Tag Archive | Tinman

Sixty Seconds III with: Tamara Shoemaker

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer (normally). 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 three-timer and Dragon Captain Tamara Shoemaker. Read her winning story here. You can also read her first #SixtySeconds interview (from September) here. and her second interview (from December) here. Then take another couple of minutes (we don’t count words when it’s a writer’s THIRD win!) to get to know her better below.

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece?  My first thought when I saw the prompts was a euphemised “What the *insert semi-appropriate word*???” {Editor’s Note: You were not alone. Bwahahahaha!} From there, my imagination captured the cute kitty face that slowly transitioned to cute girl face, that transitioned to inner battle, that transitioned to death by cancer (of course, right?).

2) You’ve been writing flash about a year, is that right? How has your approach to flash changed/developed since you started? Margaret Locke wrangled me into my first flash contest in June or July of 2014, I can’t remember exactly. When I first started, I wrote stories based exactly on the prompt. I felt like I had to incorporate every element in the picture. As time went on, the connection to the prompt grew looser, and with it, the stories that came to me expanded by worlds.

3) Has your experience writing flash affected your novel writing? If so, how? YES! There are so many changes, it’s hard to pinpoint any one thing, but I love how much tighter my writing has grown. Streamlining EVERY word in flash has been wonderful practice for streamlining a 110,000 word novel. I’ve learned so many important skills pertaining to character, pacing, setting, and frame. Novel writing is the same as flash, with just a few more words to worry about. 🙂

4) You still writing 2,000 words a day? You’re also working hard editing a novel now. What’s the editing process like for you? When I’m in the first draft stage of a novel, I write 2k words minimum. It’s a truly satisfying day if I can write 7k or 8k words. When I edit my books, I often feel blind; it’s hard for me to see my own mistakes. I depend heavily on beta-readers who find the deficiencies in my story where I can’t see them. Once they get back to me with their critiques, I go through and gut the story until it’s a decent piece of work. It’s a great system–for me. My poor beta-readers probably should demand a bit more payment. 😉

5) Belong to any writers’ groups IRL? How do they benefit you? Yes! I attend two critique groups here in the Shenandoah Valley. They give me loads of constructive feedback on my work, which helps me create stronger stories, which are (hopefully) more exciting for the general public to read.

6) You’re famous here at Flash! Friday for faithfully leaving a billion comments on people’s stories. This is incredibly meaningful and awesome–thank you! What things have you learned from other writers’ approaches to flash? I leave so many comments, partly because I know how excited I get when I see a new comment on one of my stories, and I want to “share the wealth,” so to speak. Some of the stories, though, leave me in so much awe that I can’t help but leave a comment. Grace Black consistently displays such beautiful lyricism, I usually reread hers several times throughout the weekend. Deb Foy‘s fresh, unusual imagery is soul-satisfying; can’t get enough. Annika Keswick‘s attention to detail makes her stories stand out to me; there are so many layers there that take me a while to unpeel. Tinman and Ian Martyn make me laugh nearly every week. I’d love to name all the writers – feel like I know them all so well simply through their fiction.

7) In fact, you’re just all-round prolific; you make writing a ton of words FAST look easy. Is it as easy for you as it looks? And–I’m sorry, but I just have to ask–in this world of tweets and DMs and texts, where many writers struggle to find even one prolonged idea, just how do you find all your ideas? Easy as it looks?! Yes. And no. This is going to sound cliche (and I’m the queen of cliche) – the words just come. My brother tells me I talk too much (and I’ve heard similar statements from other family members). I probably have a larger-than-ordinary pool of words that overflow their banks when I start writing. I’m sure that’s it. 😉 As for my ideas–I try to write about stuff that would be interesting to me as a reader. Which is why you’ll never catch me writing non-fiction.

8) You’re a fiction writer and a poet. Do you pursue both? Is there a balance between these two sides of your writerly self? Or are they rivals? It’s funny, I’ve never thought of myself as a poet. Poetry has always come easily, but it’s not what I ever intend to write. I like to think that my fiction writer half and my poet half are coffee-buddies. They meet at Starbucks now and then, discuss important topics, throw a few idea-seeds my direction, and go their separate ways after fixing another meeting for the next week. One couldn’t do without the other; where’s the friendly beauty in that?

