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.

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.

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.