Tag Archive | Sarah Miles

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 34: WINNERS

WELL, aren’t y’all looking spiffy this fine Monday (especially Stella, fast asleep in her dragon-sparkled jammies)!!!!  So very grateful, as ever (except one week more so), to all of you who pushed up your dragonsleeves to write another round of outrageously stunning stories. You took our dramatically unhappy Anna Karenina places even she hadn’t dreamed of going: she wound up with Vronsky, Karenin, alone, or under Engine, Engine, Number Nine, sure — but also variously on other planets, with dragons, in boxing rings… OK, who are we kidding, mostly she wound up DEED, poor thing, in the very picture of wonderful irony, as she died in stories shimmering and humming with life. How do you do that?!

Btw, COME BACK TOMORROW!!! as we celebrate previous Flash! Friday winner Sydney Scrogham‘s launch of her novel, Chase! It’s another super exciting #Spotlight interview, complete with a chance at a FREE COPY! Don’t miss it!

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A marvelous, cotton candied privilege having the captains of Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver & Holly Geely behind the engine this week. Only their second go, and they’re already settling into a comfortable routine. I know this, because unlike dear Anna, they are both still quite alive. And chatty:   

HG: This week, tragedy abounds; exactly as I suspected when the choice of main character is “unhappy socialite.” Congratulations, friends, you have tugged at my heartstrings, broken them, mended them, and broken them again. I had so many feelings that I almost had to resort to writing poetry (and trust me, no one wants to be burdened with my poetry – I’m worse than a Vogon). Honestly, folks, well done – I’m in awe at the skill of this community.

FI: In true Flash! Friday dragon fashion, you’ve slain your scores, woven poetry into familiar fabric, and sent this captain into fits trying to cut down a not-so-short list. (C’mon, people, couldn’t you be a little less amazing!?) Winner and First Runner Up switched places a few times, fighting ink and quill for that champion crown. I would’ve forged a second crown in Hephaestus’ fires but apparently there are rules about that, so the decision had to be made…

Thank you, thank you to Steph Ellis for sending her beautiful Ddraig Goch straight from Cymru with your stories safely stripped!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

The “Oh-Snap I didn’t see that coming but I love it” award: Sarah Miles, “Social Status.” In today’s world, this main character is in for a rough time after their announcement. Love it – gave me a great chuckle.

The “D’awww you really tugged at my heartstrings” award: Eleanor LewisMummy-Number-Four.” This story is sad at times, but it’s ultimately precious, and Mummy-Number-Four is a lovely woman.

The “Come drink the Shenandoah waters” award: Mark A. King, The 4:15 Train from Shenandoah Valley.” I loved this story from the start for its ambitious use of heavy eye dialect. Then the S.V. nod cinched it.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

Craig Anderson, “Cold Feet.” 

HG: Ouch. A tale that’s all-too-familiar (but hopefully becoming a thing of the past). Powerfully done, particularly the “I do.”

FI: Another story on the winner’s list to end on only two words. But, goodness, how much weight they carry! Through a more modern perspective, “Cold Feet” took the idea of obliged marriage and made it its own. Deftly, the author provokes that rising dread how many millions have experienced standing by false affection for tradition’s sake. Whether “I do” is spoken in that moment, or, later, when it’s too late, isn’t said but I like to hope that those cold feet were bold enough to run.

Nancy Chenier, “Virtual Ties That Bind.” 

HG: I’m with Grandma on this one, the idea of becoming software is disturbing. The story made me uncomfortable and made me wonder how far I’d go to stay with family; it’s a well-crafted look at a future I fear.

FI: Strong world building was recurrent this week (one of the reasons our job was so difficult. Looking at you “Superiority”), but “Virtual Ties” created a universe that was both foreign and familiar. Though technology pulls us into the future of new bodies and 200-year long life spans, the strength of familial bonds holds, tying us eternally to those we love and the need to remain connected.

M.T. Decker, “Time Warped and Weft.”

HG: This one reminds me of old stories of the Fates and how they weave our destinies. In only a handful of paragraphs, the vastness of entropy bears down upon the reader. Fantastic.

