Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Seven Winners

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We saved this image for Week Seven because it was so magical, and everyone knows that seven is the most magical number. We also knew Christian’s photo of Barrio Alto in Lisbon would inspire great stories—and we were not disappointed. This week might have been the best yet! It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of submissions over the course of this contest—it seems like you regular submitters began to notice our judging preference for a novelistic style and adjusted your writing accordingly.

This was one of the reasons we wanted to do an anthology contest (we didn’t tell you): we wanted to honor tightly crafted stories that followed a true narrative arc. This means we did not weigh some other elements so highly—though next time around we might be looking for a different secret approach, so keep your toolboxes open and don’t toss away your descriptive poetics too quickly.

We plan to host three competitions next year—Spring, Summer, and Fall—each one with different parameters and outcomes. We’ll keep you posted as our spring contest approaches.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted a story in any week. It has been a pleasure to read the fruits of your imaginations. Keep it up!

First off, we have an exciting announcement:

We decided to include Catherine Connolly’s story from last week, Their Guardian Generals, into our anthology. Catherine did a great revision on this story, and we think you’ll love to read it in its latest incarnation. It will be the fourth story associated with the image Totem in the collection. Welcome, Catherine!

And this week’s anthology winners:

Similitude by David Shakes

This dark story sat with us for a while after reading. Beginning with a splash of vibrant colors, David painted a scene in vivid detail. Against the cracked blues and radiant golds, he gives us a moment of beautiful simplicity: “A last shopper stares hopefully at some overpriced antiquities but her husband has buried his hands in his pockets and is heading back to their hotel.” His last line chills us to the bone.

The Jeweled City by Holly Geely

Holly offered a fresh take on the theme of magic, opting to explore the metaphorical nature of belief and hope rather than the more overt fantasy genre story. The result was a meaningful meditation on the power of one’s choices. Nothing is easy in this story, and the final line beautifully sums up an uneasy truth about magic.

Torrent of Gold by Nancy Chenier

We pretty much knew this story belonged to Nancy Chenier even though we were reading blind. Her distinctive polished style is easy to recognize, and we always know she’s going to give as a good story, complete with plot elements and characters we care about. In this case, she also gives us a fair dose of language as exciting as the colors in the photo. Delicious verbs describe the action–legs wobble, grips gnarl, and golden ichor oozes. Striking images abound: a wild-haired mermaid of a girl swimming in a supernatural sea. The twist at the story’s end startles and horrifies.

Colourful Talents by Catherine Connolly

Catherine surprised us with this fantasy tale evoking Czarist Russia. We felt deeply for her heroine set to work on a magical task that would sap her—the Creatures love a female protagonist brought in to save the world’s colors, not to mention the time-honored fantasy theme that every magic has a cost. We think Catherine should use this idea to create a story of longer length. A novella, perhaps?

This concludes our winter flash fiction session. Join us again in 2015 for more. Thank you to everyone for making the contest so much fun. Stay tuned for details about the release of Five Hundred Words of Magic, the anthology collected from this contest.

–In appreciation, The Creatures.

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Seven

It’s our last week of magic. Today we have an evocative image by Christian Miller to inspire your stories. Remember, stories considered for the anthology will have some element or exploration of magic in them and be 500 words or less. Read the complete contest rules here. In honor of this being our final week of the contest, we are extending the deadline for story submissions to 7 am Sunday, 12/21, the beginning of the winter solstice. Submit your stories in the reply section of this post and enjoy! We highly recommend clicking on the picture below to see it in better resolution.

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Their Guardian Generals by Catherine Connolly

Bong hears the chuckle begin and scoops Chin up, holding her close as she runs. Luckily, they are yards away from the group of pillars rising tall at the edge of the trees, no more. Several quick steps and they are beyond their boundaries and amongst the whittled wooden bodies. Bong holds Chin’s hand, as she traces the edges of the Great General and his black inscriptions with her nails. He doesn’t seem to mind. His laugh, at least, is still loud, above that of the others; his mouth wide and gaping, as he mocks into their masses before him.

It is a night since they last laughed. Though she, at least, has heard them again. Eun. Hwan. So many more. Far too many. “Hold tight to the General,” Bong says, as she turns towards the lamps. Darkness is descending into their light – testing their warriors where they stand. “Turn away and keep him at your back,” Bong says, voice firm. “No peeking now! You know what you’ve been told?” Bong exchanges a glance with Suk, who sits cross-legged nearby – back already turned, before his eyes dart away. She thinks she sees him close them, before he presses his hands tightly to his ears.

Chin sighs before obeying. “But I want to see!”

“No,” Bong says. “You don’t. You’re on a promise now. No turning ‘til they’re gone and the Generals have sent them away. You remember what we’ve said before?” Chin pauses, then nods. “Now. Cover your ears. I’ll tell you when it’s safe. You trust me, don’t you? We’ve been okay to now?” Chin’s eyes look into Bong’s, as her head moves up and down. “So – hold faith with your favourite General.” Bong puts an arm around her; holding her to her side, whilst she keeps contact with their guardian.