9) You’ve published with a small house, and you’re about to go indie and publish a book yourself. What made you decide to go indie? Are you still exploring traditional, and if so, why? What have you learned so far about the publishing biz? What are you looking forward to in this next phase? What challenges you? I’ve enjoyed moderate success with the traditional route, so this branch into self-publishing is purely curiosity. I want to see what the difference is between the two different methods. There are pros and cons to both. If it does well, I’ll probably do a few more self-published books. We’ll see. I do plan to continue traditional publishing as well; I’ve built up a good relationship with my publisher and would like to keep it. They’ve put out the first three books, Broken Crowns, Pretty Little Maids, and Ashes Ashes. I have five unpublished books waiting in the wings, so I’ve got plenty of work to spread between the two methods.

What I’ve learned: publishing ain’t for wimps. You need thick skin. You need to be willing to put in the work and the research. You will get one-star reviews sometimes. There will be someone out there who will make your day worse because they’re having a bad day. Take what feedback you need, ignore the rest. I’m really looking forward to starting the fantasy phase of my career. Thus far, my only published books are mysteries. I love the YA fantasy market–I’m so excited to add some books to it. My daily challenges are reading the other books in my chosen genre and overcoming my awe at their work, not comparing my work to theirs, accepting what I write as my own style and not wishing I was the next JK Rowling. I am me. What a profound statement. 😉 

10) Introduce us to your favorite dragon (yes, can be one of your own). Of COURSE, my favorite Dragon lives nearly an hour north of me {Editor’s Note: Smart girl!}, but my second favorite Dragon is one I’m introducing in my upcoming (hopefully May) release, Kindle the Flame. This particular Dragon is a kick-bootie, fire-haired girl from dubious origins who discovers a surprising link to a certain mirror-scaled REAL Dragon (because everyone knows that all Dragons are REAL). You should definitely take the time to read, because Dragons. Obvs.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 10: WINNERS

Thank you to the many of you who’ve expressed concern with regard to the supply of proper chocolate here at the lair. I’m pleased to report that for now we are managing (despite the nearly ten inches of snow currently descending above ground). We will, of course, keep you updated. 


Remember to stop back by tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Flashversary winner Maggie Duncan. And then Wednesday’s our Warmup Wednesday feature (I am really, really loving this event, with its casual, no-stress atmosphere!), and Thursday’s the Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner.

Finally: don’t forget to check out the rapidly growing Wall of Flame to get to know the faithful dragons at the heart of Flash! Friday. 


Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne4eva sayWell, if I told you that we poor judges have spent the past few nights dreaming of catnip and sandals, would you feel pity? No? Thought as much. But firstly a big thank you to all of you who entered this week; combining kittens with the leather clad, pointy end wielding realm of the gladiator was a task I myself would have shied away from. So thank you to all those who took up the shield of narration and the spear of scornful mutterings … really appreciated.

Sadly, as some bloke adept with swords once remarked, “There can be only one”; so with sand still between our toes and blood on our knuckles, let’s see who stood triumphant at the end, and who sadly got fed to the lions.



Susan O’Reilly, “Ginger Nut.” 

J: This tale was highly amusing, from the desperation of the narrator to get away from his cat to the underlying (possible) reasons why the cat is apparently baying for his blood. Not a word is wasted, and the final product was brilliant, though you can’t help but think that with all that provocation Ninja’s anger might be well-placed, after all.

IR: A playful take on the prompt that offered up the terror that is the needle equipped kitten. The advert at the end, really closing off the tale, and dismay, of our narrator. 

Reg Wulff, “Flufficus.” 

This was well-deserving of a special mention, there were so many layers here; but what really caught my attention was the absolute apathy of Flufficus. The lack of emotion gives the tale a cold feeling that made me shiver every time I read it… and I read it quite often.

A piece that really captured the plight of the damned and enslaved, delivered from the perspective of a narrator unmoved and seemingly unconcerned. Very intriguing.

Mara Fields, “The Argument.”

This was another take that brought a smile to my face. Poor Rob never had a chance at finding the right costume did he? Maybe he should have stuck with the gladiator get up.

