Tag Archive | Mark King

Fire&Ice Sol 19/19: WINNERS

The Fire&Ice dragons say: –>THANK YOU.<– That’s really all we have to say, so if you’re pressed for time, please tuck those two words in your hearts and go on about your day knowing your words and presence meant something here.

It seems crazy that a long-defunct flash contest should crank up again, let alone that so many of the original community should return to take part. But you did, and oh, our hearts, seeing your names and hearing your voices again! Deepest thanks to our twelve judges, who went above and beyond our presumptuous, out-of-the-blue request to serve again. Thanks to:

Craig Anderson, Nancy Chenier, Stephanie Ellis, Mark King (whose heroic determination to write through old Flash!Friday prompts sealed our decision to relaunch), Eric Martell, Sinéad O’Hart, Voima Oy, Karl Russell, David Shakes, Tamara Shoemaker, Betsy Streeter, and AJ Walker

Please follow them all. Buy their books. Listen to their words. And as for you, dragon captains! dear friends: please keep on writing. Your words are fire (and ice!).

Thanks too to Carlos Orozco for banner design and Justin Hess for Fire-and-Icing our Flash!Friday dragons. And to all those who helped in myriad other ways, promoting, sharing, encouraging us, anonymizing the tales for our judges, and investing in the community by commenting so faithfully on stories: we appreciate you so much! And as always, undying gratitude goes to the unbelievably talented Susan Utley of Haunted Waters Press (whose latest issue of From the Depths just dropped, we’re excited to note!) for guiding us with your magic way back at Flash!Friday dawn.

Finally, thanks to you, the writers who in the midst of a crushing global pandemic, showed up week in, and/or week out, sharing your stories and reading others’. You are what made this venture the uplifting little corner of the Interwebs that it’s been. We are in your debt.

Last item of business: on Wednesday December 23 we will send this site & the Twitter account back to their slumber-phase. However, we will leave in place a static page with directions for how to find past posts and stories. No story shared here will ever lose its place. ❤

And now, to the final batch of winners!

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres took turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). For the finale, your judges were the Fire&Ice hosts, Rebekah Postupak and Deb FoyAs 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. ♥ 


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Ice Dragon shout-outs: Every time I’ve had the opportunity to judge—at Flash! Friday before and now with Fire&Ice—I’m reminded again what a difficult, rewarding, and humbling (!) task it is. Wrestling with what makes good flash fiction, breaking down a story to its graphemic components, fighting imposter syndrome—all of it challenging but worth it. Thank you for entrusting us with your words; it’s been an honor and a joy. ♥ Many of my shout-outs overlap with the Fire Dragon’s but I’d like to give additional special mentions to Cindy Vaskova for some stellar world-building in “Mercy“, to Arcane Edison for firecracker voice in “The Last Boy Racer in the Universe“, and to Brett Milam for tenderly crafted magic in “Rocking Along“, a story that emphasizes the beauty in just being.

Fire Dragon shout-outs: Oh goodness, so many of you had me laughing out loud this weekend, including quite impolite snorts over Vicente Ruizs meta-hilarious cheat withUntitled,” Firdaus Parvezs looping narcissist in her own cleverUntitled piece, and the part impressed, part painful groans forced by Tinmans otherwise grate story, “Keeping the Flame.” –Additional shoutouts to Nancy Chenier forBelong,” with its flawless layering of the haunting surreal with the all-too real; and Mark King‘s “Londandoah(for the record, Dark Hollow Falls is one of my favorite falls anywhere! and Old Rag is dearly beloved); this story pulled off a setting mashup in a way that shouldn’t have worked, but wound up breathtakingly lovely—how did you do that?!. I’d never have guessed before 2012 that the Thames and the Shenandoah share the same water, but thanks to you and #FlashDogs, now I can’t imagine it any other way. 


HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Omega by P.A. Duncan

DF: Between the gnawing cold and the simple, very human relief of something as low-tech as snowshoes in a deadly ice-scape, I felt immediately grounded in this piece. The setting, also, is unique while still tying in to the picture prompt in a striking visual. But what stayed with me after reading “The Omega” was the vast, fully-formed universe that opens up at the end, as if this world, the sister ship, and these two characters locked in tension with one another, all exist in some future iteration of our multiverse. 