There are twelve of them here, sitting, together – waiting for the noise to cease, though it is welcome, too, whilst it lasts. Perhaps others in the areas east, south and west. Perhaps not so many. Bong reaches her other hand towards Suk. It quests into air. Glancing sideways, not backwards – ever – she sees only unoccupied space. A flattened patch of green where his body had been. It is warm to the touch. Bong’s eyes are suddenly swimming. She closes them briefly; breathes in, then out, before opening them and keeping them trained on Chin. Their laughter is long, tonight – though she hasn’t kept count of the timing.

It takes Bong a moment to realise the din is no longer deafening her and that Chin is tugging at her hand; on both knees now. “Where’s Suk?” she demands. “He was there, wasn’t he? With us?”

“He couldn’t keep his promise to the guardians,” Bong tells her. “He had to see. Once he had, he had to go with them. The Whatevers. Wherever. He can’t come back. Like the others, remember?” Chin nods vigorously; mouth trembling. They will add again to the stone pillars beyond the wooden whittled bodies tonight.

Follow Catherine Connolly on Twitter: @FallIntoFiction or on her blog: http://www.fallintofiction.blogspot.co.uk/

WWW Week Six Winners

Thanks to all of you who took time from your busy weekends to post, taking advantage of our special alert! Our photo prompt this week showed a sculpture by Colorado artist Jerry Wingren. Born in Alaska with Scandinavian heritage (well spotted, Mark A. King!), Wingren creates sculptures that play with the forms of native Alaskan peoples’ traditional totem poles. In their element his works soar through skies, float nebulously above mountains, or stand like monoliths against passing time. We were eager to see what you made of this one. See more of Wingren’s work here.

Honorable Mention: Their Guardian Generals by Catherine Connolly

After our first read, both of us Luminous Creatures said to each other: “What was that one about?” We were flummoxed until we read it several times and this story’s complexities began to reveal themselves. Catherine created a richly-layered world based on an arcane mythology with an undercurrent of anxiety juxtaposed with laughter. We wanted to know more. This story interacted with our imaginations in loose and surprising ways—evoking images of China’s Terracotta Army and Korean shamanism, as well as harkening the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Anthology Winners:

Picture This by Holly Geely

Holly Geely opened with an interest-picquéing “No,” and we were hooked. In just a few well-chosen phrases she communicated a clearly drawn world with a full history. Taking a looser interpretation of the idea of magic, Holly won us over by framing it in real world terms. Every writer can probably relate to the poignant fancies of imagination in this story. We admired Holly’s vivid, taut writing.

Elle by Mark A. King

Scandinavian legend inspired Mark A. King’s image-rich story with a well-drawn and very dodgy main character. Color dots his narrative landscape with the “bruised aubergine sky,” hair like “strands of woven gold,” and “eyes more blue and pure than the glacial fjords.” Details of place made a believable but magical world: the frigid wasteland of Alaska, the stars a “bed of a million shiny nails.” And we couldn’t help but feel that shallow Clive came to a fitting end.

World is the World by Voima Oy

Voima Oy brings us to an entirely different world peopled by tall, beautiful, zen-like creatures. In this paradise of soft colors—pinks and purples—”orchids grow out of the snowfields,” and blossoms open “as pink as the sunlit clouds.” With great description and broad imagination, Voima evoked the shamanism of worlds old and new that was reflected in the final conclusion when our two leads were united and fused with the consciousness of the flowers.

Congratulations!

 

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Six

Welcome to Week Six. Today we offer you a photo prompt courtesy of Jerry Wingren of Boulder, Colorado. It is titled Totem.

Submit your stories of up to 500 words in the reply section of this post. Submissions are accepted up until 6pm PST on Saturday, December 13. Stories considered for the anthology will explore a theme, idea, character, or event related to magic. See complete contest rules here.

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Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Five Winners

What a long busy weekend it has been! What with the Flashdogs and Flashversary excitement, we’re surprised anyone managed to turn in stories. Our prompt photo this week showed one of Emily’s flying trapeze teachers falling to the net after releasing the trapeze bar. Enjoy this video of LCP’s own Emily June flying on a rig (yes, in a tutu) and fortunately NOT falling into the net:

 

And without further ado, our three anthology picks of the week are:

Salty Embrace, by Holly Geely:

Great character development lends humor to Holly Geely’s story—especially in the non-human Blue Moon as a mechanical Jeeves to Stewart’s alcoholic Wooster. Though the story has a clear arc and resolution, Geely gives us a revealing but open end, suggesting that perhaps Blue Moon’s wishes will come true.

Sideways, by A.J. Walker:

In A.J’s fine story, details such as the green and red walking socks, the fluttering jeans, and the yellow mustard stain work as close-ups, bringing us right into Samuel’s confusing world. Walker feeds us only as much information as Samuel has, so we share his disorientation. The clever conclusion gives us a satisfying but still surprising explanation for the story’s mysteries.

 Portents and Eventualities, by Nancy Chenier:

In her richly layered story, Nancy hints at a larger narrative, giving us a glimpse into a well-drawn world. She paints lovely images with delicious language: “apathetic stars,” “the earth shuddered with eventuality,” “eyes wide enough to reflect the moon.” Strong character motivations ground this story and give it meaning and complexity.

Congratulations to all and thanks again to all participants for giving us your stories week after week.