Oct 302014
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.04. As it’s Halloween tomorrow, let’s have something a bit scary.

Imagine you return home from a busy day at work. You put on the radio to listen to some relaxing music or catch up on the day’s news only to hear this:

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars. The battle which took place tonight at Grovers Mill has ended in one of the most startling defeats ever suffered by any army in modern times; seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine guns pitted against a single fighting machine of the invaders from Mars.

That’s what greeted those who tuned in to the 1938 radio dramatization of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds. The widespread panic among the American public reported by the press was greatly exaggerated, however, the repercussions were wide-reaching. Adolf Hitler, less than a year away from ordering the invasion of Poland that would start World War II, said the broadcast was “evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy.”

Let’s celebrate Halloween, science fiction, and democracy with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Daniel Lee via CC.

Photo Credit: Daniel Lee via CC.

Judging this week’s contest is Geoff Holme, winner of MB1.03. Read his winning story here, and what he has to say about flash fiction here. Geoff is a stickler for punctuation so proofread extra carefully this week. Have fun!

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with EARTH and ending with COLONY and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

Why not? Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘who is the the author’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Who is Geoff Holme?

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Oct 282014
 

Geoff HolmeGeoff Holme, winner of Micro Bookends 1.03, would like to extend his gratitude for all your kind words and congratulations following his win. Geoff has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so I’d listen up (especially the bit where he says he’s a stickler for punctuation). Follow him on Twitter, read his winning story here, then listen to what he has to say:

I live in West Sussex (that’s England, y’all!), about 200 metres from the “English” Channel. If I hadn’t waited until MB 1.03 to win, I could have declared my proclivity for procrastination without seeming to be a plagiarist; unlike Carlos, however, looming deadlines give me palpitations. Currently unemployed, so free to spend most of my time entering flash fiction contests in an effort to improve my writing – seems to have paid off! Pedant, stickler for punctuation, vegetarian. Oh, also quite tall (see photo).

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? I like to play with words, so “MEAT” led me to “ME AT…”. I know a little about The Amish from “Witness” and a couple of documentaries on TV. I wondered who might have taken the photo, given that Amish people don’t go in for that kind of thing.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Often, I just stick to dialogue. For Micro Bookends, I see what I can do creatively with the opening word – that gives me a start; the closing word gives me something to work towards. I fill out the middle with verbiage, then prune drastically. Sometimes, by accident, I’m left with the spaces that the reader has to fill in to complete the story.

Why do you like flash fiction? It’s imposes limits and prevents me running off at the mouth. Plus, I can produce something I’m happy with in a relatively short timeframe. I don’t read quickly – can’t skim, need to digest every word – so flash fiction is a nice easy read for me.

Been writing long? A friend invited me to a monthly writers’ group just over a year ago; then I added a fortnightly group in the summer. At the end of September, I discovered flash fiction contests on the web and have been trying to enter as often as I can.

You write anything else? I adapted a pantomime that was performed several years back; I have three unfinished pantomimes of my own as WIPs. Procrastination…

Any advice for other flash writers? I think it would be arrogant for a relative novice to offer advice… so here goes. Read a lot, write a lot, check out the work of the winners of online contests – not necessarily mine! I think that the only way to improve is to keep plugging away. Oh, and read through your work several times before submitting, to avoid silly miskates!

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Just more flash fiction. And those unfinished pantos.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I find that quite lot of amateur flash fiction writers don’t punctuate well which really distracts me from appreciating what they are trying to convey. I’m no expert, so I bought Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss – a humorous overview of this topic.

Micro Bookends 1.03 – Results

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Oct 262014
 
Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos via CC.

Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos via CC.

First an announcement.

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ENDED IN THE UK TODAY, SO PLEASE CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE ON THE WORLD CLOCK. YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS NEXT WEEK’S HALLOWEEN FUN!

What are you lot like? I expound the benefits of a meat-free diet and you come up with some of the most warped, weird and wonderful stories I’ve ever read. Thanks! Maybe I should have saved these prompts for next week’s Halloween special.

Thanks to everyone who turned out to write this week, and a huge thanks for dropping back in to comment on the other entries. I know how useful and enjoyable it is to read feedback on your writing.

Before I hand over to this week’s judge, Carlos Orozco, here’s my two-penn’orth on the stories that didn’t make it into the winning circle:

The Fabulous Butcher Boy by Image Ronin

IR crammed a lot of great imagery, emotion, and back story into this fantastic flash. You get a real sense of the hardship these people endure (“his breath a chain of clouds”) and the extreme measures they employ to survive – “William hefted another crimson-flecked sack from the wagon.” Shivers. Top notch.

Fresh by Rasha

Children as meat. A very sinister take on the prompt. I loved the line “seasoned workers stared at us hungrily”; it made me think of someone with a giant pepper grinder. Madam Henrietta sounds delightful; she deserves a story all of her own.

