Tag Archive | VB Holmes

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 # 50 — WINNERS!

THANK YOU, everybody, for coming out to ride along with FF # 50 and fill its virtual trail with such rip-roaring adventures. Reading your tales each week is massively fun (or depressing, of course, depending). Thank you so very much for writing so inspiringly and for encouraging each other so wonderfully.     

This week’s Farewell Symphony in Three Movements is composed, conducted, and performed by Maestra Maggie Duncan, whose passion for elegant and flawlessly executed stories helped further drive our writing toward excellence. We’re so grateful, Maggie, for all the time & effort you’ve donated to this community.  Thank you!    

THE COUNTDOWN SPEEDS UP! Flash! Friday Flashversary Festivities will run Dec 2-6, and Year 2 will officially launch Dec 13 with a brand new judge panel (which is being announced at any moment, I promise).  

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Judge Maggie Duncan says, My last stint as judge of this contest is bittersweet. I’ve read some incredible stories over the past year, but the editor in me has to say I’ve read some clunkers, too. However, the pendulum swings further to the side of incredible than to the other. I’ve loved the fact that I got a review in British English from some of you. My two British grandmothers taught me how to read and write, and then American teachers worked all that lovely British English out of me. It was a pleasure to see it again. There are some amazing writers who participate in Flash! Friday, and many of you leave me breathless and wanting more each week. Thank you for the places where you’ve taken me.

Since this is my swansong, I’ll just revert to the pedantic school marm I used to be. First, a little advice on entering contests, whether large or small, formal or informal—read the guidelines. If a contest says “X words, plus or minus X,” then that’s what it means. I hate disqualifying good stories because they have too few or too many words. Second, don’t pass fan fiction off as your original work in a contest; at best it’s entertaining; at worst it’s a copyright infringement. I could go on, but finally, invest in a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. In the U.S. the overwhelming majority of markets for your fiction writing, whether contests or for publication, want to see your work conform to that standard. From the CMS you’ll learn that in the U.S. we love the Oxford comma (it’s one of my personal faves), and you’ll learn exactly how to format those titles I’m fond of, e.g., titles don’t need quotes around them (unless you refer to them in a body of work, as I do below), punctuation counts in them, too, and they require initial caps. And one more thing—proofread, then proofread, and then proofread. I know this is a twenty-four hour contest and that some submit at the last second, but proofread.

Oh, and this really is the last thing, I promise. Please, for the love of all that is holy and sacred, learn not to use a comma splice and learn the difference between its and it’s—unless you like making me weep.

And I exit, stage right, with some words from the Bard’s Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5:

 “Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled.

“No reckoning made, but sent to my account

“With all my imperfections on my head.

“Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible!

“… Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.”

 

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EXTRA ACCOLADES

Best title, hands down: “Not All Things Lost (Wish to Be Found)” by Joidianne4evaThis is a case where the title is a perfect match to the story.

Best opening line: “The children were gone, but the children were not gone.” From “Tormented,” by Lady Hazmat. This was a textbook example of foreshadowing.

Best closing line: “Death may ride a pale horse, but life rides a palomino.” From “Beyond the Pale,” by MT Decker. I laughed long and hard at this great comedic ending.

Best story premise: Horses on Mars in “Coming Home” by Jay Korza. This was a fanciful yet totally believable story with a killer penultimate line.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

There are a lot of HMs this week because the stories were good but just had some minor shortcomings.

Marie McKay, “Unwanted.” This was a chilling, desolate story of a mother keeping a brave face while devastated by what she has to do to save her children. Very gripping and tense.

Gordon B. White, “Long in the Tooth, or Manifestly Mandibular Destiny.” This story was a delightful romp with a lot of action. You’ll never think the same way about a dental appointment ever again after reading this.

Jay Korza, “Coming Home.” One of the best sci-fi stories I’ve read in all the times I’ve judged this competition. It’s a wonderful, appealing premise—I wanted to know so much more.

Maven Alysse, “Wind Swept Sands.” This story had a wonderfully haunting cadence to it. It was a nice use of language to evoke mood.

VB Holmes, “The Adventure Ends: October 3, 1880.” This is a tragic tale beautifully told and which appeals both to our sense of adventure and our love for our siblings.

RUNNERS UP

The same holds true for the Runners Up as for the Honorable Mentions—great stories, which were just edged out by the winner.

