Tag Archive | Voima Oy

Spotlight on Scotland: F.E. Clark

Today we conclude our series of global #Spotlight interviews by spending a few moments with F.E. Clark, who writes and paints in Scotland. It’s been a pleasure getting to read F.E.’s work here and at other places on the flash circuit; I’m also gratefully thrilled (thrilledly grateful?) to share with you she is generously contributing a book to this week’s Flashversary prize pot. You’ll see that mentioned a bit later on in the interview.

Thank you so much, F.E., for putting up with all my questions (35, did you say??? surely not!!!), and answering them so honestly and graciously. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you here at FF, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you! Welcome to #Spotlight — here’s the mic. 🙂

FE Clark


Tell us about your writerly journey.

One way or other I have always written; recently I have begun to share some of it.  Thanks to my parents, voracious readers who made sure of trips to the library and gave books as gifts – I have always loved reading.  The books of Enid Blyton, the tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, C.S. Lewis, William Burrough’s Tarzan, all brought exotic adventure to my childhood.  Early on I insisted I was going ‘up the Amazon’ – this is a trip I have still to make in reality.

While being a reader was acceptable when I was younger, the idea that one might call oneself a writer or an artist was something else.  I was brought up on a farm, I was a quiet and solitary child, books were my friends and where I learnt what I needed to learn, my journals were my confidants. 

I would love to write novels.  I have a character who appeared a piece of flash fiction – whose story will perhaps lead me into a novel.   Currently I am writing flash fiction and short stories.  I am delighted to be part of the Flashdogs community, and have two stories submitted for their next anthology along with one story written collaboratively with the fabulous Voima Oy

How do you balance (and find inspiration for) both writing AND painting?

Although I have in the past been terribly stuck, I find now, that it is time and energy that lacks first, rather than inspiration.  Writing and painting feed each other.  I am inspired by the magical land, sea, mountains and forests around me.  I am very lucky in this respect.  I believe that creativity comes in waves – the scrying for ideas, researching, drafting, editing, more editing, resting, thinking, beginning again – all part of the process of making something.  Often we can be on one part of the wave and mistake it for being stuck. 

I am still learning to balance all the elements in my life.  Juggling whilst running on water – I have learnt neither.  Spiders love our house, I never reach the bottom of the laundry basket, there is paint under my fingernails and on the sleeves of most of my clothes.  Still, I am here, I write, I paint.

What does your daily writerly life look like?

I live on the mainland of North East Scotland.  I write mostly at home; I may make notes long-hand then transfer to my laptop, editing as I go.  It gets cold in our cottage, I often write in bed wrapped up in jumpers, furry hat firmly on my head.  Coffee is required. Living in a rural area, there is nowhere locally where I would go to write in public.  When venturing further afield, I might write in the notebook I always carry, over a ‘fine’ coffee.  It is not rare to see people sitting with laptops and notebooks in cafes and libraries here.

Being part of groups is another balancing act – to have the autonomy, space and energy to write, but also be involved in some sort of community.  Thanks to David Shakes, I am very glad I found the Flashdogs community online.

I have recently joined the Dundee and Angus Writers group as an associate member (I don’t live close enough to attend their meetings) and have submitted my first two pieces of flash fiction to one of their contests.  I joined this group due to the enthusiasm of one of its members, Elizabeth Frattaroli, whom I met on a writing course this year.  I have enjoyed keeping in touch with Elizabeth, who is currently writing a YA book, and we have met to catch up since at the Dundee Contemporary Art gallery café.

There are many opportunities to attend writing workshops, book festivals and courses in Scotland.  We have The Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland, and public libraries – all good resources for a creative person to investigate.  This year I have attended a week-long workshop on novel writing at Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre with the authors Jess Richards, Rachel Seiffert and Peter Salmon as tutors; a short workshop via the city library led by Alan Spence, and a writing workshop at Barry Mill near Carnoustie led by Sandra Ireland

What’s the publishing situation like from what you can see?

In common with the other countries, to get published here one needs an agent.  Many publishers will not read unsolicited manuscripts.  Even for published authors, new work must be commercially viable to make it to print.  Self-publishing has become much more common, but leaves the author with the roles of proofing, editing, publicity, distribution.  I look to those who go before me for their experiences of this journey, as I have yet to venture far.

Tell us about books and/or authors who’ve inspired you!

