Tag Archive | Stephanie Ellis

Fire&Ice Sol 15/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! As if the latest round of Fire&Ice winners weren’t exciting enough, did you know it’s also Doctor Who Day, Fibonacci Day, Eat a Cranberry Day, and National Espresso Day? It’s also NaNo Day 23 (38,341 words, or whatever beautiful number of words you’ve written). Wherever this Monday finds you—whether snacking on cranberries or not—here’s to another sunrise, and another day conquering the white page together. We’re glad, as ever, you’re here.

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 15’S JUDGES SAY:

Mark King:  I am sad that this is the last time I get to judge. Thanks to the majestic Ice and Fire dragons for their faith and trust in us, and for all the work it has taken to bring this magical place back. Thanks also to the folk behind the scenes who help to get the stories to judges each week. Much gratitude to Steph who shares my timezone, has a great work ethic and has impeccable taste in great storytelling. As writers, you did wonders with the prompt this week, I enjoyed every story and the ones I picked tended to just stand out in some small way. Some quick mentions: Betsy Streeter‘s “Untitledfor the image of grasshoppers and great use of dialogue. Tamara Shoemaker‘s “Soul’s March,” for the creepy and unsettling feeling. Maggie Duncan‘s “Fix Our Eyes Not on What is Seen” for the concise and very effective structure.


Stephanie Ellis: November already and my last time as a judge! Seeing Flash! Friday come back has been wonderful, even though the past few weeks have seen me somewhat absent for a variety of reasons; that being said, I’d like to thank Deb and Rebekah for inviting me to take part, it’s been an honour and a privilege to work with them and Mark. The quality of submissions was excellent, as always, and this week I found the majority of my choices went to those I regarded as a story, rather than an introspective or ‘scene’ piece. I needed to engage with the characters and the stories chosen allowed me to do that. In addition to those on the rostrum, I’d like to mention a couple of other stories. Laurence D‘s “King of the Hillwith its termites having distinct human speech and accents, and Tinman‘s “Transfer of Power,” with its finger pointing to the future destruction of mankind via a growing army of mutant insects, were both great fun and hugely original.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Museum of Nobodies” by Arvind Iyer

MK: It’s a reverse mirror to the superficial and branded world of influencers. I loved how the story took me to other places, transporting me, almost by word-teleportation – handy we can travel like this with stories when we can’t go physically.

SE: In these days of celebrity status and global powers, us lesser mortals often feel unseen and disregarded and this writing recognises that fact, and in doing so, it also reminds us we are somebody and that there are millions like us.

Be Careful What You Wish For by Geoff LePard

MK: It’s approaching panto season in the UK so while it probably wasn’t the author’s intention, I loved the thought of this missing eccentric British tradition somehow living on as a termite-mound genie in a story.

SE: A hugely entertaining story; sometimes we just need that touch of humour in our lives and I thought this was perfect. A termite genie granting the wish that would be the downfall of Terrance and Susan.

These Days by Karl Russell

MK: I loved the world-building in this one. The global nature of it. Those amazing images of buildings being like the termite mounds. The great name-dropping of Scorsese, London, Manhattan, Tokyo and Layla booming across the post-apocalyptic landscape. 

SE: A ghost with no one to haunt, such a sad thought. Bleak description of a post-apocalyptic world which we could head towards, if we’re not careful. Although maybe, we are already ghosts haunting ourselves.

RUNNER UP

The Land Remembers”  by Voima Oy

MK: This is a highly creative take on the prompt. It appealed to me in several ways. It was unique, it included a familiar tale of ‘progress’ at the expense of nature, it included wonderful images: At night, they gave off a strange glow, like cities at night.” It reminded me of the film, Avatar, only much, much better. James Cameron needs to take notes from this story.

SE: There is magic in our planet: our ancestors have often mentioned hidden energies or forces beneath our soil which affect us and our lives. This story gives this ancient magic a sci-fi feel, as the planet draws up its defences against the developers. Beautifully written.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARCANE EDISON!!!

for

Notes On a Life Lived

MK – I’m a sucker for an intriguing title, so this drew me in. Then the story grabbed me tightly from the opening and didn’t let go He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.”  In the middle, we have this amazing image, “We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.” 

There is a mastery of storytelling and structure and pacing, yes, it’s showcasing in a microscopic space, just what flash fiction can do. And that ending, what a life. It makes you think and be thankful.

SEThis is a story which must resonate with many of us, as grandparents get older and we drift apart, moving on with our busy lives, knowing they are still there in the background – until they’re not – and we realise we have failed to make time for them, to listen to their stories, thinking our own so much better. This delicate showing of ‘the life lived’ at the end is poignant, an emotional gut punch to those left behind. If only they’d talked. An imaginative take on an image whose markers called to mind those rows of white headstones in a war grave cemetery. Wonderful writing.

