Tag Archive | Steph Ellis

Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 47

Very hard to focus on much of anything else, what with just six weeks left (!) til our Flashversary and then the launch of Year Four. YEAR FOUR, hello (did somebody say changes?). After all these years, y’all are still writing here, which is amazing. I continue to be blown away by this community’s support, encouragement, and week-after-week doggone good writing. Have I said thank you recently? THANK YOU! also–

ONE WEEK LEFT to sign up as a judge for our next round. Y’all are badly needed, and it’s not half as scary as you might think — ask any of the current or past judges. We ask for an application just to get look-see at how you approach comments, so we know how to match you with a partner. That’s it. We’re so not picky! Questions? Hesitations? Drop me a note or message me on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll totally talk you off the ledge. Would love to have you; please consider it! 

Two more quick topics:

1. Super low turnout at #Pyro last week (note: it’s never to late to go comment); whether I keep this feature depends on the degree of participation. I’ll keep it going for another week or two regardless, but if this is a useful opportunity for you, please be sure to swing by on Saturdays. If not, no worries, off it goes. Thanks!

2. With just six weeks until Flashversary, I need your help! Thanks to those who’ve donated their books to the prize bucket (I’m greedy and want more! Email me!); I’d also be so grateful for anyone willing/able to donate to the cause (believe it or not, FF is not independently wealthy) so we can make this an all-round blazingly fabulous shindig with loads of prizes. Thanks! 


DC2Up at bat (heh heh, it’s Halloween, bat) judging today is Dragon Team Six, for which we’ve got Steph “hint of darkness” Ellis, and Josh “lurks beneath the surface” Bertetta. Not sure we need to say much more than that…         


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

* Today’s required word count:  175 words +/- 10 (165 – 185 words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (min 165, max 185 words, excluding title/byline), the two story elements you based your story on, and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new or forgetful, be sure 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.


I suppose I would be doing Dragon Team Six a disservice to have a prompt at the end of October without Mary Shelley, and so here we are: today’s novel is her 1818 classic, argued by many to be the first science fiction story, Frankenstein. Frankenstein relays the anguished tale of Victor Frankenstein, whose grotesque but now sentient and intelligent creature, after being rejected by his creator, sets out on a violent and desperate journey which ultimately dooms them both. Er, I trust that wasn’t a spoiler for anyone?

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content; and remember please do not use copyrighted characters). 

* Conflict: man v self, man v society
Character (choose at least one): a cowardly scientist; a man-made, sentient creature; a hapless fiancee, an oblivious optimist.
Theme (choose one): forbidden science, danger of the pursuit of knowledge, fate v free will, secrecy
Setting (choose one): Romantic-era Europe, a laboratory, a ship voyaging in the Arctic, ANYWHERE STEAMPUNK!

OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story):

New York Nursery, 1910. No known copyright restrictions. From the NY Nursery & Child Hospital Annual Report.

New York Nursery, 1910. No known copyright restrictions. From the NY Nursery & Child Hospital Annual Report.


Sixty Seconds III with: Steph Ellis

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)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Steph Ellis.  Read her THIRD winning story all about her at her winner’s page hereAnd now, though belatedly (totally my fault, stinking email!!), please take a few minutes to get to know her still better below!

1) What about Alice in Wonderland inspired your winning piece? 

The surreal world in which Alice found herself and the arguments she would have with the various bizarre characters she came across, for example the Cheshire Cat. I veered away from Alice, because as a character I must admit to not being able to stand her (shock horror) but I have always loved the world of Wonderland and its inhabitants.  From there I started to think about logic.  Many, many years ago in my first foray into the world of computing I was offered an industrial year programming logic gates in Fortran (which I couldn’t face at the time).  Then I thought why not turn the logic gate into an actual gate through which some poor soul has to try and pass but with the logic rules still applying and it went on from there.  I really wanted to try and throw in an Exclusive Or but the word count wouldn’t allow it AND by that time I was really getting in a NOT.  From there the last lines wrote themselves which was great as I hadn’t a clue how to end it.

2) You’ve been writing for FF a while, and this is your THIRD win (hurray! though a brutal year’s gap between the first two). How has your approach to flash changed since you started??

I consider my words more carefully.  Reading all the other wonderful entries has shown me how to blend and mix them up so that they hopefully pack more of a punch.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing?

It’s tightened it up a lot.  When I’m working on a longer story and I’m editing it, I try and look at it in sections as if they were mini flash pieces, that way the task isn’t as daunting.

4) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet?

