Tag Archive | Marsha Adams

Fire&Ice Sol 10/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Welcome, winners one and all! No new kittens here so we Foys are left to swoon, and swoon often, over the fire dragon’s furry wee one from afar. We are, however, celebrating (and mourning) the long-anticipated felling of our personal murder tree. A white oak upwards of 60 feet tall, mouse- and beetle-eaten with bare limbs like clawing fingers, she loomed over our heads and threatened to take out house or power with every spring and summer storm. The children are thrilled.

I’ll miss her. For the stories and fragments of poems she shook loose, I’m ever grateful, and doubly grateful that we aren’t limited to a single, solitary, entropy-bound muse! Thank you all for sharing yours with us every week. ❤

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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 10’S JUDGES SAY:

Voima OyI’m so happy to be judging another round of Fire&Ice with my co-judge, AJ Walker. This time, the challenge was to write a story in 89 words! Can it be done? Yes! People really had to do more with less. I am amazed at the variety, ingenuity and beauty in all the stories. Well-done everyone! Thank you for sharing your stories. Monuments by Susan Stevenson (SS)–Although it was posted too late to be eligible, it deserves to be mentioned, too. A beautiful story of loss, resilience and gratitude. Firdaus Parvez‘s Decades Ago–for subtle depiction of class divide. It’s a tragic story of connection and loss. I would also like to mention Arcane Edison‘s Cuckoo–history, class division, and revenge.


A.J. Walker: Well 89 words ain’t an awful lot to write a story, especially with such an evocative photograph, but thirty five intrepid writers gave it a go. Thanks to all of you for your efforts. As ever we have judged them blind so won’t find out who our winners are until you guys do. This time my co-judge and myself have been a bit closer with our views than on our last get together. So thanks again for that! In Arcane Edison‘s Cuckoo we have a story based on the recent past setting in train a future that will end badly. There was so much going on with so few words to play with. Maybe he could have used the Mindsweeper or do his best to find another path. Futures by Marsha AdamsWill the protagonist work himself out of his years of servitude and one day be a tourist like those he sees every day; that drives the economy and gives opportunities for the few. I am hopeful he will. I enjoyed – if that’s the right word – the desperately sad Different Beat by Tamara Shoemaker. The description is lively and brought to life; and sad. As someone who struggles each week with a guitar I wish they’d teach me the rhythm too.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Untitled by Eric Martell

VO: I loved the mythic power of this story. It is beautifully written, humble and cosmic–the weaving of the roads of life.

AW: The untitled story aka ‘26’ on my list (why don’t people title their stories?) was a great take on our universe. How much has been written of our future? What paths are we free to take or we inevitably follow? It has a great Eastern religion feel and a great interpretation of a roadworker.

Mindsweeper by Karl A. Russell

VO: A wonderful take on the challenge–so much fun! And such a generous spirit to the story–a gift to share humor in these dark times.

AW: I loved ‘Mindsweeper’. But was torn about choosing it for the tangential reference to students. But it did mention them and it was too good to discount. A witty take on Total Recall with Myanmar taking the place of Mars. Maybe I was mindswept by Postukpak-4 – I don’t remember calling them. But I wouldn’t, would I?

RUNNER UP

Don’t Worry if it’s Not Good Enough by Tinman

VO: Give them names, and the characters come alive! I loved the different characters in this story, the struggles of a group of musicians, and how one of them made it in New Orleans. The ending is great. Bravo, Two-Flutes!

AW: There wasn’t too much humour in the stories this weekend with the exception of Mindsweeper. However I must give a special mention to Thet, from ‘Don’t Worry If It’s Not Good Enough’, who made it to New Orleans to play jazz under the nickname ‘Two Flutes’. That made me laugh.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

MARK A. KING!!!

for

The Mist of Myanmar

VO – The Mist of Myanmar–even the title is evocative and mysterious. It is a story from out of the mists of time. The voice is the spirit of this place–the people, their lives, the farms and the pagodas. Every word tells a story. There are so many stories in this story. And stories yet to come. Beautiful!

