May 242015
 
Photo Credit: David Joyce via CC.

Photo Credit: David Joyce via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Another fantastic round of Micro Bookends. That photo coupled with the bookends, FEAR and FLYING, really got your creative juices flowing. Gold teeth, bad breath, bad trips, and screaming. Lots and lots and lots of screaming. I think this is one of the strongest top threes we’ve ever had. I had all of them in the winner’s spot at one point. In the end I chose…. well, you’ll just have to read on to find out.

Honourable Mentions

Positive Thinking by Geoff Holme

Some very clever wordplay here – power of Persuasion, nicely done. Poor Sam might not make it to his daughter’s wedding, showing how real flying fear can be. It’s just as well Alicia is a bibliophile as well as a bookworm. Imagine if she had a flimsy James Patterson she’d picked up at the airport. Good fun.

Not-So-Impenetrable Walls by Caitlin Gramley

Great use of the opening bookend: “Fear is what keeps me here.” The character’s OCD (“Healthy is my name, cleanliness is my game”) has led him or her to this desperate situation. I really like the sense of panic from the short sharp closing sentences, right down to the Yodaesque finish.

Contemplations of a Dying Man by Carlos Orozco

Appropriate that Fear and Loathing is playing on the television given the psychedelic nature of the story. Very powerful images throughout: “He tried to lower his jaw to the floor, so that the flavor could crawl out.”, “The only logical way to get rid of the taste now would be to swallow his tongue.” Terrible (in a good way) ending. Nightmarish stuff.

Mining for Gold by Steph Ellis

Excellent use of the photo prompt: the harvesting of valuable items in the Nazi concentration camps. A harrowing story. The line “a small sun that shone briefly before the pliers did their work” speaks volumes to me. Thankfully, the story ends on a positive: “rumours about the approaching Allies started flying.”

3rd Place

Fear’s Lozenge by Foy S. Iver

Such a good title and concept. I think we can all admit to be swallowed by fear from time to time. Beautiful language from the excellent opening line (“Fear pops you in its mouth and sucks on you”) to the hopeful finish (“Somewhere – free – your almost-children are flying.”) Bonus points for mentioning the gold tooth, tongue, throat and saliva. You certainly squeezed that photo prompt 😉 .

2nd Place

Fear by Jacki Donnellan

Fear as a drug to be used to cure a humdrum life. Such a good concept and brilliantly explored. We get the humdrum from the “magnolia-walled office” and the MC “plodding from one safe, sanitised moment to the next”. I love the descriptions of the effect of fear: “boredom to unease; heartbeat to hoof beats.” But like all drugs, it’s possible to overdose on fear, especially premium grade: “Above the crescendo of my scream I can see Death’s angels flying.” Such a powerful closing line.

Winner

Phantom by Marie McKay

The opening line grabs you and won’t let go until the story has taken you through its lovely rhythm to nightmarish conclusion.  The story and word choice are excellent, but what I really love about this piece is the rhythm. I don’t know if we’re looking at a supernatural being or if the MC has a mental disorder, but the short sharp sentences heighten the sense of unease. I always think good dialogue can carry a lot of weight, and the line, “What’s keeping you, Lady?” shows more than a few lines of description ever could. And speaking of rhythm, the train thrumming “Take care! Take care!” to the MC adds to the nightmarish quality of the story.

Phantom

Marie McKay

‘Fear me,’ he says- just as he hands me my change; just before the train pulls up; just before the guy behind me shouts, ‘What’s keeping you, Lady?’

I try to find a trace of the words on his face. In the lines across his forehead. In his pinpoint pupils. In the shiny gold between his yellow teeth. But they’ve disappeared.

Except, somehow, I am in possession of them. I carry them onto the train, feel them fluttering at my chest. I try to pull them into some other shape. But the train thrums, ‘Take care! Take care!’ I turn towards the squawking skies and watch the noises flying.

Micro Bookends 1.05 – Results

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Nov 092014
 
Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos via CC.

Photo Credit: Forsaken Fotos via CC.

