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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!

Tir na nÒg, the Land of the Young

1848, Liverpool

The Erin’s Queen was moored in the seething port of Liverpool. Cargo of every shape and vibrant colour heaved from vessel to quay. Sounds assaulted the senses. It was easy to be lost in the cacophony of barked orders from old-men to young-boys, creaking ropes on overworked pulleys and the persistent famished screeching of circling gulls.

The mass migration from Éire had brought news of exploitation, death and unseaworthy coffin ships. Of course I’d heard such things, but there were no choices. Our farm had been seized and notice had been served. Prison awaited, unless our landlord paid for our deportation, which he did in a manner that implied we should be grateful to him.

We had little time to gather belongings and we were told the hold of the ship didn’t have space, yet Aoife insisted on changing into what passed for her Sunday best. “We might have nothing in Quebec, but we don’t need family, or money, or even a job,” she said, lit by the struggling morning rise. “We have each other. We have faith. When we first set foot on new soil we will have excitement and pride and hope. We’ll be reborn. We’ll learn. We’ll thrive, my love.”

When she said such things, I forgot the hardships of toiling the lands and remembered why I married her. I could look into her eyes of blue hope and allow myself to dream, even with my ragged clothes and blooded hands.

Before sail, I held Padraig tightly. My precious boy, my gossoon. Although he was five, he looked like a toddler. Sometimes I feared I would crush him in my embrace. “The journey will be hard, son. You mustn’t cry, whatever you see. It is a long way and we would do best not to upset anyone. Can you do that for me, Padraig, my little man?” To this he grinned and nodded.

The dockland skies were gunmetal grey and clouds pregnant with overdue rain. The moon hung in the morning heavens, a caught trespasser in the dawn. It was only as the ship set sail that I realised the vastness of the anthracite sea. Approaching the harbour walls, a solitary tree jutted out of the stonework, all twisted convex and concave limbs, black and very dead—it stood like a guardian between the worlds.

Before twenty days had passed, we were no longer repulsed by stench of spilled stomachs, other smells filled the air—sickness, disease, the stink of humanity turning on itself to fight for scraps of mouldy bread.

We lost the first one on day twenty-five. An old woman, Josephine. She started the journey with eyes of empathy and wisdom. In my great shame, I was relieved when I no longer had to look at her unfocused and lifeless stare. Once the rattle of the death in her lungs had left her, I could once again hear the churn and crack of the angry ocean. Her family pushed her up, through the square of blinding light. We heard the splash a moment later. No prayer was said.

By day thirty, sharks followed the boat, they say.

On day thirty-three, it was a jumble of bodies, insects and madness. Departed relatives were pushed aside, survivors refused to touch them and the captain paid one sovereign for each body recovered and jettisoned. We watched the boat-hooks descend into darkness and grab what they could—hoisting, dragging—it mattered not, the treatment the dead.

By day forty, Padraig had succumbed. His fever not tempered by his mother’s touch, his discomfort barely eased by the tales of Tír na nÓg, the land of the young. I did not tell him the tales of Oisín and Niamh, but of a forever-gossoon named Padraig.

When he passed, no tears left his eyes.

We would not allow him to be touched, or hooked. When others talked of the disease he would bring, Aoife made inhuman screams and I threatened consequences.

Weeks passed. No words. No mourning.

Stepping ashore the new lands, she straightened her dress and held her head high, carrying our rag-doll gossoon in her arms.

I recall these events for you, my precious girl, for there is hope in everything. Even when enduring a day, minute or second feels impossible, there is a fragment of hope. For you were the first born in these lands and the world is yours. With your first breath, we found purpose.

Follow Mark A. King on Twitter: @Making_Fiction

Let Me Tell You My Story, To Help Us Pass the Time by David Shakes

Squealing brakes, glittering glass and concertinaed metal took my babies from me. Cold in the ground they lay and I, in my grief, wept freely into that consecrated soil.

* ‘There are no accidents,’ say the children. *

What had I done for them to be taken so young? It’ wasn’t right and I cursed the man who took them. He still lived, still walked the earth while my babies were buried in it. They didn’t even take his job.

* ‘No event has a life of its own,’ chorus the girls. *

‘Take up their bones and head for the hill where a single tree grows,’ Maman told me. ‘Wait there, don’t matter how long, wait – wait until the last leaf has fallen of its own accord.’

* ‘There exists a sacred cycle between the living and the dead,’ say the children. *

‘There is a price child, always a price.’ Maman said.

I said I would pay it. I didn’t have to think. I walked the hill and sat beneath the skeletal tree. My broken nails were caked in dirt. I picked them clean like the bones of my children that lay beside me – bleached white by the moonlight.

