Sep 202015
 
Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Steven O. Young Jr., for sorting right from wrong. Here’s what he thought:

I feel it may be necessary to admit that I haven’t acted as a judge since screening entrants in my elementary school’s talent show. It’s never easy to hold one’s work against another, but it was a fairly simple process back then; we were only kids, most of whom weren’t especially skilled yet. The field practically came together on its own—I can’t recall having to make any tough cuts.

This, however, was nowhere near as elementary.

There’s a tad bit more talent this time around, which took the prompts in incredibly varying directions. Your pieces ran the gamut from the psychedelic to the subdued; from using Shakespeare and Tolkien while establishing contemporary settings, to having Grateful Dead lyrics outline a couple’s relationship; from works of utter playfulness to stories of subtle despair. It made for some difficult decisions that required multiple readings of each piece to even be able to trim the list down whatsoever.

Still, decisions had to be made and they’re surely a matter of subjectivity. Well, that’s fairly obvious, but what I mean to say is that there were plenty of worthy stories that could have very easily gotten the nod with someone else reading. At any rate, thank you all for making my part in this process a struggle, and congratulations to our winners!

Honourable Mentions

Desperately Seeking by Marie McKay

The quiet façade of this story hardly hides its viciousness. “Desperately Seeking” is an incredibly apt title; its message is not guardedly veiled, from the immediate admission of a “soon-to-be single” seeking a “man who takes care of people” to the bold print spelling it out a bit more explicitly.

Destination by Marie McKay

The use of synesthesia determined a sort of bodily-detached reading for me. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it certainly fit the diagramming of constellations and the “long distance souls skirting the edge of places”—lives told in the forever unobtainable, where the characters were all too eager to cast their dreams in the “empty track.”

3rd Place

Almost Fooled by Jacki Donnellan

With the vivid descriptions, it seems dangerously easy to be fooled by the illusionistic majesty of the scenery that surrounds the speaker. However, the curt sentences set a distinct rhythm that embodies the speaker’s fatigue. Her punctuated narration dismisses the possibility of allowing herself to become too attached to any of the potential delights after having suffered once. That realization is made all the more tragic when the speaker expresses the rigidity of her sense of solitude after feeling her baby kick.

2nd Place

Schoolboy Error by Sonya

This piece has such an innocent and genuine feel to it. Sure, there may be some sense of mild malice at the heart of the events, but Benny seems like such a gentle and earnest character that the reader’s attention is wholly diverted to Benny. While that may be an incredulous statement seeing as Benny only says two words—though “Chrimbo” certainly adds definition to him—the narration of the last paragraph sealed it for me with the pranksters set as the foil to Benny’s kind-hearted naïveté.

Winner

Merry Andrew by Karl A Russell

I’m jealous of more than a few pieces provided this week—more than just those that made this list—but this reads so naturally I’m almost annoyed to know it was written in a day! The lilting cadence carries throughout, dictated by a consistent syllabic patterning and rhyme scheme that molds each stanza. The use of “fayre” hints at the poem being a folktale of considerable age, which only goes to amplify its mythos. Plus, it practically demanded that I read the poem with my poor rendition of a Middle English accent. This isn’t as bawdy as many poems of that age, but it’s delightful nonetheless.

Merry Andrew

Karl A Russell

Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
Deflower maids
And tug their flowered hair.

In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.

A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.

For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.

And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.

Jun 072015
 
Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

Time for the results. Huge thanks go to this week’s judge, Jessica Franken. Thanks, Jessica! Here’s what she thought:

Once again, I was impressed by the range of creative stories submitted. Requiring “taker” as the final bookend is some advanced-level promptage but you all pulled through.

There was a lot of death this week, which is no surprise given the “undertaker” theme. I haven’t read this many murders in one sitting since Game of Thrones! (And there were enough serial women-killers in these stories to keep Dexter quite busy…) I think someone died in at least half the stories, and you dark souls killed off at least 26 characters in 35 stories (not counting “mounds of bodies,” war casualties, etc.). After reading them all a few times, I needed some emergency baby goat videos.

