Tag Archive | Mary Cain

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 5: WINNERS!

Happy Sunday evening! I hope everyone’s had a pleasant weekend and you’re all set for a fresh week. Just look ahead at all these lovely days filled with potential! May we all make wise and abundant use of them. With a dash o’ crazy thrown in for good measure, obviously. And plenty of coffee. 

Here are a few opening comments from our fabulous Year Two judge M. T. Decker. She blogs further about the judging experience here.

She says: Once again I am pleased, surprised and awed at the amount of emotion, adventure, horror and humor you all are able to evoke in 140-160 words.  I find myself learning even as I rate the stories, because judging a story I have to go beyond “I like this” and get into “why.” Why do I like it?  What did the author do to make their story stand out, and why did they do it?  Why does one twist, or point of view or word redefine a story – take it from a good story to a great story? 

For me, a great story is like an old friend.  The first time you read a story—you’re meeting them for the first time, but there is some quality that brings a smile to your face and makes you seek them out again, and when you do find them again and re-read the story, you remember not only the story but the way it made you feel, long before you finish reading.  That, my friends, is staying power and part of what makes a story great.

Before I begin, I would like to thank our other three current judges for their entries – they provide excellent examples of great-stories, and great writers.  These ladies turn out some amazing stories on a consistent basis week after week.  So, thank you Erin McCabe, Nillu Nasser Stelter, and Whitney Healy for sharing your talents with us this, and every, week!



Zevonesque, “Owl and the Arrogant Giant.”  This story is a case of doing research on the actual picture and the history surrounding it and  including the tree’s final demise in the weaving of a good fable.  This is something that takes a particular talent, not only to execute the story so well, but to make it seem effortless.  Well done! 

Catherine Connolly, “Interludes.” Through a series of slow dissolves, Catherine tells a tale spanning anywhere from 20 to 50 years from the point of view of a tree.  This creative technique allows her to spin a tale with more depth and breadth than 160 words should be able to tell, and gives it a sense of timelessness.  This technique allows her to show, not tell the story and is masterfully done.

Charles W. Short, “TreeGate.” This story was an original take on the prompt.  “TreeGate” reads almost like a newspaper clipping, sparse in details and very factual, but the last little twist, and implied ending is notably haunting and leaves the reader with a slight shiver that stays with them: creepy, in a well written and haunting kind of way.


Kristen Falso-Capaldi, “iPhone 40TT/S.” Through a resourceful use of dialog, Kristen takes us to a time when Time Travel has been, for lack of a better term… app-ed.  But that is only the first layer to the story because it also hints at how the relationship between man and machine has changed.  Asking Siri to call him ‘sexy’ speaks to Oscar’s need to feel wanted and cared about, and through him we get a glimpse into life in the future.  It speaks of the human condition and the fact that even with the whole of history at hand… sometimes all you really want is a good burger.  But again there are layers.  Is the burger a burger, or is it a metaphor for a better time, a more innocent time?  That question is left as a tantalizing thread that left me hungering for an answer… and a trip to Bob’s Big Boy.


Image Ronin, “Traveling Without Moving.” This story has a slow, almost lyrical pace to it that makes it feel as if it could indeed be the thoughts of a 2,000 year old tree.  The first line draws the reader in: “I seek solace within ancient tales, of sap and water, root and growth.”  There’s not only a musical quality to the words, but these are things that a tree would value above all else.   Establishing this point of view makes the narrator’s final declaration that much more poignant, and leaves me longing for ancient tales of sap and water, root and growth…

And now: raise your glasses with me to our




“Still Standing”

In “Still Standing,” Margaret misdirects us ever so slightly—making us think that we are hearing another tale from the tree’s point of view. And then in a clever twist Margaret lets the theme flow from the narrator to the tree, allowing them to reflect each other, and the tree goes from a metaphor of the narrator’s suffering to a fellow survivor and monument to the fact that they are indeed… still standing.  I have always believed that while there is life there is hope, and this story states that message with such mastery that it leaves the reader with a sense of haunting determination.  This story, like an old friend, makes me smile whenever I think of it—and that is part of what makes it this week’s Flash! Friday Winner.

Congratulations, Margaret, on your third win! Your brand new winner’s badge waits, jumping up and down, for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for a new set of questions for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Still Standing

I long to go back. Back to when I was young, to when my roots felt strong, to when I wanted nothing more than to branch out into the world, soaking up sunshine. Life was easy then, back when I was solid, before she ripped this gaping hole in me. Many have passed through since. None have fixed me, though a few tried.

I eye the giant hulk of a tree before driving underneath it. In and out in a flash. That tree and I are alike. Relics of a past life – a passed life -, shells of who we once were, damaged by those who thought they’d found a better way.