AW — I’m currently reading a book about the history of opium (‘Milk of Paradise’) so seeing it mentioned in ‘The Mist of Myanmar’ was nice. Even better for me it happened to be my favourite story. It is nice to see a non-preachy story nudge us to think of a country and its people in more than one way. East Asia is a beautiful place and it is not about what we first think of when you say Vietnam or Cambodia – or Myanmar. Countries are people and we’re the same over despite what the news and some histories try to tell us… my soul is my children.

Congratulations, Mark! Here’s your winning story:

THE MIST OF MYANMAR

“Burma”, you say? And you think of war, genocide, opium, and human rights.
I smile, for you do not know me. How can you?
My heart is the golden sunrise at Shwedagon Pagoda.
My voice the melodic roadworkers of Bagan.
My skin the verdant furrows of Kyaing Tong.
My eyes the crystal waters of the Mergui Archipelago.
If I am a story, then my birth is forgotten, my life misunderstood, my ending yet to come.
My soul, well, this is my children, born in the swirling mists of Myanmar.

Fire&Ice Sol 7/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: I’ve always loved Mondays; there’s something so clean-slate and hope-filled about them. Maybe this week I’ll hit my writing targets. Maybe this week I’ll check those tiresome tasks off my list… This week I’ve a new one to add, as the ice dragon and I have each just committed to run 87 miles by our (American) Election Day Nov 3. (Whyyy did we do this? Shhhh, Self: that’s a Thursday-type question.) For now, it’s still sweet Monday, which at Fire&Ice means celebrating your stories. So Happy Monday, friends. We’re delighted to see you!

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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 7’S JUDGES SAY:

Sinéad O’Hart:  Well, whew. What a crop this week. With prompts as good as these, and a wonderfully wide word count, it’s hardly a surprise that so many gems tumbled out of the story-sack. Thank you to everyone who submitted for trusting us with your work. Every time I have the honour of judging Flash! Friday it’s a privilege, and this week was no different.

The first story I want to make special mention of was the very first to cross my path – Bill Engleson‘s “A Final Flame.” I read this tale with no small amount of emotion, as to me it was about a woman at the end of her life, having suffered with a terminal illness (possibly cancer), and with the subtext that her loved one had done their best to end her pain. In the past few days, I lost a beloved family member to cancer, and so this story hit home in a special way. Sometimes, art truly can heal.

Other sparkling tales that caught my eye included James Atkinson‘s “The Breath of the Final Dragon” – such a fresh take on the dragon-fire idea, with some incredible imagery (‘lashes alive with parasites’), and a great take on the prompt of Justice. I also loved Voima Oy‘s “King Lear in the Federal Plaza,” with its evocative writing and great use of the prompts. My Sir Terry Pratchett-loving heart really enjoyed “Inspector Counterweight and the Percussive Goblin” by Geoff LePard; those characters would be more than at home in Ankh-Morpork! My Good Omens-loving heart also enjoyed Laurence D‘s “Ezekiel,” which was a fun homage to Pratchett and Gaiman’s masterwork. Mark King‘s “Where Her Soul Goes to Walk” was an important, excellent, and moving commentary on race relations and the lives of marginalised people, as was “Afire” by Michael Seese – powerful and meaningful work, a privilege to read. Maggie Duncan‘s “Kholodnoye Pravosudiye” was one of my favourites, barely missing out on an Honorary Mention. It was elegant, cold, brilliantly controlled, and I loved the subtle ‘eternal flame’ – the one burning in Gavrilla’s heart.

But, judging is a two-person process, and consensus must be reached. Luckily, Craig and I were on the same page (almost exactly) when it came to our top picks. Choosing winners and Runners Up this week was more a case of two old dragons sharing pleasantries, rather than a duel to the flame. So, without further ado…


Craig Anderson: How did time go so quick that we are back in the hot seat? Feels like just moments ago that we were judging the first round of most excellent flash fiction, and suddenly a new batch of awesome was delivered to our virtual dragon’s den. Just as before you all made it tough to pick a favorite, but it is certainly a nice problem to have when you are literally spoiled for choice.

