Tag Archive | stellakateT

Sixty Seconds V with: Michael Seese

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Michael Seese, who’s (no surprise!!) joined the elite crew of writers to have won Flash! Friday FIVE times. Read his winning story at his winner’s page here. Read his bio and previous interviews there too. And now, in 500 (ish) words, please find his interview, Flash! Friday style.

Requirements

* Up to 500 words
* In it you need to reveal 5 true things about yourself and 5 invented things 
* You’ve got 5 prompt words/phrases that you must include: flash, fiction, champion, writer, green dragon of envy
* Starting sentence: “Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here.”

♦♦♦

Her Lover
576 words (so sue me) *Editor’s Note: Don’t leave town.*

Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here. After all, it’s where I lost myself. And found him.

In hindsight, I suppose I must have looked like the easiest mark in the world. A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)

His come-on was so smooth.

“I will take you to places you’ve never seen, but only dreamed of.”

How I wish the good angel hadn’t gotten sloshed and slipped from my shoulder an hour ago. If she were still there, she would have screamed in my ear, reminding me of the various realities germane to my life.

You’re married. Happily. You have three kids. Three kids who often drive you insane, yet melt your heart when they ask you to lie in bed with them every night.

I should have said “No.” Correction. I should have said “No, god damn it!”

But I didn’t.

He was so smooth. So seductive. Impulse took over. I took him home.

I knew the children would be asleep, as would Grandma, who had come over watch them so I could get an evening to myself while my husband was out of town on business.

It was so…

Blissful.

Heavenly.

I didn’t want it to end, and fought to stay awake just one more minute to revel in the pleasure. But the Sandman had other ideas as he dragged me kicking and screaming from my lover.

In the morning, he was gone and I realized I had fucked up royally. I vowed to never see him again. But…

I found myself wanting him again. The sane me would would have said it was more the thrill than anything. I simply couldn’t get enough. If my husband fell asleep early, I would have him, quietly, in the basement rec room. Sometimes I’d call into work sick, and enjoy an all-day orgy of pleasure. I even tried to connive a way to hook up with him at some point during our family vacation to Florida. (Take that, Mickey!) That plan fell through, and instead I spent a week on pins and needles.

Eventually I told my best friend about the affair. Secretly, I hoped she’d smack some sense into me. She tried.

“You’re an idiot!” she said, morphing into a green dragon of envy, breathing fire and spitting venom. Ella never was one to mince words.

But I refused to listen. (What’s that expression about leading a horse to water?) I told her she was being naive. That she didn’t understand. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t know how he made me feel. She couldn’t know that when I was with him, I could do anything. Skate like an Olympic champion. Pen words like a great writer. (Admittedly, since he came into my world my ability to craft fiction had to improve dramatically.)

I thought I was being so clever. But apparently I didn’t cover my tracks as well as I’d thought. It all came crashing down. In a flash I lost it all. My dignity. My husband. My children.

My life.

So here I am, back where it all started. Alone. Anxious. Sweating. Unable to sleep. The candlelight dances in my eyes as I search for a willing vein.

A spoon is a lot deeper than one might think. The funny thing is, I don’t mind drowning in it.

Because I know he’ll be there, waiting for me at the bottom.

♣♣♣

The lies:

“A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)”

Actually, I’m tall, with hazel eyes and light brown hair. And even if I were blond, I would not be a blonde. And I hate Coke. (For the record, I suppose I also should state I’ve never done heroin.)

The truths:

I am married. Happily. I do have three kids. The rest of the paragraph pretty much holds as well.

Sixty Seconds IV with: Michael Seese

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Michael Seese, who joins the four others (Maggie Duncan, Karl Russell, Betsy Streeter, Phil Coltrane) who have won FF four times. Read his winning story here. Read his bio and previous interviews here. And now join me for a very fun minute or two for an even deeper look (he’s allowed extra words; he’s earned them!). 

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning story? For a while, I was having trouble coming up with stories that really satisfied me. And I recognized that I was focusing on the verbal prompt (so in this case, the Catch-22) rather than the photo. I realized I had gotten better results in the past when I wrote about how the photo made me feel.

