Tag Archive | Nancy Chenier

Flashversary 2015: WINNERS

IT’S HERE! The final Flash! Friday post, the final winners, the final comments. But ohhhhh the glorious beginning awaiting beyond these doors! Let’s take our stories and flood magazines and contests and publishing houses with them. Let’s fling our pages to the four winds, win awards, flabbergast agents, storm bestseller lists, enrapture the world; let’s make friends and family and complete strangers smile, or cry, or shudder, or dream, or swoon — but let’s make them notice us.

Let’s make them remember us.

And in the dark days when loneliness and doubt threaten, please return here and let this family of writers fold you in its arms again. Bury yourself in these glowing thousands of stories by these hundreds of extraordinary writers and let your own words remind you that you are one of them: an extraordinary writer, and a crucial part of the magical story you wrote that was known for a time as Flash! Friday.

Special thanks to:

  • Susan Warren Utley, for being a dear friend and helping make my Flash! Friday dreams come true
  • Shenandoah Valley Writers, for being the dearest group of friends an ill-behaved dragon could ask for: for unswerving belief in me as a writer (Margaret Locke), for our shared vision (Tamara Shoemaker), for faithfully providing chocolate (MT Decker), for sitting with me at Beth’s side (Maggie Duncan), for teaching me to fly (#HMN Foy Iver), for chasing Quinby with me (Annika Keswick), for baring your poet’s soul (Sarah Kohrs), for dreaming with me over veggie quesadillas (Josette Keelor), for letting me eat your baby (Allison Garcia), and all of you, including those I didn’t name, for understanding what it means to take Time Hoff. I love you dearly.
  • Dragon Captains, all of you, including those who would have served had we continued. Your love for writing & writers are the heartbeat of Flash! Friday
  • Contest hosts, both former and present, for creating such meaningful forges for writers to sharpen and share their work 
  • My hero and best friend, the greatest writer of all, who loves the members of this community even more than I do: so powerful and beautiful in thought and execution, one of his names is The Word. Without this Word, all of my words are gibberish. 

I’m closing this contest not empty, but heart full; not sad, but inspired. You generously shared your stories here, each one a gem in this expansive hoard that’s been my home these past three years. Thanks to you, I leave this place the richest person in the world. 

I will be grateful to you for the rest of my life. My prayers and love go with you. Thank you.

See you out there!

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HOUSEKEEPING:

  1. This site will officially close on Friday, Dec 18; once it’s closed, the front page will show a static howdy screen. However, your stories & winners’ pages (etc) will remain accessible through the menu & sidebar.
  2. The Dragon Emporium (a little store where you can buy FF logo stuff), as promised, will remain open through Dec 31.
  3. This isn’t goodbye! We’re just moving the conversation from the kitchen to the sitting room, is all. I’d love to stay connected with you; please follow me on Twitter & friend me at Facebook. And be sure to follow the #Flashdogs to stay abreast of even more flash fiction shenanigans. What, you thought you’d be forced to wander off alone?? Not a chance.

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And now for WINNERS!!! which, who are we kidding, is where you scrolled straight to anyway. 😀  One hundred twenty-three tales you brought me, a fabulous feast of worlds and characters, poetry and musings, murder and life. How does one winnow the wind?! In the end I chose stories that stood out for their originality, perhaps for their beauty, or perhaps for their humor; words that drew me back for a second, third, and fourth read, that followed me to work and the grocery store and the library, then leapt on me, licking my face (DOWN, Flash, DOWN!) when I came back home and reopened the door. Let’s begin!

NOTE: Winners, please contact me here so I can get your prizes to you. Thanks!

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rof2

>RING OF FIRE WINNER<
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster & mug, a copy of Calum Kerr’s The 2014 Flash365 Anthology, and a one-year subscription to all three Splickety imprints

Ashley Gardana

Thank you for sharing so many of your stories with us, Ashley!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster

Crystal Alden, “Rhyming Ever After.” This funny little rhyming story is clever and unique; like my favorite sort of story, however, depths and layers lurk just beneath the surface. Solely through dialogue, we’re introduced to a colorful and memorable cast of characters: a drunk witch whose tipsy wand cast a rhyming spell on our hapless passerby, and an authority who listens to the sad tale but in the end refuses to help. This isn’t a normal sort of poem, because only the cursed characters speaks in rhyme, and so we’ve got a wonderfully (and humorously) complex counterpoint of rhyme with straight speech. It’s a sophisticated and original approach to the prompt, and that double entendred just in the final line put it over the top.