Just do it.  There is no other way.  Read the other entries, write your own and keep at it.  We were all new to this once and I still feel as though I’m not ready to discard my L-plates.  I would also say develop your own style, your own voice, even if you think it’s a bit ‘out there’, there is nothing wrong with being different.  Above all write for yourself and not the judges.

And to those who haven’t won yet?  Keep doing what you’re doing.  I can clearly remember some time after I’d started entering FF wondering exactly what I had to do to get anywhere near the placings.  Week after week I would see the same names crop up – and they still do – first win, second win … sixth win, and yes it got me down a little (well, maybe a lot).  To deal with this I became the eternal optimist, the ‘oh well, if not this week, maybe next’ and I took it a week at a time, continued to try and write my best, pressed ‘post’ and crossed my fingers and any other body parts that could be managed.

5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites/contests/online resources?

Flash fiction tends to rule me a little at the moment.  As far as I’m concerned my writing week starts on a Thursday with Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends, Flash Friday, Angry Hourglass on Saturday plus the new Cracked Flash Fiction that started up this summer (I’d recommend the latter if you’re up for a challenge simply because they come up with the most bizarre first lines); I also enjoyed the Luminous Press flash competition that ran over the summer.  And I am having to be tough with myself, I can so easily get sucked into just writing flash I never get to do anything longer – any other comps will have to be intermittent. 

Oh, almost forgot.  One site I recently returned to after some months away is https://cowrite.net/ It’s real time story building.  You all write a sentence at the same time – you see them as you type and then you vote on the best one, you all then write the next one and so on.  The person with the most lines incorporated in the story is the winner.  It’s pretty fast and furious and lasts about ½ hr.  David Shakes appeared briefly the other week and then vanished.  I think it’d be great if we all descended on the site and had a FlashDogs head to head, although time differences might be awkward.  Malie (he runs the site) tends to tweet when a comp’s up.  I think there’s one tonight actually – maybe once I’ve done my Three Lines and finished my WIP 🙂

My go to site for submission calls (anthologies, magazines etc) is http://horrortree.com/The main focus of the site is horror but there are frequent calls for fantasy, Sci-Fi, dark fantasy, YA or anything that falls under the speculative fiction umbrella, which is quite far reaching;  http://www.darkmarkets.com/ is similar.  There are also a couple of Facebook Groups I belong to – Open Call: Horror Markets (they are now focussing on markets that pay pro/semi rates), International Flash Fiction Network and Call for Submissions (all genres).

6) Any new publications/accolades we should know about?

Not much more has happened on the publication front.  Gothic Tales of Terror by Verto Publishing has just been released.  I share the pages with another FlashDog, Michael Seese – who, by the way, writes some terrific micropoetry on twitter.  I still have some stories due for publication but I know a lot are still floating around on the cyber slush pile somewhere.  Having focused on finishing a novel this summer, I have produced less in terms of short stories but I’m hoping to get back to them properly at some point.  It’s tough fitting it in with work though.  I usually have to wait for school holidays to really get into it.

7) Speaking of publication, what are you currently working on? You told us before that you’d love to publish some of your nursery rhyme twists; anything in the works?

Oh my nursery rhymes are haunting me from in their Jack Skellington folder – it’s Humpty Dumpty that’s done for me, I can’t do a collection without him and I haven’t been able to turn him into an axe-wielding maniac yet .  It was supposed to be this half-term week I finished them, but I’ve got a sub call deadline for Lost Signals end of this month.  I’ve had months to do this (heard that somewhere before?) and had hoped to push myself to the upper limit of the word range, however the story has told itself in just over 10,000 words so with a little tidying up it’s almost ready to go.  In my defence I will say life, work and family have taken huge tolls on my time recently – I really don’t know how others do it.

I think I will also be doing NanoWrimo this year.  I had an idea a month or two back, or more an image of someone suddenly popped into my head and this woman has been stood on Weston Shore gazing at the Solent since then – whilst her brother and sister, neither of whom she remembers as they were all adopted at a young age, are stood, quite by chance a little further down from her.  Yes, there is murder(s) but I want this to be more a thriller/crime type book.  I’ve decided to use Nano to work through my idea, get that woman off the shore! (The Fawley Refinery is not the prettiest of places to have to keep staring at).  I know nothing else about the story, no synopsis, no planning, nothing due to lack of time but if I commit to Nano then I give her the time she needs.  Once I imagine someone then I do have to write about them, I need to know their story myself.

8) What are you reading? Favorite book of this past year? Which author would you love to write like, and why? 

