Tag Archives: AV Laidlaw

The Wolf Moon by AV Laidlaw

The wolf moon and the winter constellations shone hard and cold behind the branches of the birch trees as John Summer led the gelding by its halter along the track. Hoof falls cracked the icy earth. The gelding snorted a cloud of ghost breath that dissipated slowly in the moonlight. Then there was silence among the snowdrifts and trees until the old man, slouched on the back of the gelding, silver streaks in his black beard and his eyes hidden under the rim of his hat, began to sing a soft lullaby. He was drunk and his wrists were tied together with knotted rope.

“Hush now,” Summer said. “You’ll only call the wolves on us.”

“I don’t fear ’em. The wolves ran with me up in the mountains.”

The old man continued to sing the same lullaby Summer had sung to his youngest as the boy slipped away into the cold and hunger of winter. Summer dropped his hand on the Smith and Wesson in its holster and thought he could finish that song now. But there was a way with these things, they had to be done properly as his father had shown him and as his grandfather had shown his father all the way back through the generations. He led the gelding onwards, even as it stumbled over the rutted track, towards the hill rising naked from the woods.

When the old man saw the blackened and lighten struck tree on the hill summit, he stopped singing and sobered. “You’re gonna do this, ain’t you?” He twisted his hands and shifted his weight in the saddle but John Summer knew how to tie ropes too well.

“There’s more whiskey, if you want.”

The old man said nothing and Summer shrugged. The gelding stood obediently under the thickest branch as Summer clambered up the trunk, hands scratched by the rough back but too cold to feel. He looped a rope over the branch and tied it hard as he could, then dropped the nose around the old man’s neck. The old man raised his hands as if in prayer but there was nobody a man like that could pray to.

The moon turned yellow as it sunk towards the horizon, glittering the ice crystals on the tree. Summer slapped the gelding’s rump and it bolted back down the track. It would find its own way back to the farm, even through the darkness.

Summer stood and looked at the figure that was once a man but no longer a man swaying at the end of the rope, its feet pointing down and its head lolling to one side, still wearing the hat that hid its eyes. This was a simple thing done in the night, deep in the woods. That was the way his father had taught him. He drank whiskey to keep himself warm as he watched the winter stars fade and the pale blue dawn break across the eastern sky.

Afterwards, he walked back down the track to the farm and full moon followed full moon rising copper coloured into the night. He planted corn in the fields under the sun that burnished his skin and turned the air thick and dusty. Mary swelled with child and he told her they would cope, they always did, although there was nothing that could replace what they had lost last winter. The corn turned golden and Summer sharpened his scythe on the whetstone, over and over until the blade shone as if it cleaved the sunlight itself. From time to time he glanced towards the white mountains rising in the distance and gripped the scythe handle more tightly.

On the eve of the harvest moon, he sat on his porch and watched a figure riding down the track from the mountains. Summer walked to the gate to greet the man. He was old, silver streaks in his black beard and his eyes hidden under the rim of his hat, and under his breath he sung the soft lullaby that Summer had not heard in seven months.

“You knew I was coming back,” the old man said.

“You don’t learn your lesson easy.”

“Neither do you, John Summer.” The old man dismounted. He stood for a moment with his thumbs in the pockets of his jacket, looking at the farm as if he meant to buy the place. Then he took a rope from his saddle.

Follow AV Laidlaw on Twitter: @AVLaidlaw

The Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness II Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our winter flash fiction contest! We had many whimsical and wyrd tales from which to choose. It was a difficult decision but here they are, the winners of the 2016 Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness flash fiction contest:

Second Runner-up:
The Wolf Moon by AV Laidlaw

First Runner-up:
Let Me Tell You My Story, To Help Us Pass the Time by David Shakes

And the Winner:
Tir na nÒg, The Land of the Young by Mark A. King

Congratulations! LCP will feature the winning stories on our blog and Mark wins the entire LCP catalogue!

Week Eight and Overall Winners!

The summer flew by! We’ve been so pleased to host this contest for the second year in a row. So many wonderful writers contributed a wide range of funny, heartbreaking, haunting, moving, and beautiful stories each week.

