Tag Archive | weekly flash fiction contest

Sixty Seconds V with: Nancy Chenier

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)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Nancy Chenier, who in a fit of greedy dragonishness seized her FIFTH tiara this past week. Read her latest (and earlier) winning stories at her winner’s page here. Read her bio and previous interviews there while you’re at it. And now, in 500 (ish) words, please find her newest soul-spill, Flash! Friday style.

Requirements

* Up to 500 words
* In it you need to reveal 5 true things about yourself and 5 invented things 
* You’ve got 5 prompt words/phrases that you must include: flash, fiction, champion, writer, green dragon of envy
* Starting sentence: “Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here.”

♦♦♦

Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here, lost in the enchanted woods without a tale to follow out again.

I can smell the candy house from here, but such sweetness holds no seduction for me. Gingerbread might as well be plaster. Those candy canes can just remain as fence posts, thank you very much. I mean really. Who do you hope to lure with them?

I could do with a bit of rye crust, though, to breadcrumb my way through the bracken.

Over there, see? The baleful yellow eyes aren’t scouring the shadows for me. My jacket may have a splash of scarlet on it, but he’s lurking for redder treasures. I can’t tell if my long exhale is a sigh of relief or a hiss from the green dragon of envy—with writers of late, the wolf’s malevolence is part of his appeal. 

On an optimistic note, I have nothing to fear from the scowling and groaning trunks. The lass they seek to reproach has already stumbled over their rude roots and lost silk on their snatching branches. At least she has come out the other side. I’m sure Prince Charming appreciates the homemaker practice she got at the dwarves’ residence. Princesses tend to be useless on the domestic front—at least we have that in common.

Thundering hooves stir the ground beneath my feet, but that’s just another noble-son-and-retinue off to champion another cursed kingdom — neither of which has anything to do with me. From the echo of the clarions, I’d say they’re taking on the taiga hag. Yeah, good luck with that.

I tried to enlist the help of a dashing ranger (dashing enough to make me forget about naughty wolves). But he was in a hurry to take part in another ring cycle, and the look in his devastatingly aquamarine eyes told me the fellowship didn’t have much use for gals, let alone for a middle-aged one who lacked a certain elven litheness (curse those early fantasy writers!). Not to be put off by a technicality (did I mention the chiseled-jaw?), I hastened after him. But, alas, his strides outpaced mine.

Darkness descends around me and still no tale presents itself to lead ol’ anti-hero me out of this interview-fiction. The word count nears its limit. The deadline looms. 

The sticky scent of lollipops tickles my nostrils. Ah! A flash of inspiration in the night. I smell/gag my way to the cloying cottage. While the witch is arguing with some girl over the temperature of the oven, I break off a gingersnap shutter.

It’s not rye, but it should keep me from repeating my steps.

♦♦♦

Lies and Truths:

–Can’t stand candy canes, but I rather like gingerbread.

–On the domestic front: I HATE housework, but I’m an excellent cook.

–Technically, I am middle-aged, but I intend to live to be 120 years old, so I still have a ways to go. I’m not at all frumpy.

–I’ve had a crush on Aragorn ever since reading the LOTR in middle school (long before Viggo only intensified it). Only I prefer him as Strider (then and now).  However, there is no way he would have outpaced me.

–Darkness did descend Tuesday night as I tried to finish this: power outage, a pole fell just down the street.

–I didn’t get inspired in the night. That ending happened just now and there is still light in the sky.

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Sixty Seconds V with: Michael Seese

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)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Michael Seese, who’s (no surprise!!) joined the elite crew of writers to have won Flash! Friday FIVE times. Read his winning story at his winner’s page here. Read his bio and previous interviews there too. And now, in 500 (ish) words, please find his interview, Flash! Friday style.

Requirements

* Up to 500 words
* In it you need to reveal 5 true things about yourself and 5 invented things 
* You’ve got 5 prompt words/phrases that you must include: flash, fiction, champion, writer, green dragon of envy
* Starting sentence: “Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here.”

♦♦♦

Her Lover
576 words (so sue me) *Editor’s Note: Don’t leave town.*

Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here. After all, it’s where I lost myself. And found him.