As before, Sinéad was an absolute pleasure to judge with. We both had a long list of favorites, which made it easy to find the overlapping stories that caught both our eyes. We’d also both landed on the same winner independently, which made things a whole lot easier!

As for my own favorites, I particularly enjoyed Marsha Adams‘ “They came for me at dawn,” which spoke of a dystopian world where only a few humans remained. I love the little hints of what might have happened, always teasing the wider story, while focusing on one very specific punishment. I also loved Firdaus Parvez‘s – “The Wind,” for the swift punishment dished out by the diminutive hero. I’m such a sucker for underdogs, and Hawa fit the bill perfectly. “Sleep Well Tonight” by Edison Arcane contained a whole backstory in its brief length, and the ending was very satisfying. Plus I’m also going to sneak in a mention for Geoff LePard‘s “Inspector Counterweight and the Percussive Goblin“; I too immediately thought of STP, and that is high praise indeed!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Singular Love by Helen Laycock

SO: This story was so fresh and interesting, with an interesting and engaging perspective that drew me in right away. Well executed, with excellent details like the blood on the character’s thigh, which let the reader infer the subtext. A story with a whole world in it, skilfully drawn.

CA: I loved how this one started, which such powerful imagery of the women all moving in sync, like white smoke. That great imagery continued throughout, with the flames gently cradling the bundle, and the meandering blood, all painting such a vivid picture of a horrifying scene. The ending added a great punch, and twisted the whole tale on its head.

The Devil’s Kitchen by Steph Ellis

SO: Again, a story which immediately leapt off the page with its fresh perspective, and one I loved because of the almost throwaway line: ‘At least they’d buried her husband where no one would find him’ – narrated so casually, yet this line is the pivot point for the whole story. Masterful!

CA: This one jumped out for squeezing not one but two twists into its brief length. It starts so casually, like a walk in the woods, so good natured, and then the casual mention of dead bodies flips the whole thing on its head. Suddenly our campers become villains, and you worry for the person that they run into, but then the story twists again and karma comes back around quickly.

RUNNER UP

Legend Renewed  by MJ Bush

SO: Craig and I both loved this one. As well as its excellent use of the prompts, this story is evocative and moving, and it is a perfect example of the type of flash fiction I love so much – a story that works perfectly just as it is, but one which shows the reader a whole world. I loved the perspective, the centuries of lore and legend and the years of heroic duty; the crashing-together of the old and the new (the world might be technologically modern, but the old monsters remain), and the final image, the ancient tool being brought back into service, the light beating back the monsters of the dark. Excellent work.

CA: I really enjoyed the way this one spoke to the nature of legends, with the story slowly shifting over time, but the core pieces staying the same. Then it shifts gears, moving towards modern convenience, until everyone forgets the reason that the legend existed in the first place. It isn’t until that modern solution fails, and the old monsters return, that they receive such a sudden reminder, and they go right back to the old ways. A great analogy for our world these days.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

PHIL COLTRANE!!!

for

Astraea

SO – Again, my fellow judge and I were unanimous in our choice! I am a sucker for SF stories, and this one was a masterclass. A tale of a battle in space, at a time unspecified, but which could be mapped onto any Earthbound conflict, it drew me in and held me. The conversational tone: ‘The war began (as such wars do) with men who neglected the lessons of history…’ was a powerful beginning to a story which culminated in the destruction of a planet in a ‘blast of searing plasma’. What clinched this for me (as well as all the other things I love in a good piece of flash – brilliant characters, the power of the story to both stand alone and show us a larger world, and emotional heft) was the excellent ending, with an old-tech weapon being used in a new-tech world. Such an interesting and clever detail, the perfect showstopper ending for a perfect story.