This week was no exception. You made my job very difficult with this batch of inspired, magical stories. But, as the contest requires winners, here we go:

In the Ocean of Your Mind by M T Decker: I imagined this poem as an Druid invocation: the high priest telling the new initiates, gathered among the standing stones, how their magic works. As a fan of economical language use, I find poetry especially pleasing. The poem also gives good advice to writers and other creators of things.

Dare Ye Stonehenge by Pattyann McCarthy: What a great opening line! I can see those birds, swooping as one to avoid Stonehenge. You do a lovely job conjuring both the threat and the draw of the standing stones that have inspired people’s imaginations for centuries. The story’s darkness beautifully echoes the storm brewing in the photo.

The Passing Seasons by AV Laidlaw: I love the crystal clear images of this story, rendered in details such as the son’s soft hand, the puff of dust, and the cowled faces of the sisters. (What a wonderful turn of phrase that last one!) Beautiful language also abounds in such phrases as “footsteps tracing spiral destinies on the black grass.”

The Dark Magic by Pratibha: I have to admit that I took some guilty pleasure in this story: the image of the perpetual tourist searching for the perfect shot rather than simply enjoying the location is familiar to all of us. (I think I have a photo of me posing in front of Stonehenge somewhere…) There is a delicious maliciousness in this story as well as an indictment of that tourist culture—we go places but we don’t always experience them. Perhaps we could learn from the tourist’s fate at the end of this story!

Rain Dance of the Isenji by Voima Oy: I love how the magic works in this story: to bring the rain, entice the clouds to join the people in their dance. There’s a sweetness, too, in the travelers from the stars staying to help the people and make some friends and then a bittersweetness in their exit at the end.

Tourist by Holly Geely: This story runs the gamut from amusing to heartbreaking, taking us from a pair of self-proclaimed Druids “doing the deed” at Stonehenge to a glimpse of the narrator’s dark past. The forced carefree attitudes and vacant smiles turned the story from comedy to tragedy in one simple, but very powerful image.

Third Place: Weather Magic by Sonya: What a little gem of a story! In so few words, we get a clear sense of so much: the characters’ personalities, their relationships, and the rules of the world. I’m reminded of set designers and their models in Ali’s miniature Stonehenge, a clever use of the prompt photo.

Second Place: The Trial by Steph Ellis: This story offers narrative tension right from the beginning: we start in the middle of the action and worry with the poet about the lord’s displeasure. The writing is strong with beautifully chosen verbs—growled, glowered, scrabbled, and quailed—that convey so much in a single word. I couldn’t help but think of the TV show The Vikings (one of my favorites!) as the story unfolded.

AND OUR WEEK EIGHT WINNER IS:

Outliers by FE Clark: This story has it all: narrative tension, a clear arc, fabulous word choice, and word play that tickled me (outlier, out, liar!). I love the details throughout the story: skinny jeans, specifically named trees: “Silver Birch, Beech, and the occasional rattled looking Scots Pine,” and the stone covered in moss and lichen (not to mention its resemblance to, well, you know). These details make the setting that much more vivid. Lovely verb choices add to the story’s power: wriggle, plod, barge, and sprinkle. Well done!

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Congratulations to Sonya, Steph, and FE! FE’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow morning.

We have FIVE ULTIMATE prize winners for our contest-wide prizes:

The first ULTIMATE prize goes to Mark A. King for submitting the most stories (10!). Mark, you will receive a signed and doodled copy of The Gantean by Emily June Street, probably in a year or so when the snail-riding elves who deliver international mail finally slither up to your cottage.

The four other ULTIMATE prizes go to Steph Ellis, FE Clark, Nancy Chenier, and AV Laidlaw, who all tied for the category of most winning writers in the contest, each with four stories that made it to the podium. Each of these excellent writers will also receive a signed copy of The Gantean. Ultimate prize winners, you will all be contacted via Twitter for your mailing addresses. Many thanks for participating in Summer of Super Short Stories 2! Look for our next contest, Winter of Whimsy and Weirdness, in early 2016!

Week Five Winners!

Halloween starts early this year (my favorite holiday, so I’m completely okay with that). So much sinister spookiness this week. Nightmares seeping into waking, crawling bogs, sentient mists. First, thanks to Emily and Michael DelGuadio for the prompts, which combined couldn’t help but evoke the awful (awe-ful) and otherworldly. My short list was anything but. It was painful to choose a mere three for the winner’s circle.

