Micro Bookends 1.42 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.42 – Results
Aug 092015
 
Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

Now it’s time for our headline act. Please welcome on stage, Geoff Holme and the Micro Bookends 1.42 results:

It’s been quite a while since I’ve acted in the privileged position of Micro Bookend judge – way back as far as MB 1.12, thanks for asking… Nowadays, there are new writers joining in the fun all the time. The sheer number of entries this week posed a challenge, even before we consider the across-the-board high quality of the work submitted. As ever, the selections for plaudits is entirely subjective; regular contributors are aware of this. But if you are a newcomer and your work does not get a mention below, please don’t feel discouraged. Try again and – who knows? – your entry may chime with next week’s judge.

Honourable Mentions

Carry On Festivalling! by A.J. Walker

Best recreation of the ‘Ooh, er, Missus!” staple elements of the ‘Carry On’ franchise – mild sexism, smut and double-entendres. (Shame about the missing opening bookend – or did you think that the story began with the title?)

Post-Morpheme by Rebekah Postupak

Loved the pun in the title that sets up the structure of this piece. I had to chuckle when I came across the ‘red pen’ as this was what I was using to conduct my analysis of the entries. Very clever stuff. If, however, the photo prompt was incorporated, it was so subtly done that your judge failed to spot it…

3rd Place

Survivors by Emily Livingstone

This story really captures the zeitgeist, with so many people displaced by war. ‘…like an eerie pointillist painting’’ is a beautiful phrase that evokes the multicoloured, close-packed tents. The female character’s limbo existence – not knowing whether her family is safe or not – and her inertia about seeking information, that may lead to elation or despair, together with the male character gently prompting her to break this inertia, is very well drawn. A simple but effective story.

2nd Place

My Positive Wilderness Experience by Nancy Chenier

Original and inventive use of the bookends to create an anodyne “Wilderness Experience” leaflet, interspersed with contrasting snippets from the chilling revenge story. I just hope that the MC has got the right target for reprisal. Great stuff!

Winner

The Weight by Karl A. Russell

I liked this entry a lot. It made very natural and seamless use of both bookends. The details of the story unfold at a gentle pace – the use of ‘pink Metallica shirt’ and ‘pink Metallica purse’ show us what is going on, rather than telling us explicitly. ‘You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry…’ – great line. (I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how it’s supposed to work!) Very well done.

The Weight

Karl A. Russell

“Carry the tent first, then the beers.”

Simon sighed, hefted the tent and plunged into the freezing mud. Jay grinned.

“I’ll take the rucksack, then piggyback you across, yeah?”

The girl in the pink Metallica shirt giggled drunkenly.

It took a while, but she was eventually ferried to dry land. Jay and Simon slogged on towards the Pyramid Stage.

Simon sighed deeply.

“That was wrong.”

Jay shrugged.

“Let it go, man! You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry… Or…”

He pulled out a pink Metallica purse and checked the contents.

“We can get burgers and beers before the Foos start.”

Simon’s stomach gurgled muddily.

“You’re on.”

Aug 022015
 
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan via CC.

Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan via CC.

Welcome to the results show. There’s a treat for you this week. Judge, KM Zafari, has given feedback on ALL stories. How great is that? Thanks, KM. Here, have an Above and Beyond the Call of Duty award. Here’s what she thought:

Judging this week’s entries was unbelievably difficult. There were so many good ones! And I don’t mean that in an “you all deserve a ribbon because everyone’s a winner!” kind of way. I mean you all honestly blew me away with what you wrote. What a roller coaster ride of emotions!

It’s important to note that I, as one person, tend to gravitate towards particular types of stories. I did my best to put that tendency aside and judge everything objectively, but I’m only human.

In the end, I went with my instincts and narrowed the field down to those that had that extra “wow” factor for me.

If you didn’t make the official list, please don’t feel bad. Really, I wanted to throw around HMs like glitter because there were so many worthy stories. There really, truly were.

And if you won, you should be extra proud of yourself because the competition was fierce!

Whenever I enter this contest, I do my best to comment on each and every entry. I decided to do so again here because I really feel like you all deserved it.

Caring by Carlos Orozco

I’d like to know more about these two. Who they are, what their relationship is. Why does she want to get away? To get high? Or because she feels guilt? The ambiguity makes this intriguing. Nice visuals.

Butterfingers by Jack

If only more mothers were like this. lol I love her playfulness and that she doesn’t take things too seriously. I wonder where her child gets their seriousness from.

Hell’s heaven by Firdaus Parvez

Oh, wow. Nice incorporation of the bookends. Feels very natural. Sad and disturbing. “My tattoo covered arms camouflage my juvenile delinquencies.” Makes me think this person is still young. How sad.

