Tag Archive | MT Decker

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 49: WINNERS

Happy Monday! So glad to see y’all; it’s a gorgeous sunny autumn day here in the Shenandoah Valley, and after a fun, quick morning hike, we’re all set for the results party! 

But first: it’s a fond and heart-rich farewell to Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver and Holly Geely. Y’all have been just fabulous. I’ve loved your thoughtful comments, your passion for the community’s stories, and your all-round good humored approach to judging. What a delight and privilege working with you this round. Thank you so very, very much.

♦♦♦♦♦

And here are Dragon Team Five‘s parting words:   

HG: I can’t believe how quickly the past few months have gone! It’s been grand. I’ve read so many great stories and I’m so impressed by the talent and the kindness in this community. I don’t even have anything silly or sarcastic to say because I’m so happy to have been part of this.

FI: I have to echo Holly – this whole adventure has been like a carnival ride: over before the quarter hits the bottom. (I’d put in another but the attendant is telling me I’m too old for the miniature carousel.) Thank you all for the tears, the laughs, and especially for the privilege! I still don’t feel qualified to judge your words but it surely has been a pleasure walking among them and listening to the stories they’ve told.

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

for Best Mental Image: Craig Anderson, “The Young King.” FI: Anyone else picture Ramon Salazar from Resident Evil 4?

for Hacking my Brain: Margaret Locke, “Autobiography.” FI: It’s like you have a camera in my head…

for Most Kick A$$ Princess: Michael Wettengel, “Refuge in Audacity.” HG: I love it when the princess fights back, and this one has attitude. Love it.

for Unrelenting Grip: MT Decker, “The Lonesome Road.” HG: Highly poetic and thought-provoking, with a gripping final thought.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Nancy Chenier, “Rescue.”

HG: The maiden is not the prize, indeed. This is a well done piece all around but the closing line is particularly clever, not an ending at all but a hopeful beginning.

FI: What I loved most about this little twisted tale was the opening paragraph, and realizing that our heroine had taken what a man, father or former conquistador, had designed to keep her prisoner and used it for her own good. Talk about empowerment!

Casey Rose Frank, “She Walks.” 

HG: The format of this story is what grips you from the beginning, and a journey with no destination has its own appeal. It speaks of a dark past but leaves the explanation to the readers imagination.

FI: Ninety-nine words of literary tapas, “She Walks” carries its power in its form. We taste darkness, melting heavy on the tongue, until hope, in a zest of orange, reminds us that it’s the going and not the where that matters. Beautiful work.

Joey To, “The Long Path

HG: The four riders are not the apocalyptic ones of lore but they might bring their own apocalypse. The narrator of this story isn’t the main character; the doomed people of the needlessly warning cities are the protagonists.

FI: One of the reasons I loved this prompt was that, as a child, I watched the Pilgrim’s Progress adaptation “Dangerous Journey” until my eyeballs bled. Not really but you get the point. You, writer, did an incredible job capturing the allegorical feel of Bunyan’s work while giving us a fresh story. The names, the foreboding, all work so well together!

Emily Clayton, “Cerise.”

HG: The short story tells a much longer one and both are tragic through and through. I think this is the greatest tragedy, not your own death but the death of a loved one because of your choices and mistakes. In a few words, true pain is captured.

FI: So much of this story is told in the periphery. We’re hooked from the first line but then only given blurry details because ultimately the history can be forgotten. It’s the outcome, the “true pain” as Holly eloquently put it, that matters. Everything else is just another shade of red.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Bill EnglesonMadame Mayor

HG: This story has my favourite corrupt mayor. Through dialogue you learn the casual indifference with which she regards her subjects. It tickles the funny bone with dark humour and hints at a much larger problem the mayor’s subjects will face.

FI: High points for the names! Even higher points for the wordplay. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheeky commentary on politicians and their “desire” for bipartisanship (does this mean the other pinkie has to go?). It might be unseemly to admit but I wouldn’t mind if this lion-sized security system were implemented in our own capitol… Very clever, dear writer.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Colin Smith, “The Farmer’s Gift” 

HG: In my heart I believe this story was a personal gift to me. He talks about protecting his soul and making offerings, and suddenly bam! It’s a pun. There isn’t much in this world that makes me happier than a well crafted pun.