Tried and Tested by David Shakes: One of two metas this week (and I loved them both—for very different reasons). I loved the two aborted attempts before crumpling the paper, the comparison with the giants of the genre, and the seeping of the author’s voice into Tammy’s journal writing. And even though I recognized (as the one of the characters did—ultimately the author POV did) that we were in cliché territory, the features were just different enough to catch me up and make me want to learn how the old bones and last fall’s journal entry match up.

The Bog by Madilyn Quinn: Wonderful reverse-take on witch hunts, where muggles would accuse the gossips of witchcraft. Here, the witch is the authority with the power to condemn those who displease her. You’ve illustrated so well how common folk allow themselves to fall under the spell and support the tyranny of a strong personality. Talia’s a vivid character. The line “her lavender lips pull into a grin” highlights her affectation. I admire the MC’s spunk in the face of that. Talia’s parting challenge make her all the more formidable—and make the MC’s threat seem empty (and yet gives the reader a glimmer of hope).

Ghost of the Fog by Pattyann McCarthy: Clever! This was so deliberately overwrought that I couldn’t wait to get to the punch-line (although for a panicked moment, I feared the use of phrases like “languishing treacherously inside” and “fear encapsulates every cell” might not be ironic). They say it takes a great writer to pull off intentionally “poor” writing. Or was that dancers? I think it works for all artists. The voice is pure B-movie—and the perfect set up for the reveal of the true situation.

In the Zone by Voima Oy: Intriguingly surreal take. Makes me wonder what could be on the other side of the border to make crossing the Zone worth it. The parallels to immigrants crossing treacherous land-/sea-scapes keeps this one grounded. Fantastic how the zone affects each character differently. Delicious phrases like “flowers followed us with their eyes” and “flashed with the fireflies” made me think that the some might come to the Zone simply for the experience.

Living Forest by A S Gardana: Very cool premise. I love stories where the reader is asked to sympathize with a different species. The ending leaves us wondering if she’s managed to actually make it or if she’s hallucinating as she sinks into the mud. What really impresses me about this piece is how you’ve crafted a story replete with sensation yet with the absence of sight! I had to go back and check—yep, “imagery” without visual referents. I like the idea of closing ones eyes to “see” better.

Aubergine by Holly Geely: If I could have given an honorable mention, this would have been it. A surreal cavort through the creepiness, elephants and eggplants welcome. You had me giggling from the first sentence and kept me chuckling all the way through (haunted port-a-potty! “Crikey!” Aubergine-ious!). I fell in love with the rattle-spider immediately. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this story so much if it weren’t for the snaky trace of the dream crossing into reality. Thank you for the hilarity.

Delicious by K M Zafari: Ooo, creepy! What could be more horrifying than unwillingly participating in one’s own demise? The description of the creature is compelling especially as the different pieces of the MC’s sense organs take their places in the ugly decay of the creature. Some of my favorite lines: “I can almost taste the decay as it moistens the remnants of its rotting lips with my tongue” and “my pink tongue rests inside the decomposing mossy mouth.”

My Time Has Come by Ophelia Leong: A sad transition of a forest Fae becoming a fish, in the tragic way magic passes away from the material world. It starts off with a wonderfully gruesome image. Setting up the trees as the rivals is a refreshing angle as is the Fae as a tooth-and-clawed predator—making it very hard for me to decide which side to (ahem) root for.

Mother’s Milk by Tim Stevenson: The last line chills—especially in light of the title. Yep, that gave me shivers. You don’t have to work too hard to convince me that the beauty industry is evil and probably deserves such a fate, so my being creeped-out mixes with a perverse satisfaction. Clever incorporation of the “creeping fear” phrase. Loved the pervasive rose imagery (the symbolic contrast of the wilting ones and the thorns of the creation) and the organic description of the creation (at once strange and lovely).

The Canopy by Mark A. King: I love the message of this one–finding light in the darkness–and that Callum is the catalyst for that discovery. We don’t know how the MC lost his parents, and we don’t have to. It’s enough that the loss has kept the MC in the shrouded world below the canopy. The imagery is sublime. The treatment of fear as a companion to mortality is brilliant. Then Callum is born and the MC’s focus starts to creep upward. By the way, “cinereal” is my new favorite word.