(4th RU) Lady Hazmat, “Tormented.” This is a harrowing alternate vision of the Pied Piper, which is horrifying in a way that will give you chills and will haunt your dreams. Thanks a lot!

(3rd RU) Joidianne4eva, “Not All Things Lost (Wish to Be Found).” If you have children or grandchildren, you won’t look at them the same way after you read this delightfully creepy story. And if those children happen to say, “Food,” run. Just run.

(2nd RU) Jessica West, “Always Changing, Always the Same.” As unrequited love stories go, this is touching and unique. You get a complex, wonderful character hoping to surprise his love, only to have that surprise turned on him. You feel sad for him, but you also realize he’s ultimately on the right path.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Allison K. Garcia, “Antes de que Caiga La Noche” (Before Nightfall). You’re never exactly sure what the protagonist is fleeing, but this story makes you feel the dread and fear as if you can see it. This magical realism tale shows how you should never lose your faith, but if you do and regain it, the spirits can be very forgiving and obliging.

And appearing for the second time as Flash! Friday  

 DRAGON WINNER IS….

MARGARET LOCKE!

for “The Wanderer” 

 The premise of immortality being bestowed on a mere human has been done many times, masterfully in Star Trek’s “Requiem for Methuselah” and the Twilight Zone’s “Escape Clause” and “Long Live Walter Jameson.” This week’s winning story ranks right up there with them. This is an immortal who understands exactly why he was cursed with immortality and knows he needs to stay away from people so he won’t experience an eternity of hurt, but he just can’t help himself. The staccato cadence of the sentence fragments only emphasize the protagonist’s pain; they’re like the jabs of a knife, getting the point home that no matter where he wanders, he’s doomed to suffer the consequences of his earlier, thoughtless actions. Well-developed and well-written.

Congratulations, Margaret! Here is your updated Winner’s Page, a would-you-please-stay-put-for-one-lousy-second dragon eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Watch your inbox for your next Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds interview questions.

The Wanderer

The sadness settles across my shoulders like an old, familiar coat. Like a yoke around my neck. Like the cross I have to bear.

I bring destruction wherever I go. It’s followed me through millenia, since the dawn of time.

Atlantis. Pompeii. The Great Fire of London. The Titanic. The list goes on and on.

I thought this time was different. It’d been twenty years. Twenty years of peace in this tiny village, so remote, so removed from the rest of the world. I thought maybe, just maybe, she had forgotten, had forgiven. Maybe, just maybe, I’d atoned for my sins.

I’d risked it; I’d settled down, had a family. Now they, too, lie beneath the sand that had enveloped them in a flash, like so many before them.

This was my fault. Mine.

I’ve tried to hate. Tried to ice myself out. Tried to live alone. But the drive has always been stronger, the hunger beyond my control.

She made sure of that, on that mountain top an eternity ago. It was the price I had to pay for taking her, for seducing her, for rejecting her.

“You will sow only pain, reap only sorrow. You will pray for death. It will not come for you.”

This is my curse; to seek love knowing I can never have it. To find love knowing I can never keep it. All the while knowing whoever gets close…

I can’t voice it, can’t warn them. Can’t control it. I cannot stop the liquid words from pouring out of my mouth, cannot control the intoxicating magic emanating from my eyes. They’re like moths to the flame.

I am a magnet, attracting those I should repel and repelling those I should attract.

Bring me the monsters, the murderers, the depraved, the wicked. Not these innocents, time after time.

I am The Wanderer. I get around. But this is nothing like the Dion song.

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Flash! Friday # 48 — WINNERS!

THANK YOU to everyone who came out this week! November’s rather bittersweet as we bid farewell to our faithful judge panel from Year One and gear up with great excitement for the new panel. Notifications will go out to the new judges this week, and they’ll be announced here in the coming weeks. For now: a dragonish thank you to outgoing judge Patricia McCommas, who has always approached the FF stories with tremendous heart and enthusiasm. As thanks, I’m letting her go a bit nuts tossing out prizes every which way! Thank you, dear Patricia.   

AND THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS! We’re approaching the first anniversary of Flash! Friday and have all sorts of shenanigans planned. The Flashversary Festivities will run Dec 2-6. GIT READY!! 