FI: I loved this one for its removed feel (and probably because first person POV, present tense is one of my all time favorite narrative techniques). Much like the voice shown weaving its prescribed pattern, the conflict threads in and out, pointing to where entropy and man work against themselves unintentionally. Short. Beautiful. Unique.

Catherine Connolly, “Barabashka.”

HG: I wasn’t familiar with the lore so I looked it up – and I’m impressed. This spooky tale hints of tradition gone wrong and there’s a haunting feeling of longing throughout.

FI: High, high praise for the author of this gem! Latvian folklore come to life was the last thing I expected to read from a Tolstoy prompt. Original, gripping, and worlds-deep, each sentence harks back to the domovoi and a thousand other questionable traditions we humans cling to out of habit, affection, or fear. Can I request a novel out of this? 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Journey.”

HG: “Less than twenty inches separate us. A gulf of a thousand miles keeps us apart.”The story of a love gone stale, and two hearts separated; a familiar story that affects many every day. A heartbreaking tale that puts light at the end of the tunnel; the closing line is especially beautiful.

FI: So often we read stories about passion starved and fading, but this author paints Love as a journey, with intimacy and distance both. When that chasm opens wide, “Journey” whispers that “touch is a ten-year bridge,” able to heal the deepest wounds. As someone who thrives on love expressed physically, I was happy to see its power represented here in such poetic prose.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Daughter of Eve” 

HG: The main characters unabashed declaration of “It is who I am” sold this one for me. Here is a woman who has no shame in being a woman. Perhaps society has come a long way – but there is much room for improvement. A fantastic study in feminism and it made me feel powerful.

FI: Oh, how I love this one! Many of the stories showed us women either submitting to the place society assigns them (Grace Black‘s “Just Chicken” – So. Good.), or violently rebelling (Pattyann McCarthy‘s “Hush Little Baby” – a powerful piece). The voice in “Daughter of Eve” instead has a quiet confidence. She knows she’s a woman. She owns it. And what began as an insult (“you’re a woman”) becomes a quiet declaration (“Yes. I am.”), making me proud to say it aloud with her.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, “Frayed Ties.” 

HG: This story breaks my heart. There are many layers here, a tragedy presented in an almost nonchalant way. I can imagine the speaker shrugging one shoulder as they wait for the train; I can imagine someone crying for them, though they don’t believe anyone should care. In a few words in each stage of this person’s life, you can see how hard it must have been, and you understand why they’re waiting for “until.”

FI: This is the perfect example of why flash fiction deserves its place in the literary world. In only 150 words, a whole life plays out in snap shots: childhood to teenage years to adulthood. Every read through reveals new layers of meaning becoming more complex rather than less, as it’s unwrapped. The structure, too, is phenomenal, guiding the reader through each tragedy with a gentle hand before leaving us standing in the narrator’s shoes in front of those tracks, wondering if now is our own “until.” Where parents should have provided the strongest tie, years of neglect and disinterest have left this individual with only memories and a longing to join that patched-together family.

And now: magnificently battling to the top AGAIN, it’s TWO-time

DRAGON WINNER

MARK A. KING!!!

for

The Boxer and the Butterfly

HG: “The butterfly is trapped in a body that doesn’t belong”/”The boxer is ready.” The two different but achingly similar tales of two different-yet-the-same characters is a gorgeous glimpse into the chosen theme, “social progress.” They have both taken a bold step to the future, and have both decided to be true to themselves – perhaps in some cases at the risk of their safety, especially for the butterfly. I wonder, is it a butterfly…or is it something more? Beautifully done.

FI: Wow. It would be easy to get lost in this one, wandering between words succulent and soul-catching, waiting for the next sliver of imagery to carry us away, missing the heart of why “The Boxer and the Butterfly” show cases champion writing. But time spent reading and re-reading, tearing the mind away from stunning phraseology, and looking instead to meaning, is well spent. Because why write if you don’t have something to say? Here, the author examines social progress through two dissimilar characters, their desires and what society desires for them. They are not content to be what others say they must and it is this timorous bravery that seals it. Sometimes the bravest things, are done by the smallest and most fearful of us. A worthy winner.

