Sep 132015
 
Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, we must think this week’s judge, Brian S Creek, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I’m a big fan of Formula 1. One of the things that’s interesting, especially this year, is how close some drivers can be on the qualifying, and still be lagging on the back row. Twenty drivers give it their best and end up being separated over just two seconds. It’s the milliseconds that decide the order that they line up on the grid for the race. And I’m talking thousandths of a second between 5th and 15th.

Which brings me to your wonderfully crafted stories.

When judging these contests, the results show you the top picks, and it can look like the remaining bunch were just left by the wayside. But, for me, that simply wasn’t the case. So many stories were hanging around the top bunch that there basically wasn’t a bottom bunch. My order changed and changed and changed; sometimes a story that I’d written off early on would suddenly jump up and challenge the podium.

Unfortunately I can’t pick 36 stories for 1st place. So below are my top 7.  For those of you not listed here, I know you’ll all be back again this Thursday to try again. See you there.

Honourable Mentions

This Thing, I Forget Its Name by A V Laidlaw

There were several mental health stories this week and this was one of my favourites. The piece stood out with some very beautiful lines early on (‘dandelion seeds blown away in the breeze’ to describe fragile memories, and ‘The sense that reality is nothing more than an early draft’).

Jacked In by FE Clark

It’s a playful piece, but darker underneath. With everything we do going digital, how long until we do too?

Teeth Like Colin’s by CR Smith

One of the stories that had me laughing out loud, I really like the use, mid story, of the two characters breathing in. And the brutal honesty of the dentist when letting our guy know that he’s a dentist, not a miracle worker.

Test Run by Colin Smith

So many stories went with words beginning with the opening bookend, that I liked this story for starting with a spelling mistake, an error that builds into the plot.

3rd place

Britopia by Marie McKay

I laughed at several stories this week, but this was the funniest. Perhaps because I’m British, trained from birth to understand the basic protocol for standing in line with a bunch of strangers. It might seem plot-lite, but the journey contained within this piece of Flash Fiction is as epic as the one taken by Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom. Our main character travels from point to point, overcoming obstacles, until he finally reaches his goal; a place in Britopia.

2nd Place

Thump by Iskandar Haggarty

A simple story, that of predator versus prey, and beautifully written. It’s feels like it’s taking too much time for a piece with a 100 word limit, but the ending is far from rushed. Despite the violence of the finale, I found the piece to be quite relaxing.

Winner

Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.

There were a couple of entries this week that went for the mental illness angle, but this one was the most subtle. I’ll be honest and say I struggled through my first reading (the thoughts within the speech confused me), but when I got to the end, it clicked.

And what an ending. I thought this was a simple story of an elderly man with fading memories and a vivid imagination, while the main character is forced to sit through tall tales. But that repetition of the opening line packs way more punch than if the author had simply wrapped the story up with a simple explanation of the older man’s ailments.

And the main character sits through it all again.

Da Capo All’Infinito

Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”

“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”

“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.

“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.

The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.

Jul 122015
 
Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Welcome to the results show. First, a couple of announcements:

There will be no Micro Bookends this week (boo) because I’m going on holiday (hurrah). The next contest will be on Thursday 23rd of July.

At 5am BST Tomorrow (Monday 13th July), voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.27 to MB1.39. The authors of the top three stories will each receive a copy of Doing Creative Writing by Steve May (that’s a real book with paper and ink and that new-book smell), and will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held at the end of year one.

Now, back to business. A huge thanks  goes to this week’s judge, Iskandar Haggarty. Here’s what he thought of it all:

I’ve got to say it; you all have not only the talent, but the bravery as well! One look at this week’s photo prompt had me stumped, and yet I read the various and diverse ways in which it was incorporated. Hats off to you all; I’m severely impressed. Choosing a winner was incredibly difficult. But it had to be done, so without further ado, here are this week’s standings!

Honourable Mentions

Drive by Emily Livingstone

I loved the creepy undertone of this one; the excitement of the girls and what they hoped to encounter made it realistic and relatable (and who doesn’t love a character named Laurel?) while the hostile ending leaves you on the edge of your seat; what happened? I want to know more! A quality story.