First, an apology. DOMINANT was a very difficult closing bookend. But you all rose to the occasion brilliantly and came up with some wonderfully creative uses.

I know this week’s judge, KM Zafari (a big thanks to KM for helping out this week), was overwhelmed by the quality of the stories and really struggled to pick a winner, so before I hand over to her, here’s my thoughts on the other excellent stories that didn’t quite make it into her selections:

If You Believe by Holly Geely

Something terrible has happened. Someone’s pool has been defaced. A first-world problem if ever there was one. But all the likely suspects have been eliminated (I love ‘Druggie Singer Guy’, he sounds like just the kind of person you’d want at your party). The pool “looks like a unicorn puked all over it”. A fantastic description. And it’s true! The unicorn is looking on from the changing area, stamping his silver hooves, waiting for his kind to be appreciated again. A lovely fun story.

At Cross Purposes by Nancy Chenier

Nancy got creative with the structure here and I love it. I could see the angel and devil sitting on this guy’s shoulder as he weighed up his options. Listen to one and you get the girl but it ends in tragedy. Listen to the other and you miss the opportunity, but perhaps more exciting times wait ahead. Whose advice would you take?

Look Before You Leap by Karl A Russell

I love it when people go all science. This story addresses a lot of issues about people with mental disorders and to what extent it is our right, or duty, to intervene. Who are we to say who needs ‘curing’? This guy likes “seeing the rot that would one day set in” and does not like the sound of “surgery, normality and blindness.” Writing that makes you think and entertains is always a winner with me.

Young Love by Stella Turner

I love the relationship between these two: the tough guy and the prissy girl. Stella cleverly foreshadows what is going on here: “broken bottles and discarded condoms”. But when it comes to the crunch, the tough guy isn’t so tough, he’s “putty in her hands”. A brilliant description of the rite of passage between these young lovers.

The Foretelling by Stephanie Ellis

This is all about the back story. Two lads have beaten up a gypsy woman, stolen her money, and retreated to the abandoned pool to cause more mischief. Kai sounds like an unpleasant chap (“Cross my palm with silver, ‘andsome,” mocked Kai) and Sam his loyal friend. But Sam knows something Kai doesn’t: the gypsy woman has told him his future, that he will abandon his friend and save himself. The gypsy woman’s family arrive; Sam takes to his heels leaving Kai to his just desserts.

All I Have Loved Were Shallows by Ed Broom

A pool owner and the pool-‘cleansing’ company are at cross purposes. Ed very cleverly shows the conversation from only side – the pool-cleanser’s responses being met by stunned silence. Ed perfectly describes the vibrant colours in the photo – moss green, orange peel, blue jeans. Ed finishes with perhaps the best use of the difficult closing bookend: the “formerly recessive” natatorium now “vibrantly dominant”.

The Hustler by Geoff Holme

A very clever title from Geoff – ‘hustler’ being often associated with the other type of pool. This is a very complete story; there’s back-story (“He claims he broke his left arm falling into an empty pool on your property”, “But I’m suing that scumbag for the damage he caused organising a rave on my development site!”), some excellent description (gauche geek, tongued-tied and awkward), a great reveal (“Hey! He’s ambidextrous!” – also a nice reference to my inane waffle before the photo prompt), and we know there is more story to come (He won’t get the upper hand again. I’ll show him who’s dominant!). Well done Geoff.

Now, here’s what this week’s judge, KM Zafari, had to say about it all:

I knew going in that this was going to be difficult, but it was so much harder than I anticipated. There were an amazing array of takes on the bookends and prompts. (Kudos to David for choosing words than can be interpreted in so many different ways.) “Things are not always what they appear to be” seems to be a common theme, this week. Love that.

All of these stories have merit, and I connected with something in all of them. Great job, everyone! I really agonized over which ones to choose – especially over the top three. Alas, I could only choose one winner, and I say that not as an obligatory judge’s statement; I was really blown away by some of these entries.

