Tag Archive | Margaret Locke

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 49: WINNERS

Happy Monday! So glad to see y’all; it’s a gorgeous sunny autumn day here in the Shenandoah Valley, and after a fun, quick morning hike, we’re all set for the results party! 

But first: it’s a fond and heart-rich farewell to Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver and Holly Geely. Y’all have been just fabulous. I’ve loved your thoughtful comments, your passion for the community’s stories, and your all-round good humored approach to judging. What a delight and privilege working with you this round. Thank you so very, very much.

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And here are Dragon Team Five‘s parting words:   

HG: I can’t believe how quickly the past few months have gone! It’s been grand. I’ve read so many great stories and I’m so impressed by the talent and the kindness in this community. I don’t even have anything silly or sarcastic to say because I’m so happy to have been part of this.

FI: I have to echo Holly – this whole adventure has been like a carnival ride: over before the quarter hits the bottom. (I’d put in another but the attendant is telling me I’m too old for the miniature carousel.) Thank you all for the tears, the laughs, and especially for the privilege! I still don’t feel qualified to judge your words but it surely has been a pleasure walking among them and listening to the stories they’ve told.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

for Best Mental Image: Craig Anderson, “The Young King.” FI: Anyone else picture Ramon Salazar from Resident Evil 4?

for Hacking my Brain: Margaret Locke, “Autobiography.” FI: It’s like you have a camera in my head…

for Most Kick A$$ Princess: Michael Wettengel, “Refuge in Audacity.” HG: I love it when the princess fights back, and this one has attitude. Love it.

for Unrelenting Grip: MT Decker, “The Lonesome Road.” HG: Highly poetic and thought-provoking, with a gripping final thought.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Nancy Chenier, “Rescue.”

HG: The maiden is not the prize, indeed. This is a well done piece all around but the closing line is particularly clever, not an ending at all but a hopeful beginning.

FI: What I loved most about this little twisted tale was the opening paragraph, and realizing that our heroine had taken what a man, father or former conquistador, had designed to keep her prisoner and used it for her own good. Talk about empowerment!

Casey Rose Frank, “She Walks.” 

HG: The format of this story is what grips you from the beginning, and a journey with no destination has its own appeal. It speaks of a dark past but leaves the explanation to the readers imagination.

FI: Ninety-nine words of literary tapas, “She Walks” carries its power in its form. We taste darkness, melting heavy on the tongue, until hope, in a zest of orange, reminds us that it’s the going and not the where that matters. Beautiful work.

Joey To, “The Long Path

HG: The four riders are not the apocalyptic ones of lore but they might bring their own apocalypse. The narrator of this story isn’t the main character; the doomed people of the needlessly warning cities are the protagonists.

FI: One of the reasons I loved this prompt was that, as a child, I watched the Pilgrim’s Progress adaptation “Dangerous Journey” until my eyeballs bled. Not really but you get the point. You, writer, did an incredible job capturing the allegorical feel of Bunyan’s work while giving us a fresh story. The names, the foreboding, all work so well together!

Emily Clayton, “Cerise.”

HG: The short story tells a much longer one and both are tragic through and through. I think this is the greatest tragedy, not your own death but the death of a loved one because of your choices and mistakes. In a few words, true pain is captured.

FI: So much of this story is told in the periphery. We’re hooked from the first line but then only given blurry details because ultimately the history can be forgotten. It’s the outcome, the “true pain” as Holly eloquently put it, that matters. Everything else is just another shade of red.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Bill EnglesonMadame Mayor

HG: This story has my favourite corrupt mayor. Through dialogue you learn the casual indifference with which she regards her subjects. It tickles the funny bone with dark humour and hints at a much larger problem the mayor’s subjects will face.

