Tag Archive | Mark Morris

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 19: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all, and welcome to Monday! The Team Three judging captains have arrived at the ceremony hauling carts spilling over with jewels. I apologize in advance if their eagerness to fling them every which way leaves a few bruises. It’s a wild and insane sort of day in the world of flash fiction. (Or are “insane” and “world of flash fiction” redundant?)

Don’t forget to let us know if you’ve submitted stories three Fridays this month and have thereby earned the Ring of Fire badge! Details over here on our mega sparkly Wall of Flame. LOVE seeing this list: y’all are a talented, interesting, and wildly diverse group of writers. What an honor to read your work and get to know you a bit. Thank you! 

Finally: let me encourage you again (warning: you’ll hear me repeat this frequently over the next couple of weeks) to consider applying to take a turn as a dragon captain judge for the next term. I love the apps that have already come in; wheeeeeeeeeeee doggies, are we going to finish off Year Three in style! Details here

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Dragon Captains Eric Martell/Carlos Orozco sayWhat a great week of stories. This round was one of the most difficult to judge. Not only because all the food references made us hungry (ok, we won’t lie. That did have something to do with it), but because every story had something unique that made it difficult to count out. This week our top tens only had one story in common (goes to show how great all the stories were). As a reminder, we favored those stories that used the kitchen setting the strongest. Your story could have been phenomenal, but if it simply mentioned a kitchen (doesn’t really count as setting), it wasn’t rated as highly. We should note that if any of you ever go to prison, we’re not eating what you’ve cooked up. 🙂

Now see if your story was sliced and diced or if it made its way to the winners circle. . .

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Should be a TV Show: Nancy Chenier, “Palladium Chef.” This is a show we would definitely tune in for. The commentators are phenomenal.

Best Bait: Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Trespasser.” First line we bit, second line we were hooked. It was a simple yet enticing intro.

Kill-tacular: Mark Morris, “Death by Caramel.” Lots of deaths this week, but this was one of the most creative. We hope we are never left alone with this writer (we kid…maybe).

Chubby Checker Award: Nancy Chenier, “Keep Out.” This story packs a twist that would make Chubby Checker proud.

Thank you for posting an untitled story Award, Part OneKaija Marasðottir, “Untitled.” “Adeline could see the docks…” Fog hides the secrets we wish we could see and the ones we wish would stay hidden forever.

Thank you for posting an untitled story Award, Part TwoColin D. Smith, “Untitled.” “I hear the voice of Miss Scully…” Childhood is hard, but sometimes we’re told right from wrong, and can choose the better path. When we’re adults, however…

Best Use of the Supernatural AwardCarin Marais, “Fairy Cakes.” What’s on the other side of the wall? Which side are we on? How tasty do those cakes sound? Very tasty.

Best Use of a Dragon Queen AwardMark A. King,The Superhero Alchemist.” All of you are alchemists in your own right, spinning gold out of less than straw. And to our Dragon Queen, you’re all superheroes. {Editor’s Note: ❤ ❤ ❤ times a million.}

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Liz Hedgecock, “Ping.” What we liked about this one was circular nature of the piece. It starts off with someone buying a microwave dinner for one and ends the same way, but in between there is lots of character development. In a few short lines the writer makes two characters come to life which is always impressive.

Casey Rose Frank, “Too Awful to Eat.” Worrying about a child that is constantly in trouble is every parents’ nightmare because that one mistake that makes it impossible to go back lurks right around the corner. That’s exactly what we have here. We could envision the mother slaving away in the kitchen trying to drive out the stress by baking, but finding her food didn’t offer any respite. This was a very believable and well portrayed mother character.

Reg Wulff, Someone’s in the Kitchen With Dinah.” This was a beautiful little story, interspersing the lyrics of what is primarily a children’s song with the story of heartbreak, loss, abandonment, and moving on. So much of a world painted in just a few lines. You can’t help but be a little happy for Dinah that she finally found a man who didn’t see her as a backup to his job.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Voima Oy, “Hell’s Kitchen.” How can you not wonder at the otherworldly skill of a chef who uses ingredients such as the breath of a three year-old child or the tears of a woman in love? You know that he has powers which enable him to do great evil in the service of an artistry that perhaps only he can see. And then to weave his story into that of this prison, whether literally or figuratively Hell, where the only food he can prepare burns like the lakes of lava, but the guards live a life of comfort and ease, took a writer of great skill.

FIRST RUNNERS UP (TIE)

Josh Bertetta, “Cell Block.” The tragic story of a man trapped in a prison of his own making. This story masterfully integrated the two prompts this week, setting the whole tale in a kitchen which also served as a prison for a life-long sentence. The prison this man works in as a guard has damaged him, but less so that his secession from his life and his marriage. Matching the first and last lines took us from what could have been a pretty straightforward tale of a man at his post, guarding a prison of ice and snow, into an inner world of suffering and loneliness. The kind of a story which can break your heart, because you want to reach out to the characters and help them find their way back together, but you just … can’t.