CA –I loved this one right away, but I am a sucker for great sci-fi, so when Sinéad had short-listed it as a potential winner too I was absolutely thrilled! As with all great sci-fi it has a great mix of old and new, of history and imagination. The repetition of (as such wars do) was such a great way to bookend the global conflict in just a couple of sentences. So much is conveyed in so few words, it is a masterclass in cramming an entire history into a handful of words. 

‘My memories fuelled my nightmares for a century’ is another great line, which paints such a vivid picture about the nature of the war, and how nobody truly won. It shows us how the MC feels about the atrocities committed in the name of war. The use of water and fire, of symbols of mercy and justice, was a great touch, and the gut punch ending of the unspoken third option was the perfect way to wrap up this tale. Wonderful flash!

Congratulations, Phil! Here’s your winning story:

ASTRAEA

The war began (as such wars do) with men who neglected the lessons of history. I was an innocent boy with romantic notions of alien planets, great battles, and mighty heroes.

The war ended (as such wars do) in tears, and firing squads, and a vow never to forget. Never forget. My memories fueled my nightmares for a century. Even after I escaped the jail, fled the planet, buried my past deeper than my victims. At night I saw those purple eyes of a girl from Astraea — eyes that watched her family and her future die in a blast of searing plasma.

One day I saw those eyes again, in daylight. They held me entranced as she approached. We stood at the memorial: rippling waters and roaring flame.

“I could turn you in,” she said without preamble. “I should. Though a lifetime ago, justice knows no age.” Her face was pale as mine had been that day. “But the flame falters. Life, I see, has wearied us both. Mercy. Or justice.”

“So which will it be?” I asked. “The water? Or the fire?”

I never saw the pistol — only the glint in her eyes.

“The earth.”

Fire&Ice Sol 2/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: We have our winners! For those who braved the wing-deep comment thread to deliver your own thoughts on how the stories impacted you, truly you are our dragon knights. Your gifts are one of the many magics of this space. And to everyone who shared their thoughts on our first two Flash! Past & Future posts–thank you! We’re forever honored—thrilled!—to learn what has shaped you as a writer. And speaking of shaping, I AM A FREAKING WRITHING PRETZEL-DRAGON trying not to give away who Rebekah has for us this Sunday. Do NOT miss it.

§ Rebekah says: Welcome back! Really I just want to say thanks. From the dawn of time, “community” has played a crucial role in the telling of stories; your Fire&Ice story-words and your words of support for each other prove that true now more than ever. Though I have to ask: do you intend to make me blubber like this every. single. week? Thank you for coming; thank you for sharing; thank you for being the vibrant, breathing, stretching, colorful writing community you are. PS. OK. I do just have to add I am GIDDY at the next Flash! Future, which will include a personal message from a multi-award-winning author to you.

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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 2’S JUDGES SAY:

David Shakes: My sincere thanks to all 71 writers [§ says: technically 74 if you add the sneaky, ineligible ones] for creating some truly memorable tales this week. Thanks also go to our esteemed fire and ice dragons for their beautiful picture prompt, challenging word length and clever elements. That so many could craft so much with so little is truly awesome.

I was told that there were almost 600 comments on the page by Saturday evening (UK time) – undoubtedly more by the time this gets to be read. The community comments are what this competition was built on, so it’s just lovely to know it’s back stronger than ever.

That said, my superb judging partner Nancy and I had a lot to say and also the honour of choosing a top tier. So many stories made it onto the list of our shared possibilities, I hope it’s not too bittersweet for these writers to know we pored over their work in some detail. For me, Pippa Phillips’s Plucked orchid – the root remainswas a superb line that echoed its longer tale of revolution in microcosm. Both Nancy and I greatly enjoyed Michael Seese’s Untitled I loved its onomatopoeia and quiet philosophy. I’d also like to mention Becky Spence’s Beneath for its subtle horror and Marsha Adams’s Untitled for making me watch Blade Runner yet again.