INTEL by Steven Stucko

It never would have occurred to me to think of things from a cop’s point of view. Clear portrayal of his/her feelings without feeling like we’re being “told”.

Picture this… by Firdaus Parvez

Sad juxtaposition of the children playing and their mom’s actions. How awful for them. I just saw a commercial for Intervention where a boy is banging on the car door for his mom to open up, and she’s like “Just a minute” as she’s shooting up heroin. So this story is a reality for someone, somewhere. I just hope these kids can maintain their childlike innocence for a bit. At the least the girl. I think it’s too late for the brother. 🙁

Thump-Thump by Craig Towsley

I love picturing the girl as the needle. Really interesting take on the photo prompt. She’s withdrawing vitality instead of injecting something, which is how most people read the needle. There’s something so intriguing about people like this, isn’t there? I’ve always envied them.

Frankly My Dear by legreene515

I like the incorporation of the catch phrase and that it’s a different take on things – i.e., insulin vs drugs. A nice moment in time with someone who doesn’t let their medical issues hold them back.

Connections by Marie McKay

Poor Jimmy. Drake seems like a mean brother. What’s worse is that he feels guilt because Jimmy obviously cares about him. And yet, he doesn’t really seem to return it. Maybe somewhere inside, he does. But I don’t think so – he does think of him as “hopeless” and “useless”, after all. I’m not sure Drake deserves him!

High School Rejects by Foy S. Iver

Subtle. You have to search for meaning to understand she has diabetes “too many Butter Fingers”. That’s really nice. I like that she wants to be cool. Tries to pretend she’s a druggie, when she has no idea what drugs really are. lol

Childhood by Pattyann McCarthy

I love the focus of this piece. Yes, there are horrors going on. Yes, there are dangers. Yes, the adult world will intrude. But innocence still exists. And it is lovely. I adore this.

Food by Stella Turner

“It had been so easy, pounds shed like leaves falling off trees.” Nice incorporation of the photo prompt. Like the situation.

Bald-No-More by Holly Geely

Ha! What a unique take on the prompt. I love the imagery of the doctor being reduced to a pile of hair. Humor is so often ignored in our little contests, which makes me sad.

(Re)purposeful by Steven O. Young Jr.

I had to read this one a few times (in a good way). Beautiful language. I’d like to know more about their situation and why they’re where they are. Could be a good candidate for exploring further.

Broken Skin by Pattyann McCarthy

This reminds of me of Dick Van Dyke’s notorious British accent from Mary Poppins. lol Without knowing who the author is, I can’t tell if it’s a Brit making fun of themselves or someone else making fun of the British. We have so many Brits in these contests that I assumed it was the former, but the quotation marks lead me to believe otherwise. I never in a million years would have thought of a drum and piercing the skin. I love it when people surprise me like that.

Dope by A.J. Walker

“I can see you’re full of poison, burgeoning thick and black through your veins like an algal bloom choking up a river.” What a gorgeous line. And ha! Superman picking on Arnold! Hilarious title.

The Evening News by Dylyce P. Clarke

Haha I think anyone who’s been in a bad relationship can find the humor in this piece.

Hope by Jacki Donnellan

I love the wordplay, here. “She sounds as fiery and golden as autumn.” vs “I sound as rusted and dry as autumn.” I think she is speaking to her reflection. Why does she see herself as more hopeful than she is inside? I’d love to read more.

Downward Spiral by Dylyce P. Clarke

Rhyming poetry (in English, especially, with our limited rhymes) is quite difficult. As such, I don’t always care for it when people try. (I realize that sounds snobbish.) But this is well done. It evokes emotion and tells a story, while doing very little poetic cheating.

When Words Are Not Enough by TanGental

This is beautifully written. The descriptive language is awesome.

Little Brother by Matt L.

“I’d go from little brother to living brother just like that.” Chilling. Ugh! I don’t understand why he hates his brother so much. This is very well written but leaves me sad.

Just Once by Iskandar Haggarty

“The needle kissed my veins.” Love this line. Good morality tale or words or warning. So many people die from just trying something once, don’t they? Frightening.

Honourable Mentions

Untitled by Nancy Chenier

Oh, how I wish this didn’t exceed the word count. What a lovely story. So much world and emotion. Fantastic writing here. Blast that one extra word. This one will really stay with me. Excellent.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs PNEUMONIA, WEREWOLVES, AND A FOREST FULL OF FAIRIES by Brian S Creek

Awesome use of the bookends into this story. “Damn,” said Chris. “He’s already taken the formula.” Such a clever way to incorporate the needle. There is so much story implied in such few words. Great world building.