Congratulations (again), Mark! Once (again) we are TOTALLY MADLY LEAPING ABOUT THE LAIR in honor of your win. We’re updating your winner’s page (again), and your winning tale’s (again) going up on the winners’ wall. Please keep an eye on your inbox for interview questions (once more) for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature! And now, here’s your winning story:

The Boxer and the Butterfly

The boxer imagines the soft, dry powder of talc soothing roughened knuckles of pain. White dusted on criss-crossed burgundy fissures—a snow-capped mountain of scars.

The butterfly is trapped in a body that doesn’t belong. Society dictates the mundane caterpillar appearance—dragging the butterfly down.

The boxer imagines the weight of the gloves, the torsion of biceps, the dancing of feet on springy canvas. The boxer imagines the bloodthirsty collective din of the audience as glove connects with face.

The butterfly is beaten, derided and punished for being something it should not be.

The boxer is ready. In the locker room she kisses the picture of her children, ignores the banners telling her place is at home and she enters the arena.

The butterfly is ready. He covers his injuries in majestic kaleidoscope-colours and walks the streets of Russia with tentative, watchful steps.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 14: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all!!! and welcome to Results Day, which I think ought to be celebrated with a global TimTam SLAM. (For you novices, this requires biting the ends off a TimTam and using it for a straw in, preferably, a hot cup of coffee. This creates a sloppy, caramelly mess which will keep you happy for days.)

COME BACK TOMORROW for an interview with the celebrated Writer’s Digest expert, professional editor, former publisher, and novelist Jeff Gerke. His interview’s a riot, and in conjunction with his visit, Flash! Friday is giving away to one random commenter a FREE 2 PAGE OR QUERY LETTER EDIT by Jeff. Don’t miss it!

Then please remember next is Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then Flash! Friday’s back all over again! 

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Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark King sayFrom stone-cold, lovelorn buildings to evil queens disguised in gingham dresses, the girls-next-door  took on all possible forms this week, and you brilliant writers broke all the boundaries of creativity. I don’t think I’ll ever see the girls in my neighborhood the same ever again. 😉 You all did an excellent job of casting aside the box this week, which pleased us mightily, and it was a pleasure to soak ourselves in your glorious imaginations. Once again, you did not make our job easy, but you did make it quite fulfilling. Without further ado, here are our choices below.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Michael Seese, “Eve.”Special Mention for structure, pace and hidden story arc 

Image Ronin (Dragon Captain!), “The Sins of Our Fathers.”- Special Mention for wonderful use of visual imagery 

Nancy Chenier, “Modularity.”Special Mention for an attention grabbing opening and product placement in a holo-marquee (other sports brands are available) 

Jessica Franken, “Ikiryō.” – Special Mention for most mischievous poltergeist since Peeves 

Brian Creek, “Inter Dimansional.”Special Mention for playful title and INTER DIMANSIONAL creativity within the story itself (MK also liked the sneaky Terminator quote)  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Whitney Healy, Strangers.” 

TS – Apparently, someone has picked up on my love of peanut butter sandwiches. Although I have never tried peanut butter and marshmallow crème. I’ll put it on the list for my next meal.

I love this piece. The division into three separate parts works well for building the relationship between the protagonists, first neighbors, then friends, then partners. I love how the writer describes each relationship in stepping stones, delving the reader into intensity as the piece goes on.

The separate points of view caught me off-guard at first, but as I read it over again, I enjoyed getting both perspectives. Then at the end, when the two PoV’s sat right next to each other, opposite sides of a mirror, it gutted me. Really enjoyed it. Well done!

MK – I too picked up on the PB sandwich reference, however, I have to keep reminding Tamara that Jif is/was a creamy bleach in England, you know the sort you might clean a kitchen sink with (yum).

The PoV changes were different and it’s a challenge to get them right in such a small piece.

The strength of the relationship is what stood out and I loved this “focusing as the worm crossed-curved-looped and laced around the barb and the point just right—stretched perfectly so he wriggled just enough to catch the bluegill’s interest”.

Sarah Miles, Home.” 

TS – This piece is beautifully written, lyrical and flowing. It reads almost like music. The social barriers between success and “a life behind checkouts” is well-illustrated in phrases like: “We stream into school like reluctant anti-matter, trapped in the pull of a black hole.” The girl-next-door provides the narrator with an illusory dream, and the piece lifts with hope at the last line: “Why don’t you come too?”