In hindsight, I suppose I must have looked like the easiest mark in the world. A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)

His come-on was so smooth.

“I will take you to places you’ve never seen, but only dreamed of.”

How I wish the good angel hadn’t gotten sloshed and slipped from my shoulder an hour ago. If she were still there, she would have screamed in my ear, reminding me of the various realities germane to my life.

You’re married. Happily. You have three kids. Three kids who often drive you insane, yet melt your heart when they ask you to lie in bed with them every night.

I should have said “No.” Correction. I should have said “No, god damn it!”

But I didn’t.

He was so smooth. So seductive. Impulse took over. I took him home.

I knew the children would be asleep, as would Grandma, who had come over watch them so I could get an evening to myself while my husband was out of town on business.

It was so…

Blissful.

Heavenly.

I didn’t want it to end, and fought to stay awake just one more minute to revel in the pleasure. But the Sandman had other ideas as he dragged me kicking and screaming from my lover.

In the morning, he was gone and I realized I had fucked up royally. I vowed to never see him again. But…

I found myself wanting him again. The sane me would would have said it was more the thrill than anything. I simply couldn’t get enough. If my husband fell asleep early, I would have him, quietly, in the basement rec room. Sometimes I’d call into work sick, and enjoy an all-day orgy of pleasure. I even tried to connive a way to hook up with him at some point during our family vacation to Florida. (Take that, Mickey!) That plan fell through, and instead I spent a week on pins and needles.

Eventually I told my best friend about the affair. Secretly, I hoped she’d smack some sense into me. She tried.

“You’re an idiot!” she said, morphing into a green dragon of envy, breathing fire and spitting venom. Ella never was one to mince words.

But I refused to listen. (What’s that expression about leading a horse to water?) I told her she was being naive. That she didn’t understand. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t know how he made me feel. She couldn’t know that when I was with him, I could do anything. Skate like an Olympic champion. Pen words like a great writer. (Admittedly, since he came into my world my ability to craft fiction had to improve dramatically.)

I thought I was being so clever. But apparently I didn’t cover my tracks as well as I’d thought. It all came crashing down. In a flash I lost it all. My dignity. My husband. My children.

My life.

So here I am, back where it all started. Alone. Anxious. Sweating. Unable to sleep. The candlelight dances in my eyes as I search for a willing vein.

A spoon is a lot deeper than one might think. The funny thing is, I don’t mind drowning in it.

Because I know he’ll be there, waiting for me at the bottom.

♣♣♣

The lies:

“A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)”

Actually, I’m tall, with hazel eyes and light brown hair. And even if I were blond, I would not be a blonde. And I hate Coke. (For the record, I suppose I also should state I’ve never done heroin.)

The truths:

I am married. Happily. I do have three kids. The rest of the paragraph pretty much holds as well.

Sixty Seconds IV with: Michael Seese

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)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Michael Seese, who joins the four others (Maggie Duncan, Karl Russell, Betsy Streeter, Phil Coltrane) who have won FF four times. Read his winning story here. Read his bio and previous interviews here. And now join me for a very fun minute or two for an even deeper look (he’s allowed extra words; he’s earned them!). 

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning story? For a while, I was having trouble coming up with stories that really satisfied me. And I recognized that I was focusing on the verbal prompt (so in this case, the Catch-22) rather than the photo. I realized I had gotten better results in the past when I wrote about how the photo made me feel.

I started with the opening line as posted.  The next thing I wrote was “She tries to speak. But terror owns her voice.” (More on that later.) At this point, I think the narrator was a bad guy… the menace. And I knew I didn’t want that because it was too easy. Thinking about him sticking his arm through the hole made me remember the catching-a-monkey story. (Which allegedly works.) So then I thought, “OK, if he can grab the key, but not get it out, then he’s not in charge.” Boom! The “slithery baritone” was born, and the rest fell into place.

2) Your last win was in September. Please update us–what’s happened in your writerly life these past 7+ months? What’s your take on winning/not winning contests like this one–what would you say to writers who are new to flash or struggling with winning? 

Seven months? You had to remind me.

In that time, I’ve been working on a few new projects (see question #4) and submitting short stories. I’ve had some good luck with the latter. At the risk of being a blog-whore, it’s easier to point you to my bibliography, rather than list them.