Mind Over Matter by Marie McKay

What a depressing tale. In a way, I feel bad for Johnny. Trapped, alone with his thoughts. His life is essentially over, and now he has only time to think upon his mistakes. I love the staccato style of writing, which reads just like thoughts. Really well done.

Chasing the Dragon by MT Decker

Ooh, this is really cool. Great imagery. Reminds me of a spider bite that numbs its victim. Here, the victim of the dragon (or drug?) is taken in by the euphoria. I’d never heard the phrase “chasing the dragon’s tail” before. Like this one a lot.

[insert drumroll here]

3rd Place

The Chase by Rebekah Postupak

Whimsical and fun. I love this. Not only is it an unusual subject matter, it’s charming and sweet. The playful banter is really well done. And yet, there is a story here, too.

2nd Place

When Childhood Ends by Steph Ellis

Wow. I’m always caught by stories of innocence lost, which seems to be a running theme this week. I love how the children don’t see the needle as a threat but a plaything. This story highlights the real danger of these needles. “I’m Sleeping Beauty!” So sad and prophetic. And you can feel the mother’s heartbreak. I can’t imagine seeing my child holding up a needle like that.

Winner

A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme

Tragic, sad, and beautiful. This had all the hallmarks of what I look for in a great story – emotion and excellent writing. It’s beautifully crafted from beginning to end. The protagonist is lamenting the loss of his brother – not necessarily his physical life but the life shared with him. There’s a lot of genuine emotion in here, especially the crying/laughter that comes along with fond memories while you’re grieving. Lots to love here.

A Winter’s Tale

Geoff Holme

“‘Catch me? You couldn’t catch a cold!’ Remember you used to tease me with that when we played tag as kids?”

My breath condensed into clouds in the railyard where I’d found him . I cradled Benjy in my lap as he stared into the distance, eyes like glass beads.

The syringe fell from his arm.

I thought my older brother was too wasted to hear my words, until I heard him whisper, “Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates: when you reach the bottom, you don’t have many choices.”

“Yeah, man.” I choked, a tear rolling down my cheek. “She always was good for a memorable phrase.”

Micro Bookends 1.21 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.21 – Results
Mar 082015
 
Photo Credit: Timothy Krause via CC.

Photo Credit: Timothy Krause via CC.

This week’s prompt and bookends really stirred your creative juices. There were some exceptional stories this week. Thanks to Steven M. Stucko for making sense of it all. Here’s what he had to say:

I very much enjoyed reading the 35 entries in Micro Bookends 1.21 OLD [micro] AGE. There were so many compelling styles and interpretations of the photo and the word prompts that it was difficult to choose finalists. I chose these six exceptional stories because each stayed with me. In some, characters were presented with such great effectiveness that I wanted to know what happened to them later that day. One story, “Lurkers,” has no characters at all but stuck with me nonetheless. Some stories used such vivid imagery that I was fully engaged and felt transported. The dialogue in the more literal interpretations was believable and honest. Over all I was impressed by the whole lot and was reminded that I have to step up my game if I want to compete. Thanks for the opportunity to participate.

Honourable Mentions

Method In His Madness by Ed Broom

This is my favorite submission using the more literal narrative of the photo prompt. The dialogue flowed freely like two guys walking and talking in simple short sentences. The description of the old man was spot on. I know Old Sock. I’ve debated everything from philosophy, art, and religion with the guy. I’ve bought him countless drinks. I enjoyed the curious and fascinating one liner: “he always makes them taste it first.” Why? I was left to ponder. The writer cleverly describes how the wise old bum both attracts and repels. A certain crowd is fascinated by people like Old Sock. There’s one in every pub. And you’re right. The guy needs a shower.

Old Man’s End by stu06bloc9

This is another terrific literal interpretation of the photo. I felt like I was standing right next to the couple as they looked upon the installation of street art. Many times have I stood in front of art and scratched my head. I was glad the characters had a guidebook so I could look over their shoulders. And what did the street artist intend to convey? A fallen angel, there for the duration? Did the two characters even try to understand, or were they just frustrated? Should we, as the reader, try to think about the story inside the story, or are we just ready to walk with Selina and Theo down the street to the next piece of Live Art? I found that intriguing. I also liked the cynical voice of Theo as he says those things I think all the time but never say. Well told tale.

A Renaissance of Bitterness by Geoff Le Pard

Engaging literal translation of the image. I could see the model shifting uncomfortably and the artist constantly telling him to be still. I was inside his head as he thought the thoughts of someone who is forced to be quiet and motionless. He had it all, lost it, and now must find humble work to get by. Rich sods and phony artists fill his life. One guy wants Botticelli, the other gets vermicelli. The words made me smile as the protagonist inserts a joke into his incessant complaining. At least the guy still has a sense of humor. Nice job.

