Tag Archive | UK_MJ

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 49: WINNERS

Welcome back! We’re racing faster and faster to the end of Flash! Friday’s second year. Probably you all are quite cool about this, but I’m a manic WRECK. Guest judges of astonishing caliber joining us! Flashversary (Dec 5) parties to plan! Fun stuff lurking in the wings for Year Three! And just WAIT, y’all, til you see who’s on the next FF judge panel. Let me say I may not be the only one fainting.

Anyway. Thanks to everyone for coming out again this week for another fantastic round of flash fiction. Monkeys and authors? Who could have guessed the hijinks you connived for your longsuffering protagonists.

:hands out boxes of tissues: And now, my darlings, brace yourselves, as today we are forced (FORCED, I tell you) to bid a final farewell to the final judge of this past judge panel. Margaret Locke has long been a respected name here in the lair, a reputation her tenure as judge further confirmed. You’ve done some fine judgery here, Miz Locke. Thank you for bringing your own special brand of spice and flair each round. You’ve been amazing, and your eye will be missed! Thank you so much for giving of your time and heart to the Flash! Friday community.          

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Judge Margaret Locke says: The first time Our Lady Dragonness asked me to judge, I turned her down. Who was I, lowly newbie romance and flash writer, to dare comment on, much less JUDGE, the numerous stories people craft each week? The second time, I said yes (I was worried she’d flambé me if I refused again). I’m so glad I did — it has been eye-opening to sit on this side of the bench, really having to immerse myself in each and every tale, having to figure out why certain pieces resonated with me more than others, and having to qualify my choices. I’m sure it’s sharpened my eye when it comes to evaluating my own writing.

The truth is, a lot of judging is subjective. Yes, one can look at spelling and grammar and flow and analyze a variety of things quite objectively, but when it comes right down to it, the stories that have grabbed me the most often have done so at an emotional, instinctual level. They resonate with me in ways not easily explained. I mention this as a reminder to everyone (including me, as I ride yet another wave of agent rejections) that just because I or some other judge or an agent or a publisher doesn’t pick a particular work doesn’t mean that work isn’t worthy of being picked! Amazing stories get passed by every day. Keep writing. Keep writing and honing the craft. Keep going. There is so much joy in the process, as well as in the product.

THANK YOU for this opportunity; I remain humbled and in awe of the amazingly talented crop of writers who show up week after week, weaving unique and entertaining short (short!) stories that exemplify the best in wordsmithing.

Moving on to results: You people are smart. Like, scarily so. I had to spend so much time on the good old Internets looking up literary references and educating myself on various famous authors to ensure I was catching the wicked brilliance of so many of these stories. I’m still worried (and sure) I missed something! We had literal monkeys, figurative monkeys, authors as main characters, authors as references, hilarious tales, and tales of woe. Thank you for making my final week of judging such a wonderful (and challenging) one!

And since it was my last week of judging, I decided I didn’t have to limit my mentions quite so much. Right? Right?!

Monkey drum roll, please….

 

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Geoff Le Pard, “Between Rock and Hard Place.” Great incorporation of authors and quick references to their works made this fun to read, as I tried to see if I caught all of the references.

Mark Driskill, “The Intruders.” In the same vein of “Between Rock,” and yet so badly punny, it was awesome.

UK_MJ“Wild Kingdom.” I enjoyed the very real-feeling encapsulation of sibling rivalry, and that the concept of “wild kingdom” aptly reflects more on the humans in this story than the animal.

Emily StreetVestigial Tale.” Loved the punny title in a well-written story.

Nancy Chenier, “Rice-Paper Battlefield.” For choosing an eastern female author!

Best Title: joidianne4eva“Love Me Tender, Love Me Sweet.” I’m an Elvis fan, so this title immediately caught my eye; but it also renders what follows that much more horrific.

Best Line: Shane Wilson“Treating Herself.” “He gave her everything she ever wanted—except for space.” Oh, how this line hit me.

Best Last Line: Alissa Leonard, “The Things I Do For You.” “I can get you six feet closer to the center of the earth.” Wonderful play on words with Jules Verne!