Fluid and gorgeous. Lovely.

MK – Now this is how to start a story! Wonderful beginning that is poetic yet blunt with feeling. The feel of the entire story is aching with unfulfilled aspirations and dreams that may never come. This was an example of the bluntness “Truth is, in ten years time, she’ll be fighting off a STD and serving pizza.”, which was neatly contrasted with the hope, “…but her, this girl next door, she dares to dream; longs to shed this second-hand living, run past the gates and inhale freedom”.

Marie McKay, “The Doll’s House.” 

TS – The concept of this piece is at once horrifying and mesmerizing. Using dolls as the main characters in this take illustrates so clearly the brittle smiles that often cover the deepest pain. The contrast between the horror of what is actually happening and the bright colorful innocence of a dollhouse scene carves an intense impact. The simplicity of the last line, like something you’d hear a young girl tell her friend, ‘Don’t tell. Don’t tell,’ underscores the whole piece. Brilliant idea. Well done.

MK – This is a deeply disturbing story, yet it is one that is sensitively told. The use of the house image as a doll’s house is a very interesting take and yet it is one that fits well with the story. Dolls are occasionally used by professionals and police when investigating cases and this story could be one that is played by disassociation out as it happens, or one that is reliving the events for the authorities. Traumatic and harrowing.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Margaret Locke, “The Lady in White.” 

TS – Exquisite imagery in this piece. I love the skillfully drawn correlations between a cold stone building and a woman ignored and unappreciated. I see the growth in this piece, and it strengthens it as it goes along. At the beginning, the woman waits for the man; he’s “all I can think about.” He’s a fantasy; she sees herself as a wallflower. By the end of the piece, she gains a sense of self, “a lonely edifice… serving others.” The gutting final line drives a spear through the piece, a backbone of support for all the imagery leading up to the final point: “I am so much more than stone.” What a great work of self-discovery! Beautiful.

MK – The prompt and story element were hard this week and standing out from the crowd took something unique. The clues were there from the start “…there are so many barriers in our way. Physical, emotional, social”, “The fences between us are mighty.”

I also like the fact that this longing is the ‘girl’ next door and not the house he lives in. “They can’t stay away. But they can’t approach, either.” and “If only I were free. I’d make myself approachable. I’d welcome him in with doors wide open.” Clever work, dear dragon.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Emily June Street, The Reflection.” 

TS – As a fan enamored with dark fantasy, this piece spoke right into my obsession. With hints of charm and darker magic reminiscent of Grimm brother fairy tales, the piece had such a satisfying ending with the reflection-queen in the fountain. “She wears a crown of burned love-letters, a corset made of flesh, and a necklace of skulls.” Shudder.

Love the contrast between the reflection-queen and the beautiful maid, and especially the girl’s description: “fresh-faced, milk-fed, sun-kissed,” the perfect girl-next-door in gingham and freckles. Nice use of the character. I want to read a fleshed-out book with this piece as the guiding inspiration. Homework for the author. 😉

MK – The writer has given us a teaser with the title. All the way through we’re pondering what is the reflection and how it comes into play. We proceed knowing that everything is highly unlikely to be as it seems (a great lesson in the power of a title). The initial part of the story plays out like the girl could be a girl next door, or even an incredible life-like statue “She never moves from her perch beside the fountain.”, “No one has ever seen her enter the house.”

Like the most beautiful of sirens, she calls to the desires of the flesh from the “neighborhood boys”, and like a mythical siren she hides her true self. As Tamara has already mentioned, I also loved the reflected images description.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, “In There.” 

TS – What a setting! A sanitarium (at least, that’s what I assumed it to be) gated and locked; it’s like something right out of Shutter Island, and I got just as many chills and thrills from reading this as from watching the movie trailer. There’s some really fantastic word pictures in this: “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned.” “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” What incredible description! The insanity of the narrator bleeds through in incrementally increasing steps as she watches from outside the gates, and then finds herself INSIDE the gates, and then finally at the end, sees herself in the rusty water (it was at this point that I had to run lock the door and close the blinds against the staring dark outside). Freaky, skillful, and riveting. Nicely done!

