Jun 282015
 
Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo via CC.

Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo via CC.

It’s results time! But first a huge thanks to judge Ed Broom for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I didn’t envy you lot this week. Not too bad an opening word but a troublesome final word and a tough photo. So many brothers and so many lists. Finding an original angle was going to be tricky.

Still, much good writing as ever (how do you manage to string those words together in so short a time?) and a whole range of settings from space to supermarkets to the supernatural. In an awful lot of these, we lost and mourned for an awful lot of our male siblings. None of you fancied penning a piece about a misbehaving Brother printer?

Enough of my yakkity-yakking. Let’s select stories and name names.

Honourable Mentions

Lupine by @dazmb

This made me hungry like the wolf with its hamper of luscious language. Admire the work done by compound words such as “bonedeep” and “fingersight”. The structure of this prose is something to behold on the snowwhite page. Classy.

Seconds, Please by Emily Clayton

I’m not familiar with bumbleberry pie but I want a large slice right now. Baked goodness, indeed. Janelle’s dined out at this fine establishment once or twice before. With a few choice phrases such as “push-up bra on overdrive” and “poke a hairy thigh”, we see how a handful of words can tell us heaps about the people on the page. Protagonist, conflict, obstacle and resolution, all in 100 words. Look & learn.

Ed by Adam Houlding

Automatic honourable mention for anyone who has my name in the title. Is that so wrong? But seriously, folks, this is a timely piece from the viewpoint of our man back in the USSR, one Ed*ard Sno*den, especially with the 1984 connection this week. He had a whistle and boy, did he blow it. I liked “symphony of silence” and “smudged my scripture” plus the effort to correctly spell that airport name. That unease is palpable. Hero? Villain? Just because you’re paranoid…

3rd Place

The Wish List by Firdaus Parvez

Maybe it’s that sweet tooth of mine talking but I loved this affecting tale of a caring older brother, perhaps now the head of the family though still only a boy. Frock, ribbons and slippers I can understand, but she also wants a pigeon? Tell me more! As is often the case with tales like these, I’d also like some sort of guarantee, please, that the pair of them will be okay. I’ll also be adding jalebi to my list of foods to seek out and try. Lovely stuff.

2nd Place

Big Sur by Iskandar H.

This grabbed my attention straight away with mention of that exotically named stretch of Californian coast and that well-handled scene of fraternal disharmony. Can’t choose your family, as they say. Who knows why these two people drifted apart or even what’s brought them back together right now, but I get the impression that it’ll be a few years before they hook up again. Liked that black eye patch detail very much. Excellently crafted story telling.

Winner

Wish Lists by Foy S. Iver

Big on concept. Long on the page. Straight down that left hand margin. No sentence more than three words long. Skinny until she isn’t skinny any more. What could so easily have been a gimmicky and experimental entry with its bold and relentless repetition turns out to be a thing of beauty that demands our attention. Your mileage may vary but this bravura performance built, launched and very much floated my boat. Top marks.

Wish Lists

Foy S. Iver

Big boobs.
Long legs.
Straight teeth.
No acne.
Skinny.

Big scholarship.
Long distance.
Straight shot.
No parents.
Skinny.

Big dinners.
Long nap.
Straight A’s.
No Bio Chem.
Skinny.

Big paycheck.
Long holiday.
Straight hair.
No landlord.
Skinny.

Big wedding.
Long getaway.
Straight flight.
No protection.
Skinny.

Big positive.
Long checkups.
Straight epidural.
No complications.
Skinny.

Big(ger) bed.
Long leaves.
Straight diets.
No stretch marks.
Skinny.

Big(ger) car.
Long nap(s).
Straight(ened) house.
No meltdowns.
Skinny.

Big girl.
Long curls.
Straight steps.
No messes.
Skinny.

Big fights.
Long silences.
Straight tequila.
No take backs.
Skinny.

Big changes.
Long walks.
Straight talks.
No defeat.
Baby brother.

Jun 252015
 

Welcome back. Something a little dystopian for you this week. Enjoy:

Big Brother is a fictional character from George Orwell‘s 1949 dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the leader (or perhaps a symbolic figurehead) of Oceania, a totalitarian state where the leading party has absolute power of the citizens. The citizens are reminded of Big Brother’s presence by the slogan, “Big Brother is watching you”, a reference to the ever-present government surveillance. Today the term is often used in a derogatory way to describe a snooping authority figure, or attempts by government to increase surveillance. It’s also the name of TV show.

