Monthly Archives: July 2015

Week Four Judge: Margaret Locke

Experienced Flash Fictioneer Margaret Locke will be the arbiter of this week’s contest. You may know Margaret from Flash! Friday, where she contributes regularly and has judged in the past. You also may know her as the author of the fab contemporary romance A Man of Character, which came out earlier this year.


A former doctoral student in medieval history turned stay-at-home-mom, Margaret is a self-proclaimed bookworm and a lover of romance novels. Keep an eye out for more books from Margaret in the romance genre!

As far as flash stories go, Margaret says, “I love sumptuous language, witty word play, finesse with language … and a story that evokes an emotional response in me. Humor is always appreciated, but anything that makes me feel, makes me want to keep reading, makes me go ‘Yes!’, makes me happy.”

She cautions that violence or graphic language will only be appreciated if necessary to the story’s context.



Summer of Super Short Stories Week Three

Welcome to our third week of summer flash fiction. This week judge Tamara Shoemaker, author of Kindle the Flame and Soul Survivor, is presiding over the proceedings. If you’d like to know her views on stories and content, you can read more here.

Below you will find a photo prompt and a line prompt. Use the picture to inspire you. The line prompt must be included somewhere in your story of 350 words or less. You can see a larger version of the picture by clicking on it.

Submit your story or stories (up to two) in the reply section to this post no later than Saturday at 6pm PST. Please include word count and Twitter handle/email/other identifiers at the beginning of the story. Winners will be announced next Tuesday. Please see our Contest Rules for more information.


And here are your prompts!

Use this four word phrase in any part of your story:

“The truth is complicated

Crossed Fingers II

Image credit: Crossed Fingers II by Katie Tegtmeyer  flickr CC 2.0
Image has not been altered from its original form.


Eurydice, by AV Laidlaw

I followed her into death. I followed the rocky pathways into Hades where the mist twisted into the shades of the dead watching me from the gloom in silence. But I wanted more than silence. I wanted to sing and play music again, my voice echoing through our house as she closed her eyes and smiled. Music was life to me and without it our house had become as lifeless as her tomb.

She stood on the river bank, under a thorny tree with branches like dark bones, and did not recognise me. The old oracle had warned me of this – that the dead have no memories of the living just as the living only have memories of the dead. When I put my hand on hers, it felt as cold as it had when I found her with two red marks of a viper bite on her ankle. “We’ll have music again,” I said and despite the oracle’s warning I believe she smiled.

I unhitched the rope from my belt and knotted it around her wrist. Then I tugged it gently and led her back along the paths. The oracle had also warned me not to glance back at her as we fled. So I looked ahead and felt for the tightness of the rope and listened for her faint footsteps on the dust as we climbed towards the shaft of sunlight that pierced the darkness.

“We will have music.”

As I stepped into the light, the rope snapped taut. Without thinking, I turned and saw her in the shadows, her eyes wide as if now she was about to step back into the light, she finally recognised me. Then she faded back into darkness and I was alone. The rope dropped to the ground where it lay on the grass coiled like a snake. It was the third warning the oracle had told me, the one ignored as I hurried out of the temple. Desire would not lead us through death, only love.

Here at the entrance to the underworld, the birds did not sing.

Follow AV Laidlaw on Twitter: @AVLaidlaw

Week Two Winners!

The results are in from guest judge Tiffany Aldrich MacBain!

Discount by Holly Geely: Humorous and quirky on the surface of things, with a disturbing under-layer of cynicism and unspoken violence.

Tying the Knot by Mark A. King: Lyrical and imaginative, with a sentence structure that alternates in such a way as to give a distinct sense of the character of the speaker.

“Assistant” by Tim Stevenson: A distinct, memorable character with a clearly delineated point of view. Vivid imagery and carefully refined focus.

Climbing to the Moon by Voima Oy: Reminiscent of a well-loved nursery rhyme in subject matter, mood, and arc. Dreamy and hopeful.

The Judgment of Solomon by Steph Ellis: A nice revision of the King Solomon story in which a marriage is not torn in two, but still sorrow abounds. Fresh focus on a child’s perspective and inversion of parental and children’s roles.

Third Place: Ship bored by M T Decker
This story builds tension by drawing upon the traditions of mutiny and lost-at-sea narratives. Within this genre, well-placed details have a chilling effect: the broken down ship, the high seas, bitter laughter, rope. Nothing good can come of that combination of elements. Of course, the action—the violence and horror—that we await does not quite come, but it doesn’t need to appear on the page. It’s already occurring in the imagination of the reader.

Second Place: Untitled by Stephanie Kelley
I read this entry a few times, each more slowly than the last. The story is poetic, really, in that it possesses the economy of language and even the line breaks that you’d find in a poem. And like a poem, it yields more upon a second (or third) read, like the depravity of an audience quick to judge the “pounders” but not themselves for their part in the spectacle, and the trained focus of the protagonist-narrator that both serves and, ultimately, fails him. The story works as a narrative, too—one focused upon human psychology.


Eurydice by A V Laidlaw:
In any retelling of a myth, an author must determine which meaning to privilege. In the case of Orpheus and Eurydice the central concern could be the tragedy of love twice lost or the rarity of the second chance. In this retelling, the author paints Orpheus as a man of two loves—music and Eurydice; because he desires one over the other, he loses them both. Is he punished—are they punished—because he chooses wrongly? Or are the gods so perverse as not to care? Either way, to read this short story is to feel the pain of loss and the futility of outliving it.