Sal Page, “Number One Me.” Speaking of double entendres!!! This piece gave us a Shel Silverstein-style train wreck of a cloning tale (think again before you farm out daily responsibilities to your clone, people). The story is funny, yes; but the tone and clipped pacing is sheer magic, in the end reading like a desperate SOS note scrawled on a note and slipped under the door. What kicked this story up to a higher level for me was its layered title (reference to the arrogant “looking out for Number One” attitude) and its less-funny implied warning of what might happen should technology outrun ethics. (In the words of the esteemed Douglas Adams: there are some who argue this has already happened…)

Holly Geely, “Sentience.” This. Is. Hilarious. I’d love to go on about it, you know, lauding its (junior high-level jokes) wordplay, its satisfying framework, its original plot (sentient underpants convincing a regular Joe to rob a bank!), but in the end… Eat your heart out, Pilkey. This. Is. Simply. Hilarious. And of course you wrote it, Holly.

Nancy Chenier, “Vestigial Attachment.” The gorgeous, nuanced, precise word choices set this story apart first, verbs like starfished, adjectives like moony and atavistic, and imagery like “sand peel(ing) apart my unwebbed toes.” But it’s the worldbuilding and rich character development that slayed me most, the star(fish?)-crossed ex-lovers sharing custody across boundaries of magic, the pain of loss overlaid by the pain of wishing for a thing impossible to have. The story is tragically complex and gorgeous. It reads slow, like the low, haunting notes blown from a conch shell: the s-sh-s-sh of the sea against the d-l-l-d of the land. Wonderful vocabulary and beautiful work all-round.

Mark A. King, “#FlashFridayFiction.” After that amount of work, how could I not award it an HM?? While its James Joyce-esque meandering through hashtags is inventive and funny, it’s the shadow of its writer that compelled me most: someone who thought he’d be clever by playing with format, only to discover he got more than he’d bargained for. The bravado of the writer — which may or may not be autobiographical — overwhelmed by his story (shades of Pirandello?); his attempts to uplift the reader (in which he succeeds quite beautifully) are knitted tightly with self-deprecation and naked honesty. “Monday evenings,” he says, referring to when contest results post, “pretending it doesn’t matter when it does.” Yes, it matters! We know, and we understand. Also, I’m sending you a mug. #YouveEarnedIt #AlphaDog

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3rd Runner Up
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster & cool FF thing

Karl A. Russell, “One Week, Suspended.” Gruesome and terrifying, this story plays with time in a way no one else dared: backward, forward, and even bound between the minutes. While in my own writing I veer toward the fractured fairytale side, I couldn’t let this grim and cinematic piece go. In his reverse-moving scripting, unpooling blood, unstabbing, unbreaking, unshattering, with a horrifying, powerful twist the undoing doubles the story’s violent intensity by forcing the reader to imagine the doing. Structurally the story moves swiftly, sparsely down the page, each staccato line as sharp as a knife. The form echoes the story’s violence, and OH, what an end, with words doing so much work all at once! “His unending sentence/Jailed behind her eyes.” This kind of sophisticated wordsmithing makes me giddy. Powerful writing.      

2nd Runner Up
Prize: A Flash! Friday commemorative poster & cool FF thing

Bill Engleson, “After a Few Too Many Beers Whilst Bellying Up to the Flash Friday Bar.” Many of you tried (and succeeded) overwhelming my heart with your tender tributes, and I thank you for them. I’ve chosen this one as my favorite because it encapsulates so many elements that make flash fiction a genre to be reckoned with: a killer title, lyrical language, gorgeous imagery, creative word choices, onomatopoetic plotting, humor and heartstrings, a strong frame. All of that within a haunting, colorful, 100-word distillation of what a writing community is. “The words will still be there,” he says. Wonderful. 

