Tag Archive | @Voimaoy

Sixty Seconds with: Josh Bertetta

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Josh Bertetta. Be sure to check out his bio at his winner’s page! Read his winning story here, then take one minute to get to know him better.

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?  Writer’s block. Instead of pushing through it, I went with it and wrote from there.

2) How long have you been writing flash? Since about late July/early August 2014.

3) What do you like about writing flash? The wide ranging possibilities and writing a story that leaves a lot to the readers imagination within a small space.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers? Shoot from the hip and don’t censor yourself.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? Voima Oy. I feel her pieces are written from a place of kindness and gentleness. Moving, thought provoking stories.

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which? Angry Hourglass (Flash Frenzy)—(if anyone has recommendations for others, please let me know). {Editor’s Note: Ohhh, delicious loads of them! Look here. Two brand new ones starting tomorrow.}

7) What other forms do you write (novels, poetry, articles, etc)? A novel, essays on mythology, religion/spirituality, culture, and my first screenplay (a short) is close to production.

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? No favorite. Looking forward to maybe one day branch out from what I already write in–fantasy.

9) Tell us about a WIP.  Currently seeking literary representation for my novel, an international epic literary fantasy grounded in history, rooted in myth.

10) How do you feel about dragons? European dragons just want someone to talk to. Chinese dragons are better than any roller coaster.

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.        


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.  




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.



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.


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.


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 





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:


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.





Sixty Seconds III with: Karl A. Russell

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Karl A Russell.  (Again!) Read his winning story here. Note that this is his third win: read his first #SixtySeconds interview (from Dec 2013) here, and his second interview (from two weeks ago) here. As this is his third win at Flash! Friday, we’re going a bit more in depth than usual. Have a blast getting to know him a bit better today!

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning story? 

This was one of the weirder ones, where my ideas bounced about all day until what I finally wrote bore no relation to my first thoughts. Initially, it was just going to be a father watching his clumsy daughter and somehow not seeing the faults and failures that everyone else saw (all together now, “aww…”). That turned into the clumsy kid’s internal monologue, believing herself to be a perfect gymnast when she’s anything but (much closer to my meta-biographical stuff, where a thinly-veiled protagonist offers commentary on my own thoughts and fears about writing, life, dragons etc…). Then I suddenly jumped forwards a few years and saw that same kid all grown up, and I knew where that total self-belief would get her. And I wanted to test my new tablet, so I sat in the garden, wrote a couple of hundred words, then cut back till it came in under the word count (true fact: I generally wind up with around 25% more words than I’m allowed for any contest).

2)  Tell us about the Halton Haven Hospice and your JustGiving project. What worked? What might you do differently next time? How are you marketing? How’s it going? 

I’ll be really honest here – I thought that I would struggle to hit my first target, which was £25 (about $40US). I just wanted to make a statement about this odd little secret life I was living, almost “coming out” as a writer, and I figured you couldn’t be a writer if you didn’t have a decent back catalogue to your name, so I had to put something together. I’d tested the waters, telling some colleagues I really trusted and letting them read some of my stuff and it didn’t go too badly (it’s pretty nerve wracking though, and really messes with the work dynamic – They think you’re the boss, all sensible and in control, and then you say, here’s a thing I wrote about being lost and alone and full of raw cat meat. Then you invite them to one-to-ones and when they only put down tentative acceptances you wonder if it’s because something you wrote on Saturday night is still echoing around on Wednesday morning. And then they fetch you a tin of cat meat and two spoons and ask if you want to share…).

So I put together a collection – quite badly, in a really basic format – so that I could say, here you go, I did this. But of course, I wrote all of these stories to put online for free. Even with the revisions and edits, I couldn’t see myself having the nerve to charge for it. If nothing else, it would drop the sales figures from a handful to maybe one test purchase by my sister-in-law to check you could see it overseas (she lives in Canada – Hi Abbe!). But JustGiving gave me the perfect excuse – I’m in awe of the great work they do at the Halton Haven and full of bleeding heart leftie rage at the way the government has cut their funding options and got them jumping through hoops for every penny they do get, and JustGiving allows people to set their own price for my stories.

