Who is Brian S Creek?

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Sep 082015
 

Brian S CreekOur latest winner is Brian S Creek. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog. If you enjoyed Brian’s MB1.46winning story, you might want to take a look at Flashdogs: An Anthology (Volume 1)Flashdogs : Solstice : Light: Volume 2Flashdogs : Solstice : Dark: Volume 2 and Wattpad to read more of his work.

Brian has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:

Brian lives on the south coast of England with one wife, one son and one cat.

In 2014 he was bitten by a radioactive FlashDog and now has an uncontrollable urge to write short pieces of fiction. His condition is currently being monitored by the fine physicians at Flash! Friday, Angry Hourglass and Micro Bookends.

He loves Sci-fi, Fantasy, and (almost) anything involving Superheroes. Powerful, well written characters and devilishly clever plot twists get his attention.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? It wasn’t until I thought about the first bookend on its own that I remembered something evil from my childhood called algebra. I really haven’t used it much in the last two decades and guarantee that I’m beyond rusty.

Add this to the fact that I’m fully aware my son’s tech knowledge will surpass mine quicker than I’m comfortable with and it quickly becomes a parental fear; the child being smarter than the parent.

I then took the graffiti from the image, and how to the artist it means something personal, something important, but to the older generation it just looks like a mess, and this led to the dyslexia angle.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? If I’m honest, I don’t know.

When I start the edit, I’m aware that I may remove something that could make the story better for the reader. But I don’t notice it because everything stays in my head, that I always have the bigger picture, the background beyond what’s on the page.

I guess I got lucky this time and managed to leave in the most important bits.

Why do you like flash fiction? With the attention span of a hyperactive goldfish, I find it difficult to stay on one project. So many unfinished stories lay in my wake. But Flash is short enough to stay at the front of my mind long enough to get it finished.

Been writing long? Since I was able to articulate my imagination. But it’s only the last 18 months that I’ve been taking things a little more . . . seriously.

You write anything else? I do. I have several novels in 1st draft form, a lot of short stories (also in 1st draft). When I was in college I even dabbled with screenplays.

Recently though, I’ve moved into episodic writing. Despite my recent project FRACTURED DAWN stalling, it’s something I’m determined to carry on doing.

Any advice for other flash writers? I find flash fiction is great for experimenting.

When it comes to the bigger stuff that you plan to spend a lot of time on, it makes sense to do it in a genre or style that you love to read.

But flash is short enough that you can try something new or something outside your comfort zone, and if you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted six months of your life.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Why yes. It’s funny that you should mention that.

I’m working on expanding the CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD flash stories that I enter weekly on this very site.

I’m currently working through the 2nd draft of ‘vs THE RISING DEAD’, and I plan on using this November’s NaNoWriMo to expand ‘vs THE FOREST OF DEATH’ and ‘vs THE TEMPLE OF GLOOM’.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I’ve just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. If you’re a geek who grew up in the 80’s/90’s, it will feel like it was written specifically for you.

Micro Bookends 1.46 – Results

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Sep 062015
 
Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Welcome to the results show. It’s a corker today, with the same writer taking second and first place! But first, a huge thanks to this week’s judge, @dazmb. Here’s what he thought of it all:

Before we get started, take a moment and give yourselves a pat on the back. You are all sorcerers of your craft. This week’s stories gave me hours of reading pleasure before I had to knuckle down to the intimidating task of putting them in a semblance of order.

In the parlance of my young teenage son (and would be skater boi) your sick skilz transported me away from the skate park to courtrooms, outerspace, treasure hunts, A&E, classrooms, railway tracks, office parties, Mount Olympus and all the way to the delivery room.

A tour de force of entries and an education too…Xu, xenogamy, xenogenesis, xerophytic, xenolithic and xi…who knew?

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity and honour of extending the following thoughts on my favourite entries. It was an incredibly difficult task to order the final list of winners and I look forward to rejoining the fray and fun of sharing our stories together next week!

Honourable Mentions

Skater Boy by C R Smith

Out of all the entries this one made me smile the most, hence its inclusion in the final run-down.

I thought the angle taken on the ‘skate park’ setting was original and the phrase ‘fresh eyes and false memories’ inspired.

The contrast between the narrator’s amazement that he indeed was able to ‘carve frontside performing a 360’ versus his hapless accident made me snort out loud.

But what really sealed it for me was the last line.

‘Skater Boy’s back in the game!’

He thinks he’s got it, the reader knows he doesn’t and as a consequence a difference in perspective is established for ongoing comedy…I’d love to read about his further exploits.

I bet he’s a dad dancer extraordinaire!

Cnsl Fr Th Prsctn by Karl A Russell

So at first, my brain crawled out of my ear when I read this. But when I finally worked through the story I loved it.

The technique of removing the vowels has been done before I think, but its use here served a genuine purpose, suited the ‘graffiti’ photo prompt, and made for an altogether original entry.

It’s a light hearted story, but I felt it made an interesting point about how language evolves; something that should concern us all as writers.