Free Lunch by Holly Geely

Although Jeff’s mom is only mentioned in the story, I felt she was a really strong character and could imagine her scolding Jeff at every turn. Steven is obviously a clever chap and manages to set up the situation to satisfy both himself and Jeff’s mom. But what about Jeff? I don’t think anyone ever cares what poor Jeff thinks. Great story.

Walking in Antarctica by Voimaoy

A particularly liked this story because Voimaoy provided a visual aid to the kind of clothes you should wear when walking in Antarctica! This made me shiver just reading it. “Flesh, don’t fail me now”, “Here is cold as the space between the stars”. And those memories of warmth contrasting starkly with the cold. Some incredibly beautiful writing here.

YOUNGER by Brian S Creek

Brian playing with the structure again to great effect. It could have been difficult to read without the clever use of capitalization to guide the reader. Of course the clever structure was not all this story had to offer. It’s kind of like Benjamin Button on steroids: eat manflesh or get younger and die. Story and structure very cleverly linked.

Fresh from the Abattoir by Nancy Chenier

I love good dialogue and this had nothing but. I sense a genuine pro-veggie viewpoint here, and done to great effect. The poor lad tries to put his morals across but dad is adamant; meat is the only way. On a personal level it reminded me of when my sister decided she would become a vegetarian. Our father was a butcher so it didn’t go down well! Great writing that both entertains and makes you think. Brilliant.

Express Image by Ed Broom

Another incredibly clever offering from Ed. I love the opening bookend; meat instead of cheese when taking a photo. The dialogue is excellent as is the choice of character names; it gives a very authentic feel. Two bible verses make it into the story: Exodus 20:4: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” – that explains Dorcas’ discomfort. John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” – very cleverly twisted by Eli to excuse his actions. Love it.

Now here’s what judge, Carlos Orozco, had to say about it all:

First off, I’d like to thank David Borrowdale for hosting Micro Bookends. It’s a really fun contest, and we can never have too many contest.

Great stories this week. My strategy coming in was creating two stacks: one for stories I wasn’t too crazy about and one for stories I really liked. Every story ended up in the latter category. I wished I could stop there but I couldn’t.  So in the end I narrowed it down and ended up with two feel-good stories and two darker tales. Every one of them could have been number one, but I don’t think that would fly with the host. So without further ado:

Honourable Mention

Cat on the Menu by Avalina Kreska

Love the premise, and this line “The handful of breakfast oats never filled his aching stomach.” This explains so much without going into detail. Remember, what is said is just as important as what is not said. Also, “peeling skin like an orange” evokes such a dark twisted image. I love a good dark tale and this was great.

 3rd Place

The Dirt by Grace Black

This is a well done feel-good tale. I prefer the darker stuff, but how can I dislike this one. I enjoyed that while the people perused the shop’s items, the narrator perused the faces. This line: “smell their forgotten childhood laughter and the acrid heartache that has taken its place.” Evokes all the senses by describing the smell of something we are supposed to hear. And all of this is summed up in one powerful word.

2nd Place

Uprooting by Brett Milam

Did I mention I like a good dark tale? This one grabbed my attention with the first line. Describing humans as meat monsters poured into boots and clothes is not just great imagery, but a way to desensitize humanity to justify what is coming up. I like that the word meat is used throughout making it an integral part of the story, not just a word forced in there. This line was my favorite: “We were the worst kind of meat”

Winner

Graven Image by Geoff Holme

The dialogue in this was great; very believable. I imagined the little girl sitting on her pap pap’s lap listening to stories. The mix up with Amish and army made me chuckle. Also, this story does a great job of telling the story with what is left out (if that makes any sense). The brief mention of Kathryn paired with the final line sets in motion the gears of the mind. Is Kathryn the Grandma or is she the person that got him to quit the Amish lifestyle which led him to where he is now? Also, great incorporation of the photo prompt.

Graven Image

by Geoff Holme

“‘Meat store’, Grampy?” she said. “Thought you wuz a veti-…”

“Vegetarian. I am, Becca. What have you found?”

He saw the creased Polaroid, its faded hand-written caption, and his heart flipped.

“It… it says ‘Me at store’, sweetie,” he managed to whisper. “That’s me on the cart.”

“The boys have funny hats,” she giggled. “They school uniform?”

“A uniform of sorts. I used to be Amish.”

“Army? You were a soldier?”

He smiled wrily. “No, Becca, just the opposite.”

Turning over the photo Kathryn had secretly given him that day, he saw again the phone number she’d written.

He’d known even then.

One day he would have to break free.

Oct 232014
 

Welcome back to Micro Bookends. For MB1.02 you gave us some brilliant interpretations of the photo prompt and creative uses of the bookends. Let’s see what you can do with this week’s offerings.

It is well known that a vegetarian diet has numerous health benefits including a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and various types of cancer, lower body weight, lower cholesterol levels, and higher life expectancy. Then of course there’s the environmental impact of a meat-based diet. Livestock production contributes 18% of all green-house gases, second only to energy production (21%). And I’m not even going to mention the ethical argument. These are all great reasons to pursue a meat-free lifestyle. But bacon.

