Tag Archive | Matt Lashley

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 1: WINNERS

Welcome back! That glass of wine made for such a fun way to kick off Year Three (scary, too; in some ways it was a bit like handing the wedding mic to Uncle Joe – you know who I mean – for a toast). Remember not to get too comfy, as fun new challenges wait in the wings here at ol’ FF. First, of course, TOMORROW IS FLASHVERSARY results day, with loads of prizes flung in every which direction, including the first-ever Readers’ Choice award based on YOUR votes.

This Friday’s regular contest will be judged by Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker and Mark King. If that doesn’t stoke your competitive edge and fire up your imagination, I don’t know what will.  

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The Team One Dragon Captains (TODC?) of Joidianne /Image Ronin say

J: Judging the entries this week was quite a treat. So many of you chose to not focus on the glass of wine instead weaving it into a much larger tale that captivated and held my attention throughout this weekend. I adored the way that many of you thought not only outside the box, but outside of the entire continent. We were treated to tales of quiet betrayal, heartache and loss that sent me wheeling with imagery. For that, I think you all deserve a round of applause!

IR: So, first week and we found ourselves taken aback by the scale, ingenuity, bravado and talent of the Flash! Friday community. Thank you to her Dragoness for entrusting us with this task, as stepping behind the curtain has been both terrifying and exhilarating.

As I’m sure you all appreciate the role of two judges, split geographically and temporally, was both a challenge and a negotiation of subjectivity. Thankfully there was little blood spilt, but it needs to be acknowledged how hard your creative submissions were to split apart. You guys are incredible and your writing is what makes Flash! Friday such a vibrant community to be part of.

We both judged this blind, so when the winners are revealed it’ll be as much a surprise to us as you. So here we go.

(Note: Joidianne’s comments are placed first throughout.)

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Title Nod: Mark A. King, “Judge, Dread.” Simply because anything that refers to my (IR that is) childhood hero is hard to ignore.

Hinting at a Bigger Picture: Anthony Marchese, “The Northern Border.” Loved the concept of a conflict called the Schism Wars … here’s hoping we find out more about this place in the near future.

Pulling at the Heart Strings: MT Decker, “With an Empty Cup and an Open Heart.” For making me begin to write the IR offspring sage, albeit bad, advice.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

D.B. Foy, “A Man Looks At His Life.” There was just something about this piece that completely captivated me. Maybe it was the personification of the alcohol woven throughout the piece or maybe it was the way that from the narrator’s first sip it became everything and anything he needed it to be. All in all, this was a brilliant use of the prompt and stunningly original.

Like Alice I tumbled down this particular rabbit hole, plummeting faster and faster as our cursed narrator reflected on his constant companion. The piece took us down the theme of alcoholism and the function as part of what we are, never apologising, but stripping back layers of a love affair that had stood the test of time.

Margaret Locke, “And They Lived…” I’m not usually one for clichés but these were all tied in so well with narrator’s misery that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. The ending is one that will stay with me for quite a while so it deserved an honourable mention. A playful lament to the resentment of time and unfulfilled dreams resonated due to that final image of a woman who believed herself as fragile and empty as the glass she held in celebration.

Erin McCabe, Homesick.” If I had to choose a favourite piece that fully captured the essence of a complete story in just a few words, this would have been it. The quiet melancholy that this entry carried made my heart hurt and the ending pretty had it shattering into tiny pieces. This is such a brilliant tale that it would be a dishonour not to at least mention it.

I really enjoyed this piece too, the delightful playfulness of the opening that then takes us meandering through London. The tourist gaze of our narrator deconstructing a reality that reflects their own sense of self. Culminating with that perfect note of an ending.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Solitary.” The loneliness of this piece is what captured me from the start. The fact that the narrator delves into this fantasy world made up of possible interactions makes the loneliness all the more felt and the way that the fantasies suddenly vanished leaving the narrator with that single wineglass as evidence of how solitary an existence he/she is leading makes the piece all the more potent.

