Dec 142014
 
Photo Credit: Alessandro Valli via CC.

Photo Credit: Alessandro Valli via CC.

Hope you’re all having a great Sunday. Thanks to everyone who wrote this week. There was a great range of fantastic stories. We had a lot of disorder, both culinary and mental, and a great deal of explosive stuff, including, but not limited to, diarrhoea. Hope you’re not eating as you read.

Before I hand over to this weeks judge, Bunmi Oke, here’re my own musings on the stories that didn’t make it into the winner’s circle:

Word Salad by Geoff Holme

A very clever title referencing both food and mental disorder, and a nice use of IED. I love the description “her hands writhed like eels in a bucket”. The latter part of the story captures perfectly the sense of helplessness and confusion of trying to make sense of bad news interspersed with medical jargon.

Special Sauce by Voimaoy

This is such a fun story. I love the idea of chilli sauce so hot it sends the ship into a different universe. And the system with such a lovely view the captain says, “let’s stop here for lunch”, conjures up images of space anchors. I wonder what will happen with the new batch of special sauce. Great stuff.

Mushroom Risotto by Stella Turner

Great use of clocks as a running theme. I love the line “her heart was forever being broken by the succession of uncles that came for lunch.” The narrator’s explosive temperament finally shows through for a great ending. Lovely sinister stuff.

Desperate Measures by Natalie Bowers

I love the way the clues are dripped in slowly until the final reveal. The lingering detail on the coke bottle suggests to me that the girls left in a hurry with only limited supplies. Such a good closing line. Well done.

Newness by Cara

You can feel the tension simmering throughout this excellently written story. The line about people judging you, especially if they’re related to you, is so true. This story fits the photo prompt so well. I can picture the character swigging from the bottle of wine, just keeping her emotions in check. I know I’ll be experiencing some of these emotions over the next couple of weeks. Well done.

Diplomacy by Stephanie Ellis

This story is perfectly hinged around the line “She wanted more.” Before that we think the host is trying to avoid any unpleasantness, and after we know the opposite is true – even flash should have a midpoint. At first the line “they detected the bouquet of one of their own” made me think the guests were a family of vintners opening one of their priceless vintages, but of course it is much more literal than that! Great vampiric fiction.

Get The Shot by Ed Broom

Pulp Fiction spin-off where Mia Wallace and Vince Vega get married and spend their evenings watching TV and hosting dinner parties. I love it! Great use of other Travolta movies for symptoms – Danny Zuko’s hand-jive from Grease, and Tony Manero’s arm in the air from Saturday Night Fever. Great fun.

People Who Need People by R Matt Lashley

Matt wins the award for best use of the bookends: explosive diarrhea and bedwetting disorder. This is a brilliantly unique, unusual story and very well written. I love the fictional diarrhea that occurs during church services or when their favourite sports team is playing. The image of the assault by the overweight son and his apple-face girlfriend will give me nightmares tonight. The ending is as strangely brilliant as the rest of it. Matt sure has a unique and very enjoyable style.

Spirit of the Season by Nancy Chenier

A lovely story that perfectly captures seasonal disharmony. I love the description of the argument “curdling the gravy and souring my eggnog.” And the ending is perfect, with the children taking refuge under the table to argue over far more important issues.

Dragon Fire by Anna Elizabeth

A nice bit of fantasy here. Explosive mood swings are perfectly natural when you’re of dragon descent. I love the description of the character: “slight and feisty, adorned with hazel eyes and a chocolate brown pixie cut, plus, she loved to bake”. The fact she loves to be says so much about the character. Being of dragon descent and loving baking is a great contrast. What has led Zalia to be sitting on the floor muttering “it’s not a disorder”? Will we ever find out? Perhaps.

A big thanks to this weeks judge, Bunmi Oke. Here’s what he thought about this week’s stories:

They did not have to come in their hundreds but with the quality of the entries I had to peruse (and with the bookends), you won’t exactly find my job over the weekend an enviable one. I reckon contributors did really have fun inking across a spectrum of uneasy calm to mildly disturbed and to utterly eruptive characters amid messy settings. A miscellany of humor, chaos and elements of surprise thrown in, in no particular proportion or order (yeah, that’s disorder) made this task for me as delightful as it was daunting.