The Dreamer by Foy S. Iver: Starts out whimsical, (loved “scolaughed and jeettered” so much!). Poor little Root. I was (erm—here I go again) rooting for him, but, alas, he meets a common arboreal fate. I adored the description of the alien, who very well might have been a moon fairy. Cool concept that “hope” of a tree can be used as fuel.

Going Underground by Mark A. King: Here’s one I want to give a special mention to. After two letters, I went straight to Wiki to confirm that these were all stations. Sure enough. My favorite part is the Underground likened to the roots of the city. The structure puts me in mind of the song “88 Lines about 44 Women” by The Nails (dating myself here): each line brief but gives us a real bit of the place. And the POV character dozes off before the last stop.

Blink by Sonya: A dream-messing-with-reality piece that managed to deliver a startling punch in a mere 100 words. I laughed out loud at the “movie I didn’t understand” reference to Inception. The final line got me, though. I’m completely chilled imagining what a hundred eyes blinking must sound like.

Isle of Roots by Catherine Connolly: This one lulled me with the siren song of its gorgeous language. I think this one contains the line that precisely describes the subject and atmosphere of the image, a poetically twisted sentence that just nails it: “The tree itself lies amidst a heart of knotted roots for those who swim tear salt tides to it, casting themselves towards the child-like keening reaching from the boughs into the ocean”. I got so tangled in the wonderful knots of phrases, I felt like pilgrim gripped in its clutches. My favorite: “Truth takes chances in the speaking”.

Whispers by M T Decker: Ha! A quick atmospheric whisper of a piece with a snappy twist. I love how we never really know what the first choice was that has brought the “we” to this state. Clever.

Sensing by Marie Mckay: Imaginative treatment, directly addressing the creeping fear as “you”, picking out facets of its character. We start in familiar territory, the spookiness of fear (blind birds, forked hands of tress). Then, fear becomes a predator. Finally, we’re left with fear being a goading motivator. And in so few words!

The Project by A J Walker: The cross-purposes are set up so well and with such economy. There is a definite beginning, middle and end of a full-fledged story, here. You lead the reader to want both Elizabeth and Mr. Martin to succeed in their goals: she to understand him and he to prove the truth of his visions. By the end, though, I realize that I’ve been set up in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for way. She does understand, and the truth of his “bad men” (that they’re hallucinations) comes to light in the most tragic way. I’m in awe of the seemingly effortless way the POV shifts from Elizabeth to Martin and then out to objective. It worked perfectly—and another example of knowing the rules (one POV per scene) and then breaking them as the situation demands. The situation does demand since the smooth shifts are the most effective way to tell this story.

Meta’d Out by David Shakes: The second of two meta-fictions, and yeah, I so very much feel for the voice here, fictionalized or not. Most of us have been there (at least twice a week). The deadly voice of doubt undermining the “just do it and enjoy” that has built up a passion for writing in the first place, the fear of not being able to do justice to a beautiful prompt, diminishing returns on novelty—yeah, yeah and more yeah. Loved the repetition of the creeping fear sentence.

Moving by Anita Harkness: Sweet! The entwining horror and lust reveals the elements that compel us regarding the awful/awe-ful. Exquisite comparison between arid Arizona and the Lovecraftian realm of Rhode Island. Thanks to Lovecraft, New England is the place where fear and passion meet. Love the echoes of the H.P. universe in details like “the oldest ones” and the mysterious swamp with things moving under the surface. A lot of great writing in here: “Here, whatever dies decays. It sinks into a sludge of terrifying possibilities” I also enjoy the take on “kindred spirits”—stripping all the rainbows and “woo” from the concept. Yes, these two are perfect for each other. May they live paranormally ever after.

Third Place: No Butterfly Wings by F E Clark: Oh, so painful and beautiful. You capture the frustration and agony of struggling to live with a pervasive yet inexplicable illness. The isolation, the loss of self, the unsung courage—and all in such incredible language. Phrases like “Tongue fumbling attempts at describing the hundred different intermittent symptoms” and “Crawling through the shattered glass of dependence, a creature half gone” and the comparison of self and friends “falling away” like autumn leaves eloquently illustrate the trials of disease. The breaking of the chrysalis to release not a butterfly but a partial morphed thing is as heartbreaking as it is heroic, leaving us with a sliver of hope that this will indeed be a new start.

