Tag Archives: Nancy Chenier

A Few Days of Fantasy Flash Judge Comments and Winner!

Mark A. King did a stellar job judging our mini-contest, and the results are here. Mark has left a bit of commentary on every story, so take a look below to see what he had to say about yours and others’ efforts. Thank you all for participating. It was truly a joy to see names old and new offering up stories here at LCP. The dragony theme especially made us miss the days of Flash Friday!

Here are Mark’s lovely words about judging:

I want to pass on my sincere thanks for being given the privilege of reading and judging your stories. As you undoubtedly know, both Emily and Tamara are masters of their craft. Such fine authors deserve mighty fine flash fiction and, wow, did you deliver.

It was a tough, but highly enjoyable task. Your words are truly a gift. You are talented. Believe it. Keep writing.

1.) Seamus and Declan on a Welsh Beach by Maggie Duncan

MK: The land of dragons, and leprechauns on a beach, what’s not to love? Wonderful use of dialect. 

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2.) Here Be No Stones Or Dragons But I Wrote A Story Anyway, by Margaret Locke

MK: “The earth’s rich belly swelled above the sand like a ripe melon, water flowing over her, waves baptizing her anew.” aka – how to completely nail an opening.

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3.) The Unmarked Grave by Taryn Noelle Kloeden

MK: It’s incredibly hard to draw emotion in such a short word-count. It takes great skill. In the first few lines, I pondered if the subject was a lost love, a child, or parent. Touching, well-crafted and one to savour.

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4.) [Untitled] by David Kleeman

MK: Wonderful language. With these sort of word-counts it’s about leaving much unsaid and letting the reader fill the gaps. Knowing what to leave and what to write is the hard part. Job well done.

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5.) What Is Lost Can Be Found by @carolrosalind

MK: What do I like about this? “So much” is the answer. A simple concept, but crafted so well that it’s wonderfully mysterious. I love the suspense and the thought of the snakes pulling the narrator in. 

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6.) Sapphire Spellstone by @davejamesashton

MK: I enjoyed the masking of the setting. I had somewhere else in mind, until I discovered it was a pawnshop (I loved this idea). A phylactery, possibly containing the spirit of a magical creature? Fabulous.

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7.) Draconic Destruction by @davejamesashton

MK: “She had awakened, eager to mate.” This scared me. Adored the word “wyrm”. Wonderful ending.

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8.) The Black Stone by Voima Oy

MK: This story is how to craft perfect flash fiction. Superb use of big and small stones. Swapping jewelry boxes for peanut butter amid a post-apocalyptic world. Hungry waves. Brilliant!

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9.) Dragon Mountain by Craig McGeady

MK: Gentle, subtle and heartwarming. Using the picture to show not tell a wonderful moment between generations.

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10.) Dark Waters by David Kleeman

MK: Great sense of mystery and intrigue. As a reader, I’m curious and want to know more.

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11.) Imprisoned by @el_Stevie

MK: Splendid use of setting, mythology and legend. So good, it felt like I was sitting in Stonehenge, enthralled as a great fire-side story-teller recounted daring adventures of ancestors.

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12.) Salvage by Nancy Chenier

MK: Breathtakingly good. Inventive and deep. Sumptuous words and images. Excellent work.

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13.) Happy Anniversary by Nancy Chenier

MK: Majestic opening. Delicate yet intense piece that crosses time, space and species.

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14.) [Untitled] by Jennifer Faust

MK: This felt like watching the pivotal scene in a sweeping fantasy movie. Lovely build-up and enjoyable ending.

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15.) They Themselves by Josh Bertetta

MK: I love that the author has taken the image and crafted not only a different world/s, but cross genres and built a fantastic back-story. Fabulous imagination.

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16.) Dragoncall by Dave Lankshear

MK: And so the real story begins. Even in a micro story it’s possible to use pace to engage the reader, and the author of this story has done just that, building up to the finale (or beginning, as I like to think of it).

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17.) [Untitled] by Rebekah Postupak (Crash Site)

MK: So many reasons to adore this. The personification of the stones (each with distinct personality). The partners discussing the merits of asking for directions (just brilliant). The crash site itself. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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18.) Sea Shells by Allison K. Garcia

MK: Yes. This is how to mix fabulous dialogue, humour, and first-class words such as ‘eep’, ‘sizzle’, ‘chomp’. Loved it—thank you for making me smile.

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19.) The Reluctant Dragon-keeper of Drabenvord by Geoff Holme

MK: I’m a big fan of experimenting with structure in flash/micro fiction. Here the author has included both authors, Street & Shoemaker and their respective novels, Embrace the Fire and Sterling. Clever.

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20.) [Untitled] by Rebekah Postupak (Touch my Stuff)

MK: And let that be a lesson to you! Never. Ever. Touch a dragon’s stuff. See anything like that on the beach – just leave it there. Trust me.