Believe me, winner or not, you all were splendid. Keep at it. (And bring more people!) Great job, writers!

Honourable Mentions

Untitled by Roger

Such inventive, humorous coinage (e.g. “pyro-culinary terrorism”) and puns cannot be lost on anyone with a fine taste in creative writing. One heck of a mind game-r this is.

What a mess by John Cassidy

Quite an Amazing (or is it Amazon?) gooey scenario. Medley of an initial anxious moment and eventual beacon of messy, explosive laughter, story made me rethink shared/collective embarrassment is a thing to laugh over. Clearly, this was a hearty write and a funnier read.

Choice Cuts by Carlos

Well done. The shuddering unraveling in the last line twirled my stomach – a precursor to what could have been an anti-cannibalistic retch. A bite into this story tasted so unbelievable that I almost got Carrie-d away.

3rd Place

Her Name by Holly Geely

I like the subtle delivery here as OCD imaginatively takes me inside her own head, giving me a more-than-enough sneak peek. What’s more, the clever use of personification tinkers with the humane portion of me – not to mention the personalization too: “She’s different for everyone, but for me…

First name: Obsessive; Middle name: Compulsive; Last name: Disorder. Nice piece.

2nd Place

Christmas: Plausible Deniability by A.J. Walker

Though I scarcely look forward to the mother-in-law-daughter-in-law interrogation slash faceoff (I predict the kitchen won’t contain it), the cute metaphors this piece is adorned by were a reading delight. Graphic, hyperbolic depictions (e.g. “epicenter of the blast zone”) with a creative allusion to a real-life scenario currently at the front burner, made not having this piece in top three both implausible and deniable.

Winner

Disorder by Rasha

A realistic, almost-relatable (because I ain’t psychotic, duh) portrayal of a distorted perception of reality. This simple, yet ingenious story took me on a sufficiently brief tour into the typical troubled mind of a seemingly helpless bracket of people. I’m not done taking in the entropic setting when the closing sentence flips everything on its head, re- presenting the entire piece in a brighter, if not different light. The stunning surprise, unforced sympathy and curt silence it elicits all at once are a stirring quality.

Congrats to you!

Disorder

Rasha

Explosive sounds of pots and pans banging around erupted from the kitchen. Martha was disheveled, her hands gripped her hair and she was muttering about the mess.

“Can I help?” I asked. She did not respond. I started to cover turkey leftovers. She screamed and I jumped.

“Stop haunting me!” she shouted uncovering the dish.

“Haunting? Martha, I’m not a ghost.” I grabbed for the doctor’s note hanging on the refrigerator to once again remind Martha that she had been diagnosed with psychosis after the accident.

The sounds in the kitchen silenced as I pointed to my own name on the line diagnosed with hallucinatory psychotic disorder.

Dec 112014
 

Click here to skip the waffle and go straight to the bacon.

Well, we made it double figures! Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.10. Thanks to everyone who keeps turning up to write, comment, and be part of the MB community. I really makes this little corner of the internet a fun place to be. Now onto business.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) has nothing to do with flatulence, but is a behavioural disorder characterized by repeated episodes of aggression, destruction, and violent behaviour that last less then 30 minutes. There is no single cause for the disorder but there does seem to be a genetic component as well as an environmental one. Imbalances in serotonin (a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being) may also be involved. It is usually treated with drugs and anger-management techniques.

Someone famed for their fiery temper is the former 3-Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White who celebrates his 53rd birthday today. How many of the stories about his temper are true, and how many have been embellished by the media, I don’t know, but it is said that he once took a knife to the jacket and trousers of a young chef who complained about the heat in the kitchen, charged a customer £25 for a side order of chips that weren’t on the menu, and reduced to tears that other famous hot-tempered chef, Gordon Ramsay.