I stop the car. I walk back to the tree, touching it, caressing it. “I’m sorry,” I murmur, not sure whether I’m apologizing to it or myself. Spindly forest surrounds us. We are giants among weaklings, the tree and I. Scarred. Broken. But we are still standing.


Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 4: WINNERS!

Welcome to the results! WHAT a pleasure reading your stories. I’ve said before that one of my favorite parts of writing contests like this is the myriad interpretations of a single prompt. The Dragon’s Bidding element of discovery couldn’t have suited dear (or evil, depending on the story) Clot Bey’s anatomy lesson more perfectly. Thank you for taking time out of your week to share your creativity here. You are appreciated!

And now, opening remarks from brand new, Quite Sparkly, Year Two judge Nillu Nasser Stelter:

She says: Are you ready? Are you snuggled in your reading nook with a cup of tea in hand? This week was the first Flash! Friday competition of 2014 and I was so excited to take my place at the judging helm and read all your wonderfully crafted pieces. There was, as always, a very high standard of writing. The prompt generated stories that dealt with science, politics and philosophy. You wrote about adultery and murder, fear and hope, demons and choirs. I was impressed by your knowledge of the human body and as a non-scientist, some of the detailed dissections made me feel queasy (a good thing, I think!). Hidden amongst the submissions were some knock-out endings.

Before we get round to the results (can you hear that faint drum roll in the distance?) here’s a bit about how I judge. Once I’ve printed out the nameless entries – I judge blind – I retreat to a room of my own with the hard copies. Then comes the fun bit when I can lose myself in the worlds you’ve created and I scribble down any initial thoughts, noting things that stand out like an original premise, great characterisation or excellent phrasing. I also check to make sure no one has flouted the word count rules or ignored the prompt. After reading all the entries, I draw up a long list. Then comes the more intricate work. My judge’s page gives an idea of what is important to me in a story and I have a simple marking system using these criteria to come up with my winners. One more thing – I’m a Brit, so please excuse my English spelling!

Ooh the drummer is right beside me now, dressed in colourful garb, leaping as he beats his instrument. I think he’s ready for the results. Before we indulge him, there’s a special mention for Margaret Locke’s ‘Food for Thought’. The prompt this week lent itself to creepy writing, but a few of you tried your hand at humour. Margaret did this brilliantly in her piece, with pithy dialogue – “You’re claiming broccoli killed this man?” – and timing like a well-told joke. Right, now to the winners. Here we go:




Ifemmanuel, “Who Am I?”  This story was a firm favourite for its use of imagery and for appealing to the senses  – ‘dry [skin] like tanned leather’, ‘smells like death’, ‘my eyeballs hurt like I wiped them with the body of a porcupine’. The words in this piece were beautifully chosen – ‘swinging his arms in wide arcs’ – and the ending was chilling

Mary Cain, “Smile.” This story for me was one of the creepiest, with sublime descriptions – ‘a heavy scent of decay’, ‘a layer like hardened tar’, ‘hands…devoid of skin’. It takes skill to build a world so surely in 150 words that a smile is no longer something joyful, but rather horrific. Well done, Mary.


Sarah Cain, “Transformation.” What I liked about this piece was how the Master neatly embodies three qualities of a great teacher: the ability to put on a performance, knowledge and compassion. Sarah’s story illustrates all three of these characteristics deftly using beautiful language – ‘thin and brown as a coffee bean’, ‘soft light shines through the domed ceiling’. This was a story that stood out for the gentleness of its central character – ‘let us worship at his [the corpse’s] altar’ – and its ability to see science as necessary for learning and future hope, as opposed to something threatening.


J. M. Blackman, “Devolution.” In this aptly-titled piece the theatre where the corpse is lying becomes the stage for a lesson the voyeurs are not expecting. J.M. Blackman has a science fiction take on the prompt and uses her protagonist as a truth-teller in her story, who heralds the dawn of a new age when humans no longer rule earth. I admired the rhythm and contemplative nature of this piece in the midst of the invasion. I liked the clever use of contrasts and how although it is the alien on the slab, it is actually the humans who are dying with their ‘mere bones of ideals’.

And now, with trumpets blaring, we’ve got our




“Discovering Your Inner Mummy”

This story starts with a great title and premise. It centres on a physician’s slave being used as a guinea pig for experiments. Allison’s writing pulled me in from the get-go – ‘I didn’t volunteer’ – setting up the protagonist’s dilemma beautifully. Using the first person really suited this week’s prompt, letting the reader experience the grizzly nature of the story first-hand. Allison built up the tension in this story like a seasoned pro, making fantastic use of her small word count. There was attention to the prompt: the protagonist refers to ‘the large audience of white men’ and unexpected humour – ‘I thought I’d die of boredom’. The ending sets the experiences of those in the room in stark juxtaposition with each other. On the one hand the ‘ooh’-ing crowd are delighted by the spectacle at hand; on the other, you have the victim’s horror in its inescapable reality. I’d like to see part two of the story, where the slave makes a miraculous get-away and takes his (literal or metaphorical) revenge on the physician and his merry group of bystanders. Congratulations, Allison. Well played!

