Oct 062015

Bill EnglesonOur most recent winner is Bill Engleson. Follow him on Twitter, take a look at his website, and go read his novel, Like a Child to Home.

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

I am a retired Social Worker, I live on a small Island, write, volunteer on local health organization Boards as well as at our local volunteer library, The Dora Drinkwater. Did I say write?

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? I treat Micro Bookends as a poetic challenge, mixed with the concept of a crossword puzzle. This story began with the idea of perfection and how often it fails. My other submission more captured the photo prompt.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I think it is all about framing a mood, distilling the essence.

Why do you like flash fiction? There is an immediacy in flash fiction. I write 4-6 pieces a week now. Each site I visit is different from the others. The challenges, while similar, are sufficiently different to appeal to slightly varied story forms.

Been writing long? Dabbled always. Since retirement 13 years ago or so, regularly.

You write anything else? Poetry, letters to the editor. A monthly column in our Island journal, The Flagstone. The column is called In 200 Words or Less.

Any advice for other flash writers? There are so many great writers writing. I’d be better advised to take advice from them.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I have two draft books of essays (life and politics in my rural heaven) that I am slowly editing/assembling. And a prequel to my first Social Work noir novel. On two of the sites I visit, Thursday Threads and Flash Mob Writes, I have two “serial” mysteries evolving.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Cry, the Beloved Country.

Who is Steven O. Young Jr.?

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Sep 152015

Steven O Young JrOur most recent winner is Steven O. Young Jr. Check out his blog here and go read his MB1.47winning story again. Steven has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:

Steven holds no titles outside of the familial inherited without his initial efforts (brother, son, uncle), but tends to point toward his BA and MA in English as a superficial and inefficient indication of who he might have been, currently is, and may become.

He also wants to apologize for the photo. He doesn’t belong on either side of a camera, and consequently settled for evidence of the grief that is being left-handed, preferring pencil, and inexplicably writing lines on top of one another, over and over again.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? The image prompt first led to ideas about a character lacking in its mental capacities, but an effective breaking down of the brain seemed a tad impossible in this space, especially without knowing enough about it. A turn toward investigating who might have caused such an injury made for a more interesting direction anyway.

As for the bookends, I scrolled through a dictionary looking for a unique starting point with the flexibility provided this week. After failing to find one I wanted to use, referring to something without an established name in our language seemed necessary. The closing bookend lent itself well to using a cigarette as a symbol of chronic repetition and a general measurement of time, which aided in determining the pace.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Relying on implied relationships and actions seems most effective for me. I tend to get allusive when trying to develop settings, but that’s perilous as readers rarely share reading experiences.

Oh, and editing helps. A lot. I try to edit each sentence and paragraph before moving on, then continue editing several times over once the story’s “complete.” I’m already meticulous when it comes to grammar (not necessarily for what is “proper,” but for glaring errors), but it’s most beneficial towards coaxing out concise, yet rhythmic, language.

Why do you like flash fiction? I have an utter lack of interest in most novels. Or at least popular novelists. Flash fiction can make for equally rich readings analytically (a symptom that plagues my reading) with greater attention to each word and punctuation.

Been writing long? Not publicly, but I’ve scribbled my share of poetry — mostly bad, though a few moderately decent pieces found their way out — throughout college that, for the most part, never offended others’ eyes. Drabbles, by some now-unknown happenstance, became a private practice somewhere during that time as well. At any rate, I’ve only recently begun to submit pieces with any frequency whatsoever.

You write anything else? Job applications and cover letters for the time being, but it hasn’t been a year since I graduated (yet), so it’s too early to lament that too much.

Otherwise, poetry is my primary interest, though it seems to evade my pen of late.

Any advice for other flash writers? Examining how others write certainly helps develop effective stylings, but there’s virtually no point in writing if the author is only a mimic. Study and experiment to develop your own comfort zone, but resist settling into any one style.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Not particularly, though I’ve recently taken to experimenting with haiku, fracturing the previously standardized 5/7/5 form to encourage multiple (divided?) readings. Strange? Absolutely, but it’s an intriguing challenge to make them work.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The only novel I ever recommend is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. As for poetry, Li-Young Lee’s Rose is my absolute favorite collection, particularly “Persimmons” and “The Weepers.”

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.

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).


Aug 252015

Steph EllisOur most recent winner is Steph Ellis. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website. If you enjoyed Steph’s MB1.44winning story, and want to read more of her work, take a look at Terror Tree Pun Book of Horror Stories, which she co-edited.

