Tag Archive | Stella T.

Sixty Seconds VI with: Karl A. Russell

No, you aren’t imagining things: Karl A. Russell has won TWO WEEKS IN A ROW, this latest one making his sixth win (which is a record both for him and for the FF community). Read his bio and stories, and find links to his previous interviews at his winner’s page here. To celebrate his sixth win, he’s spending this #SixtySeconds interview by giving us Six for Six. What does that mean? Here’s Karl to explain: 



  1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative
  2. The quality of being inspired
  3. A person or thing that inspires
  4. A sudden brilliant or timely idea
  5. The drawing in of breath; inhalation

Inspiration comes in the strangest ways. My story this week came about because I’m reading Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright to my six year old daughter at bedtime. The plot is building up towards the Literary Dog Show, with Homily Dickinson, Plain Austin, Georgie Elliot and chums all ready to display their prized pooches for judges Pippi Shortstocking and Hands Christmas Anderson, but Charles Cabbage’s attempts to construct a steam powered brain are threatening to derail things. While Ada Lovelace doesn’t actually appear in the book, she popped into my thoughts just the same and proved to be a very popular choice for my story.

But what else inspires me? I could list my faves as usual – comic books, cider, music, cider, movies, cider – but I’m sure you’re all as bored with that as I am. So instead, in honour of my sixth win, here are the six flash writers who consistently inspire me to put the time in, to experiment, to push myself and to try harder.

1) Chris Milam (@blukris) really shouldn’t need an introduction here, but if you want a reminder of who he is, here’s his winner’s page.

Chris is the master of atmosphere, swathing his tales in a fog of cigarette smoke, coffee steam and alcohol that most writers would struggle to cut through. Luckily, his words are more than sharp enough. His characters tend towards the downtrodden, the broken and the helpless, hanging on for one more drink, one more misguided assignation, and it’s a wonder that any of them make it past the final paragraph alive, but like Timothy in his recent tale for Bartleby Snopes, they just keep on going.

If you want a story that pins you like a butterfly on a board and hits you like a hammer, Chris is your man.

My personal favourite: House Arrest

2) Way over on the other side of that coin is Casey Rose Frank (@CaseyRoseFrank).

Although her only winner at Flash Friday is a heartbreaker, I normally associate Casey with a kind of upbeat positivity that she seems to embody in everything she does. (I like to imagine that if one of Casey’s tales met one of Chris’s, it would be like a collision of matter and anti-matter – I feel like I’m taking a huge risk just putting them next to each other here).

If you need a smile, a sweet natured tale with a sprinkling of magical mischief, go Casey.

My personal favourite: Communing With Nature

3) Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Even that name is poetry, a mystery to conjure with as much as anything this wonderful writer has invented.

Voima’s hallmarks are weather, SF concepts and the strange poetry they create when she welds them together. Her tales make you feel the wind between the stars, the light rain of a Martian Spring and the melancholic loss of Autumn’s turning. Even her tweets are more poetic than anything I could aspire to.

Voima is your go-to writer if you want a tale which will linger in your heart long after it melts from your mind.

My personal favourite: Same Time, Next Year

4) Next up is the only writer on this list that I’ve met in person, and someone whose world building skills are on a par with the Magratheans, Catherine Connolly (@fallintofiction).

Despite being one of my nearest flash colleagues geographically, Catherine’s work transports me further than most. Her speciality is a darkly fantastic tale set in a world so real that you have to wonder if it actually exists somewhere, just waiting to be discovered. Revelling in ritual, peppering her stories with strange names and telling observations, Cath weaves tiny tales that seem like fragments of a much larger, fully realized epic.

Read Cath’s work if you want to be plunged headlong into an alien culture, with a breathless rush to learn the rules before it’s too late.

My personal favourite: In Loving Memory

5.) One of the joys of flash fiction is the opportunity it affords for experimentation. I’ve played around with acrostics, palindromic stories and utterly garbled language a few times myself, but my fifth writer takes it 411 7H3 W4Y. Step forward Josh Bertetta (@jbertetta).

 Josh has very quickly established himself as a writer of great range and depth. While his “straight” fiction is polished, professional and affecting, it’s his startlingly quirky experiments with the form that really stand out for me. At first glance they can appear undecipherable, but if you take a moment to let your brain reset itself to his new language, you will find that they are not only readable but perfectly suited to the story they tell.

 Read Josh to see how style and content can work together to produce something utterly new.

 My personal favourite: 7R4NSP051710N

6) My final choice is a bit of a left fielder as she is far less prolific than I would like. She’s the most dedicated flash fanatic around and has fearsome writing skills, but has never ever received that coveted Flash! Friday trophy, and almost certainly never will.

I’m talking, of course, about our own dear dragonness, Rebekah Postupak (@postupak).

For three years now, come hail, rain or shine, through all the ups and downs of life, Rebekah has ensured that we always have a warm, welcoming space to come and practise our craft. Even when events have conspired to make it an odds-on certainty that the contest will have to skip a week, there she is, dead on the stroke of midnight, posting a prompt and forcing us all on to ever greater heights.

