Jun 142015
 
Photo Credit: Kamyar Adl via CC.

Photo Credit: Kamyar Adl via CC.

Welcome to the results show. If you didn’t click on the Two Ronnies link in this week’s contest waffle, I suggest you do. It’s comedy gold.

You gave me 27 fantastic stories to judge this week. There were a few comedic turns to lighten the mood, but most of you gave me car wrecks and death. C’est la vie! Here’re the winners:

Honourable Mentions

Teenage Kicks by @dazmb

Fantastic title. I read the rest of the story listening to this on repeat. “Double math, it even sounds airless.” Great opening line. I’m sure we all felt like the narrator at one time, but I suspect we all come round to repeating the father’s advice. Great final couple of lines: “Because I don’t have a map. But I know it’s time to act.”

The Car Wreck by Lynn Love

Clever title, referencing not an actual car wreck, but the car wreck that the MC’s friend’s life has become. I love the descriptions of Lexie: “eyes like headlights on full beam, lashes batting like hummingbird wings. Her backside…a hypnotic pendulum in zebra print.” But Lexie’s lifestyle has caught up with her and “the headlight eyes have clicked off.”

A Foreign Country by Steph Ellis

I assume from the marching reference that the MC is a soldier suffering from PTSD. The foreign country is not only the place where he saw action, but also his mind, and perhaps also the place he used to call home but where he has become “inconvenient, beyond repair.” The final lines, where the MC fails to recognise his visitor, probably his wife, are very emotional.

The Car Auction by Mai Black

Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare play. I loved this humorous interpretation of the three witches speech and a few other choice quotes thrown in. “Is this a Jaguar I see before me?” Genius!

3rd Place

Wreckage by Marie McKay

“Double entendres and the aroma of cheap coffee would have sullied the air here once.” Such a good opening line. No, it’s not Professor Tim Hunt’s empty office, but a garage in a post-apocalyptic future. I love the little details of the obligatory page 3 pin-up (“Courtney (19) loves dolphins and hates the wars in the Middle East” is great) and custard creams. The final line cruelly leaves the reader wanting more.”‘Jess. Driver’s seat. 3 o’clock. Act!'”. I’m thinking zombies. But then I often do.

2nd Place

Letting Go by @dazmb

A tear-jerking story of the final moments of someone’s life. I love the contrast between “I’ve been dreaming. Of fields rushing up into the first scuffs and scratches of childhood”, then “the blink of an eye and it’s all neon beeping, needles and catheters.” Nice use of the photo prompt: “All this technology…can’t save the clapped out bangers in this car park.” Goodness me, those final three lines hit hard. Sniff.

Winner

Kiss of Death by Geoff Le Pard

Excellent figurative interpretation of the photo prompt as a mass graveyard of those dead or dying from a terrible disease. There’s some great description here, such as “serried ranks of decrepit bodies”. It’s a sad truth that in death people become anonymous, especially after an epidemic or disaster. This is shown wonderfully in the line, “Now in the throes of death we are ubiquitous, homogenised by decay and depersonalised by disease.” The plight of the dying is evident when even knowing the disgust of those who are ‘taking care’ of them they still “crave the careless spray of their spittle to moisten parched lips.” The final lines round the story off brilliantly, ending on a seamless use of the closing bookend.

Kiss of Death

Geoff Le Pard

Double vision, nausea, bone snapping pain.

They stack us up, serried ranks of decrepit bodies, left to corrupt.

You see it in their eyes. Once we were unique, individual. Now, in the throes of death we are ubiquitous, homogenised by decay and depersonalised by disease.

If you didn’t know they had abandoned you before, the perfunctory response to any request screams the truth. Yet even knowing their disgust, you still crave the careless spray of their spittle to moisten parched lips.

The irony isn’t lost on any of us for it was the self-same sharing of fluids that brought us here. Death determined by such a simple act.

