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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”.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Week Two Winners!

The results are in from guest judge Tiffany Aldrich MacBain!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Week 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.


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!


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


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.