1st Runner Up
Prize: A Flashversary poster with your story; a Flash! Friday poster; a FF mug; a copy of one of the soon-to-be-released Flashdogs anthology

Marie McKay, “Incremental.” This story first captured my eye with its increasing frenzy: stroll, speed, crank it up, hurry, rush. Like Karl & Crystal’s final lines, the double meaning of that last word — rush — lends a power to the story outside of the obvious. This piece absolutely blew me away, because the real story isn’t the one we see at all, in which a man pops out for a walk. In a single word, the final word, the entire story is reframed and set on its head, and we are given an entirely new understanding of what’s going on. That’s skill on some kind of stratosphere we haven’t yet invented a name for. In place of an ordinary stroll, we now have a man desperate to find what’s missing in his life. And look at that marvelously repeated word at the end, like a mountaintop echo: “…I found it/I found my rush.” What was missing: now found. Love. ♥   

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GRAND DRAGON CHAMPION
Prize: A Flashversary poster with your story; a Flash! Friday poster; a FF mug; a bazillion books (listed here); notecards, original artwork, for pete’s sake, just keep your mailbox open for the next couple months, k?

Flashversary 2015

ERIC MARTELL

FOR

“FREAKY FRIDAY”

On Friday, everything changed. I’d been dreaming of my days as a dragonling, soaring too high over the western seas, when my alarm went off.

Kids’ll be up soon, gotta get breakfast ready.

Swinging my legs out of bed, I shuffled to the kitchen.

Wait – when did I have kids?

I scratched my too-soft belly and started a kettle on the stove.

Soft belly?

The next hour was chaos, but at last, we were all out the door, headed for school and work.

High above the western seas, a great roar split the dawn. When did I become a dragon?

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This story has it all: the dragon-tinged frame of the dragonling dream and the roaring dragon; a story that’s telling more than it seems; a compelling protagonist; strong writing (look at all that varied sentence structure! fantastic!); tension. (And no, I didn’t choose it because it’s got a dragon; the dragon’s the fiery frosting on the cake.) This story beats out the rhythm of a common human theme: the dreams of youth vs the often shattered reality of adulthood. Our protagonist isn’t particularly unhappy, but the dreams of “soaring too high over the western seas” play out in sharp contrast to a disappointed (shuffle, too-soft belly, chaos) prosaic reality. Here is a parent consumed by the chores of daily life, who believes dreams have been relegated to the past. This, we find out in the glorious end, is incorrect.

When did I become a dragon? 

Eric has encapsulated in a single line everything I ever hoped Flash! Friday would be. Our dreams don’t have to be left behind: they follow us, roaring. We don’t have to hide our writing, hesitate to post, shy from sending to publications or agents or CreateSpace. No. The theme hammered home in a magnificent, victorious battle cry isn’t that someday we might have value, or that someday, someone might appreciate our writing: it’s that we don’t have to be afraid anymore. We have been dragons all along.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 52: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all: welcome to our final regular results show for Flash! Friday — combined today with Saturday’s Flash Dash results (still rather mind-boggled that an 11-year-old managed to write an entire funny little story in the 30 minutes!).

As for the wealth of gorgeous, dragonish love you wrote Friday, I’m going to reserve my comments for Friday, when it’s my turn to say thanks. Remember we’ve a grand finale party this Friday (Dec 11) with Flashversary: mugs, posters, books, and all kinds of magnificent prizes at stake. I hope you’ll come back to write one last time. ♥ 

Tomorrow is our final global #Spotlight, this time featuring the lovely F.E. Clark from Scotland. Be sure to join us! Haggis optional. 

Last for today: an enormous round of thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy and A.J. Walker. I’ve loved this pairing: Voima’s poetic spirit, A.J.’s tongue-in-cheekiness (and Catherine’s faithful blinding of the tales–thank you too!). Your thoughtful choices, your funny and poignant comments, your cheery spirits, your enthusiasm, every bit of it. And especially to A.J. who, I think, may have given me more dragons than anyone. Thankful til I die? Oh yes. And beyond. ♥♥♥  

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Up first: Flash Dash results!!! love the frenetic world of Flash Dash, getting a little peek at how brains work, how stories are born. Your stories were sheer delight, and yes, some fantastic creativity, everything from genies to werewolves. A literary buffet, y’all. Thanks to all of you!

