Apr 302015
 

Hello again. A fascinating story for you this week (thanks for the suggestion, Ed.)

A wild child (also known as a feral child or wolf child) is a human child that has been raised in the absence of normal family and social structures and behaviours. This is often a result of being confined by their own parents as a deliberate act of cruelty or as a rejection of a child’s mental or physical disability. Wild children are a common subject in folklore where they are often portrayed as being raised by animals – think Mowgli in The Jungle Book.

On this day in 1812, Kaspar Hauser, one of the most fascinating cases of wild children, was born. As a teenage boy he was found wandering the streets of Nuremberg, Germany, carrying a letter from a man claiming the boy was left in his care as an infant and he had raised him but never let him leave the house. Hauser was able to speak a few words (particularly “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was” and “Horse! Horse!”) and write his name. When asked about his early life he spoke of a small, dark cell and being fed only bread and water. He became something of a curiosity in the town and was visited by many people who wanted to glimpse the wild child. Hauser died aged 21 from a stab wound. Many believe he was attempting to resurrect dwindling public interest towards him, but stabbed himself too deeply. In a twist worthy of Alexandre Dumas, some believed that Hauser was the hereditary Prince of Baden and was switched with a sickly child at birth to ensure the incumbent Duke had no male heir and the title would be inherited by his uncle.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Dan Markeye via CC.

Photo Credit: Dan Markeye via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Ed Broom, winner of MB1.01 and MB1.28. Read his winning story, and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with WILD and ending with CHILD 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!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Micro Bookends 1.28 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.28 – Results
Apr 262015
 
Photo Credit: Liline sur Flickr via CC.

Photo Credit: Liline sur Flickr via CC.

Well, that was fun. So much patriotism and emotion, and not just from the English. A big thanks to N J Crosskey for wrestling with all your dragons and picking the winners. Here’s what she thought:

I’ve never judged a competition before, and you pesky writers had to go and make it difficult didn’t you? So many wonderful stories. You’ve made me laugh, cry, nod along, and even raised the goose bumps on my flesh. I want to thank you all for the privilege of reading your work. A lot of you took risks, either with the prose itself or by being topical/political. I really admire that. Writers should be unafraid to experiment. Each and every story was unique and well executed. Choosing winners was exceptionally tricky, and you should all be very happy with your entries. However, choose I must, and these are the stories that particularly stood out to me.

Honourable Mentions

Knight of the Rock by Holly Geely

I absolutely loved the characterisation in this one. It is skilful indeed to portray personalities so well in a piece that is almost entirely dialogue. I fell for Jacob, the disrespectful squire, straight away. I can picture him so clearly in my mind, though no physical description was given. Giving backstory through dialogue between two characters (both of whom are already aware of past events), AND making it sound natural, is extremely difficult to pull off. Often the writer falls in to the “as you know” trap, and the conversation sounds unrealistic (why would character A be telling character B something he already knows?), but the author of this piece made it seem effortless. The dialogue was very realistic, and the line “you only won this battle because the goblins were ill.” Made me laugh out loud. Terrific. Jacob was a triumph!

Did they Blowtorch it? by Sal Page

There were several drunk Englishmen this week, this one stood out to me as a scarily familiar and well captured snapshot of binge drinking culture. The phrase “celebrating something or other” made me laugh, and nod in recognition at the same time. It’s all about the beer, and the singing and laughing too, but mostly the beer. I love rule breaking and risk-taking and inventing your own word certainly does that! “Sizzletasticly so.” Works so well, really conjures up the image and sounds exactly like the sort of phrase someone who has had one (or three) too many would come up with. Heck, I’ve heard a fair few new adjectives/adverbs fall from the lips of the tipsy! Thus, the language of this piece really added to its realism.

George Slays the Dragon by A.J. Walker

This one really took me on a rollercoaster. I was hooked by the snappy first line: George expects. I’m a huge fan of well-placed short, snappy sentences (y’know, the type that give your grammar checker an embolism) and this one said so much more than a longer phrase could have. Then the author led me to believe, through the use of the names Patrick and Andrew, that I was watching St George ruing the fact that his day doesn’t get as much attention as his Irish and Scottish counterpart’s do. But no, of course, George was stressing over something much more important than that – football!

Then I spat out my coffee at the line: “Like a Farage!” partly because it made me laugh, and partly because I was slightly shocked that the author took the risk of including a political reference. So this one gets an honourable mention for twisting the tale on me, making me laugh, and being topically bold!