Someone who eschews all animal-based protein is ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic who celebrates his 55th birthday today. In 1996 Weird Al got into a tiff with bad boy rapper Coolio over Al’s Amish Paradise parody of Collio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, itself a reworking of Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. Coolio claimed Al’s parody had “desecrated the song.” The two later made up with Coolio admitting his objections to the parody were “stupid” and that the song was actually funny.

Join me in a rendition of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow for Weird Al with this weeks photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos via CC.

Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos via CC.

Judging this week’s contest is Carlos Orozco, winner of MB1.02. Read his winning story here, and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with MEAT and ending with FREE and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

Why not? Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘who is the the author’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Who is Carlos Orozco?

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Oct 212014
 

FlashdogsHere, Carlos Orozco tells us a bit about himself and his excellent Micro Bookends 1.02-winning story. Carlos runs with the Flashdogs. Check out their blog, or follow Carlos on Twitter. Carlos has kindly agreed to judge this weeks contest so take notes:

I reside in the Pacific Northwest. I’m a HUGE procrastinator; looming deadlines are my inspiration. I’m currently binging on Flash Fiction and do not plan to stop anytime soon. Proud #Flashdog. WOOF.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? For some odd reason facelift made me think of George Washington’s face lifting into the air. Then I thought, who’d want to win a broken typewriter? That question led to the characters’ conception.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? By having the reader (hopefully) fill in the blanks. What writers choose to leave out is just as important as what they include.

Why do you like flash fiction? I can read/write it quickly and then get to the best part: thinking about the story, letting it linger in my mind until I’m ready to move on.

Been writing long? Writing on a consistent basis: No. I started back in May. Before that I had written a thing or two here and there.

You write anything else? Not really. I do some poetry here and there, but that’s about it.

Any advice for other flash writers? Read a bunch of flash fiction. Write a bunch of flash fiction. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? The Flashdogs Anthology.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I just finished a short story collection that I really enjoyed Tenth of December by George Saunders.

My Stuff: Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 45

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Oct 212014
 

Here’s my entry to Flash! Friday Vol 2-45. The prompt photo was two dudes playing chess. Hmm. The dragon’s bidding was to include a nemesis. A bonus challenge was to not use the word chess.

Public domain photo.

Public domain photo.

When Aretha Met Elvis

Did the black Queen of Soul ever meet the white King of Rock and Roll? Hell yeah! I’m proof. I got me them monochrome chromosomes.

‘Course I can’t remember them. I grew up in Hunger’s Nemesis Orphanage, Memphis, Tennessee. It’s long gone now. You won’t find it even if you look.

I recall the first time I saw my Daddy dancin’. Boy, could he move them hips? I jumped right up out of my chair and started dancin’ just like him. Sent the checker board flying! And Mama’s voice? Well, she could charm the angels down from heaven then scare them right back up again.

I’m told Mama is doing well and still sings, though she can’t tempt the angels down no more. Daddy, they tell me, went and took up them drugs and died. I don’t believe it. I still see him sometimes.

My Stuff: Flash Frenzy Round 39

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Oct 212014
 

Here’s my entry to Flash Frenzy Round 39. The photo prompt was a pumpkin. That’s it. I thought out outside the box a little for this one.

Photo Credit: Ashwin Rao via CC.

Photo Credit: Ashwin Rao via Angry Hourglass.

Trudy’s Carer

“Another piece of pumpkin pie sweetie?”
“Lay it on me.”

John sat on the edge of the bed next to Trudy. He took the last slice of pie from the plate and held it while Trudy devoured half the slice in one mouthful. John licked his own lips.

“That’s real nice.”
“Yeah, it is.”

John popped the tab on a Coke and tipped it into Trudy’s mouth. He wiped her lips with a napkin. He looked at her beautiful face and her gorgeous body and was amazed with the progress they’d made. Only two years and she’d done so well.

“Sponge bath honey?”
“Oh yeah. I am sweating like a pee eye gee.”

John reached into one of the buckets by the bed and retrieved a wash cloth from the tepid water. He wrung it out then began wiping down Trudy’s body, prising apart the folds of flesh and wiping out the sweat and grime.

“That feels real good.”
“Yeah, it does.”

They’d had some trouble with bedsores. Angry, weeping wounds that made the air smell of cheese even when it wasn’t cheese night. Now John was careful to turn Trudy regularly and make sure her skin was dry and moisturized.

“Ready for a turnin’ dumplin’?”
“Sure am. Getting a little hot on my lower back.”

John slipped his hands under her side and buried them deep under her body. He was amazed and thrilled at the weight bearing down on his arms. He started a little rocking motion.

“You roll with me angel cake, I can’t do this on my own.”
“Sure thing.”

When she was lying on her side, John wiped down her back with the washcloth, dried her with a towel and rubbed emollient into the skin. He adored her skin, so soft and warm.

“You in the mood baby pie?”
“I am if you are.”

John began to undress, all the time eying Trudy’s body hungrily. She must be 420 pounds, maybe even 430. It won’t be long till we reach that magic 500.