Hairpins and Hurricanes by maielizabeth

Okay, so I might have a weakness for the strange/outlandish, but this one caught my eye immediately; the description of the girls who controlled the earth was interesting and borderline whimsical (which is wonderful!) and a very fresh approach to the photo prompt. The description of Dolly as being the oldest by “a billion years” is so simple and outlandish that I actually believe it; interesting, quirky, and a formidable piece all in all.

Spontaneity by Numbers by Geoff Le Pard

This piece reminded me of the late-great Ray Bradbury because of its futuristic approach to problem solving. The piece managed to stay fictitious while sounding close enough to reality for it to sound like a plausible future. All I can say is that after reading this, I think I want a Hu-maid!

Seventh Hope by Holly Geely

This story had me hooked from the first line; its matter-of-factness pulls you in, and the writer uses this to expand on their sci-fi world in a manner that loses no momentum whatsoever. The excitement at finding a new and livable home is palpable, which makes the last line all the more devastating (and in its own sense, even a little tragically funny). I don’t think I can praise this piece enough.

3rd Place

The Switch by Marie McKay

This piece included it all; a creepy and gripping plotline, beautiful descriptions (‘scarlet words’ and ‘rooms that had sunnier aspects once’ made me gasp in awe) and an all-round sense of completeness. What the narrator has to go through on a day-to-day basis is traumatizing, and one can’t help but feel horrified while realizing what is going on. The writing in itself is the type that takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go. An absolute pleasure to read.

2nd Place

Newtonian Mechanics For Beginners by A V Laidlaw

Description. The description in this piece is so masterfully crafted that I could see absolutely everything while reading; I felt as if I myself were a satellite! The use of both short and long sentences gives the piece a variety that keeps each and every line interesting. The last sentence almost made my heart stop; it is so simple, so chilling; so strong. This wasn’t writing, it was painting. It was art. I am in awe of the author. Incredible job.

Winner

In the Control Room by Donald Uitvlugt

This piece is a winner and rightly so; it took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Its concise, dialogue-intense beginning felt top-secret and mysterious, which then melts into slight confusion at the mention of a hazy picture, which packs an immense punch with the final two sentences of the story. The bookends were used seamlessly; it feels as if it wasn’t even written for this week’s competition! An excellent story worth its weight in gold.

In the Control Room

Donald Uitvlugt

“Six Five Seven through Seven One Nine — no response.”

“Reroute through the Eight Hundred block, but keep trying those pathways.”

“Received. Wilco.”

The center worked furiously, busy hands moving wire after wire. But no matter how fast the girls worked, the systems collapsed faster.

The supervisor turned toward the monitor. A hazy picture showed the face of a woman. She should know who the woman was, but…

“Not getting through on the Eight Hundred block, mum.”

“Keep trying. The answer is there. Somewhere.”

***

Barbara kissed her mother’s cheek. She would not cry. Damn Alzheimer’s. Damn that death by degrees.

Jul 092015
 

Happy Thursday. Ready to write? First an announcement:

After this round we’ll be voting for our favourite stories from MB1.27 to MB1.39. If you haven’t been a winner yet, this is your last roll of the dice for this quarter. Good luck!

Six degrees of separation is a theory first put forward in 1929 by Austrian author Frigyes Karinthy, that everyone in the world is connected to each other through six or fewer ‘friend of a friend’ connections. The theory was first published in Karinthy’s short story, Chain-Links, where the characters propose an experiment:

We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.

By far the most important (read fun) application of the theory is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, where the aim is to connect any movie actor to Kevin Bacon (who celebrated his 57th birthday yesterday) with as few connections as possible. Julie Andrews, for example, has a Bacon Number of 2:

  1. Julie Andrews and Steve Carell appeared in Despicable Me.
  2. Steve Carell and Kevin Bacon appeared in Crazy, Stupid, Love

Even Google have joined in. Enter any actors name followed by ‘bacon number’ and it returns the shortest connection. Try it, it’s fun. And very addictive. Bacon has said that he initially disliked the game as he thought it was mocking him, but he has since embraced it and has launched the charity, SixDegrees.org, described as social networking with a social conscience.