But then I couldn’t wait to read them again. Some great writing this week, which meant tough judging. Thank you for sharing your vivid, thoughtfully-crafted work with me and with the world!

Honourable Mentions

My Captain by Adam Houlding

A heartbreaking story about the long shadow of war. Ten years have done nothing to heal the broken narrator, and one gets the impression that he or she has been chasing feeling of any kind the whole time. It’s not just enough to feel the normal pain of a tattoo, but “I force a mistake. Again. Again.” And it’s not just pain that is needed, but “septic pain,” festering and diseased. A visceral piece.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs SCUM AND VILLAINY by Brian Creek (@BrianSCreek)

I was already smiling after just reading the title. Oh, scum and villainy: you are no match for Chris and Mike! This is a compact, complete story that, at the end, launches the next scene in the reader’s mind. I love that the question posed in the second line hangs in the air until the last line. It’s fun to imagine how Chris and Mike got into this situation; great use of in media res. Favorite details include Mike’s bible weapon and the prisoner’s out of date mustache, a fun morsel that tells us he’s been in prison for a while. Also, I want Chris’ tattoos so bad now.

Circle by Mai Black

One of the many things I appreciate about this story is how the author manages to evoke emotion with simple language. The piece wouldn’t have worked so well had the language been more flowery. This clear, careful prose is a perfect fit for Jonathan. The imagery it creates manages to keep the reader with the ashes even as the people drive out of the story. And in the quiet after people, water gains a voice and becomes a character of its own. I love eternal cycle that takes place as “wind whips the waves.” How beautiful to be a part of everything even after death.

Amid lots of murder and violence this week, this story stood out for its peaceful and assured writing. Death doesn’t have to be sensationalistic to carry dramatic weight. This was some of my very favorite writing of the week, and I only wished it had incorporated the photo prompt more clearly.

3rd Place

Him by Marie McKay

As I read, I could feel myself getting a bit drunk on this story. The colors, tastes, and sounds—it was like synaesthesia! This sensual writing is absolutely right for the story’s content, as the characters sink into one another like tattoo ink and become lost in their need to consume one another. Time is moving fast and they are grasping for something to make them feel strongly. I am absolutely smitten with these phrases: “written through the layers of me,” “the edge of a story flashes above shirt collar,” and “I lean in to hieroglyphs.” Delicious.

2nd Place

Under by Jacki Donnellan

I was entranced by the slow, quiet, intimate destruction of this piece. The events of the story are so unusual, but the skillful writing makes it feel familiar and uncanny. I could really picture the “inked wings that beat to the rhythm of my breathing” and even the tiny hole that is a portal to the howling emptiness within the narrator. Small details of dialogue can do a lot of work in a micro, and the use of the word “hun” told me a great deal about how close these two people are, which made the predatory moment—when the victim is “slowly sucked in, atom by atom, along the thread-wide entrance to my soul”—even more chilling.

Winner

Sleeping Beauty by Lynn Love

Such layers to this gorgeous story! Each time I read it I was rewarded anew. What I loved most was the sense of constant motion, which starts right in the first line as “inky slithers melt into life.” That creeping and crawling builds, and I could almost feel the tattoos moving over my own skin, thanks to the precise language like “flicks her scales,” waves that “roll across your chest,” “unfurls,” “nips,” “snatching,” “weave and warp.”

This take on the prompts was a clever nod to Angelina Jolie’s recent turn in Maleficent, though this strong piece stands on its own.

Here, the tattooist’s needle stands in for the spindle that pricks Sleeping Beauty in the fairytale and seals her fate. Thorny brambles protected Sleeping Beauty, but thorns choke the unfortunate man in this story, and something tells me he won’t be awakened in 100 years.