Let’s wish Marco a calm and relaxing birthday with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Alessandro Valli via CC.

Photo Credit: Alessandro Valli via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Bunmi Oke, winner of MB1.09. Read his winning story here, and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with EXPLOSIVE and ending with DISORDER 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 Bunmi Oke?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is Bunmi Oke?
Dec 092014
 

Bunmi OkeBlessed with an awfully slow reading habit ([no] thanks to a mind that wants to drain the life out of every word read), plus an attention span that’s only a little longer than a blink, the bloke has a penchant for the brief.

Wh-at/-oever ‘poisoned’ me with a fondness for flash fiction must’ve ensured the antidote’s beyond reach,” he recalls telling a friend days ago.

An unsuccessful affair with blogging (place smells musty, be warned!) drove him to Facebook and Twitter.

Hopelessly, Bunmi daily wishes he’s one-tenth a bookworm as he’s a bibliophile.

Bunmi has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest. Read his Micro Bookends 1.09winning story, then read on to learn more about his many writing projects:

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? My mind is obsessed with a dizzying number of (writing) ideas per time. Thankfully, prompt and bookends are a helpful (and challenging) lead.

Typically, my approach is to literally gawk at the pic, rummage it for one or two potential flashpoints, then latch on to the first (or best) idea that sprouts – and it hardly fails (me).

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I think it is useful (and basic) to accept that all does not have to be said.

As for the fitting, (I) try have the ending figured out first, [jolting, poignant, and/or erupting – I’m for denouement any day!], (I) then work the piece from top down – while stealing glances at the word counter, of course.

Why do you like flash fiction? I do NOT like flash fiction. I love it! The brevity, the requisite literary discipline to pull it off, and, ironically, the liberty to express oneself within the space/word constraint are all a short-attention-span, longwindedness-averse person like me can ask for.

Been writing long? About half a dozen months.

You write anything else? Poems (incurably laced with rhymes), quatrains, and epigrams. They have been darlings for long. I can say I owe facility with flash fiction to these prior genres, especially regarding pithiness and word-strictness.

Any advice for other flash writers? Being prolific as a writer is sure a blessing – one that should not be mistaken for license to prolixity. Writing can be short, simple yet punchy.

And yes, fall in love with challenges: Online competitions are a healthy exercise for your literary muscles and taste buds.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Oh, certainly. From 98 pages-plus of un-inked poetry ideas on PC to a truckload of raw, undeveloped story ideas lounging in my Evernote app on phone, to a sky-high heap of half-written quatrains oscillating between the two gadgets, yes, there are tonnes of (abandoned?) projects. “Procrastination!” Geoff, you ain’t alone.

As for consistent ones, however, I am working on a riveting series of ballads. As well, currently exploring collaborations with certain brilliant co-writers.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist is a fine offering. I love his simplistic yet sublime take on creativity.

Jeff Goins’ The Writer’s Manifesto (Stop Writing to be Read & Adored), succinct as it is, redefines the purpose, redirects the focus, and reshapes the perception of the writer regarding (his) written words.

Apocrypha and Abstractions’ Flash Fiction Musings For The Literary Minded [Vol 1 – 3] are a cute compendium of flash pieces – a reading delight any day.

Oh! “…a book…” you said? Oops, my bad. But there you have it/them!

Dec 072014
 
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via CC.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via CC.

It’s been a weekend of Christmas-related stress for me. At least now the shopping’s done, the tree’s decorated, and there’s a pan of mulled wine warming with my name on it. Usually I like to give my own thoughts on the stories that are not chosen by the judge. Alas, time has got the better of me. {UPDATE: I’ve recovered from the Christmas shopping and mulled wine, and have written a few comments on the stories that weren’t chosen by the judge.}

As always I was delighted by your stories this week, and it was great to have a few new faces join in the fun. Welcome! The variety in the stories given such strict constraints was amazing. Planes were the dominating subject of course, but a few picked out some smaller details from the photo like the bicycle, and the fact the engineer in the centre of the photo was a woman, leading to some nice battle of the sexes stories.