3rd Place

Exhale by Brett Milam

This was profound, yet also describes the “every man.” Ruminations and regrets are the cancer that we all fight. Smothering us with “a corrosive blanket of discomfort,” they bring us painfully to an early death. “Love gone awry” really can feel like a “murder of coupling.” I was jolted by the abrupt introduction of the need to “soak up this spilled blood.” My mind raced to the scariest interpretations. How wrong was this relationship? That perfect insertion of a few words told an enormous piece of violent history and a life filled with emotional wreckage. I can see how the protagonist found his final breath to be his most welcomed.

2nd Place

Lurkers by Dave James Ashton

I had to read this several times. I felt the need to study the words. It was so intense that it made the muscles in my back tighten. I don’t like thinking about such dark places and this writer brought me to those terrifying corners and held me there for what felt like an eternity. I still can’t shake this. The first two sentences are brilliant. I’ll carry them with me for a while. I’ll recite them to friends who will ask where I heard them. I’ll say, “Oh, someone from a writer’s group I belonged to years ago…” The fact that the writer never clearly tells the reader what the enemy is (“they, their, these, those, them, monsters from long ago”) makes the unidentified wickedness otherworldly and easier for us to think: my God, does this demon, with its “evil grip” reside in me? Of course it does. It’s part of being human. That’s the scary part.

Winner

Soulmates by Nancy Chenier

This piece reads like a poem. I treaded down memory lane with this narrator as relationship after relationship was recalled and told from the ankles down. Sole-mates indeed. In one or two sentences I understood each partner and the drama of the break up. The final ped-paramore is the unfortunate relationship many distraught souls find most alluring. Alcohol makes us think we are mountains instead of mole hills. We believe the warmth we feel in our hearts will never grind our “lofty peaks to weary slopes.” Invariably it does. The false joy felt with such a devilish mistress will undoubtedly end with the protagonist being stomped barefoot like so many grapes. A common tale told exceptionally well.

Soulmates

Nancy Chenier

Old as the hills and heart just as trodden. Everyone I’ve ever loved has ground my lofty peaks to weary slopes. Sanae crushed me under her hopscotch Keds, her silky black braids flicking farewell. Natalie next, her DocMartins did harsh platonic work on my devotion, anarchy symbol imprints. Roger was a dabbler and me an equal-opportunity paramour until his plaid high-tops dribbled my blood tastefully down the pavement. Lady Luck, Lady Justice, Father Time—all similarly crushingly cruel.

Ah, but my sweet barefoot Ouzo! Our bacchanal never ends. Quick, quick, look upon me, dearest. For in your eyes, I am mighty Mount Olympus and this is our Golden Age.

Feb 152015
 
Photo Credit: Melissa Dooley via CC.

Photo Credit: Melissa Dooley via CC.

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend, romantic or otherwise. We had thirty four fantastic entries this week, and judge Nancy Chenier has something to say about each of them. Thanks Nancy, you win the ABCD award – Above and Beyond the Call of Duty. Here’s what she had to say about your stories:

Tricky prompt this week. Ending on a singular “tooth” seemed the greater challenge than starting on “sweet”. Fabulous openings from nearly everyone. With so many entries, I read through twice, reading from front to back then back to front to guard against reader fatigue. It wasn’t necessary. There was such a variety here, I was still engaged by the last entry, and my shortlist didn’t change much between readings. Though I may have bit off more than I can chew (heh), I wanted to say something about everyone’s, so here we go.

Sugar Rush by Susan O’Reilly

Very enjoyable contrast between the dream and the reality (and the seed of the dream that becomes the nightmare). The flippant tone betrays a real disappointment—as she lets slip: “but still hurts today”—one that has been bulwarked with food.

From the Top by Jack

Uncovering the banalities and the real work behind the splendor of a future performance. I like how this piece shows what’s going on behind the scenes with such economy. Favorite bits: “cannon of a cigar from his thick watery lips”, “itch creep across her chest”.

Chris and Mike vs. The Spinning Bird Kick by Brian S Creek

Hey, don’t I know these fellas? Nice use of the bookends enclosing the picture prompt. Here’s a fine crafting of a world, two distinct characters and their relationship (recognizable even if I’d never seen Chris and Mike before).

Armed and Dangerous by Susan O’Reilly

Thanks, I’ll be hearing that song in my brain for the next month (a great song, but a real earwig when it gets in). A fun image with the head-banging to Eurhythmics and a clever use of the bookends. The title as a description for her body in dance-mode made me laugh (especially when contrasting it with the grace of the photo).