Let’s wish Kevin Bacon a very happy (and belated) birthday with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Iskandar Haggarty, winner of MB1.38. 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 SIX and ending with DEGREES 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.

Micro Bookends 1.38 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.38 – Results
Jul 052015
 
Photo Credit: via CC.

Photo Credit: Cliff via CC.

Welcome to the results show. First, an announcement:

On Monday the 13th of July, voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.27 to MB1.39. There will be prizes! The top three stories will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held in October. Remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it, so if you haven’t had a winning story yet, this week’s contest is your last chance for this quarter.

Okay, back to business. I’d like to say a huge thanks to this week’s judge, Foy S. Iver, who was not only judging here, but is also doing her first stint as judge at Flash! Friday. Thanks, Foy! Here’s what she thought of it all:

I absolutely adored the picture prompt this week. So much to work with! And can we always have the asterisk? What isn’t more fun with a wild card? Okay, enough envying you the prompts. Micro Bookends 1.38 saw everything from lost children to lost opportunities. My emotions swung. Pity at seeing an aged Peter Pan trying to convince himself there’s still a Neverland for him. Fear for those living under a terrifying movie director (Please stab him with that rusty nail!). Nostalgia for dusty days when my younger self knew the enchantment of “ground overrun by ragwort and ghostly dandelion heads.” All of them beautiful in their own way. And those that made the cut? A feast of world building and imagery to make your soul bleed.

Honourable Mentions

Lengthening Shadows by Kelly Turner

Unfolding in slow turns, Lengthening Shadows explores the terrors of abandonment through glimpses of the setting. We learn that “the ice cream van had been and gone,”that the “water had been turned off this week” and “the only sustenance” the protagonist has is the melancholic drip, drip from a stingy faucet. It isn’t until the final line that we see whom our protagonist is, a boy alone, wishing “again for his mum’s return.” Tragic but brilliant work.

Silhouette Shift by Catherine Connolly

I’d love to know the inspiration behind this! Such gorgeous imagery throughout. I imagined that the sylphs’ could represent the wandering spirit of children rob of childhood. While they sleep, their childlike natures gather in the street, running, playing, “tagging others ‘It.’” The “Night is their playground” and as day awakens, we watch as “the sylphs’ skipping slows, as they tire” and return to their bounded form. And that final bookend (“save for a pinprick star”) delighted my poetic soul! Lovely, lovely tale.

A Second Life by Steph Ellis

With an eeriness that grew into the fully terrifying, A Second Life demonstrates riveting world building. Each read-through gives greater detail. We see “unsuspecting ‘children’” (chilling punctuation there!), happy to have “escaped the misery of the sweatshops forever,” while their “mysterious benefactor” smiles on with his own plans. A rich undervein is bled in the line “life had become recyclable” and we’re left watching in horror as they’re recycled back into the very place they hate, the children “only realising their mistake as the doors locked.” Bonus points for using such a delicious word as “Decrepitude”! Well done.

Pencilled by Marie McKay

From that first line “Childhood shapes haunt the landscape as if a 4-year-old god had sketched the world,” my mind sprang to Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline,” and the connection only grew stronger. On reading of the “grey stickmen and grey stickwomen” who “can barely hold their grey stickbabies with their bobble heads” (Other Mother, anyone?), I felt trapped in a crayon picture, bleached of all color.  The phrase “sketchy people living sketchy lives” tickled my brain, while the light welcoming the stickpeople to join the “fleshed out world where children play, and laughter beats, and colour breathes” felt like a lungful of air. A highly original concept that deserves at the least an Honorable Mention.

3rd Place

Memento by Rebekah Postupak

This story has it all. Starkly defined characters, crisp dialogue, conflict, resolution, and back-story. The world is revealed in periphery: emotions and imagination gone (“Haven’t you seen what emotions do?”), human-life extinguished (They’ve been extinct, what, a hundred years?”), and a voice still yearning for things of the past (“yet you’d spend your one wish on human childbirth”). Images of those “mechanical fingers rubbing, rubbing, rubbing” won’t soon leave me, nor will the thought that we could one day miss one of the most painful and gratifying human experiences life has to offer, childbirth.

