Tag Archive | Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea

Fire&Ice Sol 12/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: The year 2020 has been a bit “anti-dystopian” to borrow genre-birthing speculative fiction author Samit Basu‘s word (read his definition here), yet somehow we’ve collectively blinked and it’s November, with Election Day in the United States only a sleep away. Whether you’re hopeful or anxious, intrigued or ready to be rid of it all (or like me some ever-shifting amalgam of All The Emotions), please know that no matter the outcome, we dragons at Fire&Ice will be here with strong tea and coffee, and a space to write and grow safely. Because regardless of who wins, the work of making this a better world for those here and those to come will be waiting for us, and it would be our joy to meet that challenge with you. ❤

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 12’S JUDGES SAY:

Betsy Streeter:  This week’s prompts brought up just a few themes, like, oh, creation, family, ancestry, crime… and the mundane gone very wrong. Which is hard to do – horror is tricky to write because it’s all about those unsettling reveals, suddenly uncovering something deeply not-okay going on. Thank you again for so many tiny worlds to go into and be creeped out by. A few shout-outs: First of all, both VERY short stories, Peg Stueber‘s piece about Geppetto, and Bart van Goethem‘s “Genesis,” packed a punch and were wonderful! I also want to point out Arvind Iyer‘s “The Boy Who Wasn’t a Doll” for pondering generational change in such a unique way. Nancy Chenier‘s “Sharing Is Caring” caused me to hear a creepy piano soundtrack or a music box as I read it. Becky Spence‘s “Replacement” was sad and scary at the same time and made me anticipate some sort of revenge. And finally Mark A. King‘s “The Original Fugitive of Suburbia” for finding superpowers in hardship and difference, something we all seem called to do right now.


Karl A. Russell: As Betsy said, there were some clear themes emerging as I read through this latest crop of mini-masterpieces, not least the idea of children being replaced by dolls – I wonder how many of you are feeling the need for some control over things right now? As much as I’d love a lifelike mannequin of Kirby to sit in front of the laptop for this week’s remote schooling, several of your stories have given me second thoughts though… Creepy, murderous children made particularly strong appearances in Nancy Chenier‘s “Sharing Is Caring” and Stella Kate‘s “From Father To Son“, while the kids in Eric Martell‘s “Planting The Seeds” and Laurence D‘s “Shut Up Freddie!” might actually be better off if they took up arms against their less than loving parents… Some of these stories gave me a real, visceral reaction – and quite a few laughs – just perfect for Halloween reading.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Famsimile by David Shakes

BS: Yikes. You think you know what’s going on, and then it gets worse. This is a great example of that frightening realization that something “normal” has gotten twisted in the name of showing the world “we can be a real family.” The way the imagery builds is just terrific.

KR: The serial killer who surrounds himself with mannequins is a well-worn trope, but “Famsimile” takes that idea and gives it a fresh, unsettling twist. Strong imagery and creeping unease help this one stand out.

[Untitled] by Phil Coltrane

BS: What I love about this one is how once you’ve read it, you realize that no matter how many times this simulation runs, the words “I love you” will never get fully said. And bringing speculative/sci-fi into the mix in this was is just so, so clever. Loved this.

KR: The unexpected interruption turns this slice of life into something else entirely. The fact that the protagonist returns over and again to such a mundane moment makes you wonder just what has happened since.

RUNNER UP

No Time to Stop Running by Maggie Duncan

BS: This is one that I find myself expanding into a larger story, and the details are fabulous. I’m rooting for these people, even though apparently they are murderers! That’s another sign of great horror, where you’re not quite sure you’re not pulling for the bad guy. And that sympathy comes through partly in those mundane details, the care taken to give the impression of a “real” family. Super creative, wonderful.

KR: As soon as I’d read this, I went straight back and read it again. The first time through, it was the story of a cunning fugitive couple, faking a family to avoid detection, full of fun little details like changing the names and filling diapers. The second time though… Now it’s a deeply disturbing story about a mother trying to replace the kids she’s at least allowed to die, or has maybe outright murdered. Those funny little details are now shiver-inducing symptoms of an illness no parent wants to consider. Very clever!

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARTIE DINTERS!!!

for

Georgie

BS – This one is a simple, elegant, family moment that does a great job of juxtaposing attempts at “normalcy” of parenting in an extremely not-normal (and horrifying) situation. I also love how the dialogue brings further characterization, shining just a little light on their idiosyncrasies. There is a ton of detail packed in here, which makes it vivid. And again shows how those particulars can be so universal, not because of what they are specifically, but because we all experience life at that detailed, human-scale level. I feel really bad for this couple because they have clearly passed through a terrible terrible transition, and done it together, and agreed on the horrible way they will handle it. In a way, that’s about love. Great story.