I have a weakness for Scandi Crime (I joined the Nordic Noir group on FB!), it’s what I binge on when I get the chance.  I finished the Flatey Engima by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson yesterday – which I found a bit disappointing as there were two dead bodies and the story read like a crime thriller but no actual crime was committed.  I have two Arne Dahl books waiting – I watch it on TV and thought I’d give the books ago; I’m a big fan of The Bridge, The Killing and anything of that ilk and that led me to Scandinavian/Icelandic literature.

My favourite book of the last year is a tie between Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (Hitler returning to life in 2011 – hilarious, and in no way is it an approval of the man himself at all) and Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor and Roger Warner; the latter was profoundly moving and I feel that what happened at that time has been largely forgotten by the West.

Who would I like to write like? Tough.  I don’t think anyone particular person, it would be a mixture.  Ray Bradbury for the sheer poetry of his prose and the way he creates a sense of darkness and foreboding with such lightness of touch; Terry Pratchett – his humour is wonderful; Bernard Cornwell – the pacing of his stories which just keep you turning over the page.

9) Let’s talk writing communities. Belong to any IRL? How about writers’ conferences or workshops this past year? Which conference/workshop is your favorite, and why? 

Writers’ Groups.  No.  Occasionally I think about it but the local group is the other side of the city and I just have the feeling that they would be literary vs my genre style.  They seem to meet in community centres or libraries at times that don’t fit in with work, I’m more the pub type myself.

Conferences.  Bit of a sore spot with me.  Two years running I’ve tried to get to the British Fantasy Con, each time an anthology with a story of mine in was launched and each time something family related cropped up.  This also happened with the FlashDogs meet up in the UK, I mean 365 days in the year – I only ask for a couple. 😀

Sanitarium Magazine has just announce a Horror Con at Brighton next July – it’s a Saturday, I could probably get to it but I’m sure something will go wrong.

10.) Let’s say you won a grant to use in any writerly way you’d like. Where would the money go, and why?

I’d probably use it to take a sabbatical from work to free myself up to write but having said that, if I get free time and no deadline pressures I know I will do anything but, I’d probably have a very clean house though.  I would also use it to travel to a place that might be featured in a story.  You can only get so much from Google Earth!

Bonus 11) Any shouts out/thoughts/comments/messages?

Firstly to yourself, Grace Black at Three Line Thursday, David Borrowdale at MicroBookends, Rebecca Allred at The Angry Hourglass and all those others who host these competitions week in, week out for the love of it.  Thank you so much for introducing me to this world.

Secondly to the FlashDogs, in particular those at FDHQ who are the driving force behind the anthologies: Mark A. King, David Shakes, Emily June Street, Tamara Rogers and now Karl A. Russell (I wish I could write horror like he writes horror, whoops that should be in question 8) and Voima Oy.  Check out their website, buy their anthologies (many excellent stories to be read, and all written for a good cause), enter the competitions they support and become one yourself.  The pack is large and welcoming.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 46: WINNERS

Thank you for your tremendous patience today in waiting for results. I’ll keep my chatting to a minimum, and will even (gasp) bullet point my reminders!

  • We are NOW ACCEPTING apps for those who’d like a turn as a judge! Details here.
  • Don’t forget to read Saturday’s #Pyro story & leave crits! Low turnout this week. Read it here.
  • Tomorrow! I’m beyond thrilled to welcome current judge IfeOluwa Nihinlola to the #Spotlight mic, as he shares about his life writing in Nigeria. Be sure to join us!


Many thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy & A.J. Walker, for commandeering this week’s Alice in Wonderland tale judgery. They say:   

Once again Team 8 has had the luck to get stuck into the stories plucked from the ether relating to such a fantastical book. We’ve had a welly load of grinning cats and tyrannical queens and busy white rabbits and we quite understand now that Team 8 are a couple of the more normal people in the Flash! Friday Fiction Family – Andy for one wants some of what all you guys have been dropping!

(Partly Andy needs to take something to take his mind of reading too many stories with cats in. They got everywhere this week – even into soup).

Team 8 would like once again to thank Catherine aka @fallintofiction. Catherine was the Queen of Hearts this weekend, in so much as she went around exclaiming ‘Off with their names!’ and lo! we could get on with the blind judging over the weekend.

We’ve put our heads together, which is usually quite difficult due to the 3,779 miles separating us but, due to the mind expanding effects of the green skittles (when taken with the correct dose of yellow M&Ms) we got together on a small cloud over the Mid Atlantic Ridge and had a spiffing time reading all the stories over dandelion and burdock and cream buns whilst listening to Cream and Justin Bieber.