Sherry Howard, “Our Father’s Grace.” This story had the best title this week. After reading the story, the title definitely seemed fitting in both the literal sense (the story opens with a father saying grace) and in the sense of it being ironic (the father is very mean). The description of hungry children around the kitchen table is sharp and poignant.  The father’s character is made real by the children’s matter-of-fact descriptions of him such as “Begging by one resulted in restrictions for all” and “He’d ruined many a night with his three-year-old enthusiasms. He’d learn eventually. We all did.” 

And now: for his 3rd win, it’s massively talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“Sanctuary”

This story did the best at fulfilling the required story element. At first, we are shown a kitchen in which there is not much, but it is a happy kitchen nonetheless. Then the father gets there and the once happy kitchen changes into something ugly. It’s almost as if we hit a daily double with the setting, getting two settings in one.

Describing the times of plenty as “Foodstamp Nirvana” really strikes a chord showing us how little these characters have. Also the description of the bananas as “fibrous wafers of a solidified disease” and the fragile hand pouring milk seems to hint at some underlying problem. We get another hint of a problem when we read that “She dissolved” toward the end of the story. The fact that the main character never fully states a problem helps set up a certain mood. We get the feeling that something’s wrong and it pulses at the back of our minds. This was good writing and it was well executed.  

Congratulations, Chris! What a blast seeing you at the top again (that dragon crown looks mighty fine on you). Here’s your fancy dragon winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox with interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Sanctuary

There was love in the way she poured milk on my cereal. The plastic jug tilted by a fragile hand, filling the bowl halfway. Just how I liked it. A motherly wink when she prodded me to eat the banana slices sitting atop the sugary concoction like fibrous wafers of a solidified disease. I ate them for her.

The first of the month was our food jamboree. The bologna and tuna casserole were replaced by fresh ground beef, homemade tacos with a dollop of sour cream, and an unhealthy dose of raspberry sherbet. Food stamp nirvana, she called it, before vanishing for the graveyard shift. When she cooked, she seemed happy, like she was making up for lost time. Our kitchen was her aromatic church.

When dad was released from prison, mom changed. The kitchen changed. Pop would smolder at the table, chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes, while accusing her of cheating when he was gone. The neighbor, a coworker, anyone with testosterone. Eventually, she retreated to the bedroom, forcing us to survive on cheese and uncooked hot dogs.

She dissolved after that. My father’s insecurities turned her into a human stew of anxiety. But, decades later, I can still picture her in our kitchen, her luminous smile a bursting peppermint star.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 28: WINNERS!

Welcome back! This week’s Victorian prompt was such fun; royal salutes to each of you brave writers for tackling it and giving us heavily bejewelled tales of cunning, humor, and lots and lots and lots of prideful pride. 

DON’T FORGET! Flash Points is back on Mondays (will your story be chosen for dragony critique??); there are often fresh stories for the readin’ on Tuesdays & Thursdays; and Wednesdays brings us #SixtySeconds‘ awesome interview with today’s winner. Loads of reasons to keep coming back & commenting!

Hopefully you saw Friday’s announcement of the new judge panel for the 3rd quarter–if not, check them out here & scope out their bios! Never to early to start strategizing a win.

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Judge Jess West says: The prompt this week inspired many tales of, well, Queens and arrogance, which was to be expected. But the writers of the Flash! Friday community had a few tricks up their sleeves, many taking the prompts into dark corners and some taking it somewhere else entirely. One thing that really would have stood out this week that I didn’t see was a dragon, but I guess even dragons need a break. 😉 { EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s a stinking rotten rumor. } Still, I found gems in every story. Once again, you guys have raised the bar. One more week and then I get to rejoin you on the battlefield. I have to say, I’m a little nervous, but definitely looking forward to a little friendly competition. Cheers! 

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For catchy titles that tell a story of their ownBrian Creek, Kat LewisClaudsy.

Killer first line, starting the piece with action right out of the gate: Mark Morris, “The Crown”: 

Tegan sheathed the blade in the Queen’s chest, following through and pushing her to the ground.

For a unique take on the prompt, reaching past cliche: Marie McKay, “The Immortal”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tinman, “Heart’s Desire.” For the humor delivered, “Heart’s Desire” deserves an honorable mention. My favorite part is the very realistic exchange between the wizard and his customer: 

“It must be wonderful,” said Mrs Aladdin. “You can lay your hand instantly on anything.”