Best Clever Conceit: ImageRonin, “Red Rum.” I’m sure for those of you more familiar with Stephen King, this take off of The Shining was instantly recognizable. Not so for me, but after Googling and figuring it out, I appreciated the weaving of a fictional character’s life into a small tale that hints at the larger one.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

David Borrowdale, “Inspiration is Everywhere.” I was instantly hooked with the play on words between Simian and Simenon (whom I also had to look up; apparently I’ve never read anything). I loved the contrast between what Simenon actually wanted versus what he experienced. I assumed that the Hotel Majestic really IS majestic, and what he will write will be exactly opposite of what he himself at that moment was experiencing. Great contrasts in a well-written, well-executed tale.

Michael Seese, “Falling From Grace.” This story stuck out for its completely different subject matter and approach. I love the irreverent tone, the stark contrast of modern and ancient in exquisite lines such as this: “The psychologists sang hymns of ‘addictive personality.’ The doctors read the scripture of ‘chemical imbalance.’” An ethereal, ageless being subjecting himself to modern drugs/shock treatments? A suicidal angel? The whole premise hooked me exactly because those ideas at first would seem to be opposites.

VB Holmes, “Hotel l’Alsace.” Well-written and moving. I looked up the Hotel l’Alsace to see what author(s) had committed suicide there. Oscar Wilde died there, but of illness, not by his own hand. So I’m left wondering if this piece is referencing a real or fictional author. In any case, the language is beautiful and encapsulates the despairing mood. The simple listing of all the ills that had befallen this man was heart-wrenching.

Marie McKay, “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” Yes, I had to Google Boulle to learn he was the author of Planet of the Apes, and while this story wasn’t the first to reference that book, the repeated pattern in the middle very effectively renders the story that much more terrifying.  

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “The Story.” I appreciated the unique take of this story, the interweaving of both the famous author and monkey, as required by the prompt, but in less literal ways. The language flows so well, with wonderful, visually evocative phrasings such as “the slender blonde with the army cap tilted at a jaunty angle,” and “his chin wobbl[ing] beneath the years of repressed grief.” My romantic heart broke in the space of a few, short words. The last line in particular frames the whole story and its characters well, capturing the painful dynamic between the central couple.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Michael Simko, “Risk.” I absolutely love the opening paragraph of this story; I was instantly hooked. Hitting upon Passepartout, I had to Google him to learn he was the (fictional) valet to main character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Days, and then I had to read enough (see? you people made me work this week!) to know Phileas, at first, is the exact opposite of a risk taker. But even if one took out the paragraph with Passepartout and the references to Verne, the story stands on its own and resonates with me – perhaps because I am not generally a risk-taker, myself. Well-written with wonderful imagery.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Brian S. Creek, “Infinite Monkey Theorem.” Other stories touched on the infinite monkey theorem, the idea that “a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a give text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare” (thanks, Wikipedia!), but this piece, rendered entirely in crisp dialogue, utilized it perfectly. I kept coming back to this one and its hilarious last line: “Well, it turns out it requires only one and it takes about six months.” I’m still giggling.

And now: for her very first time, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

CARIN MARAIS!!!

for

“Merely This and Nothing More”

Poe is never overtly named in this story, but the language to me invokes his style, even beyond the title and the final word. And yet I had the sneaking suspicion this Story Teller was referencing authors beyond Poe; from Googling “fifteen dead men dancing on a chest,” I learned that phrase hails from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. “Beasts growing listless in ancient temples beneath the waves” made me think of Atlantis. What other references am I missing? The whole tale is rich in imagery. The second paragraph I have read numerous times, basking in its exquisiteness of expression. Thank you, Carin, for this marvelous story! Well done!

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

Merely This and Nothing More

If on a summer’s day a Story Teller was to exit Hotel L–, she would find herself on the road leading to the harbour. If she walked, her mind would drift through centuries of memories. If she remembered, she would colour memories to adventures, hovels to palaces, obstacles to giants. If she stood on the shore she would recall all the memories of all the ages. Cities. Armies. Voyages. Adventures. Sorrow. Love. Fear. Beasts growing listless in ancient temples beneath the waves.