I started with the opening line as posted.  The next thing I wrote was “She tries to speak. But terror owns her voice.” (More on that later.) At this point, I think the narrator was a bad guy… the menace. And I knew I didn’t want that because it was too easy. Thinking about him sticking his arm through the hole made me remember the catching-a-monkey story. (Which allegedly works.) So then I thought, “OK, if he can grab the key, but not get it out, then he’s not in charge.” Boom! The “slithery baritone” was born, and the rest fell into place.

2) Your last win was in September. Please update us–what’s happened in your writerly life these past 7+ months? What’s your take on winning/not winning contests like this one–what would you say to writers who are new to flash or struggling with winning? 

Seven months? You had to remind me.

In that time, I’ve been working on a few new projects (see question #4) and submitting short stories. I’ve had some good luck with the latter. At the risk of being a blog-whore, it’s easier to point you to my bibliography, rather than list them.

My take on winning is that it’s so gratifying, because the competition (here especially) is so tough. My advice is to keep doing it. The thing to remember is that the judges are people, with their own tastes and preferences. (And I TOTALLY prefer this method of judging, rather than something like Internet voting.) So you might write a kick-ass story, but it doesn’t resonate with the judges that week. Nonetheless, you can learn something from each of them by reading their comments on the winners (that includes the runners-up and HMs) and then seeing how their thoughts relate back to the stories. Keep trying. Keep improving.

3) Last count, you’ve got four books out. How’s the marketing life? What have you learned (not) to do? How would you advise others? 

Marketing sucks. That’s why they invented marketing majors, isn’t it? I recognize that if I ever sign a contract with WHEN I sign a contract with one of the big houses, I’ll still need to market my book. And it will still suck. Speaking of marketing…

I’m still shilling my long short story / short novella Rebecca’s Fall From  So today (Thursday) and tomorrow it will be FREE on Amazon. And nothing would make me happier than to have you all download a copy, read it, and share your honest feedback. That’s not true… nothing would make me happier than winning the Mega-Millions. But this is a close second.

4) What are you working on now? What have you learned from having written/published four books that you’re applying this round? How would you advise others? 

My three current projects (aside from the occasional short story) are:

1. A fairy tale / spy thriller mashup. I can’t go into any other detail. Right now it’s about 19,000 words.
2. A romance novel. Yes, the kind that has Fabio and a bustier-clad woman on the cover. Just because I think it would be funny. A little over 8,000 words to date.
3. A play for this contest.

5) In a previous interview, you said you eventually realized flash fiction still needs to tell a complete story, and how powerful the “Sixth Sense” type twist ending can be. Is this still where you’re at, or has your approach to flash changed?

My approach really hasn’t changed, other than the aforementioned focus on the photo first. I hate to call it formulaic, but with shorter flash (as opposed to, say, 500-word flash) it is. Come up with a good, compelling story. Throw in a few neat turns of the phrase. So for this last one, I liked “terror owns her voice” and “fingertip finds metal.” Then craft an ending that… they don’t have to be the “Sixth Sense” endings that I prefer. But you don’t want you reader saying, “I saw that coming from the first paragraph.”

Having said all that, there are a few folks here — Tamara and Josh come to mind — who write stuff that is WAY outside the box. And it’s awesome. And it wins.

6) Belong to any IRL writers’ groups? how about online groups? I would love to. But between the day job and three kids, I barely have enough time to brush my teeth. (I know, too much information.)

7) How can one grow/improve as a writer?

My two bits of advice are:

1. It’s cliche, but always carry a pen and notepad with you. (Or get a voice recorder app for your phone and, if you want to be REALLY cool, Dragon Voice software, which transcribes it.) I can’t tell you how many times I think, “Ooh, that’s a good sentence for my current WIP.” And then I start writing, and find that sentence has turned into 10 or 15.

2. Always write, and don’t be afraid to write “bad.” There are plenty of times I start to write, and I realize I don’t “have it” that day. I keep writing nonetheless. Even if it’s crap, I’m moving the plot forward. I can always fix it later.