The solitude of excess and the devotion of the acolyte to their saviour, were something that lingered long after I had read this piece. The sadness and resignation, acceptance and contentment that permeates what seems such a simple tale is atmospheric – laced with the absolute mundanity of our existence (Campbell’s soup and golf).

SECOND RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “The Betrayal.” Revenge will always be one of my favourite tropes and the author captured the very essence of it here. I love the little insight into Tom’s mind and the way that he figured out what had happened but above all I enjoyed the quietness of his vengeance. The tale approaches the matter in such a cold and calculated manner that it leaves you satisfied and horrified at the end. A sublime piece overall and I think this one will linger in my mind for a while.

Like many tales this week, including our winner, the notion of poison and deception were recurring tropes this week. The coldness that Jodi notes takes us delicately in hand leading us gently towards the fatal closure. In particular the line “an incarcerated man, like a glass of Cabernet, longs only to breathe.’ Will be one I will treasure for a long time to come.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Matt Lashley, “Internet Dating.” I must admit that this was a personal favourite of mine. The author managed to paint a vulnerable picture of the woman that had me feeling sympathetic not only for her dating choices but also for the way that she saw herself in this detached manner that suggested a number of not so nice things about her self-esteem. The only odd thing that I picked up on was the mention of the hammer and the reason for its presence was such a brilliant twist that I have to applaud the author’s ingenuity.

Like Jodi, for me this piece just worked and easily could have taken winner’s status. The title was a delight, setting the tone and also forcing the reader into a perspective that is eventually subverted. The reflective quality of the first paragraph, the visceral imagery of our narrator’s body, the disgust and delusion, was note perfect. The ending as brutal as the mind we meander within.

And now: for her second win, and our first win of Year Three, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

TAMARA SHOEMAKER!!!

for

“Distortion”

The brilliance of this entry starts with the title along with the first sentence of the piece. It captures the reader’s attention and lends to the overall distortion woven throughout the words and that skewed perception makes the betrayal all the more felt. Because just like the narrator, the reader’s understanding of what is happening is, in the end, also distorted. Brilliant writing and an overall astounding piece. 

Like a trip-hop journey through sensations and emotions the tale weaves the reader back and forth through a rich tapestry of seemingly perfection into a realm of betrayal. The imagery and pace of the piece, at points nearly hypnotic moved us beyond the simple notion of a glass and into a realm of deceit and desire.

Congratulations, Tamara! Below is your second winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated and sparklier than ever winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Distortion

It is the distortion that I do not see.

It wavers, offset, unbalanced, against a backdrop of perfection,
Deep hues blending one into another like the shift of twilight into dusk into night.

Beauty spills from the scene, and peace, the scent of
Warmth,
And tranquility.
Fingers lacing my hand,
A casual brush of my hair behind my ear.

So that when you smile, I don’t even notice the cracks in the smooth granite,
The weeds in the white lilies,
The scorpion that hides in the sand.

When you look at me with the familiar smile-creases,
When you lean in for our mutual touch,
When you raise your glass in toast to me,

I never notice the poison that swills the wine.
It sinks deep, unnoticed, into the purple liquid.

And on top, on the shimmering surface,
The picture tilts.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 50: WINNERS

Welcome to Flash! Friday results day! As ever, there’s LOTS of stuff going on; I’m so eager to share the goodness, I can hardly get the words out (don’t worry; I’ll manage). First up: a reminder of what’s happening these next couple weeks:

* Nov 28 – Special guest judges (announced later today or tomorrow; you’re going to go nuts)

* Dec 5Flashversary!!!!! (No. Words. for how HUGE the prize is.)