Special mention first up for 11-year-old Crystal Alden, who defied the time limitations and wrote a creative, cheeky story with a strong start and hilarious finish. Great job, Crystal — you had me laughing aloud. Read her story here.

⇒⇒ The winner of the $20 Flash Dash Cash prize is

Nancy Chenier

Strong voice, spot-on pacing, and OH MY LANDS what a last line, executed with perfection. You’ve earned this one, baby. Watch your inbox for details on how to get your loot. Congratulations! And everyone: read her winning story here.

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Now for the final regular round of Flash! Friday! Here are Dragon Team Eight’s final comments:   

V — Thank you for all your great stories. Epic and  intimate, tragic and funny and brave — each unique and special.  It has been an honor and a privilege and so much fun to be part of this Flash! Friday community. To come together, to share  stories is  a remarkable thing. It takes tremendous amount of time and effort to make this place, this creative space.  Thank you, Rebekah, for everything. 

And I could not ask for a better co-judge than AJ. Your sense of humor and positive spirit is a delight–not to mention your own amazing talent.  Thank you, AJ for making Dragon Team 8 great. Thank you, Catherine, for sending us the stories. We could not do this without you. You are an essential member of Dragon Team 8! 

With the closing of MicroBookends, and Three Line Thursday on hiatus, we bid farewell  to other inspiring places for very short poems and stories. Thank you, David and Grace, for all your hard work. Thursdays and Fridays will be different now. 

These are very special places–here, we can come together. To me, the comments from other writers are part of the appeal of Flash! Friday, Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends.  People feel free to interact, encourage each other, appreciate a good line, or a fantastic ending.  This means so much to a writer, especially a writer who is just starting, or beginning again, this thing that we all do.  

Friendships have been forged here. Lives have been changed here. Writers have been born and grown here. 

The community continues to grow and change, inspired by each other.  We know writing can be a lonely business. Life can be demanding, and sometimes it seems impossible to write at all. Yet we need imagination and stories more than ever. We need possibilities. We need to imagine better futures.  We will write on, I do believe this. And we are not alone.

AJW — When #Team8 were put together all those months ago and the schedule set down, little did we know that we’d end up judging the last of the regular Flash! Friday challenges. It has been an honour to serve our most lovely Mother of Dragons, Rebekah. We’ve all enjoyed the anticipation in seeing what photograph, what phrase or book was to be our touchstone each Friday. Sometimes they floated our boat, sometimes they went up in flames. But always there would be fireworks somewhere, somehow, and Fridays won’t be the same without it. I have sent a personal message to Rebekah and so won’t get too schmaltzy here, but needless to say she has been a star and can be justly proud with what she created here.

This week’s stories have been smothered in thick gloopy love and affection for this special place and the keeper of the keys. The ‘beautiful girl who lived here’ turned out to be Rebekah, and she was either a resplendent dragon herself or very close mates with one (or at least an egg).  

To Voimaoy — THANK YOU!  For your patience and understanding. And being an all-round great judging partner. It has been a true pleasure. and I think we have worked well together. Cheers  x.   Thanks as ever to Catherine for forwarding the stories to us so we could judge them blind. Thanks too to everyone who entered this week – I trust that you have all mopped up the tears from your keyboards and that none of your computers exploded into flame from tear damage (I’m sure insurance for tear damaged electronics is impossible to get – more chance of getting Dragon Cover).

After toying for a millisecond with the idea of making everyone a winner, that was discounted for being a cop out; someone deserves the last badge after all. It was a really tough call picking the top ten or so and then drilling down to the winner, but we have. So, without further ado, here’s our call:

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MENTIONS

Chris Milam, “Table for One.” A bite of reality

Karl A. Russell, “The Girl and the Egg.” A door, an eggshell, magic!  

Bart Van Goethem, “Rebirth.” Refreshingly unsentimental–with a wonderful one-word ending.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Carin Marais, “Arad’s Dragon.” V – A beautiful story of friendship — the epic economy of flash

Bill Engleson, “Thanks Stan.” AJ – Hey, I like humour, and this one made me laugh. Snappy dialogue. Simple idea. Not being allowed within 100 yards of a maiden again. Poor lamb. Thanks for the laugh!   