Congratulations, Allison, on your second win! Your brand new winner’s badge waits eagerly for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for a new set of questions for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature.


Flash! Friday # 41 — WINNERS!

If you give a writer a storm…. well, no question: hijinx ensue! You all continue to shake the foundations of the global flash community with your creativity. Thank you for coming out to play–it’s always my hope that you have a blast and find your writing challenged and sharpened (mine always is!). I also hope you realize how significant a part of the Flash! Friday community you are. Thank you!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Flash! Points (looks like there’ll actually be one this week, hurrah!), AND remember to look here to see the loads of other flash contests happening this week.  Contests, contests, everywhere. Hop to it!


Judge Patricia McCommas says, Well, the writers did it again: they done went and made my job very hard. 🙂 Many of the stories were so good that I read them two and three times. Narrowing the winners list down was a difficult task. So many of the entries were not only original with creative twists, they were unique and well-written. Loved the stories this week.



Stephen Wilds, “Scientific Method.” Very unique with an unexpected end. Definitely original. I started out thinking the story was one thing until I got to the end. I was compelled to read it again…twice. Was this a computer animation? Nice job.

Mary Cain, “The End.” Eerie, haunting, emotional and then letting go and embracing the inevitable. This was a well-written original piece told as a complete story

Allison K. Garcia, “Cover.” Well-written, creative, drew me in. Love the honeymoon ending. 

Stephen James Lock, “Just A Boy.” Very unique story. Original. It was full of depth and meaning. I read this one three times. Love it. There is a mystical element present from beginning to end.


Josette Keelor, “Storm’s Coming.” This was really good, with a nice pace and clear imagery. Love the voice, which was consistent throughout. I had to remind myself this was a contest when reading this one–it drew me in. I love the matter-of-fact attitude of the character speaking and his down-to-earthiness. This story reminds us that if you pay attention to nature, nature will warn you of what’s coming. The power and gift of observation come to those who listen, no college degree required. I also liked that the narrator was a writer there to do a story about one thing and it morphs into something completely different. This has a great message for any writer about keeping an open mind and allow the story to unfold naturally.


Amy Wood,Return of the Old Gods.” This piece was a complete story, one that left me wanting to read more, to know what came after for Essie. Original, eerie, haunting, imaginative, hopeful, full of faith, emotional, happy that things turned out well for Essie. Well written. Drew me in. The story flowed at a nice pace.

And returning to the Flash! Friday podium for the second time as 



for “I Wandered”  

Original. Love the POV told by the developing tornado from birth to death and everything in between. This story flowed like a bubbling creek racing to the rapids. Poetic, lyrical. Some of my favorite lines are: “With the gentlest of whispers I was born.” “I learned to dance, twisting and twirling across the prairie.”  “I absorbed them all with merciless hunger” and the last line, “I did not see the other until it was too late, and just like that, I was gone.” Excellent. Well-written and creative. 

Congratulations, Craig! Here are your updated Winner’s Page, a familiar and yet still impressive dragon eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Please watch your inbox for brand new interview questions for Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds feature.

I Wandered

With the gentlest of whispers I was born. At first I was nothing but dust drifting in the faintest of breezes. I was young, full of energy and eager to travel. I wandered. I learned to dance, twisting and twirling across the prairie. Creatures would sometimes stop to take my picture, laughing and joking when I swirled around them. I was powerless, insignificant, afraid. I needed to try harder. I zigged and zagged, scooping up leaves, then branches, then entire trees, growing bigger and stronger with every passing moment.

I met another. It was smaller, an infant. I tried to protect it, to nurture it, but it came too close. In a moment it was gone, a part of me now. I did not understand my power until it was too late.

There were several more, but I understood my purpose now. I absorbed them all with merciless hunger. All I knew was the urge to grow. It consumed me, like I consumed all that stood in my path.

The sirens started far on the horizon. I had earned their attention now. The creatures that had once seemed impossibly huge appeared so insignificant. They were the powerless ones now, there was no more laughter, only screams. I swallowed their homes one by one, tearing off roofs, smashing down walls, anything to add to my mass. I felt like I could swallow the world.

It happened so gradually I barely noticed. I grew tired, weary, my hunger sated. I could not sustain the energy, the will to increase. I convinced myself I could spare that house, avoid that school. Soon I could no longer lift them. The creatures stopped running, they hid in their homes. I swatted at them ineffectively.

I accelerated, outrunning myself. There was no escape, only deterioration. It brought relief. As I shrank I became lighter, faster, young again. I was reborn. I no longer feared the creatures. I danced once more.

I did not see the other until it was too late, and just like that, I was gone.