* Dec 12 – Year Three starts with its exciting changes and our brand new judge panel. Speaking of which, let me introduce them! Lots more about them in the weeks ahead. Join me in welcoming:

Pratibha Kelapure (@needanidplease) * Mark King (@Making_Fiction) * Eric Martell (@drmagoo

Jodi Murray (Joidianne4eva) * Sinéad O’Hart (@sjohart) * Carlos Orozco (@goldzco21

Image Ronin (@ImageRonin) * Tamara Shoemaker (@TamaraShoemaker)

Once you’ve stopped S C R E A M I N G, please move on with me to today’s results. We were marvelously privileged this round to be joined by the fine crew of the Liverpool-based writers’ group Poised Pen. Thanks specifically to Catherine Connolly & AJ Walker for sharing your time and keen writerly eyes! We love having you as part of our FF family, and it was a true honor to have you take a turn as judge. An honor for us and, I hope, not too torturous for you (though we did our best).    

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The judges from Poised Pen say: Well, what a weekend, folks. It is the first time Poised Pen have been given the pleasure and privilege of judging at Flash! Fiction Friday. One of the Poised Pen team – I won’t name him – had to drink for two days at a real ale festival to ready himself for the challenge. It was most interesting being on the other side for the week. It was noted how important the title was to the pieces – we will definitely take this on board for our own stories, next week at least. We would like to think that it may improve our entries in the future – here’s hoping anyway!

As the two judges were both Flash Dogs the dragon master turned puppy master for the weekend, together with the striking photo cue references to Nipper and HMV. We’re not sure whether it was the relatively constrained indoor photograph, but it was noticeable that fantasy was a lot less in evidence this week than usual – though it may have been the difficulty of fitting music, puppies and dragons into 150 words. In common with most weeks though the Flash! community inevitably delivered a lot of death – and some intriguing wind-up tech!

The judging was blind of course and when we finally saw the author’s names it transpired we hadn’t delivered a clean sweep of Flash Dogs, but we did crown a new winner – giving us a warm glow. So, without further ado… to the winners, the runners up and the mentions…congratulations all!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Karl Russell, “Spiritual Remix.” The clue to this one’s premise is in the title.  This is a brilliant play structurally on the concept of the record played backwards and a mirror image story which produces a completely different version when set out in reverse.  Very cleverly done!

Sarah Miles, “Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dogs Tails.” Here, imagery and language are put to great use in the “thundering” and “howling”, followed by the “arias of mourning”.  There is a sense of the inevitable in the way in which Sayid ultimately joins the overwhelming “chorus”.  Powerful and well observed.

Mark King“Silver Song of the Lark.” There were nods aplenty to Liverpool – blatant but welcome. This story in particular made one of the judges (okay, Andy) laugh out loud. Loved seeing Hansen’s ‘you won’t win anything with kids’ comment. Thanks for making me laugh Mark – even if it did make me cry a little too at what we’ve lost.

Lastly, thanks to Rebekah the Puppy Master for trusting the Poised Pen team with the judging this week. It has been an absolute pressure. Or did we mean pleasure? Where’s me pint?

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sinéad O’Hart, “The Curtain Call.” This is a great example of a story utilising effective dialogue.  The interplay between the couple draws us effortlessly into a relationship in which communication is somewhat less than it should be.  We get a sense of an older, longstanding couple without any specific reference to age, as well as precisely what the husband’s viewpoint on “Oh, The Talent We’ve Got” may well be!

Betsy Streeter, “Hey, Jude.” Beatles reference in the title aside, this was a poignant example of a story incorporating music and death, something a number of the stories this week considered.  Here, the key is in the mark made “on the world”, which is likened to a “scratch” or “pop” on a record but only fully becomes clear at the conclusion of the final sentence, making it particularly poignant. ** Note ** This song was No.1 when one of the judges was born – coincidence or some scary amount of research (aka cyber stalking?)?

Tinman, “The Food of Love.” We really enjoyed the original premise of this story, with The Frydermaus and its pervasive aromas, likened to both the “Bach Fugue through organ pipes” and a “fart through a bubble bath”!  The wry, tongue-in-cheek tongue continues through Caruso’s signature dish, “O Sole Mio”, to the final inability to wind the oven sufficiently to “cook a whole turkey”.  Really well observed!

