Tag Archive | Margaret Locke

Fire&Ice Sol 1/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: You did it! You battled the fire & ice dragons on Sol 1 and survived! We’re so grateful to the hordes of you who joined Friday’s competition, and who came back over the weekend to support each other by commenting. As writers, whether we’re cobwebby seasoned or brand new, there’s so much we can learn from each other. Thank you! Be sure to drop by this Wednesday for our first Flash! Past feature, where we’ll update you on what’s going on with a favorite (or in this case, favourite) Flash! Friday writer.  

§ Foy says: Well, that was spectacular! Landing in any arena can stiffen the spines but especially one dominated by other battle-scaled beasts. My admiration and affection to you all. The heart of Fire&Ice beats most boldly when we reach out, when we speak up, when we serve, and you all have done that here. We are grateful for each of you.

♦♦♦♦♦

Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 1’S JUDGES SAY:

Craig Anderson: 2020 finally redeems itself! When I got the email saying that Flash! Friday was back on I whooped and cheered like a little kid. During the hiatus I spoke of FF regularly to anyone that would listen, harking back to the ‘good old days’ when a bunch of awesome writerly folks would have a virtual shin-dig every week. It was so very lovely to see both familiar faces and sparkly new people joining in the fun.

And what fun it has been! Judging with Sinéad was an absolute joy, and I learned a whole lot along the way. We had some really great back and forth where she pointed out the subtleties that made your stories really shine. There were several instances where Sinéad helped me to better appreciate a story at a whole other level, picking up on those words that seemed so innocent at first pass, but so very meaningful upon closer inspection. That is one of the things that I always love about flash fiction, every word has to pull its weight. A 150 word story, that at first appears to be a fun puddle to splash around in, can be as deep as the ocean when you take a moment to break the surface.

A great example of that is the single line from Mark King‘s The Return, ‘like an iceberg, his visible scars were just the edges.’ Such great imagery that both ties in to the prompt and paints an achingly vivid picture. That same story features some beautiful contrast, from the darkness and bleakness at the start, to the cerulean blueskies of hope at the end. Great stuff!

Another special mention goes to Margaret Locke‘s Two Halves Make a Hole, which also played with that mid-point shift. The flip from two people complementing each other to consuming each other was perfectly executed, and from that point on the sentences switch from long and flowing to short and punchy. It is a perfect example of using a shift in tone to emphasize the themes of the story. 

Those were just a couple of examples, but there were so many great stories to pick from. You lot made it extremely hard to choose the winners, but choose we must!


Sinéad O’Hart: What a fantastic start to Fire&Ice! There were so many wonderful tales, each burning with volcanic power or thrumming with frozen majesty, that reading them was a privilege. I’m so pleased to have been first into the judging seat, alongside the marvellous Craig Anderson, and luckily we didn’t differ very much on our choices (it was a small skirmish, I assure you; neither of us lost more than a scale or two from our weathered dragon hides!)

I wanted to begin by thanking everyone. Writing flash is such a skill, and when a piece works – it *really* works. There were stories here which unfolded on a second or third reading, revealing more meaning tucked away in their tightly-controlled prose; there were tales which made me laugh, and others that stopped my breath. We had many stories about portals and awakening beasts, and each of them brought something new and unique to the table. We had fury, we had pain, we had loss and grief and love and more, all of it, in these tiny tales. What great writers you all are.

I want to make special mention of Taryn Noelle Kloeden‘s The Right to Cold, which will stay with me always, both the title and the tale itself. I also loved the glimpse of Jormungand the World-Serpent in Steph EllisUnlikely (my medievalist heart glowed). And, needless to say, the funny tales – particularly the meta-stories – brought a smile to my leathery chops. Thanks to Bart Van Goethem‘s The Awakening, and Esther van den Heuvel‘s untitled tale which gave us all a mention. I loved the final ‘Snap’ in Artie DintersLast One, and the closing image of Brett Milam‘s Crackle; brilliant stories, both. But, sadly, winners must be picked! And so, here we go.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Reflection by Becky Spence

SJO: I loved the feel of this tale; the sorrow and finality, the sense of threat, the separation from family, and the imagery of the petals and the water.