MK – This is breathtaking. The take on the photo is so clever that it took me a while to recover from it. Like Tamara mentioned, I had images of Shutter Island running through my terrified mind (in my opinion it is both a stunning book and wonderful film). The words also conjured the most vivid and disturbing images of place such as Arkham Asylum (and I congratulate the writer for this feat as this is a truly terrifying place).

The start is fantastic “…Mummy says they don’t commit children to places like that. Unless they’ve perpetuated adult-grade evil.” Eek.

These are some of my favourite lines on FFF, ever, “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned” and “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” Such brutal beauty – amazing.

By the end, this story played like the mind of someone who is suffering from fear, grief, guilt, paranoia and hallucinations. Simply sublime.

DRAGON WINNER

Jordan Louie (Jorbi K.)!!!

for

“Middle Class Martyrdom”

TS – What a powerful message woven through this! The girl-next-door in the role of terrorist-in-waiting. The piece etches quite skillfully the social hierarchy between the upper class and the bourgeoisie. The narrator is a strong character; she shows a lot of agency in phrases like “I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshiped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread…” The point comes across that the blood of the rich/famous/important is just as red as the blood of the normal girl with “no family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability.”

Some stunning use of color pervades this piece, too. “The stretch of green, white houses, black suits, insides as red, ivory towers.” The stark colors paint my mind with brilliant imagery, and it matches the vivid strength of the narrator.

Extremely well done! Fantastic job.

MK – A truly compelling and contemporary story. Someone who walks ours streets unseen. Someone who smiles at us in the coffee shop. Someone who is, in every way, the perfect ‘girl next door’.

Yet, she plots and hides. She dilutes her anti-capitalist terrorist-in-waiting ideals, for now is not her time. The house in the story is used to drive the power of the injustice the narrator is feeling; acting as an example of the greed and everything else that she sees as wrong. It is distant, unreachable, guarded and divisive. It is a perfect metaphor for her view of society.

The voice is strong and consistent. The power is ramped up to eleven and boosted with conviction and intent.

“..their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides” – the heartless cold of those with money and power.

“But I’ll show their insides are just as red” – terrifying.

For most of us, this idea of the smiling sleeper terrorist living as just another unseen face in the crowd is truly scary. Congratulations on the fantastic story and powerful character.

Congratulations, Jorbi! We are thrilled that you joined us this week and even more thrilled that you did so dramatically! Please find here your very own winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Middle Class Martyrdom

I’m tired of looking at them through twisted iron gates: their façade of exclusivity made tangible. Blocked off from hundreds of yards- miles away: the stretch of green in between me and them gives them their status. They stay nestled up in their white houses that contrast with their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides.

But I’ll show their insides are just as red as anyone else’s, and that their ivory towers are stolen from a much less endangered bourgeoisie. I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshipped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread across the world; it’s not as hard as they’d like you to think, and many times not for good deeds.

They’ll talk about me for years. My name will be on a list; our own working-class Walk of Fame. I’ll be researched, written about, analyzed, and posted up on every channel. They’ll keep me famous for a long time, because they won’t be able to figure me out. No family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability. I’m just the girl next door.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 12: WINNERS

HURRAY, and welcome to the Results Show! I’m never sure which day of the week is my favorite. Getting to read your stories on Wed & Fri, or partying like mad with the winners, or smushing the champ under a microscope for an interview, or the cool new Tuesday thinggie where I get to hassle professionals in all parts of the writing biz. Who are we kidding; all the days are my favorite. Except maybe the long, depressing darkness that’s the weekend. Anybody wanna guest post, to brighten those days up? Just say the word.

Speaking of which: TOMORROW!!! We continue our Tuesday #Spotlight exclusive interview feature, this time with the founding editors/publishers at Crosshair Press. Want to know what The Other Side looks like?? Don’t miss it!

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

FINALLY: Have you earned the February #RingofFire badge? The Wall of Flame is being updated today; only those with February badges will stay. Let me know ASAP if your name belongs there!  