The process itself was fairly straightforward – I printed all of my work from the last two years or so, spread them on the office floor when no-one else was in, then started to pick out the obvious Nos – Anything that didn’t work, anything that relied too heavily on photo or musical prompts etc. Then I weighed up what was left and threw out another fifteen that were too weak for inclusion or too close to a better story I was including. Then I just sorted what was left into a reasonable running order and added a beautiful cover by my good friend @craigsinclair. What I most enjoyed was seeing similarities in tone and plot between older work and more recent pieces, which suggests that I’ve got some sort of thematic constancy in my work. Although what I didn’t enjoy so much was seeing similarities in tone and plot between older work and more recent pieces, which suggests that I’ve run out of ideas already…

And somehow, despite my obviously woeful attempts at “selling” my talents, I burned through that initial target very quickly, to the point where I raised it to £50, £100, then £150. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s no longer the total embarrassment I was expecting. 

3) What’s your biggest writerly pet peeve? 

In my own work, I get annoyed when I look back and see things that I could have done better, made more of, or which plain don’t work. It’s mostly not pushing myself enough; if I went back to rewrite my old Flash!Friday entries, at least half of them would be unrecognisable now – I went through three distinct ideas for this week’s story, but there have been weeks when I’ve stuck with the second or even the first idea I had, and it’s suffered as a result.

In others, it’s less about writers and more about the mechanics surrounding them, the questions of genre and marketing. They may be necessary evils, especially when we’re competing for an ever more limited slice of the reader’s time, but I worry that they are actually getting in the way. I remember reading Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward when it first came out (oh dear, far too many years ago), and not having a clue where it was going next because it was so gleefully imaginative and free. Now, if you can’t capture a reader in a one line pitch and a three page Amazon preview, you’ll never get them.

That’s why places like Flash! Friday are so important – There’s nothing about genre or style in the prompts, and I know that people will read my stories without me having to introduce them, “here is my historical fiction, this is an SF love story, don’t read this if you only like happy endings” etc.

4) Would you say your flash writing has changed/grown in the past months? If so, how? What have you learned?

I judge every couple of months at The Angry Hourglass (@LadyHazmat’s home-grown Flash contest) and I’ve learned so much from trying to work out and replicate what I enjoy in other writers’ work. I see things that I would never have attempted before – @Voimaoy’s work is lyrical and poetic, @BartVanGoethem’s ultra-short stories are as powerful as any thousand word tale, @TinmanDoneBadly is a master of the humorous aside and @Blukris can do raw brutality like no-one else – and then I get to try and work it into my own writing. I’ve done stories without dialogue, some which are nothing but dialogue, some really cold and brutal pieces and some that are warm and fuzzy and even have jokes and happy endings, and it’s all down to seeing my peers stretching at the boundaries and showing what’s possible: Everything.

5) Nods to other writers/contests/communities?

As well as the aforementioned Angry Hourglass, @Beth_Deitchman and @EmilyJuneStreet have a new contest running every Thursday at Luminous Creatures Press, @Paragraphplanet publishes a new 75 word story every day, and @nembow publishes stories up to 1000 words at her site 1000words.org.uk. I’ve made appearances at all of them and found them to be friendly, supportive and great fun, and if you start looking at the other names there, you’ll find a lot of the Flash! Friday team turning up…

6) Final thoughts?

Really, just something that I normally forget about in these things when I’m busy making myself sound far more impressive than I am in real life or giving shout-outs to my ace circle of writer pals, and that’s to say thanks to you; It can’t be easy corralling flash writers and wrangling prompts, but you do it every week without fail, and you do it with a smile. It’s great having an outlet for all the weirdness and words, and if it wasn’t for places like Flash! Friday, I’d probably be hunkered down somewhere scribbling my manifesto for a better tomorrow and fashioning a range of fetching tinfoil headgear, so on behalf of all mankind, I just want to say thanks and hail to the dragon!  {{Editor’s Note: :blushing: Thank you! Writers like you are the very heart of Flash! Friday.}}