‘Artificial’ Intelligence? by Avalina Kreska

Language is sacred. A really interesting idea. I love the dialogue between the two cleaners, putting a down-to-earth perspective on the advanced science they are discussing. Then poor Doug getting chewed out by the female AI was a great ending. A nice, fun story, and timely considering Prof. Stephen Hawking’s comments last week.

Twilight of a Champion by Image Ronin

Some really beautiful writing from IR: “the fading body, the last of its kind”, “white trails bisecting perfect blue”, “the world was different now, larger”, “for what are we without oil?”. This is perhaps a situation that some of us may see in our lifetimes. A scary thought. Good work IR. I love writing that entertains and makes you think.

Grounded by Holly Geely

This should be the moto for mechanics and engineers everywhere: “Sacred are the ones who repair, for they keep the [state vehicle of choice] from exploding.” Excellent dialogue as always from Holly in a story the perfectly captures a very nerve-wracking moment for anyone. The last line left a big smile on my face. A sweet story, beautifully told. Well done.

Them by Casey Rose Frank

Tears blurring words is a great way to open and sets up the question of why the character is crying. We never find out who ‘them’ are, nor does the pilot who has gone to investigate. I imagine this is how those back home feel when someone goes off to war, except here the fear is worse because of the unknown enemy. Great story with a chilling ending.

RESURRECTION by Jacqueline Pye

I love the premise here. A superstitious pilot holds on to an ancient relic to help him home. “Bacilli of ancient pustules surge into the flesh like vomit” is a wonderfully vivid description. As the pilot succumbs we are left to ponder if it just the ancient disease that has been resurrected, or if the pilot is also about to be reborn. A great story and clever use of the adjectival meaning of sound for the closing bookend.

Beyond by Koka Kliora

This is a beautiful, tranquil story on the surface. You can really feel the characters love for flying. We don’t know what life is like back on the ground, but I get the feeling all is not well. Flying is a real escape for the character and to me “flying beyond the clouds” sounds like a metaphor for the ultimate escape. A very well told story with a lot of meaning beyond the surface! Well done.

Compatible Soul by Nancy Chenier

I love the contrasts between science (“melding of pilot brain with the vessel”) and spirituality (“fingers danced mudras along the fuselage”). The pilot comes down on the side of science (“what if disbelief could kill her?”) until the “surge of alien awareness”. “Let the pilgrimage commence” indeed. A fantastic bit of sci-fi. Well done Nancy.

My Life by Stella Turner

This made me think of The Jam song The Dreams of Children:

I caught a glimpse from the dreams of children

I got a feeling of optimism

But woke up to a grey and lonely picture

This story has a real childish innocence about it until the rather sad, bleak ending. Great writing Stella.

Bird Calling by Peg Stueber

I love this quirky story told from the perspective of a bird. “Heavy ones” and “predator upright” are brilliant descriptions of humans. And “Wing enclave” where the humans house their “hollow avians” perfectly describe hangars and aircraft. We even learn a little of the spiritual world of the bird, with Gaia directing and observing from above. Such a fun, satisfying story, well done Peg. It reminded me of The London Pigeon Wars, which has some passages told from the perspective of pigeons.

Sacrosanct by Grace Black

This is one of those stories that raises more questions than it answers. I enjoyed it for what it was (a complete story with a beginning middle and end), but it left me wanting to know more, which is a mark of good flash in my book. Who, or what, is the protagonist, what are the trials, what happened to the protagonist’s father? A great teasing story.

Unity by Jim M

A wonderful bit of sci-fi here. I love the hints at the close, perhaps symbiotic, relationship between human and machine (“her gemini invades her gently”, “sororal complicity”). I also picked up great affection, perhaps even love, between them – “sacred are we”, “she’s frail today”, “her bleeding nose is powdered”. A very unique and well written story.

Collateral Damage by KM Zafari

A brilliant description of a difficult dilemma: sabotage the planes, kill the pilots, and be branded a traitor, or let them fly. Inactivity would be the easier choice, “but she couldn’t bear to see another dead child carried through the streets.” Great story.

