Tag Archive | Tamara Shoemaker

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 51: WINNERS

Welcome to Monday and our results day! Have I ever told you how much I love Mondays? I love them dearly. A whole week of days to spend. How decadent! How luxurious! No mistakes yet (as dear Anne “with an e” Shirley would say — by the by, happy birthday, Ms Montgomery!), nothing but hope and promise and fresh, abundant grace to fling to the world’s corners. Thank you for being a part of this particular Monday, last one of November, as we welcome a whole new month tomorrow (!), and very soon another year, can you stand it?! May we put all those hours to good use. I want your gorgeous novels in my grubby talons.

Two more global #Spotlights left, one tomorrow with Carin Marais sharing from South Africa, and next week our final one with F.E. Clark from Scotland. What a thrill these interviews have been; I’m so grateful to all of you who took (and are taking!) part. Thank you!

And please remember to mark your calendars for this Saturday, December 5, at 11:30am Washington, DC time, for our final Flash Dash (with Cash)! You’ll have 30 minutes to write & post your story, and there’ll be a cash prize for the winner.

Finally: a treasure trove of thanks to Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier and IfeOluwa Nihinlola. You’ve faithfully navigated continents and bus schedules to bring us textured, nuanced, thoughtful choices and comments, month after month. I have long respected you both as writers and judges, and I expect great things out of both of you in the future. Thank you for giving of your time and marvelous brains to the FF community. You’re awesome, both. Thank you.  

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Here are Dragon Team Seven’s final comments:   

NC: Our last round falls over Thanksgiving weekend in the US. I’m grateful (and am going to miss) everything about this place. Flash Friday has done incredible things for my confidence and productivity as a writer. I’m ever indebted to Rebekah for providing an incredible environment for whelplings to try their wings. Thank you, oh, Dragony One. I look forward to following your future endeavors. Thank you, too, to my partner in crime, IfeOluwa. It’s been amazing working with you across the many time zones. Lastly, I’m grateful for this incredible community for coming together, crafting mind-blowing fiction week after week, and encouraging one other with positive feedback. You have my awe and appreciation.

Going back to story element + picture prompt left me nostalgic indeed. Despite the home stretch for NaNoWriMo, we still ended up with forty-three predatory tales stalking the streets of Stockholm. Thank you for sending off Dragon Team 7 in such style.

INToday, I’m that little child in Sound of Music, who crawls up the stair, with her eyes on the audience of family and friends as she sings goodbye. It’s been amazing being both a judge and participant in Flash! Friday. I cannot thank Rebekah enough for this space, for the work she has done these three years in providing a place where I’ve learnt and grown. And also, to Nancy, my partner during this judging round, who does all the hard work with seemingly-effortless brilliance, I say a big thank you. You all have written stories of great quality every week, and seem eager to do this on and on for the rest of time. I thank you for being such fantastic writers, and for submitting your stories for us to take a look at. O dabo. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Voima Oy, “Hunter’s Moon.” NC: Gloriously ethereal. I feel like I’m stalking a dreamland with the red-booted hunter, and I’m left haunted by the image of the dark-haired girl “waiting for the light to change”.

Stephen Shirres, “Where Is He?” IN: Hunter arrives on the scene with all the emotions, thoughts and movements of the hunted, and keeps the subterfuge till strength is sapped from the hunted, who thinks he’s the hunter.

M.T. Decker, “The Hart Is a Lonely Hunter.” NC: the wordplay in this is the most exquisite I’ve read in a long time. That the hunterly puns are sustained line after line just blows my mind.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Karl A. Russell, “The Nice Guy.”

NC: I love the set up with her on the edge of the tub like La Femme Nikita, leading me to believe she’s an assassin. That misconception stays with me all the way until the second half of the climactic sentence: “all the evidence his wife needs”. I’m left feeling as sheepish as the target. And the nice guy (sort of, as he’s an adulterer) wins in the end (again, sort of). 

IN: The word ‘shooting’ in the first line of this story carries with it two connotations that keep the tension for the first part of this story: shooting bullets or shooting images? Midway, I realise it’s just a camera. Nice Guy will survive, just might lose his wife. But again, Nice Guy does what nice guys do and I’m not sure he’ll lose her after all.

Firdaus Parvez, “The Hunter Games.” 

NC: Pop culture references from the title to the panicked request for beaming up. This one made me laugh. I could just imagine the hazing that would go on in a future like this. Grunts are sent on frivolous missions and unceremoniously dumped to find their own embarrassing way out.

IN: This read funny when I imagined Mike as Wes Crusher of Star Trek: TNG, making doughnut runs on earth as punishment for messing up the holodeck and Will Riker and Geordie behind the transporter consoles, having a good laugh. All of that is longhand for: I enjoyed this piece enough to think of it in terms of Star Trek.

Bill Engleson, “Morning on the Verge

NC: Long after I read this one, two images refuse to leave my brain: a festering finger rubbing plaque back into bleeding gums (I mean, really: Bravo), and the sleeping-bagged woman crunched in a doorway with a “noisy medley of old grey socks”. I enjoyed the transformation of dark heart, from accusation to self-reflection.