Saw by stu06bloc9

I like the playful use of language, especially at the beginning. An intriguing dynamic over the dinner table, here. The chaotic flashes of the individual characters are disarmingly vivid. And that was one of the more unique uses of the final bookend.

From the Bluebird of Happiness by Joe Owens

Ew! Poor Julianna, it never rains, it… poops. I appreciate the warring of body and will within her, her mother’s unwanted attentions, and then, this. And now, that picture of a lovely dancer arching up toward the sky will never be the same.

The Secret by Jaci Coningham

I like how you engage all the senses as she lets go of herself. The secret is kept from us until that last line—and she doesn’t need to meet our expectations to lose herself in the dance. Her pride and happiness is “forgetting the rest of the world” by being very much in the immediate world.

The Dance by Grace Black

Some wonderful language bringing this one to life; “cloying for the stage” “Lithe lines and fluid movement ache inside my weathered bones” “beckons bone to tooth”—which stand in stark contrast to the clichés the MC mulls over, revealing how easy it is to slip into clichés when trying to make sense of pain.

Discounting Danger by stu06bloc9

Packed a lot of intrigue in a short span. Nice use of the wine gums: from gems to poison teeth. I like the idea of the dynamic being an adult take on the beware-of-the-stranger-with-candy trope. It makes for so much mystery.

Scotch on the Rocks by mrmacrum

What a (ahem) sweet opening. The love the MC has for his wife is palpable and sincere in its simplicity. His appreciation that she would try to match him every time (and that she would) speaks volumes about this couple’s relationship.

Tiny Dancer by Lauren Greene

The title immediately recalled the Elton John song—and set my expectations up for a collision with what was really going on here—much the way I expect the mother’s expectations may meet with a similar collision. Trying to live one’s failed dreams through one’s children is a recipe for disaster and you set the stage well. We can only hope Dad can act as an air bag when the time comes. My favorite bits: the seven shades of blue tutus and the Yoda dance teacher.

Lucy by Susan O’Reilly

A fun playful rhyme that on the surface seems innocuous enough. But details like “she beguiles” and “my devotion” and being “wrapped around the finger” of a friend’s toddler treads into menacing territory, such that the gift of a tooth at the end leaves my skin crawling. (I just realized, I might have to caveat that: if the sinisterness wasn’t the intent, we can chalk it up to me being too steeped in psychological thrillers.)

Served Cold by Susan O’Reilly

Revenge and Valentine’s Day, almost as nice as dark chocolate and red wine together. Interesting (and shrewd) choice using rhyme while structuring it like prose. The result gives this piece the rhythm of saccharine Hallmark poesy with a cynical bite.

Fair Trade by TanGental

Fun and inventive use of the bookends, especially the punny mangling of eye-for-an-eye at the end. Loved, loved, loved the climax line (Time hung limply… blood) and felt every word of it. Ouch.

Casting Pearls by stephellis2013

What a disturbing image for that proverb! (I’m squirming even now—what is it about teeth falling out that pokes at my nightmares?). And even so, the last line made me giggle—how can you make me giggle when teeth are falling out???

Steven by Holly Geely

Great job making this guy out to be a real jerk. Clever framing of the notes and the illustration of how Steven resorts to physical solutions to his ire. (And now Sweet Caroline is duking it out with Sweet Dreams in my head.)

Undetected by Rainman

Now that is a POV I would never expect. Another one to leave me squirming (from both the painful verbs you subjected me to in the dentist chair and that lurking SG) and reminding me that under the right circumstances, even Sweet Goodness can become my worst nightmare. Clever lateral reference to the photo, too. Excuse me whilst I go get some dental floss and rinse….

Dance of Life by stellakatet

A dancer’s life-long struggle with food pared down to one dish: sweet and sour chicken. Sometimes we forget the sacrifice that is made to stay the expected “lithe and childlike”. It’s a tragedy that one’s passion would have to be so tied up in the idea of (not) eating—and you set it up so frankly here. I like the framing of this with chicken.

Burning Ambition by janebasilblog

Another mother trying to realize her failed ambitions through her child. The way you set it up here through the eyes of the sister is an interesting choice as she can bring us to feel sympathy for both Eva and Cleo. Sounds like Cleo might have a fighting chance as she’s clearly making her will known (if not followed).

The Garden of Regret by Jacki Donnellan

Nice use of the prompts. I like the turn around, how the character is so sure he is without regret, until… I like the idea of guilt sneaking up and distorting one’s version of reality. Despite being a dream, the last line tugs: “limbs searching behind him for stories unread”.