Books and authors who have inspired – too many to list them all, but here are a few:

Isabelle Allende for the magical realism in her novels and her YA books, Annie Proulx for the crystal clear detail in The Shipping News and her anthologies of short stories.  Haruki Murakami for the wonderful surreal quality of his novels, and allowing an autobiographical view of his life in, What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningStephen King: his books made me really see the meaning of a story being character led, and his book, On Writing, I would recommend to any genre of writer.  Julia Cameron, for all her books on creativity, starting with The Artists’ WayPatricia Cornwell’s early books, Elly Griffiths, William Gibson, China MievilleNeil Gaiman, Michel Faber, Joanne Harris…. [list cut down from a million trillion fabulous names].

Who are your favorite Scottish writers (both of all time, and today)? For someone unfamiliar with Scottish writers, which authors/books would you recommend starting with?

On Scottish writers: you may have heard of Robbie Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Lewis Grassic Gibbon, so here are a few others I would recommend. Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain about the fabulous Cairngorms. Any of Andrew Grieg’s lyrical yet gritty writing.  Written in Doric, the dialect which is local to me (we got strapped for talking in it when I was at school), The Waater Mannie by Neil Mutch – is the story of a water diviner in the North East of Scotland written in his own words.  For those who love the thriller/mystery/police novel – Val McDermid, Stuart McBride, Anne Cleeves, Iain Banks, Ian Rankin.  Or, Irvine Welsh, Christopher Brookmyre, Louise Welsh [list cut down from another million trillion fabulous names].

What are you reading now?

I am due some time to catch up with the lovely stack of books growing by my bedside; there never seems to be enough time, and my poor brain loves to launch into the stories of others.  At the moment I am reading Island of Wings, by Karen Altenberg.  The novel is set in the 1830s on the island of St Kilda, off the west coast of Scotland. I am enjoying it very much.  I am also reading from Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, a beautiful anthology of poetry to dip into.

Who else has inspired you?

People who not only walk, but make their own path inspire me.  My parents – farmers both, my father surviving two strokes and still turning wooden bowls and learning to use a e-book reader.  My partner’s belief in me is inspiring.  Meg Robinson, whose life drawing classes I attended as a teenager, down in the red light district of Aberdeen, has been a huge inspiration to me – artist, writer, teacher, humanitarian.  Meg lives in Spain now and it is her book Drawn By a Star, that I am adding to the Flashversary pot of prizes, as I have not written my own…… yet. 

Final comments for the flash family?

I only began participating in this flash community in February of this year.  I counted, and during this time I have written over 100 pieces of flash (a miracle for me, nothing to the more prolific writers).  I am sad that Flash! Friday and Microbookends are both ending, and am very grateful to all who create these safe places for people like me to write in.  I trust there will be more as things move and flow.  I wish the Dragon-Queen well. 


Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 52: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all: welcome to our final regular results show for Flash! Friday — combined today with Saturday’s Flash Dash results (still rather mind-boggled that an 11-year-old managed to write an entire funny little story in the 30 minutes!).

As for the wealth of gorgeous, dragonish love you wrote Friday, I’m going to reserve my comments for Friday, when it’s my turn to say thanks. Remember we’ve a grand finale party this Friday (Dec 11) with Flashversary: mugs, posters, books, and all kinds of magnificent prizes at stake. I hope you’ll come back to write one last time. ♥ 

Tomorrow is our final global #Spotlight, this time featuring the lovely F.E. Clark from Scotland. Be sure to join us! Haggis optional. 

Last for today: an enormous round of thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy and A.J. Walker. I’ve loved this pairing: Voima’s poetic spirit, A.J.’s tongue-in-cheekiness (and Catherine’s faithful blinding of the tales–thank you too!). Your thoughtful choices, your funny and poignant comments, your cheery spirits, your enthusiasm, every bit of it. And especially to A.J. who, I think, may have given me more dragons than anyone. Thankful til I die? Oh yes. And beyond. ♥♥♥  


Up first: Flash Dash results!!! love the frenetic world of Flash Dash, getting a little peek at how brains work, how stories are born. Your stories were sheer delight, and yes, some fantastic creativity, everything from genies to werewolves. A literary buffet, y’all. Thanks to all of you!

Special mention first up for 11-year-old Crystal Alden, who defied the time limitations and wrote a creative, cheeky story with a strong start and hilarious finish. Great job, Crystal — you had me laughing aloud. Read her story here.

⇒⇒ The winner of the $20 Flash Dash Cash prize is

Nancy Chenier

Strong voice, spot-on pacing, and OH MY LANDS what a last line, executed with perfection. You’ve earned this one, baby. Watch your inbox for details on how to get your loot. Congratulations! And everyone: read her winning story here.


