Hope you’re all having a great weekend. Ready for the results? First a big thank you to judge, juror and executioner, Karl A. Russell. Thanks Karl! Here’s what he thought:
Wow! 39 entries! What a bumper crop of awesome tales! I read them all on the trip into London yesterday, and despite engineering works, rail replacement buses and unseasonably warm weather for the UK, they made the journey fly by. With a pair of bookends like Plot – Twist, it was a given that there would be murders aplenty, cunning plans and last-sentence flips, but there were also meta tales of the writing life, Scrabble battles and one or two wonderfully quieter moments. As ever, the variety of styles and stories on display are a testament to the wealth of talent I’m lucky enough to know.
But there have to be winners, so here goes:
Make The Kill by Brian S Creek
This drew me straight in with the short, sharp sentences and incorporates an actual twist – setting up the protagonist as the assassin before skilfully revealing their actual objective – and makes seamless use of the bookends.
A Home Is A Safe Place by A V Laidlaw
Another great twist here, albeit far more subtle. While the protagonist’s friends are saddled with abusive drunks for fathers, the man here seems completely oblivious to the damage he has wrought. The horror is muted and implied by the protagonist’s obvious fear, and that last line is dynamite.
Chris And Mike Vs The Strangler In Paradise by Geoff Holme
It’s worth pointing out that I’ve judged these blind, and won’t even look at the authors until I’ve sent in my results, so at this point I really don’t know if this is by Brian or by one of the many Chris & Mike fans he’s building up with his unhinged tales of supernatural hokum. Either way, the genderswap is a wonderful conceit, playing on our familiarity with the characters to surprise us while still working as an actual Chris & Mike tale, all of which earns it an HM.
Loving More Not Less by @dazmb
A series of beautiful images elevate this to the truly poetic. It is one of the quietest tales this week, and I almost dismissed it on first reading, but those soft psalms and spiralling leaves remained with me, and with every reading the impact grew greater.
Family Obligations by Emily Livingstone
Another quiet piece, but with a sense of unease and isolation which builds extremely well in such a short space. The nervous tic makes for great use of the closing bookend, suggesting an ellipsis rather than a full stop, a brief, thoughtful pause before the story continues. With Aunt Vera being such a sensible (and rather crotchety sounding) character, I’d love to see where else this goes.
In Memoriam by Rebekah Postupak
Probably the funniest piece this week. I wavered between loving and hating the protagonist as they added their snide remarks to the list of funerary expenses. The writer made clever use of the format, contrasting the matter of fact shopping list with the pretty scandalous private thoughts to create a recognizable and believable character in very few words. Extremely well done and great use of the bookends (although the cheeky little note about the photo almost cost you a few points…).
Plot (single): $2,000
Grave liner: $1,800 (seriously?)
Opening/closing of grave: $1,475 (note—Saturday surcharge because they can, the vultures)
Maintenance fee: $250
Headstone (includes installation): $3,200 (note: sappy text still needed for engraver)
Coffin (“solid cherry”?? as if. What a ripoff): $3,490
Flowers for funeral service & gravesite: donated by friends and family (awesome!!!!!!!! <– write thank you notes)
Funeral home fees (incl embalming & death certificate): $3,800 (Q: tip for (smarmy) director??)
Post-funeral dinner: covered by in-laws (TELL SOPHIA TO NOT LET M-I-L COOK!! BLECH!!!!!!!!!!)
Anticipated total: $16,015
Anticipated life insurance payout: $2,000,000
Whoops, hahaha! Almost forgot!
Dead body: kiss (disgusting! HELLO BREATHMINT) + $5 martini with a twist.