So, without further ado… drum roll from a large party of hedgehogs banging wheelie bins with candy canes beneath a prince purple sky and a groovy pulsating moon made of Lancashire cheese…. the results!



F.E. Clark, “Twinkle Twinkle Mr. Spiffy.” –because a talking cat in space. “out there beyond”  pure magic!   

Brian Creek, “How to Say Goodbye.” —stunning depiction of a space between dream and death – “I don’t want real anymore.” 

Betsy Streeter, “Friday Afternoon at the Bureau of Dream Leakage.” — for the best title and giving Andy an idea of where he’d like to work.

Catherine Connolly, “Greeting at the Gates of Horn and Ivory.” — the world presented here seems less fun and nonsense and something altogether more grim and foreboding. Or will it be. If she can get past the gate? Moody.

Colin Smith, “The  Girl and the Toad.” — V – Told in rhyme like Jabberwocky, this story is so inventive. I can picture this toad and his epic battle sword.  What a strange dream! AJW – poetry is the new flash! Well, not really, but we’ve had a fair few poems in our stint as Team 8. And I for one am not complaining. This presented an entire story in rhyme and I take my hat off to the writer for that* (too clever by half). The dialogue even in rhyme chimed well – I particularly liked the line ‘What words of follysome blathering spew!’ and intend to use the line in conversation at some point this week. [[I’ve put my hat back on to cover my forklift truck wound – otherwise it frightens the dancing playing cards and the flying mice minstrels.]]

Sal Page, “Lancashire Cat Soup.” — V– the umbrella is an essential ingredient. I loved the wordplay and surreal situation.  And “the Lancashire cat will make your soup extra cheesy”.  Splendid nonsense. AJW – one comment on this: I hope the recipe takes off. Me-oww!

Karl Russell, “Wonderland.” — – powerful social commentary–playing on Alice characters (the dormouse, the mad hatter, Alice), this harsh reality is in sharp contrast to the supposed wonderland on TV,   “Any change?”  AJW – loved this one. Not so much a fairytale but a bit of political comment; quite rare. ‘Any change?’ Nah, of course not. Right on my man! (- or woman, damn blind judging)



Mark A. King, “Tale of One City.”

V – The setting is the city, then and now.  The use of italics is very effective. It works as a contrast and a mirror for the two characters — they are not so  very different — dealing in death and services as old as time…

AJW – clever combination of two tales across different times. Both tales cleverly crafted and evocative. Making the setting Whitechapel immediately gave it an image to the reader, allowing the writer to concentrate on the little things of the visuals and taste to further the development of the atmosphere. I was briefly considering discounting it as cheating as it’s two stories of 125 words and not one story of 250 😉

Casey Rose Frank, “A Solitary Girl.” 

V – This is a fantasy world with the feel of a children’s book. The animal characters are  lovingly depicted, and the descriptions are beautiful. It is a world of gentleness and soft edges, like a dream, until that haunting final line.

AJW – I thought this was beautiful. It was perfectly paced and the descriptions just fell on to the page like they had been shaken out of Alice in Wonderland itself. Top marks for capturing the mood – you’ve a fine eye and pen for capturing nonsense (that’s a compliment!). I’m feeling the bear should be able to have first choice of the next game, as hide and seek is surely a tad unfair (perhaps he should suggest they play it in the woods, then he can get his own back).

Geoff Holme, “White Rabbit (1967)

V – brilliant  use of language and great  take on the Jefferson Airplane classic — a reference to Alice in wonderland as well as altered reality.  Here, the familiar words become jumbled  together in a magnificent stream of nonsense and poetry.

AJW – This hallucinatory tale is presented like a punctuation-free download dump of a movie. The descriptions are so well depicted I could see it really well. Loved the line referencing the queen minutely reviewing the flash fiction pieces – I assume it is Voima (not sure if that makes me the king or a prince, but I suspect – more likely – jester).



Becky Spence, “Chasing Dreams” 

V – The story begins with a somber funeral gathering, when a white rabbit among the flowers lures little Alice away. The  fantastic landscape of fairy rings and happy memories is destroyed by harsh reality. Great descriptions and atmosphere — it reminded me of Pan’s Labyrinth in a way — the mix of fantasy and terror.  Did this father murder the mother and sister the way he kills the rabbit? What does “growing up”  mean? Reality becomes a nightmare. 