KR — Just how damaged do you have to be to try and build a life around the preserved corpse of a toddler? Well, as this story lays out, the answer is very deeply damaged indeed. So much of this is conveyed through the mis-matched dialogue, the couple never quite connecting as they try to keep up their sham lives. Everything is slightly off and there seems to be a streak of jet black humour too – I have to admit, my reading of this was far less sympathetic than Betsy’s, and the thought of these two nutballs trying to “raise” their kid struck me as both horrific and funny, which is not easy to convey in less than 200 words. When little Georgie slumps to the floor at the end, displaying the rotten core of the tale to perfection, I laughed, felt terrible, then laughed again.

Congratulations, ARTIE! Here’s your winning story:

GEORGIE

It was early morning. Ben was cooking eggs and bacon. Linda indulged in latest news. In the background radio played Christmas music. It was that time again.

“Can you turn it off?” Linda said not raising her head.
“It is little Georgie’s favorite song, am I right Georgie?” Ben loomed above his son.

Georgie was a silent child. Gave no trouble to his parents. Always curious about his father’s job. Despite what neighbors talked behind their backs, little Georgie was a perfect child.

A whiff of rot danced with eggs and bacon.

“He stinks again.” Linda said.
“I thought I got the mixture right this time.” Ben turned the bacon stripes over. Knelt to Georgie. “What I got wrong, Georgie?”

Wax was dripping on the kitchen floor. Ben poked Georgie’s arm. Soft tissue met his finger. “Georgie, Georgie why you give us trouble?” Ben sighed. “Will you put him back in a freezer?”

“He is your son.” Linda said louder than she intended.
“I’m making breakfast.”

Georgie silently fell on the floor.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 18: WINNERS

It was a huge party here at the dragons’ lair this week, with loads of entries battling over the FF crown and over the penultimate Golden Ticket for the Flash Dogs’ prized anthology. This week in addition to some new faces, we saw the return of a few beloved and missed faces, which warmed our hearts. We like all your faces!

And thank you above all for continuing to share your extraordinary writerly talent here, and for torturing tantalizing our dear captains so. Did I laugh hysterically as they wept and anguished over their decisions, writhing in pain from the stress of it all? No, of course not — certainly not, never; that would not have been nice.

P.S., totally unrelated topic: can anyone recommend a tonic for sore ribs?

P.P.S. REMEMBER!!! Tomorrow’s the last chance to earn a Golden Ticket anywhere. Join us here Tuesday, April 14, at 7am Washington DC time for our first-ever Flash Dash. One prompt. Thirty minutes to write. And the prize: a Golden Ticket and a Flash! Friday coffee mug, YEAH BABY!!!

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Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

First up: let’s award that gorgeous, sparkly thing!!!! The winner of the first Flash! Friday Golden Ticket — for her inventive, clever tale “Pay Attention” — is

BECKY CONWAY!!!

Becky, please contact me here with your email address, and Flash Dogs HQ will be in touch. Congratulations!

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Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark A. King say

I know you hear it a lot, but the stories this week were simply incredible. Our job was not hard, as most of the stories were just fantastic – the only hard part was leaving some behind, knowing that you might be saddened that your story was not picked. This doesn’t make them inferior; what any individual gets out of reading a story is highly personal and can’t be predicted. Keep going! Next week might be your week.

While I’m here, I know our beloved Dragon Queen will be seeking applications for judges soon. It is hard work, but the most rewarding work you can get in writing circles; for every hour you give, you will get back multitudes more in terms of inspiration and happiness. Which leads me on to say I’ll be so sad when my time is finished and I no longer get to work with the genius of my fellow judge. –MK

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For visions of aging James Bond actors and reflections of a tired 007: Josh Bertetta, “The Manliest of Man’s Manly Men

For cheeky reference to St. Peter (the keeper of heaven) as “Pete’s a good guy”: N J Crosskey, “Heaven’s Gate

For mischievous reference to judge Shoemaker (but it’s judge King that has the red wig in reality): Carolyn Ward, “Old Dog, New Trick

For giving us the chills: Joidianne4eva, “Suffer the Little Children

For a Special Brew of dietary delight: A.J. Walker, “Alas Smith and Jones

For the art of keeping it simple and doing the best things in a story really well: Valerie Brown, “The Thaw. ” 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Michael Seese, “Spare Change