Congratulations on your back-to-back win, Arcane! Here’s your winning story:

Notes On a Life Lived

He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.

Nightfall, he, Grandmother and I would sit within the perfume of the plum orchard. Small words uttered as he split purple flesh with his blade, revealing the sweetest yellow flesh.

As the seasons faded into years I returned less to the cottage, till one day I never did.

When she died he moved into the city. Living in a small terraced house with dirty windows. Each time I visited, he would seem smaller again, as if every breath I took stole directly from him.

Seasons faded into years.

We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.

Sat in pews. An old man struggled to the front, hands trembling, eyes blurring, medals clinging to his chest.

Telling a tale never before shared.

Of parachutes, fighting behind enemy lines.

Of capture, the torment of the prison camp.

Of liberation, the gift the soldiers had given Grandfather.

For his leadership, fearlessness and love.

An odd shaped knife.

Fire&Ice: Sol 15/19

§ Rebekah says: Our sunset draws nearer: after today Fire&Ice has just three regular contests plus the grand finale to go! Included in that timeframe will be a focus on you, via our Flash! Future Sunday feature. [The deadline to submit for that is the same as today’s Fire&Ice: 11:59pm tonight, Washington DC time. Guidelines here.] As for the grand finale, well, we intend to go out with a roar (by which I mean prizes, of course 😀 ). Deb and I welcome you to take a deep breath and race with us to what’s sure to be an exciting finish. Thanks for being here!

QUESTIONS? Tweet us at @FlashFridayFic, shoot us a note here, or tap any of the judges.

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Fire&Ice Guidelines: 

Time: The Fire&Ice contest is open between exactly 12:01am to 11:59pm on Fridays, Washington DC time (check the current time here). Entries submitted outside of this window are welcome, but will be incinerated ineligible to win.

How to Play: Write and submit an original story 1) based on the photo prompt and 2) including EITHER the fire dragon or ice dragon‘s requirement. Pay attention to the 3) varying word count constraints! Story titles (optional) are not included in the word limit. At the end of your story, add your name or twitter handle, whether you chose the fire or ice dragon’s element, and word count. That’s it!

Be sure to review the contest rules here.

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JUDGES: Today’s judges are Mark King and Stephanie Ellis. Check out their bios on the Fire&Ice Judges page.

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AND HERE IS YOUR PROMPT:

Each Fire&Ice prompt includes 1) a photo, 2) a required element (choose between the fire dragon or ice dragon’s offering), and 3) a specific word count. Your story must include all three requirements to be eligible to win.

Photo for Sol 15/19

Fire & Ice Prompt

Required elements:

Fire dragon option: include something/someone unseen

OR

Ice dragon option: include something/someone foreseen

Today’s word count: 180-190

Fire&Ice Sol 9/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Welcome to an extremely soggy and puddle-splashed Results Day! -A couple years ago I moved out here to the (in)famously damp Pacific Coast of the US. When I woke to day after sunny day, people assured me it was just an odd year, that normally it rains so much, and I would see soon enough. But as my garden shriveled, my grandmother finally (mercifully!) explained the only place it’s actually rained as much as people say, is in their fond memories of a time that never was. 

She’s no doubt right, as she is about most things.

All the same, I’m quite grateful for this weekend’s deluge, which sent my azalea sprouting pink buds in every direction. It’s made for the perfect weekend to settle on the sofa with coffee and ginger cookies, my brand new kitten (!), yesterday’s fantastic feature on Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and your stories. Delicious, all of it, and now a part of my own fond memories of a time that absolutely, quite certainly, very much was. You demand proof? Why, just ask our judges. ♥

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 9’S JUDGES SAY:

Mark King: A big thanks to Steph: I genuinely worried after reading the stories that we would not find much common ground, but it was all very easy (as it normally is). Continued gratitude to Ice and Fire dragons for our inclusion as judges and for the magnificent return of this kingdom of flash.

The thought of this week was pure genius. Not only did it open the possibilities, but it allowed you to explore new ideas and experiment with genres. Some of these will work for you, some won’t. We only grow through trying new things, and this gave everyone a wonderful and magical opportunity to do that – what a gift! But I have to say, I was very frustrated not knowing how far you stretched yourselves, so I’m more curious than ever to read the names attached to the stories. [Dragon note: We hosts fill in the winners’ names for our judges.] Some quick shout-outs from me: Voima Oy‘s “Lost in the Stars” (lovely format and it seemed much more than the word count – which all good flash fiction should strive to be). And Brett Milam‘s “And the Vultures Wept” (for attention-grabbing opening) and Michael Seese‘s “I Laid” (for beautiful creativity,  buckets of charm and playfulness). Well done to everyone. The gauntlet was thrown, and you more than rose to meet the challenge.