Orwell, who was born on this day in 1903, was evidently fond of lists. His essay, A Nice Cup of Tea, lists eleven points for making the perfect cuppa, and The Moon Under Water, all the qualities of his favourite, fictional, pub. In his essay, Politics and the English Language, Orwell offered six rules to reverse the decline of the English language:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Join me in thanking George Orwell for giving us Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, and the perfect cuppa, with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo via CC.

Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Ed Broom, winner of MB1.01, MB1.28 and MB1.36. Read his winning stories and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with BIG and ending with BROTHER 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 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, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Jun 212015
 
Before we get down to business, a quick reminder that the second Flashdogs anthology was officially published today. There are two books: Solstice : Dark and Solstice : Light. All proceeds go to the fantastic charity, The Book Bus. Click the images below to go to your local Amazon store where you can get your hands on these beautiful books.
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Endless

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera via CC.

Thanks to everyone who contributed this week, and thanks to Geoff Le Pard for some excellent judging. The man’s a legend 😉 . Here’s what he thought of it all:

As a first time judge I had no idea what to expect but in 30 stories I confronted absorbing lifts, time-travelling Pope killers, Keith Urban the worst date night, the sad demise of the rural vampire and, of course Chris and Mike v…. Boy, do you guys have imaginations. Dystopia was a popular theme – no one seemed to link ‘URBAN’ with sunny uplands – as was the soul sucking nature of mirrors. Loved it, peeps, so muchas ta-everso.

David, being a natural tyrant insists this isn’t a primary school egg and spoon race where you all get a prize so…

Honourable Mentions

Dudetastic by Holly Geely

I suppose it’s because I can relate to the narrator’s confusion over language, in much the same way I was confused when confronted with Chaucer. ‘When did I stop understanding teenagers?’ When does anyone who isn’t a teenager understand them? The pain of the narrator is so clear. But please, tell me ‘Dudetastic’ isn’t the coming expression?

O Tempora! O Mores! by Geoff Holme

Where to start with this? The typo that means the wrong Pope is targeted. The innocence of appearing as a Christ-like figure that convinces the visited Pope to undertake the most compassionate mission tragically curtailed after 12 days because of the confused mission. I shouldn’t laugh, really, but…

Dates Dwindle by Iskandar Haggarty

A date gone wrong. I loved ‘Empty see-you-soons’. And the reference to ‘a little steam escaped her latte’ as she seethed at his comment. I was with that poor sucker, sure he was striking the right note only to realise too late it was just the death knell.

The Faymus Professys of Archibald Legend by A.J. Walker

Please read this, flash writers extraordinaire and tell me this doesn’t relate at some level to all of us. ‘Zombie apocalypse on steroids’ is a frightening concept but when linked to Flash dogs is truly mind altering. ‘Wolves with Thesaurus’ and saying Pratchett could have been one but for his use of footnotes to bypass the word count – perfect and laugh out loud funny (in context of course). My favourite line…

They chew their stories – Spitting out large morsels; keeping only the essential juicy bits’

That is the perfect mirror held up to us all.

3rd Place

Intervention by Pattyann McCarthy

Here is a live story told in 100 words. Elsie is a relic of the past, fighting her corner and for others amongst newly infiltrating gangs. She assumes she’s left alone because she is an anomaly but in fact it’s because she is the legend of the streets. Of all the stories this contained so much, allowing me to imagine a whole life spent and imagine the future too. Excellent.

2nd Place

Walk by Marie McKay

I took to this story immediately. Our unnamed narrator is a wage slave who has ‘a clock for a soul’. He is one of the pen-pushing ‘dead’. If you’ve commuted, you understand the precision of ‘ten mouthfuls of cornflakes, two coffees, one sugar’ and ‘spoonfuls of time measured out in crockery’.

Just when we’ve settled to this drudgery he spins the twist. Today is different. Today it’s ‘head and heels high’ our hero is ready ‘to walk the runway of catcalls and traffic cones’. Great stuff.