FI: I have to agree with Holly, that last line won me over instantly! You pulled me in with the world you built, the religious structure you unveil, the unfamiliar names you created, and, once you had me completely, peas. Just, peas. Jarro’s smile could only be a cheeky one.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The Mountain and the Valley.” 

HG: This is lovely. The change of the identity of the mountain is gorgeous. The vision of the soldier with his sweethearts picture in his pocket… familiar, horrifying, sad. A story truly deserving of a prize.

FI: Your brilliant use of bookend phrases brought out in bold the protagonist’s change in perspective. You dragged me down into dusty alleys, made me taste the fear and the sweat, and worry for his sake. But more than that, your story holds deep meaning. It speaks for us, the significant others that are left behind, often forgotten, and shows the strength that it takes for us to carry on in a loved one’s absence. I’m not usually one to cry over stories, but you had my heart in tears, dear writer. Masterfully done.

And now: for a stunning, super marvelous FIFTH win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

NANCY CHENIER!!!

for

“Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament

HG: I’m no poet and if you know me at all you know it, but this poem is super cool (case in point). I like to read it aloud with a little goblin voice and shriek “deceivers!” The little voice saying divide, divide… awesome.

FI: This is one of those stories that I could read a thousand times over and find a new reason to love it every time. Writer, you earn so many points for originality (in fact, the direction I least expected), for cleverness (an amoeba with a spiritual and existential crisis, yes please!), and for flash on a truly micro scale (how on Earth did you fit so much into 99 words?). You have my respect, my envy, my congratulations – absolutely adored this.

Congratulations, Nancy! Thrilled to see you take your fifth crown which, truth be told, I set aside for you some time back. Check out your updated winner’s page; your winning tale has found there a comfy, non-lonely home there with your other winning tales. Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for this week’s #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament

God is Unity
Nature corrupts with its dyads
Eschew division.

Purity is in the waters, they say,
Yet my long liquid hermitage
Hasn’t cleansed my thoughts

They say, too, the urge gets easier to resist,

Deceivers!

The need to populate my loneliness
Shudders through my cytoplasm.

The mocking moons in their dual dance
Ooze across the sky.
The psalmody of our One daystar cannot mute
The taunting of wanton satellites.

Divide, they chide, divide

Under light and darkness, I strain
against that which would desecrate
my singular celibacy.

Quivering prophase
–Such lust cleaves our devotion!–
My mitotic sin.

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 25: WINNERS

AND NOW it’s time to bid an official, tear-soaked farewell to our glorious first Dragon team: Image Ronin and Joidianne. We haven’t seen the last of them, I’m quite sure: but it’s the last we’ll see of them (for now…!) in their capacity as judges. Their tireless thumb wars over choosing winners from among a community of spectacular writers has been a great deal of fun watching. Thank you so very much, dearest IR and Joidianne, for giving of your time, your talents, and above all, your writerly hearts to this community. We are so very grateful!

♦♦♦♦♦

Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne say: 

So here we are. When the ever supportive and patient Rebekah gave Jodi and me this opportunity, I was terrified and delighted in equal measure. Genuinely reading each and every one of your stories, teasing apart, narrowing down, selecting the few has been a privilege. We’ve learnt so much through this experience, not only in terms of writing, but the reality of what Rebekah has dealt with week on week since @flashfridayfic was forged into splendid dragon being. 

Yet our time has come to an end, and heaven knows I’m miserable now. Yet with every cloud a silver lining.

So firstly a round of applause to this wonderful cabal of fantastic writers. It has been a joy and an honour to collaborate with you all, and we both feel richer for the experience.

And a standing ovation for Rebekah, for without her support, patience and reassuring emails ….

Well, let’s just say you’d be still waiting for our first results to be posted.

So, tears welling, we bid adieu, its been a blast, and now I know it’s over I can simply sit back and panic over what I’m going to submit next Friday.

Till we cross pens again, here are our final finalists.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Morrisey-esque lyricism: Carlos Orozco (outgoing Team 3 Dragon Captain!), “In Limbo.”  –“the simultaneous feelings of being satisfied and not, tug on what most writers would call his heart”

Most Disturbing Juxtaposition: Mark A. King (outgoing Team 2 Dragon Captain!), “The Hospital.” “She comes with her distended belly and eyes of wonder.” “She comes with her skeletal body and eyes of knowledge.”