Second Place: The Things That Live Here by A V Laidlaw: The first sentence pulls me right into the mystery, a mystery that casts a shadow over the intimate moment between mother and son. Loved how you set up the metaphor to take care of the photo prompt early on—but then it turns out that the metaphor is not merely fancy imagery. All the figurative language is just perfect—they never merely describe the physical reality of the thing described, but they also drop hints of the essence of the thing. The description of the father is a clear example of this (“laugh as solid as oakwood” and “scented of the rich earth”). The smallest details speak volumes: a stubborn cowlick, the iron key used to lock up. The slow pursuit of the trees coming after the boy is an excellent reason for “creeping fear”.

AND OUR WEEK FIVE WINNER IS:

Returned by Steph Ellis: So sinister, chilling, creepy—and that it stood out from the marshlands of exquisite creepiness this week is really a testament to the writing, here. From the imagery of the opening—perfectly reflecting the hauntingly evocative photo–to the ominous dramatic irony in the final image (a child running to join her parents), this one won me over. The double conflict between the hopefuls and Granny, between the living and the returned, layers the tension. As do the options Granny gives (What if Maryann chose “below”???) and the swirl of Maryann’s past swamping the present. The moment of taking over is a devastating swirl of sweet and awful. That poor puppy! Killing small animals might be in danger of becoming cliché in horror, but every once in awhile it wells up like fresh blood—as it does here, precisely because it’s incidental to the already established eeriness of the family and the take-over. The pair of sentences, “Someone else’s tear rolled down her cheek. Maryann laughed,” torture me: evil innocence shredding my sympathies to bits.

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Congratulations FE, AV, and Steph! Steph’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Nancy for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Six, judged by the incomparable Holly Geely!

Week Four Winners!

Thank you to Emily and Beth for giving me the opportunity to serve as judge this week – what a privilege!

It’s always an experience, judging others’ writing. One has to really think (and be able to articulate) what it is about a story that did or didn’t work for them, and that ain’t always easy, folks.

One of the best things about having served as a judge for a number of Flash contests is I get how subjective judging can be. Sure, we look for the basic elements of story, style, grammar, etc. (and yes, those matter, so do proofread for typos and grammatical boo boos!) – but after that, a lot of it is just what speaks to the judge the most, and of course that varies by judge.

I say that to emphasize that if your story didn’t win, it doesn’t mean the story is not a great one. Keep writing, keep entering, and, most of all, keep in mind the subjective nature of it all! And thank you for sharing these tiny tales with me.

A Moment of Reflection by Tim Stevenson: A sad, moving tale, with great characterization of the husband (as much as I dislike him). I particularly love this line: “The arrangement of a marriage was stone, a hard, immutable thing.” I do want to know, however, what “the language that only women understand” is; I feel like I’m missing something, and I need to be clued in!

All Love Has Its Own Scent by Tino Prinzi: Brilliant title, and I love the hope encapsulated in this tiny tale. This sentence is amazing: “He deflowered her petal by petal, lie by lie, leaving her a feeble stalk alone in the wind.” Perhaps because I’ve lived it, but it feels like something with which most of us can identify.

Georgie Hanson’s Bad Day by Foy S. Iver: I always appreciate humor in flash, since so many of the stories trend dark. Thanks for the silliness! The repetition (and increasing intensity) of Georgie was having a bad day works well (and evokes Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). I admit, I’m not quite sure I understand the alien gifts – and I’m not quite sure I want to. Made me giggle, though.

I Loved Her by David Shakes: “Crush it! Squeeze it…” – Bwah ha ha, loved this unexpected reaction after the rather soft, self-helpish first line. Pretty sure I don’t want to be hanging out with David any time soon.

Ponies, Unicorns, and a Dahlia by Pattyann McCarthy: When the choice was between the dahlia and obsidian, I assumed it was a choice between good and evil, and was pleasantly surprised I was wrong, and liked the meanings ascribed to each of the choices.

I also noted and appreciated the different colors used in your imagery, which painted a vivid picture.