Nancy Chenier: So here we are, Sol 2 of Fire&Ice Flash. It’s been a weekend of electrodes and rebellion, sometimes simultaneously (my kind of weekend). First, big thanks to our Dragon Captains for reviving the contest and community in its latest incarnation. Secondly, thanks to David (Shakes) my marvelous co-judge, for making the Herculean task of selecting only a handful of stories lively and enjoyable. Finally, to all those who participated this week, whether via submitting or commenting, thank you for keeping this space creative, inspiring, and supportive.

71 entries! Each one brought something different to the prompt and elements—no small feat with only 75 words to work with. Just to show you how close Shakes and I were in our decision-making, I too am giving a special mention to Michael Seese’s Untitled as one of the lone fire-element pieces to rise to the top of my short-list with its quiet power and beautiful use of sibilant alliteration throughout. Sian_Ink hit hard with the split-dumpling image in Untitledand left me with the lingering sense of injustice with the revolutionary ‘humanists’ spreading it. I also want to give a hearty har-dee-har-har! to Stephanie Ellis for the pile on of tasty puns in Icing on the Cake. Now, on to the winners.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Untitled by Marie McKay

DS: Everything about this is so well crafted – a well-oiled machine – designed with economy of language to bring you to an end where you must blink, blink, blink away your tears.

NC: The language here caught me: the metronomic quality of the words brought the droid to life, capturing its mechanical longing to perfection.

Untitled by Nicola Liu

DS: Our little street urchin braves slop-bucket stares to warn her mechanical benefactor what’s coming, so we get a simultaneously figurative and literal last line that’s just brilliant – it resonates for a long time.

NC: I like how the story comes full circle with the utilitarian disposal of the soup turning into a relationship that saves his artificial skin (that it evoked Big-Hero-6 nostalgia tugged at my heart-strings).

RUNNER UP

On A Mission by Brian S Creek

DS: This is such a clever use of a machine’s processing and cold logic to weave a tale filled with tension, excitement, action and sorrow. I asked for an economy of language and it’s masterfully deployed here – there’s so much story between each line. If Hemingway wrote “Terminator,” I put in my notes.

NC: The crafty use of the prompt, element, and word-limit inspired my admiration. That it told a complete story in this format captivated me. And those final two lines delivered a blow as strong and as poignant as Hemingway’s 6-word flash about baby shoes. (David and I independently thought of Hemingway on this one.)

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

KARL A RUSSELL!!!

for

Visiting Time

DSThis is a lovely use of the prompt picture and the additional element – it moved me so much. There are beautiful little details and descriptions: Joe’s hand, brittle as fried noodles; his whispers under the wheezing machinery of life. The simplicity of the dialogue is so natural but works powerfully to enable this story to work up to its clever denouement. What I love most is the matter of fact way the story is told, leaving readers to think about the moral and ethical implications of a future where this is a possibility. Do the recipients request this? Is it prescribed? I asked for something to ponder – and ponder I have. 

NCWhen asked what I looked for in a winning flash, I said I wanted a real sense of story within the word limit, and this one delivered, and then some. The patient asking,”You went somewhere?” added a hint of mystery, that there was something more going on—and there certainly was. The “wheezing machinery of life” gave nice misdirection (for a moment I thought this would be connected to the droid) while the hands “brittle as noodles” was a gentle nod to the photo prompt while also holding the reader in place with a concrete image. The story made me want to follow the droid to every last hospital room.

Congratulations, Karl! Here’s your winning story:

Visiting Time

“Remember the Vietnamese place?” Sarah asked.

Joe whispered under the wheezing machineries of life.

“SohoPho.”

“Yes! Our first anniversary.”

He frowned.

“You went somewhere…?”

Sarah stroked his hand, brittle as fried noodles.

“I’m here now…”

His eyes closed.

“See you tomorrow love.”

She kissed his forehead. A smile ghosted his dry lips.

Leaving silently, she checked her files: Daisy MacNeil. Son Kevin (1964 – 2008).

Holographic tiles updated, Kevin entered the next room.

“Hello mum.”