Steph has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as she tells us a bit about herself and her writing:

Steph lives with her husband and 3 children in sunny Hampshire. To earn a living, she works as a TA supporting teenagers with SEN; to live, she writes. Her speculative fiction stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines and she has also co-edited a collection of horror stories. She has recently completed (sort-of) a gothic horror novel which now lurks with hundreds of others on Hodderscape’s virtual desk. When not writing, she is usually to be found reading or watching something on TV with subtitles (by which I mean foreign, I’m not deaf!). She also surprises people with her love of heavy metal … proving appearances can be deceptive.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? Hmm. Could I say haven’t a clue?! Is that allowed? The picture showed a lonely road on a dark night and so immediately I’m off on a journey. Lovecraft’s voice is already in my head (his works are on my shelf) and it is as though he is actually reciting it to me. Many of his stories deal with madness and obsession and that led me to consider the obsessiveness of writers, when their need to tell a story becomes all and everything. (Thankfully I have a tolerant family). And the title? It can be taken two ways, the submission of a story, or the submission of the writer to their obsession.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I usually write two or three times the word count and then just cut and cut. Anything flowery, anything not vital goes.

Why do you like flash fiction? The sheer challenge of trying to tell a complete story in so few words. It forces you to consider your words carefully and to slaughter your darlings mercilessly. It has also brought me into contact with some wonderful writers in the Flash community and I love reading their work to see what I can learn from them.

Been writing long? For a few years on and off, mainly poetry at first with some local and national publication. Nothing serious fiction wise though until a couple of years back. I discovered an anthology call for a short horror story and thought I’d give it a go – I’d NEVER written horror before – and they accepted it! After that I just kept writing and submitting … and learning to take rejection.

You write anything else? I have a blog that I never seem to update regularly even though it’s on my to-do list. I have almost completed an alternative Nursery Rhyme book – you know, Mother Hubbard flaying the children, Mary, Mary as a mass murderer that sort of thing; all for fun and I intend to self-publish that some time this year. I’ve just recently submitted a novel for the first time. That was a big step in itself – just completing it, I kept putting it off all the time. Oh and the other big step forward was being invited to write for an anthology instead of having to submit in the usual way. I’ve also got a few stories due for publication this year and I’m waiting on decisions for other short stories and a novella (that was another first). It sounds a lot when I look at it like that but it never feels it. Flash fiction takes over the rest of my time Thursday – Sundays(!) I enter most of the comps on the schedule over at www.flashdogs.com

Any advice for other flash writers? Just dive in. Write the story and don’t worry about the word count, that can come in the edit. First and last lines seem to be quite critical in flash and again I would say don’t spend hours trying to get these lines perfect until you’ve got your story arc.

If I’m writing for one of the Flash competitions, I try not to read what others have written until I’ve submitted. I get depressed because I immediately start judging myself by what’s already been posted and thinking I’ll never match their standard. The drawback to that is when you find someone else has had the same idea and done it better, posted earlier than you. Writers are their own worst enemies.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I’ve had an idea for some time now for another novel but would never allow myself to start it until I’d actually finished the one I sent out recently. It’s a horror story based on the world’s diminishing resources and how far man would go to maintain his power supply.

I have also started sketching out ideas for a crime story. I love the noir element of a lot of Scandinavian and European crime novels and TV programmes and would really like to have a go at writing a novel in that genre.

As you can see I’m a cheerful type of writer.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The one I recommend to anyone and everyone is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, a dark gothic tale with one of the scariest carnivals ever, and also any Discworld novel by the late, great Terry Pratchett.

Who is Karl A. Russell?

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Aug 112015

Karl A. RussellOur most recent winner is Karl A. Russell. Follow him on Twitter and pick up a copy of Flashdogs: An Anthology (Volume 1) to read some of his published work.

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

Prior to becoming the galaxy’s most beloved and successful author, Russell spent many years toiling in the fields of Flash Fiction and fictitious biography, elevating the art forms to previously undreamed of heights. While living a secretive life in the North West of England with his “cover” family, he produced the epic prose-poem “SimilarMarillion” which was converted to light and transmitted to the far end of the universe in 2064, establishing a new peace between the eternally warring Voimalite and Zevonesquelon peoples, a peace which endures to the present day.

From “Karl A. Russell: A Life (vol.1: 1990 – 2107)”

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? Singing! As the picture seemed to show a festival camp site, I initially tried to think of a lyric containing the first bookend. Carry On My Wayward Son and Bohemian Rhapsody were a couple of possibilities, but when I hit Carry That Weight by The Beatles, I flashed on the old Zen Koan of two monks carrying a woman across a river. Obviously, the guys in the picture weren’t monks, so the question became “what will be weighing on the younger guy’s mind?” The rest of the story flowed from there.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Cut, cut and cut some more. The first draft had a conversation before they ever meet the girl, and the ending was a lot longer too. Chop it back, find ways to fill in the gaps – like the pink Metallica purse and shirt – and trust your readers enough not to need everything spelling out for them.