3rd Place

George and the Dragon by Jacki Donnellan

Goosebumps. This one hit me in the guts and then crept under my skin. The line: “But when George returned home, none of his memories of war would fit inside” is utterly magnificent. It gives no specific details as to what those memories may be, it doesn’t have to. Instead the author trusts the reader to fill in the blanks, and gives us the type of image that sticks, and makes us reflect. An incredibly sad and poignant tale that is again painfully familiar and topical. An exploration of the terrible human cost of war, even for those who survive it. Beautiful, tragic and a memorable piece that will remain with me.

2nd Place

A Fear of the Unknown by Iskandar Haggarty 

This was a magnificent piece that really flips perspectives, and spoke to me metaphorically as well as literally. Exceptionally clever, the author has looked for ways in which the soldiers themselves resemble dragons, and described them beautifully in the lines:

“Loud roars.

Sharp claws.

Metallic, scaly hides.”

The choice to put these short, punchy descriptions on separate lines also makes the piece stand out visually, something which is often overlooked in flash fiction, but I personally feel adds another dimension to a story (and catches the eye of the scroller!)

The line: “But as the ironclad monsters rode over the hill on their four-legged beasts, his father’s carcass in tow,” was enough to slay ME, never mind the dragon. I really felt his fear, his grief, his horror. Incredibly sad, and very moving.

Winner

Full English by Ed Broom

This excellent piece is a perfect example of how to tell a whole story using just one, seemingly ordinary, moment in time. The line “the cat’s seen it all before.” Tells us that this is a run-of-the-mill breakfast for George and his Mum. But their story is revealed through heart-breaking little details as the piece progresses. It’s hard to believe I’ve only had a hundred words to get to learn about George, I feel I know him so well, which is testament to the author’s skill. There are blanks for the reader’s mind to fill in, which only adds to the depth and heart of the piece.

“He’s already changed his shirt after tidying last night’s empties and ashtrays.” This tells us so much, about George himself, and about life at home. I really felt the grief, the loss and the unspoken emptiness in their household. The desperate attempts to be normal, to keep order, with broken hearts. George is taking care of his mother the best way he knows how, but I can’t help but feel that she is wracked not only by grief at the loss of her husband, but fear for her son as well. Her conflicting emotions (pride and apprehension) come across so well when she says: “George you’re a saint. Your father would be…” and then proceeds to study his dog tag.

The author used the bookends seamlessly, and created a beautiful, poignant tale using just one moment in time.

Full English

Ed Broom

George waves away her smoke and reaches for the ketchup. Sunlight bounces off the dog tag but the cat’s seen it all before.

“Mind your uniform, George.”

“You know me.”

He’s already changed his shirt after tidying last night’s empties and ashtrays.

“I made lunch.”

“George, you’re a saint. Your father would be…”

Her fingers trace the familiar embossing on the metal ID hanging from his neck: name, service number, blood group.

Glancing down, George sees his yolk submerged in red gloop.

“Mum, shut up and eat. You know what you’re like if you skip breakfast.”

“I know. I turn into a right dragon.”

Apr 232015
 

Happy Saint George’s Day! Here be dragons!

Saint George’s Day is the national day of England and the feast day of Saint George. Saint George was a soldier, and later an officer, in the Roman army. When the Emperor Diocletian issued an edict that all Christian soldiers in his army should be arrested and half of them executed as an offering to the Roman Gods, George objected and spoke up for his brothers of faith, thus securing his own execution and his veneration as a Christian martyr. Saint George is most famous for freeing the town of Silene in Libya by slaying the dragon that dwelt by the lake.

So, how do the English celebrate Saint George’s day? Largely by going about their normal business completely unaware of the relevance of the day. A poll by British Future found that only 40% of English people know the date of Saint George’s day, while 71% know the date of the US Independence Day, and 42% the date of Saint Patrick’s day. It also found that the English felt more patriotic towards the Union Flag than the Saint George’s Cross. By contrast the Welsh and Scottish were far more likely to show patriotism towards their flags – The Red Dragon and Saint Andrew’s Cross – than the Union Flag. What’s an Englishman to do? Quote Shakespeare of course:

The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!

Here’s your photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Liline sur Flickr via CC.

Photo Credit: Liline sur Flickr via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is N J Crosskey, winner of MB1.27. Read her winning story, and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with GEORGE and ending with DRAGON 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!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Who is N J Crosskey?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is N J Crosskey?
Apr 212015
 

N J CrosskeyOur most recent winner is N J Crosskey. Follow her on Twitter and check out her blog. If you enjoyed N J’s MB1.27winning story, you can find more of her writing here.

