Oct 112015
 
Photo Credit: via David Spinks CC.

Photo Credit: David Spinks via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, an announcement:

On Monday the 19th of October, voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.40 to MB1.52. There will be prizes! The top three stories will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held soon. Remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it, so if you haven’t had a winning story yet, this week’s contest is your last chance for this quarter.

Now please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Bill Engleson. Here’s what he had to say:

I have spent the morning reviewing these excellent entries. I have also felt the piercing pangs of judging. I will never visit a courtroom ever again, either on-line, on the Tube, or in an actual courthouse, without paying huge respect to the lot of the lonely judge.

Without meaning to sound like a wishy-washy, namby pamby non-judgemental sort of guy, may I say that I unreservedly found pleasure in each and every entry.

Another day, one cup of coffee more, or less, a different Toronto Blue Jays game echoing in the background of my Judges Chamber and the selections could have been different.

Anyway, I had a bit of a technological learning curve…new computer that I am slowly, agedly becoming familiar with. Also, if I seemed to have skimped on the length of my comments, I was trying to avoid my penchant for rambling on, a disreputable quality not suited to a micro fiction judge, or so I imagine.

Honourable Mentions

The Summer of Love by @dazmb

The wistfully sad, slightly bitter tone of this ode to the 60’s hooked me. Again, my time, albeit in the less raucous Canadian landscape. The image of idealists having fallen into the self pleasuring grace of gambling added to the sorrow.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE MYSTERY OF DORO STREET by Brian S. Creek

Maybe it is my uncomfortable and enduring affection for “The Birds” but this darkly funny tale (at least, I think its humorous) got me going. The punch line is so so true.

Help Wanted by KM Zafari

I am obviously a failed punster never having made the leap to Civil Serpent. This bit of witty commentary drew me right in, the balance of the job descriptions kept me going.

What’s in a Word by Stella Turner

I am a sucker for talking birds. There were a few entries that used this technique. The humane measures humour (or not) in this one struck a perverse chord in me. Worthy of a last-minute but no less valuable honourable mention.

3rd Place

Burtons Suit Blues by Ed Broom

Right out of the chute (or shoot) a great pun, very creative use of the bookend. And the tone of the end bookend…marvellous. This tale also pays homage to the Jazz Micro Bookends contest a short while back which I thoroughly enjoyed. A sad yet hopeful mood piece, I grant it 3rd place.

2nd Place

The Implacable Nature of Being by A V Laidlaw

As a former front line civil servant, I couldn’t help but be drawn in to this sojourn into a bureaucratic maze. With the smooth use of the bookends and the agony of seeking a correction, I signed off on 2nd place.

Winner

Blackbird by Karl A Russell

This sad and beautiful story ripped my sometimes cynical heart out. There is a snippet of humour, a quiet bowl of sorrow, some learning (I was once a marriage commissioner – one specific role filled by a humanist ceremonial officiant, I discovered.) Quite a complete and oh so loving story. My 1st choice.

Blackbird

Karl A Russell

“Civil partnership, is that it?”

“What? No Mum, that’s something else.”

“Oh. Well, what’s that other one then? Humourist or whatever?”

I can’t talk to her, so I look out of the window instead. The smokers in the shelter look like bedraggled birds, waiting to spread dressing-gown wings and soar toward the sun. I wish I hadn’t quit.

“We were partners though.”

I look back, feeling my throat tighten.

“I know Mum. I know.”

She looks like a little bird herself, perched at the bedside. She’s still holding his hand.

“It’s called a humanist ceremony. Yeah, I think he’d like that.”

She smiles through tears.

“Humanist. Yes, that’s right.”

Micro Bookends 1.50 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.50 – Results
Oct 042015
 
Photo Credit: Nano Anderson via CC.

Photo Credit: Nano Anderson via CC.

Welcome to the results show. A wonderful collection of musical inspired tales this week. Here’re my winners:

Honourable Mentions

Man Talk by Stella Turner

A fun moment in a father son relationship. The son wants to discuss sophisticated topics like the Latin origin of the word ‘perfect’ (great use of the opening bookend by the way) and the pitch and tone of the guitarist. The father has his mind on the football. But they’re talking to each other and the most important thing.