If she was to tell all these memories to the ocean, she would slowly sink into a story herself: her voice caught in sea foam, her secrets bound in a chest on the ocean floor where fifteen dead men danced, her stories travelling through countries, years, and centuries before being caught by ink.

She asked if her own words, those grains of sand, would be remembered.

She did not wait for an answer, lest it was “nevermore”.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 42: WINNERS!

Welcome back! You’ve proved yet again to be the fiercest writing dragons anywhere; every time I’m sure you couldn’t possibly set a new record or outwrite yourselves, you do. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve written that exact sentence every week for the past two months. Writers everywhere are going to be battering your doors down for your magical writing secrets. Thank you again for writing these stirring, disturbing, funny, dark, frightening, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing stories. And thank you for being the totally off-the-charts, supportive writers you are. HUGS FOR EVERYBODY! -oops. Apologies to whoever I just scratched with a talon.

And finally: a MASSIVE thank you to those who donated to the Flash! Friday lair this week. We have plans in the works for Flashversary (coming up CRAZY! FAST! December 5) and Year 3, most of which will cost a gem or two. (One hint (shhhh): did someone ask for a winners’ anthology, hmmmm?) Thank you, thank you for your support.

Reminder note: Flash! Friday entries are judged 100% blind; judges — we currently have a panel of five — see neither authors’ names, Twitter handles, or community comments until after results are submitted.        

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Judge Aria Glazki (who deserves an award of her own; only imagine the herculean task this week!) says:  None of us expected such an abundant turnout of writers–and stories–but then this community never goes for the expected. The one predictable factor, of course, is the range of style, form, premise, and emotion in your stories.  An outsider may think reading nearly 100 stories on the same prompt can become tedious, but due to your talents and imaginations, it truly does not.  While I can highlight only a few of the submissions, I encourage everyone to explore them all and find your own favorites.

Here are this week’s Special Mentions:

(Judge) Margaret Locke,*  “We All Have Our Roles to Play.” – So unexpected, with a dark twist to the humor. The narrative here leads the reader along a curious path, before finally putting everything in crystal clear focus.  Well crafted. (* Judges are permitted special mentions, but not official awards).

Rasha Tayeket, Untitled. Standout imagery: “Windows rattled more violently than the fat rolls on his stomach”; and Sacrifice: “a woebegone Mary Poppins.”

Hannah Heath, “The Lucky Toy.” I especially enjoyed that this story didn’t take the prompt at face value, showing us the strength of a mother clinging to the memory of a lost child, despite that memory making her look “like some gothic parlor maid.” A nice reminder that our internal world cannot be seen by strangers on the surface.

Nancy Chenier, “Fidelity.” A compelling story told within a strict form but not trapped within it, poetic yet complete. I especially enjoyed the lines: “Her parasol parody / Against the tempest” — what a vivid statement.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Eliza Archer, “It’s My Job.” Storm deities might not be loved, but I loved the humor in this piece. The rhetorical questions gently force the reader into a more active role, even while not depending on a specific response to make the point, which is oh-so-subtly, and intelligently, manipulative. There are too many great lines to quote, so go read it! 

Voimaoy, “The Dragon’s Daughter.” This story took a timeless tale of a young girl believing the grass is greener, then made us take a step back, refocusing on the father’s heartbreak at his loss. Efficient characterization (“As any loving father would”; “parading happily in platform shoes”) shows us these personalities and leads to the powerful final image of the dragon’s tears and claws ravaging the island, establishing a new mythology.

Stuart Turnbull, “Hanami for the Kami.” The respectful, mutual relationship between Sakura No-hana and the storm here, juxtaposed with her distanced approach to humans (“people like a bit of theatre”), is quite compelling. From the prayer, to that final image of her dissolving into blossoms, tugged about by the storm — the same storm that could “toss [boulders] around like a Mongol invasion fleet” but doesn’t destroy her — this was a nice read. 

Brian Creek, “Most Valuable.” At first glance this story seems predictable: a girl left behind after a tragedy takes her parents is desperate to find them, to see the bodies. But then the urgency is turned on its head, as Sozuku gives up her slight protection (the umbrella) to break quarantine. The previous lines, her interest all still work perfectly, while entirely refocusing the picture we have of the girl’s hidden inner world, her true interest in her parents.