Ripples of Choice by Stephen Shirres: I had to read this two times before I feel I got what was going on (I hope I’m right) – I’m imaging a suicide bombing, or at least a bombing, and the perpetrator is weighing the benefit to her if she doesn’t, versus the (alleged) benefit to all if she does. Once I got it, rereading it strengthens my understanding and appreciation of the tale each time – and what a wonderful way to describe the inner struggle, a battle of experience vs. conviction.

Salt and Cactus Spines by Shiloh A. Ohmes: I love how the voice of the story itself feels gritty, tough, adding to the message/idea that love isn’t a “cotton candy radio song,” it’s “something made of salt and cactus thorns. It gets down into your bones, nests among the marrow, and reminds you every day that it’s there. It’s not pretty, and it’s not the pinnacle of happiness, or whatever the radio believes.” Vivid, realistic imagery adds to the whole. I want to know the longer story hinted at in this short one.

Secrets by Holly Geely: The ending is wonderfully strong, combining both the humor of the piece and the cheating theme (can’t say I’m fond of the cheating theme, but hey, I’m a romance author). I don’t care for the main character, but her voice is good – funny, flippant, arrogant. She makes for a strong, if unlikeable, person – a testament to your character-building ability.

Speed Dating at Petals! by Marie Mckay: This one had me giggling – I loved the style you took of the participant taking notes about each dating option – and then getting hooked on #10. I could totally visualize this.

The Choice by Madilyn Quinn: Rip my heart out, will you? A very moving piece with fantastic imagery and turns of phrase – “falls away like chipped paint, the wind snaps still.” I like the openness of the ending – I’m not exactly sure what each door means (reincarnation as a newborn? Entering heaven? Becoming one with the cosmos?), but I actually prefer that, as it sent my imagination running. Still traumatized that she died, and in front of her husband, though.

Third Place: The Voyage Home From Troy by A V Laidlaw: I love the chosen focus – soldiers returning home from the ancient battles at Troy. How you got there from a lotus flower image and the given sentence, I don’t know, but I adore it.

“The sunlight drips like honey through the branches of the trees” – what a fantastic image, and it’s one of my favorites from all the entries.

And the character – oh, how I empathize with the character, and his battle between seeking relief and forgiveness he doesn’t feel he deserves, and enduring the suffering as punishment for the choice he thought he didn’t have – but later realized he did. A powerful reminder that there is always a choice, even when we think there isn’t, and we must bear the consequences of our actions.

A moving, well-written entry. Nicely done.

Second Place: Running Out of Petals by Nancy Chenier: In truth, I struggled greatly between choosing A Day In the Month of Leaves and this one, Running Out of Petals, as the winner. Both are fantastically strong, in different ways.

I’ve read Running Out of Petals a number of times now, the horror of the tale getting me again and again. The use of the old children’s game “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not” incorporates not only the photo prompt beautifully, but frames the inner development of the story in a hauntingly perfect way, rendering the story even more chilling.

The mythical element, the changeling aspect, and particularly the creatures hanging about the baby work well for me, detailing the changing/worsening of the situation. We go from butterflies to moths to hobgoblins, a perfect echo of the deterioration of this poor child’s situation.

Very well written, horrifically imaginable, with a wonderful voice. Well done.

AND OUR WEEK FOUR WINNER IS:

A Day in the Month of Leaves by Karl A. Russell: This one had me from the start, with its prose-poetry style (an admitted favorite of mine), its short, succinct sentences and well-chosen images effectively conveying an eastern feel, and telling more by saying less.

There are many layers here, so many phrases hinting at a broader underneath – “It is the morning after the night without sleep,” “Father stands before me, as big as all the world” (a beautiful encapsulation of how fathers feel to most of us). The more I read it, the more I see: hidden depths waiting to be uncovered. Gorgeous styling, gorgeous prose.

And then the characterization of the father – so much about him from six words: “Leather armour creaks, metal plates jangle.” Shortly after that comes my favorite paragraph of the whole piece, the one describing this father, with brilliant turns of phrase: “a slab of granite of a man,” “scars make his face a map of his wandering.” I have read it again and again.

I admit, the story did not go where I expected it to, and the ending both surprised and confused me. I’m inferring that the father harmed the mother, which is why son/daughter makes the choice he/she makes. Still, the simpleness of the language and the short, crisp phrases drive home the awfulness of the death more than reams of words ever could.

