Tag Archive | Pratibha

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 28: WINNERS

This is a BIG HUGE WEEK in the writing world; what a privilege getting a dragon’s eye view. In case you were temporarily off-planet, yesterday saw the official publication of the #FlashDogs‘ latest venture, the two-book flash anthology, Solstice: Light and Solstice: Dark.  Many of the writers in the Flash! Friday community (including me!) have stories in one or both of these; all proceeds go to The Book Bus

Next up: I’m THRILLED TO DEATH to reveal the names of our guest judges for this coming Friday: Emily June Street and Beth Deitchman of Luminous Creatures Press! Read all about LCP (and you will want to) at their guest judge page here

And in case THAT wasn’t enough excitement….?!?! Writing/editing/trapeze superstar Emily June Street‘s latest novel, The Gantean, is being published this Saturday, June 27. To celebrate The Gantean as well as LCP’s stint as guest judges, tomorrow’s #Spotlight feature belongs entirely to Emily. Be sure to come back: not only is it a super fun interview, but she’s giving away a FREE COPY of The Gantean! 

And now.

Sigh. I suppose I can’t put off this unpleasantness any longer, hard as I’ve tried: it’s our final farewell to our final judging team of Year Three’s first term: Pratibha (who judged TWO TERMS!), and Sinéad O’Hart. They have read and battled over your stories with grace, courage, and a keen eye. They turned the spread of cultures and time zones — California by way of India (Pratibha) and Ireland (Sinéad) — into a strong advantage as they sifted through your mountains of flash fiction jewels, ferreting out the most powerful tales and themes. Pratibha and Sinéad: working with you has been a joy and privilege. Thank you for sharing your myriad talents with us here at Flash! Friday (and please keep doing so!). I am forever grateful.     

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Dragon Captains Sinéad O’Hart/Pratibha say: 

Pratibha: It’s time to hang up the judge’s robe and drop that gavel. I simultaneously feel relief and sadness. This is my second stint as the FF judge: madness, I tell you. Even though, I won’t be officially judging, I will turn up to write Flash! Friday tales and actually post them here from time to time. Flash! Friday may be based in Shenandoah Valley, but to me it’s Hotel California –

“You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!”

As usual, excellent work this week, people. Keep on flashing!

Sinéad: Well, what a way to round out my stint as a Flash! Friday judge. Every time I’ve had the privilege of judging, I’ve been amazed by the depth and variety of stories, all based around the same prompts, and the level of accomplishment that goes into each one – and this week was no different. From malfunctioning androids to lives held in loops, from grieving parents to trains themselves being vehicles between worlds or realities, these tales truly raised the bar. I think I enjoyed every one, and choosing winners and Runners Up was a real challenge – there was a lot of back-and-forth between the judges! It’s never easy to pick winners, but when there’s such an embarrassment of riches to choose from, it really does make the challenge all the harder. Thank you, one and all, for your efforts this week, and we hope the choices we’ve made reflect the quality of the stories we were presented with. Thanks also for being so great during our tenure as judges! We hope we did y’all proud.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best dialogue: Reg Wulff, “Excuses.” 

Pratibha: This captivated me because the dialogue flowed smoothly. The characters are believable and strong. Well done.

Sinéad: Stories told through dialogue are always an eye-catcher for me, and this one made particularly great use of the conversation between Frank and Billy, using the trope to create brilliant characterisation and a clever story (which makes excellent use of the prompts!).

Best Rhythm: Colin D. Smith, “Always the Same.” 

Pratibha: The story is told in a poem that skillfully captures the rhythm of the train. I wish we had a special category of poems.

Sinéad: Of course, in a week where one of the prompts is a train, we hope for stories which make use of the wonderful ‘clickety-clack’ rhythm of the wheels, and this one did just that. I enjoyed its use of the sounds of the train itself and its effective ‘Until it isn’t’ at the end, signalling destruction.

Best Use of Humour & Topicality:  Mark A. King, “The Original Mr. Grey.” 

Pratibha: I always love a humorous tale; this one is it this week, and if the story addresses a current news story, even better.

Sinéad: As well as this one being funny and relevant to this week’s big literary news story, I thought it was charming and funny, particularly the image of Death doing a dad-dance once a year, and the very idea of there being a Mr Grey (a god of the banal?) was intriguing.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Clive Tern, “Wishing for Eternity in a World Lost to Love.” 