A different take and one that deftly brought together our Dragon’s demands with a playful touch that brought a smile to my face. Though “if in doubt, always choose Batman” is my advice.



Rachel Lynn, Heart of a Gladiator.” 

The relationship between man and kitten here was a brilliant concept to build on because it makes you feel not only for Stanith but also for Bumble, who has most likely lost the only person he had.

The sadness, acceptance and resignation of Stanith’s existence permeated this piece. A well thought out and moving lament to friendship in all its forms.

Tinman Done Badly, Cat Fight.” 

This tale was amusing from the very beginning and it definitely delivered at the end. Clearly the narrator hadn’t counted on the fickle nature of his opponent and now he’s paying for it with his dignity.

That final line resonated with the cat owner in me. The ability of such a small animal to project contempt with a mere quizzical stare! A well-crafted and humorous take on the prompts.

Brian S. Creek, “Off Switch.”

I probably shouldn’t have found this tale as humorous as I did; after all, the narrator has gone through a lot to confront this Marcus Denton, only to be taken down with something as insidious as kittens.

Taking a sci-fi vibe was a brave decision, but this Running Man meets You Tube delivered on both genre and humour. The imagery of this 80s action hero (well, in my mind) being subdued by endless kitten faces was just wonderful.


Craig Anderson, “Nine Lives.” 

I really enjoyed the twist here, the way that the author invites you to pity this terrified participant, and then in the blink of an eye the focus of the story has changed from someone to be protected to someone to be feared. Kittenus Maximus has truly lived up to his name.

“Kittenus Maximus”, aside from “Spartacat,” no other Latin/Monty Python moniker made me chuckle with delight. Thankfully Mr Maximus proved as durable as the title of the piece, and proved that it’s not about being the fastest, but the second slowest when outrunning peril.


Steph Ellis, “Pollice Verso.”

Now this was a take that I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t expect to see something quite this dark among the tales this week {Editor’s Note: O Ye of Little Faith!} so this caught my attention very quickly and held it through to the last word. The imagery used here was decadently dark, and I must say that Commodus’ horror was well-placed.

The darkness of this piece resonated with the writer’s evocative take on the trope of arena and judgment. The disdain of Dis, irritated by a gladiator’s offering false devotion, was wonderfully captured, and much like Greek mythology, the punishment for such transgression was handed down two-fold. The final feline reveal was particularly well done, shifting the tale into the horror that the narrative had hinted at before.


Brian S. Creek, “It’s What’s On the Inside.” 

I must admit that I wasn’t expecting this plot twist, but what a plot twist indeed! And quite a fitting punishment, very in line with what one would expect to see dished out by the Gods of the Roman Pantheon. I had to re-read the tale a few times. Even now I’m left with questions, but the biggest one of all is, how did the Narrator come to own Carpophores? Or, more importantly, who is the narrator?

This week’s nefarious Dragoness juxtaposition of kitten and gladiator meant that we ended up with a rich array of tales that took us to recurring themes. Hence it was those moments of flash that took us on a diversion, away from the expected that stuck in the mind. The wit, pace, playful narration and ending made this an excellent example of combining two seemingly incompatible demands. A really delightful read.


Tamara Shoemaker!!!


“Over the Fence”

Everything about this tale invites you to look closer, from the flow of the language to the imagery captured through the narrator’s eyes. It’s a maze of hidden meanings and bitter truths hidden beneath a somewhat superficial beauty, and that’s what captured my attention from the very start and held it to the last heart-breaking line. This was a brilliantly original take on both prompts and a well deserving win.

It was the imagery that made me pause and sit up, as if for a moment I was in the suburban façade that evoked hints of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. The time lapse of a family settling into a new home, and the nostalgia of youthful innocence eloquently captured through passing seasons was wonderfully captured. The shift towards the gladiatorial requirement was adeptly done, moving us into the final act and reveal of the darkness that lingered behind the white picket fence.

Just beautiful.

Congratulations, Tamara! Please find below the rights to a third devastatingly tragic winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here are also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Over the Fence

The yard next door is empty until your family moves in.
The “for sale” sign tumbles, and the picket fence whitens.
Flowers line the porch, and the front windows light at night like laughing eyes.