RP: It’s the imagery that captured my eye in “The Omega,” from the tiny, wrenching shroud at the opening to the color of the shrine (“a rust-red beacon”) against the snow to the fur-wrapped, dying protagonist at the end. The dueling parallels in this story, too, are breathtaking. Twin ships. Two remaining survivors. Hoshi’s hand frozen above the transmit button in contrast with the speaker’s literally frostbitten fingers. This story is just so wonderfully crafted start to finish. 

Untitled by Pippa Phillips

DF: Phenomenal characterization here! The boys, Mr. Funaki, Miss Yuki with her hair down to her feet, all of them strut, shuffle, and glide straight off the page. I love, especially, how something done in mocking cruelty, like building the arch crooked, only makes Mr. Funaki’s validation that much sweeter (and perhaps, poetically, ensures the effectiveness of the portal’s magic!). Captivating bit of flash.  

RP: I. Love. This. Story. The compelling voice (“The boys didn’t know how their teacher bagged a dish like Mrs. Funaki”) of a fantasy in 1940s LA (!). Mr. Funaki’s vibrant culture that’s both familiar and not. And the utterly vivid expression on Rinjii’s face—I can see it!—as he gazes through the arch, realizing Mr. Funaki was right but that he alone knows this. You drew me deep into this world in such a striking, memorable way, and I need to know what happens next, please.

RUNNER UP

Dayspring of the Gods by Phil Coltrane

DF: Humor is one of the most challenging forms to write, and this piece is an excellent study in how to pull it off well! There’s a punchline (and it’s good!) but the story itself isn’t sacrificed to it. Knowing the characters we’re journeying with here (and the tricks they often employ), requires an immediate re-read to peel back the layers of those last three paragraphs, let alone catch the clever hints in a name like “fellow-beard” or the meaning of a glint in the eye.

RP: “Dayspring” draws on Norse mythology and ends with a punchline: but what I love is how the story isn’t just a vehicle to reach a joke. The characters—the shakujō-wielding monk, the one-eyed, bearded sojourner—leap off my screen; their perfectly paced dialogue crackles and snaps, as does the highly visual world you’ve painted for us. You’ve taken existing myths and a classic setup, but made them beautifully your own. Reading the story (full disclosure: again and again and again 😀 ) was sheer delight.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

TAD KELSON (GamerWriter)!!!

for

Silence

DF – I love so, so much about this story. The tender connection between Uncle and Nephew conveyed in moments both resonant—the childlike comparison of an uncle to an Oni—and thematically cohesive—the shared haiku welcomed with praise and met with a demure response. All of it made more beautiful for the absence of punctuation, as we’re gently nudged into letting go of traditional structure with the promise that the words and line breaks are strong enough to hold the images themselves. And they are. I would read a whole novel that follows this quiet, unassuming pair from their (or their kind’s) beginning “hiding in the bottoms of strange boats” to the moment the shadows swallow one and leave the other to silence.

RP — This story seized both of us at first pass, and it refused to let us go. Even now, days later, its utter simplicity startles, engages, compels me. I love the uncle’s prosaic vulnerability against the nephew’s more optimistic deference; you can tell it’s a relationship that has steeped and simmered over the years to become this beautiful, familiar, comfortable thing. I love too all the speckles and flickers of light: the rising sun at the opening contrasted with the extinguished candle and shadows at the end. And ohhhh the worldbuilding hinted at just past the edges of sight: the uncle and nephew unseen by the living, surrounded only by shadows. It’s in Uncle’s haunting, mysterious haiku that the veil’s pulled back for just a moment, and its ancient, wandering secrets stole my own breath away. It’s loss, and family, and love, and mystery, and magic, and poetry all wrapped up in one, and a perfectly fitting story to end Fire&Ice’s run. ❤       

Congratulations, TAD! Please check your email for details about claiming your prize. Now here’s your winning story:

SILENCE

The sun is rising
Perhaps to you nephew

He had always scared me when we were younger
Like some Oni become my mother’s brother
No longer

I wish to visit town
Yes Uncle
Along our narrow streets people live their lives, unaware of us.
We move slowly down towards the rest of them

It seems so cold
Button your jacket uncle.
He once told me of how we came to this land, hiding in the bottoms of strange boats, stowaways Generations ago