CA: This story put one-word sentences to great use to break up the flow of the story, punctuating it and really emphasizing the word in question. It staggers along, disjointed and bleak, with crying and bodies. Then when the family appears it starts to flow again, and the imagery becomes poetic, with tumbling cherry blossoms and laughter. The way that the petal surfaces does a great job of bringing that happiness into the ‘real’ world, and then just as suddenly it is snatched away again.

Untitled by Betsy Streeter

SJO: We were united in our appreciation for this hilarious depiction of a choir of singing (and burping) caves, and the use of all-dialogue was wonderful.

CA: I loved this one because it does something really well that you could never do in a longer story: it only uses dialogue to tell the story. So much character comes through in the banter between the voices and the playful way they tease each other. I also liked that it took things in a different direction, the prompt was so icy and bleak, and yet this story is light and funny.

RUNNER UP

In the Maw of Gul-Go-Thor by Phil Coltrane

SJO: What begins as just another ‘expedition to the frozen wastes’ story turns completely on its tail with that fantastic last line. This piece of flash shows how powerful the form can be – it’s a fully-developed story in its own right, but one which explodes into a million possibilities by the end.

CA: Wow, what a great example of how a single line can twist a whole story on its head. Its always the sign of a great flash fiction when the first thing i do after reading it is immediately go back and read it again! I loved how all the senses were invoked, the sharpness of the view, the moaning of the ice, the smell of perfume in the air, even the throat and cheeks that burned like whiskey. It’s hard work to convey so much information is such a short piece of flash, but here everything flows together so seamlessly to paint a vivid picture.

And now: for the very first time, we are pleased to announce the very first 

FIRE&ICE WINNER

CASEY ROSE FRANK !!!

for

How Do You Know”

SJO – This story slipped past me on first reading, and it was on a second read that its deeper meaning opened up before my eyes. I loved the play on ‘ice’ (not just the literal ice, but the diamond on Cora’s finger and, possibly, the cold shard in her heart too), and the incredible subtleties of meaning – the ring painfully misplaced, the cold hands inside the glove, the freedom of Cora’s thoughts compared with the stasis of her body and her situation. A wonderful and worthy winner.

CA — I was similar to Sinéad in that I had to read this one a couple of times to truly appreciate it. That subtlety is one of the most powerful things about this story, it creeps up on you. The imagery is quiet and unassuming, the thought about the waves travelling across the ocean to lap upon a warm beach, or the water pulsing in time with her heart beat. Then the layers of meaning start to bob to the surface. The water that can’t stay still is suddenly cemented in place as a glacier, but it never truly stops moving, it is still only ‘semi-permanent.’ Her diamond ring twisted on her finger, awkward and painful, and a final pang of jealousy that the water is free to flow away as it pleases, while she remains trapped. There’s just so much going on, and the whole thing is perfectly encapsulated in only 160 words. 

Congratulations, Casey! Here’s your winning story:

How Do You Know

Cora had grown up amongst the constant current of rivers and lakes, and spent most summers submerged in an ocean that pulsed in the tandem with her heart.
But here she found water made land.
She stared at the ripples below, streaming away from the boat, perhaps going on to become a wave against a warmer shore. Or something as grand as a glacier, like a waterfall.
A sliver of ice broke off into the water and bobbed away.
She wondered how such solid semi-permanence existed right up against something incapable of keeping still.
How did the water choose?
Elliot’s gloved hand found hers and squeezed. She felt the sharp diamond edge of her ring twisted the wrong way against her fingers, awkward and painful under the fabric that still left her hands cold.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
She smiled and agreed it was, but kept watching the water that flowed beyond the horizon, moving farther than she could see.

 

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.

♦♦♦♦♦

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.

♦♦♦♦♦

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.

♦♦♦♦♦

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

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.”

♦♦♦

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.