2nd Place

Indigo Mourning by Pattyann McCarthy

This piece took the idea of a lost childhood and peered at it from a fresh angle. That of a mother, her “dreams disappearing into vapor,” dealing with a childless reality as it forms. That originality alone clinched a spot on the winner’s podium. Through stunning imagery, the author captures the soul-shredding pain of a miscarriage (“I’m learning how to breathe, how to exist”), and the irrational guilt that often follows (“my uterus couldn’t sustain him, killing my son”). Life begins as a blinding joy, friends and family singing with you, only to dim, singing silenced, as the heavens appear indigo “through mourning eyes.” Personally it was difficult to read and I was grateful that the final line held so much truth: “In the midnight beyond, my baby’s the brightest star.”

Winner

Dull Silver by Iskandar Haggarty

So many things I loved about this one! The title seemed a subtle nod toward the silver screen and how many child stars have “dulled” in its light, a clever tie-in with the prompt. There’s something incredibly powerful about juxtaposition. We see what should have been, a father waking “bright and early” to make breakfast, and what was, “Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger” and instantly the act is more heart shattering. Mama, who should’ve been tucking her child in every night, instead cries “tears of salt and cigarettes” and never visits. The tangible tick upward of time (6, 8, 10, 12) marked years stolen from this child’s youth until that sun faded into the “dull silver of a dying star.” A worthy winner.

Dull Silver

Iskandar Haggarty

Childhood is supposed to be golden.
6.
Fathers are supposed to wake up, bright and early, and make breakfast.
Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
8.
Mothers are supposed to tuck their kids in at night.
Mama cried tears of salt and cigarettes when the judge found me a new home, but she never visited.
Not even once.
10.
Friends are supposed to stick up for you.
The whole baseball team disappeared the day the bigger kids came for me.
12.
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Mine was the dull silver of a dying star.

Jun 282015
 
Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo via CC.

Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo via CC.

It’s results time! But first a huge thanks to judge Ed Broom for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I didn’t envy you lot this week. Not too bad an opening word but a troublesome final word and a tough photo. So many brothers and so many lists. Finding an original angle was going to be tricky.

Still, much good writing as ever (how do you manage to string those words together in so short a time?) and a whole range of settings from space to supermarkets to the supernatural. In an awful lot of these, we lost and mourned for an awful lot of our male siblings. None of you fancied penning a piece about a misbehaving Brother printer?

Enough of my yakkity-yakking. Let’s select stories and name names.

Honourable Mentions

Lupine by @dazmb

This made me hungry like the wolf with its hamper of luscious language. Admire the work done by compound words such as “bonedeep” and “fingersight”. The structure of this prose is something to behold on the snowwhite page. Classy.

Seconds, Please by Emily Clayton

I’m not familiar with bumbleberry pie but I want a large slice right now. Baked goodness, indeed. Janelle’s dined out at this fine establishment once or twice before. With a few choice phrases such as “push-up bra on overdrive” and “poke a hairy thigh”, we see how a handful of words can tell us heaps about the people on the page. Protagonist, conflict, obstacle and resolution, all in 100 words. Look & learn.

Ed by Adam Houlding

Automatic honourable mention for anyone who has my name in the title. Is that so wrong? But seriously, folks, this is a timely piece from the viewpoint of our man back in the USSR, one Ed*ard Sno*den, especially with the 1984 connection this week. He had a whistle and boy, did he blow it. I liked “symphony of silence” and “smudged my scripture” plus the effort to correctly spell that airport name. That unease is palpable. Hero? Villain? Just because you’re paranoid…

3rd Place

The Wish List by Firdaus Parvez

Maybe it’s that sweet tooth of mine talking but I loved this affecting tale of a caring older brother, perhaps now the head of the family though still only a boy. Frock, ribbons and slippers I can understand, but she also wants a pigeon? Tell me more! As is often the case with tales like these, I’d also like some sort of guarantee, please, that the pair of them will be okay. I’ll also be adding jalebi to my list of foods to seek out and try. Lovely stuff.

2nd Place

Big Sur by Iskandar H.