Pratibha: I loved this one for the subtle use of the prompt and overall sense of mystery. The sad predicament is only revealed towards the end. I loved the dialogue, and how it wraps around at the end back to the beginning of the story. A clever use of the flash technique.

Sinéad: Well, what a tearjerker. Such a tender tale until the giveaway line ‘All those times now gone forever…’, when we realise things aren’t as they appear; and then the sad, looping and deeply touching denouement finishes things off perfectly. This was a little story-gem, which I really enjoyed.

Eliza Archer, “Temps Perdu.” 

Pratibha: This was a treat to read. I enjoyed the experimental technique. A story told through a list poem with a twist at the end. What a great title. Well done indeed!

Sinéad: Structurally, I liked this story; I enjoyed the way it was put together and laid out on the page, and I enjoyed the way it was told through a series of ‘If onlys’. It was clever, and well titled, and a really well put together piece, and I admired the way the author allowed the story to unfold gradually, and without being obvious.

Brian S. Creek, “1979.” 

Pratibha: I loved this for the way the main character uses modern technology to get to the bottom of the recurring dream.

Sinéad: A lot of stories this week attempted the same, or very similar, themes, including (as here) the idea of having lived through a disaster in the past; but this one stood out for me. I liked the idea of the repeating dream, and the dreamer’s determination to get to the bottom of it. I also thought how it ended was just perfect, leaving the reader hanging.

Steph Ellis, “Family Outing.” 

Pratibha:  The writer builds an alternate world with a cast of characters from mythology, and sends them on an ordinary family outing. Nothing ordinary about that. This was a fun read.

Sinéad: I just loved this one for its use of mythological figures and its depiction of them as a family – it reminded me in some ways of the Endless in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ graphic novels. I enjoyed the last line, wondering how often Nyx has filled Morpheus’ flagon with Lethe water, and what else she has made him forget – and what effects this might have had on frail humanity!

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker,Like Daughter.” 

Pratibha: I liked the exquisite descriptions of the setting to indicate the characters were trying to avoid the unpleasant truth facing them. The strained relationship between mother-daughter is shown through the body language. I liked the expert use of the language and story-telling technique.

Sinéad: I loved the voice and perspective in this one, and the use of the prompts, which are subtle but intrinsically woven into the story’s plot. I particularly loved the use of ‘deja vu’, as the mother looks back over her life and sees her child repeating the same mistakes she made as a younger woman, and I was particularly taken by the image of the ‘wadded papers and candy wrappers’ on the coverlet, which shows how young the girl is despite her efforts to be grown up. I just loved this; I thought it was so beautifully written.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Casey Rose Frank, “I Love You/I Love You Not.” 

Pratibha: I usually don’t care for the stories that deal with supernatural, unless they are done expertly and bring home some truth about human emotions. This story does that. The train-wreck of emotions is portrayed by soft strokes that gradually turn into hard ones until the point is driven home. The end is chilling, but the words remain calm. I love how the ending sentence returns to the beginning.

Sinéad: Out of the many stories this week which dealt with rebirth, or people reliving events, I thought this one was interesting because it had a different perspective than the others – and it was also truly chilling! The idea that a spirit would wait until someone’s dying day just to get revenge on them for an imagined slight was memorable and clever, and really well expressed. One is more used to stories about people who meet their deceased loved ones at death in order for a peaceful and beautiful reunion to take place, so this subverted that trope very nicely.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Michael Seese, “Don’t Worry, Little One.” 

Pratibha: This story caught my interest right away. The vignettes of the series of firsts in a child’s life are portrayed tenderly. The refrain, “’Don’t worry, little one. Everything will be fine” is soothing yet ominous. We wait for a train-wreck to happen, and when it does, it’s nothing like we expected. I love how the story unfolds layer by layer. I loved the gentle tone and understated horror at the end.

Sinéad: This one brought a tear to my eye. I thought the emotion in it was true and touching, and beautifully expressed, and the repeated refrain of ‘Don’t worry, little one. Everything will be fine’ was particularly affecting, because of course sometimes things aren’t going to be fine, no matter how much we want them to be. Nobody, not even a mother, can guarantee this, and that hit me powerfully. From a writing point of view, I enjoyed how the author employed the prompts – the life of the daughter told and retold, and the unexpected use of the image of the train – and to combine skill like this with such deep emotion was a true accomplishment.