I actually did a double take when she recently tweeted about work; be honest now, how many of you thought, as I did, that she ran this place full time? Between the contest, the results, the winners interviews and the general maintenance, that has to be a full time job, right? And the Ring of Fire Badges? And the Spotlight features? Warmup Wednesday? Flashpoints?

‘Fess up Rebekah – When exactly did you perfect cloning, and just how many of you are there?

And if all that wasn’t inspiring enough, our host has those aforementioned skills. As you’d expect from her introductions, Rebekah has a wicked sense of humour (and yes, a tendency towards dragons) but her playful prose works in any setting, as I found when I blind judged Micro Bookends recently.

Read Rebekah. Just because you must.

My personal favourite: In Memoriam

 And there you are: my Six for Six. These are the people I measure myself against when it comes to language and impact, feeling and verisimilitude and out and out commitment. I’ve never read a clunker from any of them, and I don’t expect to, and with every new story I read from them, I feel the need to up my game, again and again and again. They cover every definition of inspiration, right up to that sharp intake of breath.

Note: The hardest part wasn’t choosing the six, just not carrying to sixteen, or sixty. I could have included Stella’s coldly twisted revenge tales, Shakes’ eye for an arresting image, Bart’s laugh-out-loud wit, Tamara’s endless inventiveness (and ability to somehow have a story written before the prompt has finished posting!) – the list of awesome Flash! Friday writers goes on and on and on. Here’s hoping that the contest does too!

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 33: WINNERS

Welcome to results!!!! Short ‘n’ sweet today, gang, as even dragons are forced to be on the wing at times. Sigh of relief all round, I’m quite sure… Though if you check back later, I intend to add a pic explaining things. Yes, I taunt, I know, and if I were better behaved, I would feel badly about that. Or at least apologize. (My mother always said, “Apologize first; the feelings will follow.” Me, aghast: “You want me to LIE?!”) 

rof2More Ring of Fire badges awaiting announcement — thanks to those of you who’ve been patient. To newcomers: if you’ve written stories at least three Fridays in July, your name can go up on the Wall of Flame. Each badge you earn equals a chance at the jackpot of prizes at year’s end. Read all about it here!


Speaking of ill behaved, judging Vol 3 – 33 was Dragon Team Eight, A.J. Walker & Voima Oy. They describe their adventure better than I would, so I’ll leave it to their silver tongues to share that with you.  

AJ: The story began many moons ago – well probably just one – when A.J. Walker was patiently rubbing each of his real ale bottles with a sad care and love waiting for something to happen. Then suddenly, puff! indeed more like PUFF!! a genie appeared in the form of a dragoness. It was not what he expected from a bottle of Jaipur IPA, but hey AJ takes what he gets.

‘Eh up love!’ Said Rebekah the Yorkshire dragon, for Rebekah was her name. ‘You’ve got yourself three wishes lad and no mistake. Be quick though – time is money and apparently I’m from Yorkshire – who knew!?’

Predictably AJ wished first for a bottle opener.

Second he wished for a grand selection of stories to be put before him.

And thirdly he asked for a boss partner to review the magical tales with him.

So it was that the genie delivered in spades, before disappearing she said “Good luck” and “I’ll see you next week” – as dragons do.

AJ found another bottle opener later and realised he could have instead asked for another Jaipur – though that would have been greedy.

Voima and AJ were separated by an ocean but connected by words and the – gotta be a folkstory- interweb and laid into the tales of magic, treasure, death, caves, palaces, hovels, the desert and the sea with great gusto- and not a little trepidation. There were beautiful poems and fabulous prose of morality and immorality. In short the 1001 Nights led the FFF community to a myriad possibilities – and it was wonderful.

The task was difficult with so many wonderfully successful slices of fiction. On another day some of the other stories not mentioned could get a merit but today is the day and it is what it is. That said the top stories were the top stories on any given day and no mistake. We don’t even know who we’ve chosen, but 1001 congratulations to all of you. And we’ll done to everyone you all done good.

VOThank you, AJ. I, too, am honoured to serve as judge, here. Thank you to all you marvelous writers who make your magic. Thank you, Catherine Connolly, who sent us the stories so we could read them truly blind. And thank you Dragon Queen, who makes this magic possible.

Now, on to the results–



Powerful writing: Emily June StreetAzita’s Stories.” VO— Stories that must be told. Very powerful writing–and thought-provoking piece.  AJ  –a powerful contemporary tale with some lovely sad prose – ‘lashes instead of kisses’. Indeed.

Funniest If Slightly Off the Mark: Craig Anderson, “Genie-Us.” VO— So clever–the genies discussing working condition–great dialogue and characters.  Really funny! AJ— loved the idea of the meeting discussing their masters – particularly the guy with ultimate wishes requesting an omelette (it would have been bacon every time for me though).

Most Original Point of View: Stella T, “Friends for Life.” A Camel’s Tale–wonderful writing and a great character!   