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Dragon Captains Sinéad O’Hart/Pratibha say

Sinéad: This week’s stories shared many themes. At one point during the judging process, I did a search for the word ‘mother’, for instance, and was astounded by how often it appeared. Despite Nature’s caprices and cruelties, it seems as though the idea of it being a ‘mother’ is well-rooted and instinctive. Many stories took the idea of ‘mother’ Nature and its relationship with mankind, and two of our podium-placed tales feature the word in their titles; these two stories, it seemed to us, took a fresh and unexpected approach to the idea of Nature as a mother. We wanted to reward the stories which took side-swipes at the prompts, this week; many tales featured parched and bloody-lipped survivors, barely clinging to life as they battled their way through deserts both literal and figurative, but the tale we eventually placed as the winner is one wherein Nature itself is the narrator, in the voice of the sorrowful sea. In a week which saw tales of strange futuristic worlds of sand-burials and mechanical whales, as well as sinking ships, messages in bottles and at least one Monty Python reference (which made me chuckle), choosing winners, as well as Honorary and Special Mentions was a massive challenge. All credit to the writers who brought us to unknown and uncharted territory with every tale, and to our Dragon Queen for her inspirational prompts.

Pratibha: Another record-shattering week here at Flash! Friday! There were 83 shining, scorching, wave-crashing, sand-blasting stories that kept the judging team gasping for breath. Nature appeared cruel at times and apologetic at others. The wild varieties of the stories proved once again that the mysterious powers of Nature still elude the human mind, and yet the human spirit survives on sheer hope and toil. The ship, sea, sun, and sand took on various personas propelling the stories in sometimes unpredictable directions, sometimes humorous. I think we need a special champion category for humor.

I would like to bow to all the writers who tackled the whimsical prompt and spun the tales of conflict. It was extremely difficult to choose the winners in this round.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Unique Acrostic Effect: Mark A. King, “Z – A of an Apocalypse.” This story deserves a Special Mention for its unique acrostic effect, reminiscent of a countdown to destruction. Striking images, like that of the oil tanker ‘rust[ing] on the sand dunes of London‘ gave it huge power and visual appeal. The images grow more and more disturbing as the tale continues, until the final devastating line – ‘Apocalypse is now‘. This was a stunning piece of work.

For an Interesting Premise: Chris Milam, “Saulė.” This story gains a Special Mention for its interesting premise. A shipwrecked man (we presume) who goes from raging at the merciless sun to feeling a grudging respect, and eventual affection, for his one-time tormentor, we thought this tale offered a fresh and interesting take on the idea of man vs. Nature. The image of the sun’s rays like ‘orange tentacles… loop[ing] around [his] wilting body like a flaming octopus‘ was particularly accomplished.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

David Borrowdale, Coping With Loss.” 

Sinéad: This story deserves an Honorable Mention for superlative narrative and literary effect. It was so stylish and accomplished that it invited me to read and re-read. I loved how the tale emerged as the words were pared away, just like the ship rusting in the desert (or even Nature’s attrition of humanity and all its futile constructs more generally), as well as how it encapsulated the idea of Nature’s power to give and take life with impunity. An amazing story.

Pratibha: I loved the author’s insight into grief and suffering and their degenerative effects on mind. The slow decay of bodies and minds of the couple is skillfully shown through the shrinking paragraphs.

Tamara Shoemaker, Timely Conversation.” 

Sinéad: This story deserves an Honorable Mention for its use of two aspects of Nature – mortality and Time – and how it weaves the visual prompt into the story by using it as a metaphor for loss and grief. I loved the personification of Time and its gentle regret that it cannot slow, or go backwards, and the character’s admission that even if he could be granted another minute or another hour with his loved one, it would never be enough. Poignant and unsettling, and told from a unique perspective, this story stuck in the mind.

Pratibha: This story is really powerful in the personification of Time. I loved the concept. I also liked how the author weaved in the dialogue with the second person point of view.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “Three Mothers.” 