Honourable Mentions

Stalemates by Marie McKay

This story has a unique incorporation of the photo prompt, utilizing graffiti, empty space, and the majesty of what something once was as symbolism for a broken relationship. I think everyone can relate to this feeling at some point in their lives, the experience of trying to salvage something that can’t be saved while being drawn into its destruction.

Vandalized by Grace Black

This story begins with heartache, and I can actually sympathize with the main character’s callousness and ambivalence; pain has a way of making you numb.

I take the protagonist to be a vampire – if not literally, metaphorically, at least. She (or he) is either taking their revenge on unsuspecting surrogates or losing themselves in a life that provides enough pain to mask their other pain. Or both. There is also a nice, subtle incorporation of the photo prompt.

3rd Place

In the Abyss by Chris Catt

This story is both heartbreaking and suffocating. Vivian has been haunted by the death of her friend for twenty years, and she’s asking for an end to her suffering. Meanwhile, Angela is trapped in her own hell, reliving her death over and over again.

One thing I like about this story is that it inspires questions, I’d really like to know more about what happened twenty years ago, but the ending still leaves me satisfied. I’ve read these stories over and over, and this one really stays with me.

2nd Place

Voice of thy Brother’s Blood by Carlos

Bloodsport described in gory detail.

In many ways, this story is darker and more violent than the others, not because of the fighting, per se, but because the fighter is so cold. The protagonist appears to claim religion, based on his tattoos. Yet, he participates in these fights, and he delivers what may very well be a death blow without thought or mercy.

Chilling and very well written. I can almost feel the energy of the crowd feeding his power.

Winner

Directions from a Dirty Vagrant by Matt L.

Wow, is this one disturbing. The vagrant offers a glimpse into the protagonist’s future, and it sure isn’t pretty.

I really like the role reversal. To me, the vagrant is symbolic of the protagonist’s addiction. The drugs are taking control, and the protagonist knows it. The vagrant could also be read as a “devil”, tormenting this lost soul with what is to come while leading them down the inevitable path of destruction.

In the end, this story won me over with its vivid descriptions, its clear (but not overt) symbolism, and how the internal struggles of the character were made manifest. So much to love, here.

Directions from a Dirty Vagrant

Matt L.

“Cross the tracks, take a right on Wilshire. Old community pool be on the left.” The dirty vagrant held out a hand like a bellhop in a five star hotel. I pressed a single into his filthy paw just hard enough to let him know there wasn’t any more coming. With his free hand, he grabbed my outstretched arm by the elbow and pulled me close, a power move I’d seen politicians and CEOs use then he grinned, displaying scattered blackened nubs, gifts from a life-altering meth addiction. When he released me, I ran toward the tracks, humiliatingly subservient. Behind me he laughed, deliriously dominant.

Who is Carlos Orozco?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is Carlos Orozco?
Oct 212014
 

FlashdogsHere, Carlos Orozco tells us a bit about himself and his excellent Micro Bookends 1.02-winning story. Carlos runs with the Flashdogs. Check out their blog, or follow Carlos on Twitter. Carlos has kindly agreed to judge this weeks contest so take notes:

I reside in the Pacific Northwest. I’m a HUGE procrastinator; looming deadlines are my inspiration. I’m currently binging on Flash Fiction and do not plan to stop anytime soon. Proud #Flashdog. WOOF.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? For some odd reason facelift made me think of George Washington’s face lifting into the air. Then I thought, who’d want to win a broken typewriter? That question led to the characters’ conception.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? By having the reader (hopefully) fill in the blanks. What writers choose to leave out is just as important as what they include.

Why do you like flash fiction? I can read/write it quickly and then get to the best part: thinking about the story, letting it linger in my mind until I’m ready to move on.

Been writing long? Writing on a consistent basis: No. I started back in May. Before that I had written a thing or two here and there.

You write anything else? Not really. I do some poetry here and there, but that’s about it.

Any advice for other flash writers? Read a bunch of flash fiction. Write a bunch of flash fiction. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? The Flashdogs Anthology.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I just finished a short story collection that I really enjoyed Tenth of December by George Saunders.