MK: Sometimes a story has winning characters, or mesmerising plot, perhaps an unforgettable beginning, or an ending that completely changes everything. With this story, it has wonderful elements throughout. For me, it was the ending that made it really stand out. The ‘voice’ of a character is fundamental to a story and this was done well; but the ending made me re-read it time and time again. ‘It’s nearly quitting time. Soon, I will sit down with my counterpart, and divvy up the souls. Those who gave, He can call His. The others…’

TS: The twist completely took me in on this one. At first, I was imagining a typical street-side beggar, expounding on the sadness of humanity that passes a needy person on the curb. When I got to the part about the artist’s portrayal, I got that wonderful “Oooohhh” moment when I thought that it was perhaps an angel or even Jesus himself, coming among humanity in disguise. So when the ending finally swung around and I realized who was the actual narrator, I got chills. They’re multiplyin’. 😉 Really enjoyed the frame on this: begging fore and aft. It wraps it up into a nice bedeviled sandwich. Well done!

Michael Seese, “Amazing Disgrace

MK: Firstly, I have to say that I loved the title. Unexpectedly, we had a large number of religious stories, and nearly all of them were excellent. This one appealed to me as Amazing Grace is a wonderful hymn (and there were references to the lyrics in the story). But this story has a message that transcends religion, goes beyond time, and mirrors the fall of angels to the fall of mankind.

TS: I grew up with Amazing Grace as one of the songs with which I was most familiar, so reading this skillful twist hit home. This piece really spoke to me. Loved the description of “a man’s fall from grace.” “No, it’s a series of steps, steps taken willfully despite, or in spite of, the ever-steepening grade that I tried to convince myself was not a decline at all.” That’s a line that will stick with me for a long time. Of course, wrapping up the piece with Dante (who happens to be one of my favorites) was an excellent choice. Wonderful job.

Nancy Chenier, “Dreaming of Midsummer Nights.”

MK: Perhaps you know by now that we are both partial to beautiful words, and oh, what words and images this story gave us: ‘grubby perch of his fingers’, ‘glossy thorax’, ‘ichor oozed bitterness’, ‘ floral sprites’ and ‘hyacinthine perfume of the passages between worlds’ – just some of the wonderment served to us. I’m off now to find the Goblin Traders, before Tamara gets there.

TS: Fay! Robin! Goblin Traders! Where do I sign up!? Obviously, someone has found my penchant for sprites and all things fantasy. What an incredibly imaginative take! I groaned out an “Ewww” for the butterfly consumption, but was incredibly relieved to find out that Robin didn’t eat some poor Fay by mistake. I love the fantastical twists throughout: “(not Fay!)” “In earlier days, Robin would have marked it in night dust for a midnight exchange.” “…the coin shivered, then turned into an acorn.” Really enjoyed this one. Great job! And Mark, you’re too late, I’ve already found the Goblin Traders and treated them to “tea.” They’re in eternal sleep now. But nice try. 😉

THIRD RUNNER UP

Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea, “New Recruit

MK: I love the fact that the lead character is a girl in the story; the picture was ambiguous, but most chose to depict the person sitting as a man or boy. This is such a brilliantly poised story. We have beautiful words and images such as ‘world a great disco-ball’, ‘shattered panels of mirrored glass’ and ‘reflective chaos’. Then we have the layered emotional context and character building of ‘fill of life’s lemons’, ‘considered disposable’ and the wonderful ‘mosaic of unrealized destruction’. We also have the seasons appearing as characters (nice work), before it draws to a conclusion we can almost see coming. A street-savvy entry – well done.

TS: The first phrase that caught my attention in this one was: “…she would be the shattered panels of mirrored glass…” Gorgeous line with crushing imagery, which then carried through the rest of the piece in fragments of theme. I saw the shattered panels again in Bug’s cold hardness, in the willingness to roughly grind her misfortunes in someone’s eyes, and in the “mosaic of unrealized destruction.” Such a solid statement of character, which is what we were particularly focusing on this week (the Spy). I, like Mark, enjoyed the switch to a female lead. It was different, and we quite loved a street-savvy Katniss Everdeen showing up in the story (who, as you may know, also had to buy her ticket to “freedom” through the “mosaic of unrealized destruction.”). Nicely done!

SECOND RUNNER UP

Betsy Streeter, “The Ballad of the Spy and the Assassin.”