Matt Lashley, “Comeuppance.” This is another great example of a story in which the importance of its title becomes clear once we have come to its conclusion.  The hint that we will be privy to a tale of in which justice will be served becomes apparent only as the maid is hurrying away millions of bearer bonds richer from the “strong”, “weak” and “self-absorbed” family members.  With very few words, we gain the impression the “scolded puppy” maid is in the right!  

THIRD RUNNER UP

Craig Anderson, “Bark Box.” This is a brilliant piece in which voice is key.  The sheer magnitude of the task in trying to teach the proverbial pack is emphasised in the way attempts result in them “grinning like idiots” and their propensity to “spin in circles, hypnotized”.  The imagery tied to the “puppy” prompt is consistent throughout, from the inability to “walk on all fours” to the final determination to “discover who’s a good boy”.  Added to which, the humorous tone throughout is spot on – particularly in the closing line. Thanks for this, Craig.

SECOND RUNNER UP

David Borrowdale, “Harmony for the Mind.” Not only is this a great story, which demonstrates a clear sense of the world which we, as reader, inhabit and uses the word prompt for the week of “puppy” to original effect, it also sets its premise up particularly cleverly through its title – something which becomes clear fully once we have finished reading.  It is also a great example of an entry involving apparent research into epistemological theory and attention to detail in very few words.  Added to that, a closing line which hits home in the overall context of the story to finish off!  Very well done, David.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Thief.” Tamara’s story uses language to great effect.  We begin with the accusatory “thief”, with the concluding paragraph aiding to emphasise the original accusation by bringing us as reader full circle.  The sense of a need for justice is something which runs throughout linguistically, with references to “loathsome” and “bitter”, as well as “razor-edged” slaying, adding to the sense of hurt and betrayal.   Here, “life” helps to highlight the importance of what we are dealing with, making the accusation all the more serious.  Additional kudos to the author for effective use of the word “poised” in the very first paragraph too!

And now: for his very first time, we couldn’t be happier for Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“The Abyss”

This story sets its premise out from the title in.  Right from the outset, the reader descends into the abyss the characters dwell within whilst they drink memories away.  Original premise aside, the writer’s use of language is accomplished.  Pockets “bulging” with coins bathed in anguish cause the protagonist to “crawl” to the bar, emphasising the sense of psychological weight from the first paragraph.  The sense of despair and hopelessness continues via the “bones” displaying their “masks” only, devoid of real humanity, as we see what the bar occupants have been reduced to.  Seemingly, the distilled memories they imbibe will not be the only things incapable of a return.  Here, “echo” refers cleverly not only to the distilled products being served but the inference in respect of the drinkers themselves.  There is a sense of struggle in the attempt to “stay afloat”, however hopeless it may ultimately prove.  Finally, we reach the haunting conclusion and its “shadows”, with the reference to consumption highlighting the extent to which those who drink at the Abyss are eaten away, slowly but surely, by their singular desire.  Beautifully done, Chris!

Congratulations, Chris! Below is your frothy winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, super duper marvelous winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

The Abyss

The jukebox desires coins bathed in anguish. My pocket is bulging with those. I feed the nostalgic gal then crawl to the bar.

Intoxicated bones with masks of sorrow lounge on decaying stools, a whimpering pack of discarded puppies pining for their master. Glasses are being fractured by aching hands. Marinated eyes plunge for deserted images floating in amber liquid. We drink memories at The Abyss. We splash our guts with the distilled echo of things that don’t come back.

Words are extinct here. Our mouths are preoccupied with swallowing fraudulent remedies. Our ears tuned solely to the paralyzing songs that tell our story with a folksy twang.

A kid in a pink Oxford is peeling the label off his beer with wounded talons. His first heartbreak, perhaps. I buy his next round. He nods. I want to tell him to stay afloat, but my coins have bartered a deal: A melody that tilts the bottle. Lyrics that consume shadows.

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