Distant echoes of May the Buddha Bless You

Take down my words nephew
Yes Uncle

Candle, in the night
Unknowns seeking for others.
Never showing all

Not bad Uncle
It needs work
Well tomorrow then. Try again
Maybe

Shall we visit the blossom girls and their fields soon?
Maybe

Instead of going anywhere we find two empty benches
The gate rises in front of us
Silent, offering no answers
We sit and pay silent homage to all the others come to do the same as we

It is warmer now Nephew
His candle flickered finally, going out.
I watch, as he slowly fades away into the shadows that surrounded him his entire life
I go home alone

Fire&Ice: Sol 15/19

§ Rebekah says: Our sunset draws nearer: after today Fire&Ice has just three regular contests plus the grand finale to go! Included in that timeframe will be a focus on you, via our Flash! Future Sunday feature. [The deadline to submit for that is the same as today’s Fire&Ice: 11:59pm tonight, Washington DC time. Guidelines here.] As for the grand finale, well, we intend to go out with a roar (by which I mean prizes, of course 😀 ). Deb and I welcome you to take a deep breath and race with us to what’s sure to be an exciting finish. Thanks for being here!

QUESTIONS? Tweet us at @FlashFridayFic, shoot us a note here, or tap any of the judges.

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Fire&Ice Guidelines: 

Time: The Fire&Ice contest is open between exactly 12:01am to 11:59pm on Fridays, Washington DC time (check the current time here). Entries submitted outside of this window are welcome, but will be incinerated ineligible to win.

How to Play: Write and submit an original story 1) based on the photo prompt and 2) including EITHER the fire dragon or ice dragon‘s requirement. Pay attention to the 3) varying word count constraints! Story titles (optional) are not included in the word limit. At the end of your story, add your name or twitter handle, whether you chose the fire or ice dragon’s element, and word count. That’s it!

Be sure to review the contest rules here.

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JUDGES: Today’s judges are Mark King and Stephanie Ellis. Check out their bios on the Fire&Ice Judges page.

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AND HERE IS YOUR PROMPT:

Each Fire&Ice prompt includes 1) a photo, 2) a required element (choose between the fire dragon or ice dragon’s offering), and 3) a specific word count. Your story must include all three requirements to be eligible to win.

Photo for Sol 15/19

Fire & Ice Prompt

Required elements:

Fire dragon option: include something/someone unseen

OR

Ice dragon option: include something/someone foreseen

Today’s word count: 180-190

Fire&Ice Sol 11/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: I said before and am delighted to say again what a joy Mondays are! This is particularly true when the previous week was a bit of a bear. (Thanks to those of you expressing concern for my surgery; I am home and resting well.) -We’re pushing on through 2020—can you believe we’ve got 11 sols behind us already!?—and I for one am delighted by the opportunity to write alongside you these few precious remaining weeks. Stay tuned & keep writing with us, because we plan to end our run of Fire&Ice with a bang

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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 11’S JUDGES SAY:

Tamara Shoemaker:  This week’s stories cut a sharp dichotomy between despair and joy, happiness and sorrow, as per the prompt options. Each story resonated with such feeling that it was difficult to think of anything else, so background chatter from my darling offspring was abruptly cut off with a sharp Monty Python-esque: “Go away, or I shall taunt you a second time,” leaving my offspring hopelessly confused, but allowing myself to continue on with my reading enjoyment. 

Thank you, again, for contributing your considerable talent for this contest; it is, as always, such a privilege to delve into your work! Before we move on to prizes, there are a few shout-outs I want to stir into the pot: R.J. (Rebecca) Kinnarney‘s “What Colour Is This?: For the superb exploration of two levels of conversation; Becky Spence‘s “Untitled (4pm)“: For the vivid climax and plunge of a tragic emotional roller-coaster. Betsy Streeter‘s “The Flawed Lens“: For the multitude of shapes throughout this piece that cut to the heart.


Eric Martell:

I was clearly drawn to darkness in these stories. Even the ones that chose joy that spoke to me still involved loss and death. I see literally no joy in the world right now, so I guess that’s where my headspace was. Because of this, I have chosen to let Tamara choose the top story – I think her perspective was more open than mine, and her words describing it are powerful. That being said, there were truly beautiful explorations of the dark this week. I see as much beauty in a stark, barren landscape in the winter as anyone does on the most vibrant spring day, and some of these stories took me along that path. Thank you all for taking us with you on your journeys.