“Er, yes,” said Djisraeli. “You’d think, wouldn’t you?”

StellakateT, “The Jewel.” This twisted Cinderella tale gave me no small amount of satisfaction at the end, when the writer reveals that the “homely” sister is the jewel of the family. I don’t know if she’s happy with her lot, but I felt as though she at least had some measure of retribution with the match.

Craig Anderson, “Crowning Around.” It’s hard to write two different POVs in a flash fiction piece, especially one so short as 150 words. Craig pulls it off, with just enough characterization to bring both the arrogant ambassador and the cunning Queen to life. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Emily Karn, “Freedom of the Press.” Emily uses little more than dialogue to really bring these characters to life. The Prime Minister has his hands full, trying to ensure that the Queen is satisfied and keeping her subjects loyal at the same time. As for the Queen, well, the arrogant cartoonist is just a shade beyond tolerable, but she is wise enough to seek the council of the Prime Minister in dealing with him.  There’s a whole world behind such few words as these, and that in itself never fails to impress me. 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Bart Van Goethem, “Queen.” My first impression of this story was that it was a cute tale of a boy with great ambition, and by the end I was sure he would, in fact, go on to rule the world. The combination of hints – the time frame, the title, glimpses of the child’s appearance and his personality – made me curious to find out if this Farrokh Bulsara was a real person. When I Googled the name, I was delighted to find out who he was, and impressed with the subtle twist by a writer who turned out to be Bart Van Goethem. Well done, sir!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Carin Marais, “To Kill a Fly.” This is another of those stories that appeals to my dark side, a tale of justice delivered in a satisfactory manner – by the victim herself. Carin does a great job making me hate John enough to want him dead, including just enough details to show me how he feels about Mary and how he treats her. Details woven in throughout the dialogue help to clue me in to the time frame of this piece without loading it down with inessential elements. Dating a piece is easy when you include a cell phone or a chamber pot, but I’m particularly impressed with Carin’s ability to draw on the state of affairs at a specific moment in history to put the reader in the correct frame of mind.

And now: what a thrill to welcome back to the dais second time Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

JOIDIANNE4EVA!!!

for

“God Save the Queen”

I have this dark streak buried deep within me – well, maybe not buried so much as seething just beneath the surface – that enjoys a good revenge tale. “God Save the Queen” definitely delivers a sharp dose of deadly vengeance. That last line strikes a discordant chord within, ending the piece on a deep, dark note. What makes it hit so hard is the distance (internal thought, immediately present) and that this thought feels completely natural to the narrator. From a reader’s perspective, it seems as though this story were told through the writer, as opposed to having been written by the writer. I’m really impressed with writing when it’s crisp, clean, and powerful, and yet appears so effortless.  This story is one that sticks with you, with its subtle, dark tone and perfectly written and conveyed themes. Congratulations! 

Congratulations, Joidianne4eva! Your regally 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. Please contact me ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

God Save the Queen

When Disraeli approached Aasha in his quest to make a crown befitting of India’s new queen, she accepted.

She did not speak of her nights spent waiting on the dirty streets as her mother vanished into dark rooms with strange men, only to come back with barely enough to feed her family.

Aasha did not ask where this queen had been when their children were dying from hunger and disease.

She simply did what she was told.

She mixed her blood into the gold that coated its frame and whispered ancient prayers while she wove the fabric that would rest upon the queen’s head.

Aasha poured her heart into her work and when Disraeli handed it to the queen who accepted her offering with an arrogant nod, she smiled.

Aasha’s heart was a black and twisted thing that brought death to all who touched it… just like the poison with which she’d laced the crown.

No God would save this queen.

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 24: WINNERS!

I was all prepared to give my usual “welcome back, you incredible writers” speech (one of my favorites!), when I had to do a double take. Make that triple. Unless I counted wrong — which, as I was a Lit major in college, is entirely possible — there were 51 entries this week. FIFTY-ONE entries in a week with a prompt of an alien mailbox near a top secret government research facility.

I always knew y’all were good. But this week you took it to a whole other area (get it? AREA). Cue Twilight Zone music.

FIFTY-ONE!! 

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Judge Alissa Leonard says: If we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that combining mailboxes and aliens results in BILLIONS of dollars of debt, human abductions, time travel, conspiracies, UFO chasers, mysterious disappearances, and alien invasions with some desert adventure thrown in for good measure… Perhaps the aliens should use a post office box? Thank you all for your offerings; they were out of this world! Let me tell you about some of my favorites:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Worldbuilding: Winter Bayne, “Paid in Full”; James Marshall, “Reminder Notice”; and Bart Van Goethem, “The Takeover.”