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Judge Patricia McCommas says, There were 42 entries and so many of them were outstanding. There were five that deserved a winning place and quite a few that at the very least deserved an honorable mention. So…since this is my last turn as a judge, there are more winners than normal. This was a fun year, and I enjoyed reading all the fabulously creative stories. As far as I’m concerned, you are all winners! I am sure that many of you will go on to become well-known writers. I can say I knew you when. Good luck to the new judges!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

My favorite line: Cindy Vaskova, Legend Has It.” “His thoughts chased themselves like ghosts as he stared into the fading paint, the yesterday car, now a thousand year old junk.”

My favorite ending: Writemomwrite, “Forgotten.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The Most Unexpected Ending: Maven Alysse, “Some Body Work Needed.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Craig Towsley, “The Grave Truth.” I would have given this one fourth place if that had been permitted! Excellent. Well-written. Creative. Great use of the prompt. Wonderful imagery and a nice twist at the end. This story is just too good to be overlooked!

TodaysChapter, “Under the Hood.” Nice story–fun and original. Love the lesson implied of not judging a book by its cover. Its message of paying more attention to what’s under the hood instead of what’s on the outside is outstanding; no guy likes being beaten–not to mention outsmarted–by a woman.  

VB Holmes“Nine Notches.” This is a really good mystery story. While I think it is part of a novel, this short 258 words was masterfully told as a short story with a nice twist at the end. Because of the conversation at the beginning, I thought for sure Jimmy was alive somewhere. But when I reached the end, I discovered who the POV character is–wow.  

Jacki Donnellan“One for the Road.” Excellent! Creative! I loved the twist at the end–I had no idea who was telling most of the story. 

Jeffrey Hollar, “Unquestionable Necessity.” Interesting story of a future time when societal norms today are tomorrow’s criminal activities deserving of prison. I like that he used the prompt as his reminder of days of old when he could freely partake of drink and wander about freely driving where ever he pleased. I also found it interesting how the new laws created a flawed mental capacity where it didn’t exist in the past. 

Laura Carroll Butler“Summer.” This was utterly delightful, reflecting the wonderful imagination of musing children. Great use of the prompt. Creative and original. Well written.

Sparkygetsthegirl, “Jeremy Was Changing.” This unique story about one man’s transformation deserves an honorable mention for creative use of the prompt and excellent, poetic writing.

THIRD RUNNER UP

KindredSpirit23,One Man’s Trash.” Love the simplicity of this story with a great message. Good writing; original; great imagery.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Margaret Locke, “Rusted Development.” Original, creative, and great use of the Love Bug movies. I loved this story told from the point of view of Herbie’s grandmother.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Charles Short,Graveyard Prophet.” Excellent use of the prompt. Charles masterfully gave this car character, a heart, and a conscience. Imagery is fabulous. It drew me in and held my interest. I was also impressed by the high praise this story received from other readers. I could almost hear Arnold Schwarzenegger as the voice of the car.

And wearing the Flash! Friday crown for the first time as 

 DRAGON WINNER IS….

JOIDIANNE4EVA!

for “The Dollhouse” 

 WOW! WINNER WINNER WINNER!! This was engaging and interesting in a creepy sort of way. I had no idea who the “dolls” were until the very end. This story is totally unique and creative. Great imagery and a perfect use of the prompt. Well done.

Congratulations, Joidianne! Here is your Winner’s Page, a very NON-creepy, yet stunning dragon eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds feature.

The Dollhouse

Matthew liked the old car, it never moved and it was a perfect hiding spot for his toys. Some days he’d sit on top of it and pick at the rust that peaked through its silver skin. It was a good place to play and his Daddy didn’t yell so loudly when Matthew told him he’d been playing with the car. His Daddy thought he was too old to be playing but Matthew knew he was wrong especially about the dolls.

Matthew had two of them now and he kept them inside the car, sitting them in the seats and buckling the seatbelts to make sure that they were safe. He’d had other dolls but he had to get rid of those because they got too dirty and if Matthew kept them for long they made the inside of the car messy and that just wouldn’t do. Momma said that cleanliness was next to Godliness and Matthew always listened to what his Momma said.

Momma didn’t talk as much now but that wasn’t strange, none of the pretty dolls that Matthew had talked. Maybe they were in awe of his beautiful car, after all Matthew had spent a lot of time cleaning it up to make it perfect and not everyone had a car as pretty as his.

Opening the door, Matthew sighed as he stared at his oldest doll. She was already getting so messy. It was a good thing that his daddy was sick; he’d need a new doll soon.

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