A few other stories worthy of comment: Betsy Streeter‘s “The Flawed Lens“: Who doesn’t have a “you”-shaped hole in their life? Who doesn’t ache for a parent or a lost love of, in this story’s case, a lost child? Bill Engleson‘s “Maeve“: This story didn’t quite use the prompt given, but I thought it was worthy of comment. How do we wear our figurative or literal masks to keep us safe, to keep us from breaking? Can we wear them after loss? Should we? Bart van Goethem‘s “The Clouds in October“: October is my favorite month, in part because of the grey weight of the sky and what it reveals about the encroaching dark. This story made me see those clouds and feel their importance.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Whispers in the Mouse’s Ear by Phil Coltrane

TS: This story strikingly encapsulates a child’s view of tragedy and the simplicity of innocence, and the contrasting gap between “Those flowers are all dead” and “The flowers were so pink” impacts on many levels. Well done!

EM: You could picture these two kids in that attic, talking and playing, using words that children use, knowing only pieces of the world around them, but more pieces than we as adults sometimes realize.

Hearing Voices by Helen Laycock

TS: From the analogous first sentence (creeping thyme/creeping time) to the last (I feel her joy, and I know she feels mine), this story sings, nearly literally, with longing for the loved one who is absent and the joy of finding him in memory. So good!

EM: That last line gets me – “Probably nods.” Grief and loss and voices that make make a child feel loved.

RUNNER UP

Return to the Wailing Wood  by Mark King

TS: This story reaches into a place identifiable to many people: where a spot held dear by a loved one is horribly empty. How often has this year brought such pain into stark reality? This story touches on a sore point for many of us, and yet how it makes us feel seen, recognized, and understood as we each long for the “one who’s missing.”

EM: When we lost what would have been our first child, I learned how many other people out there had gone through the same kind of tragedy. It’s a beautiful vision, a world in which all of those losses are taken away, if only for a day, and we can see those children laughing and playing and living. It’s the kind of joy that can’t help but break your heart, and therein lies its power.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

NANCY CHENIER!!!

for

What Remains

TSThis one took me four close perusals to really begin to grasp the intricacy and depth of this piece. I loved how the three persons of the prompt picture were, according to the third paragraph, different manifestations of Hana, each person a representation of the choices she could have made, but didn’t. The narrative as a whole was a vivid commentary on risk-taking, and begins with Hana plodding beneath the trappings of normalcy, before she steps off the beaten path and flees through the flowers, where salvation gives new air, new life, immunity from the encumbrances that have held her captive for so long. No one else follows: only Hana the Risk-Taker. She does the thing no one else has courage to do. She finds the break, she climbs to freedom. Beautiful writing throughout leaves me speechless, and the message fills me with inspiration. This was so. well. done!

EMI took a fresh look at this story after reading Tamara’s comments on it – trying to set aside my inner despondency. The language is beautiful and evocative, descriptive and lovely. I want to know what the difficulties were, and I want to trample the blossoms with Hana. A worthy choice for winner, and I’m glad that we get to judge in pairs

Congratulations, NANCY! Here’s your winning story:

WHAT REMAINS

As Hana approaches the phlox fields, her stomach gives a lurch. She hasn’t gone blossom-viewing since the difficulties. But it’s May, and that’s what’s done.

Breathing her discomfort down to a flutter, she steps onto the paved river that flows through the profusion of moss pink. Crowds once thronged these fields, annual group photos backdropped by shibazakura brilliance. Even during the difficulties, a few would venture here searching for normalcy.

Normalcy. No. She cannot be tugged by the hand into the childishness of the past, nor bent by the loneliness of the future. Even those who survived the difficulties succumbed to the anguish of comparisons.

There’s only now.

And now, her feet trample humble blossoms. Shame halts her. Straying from the path is not done. She’s ruining it for… everyone… else.

The flutter becomes an earthquake.

She drops her parasol and runs–away from comparisons, from normalcy—until she collapses at the crest of a knoll.

Petals kiss her cheek. She breathes in their earthy pungeance. The sky bends over her to nuzzle the rosy horizon. Evening shades to indigo. Stars wink at her through the darkness.

Although it’s not done, Hana remains all night.