Now for the final regular round of Flash! Friday! Here are Dragon Team Eight’s final comments:   

V — Thank you for all your great stories. Epic and  intimate, tragic and funny and brave — each unique and special.  It has been an honor and a privilege and so much fun to be part of this Flash! Friday community. To come together, to share  stories is  a remarkable thing. It takes tremendous amount of time and effort to make this place, this creative space.  Thank you, Rebekah, for everything. 

And I could not ask for a better co-judge than AJ. Your sense of humor and positive spirit is a delight–not to mention your own amazing talent.  Thank you, AJ for making Dragon Team 8 great. Thank you, Catherine, for sending us the stories. We could not do this without you. You are an essential member of Dragon Team 8! 

With the closing of MicroBookends, and Three Line Thursday on hiatus, we bid farewell  to other inspiring places for very short poems and stories. Thank you, David and Grace, for all your hard work. Thursdays and Fridays will be different now. 

These are very special places–here, we can come together. To me, the comments from other writers are part of the appeal of Flash! Friday, Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends.  People feel free to interact, encourage each other, appreciate a good line, or a fantastic ending.  This means so much to a writer, especially a writer who is just starting, or beginning again, this thing that we all do.  

Friendships have been forged here. Lives have been changed here. Writers have been born and grown here. 

The community continues to grow and change, inspired by each other.  We know writing can be a lonely business. Life can be demanding, and sometimes it seems impossible to write at all. Yet we need imagination and stories more than ever. We need possibilities. We need to imagine better futures.  We will write on, I do believe this. And we are not alone.

AJW — When #Team8 were put together all those months ago and the schedule set down, little did we know that we’d end up judging the last of the regular Flash! Friday challenges. It has been an honour to serve our most lovely Mother of Dragons, Rebekah. We’ve all enjoyed the anticipation in seeing what photograph, what phrase or book was to be our touchstone each Friday. Sometimes they floated our boat, sometimes they went up in flames. But always there would be fireworks somewhere, somehow, and Fridays won’t be the same without it. I have sent a personal message to Rebekah and so won’t get too schmaltzy here, but needless to say she has been a star and can be justly proud with what she created here.

This week’s stories have been smothered in thick gloopy love and affection for this special place and the keeper of the keys. The ‘beautiful girl who lived here’ turned out to be Rebekah, and she was either a resplendent dragon herself or very close mates with one (or at least an egg).  

To Voimaoy — THANK YOU!  For your patience and understanding. And being an all-round great judging partner. It has been a true pleasure. and I think we have worked well together. Cheers  x.   Thanks as ever to Catherine for forwarding the stories to us so we could judge them blind. Thanks too to everyone who entered this week – I trust that you have all mopped up the tears from your keyboards and that none of your computers exploded into flame from tear damage (I’m sure insurance for tear damaged electronics is impossible to get – more chance of getting Dragon Cover).

After toying for a millisecond with the idea of making everyone a winner, that was discounted for being a cop out; someone deserves the last badge after all. It was a really tough call picking the top ten or so and then drilling down to the winner, but we have. So, without further ado, here’s our call:



Chris Milam, “Table for One.” A bite of reality

Karl A. Russell, “The Girl and the Egg.” A door, an eggshell, magic!  

Bart Van Goethem, “Rebirth.” Refreshingly unsentimental–with a wonderful one-word ending.



Carin Marais, “Arad’s Dragon.” V – A beautiful story of friendship — the epic economy of flash

Bill Engleson, “Thanks Stan.” AJ – Hey, I like humour, and this one made me laugh. Snappy dialogue. Simple idea. Not being allowed within 100 yards of a maiden again. Poor lamb. Thanks for the laugh!   

Stella Turner, “Sins of the Flesh.” V – Dark, dark, humour–Love this take and the turns of phrase–“sliced bread, butter knife”…and “caught devouring bacon” 

Jennifer Terry, “#TimelessBeauty.” AJ – Loved the emotion in this piece. Getting old gracefully, perhaps not confident in oneself, then a nice uplifting end. And of course I’m a big Twitter fan so it needs a mention (Twitter has been great for us writers, hasn’t it?) #uplifting 

Geoff Holme, “Aubade.” V – Although a late entry, this deserves mention for a lovely tribute–Aubade is a song of parting, and greeting a new dawn.



Craig Anderson, “Mother of Dragons.”