Who is Lynn Love?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is Lynn Love?
Jun 092015
 

Lynn LoveOur most recent winner is Lynn Love. If you enjoyed Lynn’s winning-story you’ll want to check out her blog and Still Me…, published by Pewter Rose Press, for more of her writing.

I’m a florist by day, but by night (and by days off) I’m a writer in embryonic form. I live in Bristol in the UK and scribble between fiddling with flowers, blogging and tidying up Lego. My short stories have appeared in print and online, but my real ambition is to write novels. Well, my​ real ambition is to write like Neil Gaiman and have the hutzpah of James Patterson. I am in equal parts supported and distracted by an animator husband and an apprentice Iron Man in the shape of my eleven-­year­-old son.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends?

The first phrase was the clincher – ‘Under the leer of a new moon’. Only something unpleasant would happen on such a night. I had the photo prompt strongly in mind (as the first time I wrote for Micro Bookends, I forgot it completely!) and once the idea of pictures coming alive occurred, it was a short jump from that to the tattoos turning on their host. I imagined the images as parasites, though where they’ve slithered off to now, I dread to think.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words?

I’d like to say it was planned to perfection, but my blog name (Word Shamble) closely reflects my approach to writing – plop some ideas on the page and see what images sparkle from the rubble. Once I’d pinned the basic story idea and honed a few choice phrases, I cut the fat away until it’s was as lean as I could make it.

Why do you like flash fiction?

Short and flash fiction is a useful discipline if you tend towards rambling, as I do. When I’m dazzled by a great piece of flash fiction, I just want to anatomise it, to see how the author has achieved the effect – and how I can steal the technique and use it myself.

Been writing long?

I wrote a lot up until my teens, then thought I should yank my head out of the clouds and go and earn some money, which I did, albeit a very small amount. Writing punched me in the head again about seven years ago, when my other half gave me a Tudor sixpence. An idea for a YA time travel story popped into my head and I had to write it. I soon realised I couldn’t actually write at all, so I developed two other novels, umpteen short stories, took a creative writing course…

You write anything else?

Yes, but all of it slowly! In February, I finally got my blog up and running as it’s been on my writing ‘to-­do’ list for the last six years. I write regular posts for that. The style is jokey and informal, which is a nice contrast to my fiction which tends to be YA or adult (not in the E.L. James way, though).

Any advice for other flash writers?

Plunge straight into the meat of the piece – you only have a few words to say what you want to say. And It’s worth taking time to find the right word – sit back, watch the bumble bees, do the washing up and explore your vocabulary (or search someone else’s and use a thesaurus). The right word is worth a dozen nearly-­right ones.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline?

After seven years and three re-­writes, my YA time travel novel is close to completion (I told you I was a slow writer). I’ve been working with Ruth Warburton from the WoMentoring writers’ project, developing a submission package I can send to agents and publishers. So, if all goes well I’ll be posting that out in the next few months and I’ll get a massive advance and a three book deal. If all goes badly, the book will vanish into the sinkhole of self-­publishing.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another?

Just one? The Miniaturist: A Novel by Jessie Burton is the most recent book that hit me for six. It’s the author’s debut novel, beautiful, atmospheric, with deep mysteries at its heart. Definitely one I wish I’d written.

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.

Micro Bookends 1.33 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.33 – Results
May 312015
 
Photo Credit: gfpeck via CC.

Photo Credit: gfpeck via CC.

Welcome to the results bit. A huge thanks to this week’s judge, Marie McKay. Here’s what she thought of it all:

This week, the bookends and photo prompt did a great job of fuelling your creative juices. There were common threads in many stories, but there was a huge amount of diversity, also. I was looking forward to reading soap-inspired stories based around feuds, romance, betrayal, adultery, and domestic turmoil! You did not disappoint; indeed, you went a step further, handling these themes, as well as others, with great expertise and originality.
Needless to say, I found judging incredibly difficult but here goes:

Honourable Mentions

If Walls Could Talk by Steven Stucko

I enjoyed reading about the interconnected lives of these neighbours as their situation had a quirky set-up with one set of neighbours inadvertently providing relationship counselling for the other as a result of a thin set of walls. I liked how this author uses one of the conventions of soap opera- characters overhearing one another- for the purposes of good!