Stephanie Ellis: Autumnal evenings of longer nights is the time of the storyteller and it was wonderful, as always, to read your tales. The image itself is magical and something I could simply gaze at forever. It’s one of those which speaks to the soul and there is a lot of soul this week. Knowing that you were having to write outside your comfort zone this week didn’t even register as I read the stories. Before we get to the placings, here are a few stories which didn’t quite make the podium but which caught my eye. Arvind Iyer‘s “The Initiation” is a nice step into surreal horror. The provision of lion costume and human flesh to help the watcher ‘become’ the killer the mysterious ‘they’ want her to be is a nice, stark touch. Nicola Liu‘s “Untitled” is something which is always needed. There is a world out there beyond the walls which house unacceptable and horrific violence. You just need reminding sometime and this in turn helps provide the courage to walk away. And last, but by no means least, I’d also like to give a shoutout to Karl Russell‘s “The Discovery.” I’m generally not a romance reader but this was nicely done and it gave LGBT the boost it needs at the Flash Friday table.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Guitar Hero by S.T. Hills

MK: Timely and clever. A lovely tribute to EVH. Song titles weaved in (which is fine, as titles can’t be copyrighted). “A final solo, a last chord. In the sky the milky way sparkled with twinkling stars.” Great lines.

SE: Guitar Hero had to be included. A touching tribute to the late, great Eddie Van Halen who sadly passed away this week. Lovely to think of Eddie playing air guitar amongst the stars.

Forgotten by TadK/GamerWriter

MK: There is a great feeling of loss to this tiny story. A lifetime lost in a single moment. It almost reminded me of the ending of Blade Runner, with all those moments lost in the rain, but this was the noise of a flatline. Also, the author hooked me with sabertoothed tigers, which are a spectacular image, and that paragraph linked us back to the prompt.

SE: Forgotten is pure tragedy. Regardless of having had anything, for anyone to die ‘unknown’ is a horrible thought. Everybody is somebody, they were known once. How easy it is to forget.

RUNNER UP

If These Rocks Would Talk  by Phil Coltrane

MK: This is the story of “the greatest crime”. An almost forgotten crime buried by history, media, and politics. But I found this to be sensitive and thoughtful, for the author used the paintings to tell the story, to come alive, much like they would have done when they were new, when books and TV and games didn’t tell stories, but people and paintings did, in the light of the dawn, in the glow of firelight, under the shimmering stars. Only this time, the paintings could act as witness, to people that were not ready to listen.

“You’ll carve your Presidents into us?” is, for me, the hardest hitting and most thought-provoking line this week.

SE: If These Rocks Would Talk is a powerful reminder of all the loss suffered by Native Americans. Written in a modern thriller style, set up as a crime scene, it makes its point quietly – and therefore more effectively – without lecturing. ‘If you’ll talk, I’ll listen,’ are words that should have been said so long ago.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

TINMAN!!!

for

Mac and Beth

MK – OK, I’m totally geeking out. Brilliant choice of genre and even mixing of art forms. It is highly inventive. The personality of the characters shines through. The weaving in of Santa/Father Christmas was just brilliant. And if you look at the prompt picture, it does indeed, look like reindeers in motion, maybe even prancing through the sky. Highly creative, looking to the prompt for something similar but different, and an eye-catching way of delivering picture prompt and genre experimentation requirements.

SE — Mac and Beth is a brilliant Shakespearean pastiche. The humour shines out in this format with the Father Christmas themed soliloquy, to its inclusion of ‘ho ho ho’ to Beth being ‘alarumed’ is brilliant. Original, fun and oh, so clever. 

Congratulations, TINMAN! Here’s your winning story:

MAC AND BETH

Act 1 Scene 1

Tara. A field beside the hill.

Enter KING MACDARA [he draws upon the hill-face]. Enter BETH.

BETH: Father, what art thou at?

MACDARA: Art.

BETH: What art thine art?

MACDARA: Behold the fiery trail above.
This evening while I watched the sky
Between the stars a reindeer passed,
With snout of flame, that lit the way
For fellow deer behind his hind.
They pulled a sleigh of childhood gifts
Like dolls, and books, and shiny pence
And sweets the shape of walking-sticks.
The reindeer reins were reigned by one
With cloak of red and beard of snow –

BETH: Father, I fear that madness –

MACDARA: Now, dear, one does not interrupt the soliloquy.

BETH: Of course not. Forgive me.

MACDARA: – who waved and thrice did utter “ho”. [Dies].

BETH (alarumed): Dies? What do you mean, dies?

GHOST of MACDARA: Well, it’s not one of his comedies.