Ridiculously Satisfying End Line: David Borrowdale, “Respect Your Elders.” “Let them squabble, I thought, as I rocked backwards and forwards on the patio Mam and I had laid together. Her legacy is more than mere possessions.”

The Frankly Mr Shankly I’m a Sickening Wreck Award: Voima Oy (incoming dragon captain!), “The Singers.” They sang of the vanished days of job creators, of a Land of Opportunity across the sea.”

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brett Milam, “The Darkest Night.” 

J: This was a heartbreaking tale and one that I had to reread several times for the simple twist that came at the end.

IR: A well written, I nearly wrote executed but managed to avoid the pun, narrative that dealt with a complex scenario. Albert’s desires, fleeting memories that evoked the underlying current of a barabarism [that] begins at home.

MT Decker, “Double Edged.” 

J: This left me with so many questions. Who wrote the letter? Were they the ones who had been defeated or were they truly the victors? And the letter in itself was so haunting that I was unable to get it out of my head. Brilliant take and I’d love to have read more.

IR: Please, please, please let me get what I want! Answers, resolutions, something to calm this itch that refuses to be narratively scratched. An intriguing take on the prompt, that left me as beguiled as bewildered.

Clive Tern, A Tower to the Heavens.” 

J: This made me laugh way too much, the tone of the piece from the very beginning reminded me a bit of a Monty Python sketch and it honestly didn’t disappoint when I realized that the construct was actually the tower of Babel.

IR:  A comedic slant that took us into a realm where the certainty of one’s own talents are wrenched asunder by complacency and the might of things beyond our control. Bigmouth strikes again, I can only surmise.

Carin Marais, “Defeated Draugr.” 

J: This take on the prompt was absolutely heart-wrenching, the fact that the ghosts were trapped there, stuck in a moment of such sorrow, one that seemed to be eternal was a harrowing thought but it created such a powerful scene as well.

IR: The Queen is Dead, and I was drawn into this realm of eternal pain and loss. The imagery of the eternal couple, trapped within confines where there is a light that never goes out, was evocative of LOTR. Nicely done.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Maggie Duncan, “Mother of Exiles.” 

J: This caught my eye because of the concept that it explored, the understanding that behind every historical or great moment there are people who have lost and hurt. It was a brilliant idea to interweave into the prompt, and the fact that they were building something that highlighted what they no longer believed in made it even more poignant.

IR: The notion of unwritten history, the history of the common voice, permeated this piece. Like a boy with a thorn in his side, the pain and regret that in turn forged a community, was eloquently delivered. The bitterness at the end, the stains of a past that tainted everything, left me wanting more. A really intriguing approach to the prompt.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Colin D. Smith, “Future Hope.”

J: In the midst of the tales of despair inspired by the prompt, this was a lovely unexpected twist because defeat doesn’t extinguish hope. The writer managed to capture that perfectly with this fill and the image of a half-built pyramid… after all, there’s always next time.

IR: “The gasp of the audience, magnified in the echo chamber of my mind.” Such a wonderful line that took me back to those formative years when the snap of failure recurred more than dreams of victory. My cheeks flushed crimson as I read this piece, feeling for our fallen hero, only to find my heart delicately played with as the father’s true intentions manifest. This charming man whose desire to heal led to a heart-warming and tender tale that took the prompts on an unexpected journey.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Tamara Shoemaker (outgoing dragon captain from Team 2!), “Potpourri Dreams.”

J: I loved the wordplay here. The utter despair and futility woven throughout seemed to grow with every word, and it left me hoping that there would somehow be a happy ending — even though I was fairly sure that wasn’t in the cards. A compelling read from start to finish.

IR: That opening line, cinematic Imax description of something intimate and laden with regret, drew me straight into this tale. The imagery never lets up, wonderfully capturing a relationship where love has been replaced by apathy and despair. Barbarism indeed begins at home. Elegantly brought back to our petal beginnings, the tale leaves one incredibly satisfied.