And now: for her very first time, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

KATIE MORFORD!!!

for

“Iron Mistress”

Pratibha: I like strong characters, so this story and voice of this woman who is toughened by her life caught my attention. The story basically a monologue, but the entire life unfolds in front of our eyes. The slow realization that “Even freedom isn’t free,” is unsettling. I loved this woman in “peacock-feathered” hat, who is defiant and non-apologetic for her life-choices.  The imagery in the story is evocative, and the voice in memorable. I loved her “deja-vu” life that is still a runaway train, but with the shifted control. Powerful story.

Sinéad:  This story featured a great, snappy voice, one which caught my attention and held it. I loved the character’s determination and self-assurance, even if it may be masking a deep well of fear and insecurity, and I thought the ending – which is powerful, but also slightly disturbing, as we wonder what exactly she’s going to do when she gets ‘West’ – was excellent and memorable. I thought the lines ‘I may be cheap but nothing is free. I sold my soul to buy my freedom’ was particularly evocative, and I liked the idea of a life twice-lived, reinvention, and new beginnings, which took the idea of ‘deja vu’ to a new level.

Congratulations, Katie! You’ve earned other nods before, including winning an HM at the most recent Flashversary–what a pleasure to see you grab the dragon crown! Here’s your brand new 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:

Iron Mistress

They say I’m a runaway train, with lots of flash and smoke and steam. They say I’m nothing but an Iron Mistress, plowing through everything and everyone and leaving rubble in my wake.

Maybe I am. Maybe I ain’t. I’ll leave that for biddies to decide when I’m mouldering in my grave in my peacock-feather hat. Money don’t grow on trees and milksops only get the cash cow after she’s drained dry. Nothing is free — except maybe me.

If I’m a runaway train, it’s because this land pounded the weakness out of me with every clack of the wheels. A girl leaving a sooty New York orphanage for a hot, harsh land in the grip of the Dust Bowl, who had yet to learn that nothing is free.

Not even me.

Now I’m back on that train heading West and if my dress is a tad fancier and my legs lad-fumblers instead of dried sticks, those iron wheels are still pounding this truth home.

I may be cheap but nothing is free. I sold my soul to buy my freedom. Even freedom isn’t free. Say what you might. This train is a’coming. Ain’t nothing gonna stand in her way.

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Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 28

We’re closing in on the June 21 launch of the dual-volume Solstice anthology produced by the #FlashDogs, proceeds going to The Book Bus. Despite being walloped by that preposition-heavy sentence, I trust you’ve already set up your sidewalk tents at the front of queues around the world in anticipation. At the first available moment, I will be ordering a copy of Solstice: Light for this week’s #Spotlight raffle winner Caitlin Gramley. How many books will you buy on the first day? (For some reason, my father-in-law’s Old World Ukrainian voice echoes here. He’d ask how many eggs he should cook you: “One or two… dozen?” and crack himself up. -So how many books you gonna buy: one or two… dozen? hahahhaha.) Moving on.

It’s our final dragon captain farewell today (see below) — but there are exciting days coming in the next weeks!!! On Monday, along with results, we will unveil the names of the guest judges for next Friday’s round (you are going to freak out), one of whom will also appear in next Tuesday’s #Spotlight feature. And after that? Friday July 3 kicks off our BRAND NEW judge panel. Prepare to have your brains melted by the stunning talent represented by these new captains.   

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Dragon Emporium! Buy dragon stuff!

 

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DC2WEEP WITH ME AS WE BID ADIEU to the fabulous, unforgettable Dragon Team Four: Captains Sinéad O’Hart & Pratibha. These two were tasked with sorting through a small mountain of priceless jewels each turn, in true Herculean style identifying the ones whose facets gleamed brightest. And yet it’s a task they dispatched with great courage and humor, no doubt because of their shared obsession for the rich, complex, bejeweled tapestries of the human mind. Raise the stakes and shake the earth for your characters, says Sinéad. Let your narrative flow smoothly, richly, says Pratibha, before smoothly and richly punching your reader in the gut. Guess they thought they’d spread that Herculean love around, eh?          

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.   Now let’s write!

* Word count: Write a 200-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (min 190 – max 210 words, excluding title/byline) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday.

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.

AND HERE IS YOUR TWO-PART PROMPT:

(1) Required story element (this week: theme. If you want your story to be eligible for an award, the below theme of “déjà vu” must be a central to your story): 

deja vu

 

(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

Train wreck at Montparnasse, 1895. Public domain photo.

Train wreck at Montparnasse, 1895. Public domain photo.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 24: WINNERS

Welcome to results! Many thanks for your long patience as you waited for them; I trust you spent the time WRITING, heh heh. — I find myself here at the close of the day overwhelmed by gratitude for so many things: among them you, my darlings, here in the Flash! Friday community. I hope each of you knows in your heart how important you are, and what a difference you are making in each other’s lives. And in mine. 