Rebecca Allred (won Vol 2 – 3), “Truth or Dare.” This story combines an inventive premise with some lovely imagery (“lashes thick as spider legs tangle together”) and a hint of mystery for a piece that runs shivers up the spine. While we, like the narrator, are left in the dark as to what causes such visceral reactions to the mask, we know from the first line (“the maid outfit is so cars will pick her up”) that these men aren’t innocent, suspicion which is subtly reinforced throughout with just a few well-placed words.

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THIRD RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, (won Vol 2 – 38) “True Skin.” A unique take on relationships, underscored with imaginative imagery – Nori’s voice is “a reedy flutter”; “the sky curdles”; “Nori’s shivering spectre.” The juxtaposition between Umi’s cold-hearted dismissiveness of Nori (“As if the human heart could fathom love’s abyss”) and her unyielding love for the second serpent, whose presence is depicted at first by the waves, is especially telling, splitting a reader’s sympathies. Though the imagery is solid throughout, it is the love triangle portrayed by vivid metaphors (the lover who is dead dissuading her from the lover who isn’t; the waves scattering the spectre’s essence to disprove his argument; the coldness of a deep-sea serpent mimicked in Umi’s treatment of Nori) that makes this story special.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Eric Martell, (won Year One–Round 32 & Round 45), Untitled. This story had my interest from the skirt that “flared fetchingly” — what a great image to put us into the mood and right into Marcus’ head. Of course, it doesn’t last long, as we quickly see the tempers and motives of both characters, and ultimately the protective vindictiveness of the girl in the “little maid’s skirt.” Jenna’s flippant approach to the poison (she drank it herself!) is mirrored well in her physicality, with the flouncing skirt and hopping off the bed, balancing the darkness of her obviously meticulous plan.  The attitude in the final line is the clincher.

FIRST RUNNER UP

UK_MJ, “The Footlocker.” The heart-touching nostalgia in this piece required mentioning. The layers of remembrances particularly stand out, underscoring the mix of a sweet past and the sadness of grief. We have the overlay of the present loss on the memories of loving times of “sifting through an old man’s [even older] memories” and the comparison of the forgotten footlocker with the current heightened memories of saying goodbye, brought to the conclusion of a fantastic use of the prompt’s image, and the relic of the “ancient gas mask” that had once saved Trixie’s grandfather’s life but couldn’t keep him alive forever. Poignant and touching.

And now: because twice in 7 weeks isn’t (apparently) enough, it’s three-time Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

MICHAEL SEESE!!!

for

“Drowning”

The dialogue that isn’t dialogue is the brilliance of this piece. In retrospect, the initial image sets up the possibility of both murder and suicide, but the following lines appear to be the internal dialogue and uncertainty of someone in desperate straights, contemplating something equally desperate. Only when she decides to say no, to find that inner strength, do we learn her demons aren’t internal but are in fact the physical and very distinct presence of her lover; that this back and forth isn’t her attempt to make a decision but a literal devil’s advocate, who is willing to take more drastic measures when the subtlety of conversation is insufficient. The twist of the ending that nevertheless makes such undeniable sense, conveyed through a risky yet perfect stylistic choice, steals your breath with the final line.

Congratulations AGAIN, Michael! Below is the comfortingly familiar winner’s badge for a third wall. Here are your updated winner’s page and your latest winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by for an email about this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Drowning

The rain-swollen canal seemed eager to taste another victim.

They’ll never find the body.

Bodies are just containers put on this Earth to house the soul while it finds its path.

Water cleanses all sins.

Is it a sin to fall in love? To believe in love? To believe love could happen to her?

An affair with a married man? Think of the shame it will bring.

Why must there be shame? If they stayed, perhaps. But why couldn’t they run away together? They were happy. Or so she had believed. And now that they were three…

And what of the child? What kind of life can your bastard expect? It would be better for all if you would just take that step…

“No!” she said, finding strength for the first time in her life. “I can’t do it!”

She turned to face her lover.

I know, he said, applying an emotionless palm to her chest. But I can.

 

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