Sleeping Beauty

Lynn Love

Under the leer of a new moon, inky slithers melt into life.

A mermaid licks salt-crusted lips, flicks her scales and dives, breaking through the waves of skin that roll across your chest.

The rose unfurls its petals, nips at flightless doves, thorns snatching at banners declaring ‘Stella’, ‘Gloria’ ‒ ‘Mum’.

You wanted ‘ink’ ‒ to be a man. Now the pictures that smother your skin smother you.

They weave and warp to form a tattoo where you never felt the sting before – your throat.

You dream of the needle, of the sea, of Sleeping Beauty cradled in her bramble nest. You stir, gasp, swallow.

Ink is your final breath-taker.

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 1.28 – 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.”

Apr 092015
 

Happy Thursday. Ready to write? A couple of exciting announcements first:

After this round we’ll be voting for our favourite stories from MB1.14 to MB1.26. If you haven’t been a winner yet, this is your last roll of the dice for this quarter. Good luck!

 

FlashDogs HQ has given me one golden ticket to give away in this week’s contest. This ticket will give the winner the opportunity to contribute to the 2nd FlashDogs anthology and have their writing in print. The prize is open to anyone who does not already have a golden ticket. If this applies to you, and you want your entry to be considered for the prize, please add the phrase ‘golden ticket’ with your word count and Twitter info. I’ll be selecting the winner of the golden ticket independently of the regular contest.
Questions? Ask away.

Playboy is a men’s lifestyle magazine that features journalism, fiction, and glamour photos. Many well-known writers have been published in Playboy, including Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Fleming, Chuck Palahniuk, P. G. Wodehouse, Haruki Murakami, and Margaret Atwood. At it’s peak Playboy had a circulation of over seven million. Today it has a loyal following of around one million readers.

Today is the 89th birthday of Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner. Hefner’s playboy lifestyle is well documented, but his philanthropic activities are perhaps less well known. In 1978 Hefner helped organize fundraising efforts that led to the restoration of the Hollywood sign, and in 2010 he donated $900,000 to a land-purchase scheme to stop development around the sign. In 1984 he had a subspecies of Marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) named after him in recognition of his financial contribution to its conservation.

A happy birthday to Mr Hefner with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: A. Strakey via CC.

Photo Credit: A. Strakey via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Jacki Donnellan, winner of MB1.24. Read her winning story and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with PLAY and ending with BOY 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 Jacki Donnellan?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is Jacki Donnellan?
Mar 312015
 

Jacki DonnellanOur most recent winner is Jacki Donnellan. Follow her on Twitter and check out her blog and Facebook page. If you enjoyed Jacki’s MB1.24winning story, you’ll want to read her stories, Napkins, Teacups, Ribbon and Getting Myrna to Play the Piano. You can find some of Jacki’s other writing on her Amazon page.

I am from England, but for the last 13 years I have lived amongst tulips and windmills in the Netherlands, with my husband and two lovely children (who are growing up much too fast for my liking.)

I love reading and writing flash and am lucky enough to have several contest wins and publications under my writerly belt. I also love being part of the wonderful online flash-fiction community, who constantly prove that it is possible to use social media for nothing but creative and supportive ends.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? It struck me that there was a bright and sunny version of the truth in one photo, and a tainted, darker version in the other. It made me think about how pride might cause someone to try and whitewash their past, and why.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I try to use words in such a way that they have several more words hidden underneath them (or, to put it more simply – to write between the lines!) I don’t always manage to do this but I always enjoy trying.

Why do you like flash fiction? I like writing- and reading- between the lines! And the world of flash fiction is so fresh and vibrant; constantly moving.

Been writing long? Couple of years.

You write anything else? Slightly longer short stories. And I have a half-written novella which has been half-finished for well over a year now…

Any advice for other flash writers? Keep going, keep writing, join in, connect, take part!