My Final Guitar Lesson by A.J. Walker

I love the set-up here: a girl reads aloud from her boyfriends diary and is upset he’s amused that she hasn’t mastered the Bm7 chord. So she ‘Townsend’s the guitar’ into his skull. What a great line. Nice, natural use of the bookends.

Child’s Play by Geoff Holme

It was nice to reminded we can beat the Aussies at something. Very clever to use the guitar in the photo as a means to torment the Aussies with air-guitar on the cricket bat. Nice use of the closing bookend too.

3rd Place

Making Beautiful Music Together by Carolyn Ward

This one made me laugh. I like the details in the opening paragraph of the differences between the two friends: Erika ‘prim and powdered’ and ‘pamper[ed] and preen[ed] for Hairy Bob (great name) while Tabs prefers the extra hour in bed. Then we learn why; Erika is in a relationship with Hairy Bob. Great descriptions of the pair ‘clanging and rattling, fingers playing each other’ in the music cupboard. And the closing line is fantastic: ‘struggling amid the maracas in their musical prison, black as pitch.’

2nd Place

Washed Up by Steph Ellis

I really liked the language and descriptions in this piece; ‘acoustic crouch’, ‘defeat perfumes the air you breathe’, ‘your melodies drift into half-remembered mists’. This downward spiral of the musician ‘tainted by sordid stories’ is wonderfully told in poetic yet lean prose. You really feel for this person for whom music was their life, especially if the sordid stories (‘always denied’) weren’t true. But as we know ‘mud sticks’ so ‘Why sing when no one listens?’ The closing bookend is used wonderfully in the line, ‘once luminescent pearls fading to pitch’; a metaphor for the music and the artist.

Winner

Cortigiana di Lume by Bill Engleson

A sad story about the effect of time on a once beautiful and exotic lady. I loved everything about this piece, but the one line that stood out is the fantastic description of ‘a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face’ as a demisemihemidemisemiquaver. What a great image and, together with ‘strings pulled and plucked’, a subtle and clever use of the photo prompt. I love the final paragraph with its wonderful descriptions, that depicts the character as one who has enjoyed (endured?) the company of powerful men and has become a powerful, and still sought-after figure, even though her beauty is fading. A lot to like about this complex little piece. Well done.

Cortigiana di Lume

Bill Engleson

Perfect, she is! Perfectomundo, she might once have said! In certain casually carnal company. In the end, all she could think, sadly, was how perfunctory it had become!

Glenys Walters sits before the mirror. Her finger traces a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face right near where her upper and lower lips converge, that little fleshy junction, spiraling into a demisemihemidemisemiquaver.

She has risen too far above her station; her wiles, her guile, strings pulled and plucked, the back stairways where the aromatics wander in search of favors, ever pandering for her piquant pleasures, for the courtesans indulgently intoxicating pitch.

Aug 232015
 
Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

Welcome to the results show. We had 44 entries for MB1.44. Spooky? Not as spooky as some of your flashes. A huge thank you to this week’s judge, Rebekah Postupak, for sorting it all out. Here’s what she thought:

You fabulous flashers never fail to surprise me. Where most weeks we exclaim over the myriad directions writers take a single prompt, this week you seem to have collided in one bone-chilling mass of shadows that quite set my teeth chattering. This week story was shoved aside by étude; you paused in creepy alleyways (including a most unusual iteration by [Chris and] Mike) and creepy cellars, watched silently in creepy forests and one extremely creepy library (or at least a library with a not-to-be-messed-with librarian).  Thank you once more for entrusting your writing to us and allowing me to share my flimsy thoughts. Love this Craft? Oh yes. Oh, dear creepers in the night, yes.

Honourable Mentions

Daughter of the Crafty One by Stella Turner

Holy worldbuilding, er, Beelzebub. This story is stark, as though told by a creature in chains and blinders: the narrator weaves his portrait of this world and his own passivity in a terrifying ignorance. We are given a single tiny scene, and in that scene we see (hear?) only hints of the violent overlords. Head down, mind your own business, needle in and out. This is a tapestry of life no one would wish for, beautifully and horrifyingly sketched. Great job.