And now: for his THIRD time, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

JOSH BERTETTA!!!

for

“Be Careful What You Wish For”

J: This was such an original take on the prompt and I loved it all: everything from the innate curiosity that drove the group to build without true understanding of what they were building it for, the hopes that each of them had, and then how easily it was flipped from innocence to darkness. This was absolutely stunning from start to finish and well deserving of the winner’s spot.

IR: The characterisation and development of this piece grabbed my attention. From Mary whose desires were based upon fleeing an abusive legacy, to Mo hand in glove, seeking a second opportunity, with each description this group were clearly defined and depicted. The ultimate defeat, how are pride and desire can bring us all low, was wonderfully “executed”. A worthy winner.

Congratulations, Josh! A true pleasure to see you back at the top–and only weeks before you join us as a dragon captain, no less. Here’s your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

Be Careful What You Wish For

“If you build it they will come.”

That’s all the blueprint said.

Knowing neither what “it” was nor who “they” were, they built it anyway.

Abe, the aged wanderer, hoped “they” would give him a place to rest his weary bones. On work release, Mo, the law-breaking career criminal, wanted freedom. Mary, a young woman, prayed for a baby so she might give the love she never received. Long ignored by his family, Joe, the youngest of twelve brothers, wanted power and recognition. Justifying her drinking for being bored with life, Teresa the lush sought none other than God.

Upon completion an inscription appeared above the threshold.

Abe read in it “Invitation.”

Mo saw in the word “Instruction.”

Mary, “Incarnation;” Joe, “Interpretation.”

And Teresa? “Intoxication.”

They argued over who was right and who was wrong. They called one another names. Some even threw punches.

And the doors finally opened, a light pouring out from within.

They stopped, their mouths agape. Some fell to their knees, believing their dreams about to be realized.

Then “They”–the demons of jealousy, anger, greed, self-centeredness, and self-righteousness–came.

They saw what had become of the five, how they debased themselves in their wanting to be right.

Then, They conquered.

FFwinner-Web

Sixty Seconds III with: Joidianne4eva

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is (Team One Dragon Captain!) Joidianne4eva.  This is her third fantastic win; read her first interviews here (Nov 2013) and here (Jun 2014). Read her winning story here, then take one minute to get to know her even better!

1) What about the prompts inspired your story? The tree was what first caught my attention; it had this ominous aura about it, and then I focused on the two people… the story grew from there.

2) How long have you been writing flash? What do you like about this format as opposed to writing longer stories? I’ve been writing flash fiction for a couple years now (at least I think it’s been a couple of years; my memory’s not all that reliable). I really enjoy having to limit the amount of words I’m using. I tend to go over the top with word counts, and this really helps me to focus on what matters.

3) How has your flash fiction changed since you startedI’ve stopped trying to force it. At first I tried to utilize every prompt but I ended up less than pleased with results, so now I let the prompt inspire me. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

4) What advice would you give writers who are new to flash? What encouragement might you give to seasoned flash writers who struggle with winning? New writers, just jump in. Seriously, it might seem daunting at first, but once you hit a rhythm and learn how to use your own voice it’s a brilliant experience. For more seasoned writers, like I was saying above, sometimes we’re trying to force the story and that doesn’t work all the time; so I’d say take your time and really let the prompts inspire you, rather than rushing things.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? Oh, MT Decker, no doubt. Seriously, she’s a world-building queen and I literally envy her skill.

6) What are your favorite books of this past year? I’m currently in awe of Pretty Little Things by Jilliane Hoffman and Still Life by Louise Penny. Both are psychological thrillers that keep you guessing until the very end.

7) What are you working on now? Just a few pieces here and there, nothing concrete at the moment, mostly I’m cleaning up a few first drafts (weep for me)

8) Tell us something about your writing life. I’ve got this thing where if I have an idea, I have to get it down, as in, if I don’t, I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else and it will usually ruin my entire day. 

9) Tell us about your writing process. I’ve mellowed a lot. I tend to let a plot grow before I attempt it now, so that’s the main change. It depends on the project, but I usually start with my characters; I build back stories, family trees, traumas and triumphs from the start, because then it feels like I’m working with someone I know.

10) Any hobbies? I sketch a lot that’s been kicking up a bit these days because I’ve started sketching my characters as well; but that’s pretty much it.