FI: High points for the names! Even higher points for the wordplay. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheeky commentary on politicians and their “desire” for bipartisanship (does this mean the other pinkie has to go?). It might be unseemly to admit but I wouldn’t mind if this lion-sized security system were implemented in our own capitol… Very clever, dear writer.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Colin Smith, “The Farmer’s Gift” 

HG: In my heart I believe this story was a personal gift to me. He talks about protecting his soul and making offerings, and suddenly bam! It’s a pun. There isn’t much in this world that makes me happier than a well crafted pun.

FI: I have to agree with Holly, that last line won me over instantly! You pulled me in with the world you built, the religious structure you unveil, the unfamiliar names you created, and, once you had me completely, peas. Just, peas. Jarro’s smile could only be a cheeky one.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The Mountain and the Valley.” 

HG: This is lovely. The change of the identity of the mountain is gorgeous. The vision of the soldier with his sweethearts picture in his pocket… familiar, horrifying, sad. A story truly deserving of a prize.

FI: Your brilliant use of bookend phrases brought out in bold the protagonist’s change in perspective. You dragged me down into dusty alleys, made me taste the fear and the sweat, and worry for his sake. But more than that, your story holds deep meaning. It speaks for us, the significant others that are left behind, often forgotten, and shows the strength that it takes for us to carry on in a loved one’s absence. I’m not usually one to cry over stories, but you had my heart in tears, dear writer. Masterfully done.

And now: for a stunning, super marvelous FIFTH win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

NANCY CHENIER!!!

for

“Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament

HG: I’m no poet and if you know me at all you know it, but this poem is super cool (case in point). I like to read it aloud with a little goblin voice and shriek “deceivers!” The little voice saying divide, divide… awesome.

FI: This is one of those stories that I could read a thousand times over and find a new reason to love it every time. Writer, you earn so many points for originality (in fact, the direction I least expected), for cleverness (an amoeba with a spiritual and existential crisis, yes please!), and for flash on a truly micro scale (how on Earth did you fit so much into 99 words?). You have my respect, my envy, my congratulations – absolutely adored this.

Congratulations, Nancy! Thrilled to see you take your fifth crown which, truth be told, I set aside for you some time back. Check out your updated winner’s page; your winning tale has found there a comfy, non-lonely home there with your other winning tales. Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for this week’s #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament

God is Unity
Nature corrupts with its dyads
Eschew division.

Purity is in the waters, they say,
Yet my long liquid hermitage
Hasn’t cleansed my thoughts

They say, too, the urge gets easier to resist,

Deceivers!

The need to populate my loneliness
Shudders through my cytoplasm.

The mocking moons in their dual dance
Ooze across the sky.
The psalmody of our One daystar cannot mute
The taunting of wanton satellites.

Divide, they chide, divide

Under light and darkness, I strain
against that which would desecrate
my singular celibacy.

Quivering prophase
–Such lust cleaves our devotion!–
My mitotic sin.

FFwinner-Web

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Sixty Seconds V with: Michael Seese

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Michael Seese, who’s (no surprise!!) joined the elite crew of writers to have won Flash! Friday FIVE times. Read his winning story at his winner’s page here. Read his bio and previous interviews there too. And now, in 500 (ish) words, please find his interview, Flash! Friday style.

Requirements

* Up to 500 words
* In it you need to reveal 5 true things about yourself and 5 invented things 
* You’ve got 5 prompt words/phrases that you must include: flash, fiction, champion, writer, green dragon of envy
* Starting sentence: “Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here.”

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Her Lover
576 words (so sue me) *Editor’s Note: Don’t leave town.*

Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here. After all, it’s where I lost myself. And found him.

In hindsight, I suppose I must have looked like the easiest mark in the world. A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)

His come-on was so smooth.

“I will take you to places you’ve never seen, but only dreamed of.”

How I wish the good angel hadn’t gotten sloshed and slipped from my shoulder an hour ago. If she were still there, she would have screamed in my ear, reminding me of the various realities germane to my life.

You’re married. Happily. You have three kids. Three kids who often drive you insane, yet melt your heart when they ask you to lie in bed with them every night.