Lovestruck by Firdaus Parvez

From the opening line (“Love is the most evil person”), we were set down a glorious path of angry opposites. This dark Cupid carries poisoned arrows and bares fangs, and though he still dutifully loathes hatred, as the tale progresses, we’re shown a unexpectedly creepy exhumation of his actions and motivations. The concept was fun, the voice fantastic, and the execution here really well done as we watch him work, from the tongue-in-cheek opening to the gleeful, hand-rubbing end.

500 Miles For Freedom by Ed Broom

One of the few takes personifying the closing bookend, I loved seeing Ellen & William Craft recognized. “Craft” is a name perfectly suited to this courageous couple who made their own way in a world set against them, and it was wonderful seeing their story so well executed here, from the title to Billy’s name to their flight to Philadelphia. This modern interpretation, echoed in today’s headlines, shows that over 150 years later, we still have a long way to go. Thank you for this story—and here’s to the fight for freedom everywhere. May it continue.

4th Place

What Would Freud Say? by KM Zafari

This story was a hilarious romp from beginning to end: the dry, lonely professor who thought he could isolate the composition of love (“attraction plus compatibility”) and was proven most spectacularly wrong. But the punchline, though funny, isn’t what sets this story apart. It’s the subtle character development and worldbuilding, painted with a powerfully understated and masterful hand. And let’s not forget the fourth-wall-breaking title. This story is clever and knows it, but it’s so clever, we buy the whole kit and caboodle anyway. Awesome.

3rd Place

Strange Love by Marie McKay

Like “What Would Freud Say,” this story pairs a non-romantic human with an alien, only this time our would-be hero is following a romantic how-to book. The book’s instructions enable a fun story structure as the protagonist struggles to demonstrate a love he doesn’t feel to begin with. We follow the progress of the bumbling lover, and at a perfect calculated midpoint, suddenly his rattling tray meets the beloved’s monotone. “I cannot process tea,” she says, and in a hysterical downward spiral the lover’s efforts crumble and crash into failure. The really fantastic worldbuilding and the sophisticated pacing are what knocked me off my feet. So good.

2nd Place

First Day on the Job by Sonya

Capping a very impressive trio of runners up is this dark vignette with its chilling shades of Screwtape. The world is unveiled line by line as blacklight shines first on the humans, then on the apprentice and mentor, and then, finally, on the nature of the grim (haha) work being done. It’s dark labor set in shadowed irony against the story’s faceless title, and the unveiling is done with surgical precision. I love this piece’s intelligent voice and its arrogantly apathetic dismissal of its prey. Beautifully constructed and so very, very well crafted. Beware indeed.

Winner

Submission by Steph Ellis

“Submission” is so delicious, I could go on about it for a good full page or two: its layered storytelling, the sandwiched question structure, the portrayal of a forward-moving, lonely journey down dark roads to the “gates of perdition” (did anybody else picture the Black Gate??), the conscious, Poe-like unraveling of the narrator’s rational thought, and the double entendre of its flawless title. On one hand the story reads like a play to the judge (surely not!); on the other, for us flash fiction writers, this story speaks to the overpowering obsession we share. And therein lies the methodical genius behind this piece, because it’s specifically targeted AND simultaneously reaches past that target to a shared universal experience: that of sacrificing for something badly wanted. This story paints for us the cruel prison of the artist, the athlete, the addict. We recognize the character’s self-incrimination because those words fall from our lips at the same moment we ourselves are yielding. The character here is so well-drawn, we look deeply into the darkly lined face only to discover it’s a mirror. Powerfully, ironically, magnificently done, dear winner. And now—laptops to sleep, but only for a moment: tomorrow the flash week begins all over again, and, may God have mercy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Submission

Steph Ellis

Love is a light that has faded from my life. The roads I have taken, dark and lonely. My journey, as I cast off friends like worn-out clothes, is one they cannot follow. It is obsession that has brought me here, to this place.