Rare Beauty by A.J. Walker

The sensual imagery grabs me: bouncing swans, chattering gold crests. I like how you set the MC up for a gentle epiphany, just from catching the sight of a woman dancing. It’s those tiny moments of beauty that ignite our lives.

Love by Emily Livingstone

A turnaround from the expectation, where the mother is the one who so tyrannically wants her daughter to dance. Here you have the father supporting the daughter’s passion against Mom’s sensible med-school aspirations. The added layer to the mother—she’s trying to spare the daughter her pain—is all the more poignant for it running against expectation. The dialogue carries it well. Nicely played.

Morning Memories by Hati

Interesting that you bring us into this sad little story with the scent of strawberries (evoking the playfulness of the Beatles song). You draw us in on sweetness, then we get the punch in the heart. It’s a delicate moment you’ve captured: one for the MC, where the sorrow is no longer the overriding emotion and the memories of a lost one begin to take on a sweetness. The reader feels the loss heavily even as the MC might be experiencing its first lightening.

Rogue by Ed Broom

Trolling for sharks, and what to do when fish guts don’t work. A very inventive take on the bookends. Lines like “Mackerel chum strafes the lake” “oily lightning bolt” along with the Jaws references really… lured me in.

Crooked Dancer howdylauren

Ah, sweet revenge. Not only that he didn’t reciprocate the crush but that he did pretty much the opposite. Wonderful image of emotions being like a bowl of splattered pudding. Slick the way you transformed dancing by the river into dancing on his grave.

Glory Days by mediocremeg14

Nice intertwining of a golden “then” with a weathered “now”. I like how the snide remark from the matron doesn’t have the power to interrupt her mood (while lending truth to the remark). You manage to keep us there with her—not pining, but experiencing the richness of the memory.

Abducted by Carlos

Beautiful opening, probably the most intriguing noun phrase (“ultraviolet light”) I’ve ever seen follow “sweet” tragic hint at backstory that subverted the horror of abduction (as there are greater horrors on earth; really liked the image in the first bookend.

Honourable Mentions

Dance On by Brett Milam

You play the bookends off each other very inventively—sweet becoming decay, much the same way it does for the reader after we realize why she’s dancing and whose the audience. You make me miss what she’s left behind in that second paragraph with its sharp sense of place. The shock of the snowflake on skin is similar to the shock of this woman’s name being replaced by a number after we’ve become acquainted with her through her memories of Russia.

Break a Leg by Geoff Holme

Lured me right in with Shakespeare as Danny takes on Oberon (and perhaps typecast with that temper). Then the dance-prompt masterfully woven in. And then to end up with King Lear. Bravo on the use of the prompts! You’ve won over this English major’s heart right here.

More Than Meets the Eye by Vagrant Rhodia

HM for turning a toilet into poetry:

First I get a bouquet of Shakespeare allusions and now we’re waxing poetic over the porcelain throne! Ode to a Commode. And you play it so delightfully straight! The imagery allures despite the subject—though some of that imagery may haunt me during a midnight trip!

Smorgasbord of Valentines by Michael Simko

How very apropos. And I loved the fantasy world you were able to create in such a small space. You set the MC up well. Him comparing ladies to cars undercuts his sympathy for saving the old man. So, then, the appearance of danger from one of those beauties felt all the more satisfying even as it was mysterious. Fine use of bookends, particularly the final, and the mystery it creates, leaving me wondering why the old man would repay his life being saved in this way and leaving me wanting to know what happens next.

3rd Place

May I Have This Dance? by Marie McKay

Seamless bookends and a satisfying story. Dan Wells did a great 7-point story structure workshop, and though I wouldn’t recommend following it for a micro-flash, one take-away is the character story arc that I find tends to make a story sail: the MC starts at a point opposite s/he finishes. In 100 words that’s nearly impossible, but you manage it. The first paragraph is all about her struggle to gain confidence. By the end, she is the one who can make or break the Goodman’s confidence. Her voice is clear—so much self-doubt. The revisiting of the currant creates the perfect close.

2nd Place

Crossed Wire by TanGental

Ooo, fine use of the bookends. Strong voice in this one, the disgust and self-centeredness can easily be written off as a teen trying to deal with strong feelings (going with hate rather than crushing sadness) or they can be the flat reactions of a sociopath (as his oh-well about the mess on his girlfriend seems to indicate—and the killing). The first three sentences work so well to set this up. He instantly gets my sympathy (because, no, there are very few things “grosser” than that). Veiling Dad’s flirting with his discussion of flowers is brilliant.