Stella Turner, “Sins of the Flesh.” V – Dark, dark, humour–Love this take and the turns of phrase–“sliced bread, butter knife”…and “caught devouring bacon” 

Jennifer Terry, “#TimelessBeauty.” AJ – Loved the emotion in this piece. Getting old gracefully, perhaps not confident in oneself, then a nice uplifting end. And of course I’m a big Twitter fan so it needs a mention (Twitter has been great for us writers, hasn’t it?) #uplifting 

Geoff Holme, “Aubade.” V – Although a late entry, this deserves mention for a lovely tribute–Aubade is a song of parting, and greeting a new dawn.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Craig Anderson, “Mother of Dragons.”

V — This one had me in tears.  It is heartfelt and beautiful in its simplicity–“The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free” to “How magnificent they are.”   This is a testament to the economy and power of flash. Wonderful and generous writing. 

AJW – ‘The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free.’ Well, that first line says it all doesn’t it? Like so many of the stories this week the heart is well and truly on its sleeve, on a badge, on the T-Shirt and in bright flashing neon, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Bookended (don’t get me started on Microbookends please) by last line; ‘I gave them wings, now they must fly,’ it is an instruction. Or at least a call to try. You’ve all got an extra hour or so on Fridays from now on; see what you can do with it…

Graham Milne, “The Auction.” 

AJW – Lovely idea, perfectly written. Who’d have thought dragons could have had their teeth pulled and fire put out by Capitalism? Picturing the once-proud beast with paddle No.68 having to bid for their supper/maiden is a super/supper idea. ‘Faded scales that once glittered’ perfectly encapsulating the idea. 

V — I agree with AJ: it is a sad commentary on Capitalism and the current state of affairs in this materialistic world. It  is so well done, and I love the take on “dragons bidding”  too!  We need magic and humor more than ever.

Steph Ellis, “Legacy

AJW – If someone can sort out the music, it could become an anthem for the FlashDogs and the ‘brothers and sisters’ we’ve found through writing here at FFF. Some powerful phrases and another call to arms/pens. I especially liked ‘‘take their fire, and burn down the battlements, breach the closed doors, of literati’s elite.” I’m feeling emboldened just repeating it!  And yes, we do see “the Dragon horde gather.’ 

Stirring stuff – get out those power chords!  

V – Forged in a “volcanic nursery” out of the “monotonous monochrome of the safe and the known” — these are   powerful and moving  words. This is an anthem, and a manifesto. Write on!

 

 

SECOND RUNNER UP

The Imaginator, “A Beautiful Girl Lived Here” 

AJW – Who doesn’t like a bouncing bosom (or preferably two)? And I must say we don’t see enough corsets in Flash! so thanks for that. Seriously, a well-crafted story. I liked with the simple use of ‘pon and ‘neath to give us an idea of the time of the setting (although maybe it could be contemporary Morecambe?). The description of the woman ‘a force of nature’ and the effect she had on both the menfolk and the women was very visual. I could picture the scene perfectly, even through to the unfortunate end and the ‘entrails on the moonlit cobblestones.’ 

V — I couldn’t agree more. This story reads like a folktale, and it’s as visual as a movie (a classic Hammer film, perhaps?). A “force of nature” indeed. and what a powerful ending!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Subject.” 

AJW – A neat original take with so few words to play with (I think it could make an excellent longer piece) it brilliantly shows Rebekah’s realisation of what she was and what she’d done. I loved the dawning of reality as she sees her eyes in the reflection in a shard of glass and then her ‘fingers becoming talons’.   The use of the font change to end the story was simple and perfect. Well done.

V –  The writing throughout is stunning in  economy  and confidence–“the truth of what she was, of what she’d done”.  And the final word –the Greek letters for “Dragon.”  Yes!  Powerful and fierce and beautiful.  This one is for the Dragon Queen.