N J has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest, so pay attention as she tells us a little more about herself and her writing:

I’m an aspiring author from West Sussex, England. I live with my wonderfully supportive husband, and two crazy and creative children. It took me until my mid-thirties to finally realise that trying and failing to achieve my dreams would be infinitely better than never trying at all. So nowadays you’ll most often find me in front of my laptop, either typing furiously or scratching my head and swearing at a blank page. I work night shifts in the care sector and spend my days writing. I drink a LOT of coffee!

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? The concrete blocks made me think of feeding troughs, which brought to mind a herd of cows. From that, for some inexplicable reason, the main character popped into my head and started ranting about his wife. After that, it was more a case of transcribing his diatribe than writing a story.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Editing! I tend to splurge out a whole story, and then get out the red pen of doom. After I’ve trimmed the fat, removing anything not vital to the piece, I look for ways to tighten the prose and make my points as succinctly as I can. I love that moment of elation when you realise a whole paragraph can be replaced with one clever sentence!

Why do you like flash fiction? So many reasons, but the biggest has to be that it’s simply great fun, both to read and to write. When it comes to fiction, I believe that rules are made to be broken. Flash is a great format for experimental prose. I love the challenge, and I’m constantly awed by the talent of flash fiction writers. It’s fantastic for honing your editing skills too, and the techniques you learn when you are forced into a very small word count can be applied to longer prose as well, making your other work shine brighter too.

Been writing long? Yes and no. I started writing seriously in January 2014. I had always dreamed of being a writer when I was a child, but stupidly let real life get in my way. It wasn’t until my daughter announced that she wants to be an author, and I heard the words, “that’s what I wanted to be when I was your age,” spilling out of my mouth that I realised it’s STILL what I want to be! So, I decided it was time to try. I wrote some short pieces and submitted them, and to my utter shock they were accepted and published! Those early acceptances, combined with the support and tutelage of some wonderful members of the online community, gave me the encouragement I needed to start chasing my dream. It may sound corny, but now that I’m writing again I feel as though I’ve found the piece of me that was missing. I’ll never stop again.

You write anything else? I also write longer short stories, novels, and anything that catches my interest. I’m usually led by the ideas, I just follow where they take me.

Any advice for other flash writers? I’m not sure I’m really qualified to give advice, but one thing I’ve learned is that you really need to feel the characters, even though they are only with you for a short time. You still need to know their whole story, even if you’re not including it in the piece. Looking back over my own flash pieces I can see that the strongest ones were written about characters I really felt, and had a backstory for. Often we’re only relaying a moment, but the whole tale still has to be at the forefront of our minds.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I am currently editing the first book in my fantasy series, Changing Skies. I’m also working on a near-future political thriller titled:  When Jimmy Saved London. I hope to be ready to start seeking representation by the end of the year.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I’m currently reading the FlashDogs Anthology which, needless to say, is excellent! I recently read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by  Karen Joy Fowler, which I really enjoyed for its strong voice and non-linear narrative.

Micro Bookends 1.27 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.27 – Results
Apr 192015
 
Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

I hope you’re all enjoying Sunday. Here are the MB1.27 results. Thanks to this week’s judge, Marie McKay. Here’s what she thought:

First of all, thank you for allowing me to read your wonderful work. It has been a pleasure reading so many different interpretations of the prompts. From a personal point of view, had I been taking part this week, I think I would have found the bookends easier to work with than the concrete blocks. However, you turned those blocks into mazes, laboratories, film sets, torture chambers and even a cafeteria. Your stories were varied, and I enjoyed reading each one of them. Needless to say, I found selecting the top stories very difficult as the quality of your writing was so high. However, in the end, these were my thoughts.

Honourable Mentions

The Price of Silence by Iskandar

The closing line of this one made it stand out for me. It gives us an insight into the killer’s character and ego. An understated story with a dark, wry last line.

Being Creative by Stella Turner

The domestic setting is not immediately apparent. The main character seems to be hiding from an adversary. But in a pleasing turn of events, equipment and chaos he refers to in the story become the toys and contraptions that accompany babies- the proud father is in need of sleep.

Left to Go Cold by A.J. Walker

The bookends were used exceptionally well in this piece. The life of a man is depicted in one incredible sentence, and the final image is sad and beautiful.