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21.) Stone Quarry by Brady Koch

MK: This is like a great movie trailer. It condenses a huge plot and backstory into a tiny space. Good craft.

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MK: There can be only one winner (sadly).

It was a close call but I have chosen Salvage, by Nancy Chenier. I hope you agree it is a worthy winner in a field of incredible stories.

The words are beautifully written. The images sublime. But it’s much more than that. It is emotion in its highest form, squashed under the weight of intense gravity and condensed into the space of 100 words. It’s a sense of the unknown. It’s a ride on the wave of fear, loss and injury. It’s the complex relationships between ourselves and our families. It’s the intricate struggles with ourselves, who we are, who we were, how we came to be and who we can become. Stunning. Congratulations.

Congratulations to Nancy Chenier, the winner of A Few Days of Fantasy Flash 2016! Nancy, please contact Emily (emily (@) luminouscreaturespress (dot) com) to collect your winnings of copies of Sterling and Embrace the Fire!

LCP, Emily, and Tamara extend a huge THANK YOU to Mark for his detailed and careful judging.

Thanks to everyone for coming out and submitting stories!

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 Seven Winners!

Hello everyone! I’m so pleased that Emily and Beth asked me to judge the contest again this summer. As a proud member of the flash-fiction community, I am always happy to lend my support to this wonderful craft. As most #flashdogs know, writing micro-fiction is no joke. We’ve got a tiny space to say a lot of big things. And those of us who have been doing it for a while know that there is a certain power in that. Who among us hasn’t found our longer works improving tenfold due to the mad editing skills needed for flash?

Anyway, this summer has been a whole lot of heavy-duty novel revisions for me, so I haven’t been able to be as active a member of the flash community as in years past, but I’ve been with you in spirit. And that’s why judging week seven of Luminous Creatures Press Summer of Super Short Stories has been such a treat. I loved reading everyone’s varied and unique takes on the prompt. I appreciated the use of symbolism, imagery, irony, quirky dialogue and mythological allusions. I read some lines that made me, well, pretty damn jealous of many of you.

Good work, everyone! Just a reminder that all stories were judged by blind reading to preserve the purity of the contest. First, a word or two about each story:

The Blue Bird by F E Clark:
A small ceramic blue bird becomes a symbol for a woman enveloped in an abusive relationship. I grieved for her short-lived lightheartedness and the shattered bird that became part of her temporary celebration. But I also took small comfort in the bird’s final message to his bereaved owner. We can only hope she takes heed.

A God’s Justice by Steph Ellis:
“Why do you tell me my own story?”
“Because you do not yet know its end.”
I knew as soon as I read those two lines between the Raven and Sibyl in “A God’s Justice” that Sibyl was going to get it, and big time. And boy, did the Raven deliver. A tale of hubris and swift eye-gouging, heart-ripping justice for crimes committed against gods. Even if the perpetrator herself had the blood of the gods running through her veins.

Harpies by A V Laidlaw:
Love the imagery in this woeful tale of one man’s nightly hell. The protagonist must pay for his sins through attacks to his flesh by harpies who (shudder) wear the faces of the wife and daughters he neglected in favor of adultery and drugs. And like all nods to Greek mythology, he’d surely like to die, but nope, death doesn’t come for him, just those vicious reminders of his transgressions.

To Everything Its Season by M T Decker:
“Someone has to drive.” Indeed. And even Death needs a driver. In this take on the afterlife, Ember, the protagonist must wipe away her tears and try to avoid sentimentality as she drives Death from place to place.

The Half-Life of Bats and Cats by Mark A. King:
The turmoil of a post-apocalyptic society sets the backdrop for the shattered relationship between a predatory mother and the daughter she tormented. As we near the mother’s demise, we wonder what will now become of the protagonist who admits, even as she says goodbye to the woman who once stalked her like a cat, “I will be lonely without her.”

The First Kiss Between Death and Everything by Mark A. King:
A very clever take on the prompt indeed! An office romance is born at a drunken costume party. The grim reaper makes a move on a girl who quite confidently tells him her costume represents “everything.” (Dibs on that costume for next Halloween by the way) And the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least until they sober up and put on their street clothes.

Little Bird Fly by Pattyann McCarthy:
My heart grieves for the mother who watches her daughter embracing life, even as her daughter’s young life is slipping away. The beauty of a sunny day of kite flying and the joy she feels watching her daughter laugh and run with her older brother provide a perfect ironic backdrop for the terrible truth this mom must hold inside. It’s a tale that teaches that valuable lesson: cherish every day.

Flighty by Sonya:
This short tale runs the gamut from the height of happiness to a final goodbye. The protagonist seems to be haunted by a woman (a former love, I imagine) who sits, almost translucent in a coffee shop. Her last words are cut short, as is the protagonist’s happiness.