MK: Such a fantastic title; it drew me in from the very start. I love this gloriously skewed take on love. There is someone for everyone, they say, and in this story we have love crossing the professional boundaries and spanning the globe while the shadows of Istanbul conjure images of blood cleansed daggers. I thought this was the keystone of the piece, ‘You work in secrecy and silence and I am a blaring siren’ – it says everything about their roles and their relationship in a fraction of words. Delightful.

TS: What a fantastic, twisted, interesting, I-can’t-look-away-it’s-so-*insert adjective here* take on the prompt! The first line pulled me in; so much pathos in just these words: “The thing I miss the most…” And then the author goes on to wrap me up into a love story, and SUCH a love story; who ever thinks of the assassin and the spy together? I love this: “No one can hide from you. Except for me.” It’s that line that pegs the Spy as the other half of the Assassin, that pulls the two together into a perfect, completed puzzle. Which makes the last line so much more heart-breaking: “I ran my fingers over its tattered edges and checked my messages for the next job.” *sob* Beautifully done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

David Hartley, “The Invisible Man.”

MK: It is rare that a story will knock us both sideways and we find it really hard to pinpoint exactly why. I suspect this story may not appeal to everyone, but this is the very point of writing, it was magical to at least two people this week, so I know for sure that many of the stories that we haven’t picked will be magical to others.

The take is vastly different. We have the characters beautifully described as birds, their personalities, their movements, even their undercover names are fabulously articulated through the variety of birds. However, there is also a sense of the story itself darting, watching, soaring, preening and deceiving through the very clever way the words are constructed within the sentences. This was brilliant and breathless avian adventure and one that we truly adored. Congratulations to you.

TS: I read this story over and over because I loved the bird-like quickness of it. The structure perfectly aligned with the content, and was so skillfully done, I had to enjoy it again and again. I love the idea that the Spy and his cohorts had bird names; loved that everything they did was with the startling fleetness that comes with birds. This sentence blew me away: “But a ruffle of feathers, a quick preen and there; the drop is made. He waits, casual, then swoops away.” So quick and light, like the “sparrow, starling, swift” (alliteration, did you notice?); this entire story played out in my head as vividly as if I was sitting in front of a screen watching it. Brilliantly done; hats off to the author. This is one that will go in my bank of stories “I wish I had written, ’cause it’s just so awesome.” 🙂

And now: for her 3rd time, it’s the dearly loved and very talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

MARIE MCKAY!!!

for

“Street Level”

MK: This style of writing immediately resonated with me. It reminded me of so many of my favourite films that involve cities of darkness, corruption and crime. There were elements from Blade Runner (and many other great films) that captured me in a stranglehold. In this story we have wonderful images that also define the characters ‘purple-stained cheek’, ‘crimson lips whisper’, ‘rose blossoms of lipstick’ and ‘sweet smell of deceit on his shirt’. We have the repetition of ‘I spy’ – leading us to question who the narrator might be and also acting as the glue to what initially looks like separate stories. But this is the true winning element of this story, for the characters and stories are linked. The sadness of the abandoned boy becoming ‘solider’ for his mother who walks the streets ‘seducing the night’, he is a victim caught in a crossfire of words and violence. The cold bed of the wife – her husband cheating, but he’s seeing the woman from the first paragraph with ‘crimson lips’. And so it goes on. Emotion. Great writing. World building. Complex and deep characters. Story progression. All in 200 odd words: and that my friends, is why Flash! Friday is the greatest show in earth. My warmest congratulations to the winning writer.

TS: I was going to try to add something brilliant and profound onto what Mark already wrote, but he already said everything I wanted to say. If I were to copy over every phrase that I absolutely loved about this piece, the entire thing would be copied and pasted –> here. I was truly amazed by everything about this story, but particularly loved the repetition of “I spy with my little eye,” the tragedy that weaves through in the various stories, which, as Mark said, are all linked into one. The imagery, holy schnikeys! The purple stain “a badge of honor.” The “rose blossoms of lipstick” and the “sweet smell of deceit.” “I spy a little girl whose mom makes pancakes while family life is laundered.”

This piece is incredibly gripping and vivid with a strong voice. Ingenious. Congrats; I’m completely bowled over.

Congratulations, Marie! Such a pleasure seeing your name back up top again; it’s been too long!! Here’s your updated, magnificently fiery winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Street Level

I spy with my little eye the kid with the purple-stained cheek. A badge of honour bestowed on him since his mom started seducing the night. Her crimson lips whisper from hidden corners the price of dark secrets and lies. So the kid becomes her little street soldier beating back horrible names with his armory of sticks and stones.