Winner

Miss Otis Has No Regrets by Ed Broom

This has everything. A story with depth, backstory and the stimulus for the reader’s imagination to think about the future; beautiful imagery; and some excellent humour.

Beryl is retiring from the planning department – now ‘Urban Design’. Jim has retired too ‘He got golf clubs. She has Amazon vouchers’.

The dialogue sums up so many retirements: ‘Don’t forget us Beryl’ ‘I won’t!’ I already have.

She glances at the gridlock ‘Jim’s idea, the one-way system’.

But just when we assume Jim is her nemesis we have Beryl blushing at her memory of journeys on the permanently moving ‘paternoster’. ‘Those up-and-over journeys passed into legend.’

I really enjoyed this simple tale, so well told. Thank you; now I want to know what will happen to Beryl and Jim in retirement!

Miss Otis Has No Regrets

Ed Broom

“Urban Design” reads the self-adhesive sign on the closing door. Beryl wonders what became of that polished brass “Planning” plaque which greeted her for 35 years. Jim probably pocketed it when he retired. He got golf clubs. She has Amazon vouchers.

“Don’t forget us, Beryl!”

“I won’t!”

I already have, she thinks, glancing down at the 5pm gridlock. Jim’s idea, that one-way system.

As usual, one lift is dead. Such a shame they removed the paternoster. “On you hop, it doesn’t stop!” was Jim’s catchphrase. In the lift door, Beryl catches herself blushing. Those up-and-over journeys passed into legend.

Flashdogs Anthology – Solstice : Dark & Solstice : Light

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Jun 212015
 

The Flashdogs are back with another instalment of fierce flash fiction.

Walk through our solstice portal and explore an imaginarium where fantasies become reality. Here, age-old conflicts play out in dreamscapes: good against evil, light against dark, the one against the many. Here, even mundane reality has sharp twists and fine edges.

In doses of a thousand words or less, the Flashdogs will transfix you with their deep, dark tales of the winter solstice and their hard, bright tales of the summer solstice, and leave you hungry for more.

All royalties will be donated to the fantastic charity, The Book Bus.

Click the images below to be taken to your local Amazon store where you can buy the books. Solstice : Light and Solstice : Dark are different books. Buy both if you can and help support this wonderful charity.

 

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Jun 182015
 

Welcome back to Micro Bookends. Something shrouded in mystery for you this week. Enjoy:

An urban legend is a tale of contemporary folklore that purports to be true and is often designed to elicit an emotional response. Like traditional legends, urban legends are rarely traced to a single author. An urban legend often revolves around a strong central character or social issue of contemporary interest.

One urban legend, with a bit of a conspiracy theory thrown in, is that Paul McCartney, who celebrates his 73rd birthday today, was killed in a car accident in 1966 and was replaced by a look-alike. Whole books have been written on the subject, but a few of the clues cited by those who believe the story are:

  • On the Abbey Road cover Paul is barefoot and his eyes are closed.
  • A white VW Beetle on the cover of Abbey Road has the registration number 28IF, suggesting Paul would be 28 years old if her were still alive.
  • On the back cover of Abbey Road are eight dots, which when connected look like a 3, followed by the word Beatles.
  • On the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band there is a wreath in the shape of Paul’s famous Höfner bass guitar.
  • On the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band it looks like Paul is being blessed by a priest.

McCartney denies the story of course. But he would wouldn’t he…

Three cheers for ‘Paul McCartney’ with this week’s photo prompt:

Endless

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Geoff Le Pard, winner of MB1.35. 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 URBAN and ending with LEGEND 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, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Who is Geoff Le Pard?

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Jun 162015
 

Geoff Le PardOur most recent winner is Geoff Le Pard. Follow him on Twitter and check out his website. If you enjoyed Geoff’s winning story, you might want to check out his book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. Geoff has a second book due out in mid-July. Watch this space and read on to find out more. Geoff has kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention:

I once worked as a lawyer. I woke up and thought, I’ll write. I took that leap and here I am, blogging, writing and wide awake (and not a little scared).

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? The ranks of the dead came as a thought from the picture – I try and concentrate on the pictures first. That lead to the dying and the awful scenes from Sierra Leone and Liberia during the Ebola epidemic.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Painfully. I usually go well over then slash and burn my way back to 100. The gems I have to lose!