And now: for her very first time (no, this couldn’t be more perfect; yes, I cried when I saw her name), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

CATHERINE CONNOLLY!!!

for

“Through Lettered Lands

AJW – Time for more olde powere chords? Maybe not. An almost perfect piece (I’m overlooking the added apostrophe (damn autocorrect) – sorry Geoff) and a fitting winner for the last of the regular FF. It perfectly presents us – the writers – from simply ‘writ(ing) a sentence on entering’  through to the creation of entire worlds yet to be mapped, and presenting the writer as an explorer: Lovely. The third stanza in particular stood out for me: ‘Take care little wanderer, they told me -/ once hunted, few care to return from/ the beauty of script scribbled in spaces/ blank, ‘til creation begins.’ A fitting epitaph. Don’t you think?

V — It is an epitaph, an epic poem–but most of all it is a story — our story — it beautifully describes the writer’s journey from initial hesitance to curiosity, and on into ever-expanding lands and worlds into the uncharted unknown—

“It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me 
take it wherever you go
its end starting whole new beginnings…
Explorers seek it, perpetual”  

In the as-yet unwritten future — “All write upon entering — Here Be Dragons.”  

Beautifully done!  

Congratulations, Catherine! I can’t imagine a more perfect writer nor more perfect story to take the very last Flash! Friday dragon crown. Here’s your lovely, brand new winner’s page; apologies for the tear stains. Watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
it’s end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 51: WINNERS

Welcome to Monday and our results day! Have I ever told you how much I love Mondays? I love them dearly. A whole week of days to spend. How decadent! How luxurious! No mistakes yet (as dear Anne “with an e” Shirley would say — by the by, happy birthday, Ms Montgomery!), nothing but hope and promise and fresh, abundant grace to fling to the world’s corners. Thank you for being a part of this particular Monday, last one of November, as we welcome a whole new month tomorrow (!), and very soon another year, can you stand it?! May we put all those hours to good use. I want your gorgeous novels in my grubby talons.

Two more global #Spotlights left, one tomorrow with Carin Marais sharing from South Africa, and next week our final one with F.E. Clark from Scotland. What a thrill these interviews have been; I’m so grateful to all of you who took (and are taking!) part. Thank you!

And please remember to mark your calendars for this Saturday, December 5, at 11:30am Washington, DC time, for our final Flash Dash (with Cash)! You’ll have 30 minutes to write & post your story, and there’ll be a cash prize for the winner.

Finally: a treasure trove of thanks to Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier and IfeOluwa Nihinlola. You’ve faithfully navigated continents and bus schedules to bring us textured, nuanced, thoughtful choices and comments, month after month. I have long respected you both as writers and judges, and I expect great things out of both of you in the future. Thank you for giving of your time and marvelous brains to the FF community. You’re awesome, both. Thank you.  

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Here are Dragon Team Seven’s final comments:   

NC: Our last round falls over Thanksgiving weekend in the US. I’m grateful (and am going to miss) everything about this place. Flash Friday has done incredible things for my confidence and productivity as a writer. I’m ever indebted to Rebekah for providing an incredible environment for whelplings to try their wings. Thank you, oh, Dragony One. I look forward to following your future endeavors. Thank you, too, to my partner in crime, IfeOluwa. It’s been amazing working with you across the many time zones. Lastly, I’m grateful for this incredible community for coming together, crafting mind-blowing fiction week after week, and encouraging one other with positive feedback. You have my awe and appreciation.

Going back to story element + picture prompt left me nostalgic indeed. Despite the home stretch for NaNoWriMo, we still ended up with forty-three predatory tales stalking the streets of Stockholm. Thank you for sending off Dragon Team 7 in such style.

INToday, I’m that little child in Sound of Music, who crawls up the stair, with her eyes on the audience of family and friends as she sings goodbye. It’s been amazing being both a judge and participant in Flash! Friday. I cannot thank Rebekah enough for this space, for the work she has done these three years in providing a place where I’ve learnt and grown. And also, to Nancy, my partner during this judging round, who does all the hard work with seemingly-effortless brilliance, I say a big thank you. You all have written stories of great quality every week, and seem eager to do this on and on for the rest of time. I thank you for being such fantastic writers, and for submitting your stories for us to take a look at. O dabo. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Voima Oy, “Hunter’s Moon.” NC: Gloriously ethereal. I feel like I’m stalking a dreamland with the red-booted hunter, and I’m left haunted by the image of the dark-haired girl “waiting for the light to change”.