Winner

The Dying Swan: Dancer to the Last by DB Foy

Oh, I love how you used Pavlova’s story. I loved the concept and the execution. The known facts are woven into a wrenching little tale, giving new gut-wrenching meaning to the title (the role she made famous). The tweak with Victor is perfect. I caught that “self-ascribed” husband of his biography and you explore it masterfully. The way he forces the idea of dying for her art is so manipulative (and you can just see him scripting it for the biography he wants to write on her after she dies). Just some splendid lines in here: “eyes monitored him” “words crushed hers” “free her hand from the cage his fingers formed”—agonizing! An excellent piece of alternative (perhaps) history.

The Dying Swan: Dancer to the Last

DB Foy

“…sweet, sticky tonic and there’s no certainty it’ll cure pneumonia–”

“Victor?” Anna lost in covers.

Her self-ascribed husband moved bedside, “Dearest?”

“Are they taking me to hospital?”

Victor’s eyes monitored him. The physician answered cautiously, “We can operate but…you wouldn’t dance again.”

“I could live–?”

“Love,” Victor’s words crushed hers. “You’re not thinking clearly. If you couldn’t dance, wouldn’t you rather slip away?”

She tried freeing her hand from the cage his fingers formed.

“You don’t want to be remembered that way. Not when the world could know you as ‘The Dying Swan–dancer to the last.’”

Fear turned her skin hard and white as a tooth.

Feb 122015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.18. In the mood for something sweet? Read on.

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert with a crisp layer on the outside and a soft, chewy centre. It is served topped with whipped cream and fruit. The dish is named after the Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, and was created in her honour during her tour of New Zealand and Australia in the 1920’s.

Anna Pavlova was born in Saint Petersburg 134 years ago today. Her passion for ballet was kindled as a child when her mother took her to see The Sleeping Beauty. She was known to shock audiences with her dancing style that often deviated from the rules of classical ballet. During a tour of The Hague, Pavlova contracted pneumonia and was told she needed an operation to save her life but the procedure would prevent her from dancing again. She refused the operation saying:

If I can’t dance then I’d rather be dead.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Melissa Dooley via CC.

Photo Credit: Melissa Dooley via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Nancy Chenier, winner of MB 1.12 and MB1.17. Read her winning stories and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with SWEET and ending with TOOTH 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.

Micro Bookends 1.17 – Results

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Feb 082015
 

Photo Credit: [Duncan] via CC.

Photo Credit: [Duncan] via CC.

Evening, all. What a great weekend. It turned out to be England delivering the lessons in rugby, and you lot delivering the lessons in how to write great flash fiction. Here’s what this week’s judge, Emily Livingstone (thanks, Emily), had to say:

There were a lot of really striking entries this week and it was difficult for me to choose only a few to highlight. I enjoyed reading the variety of responses to the prompt. The ones I chose here had the strongest impact on me, both with their ideas and their language, but there were others that also packed a punch.

Honourable Mentions

Aberfan (1966) revisited by Geoff Le Pard

This story presented an interesting perspective, that of the journalist struggling to bear witness to tragedy. The passivity in some of the language (“letting the images try and explain,” “morning rendered mute”) emphasizes the feeling of the speaker that he “should help.” Nice job.

Unwelcoming by Susan O’Reilly

There is an experimental feel to this with its rhyme and the harsh, cynical tone, competing with the pain and yearning in the speaker’s situation. Interesting play with language.

Drowning Ghosts by Steph Ellis

I like the idea in this one of the warning they’re attempting to heed, and I was especially impressed with the last line, “As if in answer, the howl became a roar and the waters rose again, a merciless torrent conducting the men in mocking chorus towards the cage and the rescue’s gate.”

3rd Place

The Shoot by Jack Koebnig

I was fascinated by the dystopian idea that provides the center to this story. The author did a lot of world-building in a short space, and created a chilling atmosphere that made me see the prompt in a new way. Good choice to end with the image of people treating death as a spectacle—this highlights a real, though unsettling part of human nature.

2nd Place

Passing Through by Brett Milam

This one really disturbed me. Really. I can’t deny its power, with lines like “My wet orange jumpsuit seemed to add an amphibious human to my back, but one steeped in the history of…that place” and “scraped my carcass from the cold, damp floor.” Great imagery. Strong impact. Thought-provoking. A close call between this and number one.

Winner

God of the Diggers by Nancy Chenier

The author created a really haunting idea of the two brothers entering the mine, and praying to it for safety, then being betrayed by it in the end. I like that the mine is positioned like an older family member, called “Tio,” one who might “protect” or “poison.” There’s something very intimate about this scene because of this familial language. Some fantastic, powerful lines in here: “Tio’s poison fingers reach for me” and the ending—“A man mutters the Lord’s Prayer. Foolish. Only one power reigns within the shaft’s gate.” Their sacrifice of water was not enough, and Tio got his blood in the end. Well done.