I should have said “No.” Correction. I should have said “No, god damn it!”

But I didn’t.

He was so smooth. So seductive. Impulse took over. I took him home.

I knew the children would be asleep, as would Grandma, who had come over watch them so I could get an evening to myself while my husband was out of town on business.

It was so…

Blissful.

Heavenly.

I didn’t want it to end, and fought to stay awake just one more minute to revel in the pleasure. But the Sandman had other ideas as he dragged me kicking and screaming from my lover.

In the morning, he was gone and I realized I had fucked up royally. I vowed to never see him again. But…

I found myself wanting him again. The sane me would would have said it was more the thrill than anything. I simply couldn’t get enough. If my husband fell asleep early, I would have him, quietly, in the basement rec room. Sometimes I’d call into work sick, and enjoy an all-day orgy of pleasure. I even tried to connive a way to hook up with him at some point during our family vacation to Florida. (Take that, Mickey!) That plan fell through, and instead I spent a week on pins and needles.

Eventually I told my best friend about the affair. Secretly, I hoped she’d smack some sense into me. She tried.

“You’re an idiot!” she said, morphing into a green dragon of envy, breathing fire and spitting venom. Ella never was one to mince words.

But I refused to listen. (What’s that expression about leading a horse to water?) I told her she was being naive. That she didn’t understand. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t know how he made me feel. She couldn’t know that when I was with him, I could do anything. Skate like an Olympic champion. Pen words like a great writer. (Admittedly, since he came into my world my ability to craft fiction had to improve dramatically.)

I thought I was being so clever. But apparently I didn’t cover my tracks as well as I’d thought. It all came crashing down. In a flash I lost it all. My dignity. My husband. My children.

My life.

So here I am, back where it all started. Alone. Anxious. Sweating. Unable to sleep. The candlelight dances in my eyes as I search for a willing vein.

A spoon is a lot deeper than one might think. The funny thing is, I don’t mind drowning in it.

Because I know he’ll be there, waiting for me at the bottom.

♣♣♣

The lies:

“A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)”

Actually, I’m tall, with hazel eyes and light brown hair. And even if I were blond, I would not be a blonde. And I hate Coke. (For the record, I suppose I also should state I’ve never done heroin.)

The truths:

I am married. Happily. I do have three kids. The rest of the paragraph pretty much holds as well.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 40: WINNERS

It’s Monday!!!! (“Not for me!” some of you are saying — Stella, I see that scowl! –but alas, work kept me out late today. Thank you for your patience. [Yes, even if that patience masquerades as a scowl. You don’t fool me one bit, you cute, fluffy bighearts.])

As it’s so late, I’ll keep announcements brief: join us TOMORROW!!! (Tuesday, in case tomorrow for you happens to be today already) for a super fun #Spotlight interview with our own Holly Geely, who’s dishing on her brand new book, The Dragon’s Toenail. And yes, of course she’s giving away a free copy! Because PAAAARTY!!!!!

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy & A.J. Walker, for judging so magnificently. Your time and effort are so deeply appreciated! Here’s what they had to say:   

V– Some stories just never grow old, and I hope we never grow too old for fairy tales. They are more than magic. They are alive. These stories are timeless, changing, ever new. They are tales of  love and betrayal, losses, hopes, memories and dreams. They are as old as life, young as the sense of wonder. This time, they sure inspired you! Thank you for sharing your contemporary takes on these tales. I so enjoyed these spirited characters and lively, compelling stories. There were so many wonderful stories, I wish I could  mention them all!  

AJW– Well, Rebekah once again left Team8 with an unenviable task (and the sad loss of not entering for such a week of possibilities – we’ve had the Arabian Nights and now the Brothers Grimm flip!). There was a strange lack of dragons considering there was an entire 300 words to play with – as most of the authors seemed to want to take Rapunzel’s locks to task (and not a single shampoo and blow dry in any of them). There were some nice comedic pieces and punning for me to get my canines into. There seemed to be a fair bit of moralising and ‘justice’ and not much schmaltzy love stuff at all – so much cynicism you guys! 