And that last line – so simple, and yet so effective, a stark contrast to what has taken place directly before it, but full of implication.

Beautifully done.

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Congratulations AV, Nancy, and, Karl! Karl’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Margaret for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Five, judged by oft-winning flash fiction writer Nancy Chenier!

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.

AND OUR WEEK TWO WINNER IS:

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.

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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 One Winners!

Judge’s confession time: I sort of hate the notion of a writing contest. Why do you sponsor one then? you might ask. The answer is that I’m a story junkie. I like to find prompts that move me and to see what writers make of them, so the line prompt for this week, the opening line from my book, The Gantean–“Tell me a tale”– was particularly apt for my judging week. All you participants did not disappoint. Every story I read this week had merit (that’s why I don’t like contests! How to judge something as personal, varying, and multifaceted as STORIES?) Whittling them down to a short list was a difficult task. Of the four stories I had on the final list, I truly felt any could have been the winner. I am including a line or two of feedback for every story, in no particular order, until the final three placers:

Grandpa’s Trees, by Stephen Shirres: This story offers a striking contrast between its past and its present, full of a melancholy yearning for (simpler?) better times. Solid and authentic.

The Bone Tree Copse, by Mark A. King: An elegiac tale with vertical and horizontal layers! It earned extra points for an evocative title. Clever, moody, and full of wordsmithery.

The Trespasser, by Sean Fraser: A lovely, smooth meditation on confronting the world beyond this one. The Trespasser no longer trespasses. Atmospheric and vivid.

The Cat in the Woods, by Voima Oy: This had a crafty narrative set up— by starting in second person and moving into first, the author offered a coy, cat-like invitation to the reader, while also forcing complicity. The ending lended a perfect tightness to the story. Well-designed.

The bit left over, by Liz Hedgecock: A sweet, sad, simple tale, grounded in realism and emotion. Well-rounded and told with restraint and delicacy. Memorable.

Jem’s Not-Wish, by Holly Geely: Rich characterization drives this story—overtly, with the old woman and Jem, and covertly, with the traveler-charlatan lurking behind it all. Solidly constructed and enjoyable.

Where There Is Willing, by Catherine Connolly: Mythic and eerie, this is a true fairytale of the dark and discomfiting variety. The shadowy, arcane tone and the Eastern European flavor suited the prompts.

Errors, by Foy S. Iver: With a world that explodes off the page, this story should be tagged by the author for development into something longer. (I’d be happy to beta read!) Reveals a unique imagination. Stirring and exciting.

The Darkside, by Anita Harkess: A tight, psychological tale that might be a parable showing the difficulties of maturing, or might be something darker. Nice layering.

Formalities, by Holly Geely: A sweet story with strong characterizations of mother and son. Well-written and realistic.

Song of the Muse, by MT Decker: A skillful personification of that elusive and abstract concept, the artistic muse. Shows a love of language and a subtly poetic voice.

Where She Belongs, by Sal Page: A well-structured story with a startling but graceful twist. The narrator has a strong and distinctive voice. Smart plotting shows an expert’s deft hand.

Third Place! Wolf, by AV Laidlaw: Ripe with vivid images and cinematic details, this clever play on Little Red Riding Hood hooked me from the start. Oh, the poor, weary character tropes of fairytales, forced to replay the same conflicts over and over again! I feel for them! The author chose hard-working verbs and wove in description with sprezzatura.

Second Place! A Mother’s Plea, by Nancy Chenier:  A dark and dangerous tale, full of beautiful, evocative images. This story does a great job of showing itself through a small aperture; a vast, tantalizing world exists beyond the parameters written here. I want to know more, but I’m also satisfied with the possibilities presented. A lovely interplay of imagination and language.

AND OUR WEEK ONE WINNER IS:

The Return, by Steph Ellis: A confident, clear voice and solid writing craft rounded out this inspired reframing of a traditional legend with an unexpected twist. The author juggled action, description, dialogue, exposition, and revelation of information adroitly, keeping a perfect balance from start to finish. A work of polish and panache!

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Congratulations Steph, Nancy, and AV! Steph’s winning story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who participated and shared. We will be back this Thursday with Week Two prompts, and we hope you will be, too! Week Two’s judge is Tiffany Aldrich MacBain, maven of English and essays.