A Last Hurrah Geoff Le Pard

The poignant imagery in this piece drew me to it.

‘She spreads her hair like rationed butter barely covering her wholemeal scalp.’ Time has passed and this couple’s relationship and circumstances have changed, highlighted in a description that made me ache: ‘Her eyes glisten, rummy where once their twinkling killed me.’

Later, we are made aware of the absence of someone, and the sorrow that the story is steeped in becomes even more apparent:

‘…space…too cramped for three but now we struggle to fill.’

Neighbourly by Steph Ellis

This is a sinister tale of deception. I love how Frieda masquerades as a Good Samaritan while all the time she is stealing from her dying neighbour.

‘Pleasantries, goodbyes.’ These two words, for me, are a wonderful social commentary on the fleeting nature of our neighbourly interactions.

3rd Place

In the Billow of the Storm by Lynn Love

The language of this piece made it stand out for me. ‘My brain tumbles.’ This line indicates the impairment of the main character’s thought processes. This is further highlighted with a focus on their vision of the world- ‘the droplet’ caught in an eyelash ‘cuts daylight into rainbow ribbons.’ Their perception, probably as a result of hypothermia, is distorted. ‘Snug in the cold as flakes melt to music’ is beautiful and tragic. Eloquent writing!

2nd Place

Shed from Grace by Foy S. Iver

I had to do a little research for this one, but it was worth it. The theme of purity is explored in this original take. A goddess is thought to live inside the Kumari before the onset of puberty.

‘Soap bites at Sajani’s eye-flesh’ as she is washed by her servant. The pain experienced physically, here, mirrors the inner turmoil the young girl is feeling at having become ‘impure’ with the onset of menstruation. The character’s awkwardness, now, in her own body is revealed in the line: ‘She squeezes her thighs tighter as the cleansing hand drops below her waist.’

Ironically, the physical development of the girl does not spell progress for her; instead, now that the goddess has left her ‘vacant’, ‘…hovel will replace her palace. A dirge will silence her opera.’ Wonderful use of language and bookends.

Winner

Thud by Jessica Franken

I found this winning flash piece outstanding. The story had me wince throughout because of its use of onomatopoeic words to signify an old man’s fall in the bath.

The opening dialogue is deliberately disjointed, displaying Jean’s anxiety at her husband’s fall and providing the reader key information right from the outset, ‘Soap…he…slipped…his head.’

The details of ‘backwards nightgown, barefoot in the snow’ are raw and distressing.

One of the main features of this story is that – again through thin walls – a neighbour, the narrator, hears the noise of the man hitting his head.

‘So close I shot out my arms to catch him…’ This part of the story is so authentic, I almost wanted to shoot my own arms out.

Even in such a short word count the reader is given a taste of what the narrator’s backstory might be when s/he wishes her/himself away from urban life and its interconnections, imagining ‘tending sheep on a quiet hillside.’
This story will stay with me for a long time for many reasons but especially because of this line:

‘… but walls are still solid and living still cruel.’

Well done on an excellent piece of flash fiction!

Thud

Jessica Franken

“Soap…he slipped…his head…” Squeak—thud. Ten p.m., my neighbor Jean at my door, backwards nightgown, barefoot in the snow.

Squeak—thud. I heard it through the bathroom wall. Squeak. So close I shot my arms out to catch him, but walls are still solid and living still cruel. Thud.

Squeak—thud. I heard it and knew Jean would come. In the seconds between thud and knock, even as I moved to the door I imagined myself far away, tending sheep on a quiet hillside.

But then the knock, then a deep breath, then Jean in my arms, her grief an aria in life’s savage opera.