Congratulations MT, Stephanie, and AV! AV’s winning story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who participated and shared. And thank you to guest judge Tiffany Aldrich MacBain for presiding over this week’s contest. We will be back this Thursday with Week Three prompts, and we hope you will be, too! Week Three’s judge is prolific fiction writer, Tamara Shoemaker.

Week Three Judge: Tamara Shoemaker

Our week three judge is the prolific fiction and flash writer, Tamara Shoemaker. Tamara has several novels under her belt, piles of flash fiction awards decorating her shelves, and long experience judging for flash contests. Join us on Thursday for the opening of round three!

print author

She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three children, a few jars of Nutella, and a never-empty carafe of coffee. She authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy, Kindle the Flame, as well as the upcoming Guardian of the Vale trilogy, Mark of FourShades of Uprising, and Guardian of the Vale.

Tamara’s two latest fiction books are Soul Survivor, a dark, contemporary mystery, and Kindle the Flame, a fast-paced YA fantasy (with dragons.)

Kindle-the-Flame-Kindle Soul Survivor Color

Tamara had this to say about her story preferences:

“I enjoy stories that go beyond the first impulse, the thing everyone else will see when they look at the prompt. A story with layers of meaning, a story with a frame, a story that completely absorbs me and makes me forget that I’m reading will always capture and hold my attention.

With that in mind, do, please, proofread before submitting. It’s quite jarring to be adrift on a story before plummeting to earth with a “their” instead of a “they’re.” I’m a sucker for romance and fantasy, usually together, but as long as the story is well-crafted and typo-free, I’ll enjoy the journey with your characters in any genre. I’m not interested in reading stories with violence, sex, or profanity that is superfluous to the story’s theme. If those things are needed to move the story to where it needs to go, I will enjoy the craft.”

Follow Tamara on her blog:





Summer of Super Short Stories Week Two

Welcome to our second week of SSS 2! Below you will find a photo prompt and a line prompt. Use the picture to inspire you. The line prompt must be included somewhere in your story of 350 words or less. You can see a larger version of the picture by clicking on it.

Submit your story or stories (up to two) in the reply section to this post no later than Saturday at 6pm PST. Please include word count and Twitter handle/email/other identifiers at the beginning of the story. Winners will be announced next Tuesday. Please see our Contest Rules for more information.

***This week we have CONTENT RESTRICTIONS. Do not include MISOGYNY in your stories.***

Our Week Two judge, Tiffany Aldrich MacBain, has this to say:

“I read for a sense of completeness: are the details well chosen, and at the end of the story can I see why each is there, how it functions relative to the whole? I also like to be moved in some way: to look at or think about or feel about something in a way I hadn’t before.”

And her thoughts on grammar: “When grammar and sentence construction are at their best, the reader doesn’t notice them and gets lost in the story. Errors and over-styling can ruin that effect and make the reader aware that she’s reading a piece of writing (one that would benefit from another round of revision).”

Tiffany has little interest in reading about violence that does not serve the story.

And here are your prompts!

Use this five word phrase in any part of your story:

“I wanted more than silence


Image credit: Img_2296 by Ozalee Meg flickr CC 2.0 
Image has not been altered from its original form.


The Return, by Steph Ellis

my forest dream

“There are more this year,” said Red, looking out from her Grandma’s … no, her … cottage window, an inheritance she had been reluctant to accept.

Nobody heard. She was alone with her memories and the wolfskin rug.

Entering the kitchen, she noticed her father’s axe behind the kitchen door, long unused. That was why the trees had crept nearer. No one to thin them out. No one to cull them.

Red shivered, picked up the wolfskin, wrapped it round her shoulders. Just as she had done as a child.

She sat in her Grandma’s chair, rocked backwards and forwards. Just as she had done as a child.

“Tell me a tale,” she whispered into the silence. But that story had finished long ago.

The air, dry and stale was suffocating, driving Red out into the small garden, taking the axe with her. The trees had crowded ever closer, even in that short space of time. They bowed over her, branches reaching out, wanting to touch, to hold, to claim.

A lone howl caught her attention, a mournful sound that drew nearer with each heartbeat. A wolf appeared.

It advanced fearlessly towards Red, despite the axe she held.

She stood her ground. Remembered.

“You lied, little girl,” he said.

Red hefted the axe, felt that old sense of power. The animal didn’t flinch.

“We both know the truth, don’t we?” said the creature.

The truth? Yes, they both knew the truth. How she had hated her Grandma. Had lost patience with the woman one fine summer’s day. Had taken the axe …

Red looked down at the shaft, the stain had deepened over the years.

The moonlight dimmed. A passing cloud she thought. But as she looked up she saw a dense canopy form, boughs intertwined to create a tree-borne roof.

Now Red stepped back.

The wolf followed.

“We have our witnesses, little girl.”

The trees shifted closer, the light grew dimmer, the wolf’s breath hotter.

“Time to write another story,” he said. And the darkness became complete.

Follow Steph Ellis on Twitter: @el_stevie or her blog:

Image credit: “My forest dream is still a dream” by Vinoth Chandar from flickr (CC 2.0)
Image has not been altered from original form.