This grabbed my attention straight away with mention of that exotically named stretch of Californian coast and that well-handled scene of fraternal disharmony. Can’t choose your family, as they say. Who knows why these two people drifted apart or even what’s brought them back together right now, but I get the impression that it’ll be a few years before they hook up again. Liked that black eye patch detail very much. Excellently crafted story telling.

Winner

Wish Lists by Foy S. Iver

Big on concept. Long on the page. Straight down that left hand margin. No sentence more than three words long. Skinny until she isn’t skinny any more. What could so easily have been a gimmicky and experimental entry with its bold and relentless repetition turns out to be a thing of beauty that demands our attention. Your mileage may vary but this bravura performance built, launched and very much floated my boat. Top marks.

Wish Lists

Foy S. Iver

Big boobs.
Long legs.
Straight teeth.
No acne.
Skinny.

Big scholarship.
Long distance.
Straight shot.
No parents.
Skinny.

Big dinners.
Long nap.
Straight A’s.
No Bio Chem.
Skinny.

Big paycheck.
Long holiday.
Straight hair.
No landlord.
Skinny.

Big wedding.
Long getaway.
Straight flight.
No protection.
Skinny.

Big positive.
Long checkups.
Straight epidural.
No complications.
Skinny.

Big(ger) bed.
Long leaves.
Straight diets.
No stretch marks.
Skinny.

Big(ger) car.
Long nap(s).
Straight(ened) house.
No meltdowns.
Skinny.

Big girl.
Long curls.
Straight steps.
No messes.
Skinny.

Big fights.
Long silences.
Straight tequila.
No take backs.
Skinny.

Big changes.
Long walks.
Straight talks.
No defeat.
Baby brother.

Jun 212015
 
Before we get down to business, a quick reminder that the second Flashdogs anthology was officially published today. There are two books: Solstice : Dark and Solstice : Light. All proceeds go to the fantastic charity, The Book Bus. Click the images below to go to your local Amazon store where you can get your hands on these beautiful books.
[table id=10 /]

Endless

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera via CC.

Thanks to everyone who contributed this week, and thanks to Geoff Le Pard for some excellent judging. The man’s a legend 😉 . Here’s what he thought of it all:

As a first time judge I had no idea what to expect but in 30 stories I confronted absorbing lifts, time-travelling Pope killers, Keith Urban the worst date night, the sad demise of the rural vampire and, of course Chris and Mike v…. Boy, do you guys have imaginations. Dystopia was a popular theme – no one seemed to link ‘URBAN’ with sunny uplands – as was the soul sucking nature of mirrors. Loved it, peeps, so muchas ta-everso.

David, being a natural tyrant insists this isn’t a primary school egg and spoon race where you all get a prize so…

Honourable Mentions

Dudetastic by Holly Geely

I suppose it’s because I can relate to the narrator’s confusion over language, in much the same way I was confused when confronted with Chaucer. ‘When did I stop understanding teenagers?’ When does anyone who isn’t a teenager understand them? The pain of the narrator is so clear. But please, tell me ‘Dudetastic’ isn’t the coming expression?

O Tempora! O Mores! by Geoff Holme

Where to start with this? The typo that means the wrong Pope is targeted. The innocence of appearing as a Christ-like figure that convinces the visited Pope to undertake the most compassionate mission tragically curtailed after 12 days because of the confused mission. I shouldn’t laugh, really, but…

Dates Dwindle by Iskandar Haggarty

A date gone wrong. I loved ‘Empty see-you-soons’. And the reference to ‘a little steam escaped her latte’ as she seethed at his comment. I was with that poor sucker, sure he was striking the right note only to realise too late it was just the death knell.

The Faymus Professys of Archibald Legend by A.J. Walker

Please read this, flash writers extraordinaire and tell me this doesn’t relate at some level to all of us. ‘Zombie apocalypse on steroids’ is a frightening concept but when linked to Flash dogs is truly mind altering. ‘Wolves with Thesaurus’ and saying Pratchett could have been one but for his use of footnotes to bypass the word count – perfect and laugh out loud funny (in context of course). My favourite line…

They chew their stories – Spitting out large morsels; keeping only the essential juicy bits’

That is the perfect mirror held up to us all.