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I have a short story due to be published some time this year, and I’m currently working on something for Volume 2 of the Flashdogs Anthology, which I am thrilled to be a part of.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I am woefully under-read, so it’s usually me on the lookout for recommendations! However I recently read The Best British Short Stories 2013 published by Salt, which contains some really fantastic short fiction.

Micro Bookends 1.24 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.24 – Results
Mar 292015
 
Photo Credit: lisa rigby via CC.

Photo Credit: lisa rigby via CC.

Thanks for dropping by for the results show. I must admit I thought PREJUDICE as the closing bookend was a step too far. Of course you all rose to the challenge and came up with a crop of fantastic stories.

A huge thanks to Foy S. Iver who has not only done a splendid job of judging, but has given feedback on everyone’s stories. Thanks Foy! Here’s what she thought of this weeks entries:

Wow! I think this week might have been particularly challenging with the bookends but how I loved the prompt and introduction. Paring Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite books) with Photoshopping (one of my least favorite societal sins) is such a deliciously difficult juxtaposition. With that being said, the winners were those stories that evoked emotion, smoothly incorporated the bookends, and captured that sense of life being “retouched.” Thank you to everyone who dared to pick up the challenge and to Dave for laying it down!

Relaxed and Messy by Sal Page

I’ll never be like that.” Such an oft-repeated phrase that usually means someone will be just like that. Great final bookend with the double meaning on prejudice! Is her family judging the “bits on the carpet” or her decisions in a partner? Unfortunately, probably both. Well done.

Of Love and War by legreene515

A sweet tale of love temporarily torn apart, it felt especially poignant because it’s something I might need to be brave through in the future. I loved the beautifully descriptive line “The chopper’s flurry, like a manic butterfly evacuated him from his memories.” Lovely.

Sepia Day by michaelsimko

I adored the uniqueness of this flash! The line “[t]he site of a lady in a wedding dress using a plasma cutter is frightening and exhilarating” says it all.  Who wouldn’t want to see that? Beautiful phrase “sepia moon light.” Also, the fact that the zombie bride’s name Kamili means “perfection” tickles my linguistic brain. Fun Trivia: If you look up the name Kairu on Urban Dictionary the 2nd definition is “A human piece of Swiss cheese.” I hope that wasn’t his fate…

Daddy’s Girl by N J Crosskey

How true this is “the silence cut deeper than any scorn ever could.” It’s that feeling of being cut off that destroys. Many of the stories this week dealt with the pain that comes about from a clash in worldviews and this one was particularly moving. Great job.

A Wedding by Susan O’Reilly

This was one of the few stories that gave us delight and happiness. A beautiful portrayal of prejudice left behind. I loved the structure of this piece; the way the writer styled it looks like columns inside a church on a wedding day. Thanks for bringing some light. 🙂

State By State by stevenstucko

All I had to read was “bacon-rolled mushrooms and tiny crab quiche” and I was hooked. Pair that with a great music selection (kd lang), and I want to be there! This story did a nice job of showing us more than politics and regulations; we see human emotion behind the change. The penultimate line (“tardy Justice of the Peace finally arrives with the paper work”) feels rather indicative of the current process. Good job.

Runaway Vows by Susan O’Reilly

I read this poem out loud to fully appreciate it; the rhyme is lovely. Both sweet and solemn, the writer’s words paint us a picture of young love not to be restrained. I was happy they found peace after “their vows [had] been sworn.” Very touching.

Pride & Greed by Holly Geely

Your wife-to-be ran off with your brother” a ready-made episode for Jerry Springer! I loved the contrasting opening and closing lines; we start with Mandy’s sin (pride) and end with society’s (prejudice). My heart went out to the MC but the last line was hopeful so I’ll imagine she was brave enough to speak up. 🙂

Tradición No Más by stevenstucko

¡Qué pena! Of all the people to “no-show” your wedding, your father is one of the saddest. “He won’t give her to a Mexican” this line snatched my heart from my chest. I wanted to scream, what’s wrong with you people?! A patch of levity with “tuxedo stuffed groomsmen” gave quite the amusing mental image. Overall, heart-breaking write.