Beginning: Tinman, “You’ve Got Mail”

EndingLaura Emmons, “Alien Discovery”

MoodChris Milam, “Transference”; Joidianne4eva, “Plant My Roots (On Barren Ground”)

CharacterizationMegan Besing, “Saturday 1:07pm”; John Mark Miller, “Special Delivery”; Clive Newnham, “SPECIAL DELIVERY”; Betsy Streeter, “Steve, Keeper of the Box”; Carlos Orozco, “The Alien”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

A.J. Walker, “Settler.” Your first paragraph set up a life of peace and contentment – painted a picture of hard-earned solitude. You had me hooked there. I loved the line, “That was a matter of life and mum.” Seriously, that is brilliant. Because we all know, if you don’t call mom, you’ll be dead.  🙂 I also really enjoyed your clever take on the name and bill issue. It was unique and unexpected, and it tied into the characterization from the first paragraph perfectly. Very nicely done.

Katrina Ray-Saulis, “Dear Robbie.” The relationship is what caught my heartstrings with this one. A “goodbye” note from Gram to one who teased her and joked with her, but obviously loved her. He drove out to the spot where they found her car every year to write her a letter about his life – so sweet. So sad and hopeful and beautiful. And then the reassurance… Loved it.

Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Bounty.”  This one entertained my world-building brain so much! “Wanted dead, alive, or in stasis” set the scene very well. I enjoyed the deadpan bounty hunter – nothing fazed him. He checks that the cloaking device is working by the fact that no one screams. He considers incinerating the entire place so that no one can get the same info, but decides not to because it’s “probably not worth the fine.” –Probably?! Then he adds petty theft to the guy’s rap sheet. It made me laugh and filled me with so many questions! 

 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Casey Rose Frank, “Not My Boat.” Your characterization is brilliant. The bored, business-like creditor; the paranoid (and wrongly accused) man; and the pranking alien combined to make this a hilarious read! Seriously, when Mr. Smith said, “What would I do with a boat?” I could see him flailing around in the desert. And then the end… the “large blue face wearing groucho glasses” peering through the curtains. I busted out laughing.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Overdue.” Oh, how I want this to all work out! I love the characterization of the little boy and his fascination with Buzz. He tries to be brave and “set his voice to ‘Hero,’” but it doesn’t work perfectly. I could picture this goodbye scene between so many fathers and sons and it broke my heart. Then the end… “I tucked three dollars in its fold telling Dad to put it towards the bill for his journey home.” So sweet and heart-wrenching!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark Morris, “Paid in Full.” Wow. This one knocked my socks off! The idea that the aliens would pay off your overdue bills is an amazingly fascinating concept – completely unique and enjoyable. I am dying to know the consequences for putting more than one bill in there per month… Please? 🙂 And yeah, the catch. It seems like such a reasonable question… That last line floored me. Seriously. Then my mind FILLED with questions: These people seemed like friends: were they? Did he seriously just sell out his friend? Does he find random people and convince them to go with him? And, really, what kind of person values a person’s life as less than one overdue bill for internet??? Mind: Blown. 

And now: for her third time overall, but first for Year Two, it’s Flash! Friday  

DRAGON WINNER

ARIA GLAZKI!!!

for

“Bargain”

Brilliant. Perfect. Just… Wow. Your language was so evocative I needed a drink of water: “baked alive” “groan scratched its way out of my throat” “blistering sunlight” “grit scraped my eyes” “taunting me with the waste of water”. I felt sore and parched and I also felt that “blissful instant of relief” when the shadow fell over him. The captor is so very outlaw-esque, and I want to see more of her! I suppose that’s one way to get out of your debts… We start the story being “baked alive” and finish it with the possibility of two more weeks. It’s quite the ultimatum. And it floored me. It was seriously perfect and sucker punched me right in the gut. Beautifully written, wonderfully evocative, and very fun characters. Loved it.

Congratulations, Aria! Your brand new-to-you (isn’t it fancy!) winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your updated 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:

Bargain

Waking up isn’t easy when you’re being baked alive.

A groan scratched its way out of my throat as I opened my eyes to the blistering sunlight. Soreness in my shoulders and ankles dissuaded me from moving.

One of only two shadows on the sand moved. Grit scraped my eyes as I tried to blink the motion away.

“Oh shut up.” The shadow fell over me for a blissful instant of relief, chased away by her grin. “How ya doin’ down there?”

“What the hell you stupid—”

“Ah, ah. Careful.”

The scorching spotlight found my face again. She spat, taunting me with the waste of water.

“You owe me,” I reminded.

“Well now, that’s why I’m here. You forget that little issue, and I’ll cut you free.”

“Are you off your—”

“Or.” Her shadow moved out of sight. “I could just leave you here, while I come up with the money. Shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks.”

 

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