Tag Archives: micro fiction

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.

badgesss

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 Three Winners!

This week’s guest judge Tamara Shoemaker has rendered her verdicts!

Ebony and Ecru by M T Decker: I love the contrasts in this—ebony and ecru, black and white, shades of gray. The difference between Rissa and Ben is striking as well—her ecru and ebony view of the world, his gray character. I enjoyed the interesting light twist at the end.

The Library by Mark A. King: Here is so much story in so few words. We make the most of the time given us. I love the layered concept of a library of souls. Beautiful and concise imagery.

Asphyxiating by Foy S. Iver: Oh, the language in this one is absolutely gorgeous. Phrases like “But I’m drowning in your colorless spectrum, suffocating on trade-offs, splits, and fair’s fairs” that curl my toes. 🙂 Gorgeous frame, stunning imagery.

In the Wings by Tim Stevenson: A dark allegorical story that provides some brilliant commentary on the crumbling of society. I love the tone that the wings lend to the beginning and end of the story, and the visceral imagery that the vultures bring to the darkness.

IntiMATE by Alicia VanNoy Call: Ooh, the superficiality of the intiMATE vs. the drama of the real one. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Brilliant last line: “It’s love that’s complicated.” I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Double Trouble by Voima Oy: “Like dancing in a house of mirrors” – that’s it exactly. What a whirl of relationships in this story! A stunning concept and an unsettling ending. Nicely done.

Judas Kiss by Steph Ellis: A chilling twist of the Biblical story. This one bleeds darkness… and in the stillness, there is heartbreak. There is love lost here, attempts to call it to memory, but rejected. Beautifully woven together. That last line drives the stake into the heart.

The Kiss by A V Laidlaw: This is exactly the kind of story with which I fall in love—the magic of romance, the twining of braids and hearts. How sad, I say, that the girl will only ever half-love the boy, and how very sad that the boy never gained the courage on his own.

How it Looks by Marie Mckay: CREEPY!! The truth is complicated indeed, and honesty and above-board-ishness seem to have fled to the dark corners in this young man. I love the line: “His feet aren’t just under the table; they’re under the table he’s laid.” What a great way to show me the line without telling it to me. Lovely and seamless. But I’ll run far away if I ever meet this man.

Crossed Fingers by Liz Hedgecock: Oh, the power of that last line that scoops up the entire story before it and settles it into a straight shot to the heart. Yes, he loves her. In spite of it all. Because truth is complicated. Phenomenal.

Introductions by Tino Prinzi: There is a well of pain that carries through this piece from beginning to end. It’s understated and all the more effective for its delicacy. Lovely writing.

Games We Play by A S Gardana: A dark poetic dance that almost, almost feels like it’s delineating the relationship between property and owner, puppet and puppet-master. “I am your toy.” Wow, so heavy, deep, and thought-provoking.

The Kiss by Cathy Lennon: I’m so excited to find an excellent twist on one of my favorite fairy tales! 🙂 I love how it turns the tale on its head; rather than the frog prince living happily-ever-after with his princess, he instead admits that the truth is complicated, the happiness an illusion, an airy dream, like the clouds he kisses as he casts his wish.

A Taste of the Truth by Catherine Connolly: Such beautiful wording; my poetic ear loved the sound of the alliterative “my specialist service of secrets once savoured discovered.” Had to read it aloud several times just for that. I love the layered depth of this story, the idea of a person who contracts for speaking truth in various ways. Stunning, really, how the truth is analogous in so many ways to various tastes and sensations. Brilliant work.

Family Skeletons by Shiloh A. Ohmes: I love the fantastical twist on this tale, a smaller tale in a novel-lengthed concept. Quite an engaging story that left me wishing I had at least another few chapters to read of it. Well done!

Third Place: The truth is…by Karl A. Russell: Bwahahahaha! This. is. gold. “I’m actually scared of Italian restaurants. I lost my mom in one as a kid. Choked on a meatball, right in front of me.” The lies expand in this story faster than a peacock in heat. I was rolling by the end. X-Files… LOL!!!! I admire someone who can do comedy; to me, it is an insanely impressive skill because I don’t have it. To be able to make someone laugh (hysterically, just ask my husband, who was subject to my hyena-like cackles at midnight) is a gift that I thoroughly envy. This piece is light and invigorating, and the concept genius. Well done.

Second Place: The Plural of Fidelity by Nancy Chenier: Wow! Just the imagery alone in this rocked me back on my heels. Absolutely stunning! “Our shadows would tangle in the dark lace cast by the floral drapery.” The whole piece paints such beautiful word art. I love the concept of this; it’s inventive and unique. I had to read through it several times to glean the strokes of genius that twine throughout. The fantastic “blink away Bernice-green and replace it with Carly-hazel” near the end had me clamoring for more. Goodness knows I feel like I’ve got at least a dozen personalities inside me at any given moment of the day. I love the more concrete form of this idea. The story is beautifully written and most excellently offered. Nicely done.

AND OUR WEEK THREE WINNER IS:

Like a Flower of the Field by Mark A. King: Oh my heart. This left me in tears. I was entranced from start to finish—first with the poem at the beginning, followed by the pain afterward. I found that I could resonate with this woman step by step, from the early dreams of her son, to the picture of him in her husband’s arms. My mother’s heart dissolved into agony as I put my own son in the place of the boy on the hospital bed, and the story gripped me as the mother’s world stopped, but the world outside the hospital room continued on, as if her soul hadn’t just died. With brilliant genius, this piece looked beyond the first thought, the first story, and pulled out a stunning picture of complicated truth and the harsh realities that contrast so distinctly with the innocent dreams of whimsy.

badgesss

Congratulations Karl, Nancy, and, flashdog pack leader, Mark! Mark’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow.Thank you to Tamara for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Four, judged by flash fictioneer extraordinaire Margaret Locke!

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.

badgesss

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!

badgesss

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.

 

 

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/