Differences by Mark Morris

With the prompts many types of prejudices were brought to the forefront and this story’s might’ve been the most relatable for me, especially the sentence “he’s a little more tanned than everyone else in my family.” Being of Irish-Welsh decent, almost everyone in my family are all gingers. I married a very tan Thai-American and “Differences” made me appreciate all the more not having to struggle against a hateful ignorance like this. Job well done.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE BRIDES OF VENGEANCE by Brian Creek

Chris and Mike are becoming a weekly favorite of mine and this was no exception! Usually, all fun and games, this episode explored tragic themes. We get a glimpse of  Chris’ dark past (“before I was institutionalised”) and watch as he struggles to handle the death of a former colleague. I hope you get your ghosts, Chris.

The Trespasser by stephellis2013

Wow! So many chillingly beautiful phrases throughout this piece: “Pride had crept through the house for centuries,” “a greedy grasp that mouldered its way down barren corridors,” “it scented something new, and as yet, uncorrupted,” “[m]urmured their displeasure,” and my favorite “only the house could decide who stayed” Eeeeee!!!

I debated and debated whether to place this and bump one of the HMs but ultimately, decided I couldn’t find the Photoshop element. I would give this a Special Mention for most fear-filling entry if I could. 🙂

What’s in a Name? by Stella T

“Pride Ann Joy” Oh so painful! But such a sweet tale of fatherly love and pride in his daughter. This was one of the few uplifting stories this week and I enjoyed the smile. I’m certain that the sister is loads more thankful that she didn’t get tagged with “prejudice.”

Pride Left or Right? by stu06bloc9

Great commentary with this piece! Now we’re shipping robotic women and do you want one who can think for herself or one who panders? At this point in our history the antecedents of Pride104 are only just outselling Pride107. Let’s hope intelligence and reliability win out over that “extra-sensory responsiveness.” Also, I loved “she computed” in place of “she thought”!

The Happiest Day of My Life by Geoff Holme

This flash did an amazing job of painting people in less than 150 words. The voice was captivating and emotions soar to know that they’ll be together, only to crash again on reading Mum wasn’t there… Dad tore up the invitation.” I liked that it presented support in the face of differences though, ending on a laugh with the words, “100% heterosexual but not a trace of prejudice.”

Taking Stock by Ed Broom

It’s funny that some professions are seen as less despite the massive paychecks they draw in. Just reading “I spent yesterday morning in a bluebell field pretending to use a laptop, and that’s my mortgage covered this month” made me ask where do I apply? I loved the final bookend (“her academic prejudice”), too. Very fresh.

Mrs. Martin’s Lonely Heart’s Club by voimaoy

This was one of the stories that utilized the bookends seamlessly! The line “not necessarily beautiful,” is painful and made me feel for those sad hearts entering Mrs. Martin’s Club. Also, I did wonder at the high mortality rate in the female founder’s men…

Regrets by mediocremeg14

With the rise of Bridezillas, this apology (“I was so caught up in my “Perfect Day” that I didn’t register how unhappy you were”) is unfortunately relevant. These days, even the flower arrangements are more important than the groom. 🙁 I was happy though that she knew enough to see her mistake!

Photoshopped Out by zevonesque

What began as bride contemplating her “day of days,” the writer slips in an intriguing turn on assumptions with the phrase “[s]he corrected her thoughts; not alone – with her husband”. As the tale closes, I’m left with the sense that she’s getting married more for her sister’s pain than for her own happiness. Well done.

Wedding Crashers by davejamesashton

Goodness, having your wedding crashed is never a good thing but when the crashers are half-raised corpses, I’d wonder about what bad luck is in store for the rest of my marriage – if I lived that long! I liked the closing line on this one (terminate with extreme prejudice!”) because it was the first example of prejudice as a very good thing! Fun write.