* ‘The serpent eats its own tale,’ chant the girls, giggling. *

‘When the bare limbs part the clouds and you see the stars, slip them bones in the water. Then tell Xevisio of the great harm done to you and yours. If your cause be just, He will ask Agbe what can be done.’

* ‘What you do unto another, you do unto you. We are all one,’ say the children. *

The sons of Mawu took pity on me, and my babies came back, swimming up from the murky depths. I blessed those Vodun and then bit my lips. Behind my babies’ eyes, old souls stared back – hungry souls.

* ‘We are the vehicles for the expression of the serpent’s power,’ say the girls, their voices deep and serious. *

First a voice from the waters said, ‘Your babies still slumber – they cannot be sullied by this deed.’
And then came a voice from the tree, ‘The Loa will do what must now be done.’
Finally, a voice from the sky said, ‘There’s always a price my child, always a price.’

* ‘We act for the He who made the trees and the ropes,’ say the children. *

So we walked down from the hill. I held their hands in mine, these babies who were not completely mine. We walked down the hill and met the road. We walked the road to the same stop where it happened.

* ‘All this has happened before and will happen again,’ the girls whisper conspiratorially. *

We got on to ride and I met you and told you my story. They didn’t even take his job you see? He’s still driving the bus.

* ‘You’d better get off soon.’ say the children. ‘Real soon.’ *

Follow David Shakes on Twitter:@TheShakes72

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

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!

Week Six Winners!

The writing community certainly likes to make it difficult for judges to choose. Lovely job this week, everyone. This was tough!

Second Nature by Madilyn Quinn: I wonder whether the little girl is seeing ghosts or slipping through dimensions? Either way, this story was a fascinating and well-crafted look in her mind.

The First World by Voima Oy: A clever spin on the creation myth. Now I know it’s dragons I have to thank for Wi-Fi! I love the idea of being a dragon’s creation. The description of the dragons is lovely.

Alexander at Delphi by AV Laidlaw: The elements of Greek mythology are wonderful. This Alexander, much as the original who made his foolish demands, bit off more than he could chew. The spoiled child and the bitter Oracle are wonderful characters. The ending feels like a just punishment.

The Pillars by Ophelia Leong: Sympathy for the lonely Amy turns into what feels like a happy ending. Whatever lies beyond those pillars, I hope she’s in for some grand adventure. This was a lovely take.

Peacefulness Among the Poppies by Pattyann McCarthy: The glimpse into this character’s world. I felt her pain and her relief. The vivid imagery took me on a trip (ha, ha – I’m so clever…). That she is doing something dangerous and sacrificing her health for happiness…a true tragedy.

Crystal Reign by Mark A. King: I wanted Kyle to succeed but the story spirals with the downfall of addiction. Realistic and heartbreaking. I especially like this use of the pillars. Another story of addiction; something so compelling in a world full of stress. Great job.

Not Exactly Magical by Nancy Chenier: The guide is a fun narrator. The light-hearted tour dissolved quickly into something grim. The ending was a delightful thrill. Scary, effective, and shocking. Wonderful.

Crystal Nights by Mark A. King: Poor Crystal. Her reluctance to return to her other identity spoke volumes. Her over-the-top lipstick was delightful. I’m still imagining her glittering in the club. This story speaks to me for a variety of reasons, but mostly for the heartbreak that shouldn’t exist – but does. I hope Crystal finds her way.

Third Place: Three Pillars to the Wise by MT Decker: You had me from the opening line and I was fascinated to the finish. There is so much wisdom in this short story – hope, sadness, an emotional rollercoaster. For a moment I thought I understood the meaning of life. This one touched me in a way I didn’t expect.

Second Place: One Day by Steph Ellis: The twist at the end is hilarious. I’m not a parent, but I know some (and have) parents. I can imagine this solution would appeal to tired mothers and fathers everywhere. This grandmother strikes me as fun. I’d like to invite her to a party.

Thanks for the chuckle – I loved this.

AND OUR WEEK SIX WINNER IS:

Madame Doofay and the Six Sugar Candy Skulls by FE Clark: First of all, I love this title. I was expecting something silly and the mental image of gummy skulls fizzing in gin is deceptively innocent. I can’t decide if I like this main character, or if they are too jealous. Why did Jason offer her the skulls? Who is this Felicity? Was this her idea?

Has she won?

The sinister ending is a perfect wrap-up of the eerie atmosphere. There are so many layers to this story. Well done!

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Congratulations MT, Steph, and, FE! FE’s story will appear on our blog tomorrow. Thank you to Holly for judging and to all you wonderful writers for sharing your stories! Join us on Thursday for Week Seven, judged by the multi-talented Kristen Falso-Capaldi!

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 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!