I spy with my little eye the wife whose bed is cold while her husband kisses crimson lips. For now, she ignores the rose blossoms of lipstick on his neck and the sweet smell of deceit on his shirt.

I spy a little soldier looking lost early one morning, panic filling his hollow, sleepless eyes. He knows what he’s going to find before he even starts searching.

I spy a little girl whose mom makes pancakes while family life is laundered. The blood spatter on clothes, a distorted echo of the passion her husband once sought. Stains removed, ironed out, folded away into drawers. A disinfectant smell clears the air. Domesticity restored.

It is then I am seen.

The police bundle me into the back of their car; they don’t listen when I say: I spied with my little eye, the fallout of criss-crossed lives.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 13: WINNERS

Greetings, all! Thanks for your patience as we worked feverishly over this week’s results; a LOT of effort goes into selecting the winners, and this week your judges have done you proud. Your stories were amazing and, I might add, quite OUT OF THE BOX; doing battle over the winner’s list as well as the time zones separating the hemispheres isn’t for the faint of heart. Raise your mocha lattes, and let’s hear it for today’s Dragon Team One, Image Ronin & Joidianne!

COME BACK TOMORROW for an interview with the fabulous freelance writer Carol Tice, who’s going to dish on the crazy worlds of self-publishing and marketing. You won’t want to miss her incredibly helpful and practical suggestions on these topics.

And then comes Warmup Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. Then it’s back once more into the glorious madness of Flash! Friday! 

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Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne saySo you went and did it this week didn’t you? Be aspirational, the dragon demanded; take this image of axes and toil and run wild. Well you did, so much so that we were still wrestling, in the figurative not literal sense (which IR is particularly glad of as he reckons J would definitely win) with how to shorten a list down from tales that shifted from fairy tales to sci-fi, through to laments to loss and desiring better lives. The focus, however, was what we as writers all do: to aspire, and aspiration, in its many and varied forms was the keystone for each tale featured below that made the final podium.

We should add that the wonderfully talented @Avalinakreska took us somewhere completely unexpected this round, and though sadly it couldn’t be considered, it would be remiss to not advise you to have a peruse of her comic tale The Whetting Stone.

Anyway, here we go folks, trust me when I say this was so much harder that you can imagine and we enjoyed each and every tale. Yet as always, adopting our best Highlander pose, there can be only one … so here we go.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Title That Most Demanded a Dictionary Check: M.T. Decker, “Malappropriate.” (Still confused even now.)

Line That Still Makes Us Shudder: Eliza Archer, “Tough Meat.” Terror makes tough meat, she says, but it is nothing you can’t stew away.”

Art Critic Funnybone: Betsy Streeter, “I Am Going to Be Great.” The desire to capture “intentional mud” made the art critic in me roar with laughter.

Award for a Title That Could Have Been on The Queen is Dead by The Smiths: Phil Coltrane, “With a Light in His Eyes That Could Burn the World.”

Evocative Title: Steph Ellis, “Grimm Beginnings.” Nothing else need be said, surely. 

Best Flow of Words: Susan O’Reilly, “A Gentleman’s Promise.” 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tamara Shoemaker, Someday Soon.” IR: The knight in shining armor within this narrative shines little, and lacks anything but false aspirations. The desire to move on, to exist beyond a life of toil and pain is elegantly captured. The writing, both descriptive and emotive, was delicately interwoven with moments of detail: “the drops evaporating before they could even cool her skin”; “the sun […] sunk behind the silver horizon.”; “the flow of stain instead of calico.” The sensory notes, kinesthetic and emotional were wonderfully implemented and the empowerment that the final line delivers, the desire to dance to the beat of her own drum, was a wonderful close to a well-written tale.

Becky Spence, Home.” J: This tale was so ominous because of the questions it left. How old is Lily? Why is she running from the man? Who is the man? All of those questions are left floating in your head and they’re amplified by Lily’s despair when her escape is thwarted. Well deserving of an honourable mention, and we would love to read more.

Marie McKay, “Oh What a Big Appetite You Have.” J: I’m always one for horror with a bit of gore, and this tale hit the spot in spectacular fashion. The lack of empathy for the wolf cub was absolutely chilling and the transition from hunter to Little Red skipping to Grandma’s house made it even more spine-tingling.

Nancy Chenier, “Sharpened.” IR: “folded into an origami nightingale” that line, a perfect cinematic beat, captured me totally. The balance of description and despair, the desire to help someone. I found myself lost in a Nikita-inspired realm … where vengeance is desired above all. 

Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea, “Creation’s Point of View.” An intriguing entry that much like “Dream(less)”, took us on a sensory laden journey into the prompts. The perspective of being the art itself, voyeuristically examining the “muse draped around him”, was wonderfully atmospheric, and the layering of aspirations, from artist to muse, to the desire of this created object to become one with its creator was an intriguing approach.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Rasha Tayaket, “Dream(less).” 

IR: “If you give a man hope, then he is going to want to pursue a dream. “ On first reading the words flowed like Renton’s anti-consumerism spiel as he flees in Trainspotting. However, as I moved on, the flow of those words continued to echo, a stream of consciousness that became a river that hurtled me along at break neck speed. The structure and beat, wrapped around the repetition of ‘if’ took this flash entry into an unexpected direction: one that flickered between narration and a social critique of, not only our axe-wielding labourer, but the reality of our existence in a 21st century dominated by corporate interests.

J: This tale reminded me of the snake eating its tail. There was such a level of futility because every dream and hope was chipped away at until there was nothing left and it brings to mind the question ‘It is better to have loved and lost?’ because in this case it seems that without the hope, the man might not have realized how much he’d lost in the first place. It seems that the only thing that hope brought was even more despair.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Roger Shipp, Found in Mom’s Scrapbook.” 

J: This story grabbed me because of the level of deception implied between the lines. Was Mr. Turney Eleanor’s current husband, and if so did she leave another family behind to be with him? Or did she con Mr. Turney from the very start with no intentions of following through? It’s a lovely twist and I guess the truth is up to the reader.

IR: Sometimes a writer approaches a tale with a format that delivers stylistically, but misses the mark in telling an actual story. FIMS, however, delivers with both taking the photo prompt, and playing off the demand for aspiration as the driving force between Eleanor and Lorenso. “ I am also an honest woman”: this statement lingers at the heart of the tale, a statement that can be read as one forging links, or alternatively a Machiavellian gambit. The demand that she will answer “no questions” and Lorenso’s faith in wiring “travelling expenses” leaves the reader in a narrative which is not so much the coming together of star-crossed-lovers but the sense of a potential long con in which one party preys on an oblivious other. I found myself long pondering Eleanor, and what the daughter ever knew of Lorenso. Was he indeed a father to her or just some correspondent locked up in a scrapbook with other victims of her mother’s wiles? A delightful tale whose structure offered up more questions than answers.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Alicia VanNoy Call, “Human.” 

J: What really got me about this piece was the question that it left me with at the end…’what is it to be human?’ The contrast of the narrator’s physical being and the lives it has led brought that question to the forefront of my mind, and its yearning to have one more chance leaves the tales on a sorrowful note that stayed with me until the very end. In the end I think that narrator was more human than it realized.

IR: Ah, the desire for immortality. Whereas our winner took us off frame, this worthy runner up took us into an alternate reality.  We strode across a thousand lifetimes, each offering our narrator only stepping stones, brief moments that he clung to in his desire to truly exist. For a moment I found myself poised in Blade Runner “a boy, space walking to fix a broken valve on his ship, turning his head to take in a nebula’s wash of iridescence”, and like Roy Batty the question of what we aspire to be, and the reality of getting it came to the fore. The question of eternity, the longing to have another moment, one that captures the essence of what our existence is permeates the narrative. The aspiration here leading isn’t to touch the stars, but to remain close to the earth. A wonderful piece of writing.

DRAGON WINNER

DEB FOY!!!

for

“Dead Fruit”

J: This tale is a beautiful and macabre depiction of grief and what it can drive a person to. There is a point, about mid-way through the piece, when something suddenly doesn’t feel right.  The comments made by the narrator, the hatred focused on Leah, it starts to feel like a build up to something more and the story surely delivered in the end. A brilliant piece, completely out of the box, and well deserving of the first place this week.

IR: The despair in this tale was evocative. Taking the photo prompt as a backdrop the sense of toil, of scratching out an existence marked by loss, was wonderfully represented. Aspiration was the theme, and here it was a subtext, a horrid terrifying burden that drives our narrator into actions and words unspeakable. Whereas the photo prompt offered up an image of a masculinity struggling to eke out an existence, the writer here took us a far more disturbing conflict within the domestic sphere. In this off frame space we are subject to the cruel inversion of desire and dreams cruelly lost. A truly evocative tale.

Congratulations AGAIN, Deb! Please find below the rights to your third winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here are also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for EVEN MORE interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Dead Fruit

<<STORY PULLED>>

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