Stephen Shirres, “Where Is He?” IN: Hunter arrives on the scene with all the emotions, thoughts and movements of the hunted, and keeps the subterfuge till strength is sapped from the hunted, who thinks he’s the hunter.

M.T. Decker, “The Hart Is a Lonely Hunter.” NC: the wordplay in this is the most exquisite I’ve read in a long time. That the hunterly puns are sustained line after line just blows my mind.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Karl A. Russell, “The Nice Guy.”

NC: I love the set up with her on the edge of the tub like La Femme Nikita, leading me to believe she’s an assassin. That misconception stays with me all the way until the second half of the climactic sentence: “all the evidence his wife needs”. I’m left feeling as sheepish as the target. And the nice guy (sort of, as he’s an adulterer) wins in the end (again, sort of). 

IN: The word ‘shooting’ in the first line of this story carries with it two connotations that keep the tension for the first part of this story: shooting bullets or shooting images? Midway, I realise it’s just a camera. Nice Guy will survive, just might lose his wife. But again, Nice Guy does what nice guys do and I’m not sure he’ll lose her after all.

Firdaus Parvez, “The Hunter Games.” 

NC: Pop culture references from the title to the panicked request for beaming up. This one made me laugh. I could just imagine the hazing that would go on in a future like this. Grunts are sent on frivolous missions and unceremoniously dumped to find their own embarrassing way out.

IN: This read funny when I imagined Mike as Wes Crusher of Star Trek: TNG, making doughnut runs on earth as punishment for messing up the holodeck and Will Riker and Geordie behind the transporter consoles, having a good laugh. All of that is longhand for: I enjoyed this piece enough to think of it in terms of Star Trek.

Bill Engleson, “Morning on the Verge

NC: Long after I read this one, two images refuse to leave my brain: a festering finger rubbing plaque back into bleeding gums (I mean, really: Bravo), and the sleeping-bagged woman crunched in a doorway with a “noisy medley of old grey socks”. I enjoyed the transformation of dark heart, from accusation to self-reflection.

IN: This piece is effortlessly dark and sober. There are faux-questions, faux-apologies, faux-discoveries. The choice of sentences and narrator’s uncertain voice gives this story a certain duality. Nothing is certain, but, in the end, the narrator is on the verge of realising the truth about himself.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Wish.”

NC: Beautifully tragic symmetry in this one, with the wishes gracing the first and last lines. I’m mourning right with the narrator, who hunts for puzzle pieces in the crowd for hints of the deceased lover (I love, too, that the genders of the mourner and the deceased could be any configuration at all). The reveal that it was death by suicide—It’s so hard to be told in a note—is simple as it is heart-rending.

IN: We’ve all being there: seeing parts of people we love in other people. There’s that urge to report the details to our loved ones: I saw someone with ear lobes like yours today. The absence of that ability to tell, and the hints that there was even no motivation to observe or tell in the first place, makes this such a sad story. The disembodied nature of a suicide note makes the absence even more poignant.

THIRD RUNNER UP

M.T. DeckerOld Friends

NC: There were a few tasty vampire-esque pieces this week, but this one stood out. One, for the fact that the entities don’t necessarily have to be vampires. Any immortal being would work. Two, for the shifting of tension throughout. The opening offers a perfect layering of mystery and conflict: the mystery of the stranger is overshadowed by the mystery of the Aldruna herself, who has been around since the ‘old days’ for longer than a normal lifespan. And then there are the suspicious villagers to contend with. Their banter ramps up the tension as it does the mystery (“How old a friend are you talking?”). The reader is not quite released on the “smolder” line (nor is Aldruna) as sexual tension replaces the danger.