Honourable Mentions

APPROACH WITH CAUTION by Jacqueline Pye

I thought this would be a little story about rivalries until I read “man” in quotation marks. Then that “satanic finger” pointed and the world spun on its head with a vindictive explosion. The author gave us a smooth use of bookends (“Anyone else for prejudice?” LOVED this!), and an excellent allusion to the Photoshopping bit (something hidden because it’s not what the mundane world wants to see). It definitely deserves an honorable mention.

The sins of the mothers by Geoff Le Pard

This was one I kept rereading, knowing each time I would find something I missed. The bookends were invisible (what I look for) and we clearly see two worlds (or more accurately, “two women” in the same body), one that society wants hidden and the other that’s accepted. The truth is good girl and bad girl are part of her and “sometimes [she’ll] need them both.” The wordplay and repetition of going back to the dictionary also won me over. Stellar job.

SAMSARA by Jessica Franken

This story was one of the stands out for cleverly incorporating that sense of something hidden, something edited. The beautiful title and line “As kids we played mirror image” clue the reader in that Vivian is more than her sweet and proper exterior.  Her “evil twin” will be away for the honeymoon but not divorced from the cycle, and perhaps in the future Vivian will once again be the reflection rather than the reflected. Bonus points for the gorgeous line: “as if not to wake her wedding dress.”

3rd Place

Without Prejudice by Geoff Holme

As soon as I read this, I knew it had won a placing. What a perfectly original piece and format. The bookends were quiet – though that name, (“CHOLMONDELEY FARQUHARSON”) I had to look it up and see if it was real. It very much is – and though the story strayed from the idea of retouching, it made up for it by resurrecting the spirit of Pride and Prejudice. Some of my favorite parts? When Mr. Darcy “suffered impairment to his pride” and when “Miss Bennet’s unwarranted prejudice…was rekindled” and of course “{undecipherable scrawl}”. A worthy flash.

2nd Place

The Family Way by Marie McKay

What an opening line:Pride is the colour of a cheap gold band.” Volumes spoken in 9 small words. Oh how these phrases sprang into heart and memory: “secrets scurry into ancient alcoves that reek with the stale stench of tradition,” “new spun funereal tones,” and “pursed lips of prejudice”! Flawless bookends and a quintessential tale of retouched history. Whether this was an arranged marriage or a shotgun wedding, we’re not told but the ache at the last is the same because she lies but “he lies too.” Brilliant flash.

Winner

My Life in Sunlight by Jacki Donnellan

Wow… So much of this imagery swept my heart away, “Pride bathes my life in sunlight,” “white freesias cascading,” “tears draggling my wilting bouquet” and “rustling white crepe.” The use of italicized text reveals what’s real and what’s “reprinted.” One woman’s struggle as a single mother to raise her child, pay rent, and “ward off pre-judgement” for lack of a man. Her life re-imagined to better suit a society where diamonds, husbands, and babies come in that exact order. I have not had a harder time picking between two stories for the winner but “My Life in Sunlight” won thanks to its MC. My soul wants to wrap this woman in a hug. Masterful work.

My Life in Sunlight

Jacki Donnellan

Pride bathes my life in sunlight; my memories reprinted in white.

I joined you beneath the honeysuckle bower, white freesias cascading from my hands.

I didn’t wait and wait in a draughty corridor, tears draggling my wilting bouquet.

I kept the dress- for our daughter, one day! A wardrobe brimming with rustling white crepe.

I didn’t sell the dress to pay rent on the bedsit in which I gave birth, alone.

I took care that those diamonds on my wedding band didn’t scratch against my baby’s face, or my husband’s hand!

I didn’t wear a brass curtain ring to ward off pre-judgement; to fend off the cold sting of prejudice.