3rd Place

Intervention by Pattyann McCarthy

Here is a live story told in 100 words. Elsie is a relic of the past, fighting her corner and for others amongst newly infiltrating gangs. She assumes she’s left alone because she is an anomaly but in fact it’s because she is the legend of the streets. Of all the stories this contained so much, allowing me to imagine a whole life spent and imagine the future too. Excellent.

2nd Place

Walk by Marie McKay

I took to this story immediately. Our unnamed narrator is a wage slave who has ‘a clock for a soul’. He is one of the pen-pushing ‘dead’. If you’ve commuted, you understand the precision of ‘ten mouthfuls of cornflakes, two coffees, one sugar’ and ‘spoonfuls of time measured out in crockery’.

Just when we’ve settled to this drudgery he spins the twist. Today is different. Today it’s ‘head and heels high’ our hero is ready ‘to walk the runway of catcalls and traffic cones’. Great stuff.

Winner

Miss Otis Has No Regrets by Ed Broom

This has everything. A story with depth, backstory and the stimulus for the reader’s imagination to think about the future; beautiful imagery; and some excellent humour.

Beryl is retiring from the planning department – now ‘Urban Design’. Jim has retired too ‘He got golf clubs. She has Amazon vouchers’.

The dialogue sums up so many retirements: ‘Don’t forget us Beryl’ ‘I won’t!’ I already have.

She glances at the gridlock ‘Jim’s idea, the one-way system’.

But just when we assume Jim is her nemesis we have Beryl blushing at her memory of journeys on the permanently moving ‘paternoster’. ‘Those up-and-over journeys passed into legend.’

I really enjoyed this simple tale, so well told. Thank you; now I want to know what will happen to Beryl and Jim in retirement!

Miss Otis Has No Regrets

Ed Broom

“Urban Design” reads the self-adhesive sign on the closing door. Beryl wonders what became of that polished brass “Planning” plaque which greeted her for 35 years. Jim probably pocketed it when he retired. He got golf clubs. She has Amazon vouchers.

“Don’t forget us, Beryl!”

“I won’t!”

I already have, she thinks, glancing down at the 5pm gridlock. Jim’s idea, that one-way system.

As usual, one lift is dead. Such a shame they removed the paternoster. “On you hop, it doesn’t stop!” was Jim’s catchphrase. In the lift door, Beryl catches herself blushing. Those up-and-over journeys passed into legend.

Micro Bookends 1.28 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.28 – Results
Apr 262015
 
Photo Credit: Liline sur Flickr via CC.

Photo Credit: Liline sur Flickr via CC.

Well, that was fun. So much patriotism and emotion, and not just from the English. A big thanks to N J Crosskey for wrestling with all your dragons and picking the winners. Here’s what she thought:

I’ve never judged a competition before, and you pesky writers had to go and make it difficult didn’t you? So many wonderful stories. You’ve made me laugh, cry, nod along, and even raised the goose bumps on my flesh. I want to thank you all for the privilege of reading your work. A lot of you took risks, either with the prose itself or by being topical/political. I really admire that. Writers should be unafraid to experiment. Each and every story was unique and well executed. Choosing winners was exceptionally tricky, and you should all be very happy with your entries. However, choose I must, and these are the stories that particularly stood out to me.

Honourable Mentions

Knight of the Rock by Holly Geely

I absolutely loved the characterisation in this one. It is skilful indeed to portray personalities so well in a piece that is almost entirely dialogue. I fell for Jacob, the disrespectful squire, straight away. I can picture him so clearly in my mind, though no physical description was given. Giving backstory through dialogue between two characters (both of whom are already aware of past events), AND making it sound natural, is extremely difficult to pull off. Often the writer falls in to the “as you know” trap, and the conversation sounds unrealistic (why would character A be telling character B something he already knows?), but the author of this piece made it seem effortless. The dialogue was very realistic, and the line “you only won this battle because the goblins were ill.” Made me laugh out loud. Terrific. Jacob was a triumph!