Sinéad: We were both struck by the topicality of this story, and the poignancy of the child’s realisation that the scientific advances that will save his or her unborn sibling will come too late to save him/her. The details here – the crumpled tissues and the bottles hidden in the laundry basket, and the child’s pretense at a smile mirroring the mother’s – gave the story an urgent poignancy and power. I was also struck by the mention of mitochondrial disease, which can be caused by problems with mitochondrial DNA (inherited from the mother), and how this means that both the child’s life and death have come from their birth mother, as well as ‘mother’ Nature. This story took an interesting and fresh look at the idea of mother Nature and motherhood in general, contrasting the ‘flawed’ mothers with an idealised, and impossible, ‘third’ mother, from which only life – and not the inevitable death – would come.

Pratibha: I think my partner has already said everything so brilliantly, that I might have said. So I will just say ditto.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Sarah Miles, Mother Knows Best.” 

Sinéad: This was a heartrending tale. It was another which stayed with me, and I was moved by the contrast between the expectant mother – who so loves and wants to protect her tiny child – with the seemingly impersonal cruelty of mother Nature (partly personified in the efficient, brisk and unfeeling nurse), who takes life as easily as she gives it, with no thought to what, or who, is left behind. The contrast to the winning tale was interesting, and I loved the harsh irony of the tale’s title and the nurse’s parroting of the platitude that ‘mother Nature knows best‘. Why do we assume this is true, we are left to ask? And what does ‘best’ even mean? The final image, of the woman on her hands and knees releasing a ‘feral howl‘, so reminiscent of the childbirth she will now not experience, was one I found particularly affecting.

Pratibha: Although this story refers to the photo prompt only metaphorically, the emotional punch of the story is powerful. Does Mother Nature really know what is best for the expectant mother? The story asks the question and makes the reader think.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Katie Morford, “Illusion.” {Editor’s Note: Ms. Morford is one of the founders of Crosshair Press, the star of tomorrow’s Spotlight interview.}

Sinéad: This tale employs some beautiful language, particularly the line: ‘A lake shimmering bright in the desert, luring naive hopefuls to cast off their anchor lines and abandon reality for a vision‘, and its concluding note – that of mankind staking a claim on another day – just one more! – while knowing, at the back of it all, that their struggle will ultimately amount to nothing, was powerful. The image of the decaying ship, like a giant animal, being consumed not only by the sand, but also by Time itself, was memorable, and I enjoyed the interplay between the survivor and his plants, from which he ‘coaxes life‘, despite admitting they are tougher than he is. I enjoyed this tale’s defiant spirit, and although many tales took a similar perspective, this one stood out.

Pratibha: This philosophical story moves through the actions of Man and Nature trying to outdo each other in a wave-like motion. Any achievement by Man seems like an illusion because it quickly results in a counter-move by Nature. This idea is delivered through beautiful and rhythmic language. The real illusion is the Man’s belief that he can conquer Nature. But “Nature’s a patient enemy. It wears away the illusion.” Yet, Man remains defiant and hopeful. I loved the layers of the story. It is the story of a marooned man and on the higher level, it is the story of Mankind.

DRAGON WINNER

DEB FOY!!!

for

“Remorse”

Sinéad: This story gripped me from the get-go. Narrated by the sea itself, which was an unusual and striking perspective, I was taken by the tale’s focus on the sorrow felt by Nature at the necessity of claiming an innocent life, and how – while it has no choice – it regrets the fact that a child has died, and the effects this event has on the bereaved family. I felt the conflict (humanity vs. Nature) was very well handled, and I loved the subtle working in of the visual prompt: ‘Ever after, she was a ship marooned in a desert ocean… The garden bloomed that year, small apology.’ I also felt the story handled the father’s grief very skillfully (albeit, it made for upsetting reading), and it was one of several tales which stayed in my mind, nagging at me, after my initial read-through. A powerful and deserving winner.

Pratibha: Several stories attempted to personify the forces of Nature, but this one stood out because of the brilliant execution. The complete story unravels in a sincere apology from the ocean that took a young life, but the ocean itself is subject to the Nature’s laws. “We’re bound by strictest laws; directives we dare not defy.” The conflict between Man and Nature takes on a deeper meaning at this point. Well-developed characters, human as well as ocean made this story rise to the top. Bravo.

Congratulations, Deb! Please find below the rights to your second 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 interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Remorse

<Story removed at author’s request>

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