Will my words gain my admittance, my acceptance? Or will I be rejected and be sent back into the void?

I cling to my sanity, now wafer thin and leave my offering at these gates of perdition, my words, my other self. And wonder again at how I have been consumed by this craft.

Micro Bookends 1.27 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.27 – Results
Apr 192015
 
Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

I hope you’re all enjoying Sunday. Here are the MB1.27 results. Thanks to this week’s judge, Marie McKay. Here’s what she thought:

First of all, thank you for allowing me to read your wonderful work. It has been a pleasure reading so many different interpretations of the prompts. From a personal point of view, had I been taking part this week, I think I would have found the bookends easier to work with than the concrete blocks. However, you turned those blocks into mazes, laboratories, film sets, torture chambers and even a cafeteria. Your stories were varied, and I enjoyed reading each one of them. Needless to say, I found selecting the top stories very difficult as the quality of your writing was so high. However, in the end, these were my thoughts.

Honourable Mentions

The Price of Silence by Iskandar

The closing line of this one made it stand out for me. It gives us an insight into the killer’s character and ego. An understated story with a dark, wry last line.

Being Creative by Stella Turner

The domestic setting is not immediately apparent. The main character seems to be hiding from an adversary. But in a pleasing turn of events, equipment and chaos he refers to in the story become the toys and contraptions that accompany babies- the proud father is in need of sleep.

Left to Go Cold by A.J. Walker

The bookends were used exceptionally well in this piece. The life of a man is depicted in one incredible sentence, and the final image is sad and beautiful.

3rd Place

Don’t Speak When You’re Spoken To by Geoff Le Pard

The clever title and line, ‘An odd compliment for a child’ made this an interesting piece from the outset. Jaroslav is the leader of an underground group. His boastful nature becomes quickly apparent. He takes credit for the child’s ability to keep the group’s secrets. His cruelty towards the boy is disguised in the idea he has ‘Trained…’ him. That training it would seem has been extreme. The group, once made aware of the boy’s treatment, understand why, in the end, the boy murders Jaroslav. The use of ‘could’ in the line, ‘why he could keep silent.’ has very sinister connotations. This was a very well constructed story.

2nd Place

Trial and Error by Emily Livingstone

The concrete maze inspired a number of stories about laboratories of one kind or another; however, I liked this interpretation very much as it was both dark and humorous. Ms. Wainwright’s lack of attention to detail and perhaps even her arrogance, is underpinned when she calls the intern ‘Sonia’ rather than ‘Sofia.’ The disastrous results of Ms. Wainwright’s approach to the experiment she is conducting become apparent when ‘the [giant] rats [are] halfway across the field, their tails sliding heavily through the grass behind them.’ The lab rats, it would seem, will be allowed their revenge. A beautifully paced, witty piece.

WINNER

Just Maybe… by NJ Crosskey

I thought this was an excellent piece of micro fiction. It builds to a very disturbing idea: ‘Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel… I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows.’ Yet, the pain and frustration in this internal monologue becomes clear in wonderful lines like, ‘…I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.’ The repetition of ‘maybe’ ensures that we are aware that the ugly words and violent threats do not take place outside of this character’s own head. They seem his way of releasing the tension and unhappiness of being in a relationship where he feels controlled and undervalued. With the author’s seamless use of the final bookend, the main character resigns himself to keeping silent- even though constructive dialogue might be a better solution- and merely turns the volume up on the film. A clever story that I thought worked exceptionally well.

Just Maybe…

NJ Crosskey

Silent treatment, that’s what she accuses me of. Then it’s all: You Never, You Don’t, You Aren’t.

Well maybe I don’t and maybe I’m not. But maybe Glynis, just freakin’ maybe, YOU don’t and YOU aren’t either.

And maybe, just maybe, you sound like a flock of constipated pigeons. Maybe you’re a shrill, controlling harpy who kicks me when I’m down, so MAYBE, just maybe, I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.

Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows…

…Or maybe I’ll just turn the sound up so I can hear the film.