8) If you won a writerly grant, what would you spend the money on, and why?

A year away from my kids, so I could actually WRITE. (Did I say that out loud?) No, I really couldn’t say that, because my family does come first. So I guess I’d put the money in their college funds. (And maybe buy a Microsoft Surface, so I could more easily jot down ideas anywhere.)

9) What are you reading these days? Primarily Goodnight Moon, Fancy Nancy, and the I Survived series. I hear they make books for grownups, too.

10) Any shouts out? Which writers inspire you?

I hate to omit any of my fellow flashers. (OK, that sounds SO wrong.) Aside from Josh and Tamara, I’m always an impressed with what I see from Foy, Nancy, Margaret, and Stella.  And, of course the judges’ work as contestants.

As a final note, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to:

– The judges. I can’t even imagine the effort involved in reading and rating all this quality work.

– My fellow writers. I’m a better writer each week simply because I have to work that much harder to kick y’all’s butts.
– And Rebekah, of course, whose selfless dedication makes this wonderful community possible.

 

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 47: WINNERS

Hurray!! Isn’t results day a blast?? Thanks to the hardy folks who ventured into the strange (and curiously chocolate-tasting) waters of Flash! Friday this week. It’s a great pleasure reading the stories of regulars & newbies alike. Here’s to a long future of flash fiction addiction together!

Speaking of NaNoWriMo (because if you’re a WriMo like me, everything you read in November relates in some way): this post would be a fantastic place to share your progress thus far. You can track my own journey in the little widget in the sidebar over there, but I’ll comment below too. It’s not pretty. But it’s fun. 

YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME to throw your hat in the ring to be a judge in Year Three. We’ve got some heroes already, but not enough (looking for EIGHT). Will you please consider supporting Flash! Friday in this way? Details here

Final (tragic) note: how to thank a judge like Aria Glazki, who has so faithfully and tirelessly sifted through your masterpieces for these past months? I can’t think of a way, other than to say YOU’RE AWESOME, ARIA!!!!! and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t wait to read your own stories again! It’s more than ample consolation for losing you as judge. Thank you for everything.      

♦♦♦♦♦

Judge Aria Glazki says: What a whirlwind this experience of judging has been, in terms of both the emotional rollercoaster guaranteed from reading each week’s stories, and the unique combination of fear of making the “wrong” choices and pleasure of highlighting my favorites.  This community is so strong, not only in your individual talents or even the sense of camaraderie and support, but also in your willingness and ability to learn from each other so as to grow as writers. The intimidation I felt when our amazing host Rebekah first asked me to serve as a judge has been replaced by an equal, or perhaps greater, sense of intimidation at soon rejoining you all among the ranks of writers.  Nevertheless, it’s been a pleasure!

Now for this week’s stories. When I first saw the prompt, I had absolutely no idea what you would all concoct — and even still, you exceeded any and all expectations, in the variety of tones and in the imagination behind your premises. Social commentary wove its way into quite a few pieces, but without blatant moralization, provoking thought as great writing does. Ultimately, standout pieces captured emotions, claiming them and pulling them along for the duration of the story, manipulating and demanding responses as though effortlessly

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Margaret Locke (current judge panel), “Signs of Spring.” Often, extended metaphors falter, but this one was flawless, a seamless reflection of the detached devastation of this couple.

Annika Keswick, “Frozen.” Visceral descriptions and great imagery, such as: “Lashed by sound and color, I scan the gyrating mass swirling around me.”

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Stella Turner, “Blind Faith.” This story is filled with layers and subtext right from the first sentence, which works as such a strong warning when seen in retrospect from the end of the piece. The solid social commentary was woven in subtly yet effectively, underscored by the regret of those last three words, “Wish I’d remembered.”

James Marshall VI, “The Elements of the True Faith.” The balance of solemnity (“sacred portal”; “intoned”) with such a popularly known “chant” created a nicely lighthearted piece full of humor.  