Dylyce P. Clarke, “This Night Is All We Have.” VO –Lush and sensual descriptions, a beautiful love story.   AJ —  Great use of colour and the other senses to evoke the place and a fabulous poignant ending. Lovely.

Marie McKay, “The Dance.” Beautiful prose poem. fluid and graceful language–evocative as all the nights of Arabia.  This one is haunting and lovely.

Image Ronin, “Tales From the Wasteland.” In this post-apocalyptic world, one man holds the key–the description is so vivid, and the use of GENIE is genius!

Holly Geely, “Planet HH.” Love this tale of  a space-sailor.  Wonderful characters and names.  E-Z Youth is  a brilliant idea.  And the ending is laugh out loud funny!


Marie McKay, “Violets.”

VO — Vivid descriptions of a harsh world of very poor, and rich and privilege, in which water is a precious commodity.  The violets are a luxury in this world, such fragile beauty.  I love the language,  the voice of the rich man describing this world, and his encounter with the boy.  It is poignant and atmospheric.  A beautiful story. 

AJ — The poignant story of a rich man assuaging his guilt some little way by buying bottled water from an urchin has great atmosphere. He doesn’t trust the urchin enough to drink the water (but hopes his plants can benefit from it) but wants to do something for the young man — and his ancient eyes.


Emily June Street,Three Hours to Laramie” 

VO — There are three hours to Laramie. It could be a good trip, telling stories,  but  that’s not the story. There’s a bad guy, with a gun.  The suspense rises. There are three hours to Laramie.  Could you tell a story to save your life?  This is  a real thriller with a great twist ending.  What a ride!

AJ — The story of a powerful independent woman all alone in the desert being picked up by a baddie with a gun – it was never going to end well. Some lovely description and simple dialogue in this Arabian Nights with a twist. The story was solid and we all love a surprise ending.


David “Seriously Ill Behaved and HOW’S ABOUT SOME IRONY #HOURGLASS ” Shakes, “Je Souhaite.” 

VO — This is epic!  Meta fiction, references to the X-files in the title, David Bowie, genies, street urchins, ,magic lamps, wishes, stories within stories–and then there is The Great Writer of all the stories, and the characters who wish to be in another story…wonderful work!

AJ — We go to all the trouble of getting the authors name’s taken out of the pages (thanks @fallintofiction) and what do they do? They start putting them in the prose. If such behaviour continues we’ll have to get the stories redacted!

Notwithstanding the name dropping, both of us thought that it had to be in the top two. A story with multiple layers for us. Writing about this writing lark and the lovely petulance of the genie who just wants to grant a wish- any wish! Go on make a wish. Well, nearly… but second is good too.


And now: put on your dragon clogs and DANCE WITH ME!!!! IT’S first-time




Behrouz and the Fortune Fish

VO — This is masterful storytelling.  It’s a story within a story–“Tell me a story.” “Okay, my son. I know a good one.”  The story unfolds  through dialogue,  back and forth, growing bigger and bigger.  “How big was the fish, papa?”  “Bigger than a castle.”   We can see  the city within the fish, the bazaar in the city, the people,  the beautiful clothes.  I, too, wanted more of the story, but “it’s time for bed, now, and these clothes won’t sell themselves.”  It’s a  marvelous tale in the Arabian Nights spirit, and  a wonderful story of love between father and child. Pure magic!  

AJ — Great imagery and story told as dialogue in true Arabian Nights spirit. The story is tight and the dialogue between the child and his father work brilliantly. A fish as big as a castle now that’s a fisherman’s tale if ever we’ve heard one.

Congratulations, Brian! Practically leaping out of my dragonskin for joy here. Please stand by for your very own totally gorgeous and cool winner’s page — I’ll tweet like mad once it’s up — and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap with your email address so I can interview you for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature! And now, here’s your winning story:

Behrouz and the Fortune Fish

“Tell me a story.”

“Okay, my son. I know a good one.

“Once upon a time there was a young boy called Behrouz. His parents were mean, treating him more like a slave than a son.

“Behrouz’s mother made beautiful clothes which his father sold at a market across the sea. But, when his father fell ill, Behrouz was forced to cross the sea himself.

“That night, halfway across the sea, the water began to churn, rocking the boat violently. Before Behrouz knew what was happening, a Great Fish rose up and swallowed the boat whole.”

“How big was the fish, papa?”

“Bigger than a castle.”


“But Behrouz was okay. He lit a lamp and sailed his little boat further into the fish. He wondered if he would ever find a way out when he washed up on the shore of a strange city.”

“A city?”

“Indeed. Now the people of the city had never seen such beautiful clothes before and they began to bid for the garments. In no time at all Behrouz had sold everything, making more than enough coin to show for it.

“The people of the city wanted more and so Behrouz was released from the Great Fish on the promise that he’d return with more from the Outside.”

“Did he go back, papa?”

“Perhaps I will tell you tomorrow. For now you need to go to sleep. And I need to load up the boat. Those clothes won’t sell themselves. Good night, little one.”