Thank you.

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Dragon Captains Pratibha/Sinéad O’Hart say: 

Pratibha:
Do we even need to say this? Isn’t it obvious now that this community rocks. Just in case this is your first time stumbling over this weekly contest, you’ve come to the best place for flash fiction, and welcome. I fell in love with the picture prompt immediately. With such awe-inspiring force of nature in front of you, it’s but natural to wonder about the nature as a formidable foe. The writers did an equally awe-inspiring job of capturing the shades of fear and victory over nature in their stories.

Sinéad:
The two powerful and meaty prompts this week certainly inspired a flood (no pun intended!) of wonderful stories, and thank you to everyone for sharing their imaginative worlds with us. Pratibha and I were united in our choice of winner this round, and I think it was because of the fact that it took a unique look at the prompts, creating a quietly emotional story out of them. Thank you for the tales of derring-do, the SF-tinged glances at other worlds, the comments on natural resources and their use, the visions of apocalypse and salvation, and most of all for the brilliant writing we’ve come to expect. Bravo, everyone.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best closing line: Craig Anderson, “Up a Creek.”

Pratibha: I loved the humorous opening line and the surprising closing line. 

Sinéad: Nothing I like better than a pompous old fool getting their comeuppance! This closing line made me laugh out loud.

Humour: Holly Geely, “Nature Calls.” 

Pratibha: Shades of “Friends” episode where Joey auditions for a Broadway play after drinking copious amounts of liquid. Very funny.

Sinéad: I loved the buildup here, and the uncomfortable knowledge that the ending was inevitable – much like an approaching waterfall! Plus, it tickled my puerile funny bone.

Best story on a topical subject: Mark A. King, “Tainted Love.”

Pratibha: I loved how the writer incorporated the current hot topic in the story.

Sinéad: Well, as an Irishwoman, I had to give a nod to a story which touches on my country’s historical vote over the weekend. A bit uncomfortable to read, at least for me, but I was impressed with the take on the prompts.

Best description of a waterfall: A.J. Walker, “The Falls.”

Pratibha: I was quite taken with the bewitching description of the waterfall.

Sinéad: Like Pratibha, the description of the falls here was captivating, and I loved the energy, spirit and indomitable life-force that pervades the tale, despite its sadness.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Margaret Locke, “A Natural Disaster.” 

Pratibha:
This story to me borders on being humorous and profound. I loved the humorous tone of the story from the very first word, “Oops!” It was fun to see so many mythological characters crammed into one little story.

Sinéad:
This one made me grin, but like Pratibha I felt there was something deeper being described here, about how thoughtless action can lead to unintended consequences. I loved the mythology, the snarky tone, and the sense of fun!

Steph Ellis, “Kept.” 

Pratibha:
I loved the personification of nature as a vengeful creature. The descriptions such as this, “Tendrils reached out from the vine-bound trees towards the prisoner, placing berries on her tongue, dripping water into her mouth. The wind carried Ania’s cries toward the camps.” are vivid, and kept me intrigued.

Sinéad:
This story stuck with me because of its personification of nature, but I saw it as a stern mother, taking a hard line with her disobedient children after they’ve destroyed all the chances she has given them. Her worn-thin patience, and her pained determination, were memorable to me, as well as her calculating cleverness.

Nancy Chenier, Subsistence.” 

Pratibha:
This story stood out for the unique and imaginative setting. The language is enchanting with some gorgeous imagery, “And though gestated by tears and howls, the infant Petra emerged swaddled in serenity.”

Sinéad:
Well, wow. This one created such incredible visions in my mind, and I adored its SF-setting and its otherworldly feel. These elements were heightened when contrasted with the earthy, bodily descriptions of pregnancy and motherhood, and the ‘pebbles pressed between tongue and palate’, which are so concrete and easy to imagine. Just fantastic.

Eliza Archer, “The Second Flood.” 

Pratibha:
What a beautiful metaphor for life culminating in a fall over the cascading waterfall of death. Nature always wins when thought of this way. I loved the descriptions of a child growing up from infancy to death.

Sinéad:
Life as a river, ending in a final waterfall – and beautifully written, structured and imagined, to boot. I loved the tiny details it picked up on, which made it at once so individual and yet so universal, and the aching sense of inevitability and finality at the end.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Silicon, “Civilization.” 