THIRD RUNNER UP

Carin Marais, “Memento Mori.” This story managed to be extraordinarily creepy (capturing souls in speaking portraits!) while remaining heartbreakingly sweet.  On the one hand, the thought of trapping a soul, preventing it from moving on, is eerie and disturbing, but Gerhardt’s concern — “She’s not in pain?” — makes it clear early on that the intent isn’t malicious, and the final image of this couple ascending to heaven together is touching (though possibly somewhat selfish). Overall, we’re kept off-kilter, bouncing between the two reactions, but in a way that encourages thought and further consideration. “Whispers cluttered the air” is also a fantastic image.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Blame Apportioned.” Talk about heartbreaking! The first line sets up a clear dynamic of a sinner (of unknown proportions) seeking redemption from the moral guide, setting the mysterious sin as the focal point.  The misdirect of the familiarity — “I knew the concern that creased the corners of his eyes” — keeps us on this fairly standard path of confession. Then we get the shivers of cockroaches, and an avalanche of hints starts us on a different path — the Father’s knowledge of the secret sin could be as innocent as seeing it in action, and yet hints at the double entendre of more intimate knowledge; the “residue of kisses” (what a perfect phrase to show how unwanted the memory is) exposes the sin; the inability of the “sinner” to confess clinches it. Suddenly we’re turned around entirely, filled with dread the narrator ultimately confirms as the title of “sinner” passes from one to the other. This ability to guide our expectations and emotions through the text sets this story apart.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Holly Geely (second week as first runner up!!), “With Improvements.” This story took the prompt in a wildly different direction than the others, capitalizing on the holiday with the allusion to Dr. Frankenstein.  The flippant dissociation of the doctor and his assistant from the atrocity that they have committed, the horror they have inflicted on this other life — “‘You’re welcome,’ Doctor Edgar said, and Buster served him a celebratory beverage” as the reanimated, patchwork monk huddles in tears — may be the most terrifying aspect of all. While the tone remains light overall, perhaps even humorous, the monk’s new reality remains clearly presented, demanding compassion from the reader where it’s missing from the other characters.

And now: for her very first time EVER (I love first time champs!), it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

BRITTNI HILL!!!

for

“Seed of Life”

This story pulls no punches, dropping us right into the middle of a (hopefully) foreign situation wherein a monk is carving up a woman’s heart, and not only that, but the woman is conscious as it happens.  But as soon as we think we know the monk is the villain — he does seem to be torturing someone, after all — we’re reminded not to judge the situation too quickly, as the “surgeon” expresses empathy for his victim. A sense of dark ritual is introduced with the rule that “her heart had to be flush and ripe with excitement, or this was all for naught,” then tempered by Mikkal’s frustration, not with the the ritual, but with having to perpetuate the pain of the woman. Our understanding is demanded even more strongly when we learn this entire ordeal is to breathe life into a generation of stillborn babies. And in the final, cruel twist, we’re left saddened and horrified by the information that this ritual requires repetition, all too soon. Ultimately our sympathies are claimed by the torturer, who (unlike his victims) is obligated to repeat this horror multiple times, and who therefore remains “silent amidst the celebration.” What a full world was built here, both ex- and internally to our narrator.

Congratulations, Brittni! Below is your super sparkly winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega fabulous winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Seed of Life

The monk took another slice of the woman’s heavily petalled heart. She didn’t move. Her chin simply quivered.

Mikkal wished he could ease her pain. She had to be awake throughout this entire process. Her heart had to be flush and ripe with excitement, or this was all for naught.

He peeled away another layer, but still could not see the seed. Frustrated, he wondered how much more she had to sacrifice for the hearts of the nation.

Blood trickled down her arms from the shackles above her head. Her eyes fluttered. She was drowsy, but Mikkal pressed on.

Another slice.

And another.

Until finally, nestled between the last two slices of her heart, laid the seed. He slipped it in the mouth of the first stillborn child.

“Breathe!” He shouted. And it did.

They all did.

Parents cheered.

Silent amidst the celebration, Mikkal stared at the child with the seed. He did not look forward to their next meeting.

 

FFwinner-Web