The City Under The Clouds by Ophelia Leong:
Adam, the protagonist of “The City Under the Clouds” takes an arduous journey to Below, the city he wondered about since his childhood. It isn’t until he reaches manhood that he finds – described with stunning imagery – Below. There, in the graveyard of the city, he learns the truth: Below is no more, just a once great empire turned to ruin.

Raven Girl by Catherine Connolly:
The image of a raven-haired teenaged girl swallowing birds from the sky won’t soon leave me, nor will the line, “We are what we must be, in the end.” Some strong description here, and a tale that won’t end well for Bran or the birds she’s devoured.

Beneath the Not Quite Dead Tree by A J Walker:
“Sometimes deaths are needed to save a life,” Elizabeth says to her sister Alison before giving her a first lesson in life and death. This story covers the thought-provoking theme of the balance of life; one life ends and another is saved. In this case, Elizabeth uses magic to revive a dead bird, thus preserving the balance.

Why the Tropics Don’t Get Cold by Nancy Chenier:
A migrating bird confronts the “foundling from the sea” who has magically stopped summer from exiting. Why the aversion to autumn? She’s trying to preserve the life of a woman she holds dear. Another story that made me think about the balance of life and death. Save one life, but hold the seasons captive? A provocative concept.

A Phoenix Denied Its Fire by Foy S. Iver:
At first I thought this story was going to be magical in nature. I visualized a prince or princess, frozen as a statue hoping for someone to break the spell. But then I realized the protagonist is a patient in a coma or perhaps someone suffering from a disease like locked-in syndrome. It touched me, this very powerful take on mercy killing from the point of view of the patient.

Memory Wife by Voima Oy:
“The chair in the living room was filled with her absence.” A powerful line from “Memory Wife,” a tale of loss filled with such vivid imagery – the sights and sounds of the missing other half – I felt true sorrow for the widower protagonist. Nicely done.

Without further ado, I present the week seven (drum roll, flourish of trumpets, marching band playing “Firework”…) the winner and runners up!

Third Place: The Blue Bird F E Clark:
I’m a sucker for a good symbol. It would’ve been nice if our protagonist threw the bird at her abusive partner’s head, but alas, no. But I didn’t see the tale as hopeless, because though she lost her brilliant blue ceramic bird, she gained something. In that tiny piece of paper, like the words inside a fortune cookie, she could see the possibility of freedom. Great imagery here to create the shifting mood of the story. Well done!

Second Place: Why the Tropics Don’t Get Cold by Nancy Chenier:
Again, a story that made me think ‘deep thoughts’. In my mind, this story transcended its basic premise of a girl-creature who used magic to preserve the life of her ‘grandmother,’ while single-handedly stopping the seasons from changing. For me it became about the bigger picture: the balance of nature, of life and death. The idea of playing god (or goddess), yet disturbing the balance with possible dire consequences.

AND OUR WEEK SEVEN WINNER IS:

A Phoenix Denied Its Fire by Foy S. Iver:
I chose this story for two reasons: First, I loved the premise. I personally like a story that makes me think about the big life questions. I couldn’t get the image of this person, imprisoned inside his/her own body, out of my mind. The second reason was the writing was expertly crafted. Lines like “I’m a husk yearning to be thrown to compost,” or the title line “a phoenix denied its fire,” formed amazing metaphors for the protagonist’s desire to be freed.

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Congratulations FE, Nancy, and Foy! Foy’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Kristen for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Eight, judged by yours truly, Beth Deitchman!

Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week Five

Welcome to week five of our eight-week contest. Don’t forget that not only are you competing for weekly bragging rights, but also for two ULTIMATE prizes;  winners in the categories of podium wins and stories submitted will each receive a signed and doodled print copy of LCP’s latest book, The Gantean.

This week our judge is spec-fic fan Nancy Chenier, a flashdog and a tremendously talented writer. She says she likes emotional connection in the stories, but we suspect she might also appreciate brilliant word choices and mesmerizing verbs (just going by her own writing).

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. There are no content restrictions.

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 three-word phrase in any part of your story:

“this creeping fear”

Anthropomorphic Roots

Image credit: Anthropomorphic Roots by Mike DelGuadio  flickr CC 2.0
Image has not been altered from its original form.

 

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 Five Judge: Nancy Chenier

Up next in LCP’s line-up of potent and powerful judges is the talented and oft-winning Nancy Chenier. With a penchant for spec-fiction, Nancy is the winner of many of LCP’s past contest rounds, not to mention a three-time winner at Flash! Friday and a regular winner/participant in many other online flash forums.

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Nancy says: “Although I gravitate toward speculative fiction, I’m finding the more I participate in the flash-fiction world, the more I’m drawn to tales with a strong emotional core, whether gut-wrenching or gut-bursting. I also look for a solid ending (probably because I find them the most difficult things to write).”

You can follow her blog, Spec-Fic Motley.

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.

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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 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.

 

 

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 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.