Did they Blowtorch it? by Sal Page

There were several drunk Englishmen this week, this one stood out to me as a scarily familiar and well captured snapshot of binge drinking culture. The phrase “celebrating something or other” made me laugh, and nod in recognition at the same time. It’s all about the beer, and the singing and laughing too, but mostly the beer. I love rule breaking and risk-taking and inventing your own word certainly does that! “Sizzletasticly so.” Works so well, really conjures up the image and sounds exactly like the sort of phrase someone who has had one (or three) too many would come up with. Heck, I’ve heard a fair few new adjectives/adverbs fall from the lips of the tipsy! Thus, the language of this piece really added to its realism.

George Slays the Dragon by A.J. Walker

This one really took me on a rollercoaster. I was hooked by the snappy first line: George expects. I’m a huge fan of well-placed short, snappy sentences (y’know, the type that give your grammar checker an embolism) and this one said so much more than a longer phrase could have. Then the author led me to believe, through the use of the names Patrick and Andrew, that I was watching St George ruing the fact that his day doesn’t get as much attention as his Irish and Scottish counterpart’s do. But no, of course, George was stressing over something much more important than that – football!

Then I spat out my coffee at the line: “Like a Farage!” partly because it made me laugh, and partly because I was slightly shocked that the author took the risk of including a political reference. So this one gets an honourable mention for twisting the tale on me, making me laugh, and being topically bold!

3rd Place

George and the Dragon by Jacki Donnellan

Goosebumps. This one hit me in the guts and then crept under my skin. The line: “But when George returned home, none of his memories of war would fit inside” is utterly magnificent. It gives no specific details as to what those memories may be, it doesn’t have to. Instead the author trusts the reader to fill in the blanks, and gives us the type of image that sticks, and makes us reflect. An incredibly sad and poignant tale that is again painfully familiar and topical. An exploration of the terrible human cost of war, even for those who survive it. Beautiful, tragic and a memorable piece that will remain with me.

2nd Place

A Fear of the Unknown by Iskandar Haggarty 

This was a magnificent piece that really flips perspectives, and spoke to me metaphorically as well as literally. Exceptionally clever, the author has looked for ways in which the soldiers themselves resemble dragons, and described them beautifully in the lines:

“Loud roars.

Sharp claws.

Metallic, scaly hides.”

The choice to put these short, punchy descriptions on separate lines also makes the piece stand out visually, something which is often overlooked in flash fiction, but I personally feel adds another dimension to a story (and catches the eye of the scroller!)

The line: “But as the ironclad monsters rode over the hill on their four-legged beasts, his father’s carcass in tow,” was enough to slay ME, never mind the dragon. I really felt his fear, his grief, his horror. Incredibly sad, and very moving.

Winner

Full English by Ed Broom

This excellent piece is a perfect example of how to tell a whole story using just one, seemingly ordinary, moment in time. The line “the cat’s seen it all before.” Tells us that this is a run-of-the-mill breakfast for George and his Mum. But their story is revealed through heart-breaking little details as the piece progresses. It’s hard to believe I’ve only had a hundred words to get to learn about George, I feel I know him so well, which is testament to the author’s skill. There are blanks for the reader’s mind to fill in, which only adds to the depth and heart of the piece.

“He’s already changed his shirt after tidying last night’s empties and ashtrays.” This tells us so much, about George himself, and about life at home. I really felt the grief, the loss and the unspoken emptiness in their household. The desperate attempts to be normal, to keep order, with broken hearts. George is taking care of his mother the best way he knows how, but I can’t help but feel that she is wracked not only by grief at the loss of her husband, but fear for her son as well. Her conflicting emotions (pride and apprehension) come across so well when she says: “George you’re a saint. Your father would be…” and then proceeds to study his dog tag.

The author used the bookends seamlessly, and created a beautiful, poignant tale using just one moment in time.

Full English

Ed Broom

George waves away her smoke and reaches for the ketchup. Sunlight bounces off the dog tag but the cat’s seen it all before.

“Mind your uniform, George.”

“You know me.”

He’s already changed his shirt after tidying last night’s empties and ashtrays.

“I made lunch.”

“George, you’re a saint. Your father would be…”

Her fingers trace the familiar embossing on the metal ID hanging from his neck: name, service number, blood group.

Glancing down, George sees his yolk submerged in red gloop.

“Mum, shut up and eat. You know what you’re like if you skip breakfast.”

“I know. I turn into a right dragon.”