3rd Place

Don’t Speak When You’re Spoken To by Geoff Le Pard

The clever title and line, ‘An odd compliment for a child’ made this an interesting piece from the outset. Jaroslav is the leader of an underground group. His boastful nature becomes quickly apparent. He takes credit for the child’s ability to keep the group’s secrets. His cruelty towards the boy is disguised in the idea he has ‘Trained…’ him. That training it would seem has been extreme. The group, once made aware of the boy’s treatment, understand why, in the end, the boy murders Jaroslav. The use of ‘could’ in the line, ‘why he could keep silent.’ has very sinister connotations. This was a very well constructed story.

2nd Place

Trial and Error by Emily Livingstone

The concrete maze inspired a number of stories about laboratories of one kind or another; however, I liked this interpretation very much as it was both dark and humorous. Ms. Wainwright’s lack of attention to detail and perhaps even her arrogance, is underpinned when she calls the intern ‘Sonia’ rather than ‘Sofia.’ The disastrous results of Ms. Wainwright’s approach to the experiment she is conducting become apparent when ‘the [giant] rats [are] halfway across the field, their tails sliding heavily through the grass behind them.’ The lab rats, it would seem, will be allowed their revenge. A beautifully paced, witty piece.

WINNER

Just Maybe… by NJ Crosskey

I thought this was an excellent piece of micro fiction. It builds to a very disturbing idea: ‘Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel… I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows.’ Yet, the pain and frustration in this internal monologue becomes clear in wonderful lines like, ‘…I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.’ The repetition of ‘maybe’ ensures that we are aware that the ugly words and violent threats do not take place outside of this character’s own head. They seem his way of releasing the tension and unhappiness of being in a relationship where he feels controlled and undervalued. With the author’s seamless use of the final bookend, the main character resigns himself to keeping silent- even though constructive dialogue might be a better solution- and merely turns the volume up on the film. A clever story that I thought worked exceptionally well.

Just Maybe…

NJ Crosskey

Silent treatment, that’s what she accuses me of. Then it’s all: You Never, You Don’t, You Aren’t.

Well maybe I don’t and maybe I’m not. But maybe Glynis, just freakin’ maybe, YOU don’t and YOU aren’t either.

And maybe, just maybe, you sound like a flock of constipated pigeons. Maybe you’re a shrill, controlling harpy who kicks me when I’m down, so MAYBE, just maybe, I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.

Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows…

…Or maybe I’ll just turn the sound up so I can hear the film.

Apr 182015
 

Thanks to everyone who voted for your favourite stories. It was very tight at the top. Three stories tied for third place so we have FIVE winners. I’m not going to release how many votes each entry got because I don’t want to prejudice future voting.

Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.

Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.

The five winners, in no particular order, are:

The Dying Swan: Dancer to the Last by Foy S. Iver

True Artist by Steven M. Stucko

Pixelpusher by Jessica Franken

Ancient Sound by Marie McKay

Trinket Box by Marie McKay

Congratulations Foy, Steven, Jessica and Marie! Please email me or contact me here with your postal address so I can send you your book.

Apr 162015
 

MB title card

A silent film is a film with no synchronized soundtrack, particularly no spoken dialogue. Any dialogue is communicated via mime actions or title cards. The release of The Jazz Singer, the first talkie, in 1927 heralded the end of the silent film era. The 2011 Academy Award-winning silent film, The Artist, explores the effect the arrival of the talkies had on a famous silent film actor and the film industry in general. It is thought that over 70% of US silent films have been lost, either by being deliberately destroyed or due to the volatile nature of the cellulose nitrate film on which they were recorded.

The most famous silent film actor, Sir Charles Spencer ‘Charlie’ Chaplin, was born in London on this day in 1889. Chaplin’s career spanned 75 years, from his childhood to shortly before his death in 1977. He achieved worldwide fame and wealth with his silent film persona, The Tramp. Chaplin courted controversy during his career, and in 1952 he was prevented from re-entering the USA amid allegations he was a communist. Chaplin decided to cut his ties with the USA and settled in Switzerland where he remained until his death. A few months after his death, Chaplin’s coffin and remains were stolen in an attempt to extort money from his estate. The coffin was recovered and reburied under several feet of reinforced concrete.

A celebration of all things silent with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Marie McKay, winner of MB1.07, MB1.25 and MB1.26. Read her winning stories here, and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with SILENT and ending with FILM 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!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation is allowed) will be eligible to win.