessons her father taught her” is that gift of reading. It is that gift that carries her through the daily humdrum of her mundane reality by enabling her, for brief times, to get away. These are flawed, human characters to whom we can relate, and a powerful idea that we readers implicitly understand. 

FIRST RUNNER UP

SJ O’Hart, “Ariel.” From beginning to end, this story makes a plaything of language, to good effect. Phrases such as “logic forbid” and “Newton’s own English” help paint a picture of a rigid, logical society. The anastrophe at the end, “universe entire,” is reminiscent of Shakespeare, both tying this logical world together with the references to The Tempest, and signaling a reversal in the protagonist’s fortunes.

The story veers from the expected by comparing the father-daughter relationship to Ariel and Sycorax. In fact, the more obvious Miranda and Prospero comparison initially seems more fitting: his strict discipline keeps his daughter under his own control, shielded from “frivolous” knowledge, for his own ends.

It is only through her plotting and manipulation that she becomes Ariel, a spirited force of nature, and gains her own freedom. In the end, although she escapes from a prison imposed by her father and by society at large, her drastic actions in doing so force us to wonder: what force has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting universe? Overall, the author’s masterful use of language builds the setting, and lends a sense of unity to the story.

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

DRAGON WINNER

TARYN NOELLE KLOEDEN!!!

for

“Siren Song”

From the beginning, this story takes the unforeseen path of interpreting the prompt as Greek mythology rather than Shakespeare. In mythology, we often encounter murderous monsters whose motives remain a mystery. Perhaps no monster could be less sympathetic than the Siren, a creature in the guise of a femme fatale, whose sole purpose in life is to lure sailors to their watery graves with their alluring song. At first glance, writing a first-person character piece about such a monster seems an odd choice.

The Siren’s thoughts are completely preoccupied with her victims. She knows nothing of who they are, nor how she appears to them, but only that they are “nothing more than slaves” to her song. Yet she wonders (habitually) whether they deserve such a fate. She even engages in rationalization — “[p]erhaps they were vicious mercenaries” — and briefly entertains the thought of setting them free.

The plain language of the Siren’s thoughts conveys that she is not a cackling witch, a mindless creature, or a being of pure evil. Her motivations in luring her victims have nothing to do with the victims. This Siren is philosophical about these sailors, almost to the point of showing compassion.

I liked that the story manages to hint at the prompt’s obvious themes of romance, heartbreak, loneliness, and death, without actually being about any of those things. It’s a quiet, introspective piece — set against the events of a grisly shipwreck at the hands of a mythological monster. In the end, the Siren of this story is a creature free to speculate to herself as much as she wishes, but just as the doomed sailors were enslaved by their own appetites (whether pure or prurient), this Siren is also a slave to her own very literal appetites.

For its original take on the prompt, its creative exploration of the thoughts of a maligned mythological creature, and the ending revelation of the Siren’s true motives, “Siren Song” is this week’s winning entry.

 

Congratulations, Taryn! Below beckons your compellingly new winner’s badge for your wall. Here also is your rapacious, starving 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:

Siren Song

Dulcet tones carry across the restless waves, whispering promises of a love doomed to never be. I pace along my rocky hunting grounds and wonder what the doomed men see me as today. Do the loyal sailors see their wives stranded alone? Or am I a long-lost love, or a beautiful red-headed fantasy? Whatever mirage my song has thrust into their minds, it is working. Soon their ship, and their bodies, would be broken on the rocks at my feet.

As the men, now nothing more than slaves to my call, force their vessel ever closer, I wonder, not for the first time, if they truly deserve such a bloody end. Who were these sailors I had ensnared? Perhaps they were vicious mercenaries, or simply trying to provide for their families. Ought I grant these unfortunate souls their freedom? But as the ship and her crew shatter and drown, I know it matters not.

Because I am so hungry.

 

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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.”

 

FFwinner-Web