IN: This piece is effortlessly dark and sober. There are faux-questions, faux-apologies, faux-discoveries. The choice of sentences and narrator’s uncertain voice gives this story a certain duality. Nothing is certain, but, in the end, the narrator is on the verge of realising the truth about himself.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Wish.”

NC: Beautifully tragic symmetry in this one, with the wishes gracing the first and last lines. I’m mourning right with the narrator, who hunts for puzzle pieces in the crowd for hints of the deceased lover (I love, too, that the genders of the mourner and the deceased could be any configuration at all). The reveal that it was death by suicide—It’s so hard to be told in a note—is simple as it is heart-rending.

IN: We’ve all being there: seeing parts of people we love in other people. There’s that urge to report the details to our loved ones: I saw someone with ear lobes like yours today. The absence of that ability to tell, and the hints that there was even no motivation to observe or tell in the first place, makes this such a sad story. The disembodied nature of a suicide note makes the absence even more poignant.

THIRD RUNNER UP

M.T. DeckerOld Friends

NC: There were a few tasty vampire-esque pieces this week, but this one stood out. One, for the fact that the entities don’t necessarily have to be vampires. Any immortal being would work. Two, for the shifting of tension throughout. The opening offers a perfect layering of mystery and conflict: the mystery of the stranger is overshadowed by the mystery of the Aldruna herself, who has been around since the ‘old days’ for longer than a normal lifespan. And then there are the suspicious villagers to contend with. Their banter ramps up the tension as it does the mystery (“How old a friend are you talking?”). The reader is not quite released on the “smolder” line (nor is Aldruna) as sexual tension replaces the danger.

IN: This read like the opening of a western. Say a western like the Rango, that story of the fearless chameleon. Okay, maybe not that last part. But Nancy helped me make the vampire connection and I realised how well layered this piece is. Something about the sparse descriptions and the loaded references opens it up to multiple perspectives. Then that conversation just keeps the tension intact like a loaded spring.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Foy S. Iver, “The Miserable Ones” 

NC: Oh, magnificent world-building! The compelling voice (of a flippant hunter droid) makes me overlook the fact s/he regards human life as disposable. Love the vernacular throughout: son of a bleeder, bit-strapped, Cog. The line “You can’t trust anything that volatile” says so much about the values of our new overlords. Despite the sneer and speciesist attitude of the narrator, it’s obvious that Val has maintained the best of his humanity, and thus completely deserving of sympathy—and perhaps the hunter felt it too: the failure mentioned in the opening may be that Jav let him go, again. I want to read a novel version of this in the worst way. {Editor’s Note: MWAHHAHAHAHA! Very funny.}

IN: Apparently, robots/droids can be sassy too, and in the worst way possible. The dual possibilities in the ending make for an interesting reading. Jav either kills Val, fails humanity; or lets him go and fails justice. Just by considering the dilemma of his situation, Jav seems to have failed already. And that last line, the emotions laden in the calling of the name as a greeting: Perf!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Nicolette Stephens, “The Cuckoo Clock.” 

NC: I was all set up for this one to be humorous what with a clock “standing the test of time” in a long-vacant house. Was I ever in for a surprise. The POV seems to be standard omniscient but turns out to be third person limited to that of the clock itself—a creepy discovery. The use of the door slamming as a transition from vacancy to new residents is brilliant. The liveliness of the concrete details in that transition paragraph sharply contrast to the emptiness of the previous paragraphs. The figurines evoking a smile from the unwitting woman for their “lifelike” appearance creates sinister irony, which is confirmed in the last line. Love the link between time and patience.

IN: At first, the use of ‘loomed’ in the first paragraph looked out of place to me with the clock references. But as the story progressed and the clock became more detailed, it seemed perfect a description for such a patient hunter that, essentially, loomed over the telling of the story itself. Through sensuous imagery, we are made to know the new residents of the house just enough to be scared for what horror the swinging pendulum has in store for them.

And now: for her very first time (and in the nick of time!), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

BECKY SPENCE!!!

for

“I Spy With My Little Eye

NC: The strength of this one is the way in which it zooms (pun slightly intended) into the details–leaning into the eyepiece, grainy monochrome streets—thus involving the reader in the investigation. The narrative leads the reader along, equating the hunter with a photographer, perhaps a private investigator, at worst a stalker (ten shades of grey is not quite fifty, but could signal a possessive lover). As all of the best twists do, the twist surprises but doesn’t come out of nowhere. “He had to move quickly…” takes on unexpected meaning, from racing to the location depicted in the photo to the sudden surrealism of plucking an entity directly from the photo itself. The apparent cruelty with which he treats his subject might as well be that of a possessive lover. The final note left me with shivers. A well done flash.

IN: Like Nancy, I came out of this story with thoughts of the possibility of the characters in this story being a couple. This happens for me because of the way the story’s male character searches out the lady. (See where his fingers caressed the image as he scanned for his target? Creep!) The story also begs for a reading about the kind of power the man has over the lady: about how he hunts for her and removes her from a scene she clearly wants to be part of; and how he silences her by putting her in a jar, a vacuum of his own choosing.