Why do you like flash fiction? Besides the immediacy of the form and the buzz of producing something so complete in such a short time, there’s also an incredibly warm and supportive network of Flash authors out there, pushing each other to ever greater heights.

Been writing long? I got published in a horror / fantasy fanzine way back in 1991, so I’ve been writing for far too long. I managed to track down a copy recently though and it’s even worse than I remember, so maybe I’ve only been doing it right for the last year or so…

You write anything else? I’ve messed around with screenplays, radio plays and song lyrics in the past and come close to success, but not close enough. I’ve also failed (repeatedly) to place a short comic script with the mighty 2000AD, but one day…

Any advice for other flash writers? Besides the obvious (WRITE!), I’d recommend that everyone with an interest in the form should get hold of the three FlashDogs anthologies. There’s such a range of tales and styles and so many accomplished storytellers (and me…) that you can’t help being inspired to try something new. They’re also great fun on Twitter too.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I’m making yet another attempt at finishing my long-gestating novel, Ice Baby, and I’ve sketched out a couple of ideas for my next 2000AD submissions.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I’m in holiday mode at the moment so I’m on an easy reading kick, re-reading Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith. It’s a fat, funny, fizzy SF novel that suddenly takes a left turn into something far stranger and more beautiful.


Who is Donald Jacob Uitvlugt?

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Jul 152015

DonaldOur most recent winner is Donald Jacob Uitvlugt. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog. If you enjoyed Donald’s MB1.39winning story, you may like to check out more of his work at 1000words and Cast of Wonders.

Donald has kindly agreed to judge the next contest, so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt lives on neither coast of the United States, but mostly in a haunted memory palace of his own design. His short fiction has appeared in print and online venues, such as Necrotic Tissue and The Drabbler, as well as anthologies such as 100 Horrors. He strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big in impact.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? I knew when I saw the photo prompt that I wanted the story to take place in the control room of someone’s mind. I had first thought of a football player (American football), the “six” being part of a play call. But I had a hard time fitting “degrees” into that scenario.

The idea of Alzheimer’s as “death by degrees” popped into my head (inspired by thinking of my own grandfather), and I wrote the rest of the story rather quickly, the challenge being to paint the scene while sticking to the word count.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? As might be guessed from my Twitter handle, I find a lot of inspiration for my writing in Asian art. Like many forms of Asian painting, micro fiction relies heavily on “negative space” – on what isn’t said. One learns to trust the reader to meet the writer half-way. Or they find something that the writer didn’t intend, which can be even more interesting.

Getting rid of modifiers is helpful too. A well-placed verb or just the right noun can do away with five equivocal words. And it gives the modifiers one does use more impact.

Why do you like flash fiction? It may be a paradox, but I find the limits of flash fiction to be extremely freeing. When I submit a Micro Bookends story, I try to always turn in exactly 100 words (not counting the title), because it’s just a little more challenging.

Flash fiction strips some of the pretension that writers can have. When you have so few words to connect with a reader, you have to make every word count, and I try to take the lessons I learn from flash into my longer fiction.

Plus there’s the instant gratification factor. I can have a story written in hours. If I post it for the Micro Bookends contest, I’m getting feedback on it instantly. A lot more rewarding than sending a 5,000 word story out into the aether and waiting months for a faceless editor to reply in a form rejection.

People who write and read flash tend to be fun people.

Been writing long? I’ve been writing since late elementary school, but only seriously (ie, to get published and paid) since 2007.

You write anything else? Since 2007, I’ve had the good fortune to get a couple dozen of short stories published and I don’t know how many pieces of flash. Haven’t had the persistence (yet) to complete a novel-length project. A fair number of my stories are available for free online. Let me know via Twitter if you’d like a list, or simply Google my name and you’ll find several.

Any advice for other flash writers? Keep writing. Read, and read widely. You never know whence inspiration might come. I never expected Japanese poetry to influence my writing as much as it has. You may find your inspiration in music or biology. Immerse yourself in the flow of others’ words, and you’ll get a better sense how you want to use words.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Oh, I’m always working on something. My issue is usually picking something to focus on long enough to bring it to completion.

On my blog, interested readers will find episodes from a “story-in-drabbles” called Trashling Tales. The stories explore an urban fantasy world in a Spoon River Anthology/Winesburg, Ohio fashion, each episode only 100 words long. I would love feedback on what I have so far.

I also have a science fiction story and a couple of horror stories coming out soon. My blog is generally the best place to find what has come out recently.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Probably the best book in helping me articulate what I mean by “haiku fiction” – and a book I need to re-read myself is Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Basho by Haruo Shirane.

The book certainly demonstrates the skill used to create depth in an apparently simple genre like haiku. I think there is much in the work that flash writers would find interesting.