IN: This read like the opening of a western. Say a western like the Rango, that story of the fearless chameleon. Okay, maybe not that last part. But Nancy helped me make the vampire connection and I realised how well layered this piece is. Something about the sparse descriptions and the loaded references opens it up to multiple perspectives. Then that conversation just keeps the tension intact like a loaded spring.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Foy S. Iver, “The Miserable Ones” 

NC: Oh, magnificent world-building! The compelling voice (of a flippant hunter droid) makes me overlook the fact s/he regards human life as disposable. Love the vernacular throughout: son of a bleeder, bit-strapped, Cog. The line “You can’t trust anything that volatile” says so much about the values of our new overlords. Despite the sneer and speciesist attitude of the narrator, it’s obvious that Val has maintained the best of his humanity, and thus completely deserving of sympathy—and perhaps the hunter felt it too: the failure mentioned in the opening may be that Jav let him go, again. I want to read a novel version of this in the worst way. {Editor’s Note: MWAHHAHAHAHA! Very funny.}

IN: Apparently, robots/droids can be sassy too, and in the worst way possible. The dual possibilities in the ending make for an interesting reading. Jav either kills Val, fails humanity; or lets him go and fails justice. Just by considering the dilemma of his situation, Jav seems to have failed already. And that last line, the emotions laden in the calling of the name as a greeting: Perf!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Nicolette Stephens, “The Cuckoo Clock.” 

NC: I was all set up for this one to be humorous what with a clock “standing the test of time” in a long-vacant house. Was I ever in for a surprise. The POV seems to be standard omniscient but turns out to be third person limited to that of the clock itself—a creepy discovery. The use of the door slamming as a transition from vacancy to new residents is brilliant. The liveliness of the concrete details in that transition paragraph sharply contrast to the emptiness of the previous paragraphs. The figurines evoking a smile from the unwitting woman for their “lifelike” appearance creates sinister irony, which is confirmed in the last line. Love the link between time and patience.

IN: At first, the use of ‘loomed’ in the first paragraph looked out of place to me with the clock references. But as the story progressed and the clock became more detailed, it seemed perfect a description for such a patient hunter that, essentially, loomed over the telling of the story itself. Through sensuous imagery, we are made to know the new residents of the house just enough to be scared for what horror the swinging pendulum has in store for them.

And now: for her very first time (and in the nick of time!), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

BECKY SPENCE!!!

for

“I Spy With My Little Eye

NC: The strength of this one is the way in which it zooms (pun slightly intended) into the details–leaning into the eyepiece, grainy monochrome streets—thus involving the reader in the investigation. The narrative leads the reader along, equating the hunter with a photographer, perhaps a private investigator, at worst a stalker (ten shades of grey is not quite fifty, but could signal a possessive lover). As all of the best twists do, the twist surprises but doesn’t come out of nowhere. “He had to move quickly…” takes on unexpected meaning, from racing to the location depicted in the photo to the sudden surrealism of plucking an entity directly from the photo itself. The apparent cruelty with which he treats his subject might as well be that of a possessive lover. The final note left me with shivers. A well done flash.

IN: Like Nancy, I came out of this story with thoughts of the possibility of the characters in this story being a couple. This happens for me because of the way the story’s male character searches out the lady. (See where his fingers caressed the image as he scanned for his target? Creep!) The story also begs for a reading about the kind of power the man has over the lady: about how he hunts for her and removes her from a scene she clearly wants to be part of; and how he silences her by putting her in a jar, a vacuum of his own choosing.

Congratulations, Becky! What fun seeing you take the dragon crown in one of the very last opportunities: your writing has kept us all enthralled for some time now, and it seems only right! Here’s your brand new winner’s page. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

I Spy With My Little Eye

He picked up the photo, placed it beneath the microscope. Leaning into the eye piece the metal was cold against his socket. It scraped cruelly against his skin. His fingers caressed the image. Scanning for his target.

It was easier in colour. Something bright to pick up on, a dash of red or a tone of blue, a spectrum to seek. In black and white it was light and shadows. Only a contrast to work with, ten shades of grey.

He heightened the magnification, twisting the microscope tight to his eye. Searching through the grainy monochrome streets. There! She was there, at last. He had to move quickly before he lost her again.

Reaching into the photo, his fingers pruned as the chemicals gnawed at his skin. He pinched his fingers around her, plucked her from the scene. Selecting a jar from the shelf he dropped her into the vacuum, tightened the lid on her screams.

FFwinner-Web