V — This one had me in tears.  It is heartfelt and beautiful in its simplicity–“The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free” to “How magnificent they are.”   This is a testament to the economy and power of flash. Wonderful and generous writing. 

AJW – ‘The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free.’ Well, that first line says it all doesn’t it? Like so many of the stories this week the heart is well and truly on its sleeve, on a badge, on the T-Shirt and in bright flashing neon, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Bookended (don’t get me started on Microbookends please) by last line; ‘I gave them wings, now they must fly,’ it is an instruction. Or at least a call to try. You’ve all got an extra hour or so on Fridays from now on; see what you can do with it…

Graham Milne, “The Auction.” 

AJW – Lovely idea, perfectly written. Who’d have thought dragons could have had their teeth pulled and fire put out by Capitalism? Picturing the once-proud beast with paddle No.68 having to bid for their supper/maiden is a super/supper idea. ‘Faded scales that once glittered’ perfectly encapsulating the idea. 

V — I agree with AJ: it is a sad commentary on Capitalism and the current state of affairs in this materialistic world. It  is so well done, and I love the take on “dragons bidding”  too!  We need magic and humor more than ever.

Steph Ellis, “Legacy

AJW – If someone can sort out the music, it could become an anthem for the FlashDogs and the ‘brothers and sisters’ we’ve found through writing here at FFF. Some powerful phrases and another call to arms/pens. I especially liked ‘‘take their fire, and burn down the battlements, breach the closed doors, of literati’s elite.” I’m feeling emboldened just repeating it!  And yes, we do see “the Dragon horde gather.’ 

Stirring stuff – get out those power chords!  

V – Forged in a “volcanic nursery” out of the “monotonous monochrome of the safe and the known” — these are   powerful and moving  words. This is an anthem, and a manifesto. Write on!




The Imaginator, “A Beautiful Girl Lived Here” 

AJW – Who doesn’t like a bouncing bosom (or preferably two)? And I must say we don’t see enough corsets in Flash! so thanks for that. Seriously, a well-crafted story. I liked with the simple use of ‘pon and ‘neath to give us an idea of the time of the setting (although maybe it could be contemporary Morecambe?). The description of the woman ‘a force of nature’ and the effect she had on both the menfolk and the women was very visual. I could picture the scene perfectly, even through to the unfortunate end and the ‘entrails on the moonlit cobblestones.’ 

V — I couldn’t agree more. This story reads like a folktale, and it’s as visual as a movie (a classic Hammer film, perhaps?). A “force of nature” indeed. and what a powerful ending!


Image Ronin, “The Subject.” 

AJW – A neat original take with so few words to play with (I think it could make an excellent longer piece) it brilliantly shows Rebekah’s realisation of what she was and what she’d done. I loved the dawning of reality as she sees her eyes in the reflection in a shard of glass and then her ‘fingers becoming talons’.   The use of the font change to end the story was simple and perfect. Well done.

V –  The writing throughout is stunning in  economy  and confidence–“the truth of what she was, of what she’d done”.  And the final word –the Greek letters for “Dragon.”  Yes!  Powerful and fierce and beautiful.  This one is for the Dragon Queen.

And now: for her very first time (no, this couldn’t be more perfect; yes, I cried when I saw her name), it’s this week’s 




“Through Lettered Lands

AJW – Time for more olde powere chords? Maybe not. An almost perfect piece (I’m overlooking the added apostrophe (damn autocorrect) – sorry Geoff) and a fitting winner for the last of the regular FF. It perfectly presents us – the writers – from simply ‘writ(ing) a sentence on entering’  through to the creation of entire worlds yet to be mapped, and presenting the writer as an explorer: Lovely. The third stanza in particular stood out for me: ‘Take care little wanderer, they told me -/ once hunted, few care to return from/ the beauty of script scribbled in spaces/ blank, ‘til creation begins.’ A fitting epitaph. Don’t you think?

V — It is an epitaph, an epic poem–but most of all it is a story — our story — it beautifully describes the writer’s journey from initial hesitance to curiosity, and on into ever-expanding lands and worlds into the uncharted unknown—

“It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me 
take it wherever you go
its end starting whole new beginnings…
Explorers seek it, perpetual”  

In the as-yet unwritten future — “All write upon entering — Here Be Dragons.”  

Beautifully done!  

Congratulations, Catherine! I can’t imagine a more perfect writer nor more perfect story to take the very last Flash! Friday dragon crown. Here’s your lovely, brand new winner’s page; apologies for the tear stains. Watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
it’s end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.


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.  


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.



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.



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.


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.


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!


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 




“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.