Blessings On Your Young Courage by Ed Broom

An unlikely hero, Vern the graffiting ne’er-do-well, is taken in by the kindly Father Shep. The whole story hangs on Vern’s latest graffiti: ITS OK 2 B SACRED. Has he misspelled scared (he’s perhaps not the brightest chap) or is he truly sacred after being spared from the disaster that wiped out his family? Nice ambiguity in a great little story with good use of the bookends.

Sacred by Denise

A nice use of the opening bookend as the name for a plane. Ironic, or was it truly the hand of God that caused the destruction of the town? I love the line “how could a lifeless object change lives so dramatically?” Of course the answer is “power is not in the weapon, but in the hands of those who use it.” The closing lines are chilling and left me wondering if the cries and agony were imagined of if the character had gotten some form of revenge. Lovely writing.

In the Cockpit by Brett Milam

I love Brett’s writing. It’s raw and hard hitting with the occasional spam-filter tester. A great title that, once you’ve read the story, puts a whole new spin on ‘cockpit’. In a male-dominated career, Kathleen shows that women can more than hold their own. I love “patriarchal patronizing” and the “Pecker Philosophy”. This was also one of only a few entries to use the adjectival meaning of sound as the closing bookend. Well done.

Crash Test Impulses by Brady Koch

I like conflict in that the character somehow wants to show respect to the cadavers but feels that saying a prayer would betray her scientific objectives. The story ends brilliantly with her inappropriate laughter being covered by the din of the jet, and cadaver, blasting off.

Here’s what judge, John Cassidy, had to say:

I was truly amazed by the imagination of all these beautifully written stories. I loved the wonderful ideas and expert use of language that crafted all the entries.

My desk is littered with lists of top 15, top 10, top 5 and, the most difficult of all, top 2.

When all the stories are so competently written and when there is but one judge, then it comes down to personal preference.

So if you are not a winner this week – blame the judge and have another go next week!

Honourable Mention

Redressing the Balance by Stephanie Ellis

A well written amusing piece with a serious undertone and a sting in the tail. Couldn’t help thinking of a certain economy airline that might pinch this flight  idea!!

Honourable Mention

The Morning After by AFOdom

Simple but very effective story with that wonderful closing line that leaves the reader intrigued and wanting more.

3rd Place

Meg the Engineer by Jim M

What a piece of genius crime writing – such an original take on the photo prompt. I enjoyed this story and was sorry it had to end. I wanted to know what happened after that…I’m certain there’s a longer story just gagging to be written!

2nd Place

Burning Bridges by Geoff Holme

This was just a whisker away from the winning story. Its wonderful rhythmic, chiselled use of words made me wonder if the author is a poet.

It is such a clever piece of writing with an under layer of tragic reality. It is full of action and suspense and the language is exquisite, right down to the last “B-b-b-om.”

 Winner

HANGER HANGAR by Bunmi Oke

I found this story disarmingly simple yet highly inventive.  Its brilliant perspective focuses (pardon the pun!) on just one action, the taking of a photo. One almost feels nervous for the six year old  wielding and tottering with  this awkward piece of equipment that seems so precious to his dad. Despite the economy of words, the characterisation is excellent and absorbs the reader for those brief moments. Then it’s over, literally in a flash – but as the author puts it brilliantly “(forever) captured and cashed into my childhood memory.” Congrats on writing such a delightfully different story.

HANGER HANGAR

Bunmi Oke

Sacred it truly is, the privilege to peep through his favourite antique of a gadget.

But how objects at both extremes hang precariously bother me some – as though if my grip wobbled, the fellow on the ladder to the right with his aircraft would come sliding, crashing into the pretty lady in the center. Dad yaks about the device’s ‘wide angle lens,’ ‘aspect ratio,’ (or is it ‘field of view’?) as responsible for that ‘panoramic view.’ Whatever.

Thrill of my 6th birthday treat peaks with the brief flash on depressing the knob – this moment captured and cached into my childhood memory by the shutter’s clicking sound.