Technology continues to radically alter our means and methods of communication. We live in an age, where generations communicate by emojis and emoticons and think nothing of incorporating twitter acronyms such as btw, wtf, b4 and fwiw into their everyday writing.

How do we respond to this? Like the magistrate, a member of the establishment, raging against the light, railing against the (brilliant) reduction of ‘T b r nt t b’? Or, indeed do we embrace the revolution of a world without vowels?

A piece that wore the questions it raised very lightly. Thought provoking and fun. A winning combination.

Porlock by A V Laidlaw

‘Xanadu in concrete…’ This was my favourite opening out of all the entries. A vivid contrast that grabbed my interest straight away and has stuck in my mind ever since.

I will also put my hand up and admit to a little subjective bias. I live in London and took a keen interest in what I assume this story relates to…the graffiti ridden skate park on the Southbank and ‘graffiti alley’ in Waterloo and the risk they face from gentrification and development.

But aside from the factual relevance what stood out for me in this story was how it reduced the mythical: ‘Xanadu’, ‘Sacred Thames’ to the mundane: the ‘dismal school days’ and ‘the stink of the gym’.

All at the hands of a jaded jobsworth who cannot see the wood for the trees, whose being is consumed with the petty idea of getting his own back, excellently portrayed in the phrase “he puckers a tiny smile”.

Mr Porlock hates games. I don’t think much of him either.

4th Place

X-Games by asgardana

A rite of passage story given a thoroughly modern makeover.

At the core of this story is a friendship between Carla and Kyle, both coming terms with the inevitable changes of adolescence.

There is an honesty and openness in their relationship that shines through the tricky subject matter.

Kyle’s curious to know more. Carla’s secure enough to start coming to terms with who she might be: strong enough to do so on her terms, rather than Kyle’s, but forgiving enough not to completely cut him out when he realises the mistake he’s made.

Carla’s a great character – I’d like to know more about her.

In today’s age, where x-rated material is so freely available to skew impressionable minds, it was reassuring to read a story that touches on this subject matter, but ultimately is about a boy and a girl getting to know each other as friends, rather than objects.

So while this piece of flash fiction stands by itself, it has the potential to withstand being fleshed out into something more substantial and longer. That’s why it made my top four.

3rd Place

Skater Girl by F. E. Clark

Oh, I did like this in your face character mea culpa. Setting out its uncompromising stall in a compelling first sentence the piece doesn’t stop until that dismissive last line.

It spoke to who we project ourselves to be versus how we see our ‘real’ interior selves and how we continue to reconcile the two as time passes.

So our skater girl is now a city girl? (“I hit the 180” is a great, double layered meaning of a flash fic sentence). Is she a sell out? Is she looking for your opinion goofyfoot? Judge away, she’s walking on by in her Jimmy Choo’s.

But then again, can she really be a skater girl, down to her core? Is she simply kidding herself?

Telling yourself a thing doesn’t necessarily make it so.

And then… there is the perspective of age and the question she has yet to ask herself or understand…how long does your past define you? Before it fades over the horizon and you forget who you really were all those long years ago?

But for now, she’ll keep it hidden, be as ‘cold as stone’. Tell herself ‘It’s all a game’ and not worry about any future reckoning.

Tough, sassy and full of the certainty of youth. All good stuff.

I love stories that get me thinking, that ask questions of myself, that raise more questions the more I think about them. This one certainly did. I have probably returned to this story and thought about it more than any other. That’s why it made my top three.

2nd Place

A World Divided by X by Brian S Creek

This is just an absolutely top notch, piece of writing.

I wasn’t sure whether the author had read my bio, with its passing reference to science, but as soon as I read the opening sentence, I hunkered down, certain that I was in for a treat.

And what a treat. 100 odd words and the author has established context, backstory, place, motive, the outline of a plot and developed the main character. Phew

“I eat when I can, sleep when I can. The rest of the time I hunt the bastards down” is an awesome bit of writing. It’s simple, short, punchy and at the end I really felt like I know this women, understand what makes her tick, who she is…

The bookends were seamless and the writing beguilingly effortless. Every word serves a purpose and as soon as I’d finished reading it, I read it right the way through again, muttering to myself ‘blimey, I wish I’d written this.’

It is a lean, mean, absolute masterclass in flashfic.

Forget about the MC being on top of her game.  There’s only one person on top of their game here, and that’s the author. Brilliant stuff.

Winner

When the Student Becomes the Master by Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

I have to be honest and say I wasn’t entirely sure where this was going to start with, but what unfolded was a quietly heartbreaking tale of a dyslexic father helping one son with his homework while playing with his other.

The photo prompt was incorporated in an original way, and I liked the way the author, title aside, kept the reader on their toes and the story unobvious until the teacher /pupil relationship was inverted in the middle of the passage.

The sentence ‘I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now’ has a lovely forward momentum that segues into the MC’s building sense of resignation and failure that ‘Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down’ before finally boiling over into a sense of frustration that his child’s toy is mocking him.

And then, suddenly, the story ends, with a simple question:

‘Would you like to play a game?’