AJW – Fabulous piece presenting Alice as a carefree child enjoying childhood in play and dreams until the father figure cruelly discards her dreams in a truly visceral scene – wringing the rabbit until Alice heard the crack. The story hits home as we’ve all gone through this to some extent or other – our innocence can only be destroyed in an single instant then never rebuilt. (That terrible time you are told there is no such thing as Father Christmas… (sorry, should that have had a spoiler alert?). Crack-ing!


Image Ronin, “1=0.9999999999999999999999999999.” 

V – What a trip!  This is both mind-expanding and surreal. The language is astonishing, how it mutates –“Thhhhheeee woooooooorrrlld slllllooooooowwwwws, tiiiimmmmme beeeecooommming frrracccttturrrrree” …. Images fracture, collide, coalesce–” she vanilla and rust mouth and tongue between it popping head her of out eye last the gougingg out reach I blinded other the eye single a wings bejewelled into sculpted face angel’s an crosses butterfly ”  and then back to reality –“fast food and short lives.”  

AJW – Took me a while to read this and realise how it all worked, and it was worth the time. Loved the backwards paragraph in particular – reminded me of when I was on a hospital table jacked up on gas listening to the nurses who seemed to be talking out of order (it was boss).  Great take on a messed up minute- or is it a few days? Transported into the world of a tab drop of something mmmiiinnnddd eeeexpppppandingg and world e x p l o  d  i n  g.  Spot on in its depiction (er, I expect – having had nothing stronger than a Fisherman’s Friend myself (er, not true, see above)). place two top a of deserved construction brilliantly absolutely

And now: for her magnificently constructed third win, it’s this week’s 


Steph Ellis!!!


“The Tenth Circle (OR 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01010100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101000 00100000 01000011 01101001 01110010 01100011 01101100 01100101)

V – This is a realm of  absurd logic. The binary code translates to  “The Tenth Circle” — Yes, I had to look it up.  Here, ones and zeros define this space, this place. Although I am not familiar with programming language, I can appreciate the symbolism of And/Or/Not logic gates and the absurdity of arguing with this gatekeeper.  Here, the world of the Matrix meets Monty Python. There is fiendish humor, too — “I couldn’t bring my plus one — I didn’t use enough poison.”  This hellish argument could go on forever…

AJW – This had me laughing, which is always a fine thing – I felt for Jacob caught in a simple logic trap. It seemed like he was in some bureaucratic nonsense from the film Brazil (or anywhere in the former Russian republic), but it truly was a foul trap devised by the very devil himself, and poor Jacob will have eternity to ponder why he didn’t just follow the instructions precisely. Again another story where we can all think of maddening moments where we’ve been there. Wrong form mate, you want the pink one. But it’s the same questions. You’ve filled in the yellow form – it’s the pink one on Tuesdays. Go to the back of queue. For the love of… logic!

A cool tale with great dialogue perfect pacing and a maddening eternal end. Loved it.

Congratulations, Steph! What fun having you soar back to the top again so quickly! Your winner’s page has a brand new fancy trophy on its shelf now; your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Stand by for questions for your newest #SixtySeconds interview. And now here’s your logically blazing story:

The Tenth Circle (OR 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01010100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101000 00100000 01000011 01101001 01110010 01100011 01101100 01100101)

“You surely see the logic of your situation?” said the demon.

Jacob watched the ones and zeroes streaming endlessly across the screen. “Yeeees.”

“Well then you must know we can’t let you through this particular gate.”

“I still don’t …,” said Jacob. He looked around. This wasn’t quite what he’d expected.

“Look,” said the demon patiently. “This ticket says ‘Admit one AND guest.”


“This is an OR gate. Your ticket allows you entry via an AND gate only.”

“Where do I find this AND gate then?” asked Jacob.

“Over there,” said the guard. “But they won’t let you through.”

“Why not?”

“No, not NOT, AND, NOT is back the other way. You need AND but there’s only one of you.”

“I couldn’t bring my plus one,” said Jacob. “I didn’t use enough poison. Doesn’t matter though, does it?”

“Of course it matters. You made a deal. You can’t be both a one AND a zero. You’ve got to be one OR the other.”

“Well I satisfy that argument,” said Jacob. “So I can go through this gate.”

“No. If you couldn’t find a plus one that means you’re a zero. So you’re not one OR the other any more.”

“So I could go through a NOT gate because I am zero AND NOT one?”

“You could but your ticket says AND,” said the demon.

“We could spend an eternity arguing about this,” said Jacob angrily.

“And that’s exactly what you’ve got,” grinned the demon. “Hell, isn’t it?”