Pratibha:
I liked the premise of this story: Man has destroyed the earth so much that there is no one left to take when the final flood comes. I love the gentle progression of erosion delivered through a nonchalant voice. This is a good narrative technique. The conflict reaches the climax with the line, “The histories claimed it was a place to live. Now, they knew it a place to die.” I loved the language and the turn of phrases throughout the story.

Sinéad:
This story, for me, was a fascinating mix of dystopia and the present day, a window into a possible future where the planet has been destroyed almost completely and a comment on our own time, where keyboard clicks and meaningless ‘social’ interaction have rendered individuals powerless. I thought it employed wonderful language, particularly the line: ‘One by one they dropped, like flies, like people. Silently, into the darkness’, and the final stark image (that of there being nobody left to take when the final reckoning came) was unforgettable.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Streaming.”

Pratibha: This story grabbed me from the very first sentence. The movement of the waterfall is echoed in the construction of the story. I love the imaginative take on the prompt. The real problem for the mother and her sick child is poverty, but there is a strong conflict between the family and the powerful yet indifferent nature which slowly erodes the life.

Sinéad:
As Pratibha has said, it was this story’s structure and its inevitable flow – so reminiscent of the waterfall prompt – which gave it such power and set it apart. It invites reading aloud, like a spoken-word poetry piece, the rhythm in the words like water running over stones, growing faster and faster until the inescapable end. Its dreadful impact is so memorable, its imagery so clear, and its poignant emotion so palpable, that it had to be rewarded with a podium place.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Geoff LePard, “Choosing a Path.”

Pratibha:
This story is told through a dialogue between the son and his father. Father’s lifelong struggle to nurture his son in-spite of the obstacles is conveyed expertly. In the end will the father’s nurturing will win over the son’s melancholy nature? “I am a weight,” the son says. Will the father toss the weight? I loved the back and forth tug-of-war, and the way the water fall is weaved in the story.

Sinéad:
As our Dragon Queen may have pointed out, I am a huge fan of dialogue in stories. When used well, it can draw a reader in like nothing else. This story, for me, was a masterclass in how to create a world, and a set of characters, using little else besides the exchanges between them. The beautiful relationship between father and son struck me, and the nurturing love they shared in the face of adversity and abandonment. The wrenching end – with its slightly ambiguous feel – remained with me, and the image of the waterfall as their final triumph, and their end, was a powerful one.

And now: for her FOURTH (!) time, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

TAMARA SHOEMAKER!!!

for

“The Lighthouse”

Pratibha: 
I love this story for many reasons. It opens with a woman standing on the precipice just like the one in the picture prompt, but then takes the reader through an emotional waterfall over the rocky mental anguish and the deep waters. An excellent metaphorical use of the prompt and a powerful conflict of a (wo)man against the nature.  The author uses some powerful images and the language. I love the line that sums up the primary conflict, “Only one thing remains constant—the light in the mists of oblivion.”

Sinéad:
I loved this story for its powerful language and imagery, but it was the repeated phrase ‘Deep calls to deep; all your waves and breakers have swept over me’ which stole my heart completely. I thought the story’s depiction of dementia (which is what I assumed the older woman was suffering from) was beautiful, and heartbreaking, and very evocative, and the story used the prompts in a powerful and unique way. The waterfall is simultaneously her decline and her power, and the story’s end sees the character being decisive, active, and in control. In short, this story rang a bell inside me, and it stayed in my mind long after I first read it.

Congratulations, Tamara! 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:

The Lighthouse

I stand at the precipice as the light flashes across the sweeping currents. Oceans of emptiness, misty ridges, and forests of oblivion blend into one conglomerate mass that shakes my inner core, shattering it—creeping cracks crawling through crumbling crevices.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Mom, you left the door open last night. The whispers plague me. Doctor visits, the dreaded diagnoses. She’ll need a full-time caretaker, you know.

I study the wrinkles that crease the back of my hand, the age spots that dot the surface. I do remember the whisper of cherubic lips on my cheek, pudgy fingers offering dandelion bouquets.

I don’t understand why I can’t find my children. I search the panorama, but they’re hidden in the mists.

Deep calls to deep…

Only one thing remains constant—the light in the mists of oblivion. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

I close my eyes and step over the precipice. Tumbling, flying, falling, I hit the emptiness, the ebb, the pull of current. The world says I am lost; I’ve forgotten and will be forgotten.

I wipe the tears from my eyes and swim toward your light where home lies beyond.

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