My take on winning is that it’s so gratifying, because the competition (here especially) is so tough. My advice is to keep doing it. The thing to remember is that the judges are people, with their own tastes and preferences. (And I TOTALLY prefer this method of judging, rather than something like Internet voting.) So you might write a kick-ass story, but it doesn’t resonate with the judges that week. Nonetheless, you can learn something from each of them by reading their comments on the winners (that includes the runners-up and HMs) and then seeing how their thoughts relate back to the stories. Keep trying. Keep improving.

3) Last count, you’ve got four books out. How’s the marketing life? What have you learned (not) to do? How would you advise others? 

Marketing sucks. That’s why they invented marketing majors, isn’t it? I recognize that if I ever sign a contract with WHEN I sign a contract with one of the big houses, I’ll still need to market my book. And it will still suck. Speaking of marketing…

I’m still shilling my long short story / short novella Rebecca’s Fall From  So today (Thursday) and tomorrow it will be FREE on Amazon. And nothing would make me happier than to have you all download a copy, read it, and share your honest feedback. That’s not true… nothing would make me happier than winning the Mega-Millions. But this is a close second.

4) What are you working on now? What have you learned from having written/published four books that you’re applying this round? How would you advise others? 

My three current projects (aside from the occasional short story) are:

1. A fairy tale / spy thriller mashup. I can’t go into any other detail. Right now it’s about 19,000 words.
2. A romance novel. Yes, the kind that has Fabio and a bustier-clad woman on the cover. Just because I think it would be funny. A little over 8,000 words to date.
3. A play for this contest.

5) In a previous interview, you said you eventually realized flash fiction still needs to tell a complete story, and how powerful the “Sixth Sense” type twist ending can be. Is this still where you’re at, or has your approach to flash changed?

My approach really hasn’t changed, other than the aforementioned focus on the photo first. I hate to call it formulaic, but with shorter flash (as opposed to, say, 500-word flash) it is. Come up with a good, compelling story. Throw in a few neat turns of the phrase. So for this last one, I liked “terror owns her voice” and “fingertip finds metal.” Then craft an ending that… they don’t have to be the “Sixth Sense” endings that I prefer. But you don’t want you reader saying, “I saw that coming from the first paragraph.”

Having said all that, there are a few folks here — Tamara and Josh come to mind — who write stuff that is WAY outside the box. And it’s awesome. And it wins.

6) Belong to any IRL writers’ groups? how about online groups? I would love to. But between the day job and three kids, I barely have enough time to brush my teeth. (I know, too much information.)

7) How can one grow/improve as a writer?

My two bits of advice are:

1. It’s cliche, but always carry a pen and notepad with you. (Or get a voice recorder app for your phone and, if you want to be REALLY cool, Dragon Voice software, which transcribes it.) I can’t tell you how many times I think, “Ooh, that’s a good sentence for my current WIP.” And then I start writing, and find that sentence has turned into 10 or 15.

2. Always write, and don’t be afraid to write “bad.” There are plenty of times I start to write, and I realize I don’t “have it” that day. I keep writing nonetheless. Even if it’s crap, I’m moving the plot forward. I can always fix it later.

8) If you won a writerly grant, what would you spend the money on, and why?

A year away from my kids, so I could actually WRITE. (Did I say that out loud?) No, I really couldn’t say that, because my family does come first. So I guess I’d put the money in their college funds. (And maybe buy a Microsoft Surface, so I could more easily jot down ideas anywhere.)

9) What are you reading these days? Primarily Goodnight Moon, Fancy Nancy, and the I Survived series. I hear they make books for grownups, too.

10) Any shouts out? Which writers inspire you?

I hate to omit any of my fellow flashers. (OK, that sounds SO wrong.) Aside from Josh and Tamara, I’m always an impressed with what I see from Foy, Nancy, Margaret, and Stella.  And, of course the judges’ work as contestants.

As a final note, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to:

– The judges. I can’t even imagine the effort involved in reading and rating all this quality work.

– My fellow writers. I’m a better writer each week simply because I have to work that much harder to kick y’all’s butts.
– And Rebekah, of course, whose selfless dedication makes this wonderful community possible.