I found the juxtaposition between the simplicity of the question, the patience of one son and the unquestioning love of another, eager to play with his father, versus the father’s pent up emotions, certain that he is failing one child and will fail another, incredibly powerful and moving.

What will he do? Lash out or absorb his frustration, his anger? The question is left open, but the irony that the story allows the reader to see what a loving and capable father the MC is, even if he cannot fully appreciate it himself, only heightens the emotional impact of the ending.

It was incredibly difficult to choose between this and the second placed story. The latter won my head over, but this truly deft and skilful piece of writing won my heart. And in the end that’s what I went with – the poetry of the final question – it snagged my heart – and shone a light on the emotional core of a father’s relationship with his sons.

Congratulations to all you flashfic genies, and to this author in particular!

When the Student Becomes the Master

Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish.

Graffiti on the page.

My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.

I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.

My three-year-old walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second-hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.

“Would you like to play a game?”

Sep 032015
 

Welcome to MB1.46. I’m tossing out a wild card this week, so go have fun with an X (x-ray, xylophone, Ximenes etc.) You can also use GAME or GAMES as the closing bookend. Enjoy.

The X Games is an annual extreme sports event organised by ESPN, the American sports broadcaster.The first X Games were held in 1995 and featured events such as skateboard street, barefoot water ski jumping, and street luge. Two years later the first Winter X Games were held and featured events such as ice climbing, super-modified shovel racing, and snowboarding big air. Some winter X Games events are now included in the Winter Olympic programme.

Shaun White from California, USA, who celebrates his twenty-ninth birthday today, is the most successful X-Games athlete ever, having won thirteen Winter X Games gold medals for snowboarding, and two summer X Games gold medals for skateboarding. He has also won two Winter Olympic gold medals for snowboarding. Today is also the birthday of another X-Games legend. Sarah Burke was born on this day in 1982 in Ontario, Canada. She won five Winter X-Games gold medals for freestyle ski. Not only was she a great athlete, but she also successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to include freestyle ski halfpipe in the 2014 Winter Olympics, an achievement for which she was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. Tragically, Sarah died following a training accident in 2012 and never got to compete at the Olympics.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is @dazmb, winner of MB1.45. 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 X* and ending with GAME(S) 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.

Who is @dazmb?

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Sep 012015
 

@dazmbOur most recent winner is @dazmb. Follow him on Twitter.

@dazmb has kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:

@dazmb was born in a small village in Scotland, but he now lives with his wife and two children in London. For a living he works with numbers, but in his spare time he prefers the company of words.

He thinks science and poetry are best equipped to get to the truth of things.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? Thank you. The photographic prompt was very powerful this week, so I wanted to put it front and centre of my submission.

Initially I wondered whether Foreigner’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ offered a route to a story.

It didn’t.

However it reminded me of ‘Tiger’s Eye’ gemstones. Googling that led me to chakras and Durga, a leap of imagination to yoga, before finally a sigh of relief when I discovered that ‘Tiger Pose’ really is a thing.

I built up the story, sentence by sentence, from those four elements.

Finally, as the piece required readers to buy in to Durga’s transformation, I added the “blonde, skinny, decaff lattes” description at the start of the story to ‘warm up’ their imaginations and provide a strong visual element from the outset.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Decide on the story elements and then build up sentence by sentence until I’ve finished the first draft.

Thereafter, a savage edit is usually required (although this time, happily, not so much!) to strip the story down into its essence and to meet the word count. My two main rules are;

  • Generally, no connectives
  • No adjectives or adverbs unless they are working really hard. ‘Skinny’ meets that criteria. At the end of the piece ‘Calmly’ provides an effective contrast to the mayhem that’s just been unleashed,

Why do you like flash fiction? The combination of imagination and discipline required to turn the word count, bookends and prompt into a finished piece.

I visited the site for a number of weeks in awe of what people were able to put together before I was brave enough to take a punt myself.

Been writing long? Lots of teenage poems at the back of my drawer.

I have always read, but hadn’t really written anything until I came across Three Line Thursday’s and then Micro Bookends’ twitter feeds and websites.

You write anything else? No, mainly just Micro Bookends and Three Line Thursday, although, recently, when I have the time, I’ve also started trying my hand at slightly longer pieces at Flash! Friday.

Any advice for other flash writers? No. I am constantly taken aback at the variety, scope and risk taking on show each week. Everybody is incredibly supportive of each other and this gives me lots of confidence to keep writing. I hope this is the same for all those who submit work, or who are thinking about it.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Not really. Most of my submissions are very character driven and I seem to have a creative well which supplies me with an inordinate amount of material for murders, psychotic episodes, death and general murky sadness.

I’m therefore trying (and learning from you all) to write more plot driven and humorous pieces.

I would also love to write fantasy, but I have to say I find that the hardest of the lot. Kudos to all you fantasy writers!

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Two, if I may.

The Poem and the Journey by Ruth Padel is a masterclass in understanding how poets put language to work.

Woyzeck by Georg Büchner. The first ‘modern’ drama. If he was alive I’m sure Büchner would have written flashfic. His scenes are short, sharp nuggets of perfection.

(…plus all the science books).