Congratulations, Becky! What fun seeing you take the dragon crown in one of the very last opportunities: your writing has kept us all enthralled for some time now, and it seems only right! Here’s your brand new winner’s page. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

I Spy With My Little Eye

He picked up the photo, placed it beneath the microscope. Leaning into the eye piece the metal was cold against his socket. It scraped cruelly against his skin. His fingers caressed the image. Scanning for his target.

It was easier in colour. Something bright to pick up on, a dash of red or a tone of blue, a spectrum to seek. In black and white it was light and shadows. Only a contrast to work with, ten shades of grey.

He heightened the magnification, twisting the microscope tight to his eye. Searching through the grainy monochrome streets. There! She was there, at last. He had to move quickly before he lost her again.

Reaching into the photo, his fingers pruned as the chemicals gnawed at his skin. He pinched his fingers around her, plucked her from the scene. Selecting a jar from the shelf he dropped her into the vacuum, tightened the lid on her screams.

FFwinner-Web

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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.”

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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.

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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 III with: Mark A. King

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 His Majesty Mark A. King.  Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD!!!! yes, THIRD!!!!! win (we did predict this; and did you notice this week how he loftily swept off with the champ trophy and first runner up!? breathtaking!) — read his previous #SixtySeconds interviews here and hereThen take another minute (or two; third-time winners aren’t bound by word count) to get to know him better below.

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?

I am rather obsessed by Flash! Friday and I am always looking for possible stories, settings or characters that I might use if the right prompt comes up. This one happened the day before. I have a picture calendar on my desk, when I scrunched the old picture and threw it in the bin, like I do every day, I was presented with Thursday’s picture of an amazing sculpture called the Singing Ringing Tree (although I changed the order of the words in my story). It just called to me, and I knew then that I would have to write a story about it. The story elements fitted perfectly, so I went with it.

2) How has your approach to flash changed since you started writing flash fiction?

I think it’s about 14 (ish) months since my first FF story. I’d like to think I’ve got better at focusing on the characters and less on my previous obsession with world building. I love the world building, but it’s pointless without an emotional attachment to the character. I try to do both, if I can. But it’s sooo hard with about 100 words to play with.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing?

Up until recently flash fiction has been my only writing. I’m finding longer forms very, very frustrating. I want to take a chainsaw to my current/first novel. However, I know if I do that then I’ll just keep revisiting the beginning forever. Which is what has happened to date. So, I am writing in a continually forward direction, but my flash fiction brain can’t wait to go back and fire up the chainsaw.

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?

New writers should be true to themselves. Don’t try to copy another writer, no matter how good they are — it will only fail, as you’re not them and they’ve had longer at being themselves than you have 🙂 Experiment. Be brave and try unique ideas or structures. As a previous judge, I know that a story that is well-written but whose plot is the same as twenty other stories will not stand out. 

For those folk that are great and haven’t won yet, your time will come. A change of rules really helped me. It’s likely that a change of judges or rules might help you. It’s all subjective; don’t take it to heart. There are no bad writers at FF. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

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

FF is my favourite and it is a fantastic resource for any writer. It’s an incredible place and it has changed lives (it’s so much more than being wonderful fun).

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

FlashDogs Vol 3 is in the planning stages and we’re keen to find the next generation of flash fiction writers, and send them here and to the other wonderful comps.

It’ll be themed on ‘time’, with Past, Present and Future prompts, and will be launched Chinese New Year 2016. #FlashFicTime

7) Speaking of publication, what are you currently working on? Back in July you told us you were 5k into a novel. How’s that coming along?

Thanks to some prompting and advice from the Best Mentor in the Universe™ (I’m looking at you, Tamara Shoemaker), I’ve made great progress recently. I’m about 25K in now, and that’s about 10K more than I’ve managed before. It’s scary as I know how much work I have yet to do. Then when I’ve finished, that’s just the beginning of another stage. It’s a bit pathetic, but I have a lot on and I’m super proud that I got this far. I’m kinda excited by the project.

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

Eek. This is really an awkward question. One probably best answered in a blog. I’ll write about this sometime, but it was very personal and life-changing in many respects, so it will look really odd answering it here.

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

FlashDogs, obviously 🙂

I had a rather interesting experience of a writing group last night — actually, it was the first time I’ve ever tried one. Lovely people, incredibly talented, but I don’t think this is for me. I’ll have to find other ways to fill this valuable method of writing development.

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 buy you some sparkly things for the dragon cave, some fire-proof Cadbury, and maybe a trusted helper (like Dobby, but real – and better). {Editor’s Note: I GRATEFULLY ACCEPT!}

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

Quick shout-outs to Shakes who is on sabbatical from FDHQ. Emily June Street and Tam Rogers for just being themselves (incredible). Karl and Voima for FDHQ service to come. Tamara S for reasons mentioned above.