The crisp autumn evenings echo with shouts, leathery thumps refracting from the glove on your hand as you pound your fist into it, waiting for your dad to toss the ball.

The heated steam of summer bakes your bronzed legs. An open book nestles below your shaded eyes while the blazing sun roasts above.

In winter, your parka fluffs around your pinked cheeks like the warm fuzz of a kitten’s fur, and your blue eyes snap with cold and fun.

They think they know you, the girl-next-door.
Button-cute, they say.
Daddy’s girl, they say.
Tom-boy, they say.

They don’t have my vantage point from beyond the fence.
They don’t see the losing battle where you’re alone in your field,
Arrayed with useless weapons
And harmless nets,
A dull spear
And a cracked shield.

The cancer spreads like warm blood,
Soaking your cells with poison and dulling the warrior’s glint in your eyes,

So that one day I wake up,
And the yard next door is empty.


Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 8: WINNERS

HAPPY MONDAY! It’s Groundhog Day here in the U.S., and the headlines say the official groundhog is calling for six more weeks of winter. This is good news, actually, as this week I’ve discovered sweet potato nachos, which is clearly the perfect snowy day dish. Let’s not dash too madly from nachos to pea sprout salads, k?

Couple of reminders: this week our newest feature launches, Wednesday Warmup; starting at 12:01am Washington DC time this Wednesday, come write a quick story and flex those flash muscles. (Wouldn’t do to develop flash cramps on Friday, see.) Today’s winner’s #SixtySeconds interview has been bumped to Thursday. Coming up NEXT WEEK: the first part of our interview with Flashversary champ Maggie Duncan



Dragon Captains Pratibha Kelapure/Sinéad O’Hart sayWhat fantastic prompts this week! The image was incredibly evocative, and the clever addition of a ‘conflict’ was inspired. A lot of the same themes turned up in the entries, as is to be expected – we had several versions of the Garden of Eden, and lots of conflicts where the antagonist turned out to be the narrator’s alter-ego – but each story dealt with the prompts in its own way, showing the usual levels of skill and dedication to the craft of flash fiction that we’d expect from the Flash Friday crew. As always, the choices involved a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the judges, and we both had to fight for our favorites, but we’d like to think the winners’ list does a good job of representing the breadth and variety of the stories presented this week. We particularly loved how some tales recreated the feel of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, emotionally linking the struggles of their characters to the larger narrative of emigration, poverty and struggle suffered by so many during that time in history – and how often tales like these ended on notes of optimism and positivity. Eventually, the winner was chosen for its fresh, and unexpected, take on the prompts and its imaginative use of the motifs of the desert and the aching chasm between brothers, and we hope you’ll agree it was a worthy choice.



Best Use of A Tall Tale: Peg Stueber, “That’s My Story.”  This one made us grin. We loved the ‘tall tale’ motif, the hints at nerdiness, the bar setting, the dialogue, and the title. It was a fresh approach to the prompts, though the ‘conflict’ part wasn’t perhaps as clear as other stories made it; but for all that it stuck in the memory.

Best Use of Dual Perspective: David Borrowdale, “The Dust Bowl and the Mango Tree.” We enjoyed the way this story explored two sides of the same exchange and showed how easily a statement can be misinterpreted, and how devastating it can be. We thought the prompts were well handled and the farmer’s grief was subtly described. We particularly liked how the fact that there are twelve people in the starving family means different things, depending on what side of the conversation you’re on.



Tinman, First Among No-One.” This was huge fun. Many stories dealt with Adam and Eve, in some shape or form, but this was the one which stuck with us. We thought the dialog between Adam and God was brilliantly done, and the implied conflict between Adam and the yet-to-be-created Eve was a clever, oblique way of handling that part of the prompt. We also enjoyed the visual contrast between the barren landscape of the prompt and the lushness of Eden.

Grace Black, Scent of Sorrow.” We thought this was a beautiful evocation of lost love, and we also enjoyed the relationship between the two men, whose conflict is understated and dignified, but nonetheless present. We thought Carolyn was wonderfully drawn and her character, despite her absence, is the most significant in the whole story. The phrase ‘Words are moths in my mouth’ was particularly beautiful.