Anyway, what big eyes you lot have! All the better for reading the results I guess…

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Brevity: A.V. Laidlaw‘s “Reduced Brothers Grimm” (11 words), Geoff Holme‘s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” — (0 words) the title is the story — and Geoff’s other story (although late) “Small Ad” (17 words), an inspired take on Hemingway’s classic of the baby shoes. 

For Romance: Margaret Locke, “If Only All it Took.” This is such a charming story of the fairy tale and Prince Charming ideal. Cinderella or Belle — Beauty and the Beast?  This is a story within a story. The romance is delightful–“Yes, she really liked  Deveric Mattersley.'”

For Reality: Josh Bertetta, “Reign and More Rain.” In this world of struggle and suffering and refugees, “Where is God and justice? Life ain’t no fairy tale.”

For One Mean Girl with a Gun and a Only Just Cleaned Cape. Craig Anderson, “Basket Case.” AJW- The cocky girl with the put downs (and the ultimate put down) is just brilliant. Though I’ve now vowed never to approach a young lady with a basket – just in case.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Colin Smith, Lifeline” & Eric Martell, “Aloft on Wings of Fire.”

There were many fine tributes to 9-11 this week, and these two are at the top: Rapunzel in her tower was powerfully evocative. These stories in particular stood out to me for their vividness. The feel of the braid, the voice repeating “let down your hair to me”; and Rapunzel as savior — beautiful and haunting, both. 

Phil Coltrane, “The Night Princess.” 

Love the fantasy elements of this story — The Enchanted Forest, where “snow whirled through the summer air.” and the Castle of Ice. Minuella becomes the Princess. Sareel the Siamese cat turns into a lynx. 1000 nights pass in one night. At the first touch of sunlight, everything is gone. Time to get back for breakfast.”  To me, this story is pure magic.

Holly Geely, “So Much for Tradition.”

Starting with “Twice upon a time,” this story is fearless and funny. Princess Snapdragon’s outspoken character and her choice of true love are a refreshing twist on the traditional type of fairy tale. The ending is great — “The king and queen were miserable, but they were jerks, so who cares?”

Eliza Archer, “Change of Heart.”

The viewpoint from the letter writer was perfect. The help yourself book, a basket with the returned baby. Made me laugh – which is never a bad thing – and perfect pathos too.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Dave Park, “Expensive Lesson.”

V – A tailor is charmed by a lovely lady who promises to bring in more business to his shop. Instead, she takes advantage of him and nearly drives him out of business. This is like a classic tale. And there is a moral, too. “But she’s so nice!”  “Nice is different from good,” his mother says.  

AJW – I have to say that this was brilliantly written and sexy – even if it was written as the polar opposite of a bodice ripper. I feel complete and utter sympathy for the poor sap and his cynical – if quite correct – mother. His forlorn hope that the work would flood in whilst he still got to look after his favourite (none paying) customer is all too believable. I hope she gets her comeuppance in some other fairytale and that life improves for poor Konrad. But I too am now living in cuckooland if I expect that to happen.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The First Requisite for Immortality” 

V – “If only her death had been final”  –Is there is such a thing as death online?  “They knew her better than we did.” The grieving parents find their daughter’s life on social media–“the touch of flesh replaced with the touch of screen.”   It is  a  timeless tale  of love and loss, made even more heartbreaking by contemporary technology.   Beautiful writing, thought-provoking piece. 

AJW – This seems to hit many a nail squarely on the head. As everyone grapples with technology which only seems to grip us further around our everything our lives are lived, replicated and saved to the cloud (and GCHQ). And yet we do see stories in RL of families living almost vicariously through FB and the like. Trying to hold on to something they never truly had. It can seem so sad. The story truly got the sadness, loss and the forlorn hope and belief across. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Karl A. Russell, “Becoming Grandma.” 