Why do you like flash fiction? Because I have to concentrate on the absolute essentials it teaches me precision.

Been writing long? Since 17th July 2006.

You write anything else? My blog, my novels and some poetry outside of my regular FF prompts.

Any advice for other flash writers? Read others for tips and don’t be disheartened.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? My second novel – My Father and Other Liars – which is a thriller with themes around dysfunctional fathers, the misuse of embryos in genetic research and a transatlantic love story.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

Jun 142015
 
Photo Credit: Kamyar Adl via CC.

Photo Credit: Kamyar Adl via CC.

Welcome to the results show. If you didn’t click on the Two Ronnies link in this week’s contest waffle, I suggest you do. It’s comedy gold.

You gave me 27 fantastic stories to judge this week. There were a few comedic turns to lighten the mood, but most of you gave me car wrecks and death. C’est la vie! Here’re the winners:

Honourable Mentions

Teenage Kicks by @dazmb

Fantastic title. I read the rest of the story listening to this on repeat. “Double math, it even sounds airless.” Great opening line. I’m sure we all felt like the narrator at one time, but I suspect we all come round to repeating the father’s advice. Great final couple of lines: “Because I don’t have a map. But I know it’s time to act.”

The Car Wreck by Lynn Love

Clever title, referencing not an actual car wreck, but the car wreck that the MC’s friend’s life has become. I love the descriptions of Lexie: “eyes like headlights on full beam, lashes batting like hummingbird wings. Her backside…a hypnotic pendulum in zebra print.” But Lexie’s lifestyle has caught up with her and “the headlight eyes have clicked off.”

A Foreign Country by Steph Ellis

I assume from the marching reference that the MC is a soldier suffering from PTSD. The foreign country is not only the place where he saw action, but also his mind, and perhaps also the place he used to call home but where he has become “inconvenient, beyond repair.” The final lines, where the MC fails to recognise his visitor, probably his wife, are very emotional.

The Car Auction by Mai Black

Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare play. I loved this humorous interpretation of the three witches speech and a few other choice quotes thrown in. “Is this a Jaguar I see before me?” Genius!

3rd Place

Wreckage by Marie McKay

“Double entendres and the aroma of cheap coffee would have sullied the air here once.” Such a good opening line. No, it’s not Professor Tim Hunt’s empty office, but a garage in a post-apocalyptic future. I love the little details of the obligatory page 3 pin-up (“Courtney (19) loves dolphins and hates the wars in the Middle East” is great) and custard creams. The final line cruelly leaves the reader wanting more.”‘Jess. Driver’s seat. 3 o’clock. Act!'”. I’m thinking zombies. But then I often do.

2nd Place

Letting Go by @dazmb

A tear-jerking story of the final moments of someone’s life. I love the contrast between “I’ve been dreaming. Of fields rushing up into the first scuffs and scratches of childhood”, then “the blink of an eye and it’s all neon beeping, needles and catheters.” Nice use of the photo prompt: “All this technology…can’t save the clapped out bangers in this car park.” Goodness me, those final three lines hit hard. Sniff.

Winner

Kiss of Death by Geoff Le Pard

Excellent figurative interpretation of the photo prompt as a mass graveyard of those dead or dying from a terrible disease. There’s some great description here, such as “serried ranks of decrepit bodies”. It’s a sad truth that in death people become anonymous, especially after an epidemic or disaster. This is shown wonderfully in the line, “Now in the throes of death we are ubiquitous, homogenised by decay and depersonalised by disease.” The plight of the dying is evident when even knowing the disgust of those who are ‘taking care’ of them they still “crave the careless spray of their spittle to moisten parched lips.” The final lines round the story off brilliantly, ending on a seamless use of the closing bookend.

Kiss of Death

Geoff Le Pard

Double vision, nausea, bone snapping pain.

They stack us up, serried ranks of decrepit bodies, left to corrupt.

You see it in their eyes. Once we were unique, individual. Now, in the throes of death we are ubiquitous, homogenised by decay and depersonalised by disease.

If you didn’t know they had abandoned you before, the perfunctory response to any request screams the truth. Yet even knowing their disgust, you still crave the careless spray of their spittle to moisten parched lips.

The irony isn’t lost on any of us for it was the self-same sharing of fluids that brought us here. Death determined by such a simple act.