God of the Diggers

Nancy Chenier

“Water?” Ricardo shuffles. “Blood’s better.”

“It’s all we got.” I make the offering. Tio, protect us.

“Behind me, hermano,” I warn, but he hustles ahead. The recent discovery of a zinc vein convinced him there’s silver ore hidden in here. Foolish. Tio hasn’t spit up silver in years.

Ricardo halts, drops like a coal sack.

No!

Tio’s poison fingers reach for me, but I can’t leave Ricardo. I tug him toward the main tunnel. Talons claw my throat. I cry out.

Answering shouts. Hands hook my armpits. But Tio’s breath is deep in my lungs.

A man mutters the Lord’s Prayer.

Foolish. Only one power reigns within the shaft’s gate.

Micro Bookends 1.13 – Results

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Jan 112015
 
Photo Credit: Thomas Leth-Olsen via CC.

Photo Credit: Thomas Leth-Olsen via CC.

Good evening, afternoon, or morning to the international flash fiction community. What a fantastic round of MB that was. 27 great entries, a few new faces, and a couple of absent friends returning to take the honours.

A big thanks to this weeks judge, Nancy Chenier. Not only was she judging here, but she also donned her judge’s hat over at our friend Grace Black’s place, Three Line Thursday. She showed some very sound judgement there too, especially in selecting my three lines as the winner! Thanks Nancy, and thanks Grace for providing us all with a fun place to write.

At 5am GMT Tomorrow (Monday 12th January), voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.01 to MB1.13. The authors of the top three stories will each receive a copy of Adrian May’s Myth and Creative Writing (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 in October.

Now, over to Nancy:

I had fully intended to write a little something on everyone’s piece, but having double-duty as judge this week—and the whopping 27 entries over here (whew!)—I’m going to have to restrict comments to the winners.

The bookends this week seemed especially challenging, particularly ending with “theory”, so I admire everyone who managed to get something together.

As far as judging criteria, I first looked for engaging tales. Strong character, immediate tension, humor, sharp tone, concrete imagery—such elements bring me into and sell me on the story. Stories that managed cohesiveness with the bookends and prompt on top of being engaging made it to the shortlist.  Picking the finalists was a true challenge.

Honourable Mentions

Assault Course by Steph Ellis

for the chuckle-inducing wordplay on the names.

It’s Just Not Cricket by Geoff Holme

for the seamless use of the bookends and prompt—and that was before I knew “fast-leg theory” was a real thing!

3rd Place

Dinner for Two by Marie McKay

The set up for the character was perfect: obsessive-compulsive quirks that unfold into something far more sinister. The first bookend worked particularly well, especially on later readings when I understood how important cleaning products would be for a man of his… tastes. Details like the way he eats (tight-jawed, even bites) and recalling a face “bright with panic” brought me right in.

 2nd Place

Under the Weather by Chris Milam

This one intrigued me right away. The premise reminded me a little of the first half of Fight Club with Jack attending all those support groups (always a good thing). The voice of the opening lured me right in (and the lateral use of the picture prompt—I don’t know if you intended the wordplay with “pedestrian”, but it worked for me with the manhole covers). Sharp writing kept hold of me: “proud faces spilling illness and availability”, “heart veered into chaos”, “her eyes ate mine”.

Winner

Horse and Carriage by Rebekah Postupak

The opening made me laugh as it seemed a very clever “cheat” to work in the bookend (and evoked fond memories of Princess Bride), but as I read on and the characters emerged, it would be wrong to dismiss the strategy as a cheat. I was similarly impressed with the sly sneak-in of the picture prompt (utilities don’t fix themselves). Ultimately, it’s how well the dialogue reveals the dynamic between these two that won me over. By the end, the reader knows precisely why Naima might want to get her “mind off things”, and what a fun way she chooses to do so.

Horse and Carriage

Rebekah Postupak

“General.”

“Ephemeral.”

“Xylophone.”

“Dial tone.”

Jack threw his hands up. “Uncle! I don’t get how you do it, Naima.”

She smiled. “Years of practice.”

“That’s stupid. Why would you spend years rhyming?”

“Gets my mind off things,” she said.

“What things?” A faint growl shadowed Jack’s voice. “You have fancy clothes. A nice car. And any number of attractive females would pay to be in your shoes, hitched to a guy like me.”

“I know.”

“Whatever. I gotta go to work. Utilities don’t fix themselves.”

“No.”

“This city runs on muscle, baby.”

“I know.”

“I wish you’d get over this– this, whatever it is. I hate it. It’s …eerie.”

“Theory.”