Tamara Shoemaker, “Cracks.” We thought this story dealt well with both aspects of the prompt – the barren, dry landscape, and the conflict between characters – and we liked the angle the author took. We also enjoyed the way the author linked the ‘cracks’ in the landscape and in the relationship between the brothers to the grief felt by the woman, whose face remained ‘smooth as granite’, betraying not a single ‘fission of weakness’ when her first husband is reported killed in action. We thought this story was emotional, but not sentimental; simple, but clever; and its use of motifs and imagery, particularly the conflicts (smoothness and cracks, barrenness and rain) made it stand out.


Emily June Street, “Dustless.” We liked this story’s take on the conflict between characters, which ultimately ends on a positive note, even if the reader has to wonder whether the characters are being unrealistically optimistic. We enjoyed that Tim’s final “We’ll make it” is ambiguous; will they make it back to the farm, or make it in their new life, or both? We thought the story invoked the desperation caused by deprivation and drought very well, and that it described the complex relationship between uncle and nephew beautifully, encapsulating Herb’s love of and exasperation with Tim in fine fashion.


David Shakes, “The Seed and the Sow.” We enjoyed this story for the Bergman-esque feel of its setting. We got a real sense of eternity and myth from the Planter and the Uprooter, and we thought they were an excellent depiction of the constants of creation and destruction that govern so much of our existence. We loved the suspense at the end – will the Uprooter do what he must and destroy the tree? If he does, what will happen to the Planter? The story has such a ‘Doomsday Clock’ sensibility, and we loved that.




“The Hanging Tree (Strange Things Did Happen Here)”

It was a hard choice between Winner and First Runner Up this week. We loved ‘The Hanging Tree’ for lots of reasons: its setting, its characterization, the darkness of its tone, the dialogue and the delicate depiction of the conflicted relationship between the brothers, which reached its inevitable, but terrible, conclusion in fine style. We loved the sense of a larger story world created here, too.

Sinéad adds: I was particularly moved by the lines at the end – ‘”And I ain’t about to break that promise’, Matthew whispered. Then he kicked the rock away.” I love that he whispers that line, making me wonder if he intends the brother to hear, and what, exactly, his promise entailed. I loved all the dialogue in this tale. I thought it was extremely evocative and emotionally understated, which underscored its power.  I loved the power play here, too; the trust placed in one brother by another, who is perhaps the physically stronger or more aggressive of the two, and the contrast between this and his almost innocent faith in his brother to do the ‘right’ thing. Pratibha said in our discussion that the story reminded her of ‘Of Mice and Men’, which I guess is apt. I found the story memorable too for how skillfully it shows how desperate Matthew has become while still depicting him in a calm, stoic way, as fits the persona of his character and the rugged, Old West setting. I found the hints at backstory chilling and fascinating – what has he done? Is it the last in a long line of unintended crime? Where should our sympathies truly lie?  This open ended conclusion clinched the winning spot for this story.


Congratulations, Joidianne! Hard to believe your last win was JUNE! We’re delighted to offer you your well-deserved third crown. Below is a hauntingly familiar winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

The Hanging Tree (Strange Things Did Happen Here)

Matthew twisted the rope between his hands, ignoring the way that the fibres tugged at his skin as he looped it into a noose.

David watched him warily. “You sure this is gonna work?”

“It’s either this or you take your chances with the posse the Sherriff’s probably already put together,” Matthew responded before holding the noose out to his brother.

David grimaced, “You’ll be quick, won’t ya?”

“Ain’t gonna take but a second to get the picture done, then we can get it sent ‘round. Hopefully they’ll buy it.”

David didn’t say anything to that, but he did pull the noose around his neck.

“You know I didn’t mean ta’ hurt her,” David whispered and Matthew sighed because David never meant to do any of the things he did.

“Come on, let’s get this done,” he prodded finally, and David rolled his shoulders before stepping onto the rock.

Matthew tightened the rope, fingers curling around the coil as David tried to catch his balance.

“You know I love ya, right kid?”

David nodded, “I’ll buy you a drink after this one. Ya done right by me, just like you promised Ma,” he admitted.

“And I ain’t about to break that promise,” Matthew whispered.

Then he kicked the rock away.