V – This subject matter of this story is grim indeed—“Once her hide is clean and dry, I stand in front of the dressing table mirror to try it on…”  careful not to rip the “liver-spotted skin.”  It is the Wolf becoming Grandma — “tucking my tail into the spare folds around her belly. …her scalp flicked nonchalantly across my shoulder like a stole… If not for the handsome lupine head, I could almost pass as human.”  The voice  keeps the description from becoming gratuitously brutal.  It is a macabre story of transformation. The red lipstick hiding the red thread mending the torn lips is the perfect touch.  I thought of Silence of the Lambs, the music Buffalo Bill danced to…

AJW – Leaving the contents in the tub for later. Gruesome indeed. And a nightmare to get the rings out of later. But if the wolf can handle a lipstick I’m sure a cleaning cloth will be simple. Honestly though, a thoroughly engrossing read told with fabulous detail and seemingly effortless. A deserved runner up.

And now: for her second time — but first since November 2014 — it’s this week’s sparkly

DRAGON WINNER

CARIN MARAIS!!!

for

“Bones Beneath the Juniper Tree”

V – I admit I was not familiar with this story, but I found out more on Wikipedia. It is a famous tale from the brothers Grimm and it has been made into an opera and a film.  In the original, there is a bird and a millstone, and justice prevails.  The story here takes a more tragic turn. It starts out as a fairy tale, a happy ever after that no one at the Twilight House believes.  The reality of the present situation is sad. The true story is heartbreaking. As Marleen unwraps her brother’s bones — “What was she supposed to have told the young woman who came to see her every week, she thought. No-one really wanted to know the truth. Hear the details of how your stepmother killed and cooked your brother. How your father shot her when he found out. How he drank himself to death. How you still saw the blood and the bodies each night in your nightmares.”  The writing here is so spare and clear — bare bones and beautiful. 

AJW – Simply presented story told across just two paragraphs and as creepy as it gets. I could almost smell an old people’s home. How many of these are full of people with pasts too scary to contemplate? It seems that she is too wily to tell the truth whilst probably thinking that they couldn’t handle the truth anyway – whilst those asking the questions of the old girl know there’s something else there somewhere – and equally don’t really want to find out. Perfectly balanced story, paced well – no rushed beginning or end. Just a scary old lady with a past and a handkerchief of small bones. Well done. Sleep well.

Congratulations, Carin! Such a joy to see you in the dragon crown again at last. Please find here your freshly updated, gold-and-emerald glowing winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

Bones Beneath the Juniper Tree

“And then suddenly my brother was standing there again and he was alive. And the body of my stepmother had disappeared into thin air. And we danced and sang and were glad to have each other once more,” Marleen said as she knitted.

No-one in the common room of the Twilight House looked up. They’d heard too many variations of the story.

“And you believed this really happened?” the social worker asked, making a note of getting Marleen to a psychiatrist.

“Of course,” Marleen said. “We lived happily ever after and father married for the third time and was happy until the end of his days.” She knitted faster, not caring that she’d dropped nearly half of the stitches in the short time the woman had spoken to her.

At last the woman left and Marleen returned to her room. She took out the bundled handkerchief from its hiding place in the corner of the locked trunk at the foot of the bed. Making sure no-one could see her, she unfolded it and stared at the small bones hidden inside the cloth. What was she supposed to have told the young woman who came to see her every week, she thought. No-one really wanted to know the truth. Hear the details of how your stepmother killed and cooked your brother. How your father shot her when he found out. How he drank himself to death. How you still saw the blood and the bodies each night in your nightmares. No, she thought as she hid her brother’s bones again. Better to tell of beautiful birds and millstones crushing her head. Better to say we lived happily ever after. Better to forget all of the bones buried beneath the juniper tree.

FFwinner-Web