Oct 182015
 
Photo Credit: Enric Fradera via CC.

Photo Credit: Enric Fradera via CC.

Good evening, afternoon, or morning to the international flash fiction community. What a fantastic round of MB that was: forty-three great entries and a few new faces (welcome, friends from IICS). Before the results, some announcements:

At 5 a.m. BST Tomorrow (Monday 19th 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. The authors of the top three stories will each receive a copy of Writing Short Stories by Ailsa Cox (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 soon.

Remember, after this round I’ll be taking a break while I deal with a major family event. The next contest will (hopefully) be on Thursday the 3rd of December. Watch out for Twitter updates.

Honourable Mentions

Greyscale by Steven O. Young Jr.

A curious story with a nice use of passing time to lead the reader through the story. A very literal use of the photo prompt for the town of Greyscale with its achromatopsia-afflicted (literal or figurative?) inhabitants.

Tippy Toe by Steven M. Stucko

One from the weird drawer the uses a single detail – the pointed leather shoes – from the photo. They’re so pointy that all male members of the proud Shoemaker family (I love the line, “The Shoemakers made sandals for Jesus, for Christ’s sake”) must have their little toes removed at birth to fit into them. Fun.

It Started With A Glyph by Ed Broom

Such a fun premise. A guy can’t get a date because he’s very particular about how she writes her number and uses silly childish rhymes to teach her. Made me chuckle. Still, our man does his duty and takes her dessert order. Great closing line.

The Infamous Uncle Enzo Stops By by AJ Walker

Another fun piece that had me laughing. While most stories had the man in the photo as a menacing figure, this one had him has the hapless Uncle Enzo, smoker of putrid cigars and clearer of restaurants.

The Hit by @dazmb

A very creative story that on another week may have made it into the top three. I love the use of code as the two Mafia men discuss the hit. The golf clubs, tee-off time, is the ball liable to run fast when I start putting. All very clever with a classic closing line, “My respects to your family.”

3rd Place

Courting Danger by Firdaus Parvez

This piece is just crammed full of conflict: the pressure from her mother to marry him to repay ‘the debt’; the fact he’s twice her age and “his huge frame filled the space across from her”; the fact her lover who was trying to persuade her to leave has recently been killed; and the clincher – when she realises the man in front of her was probably responsible for his death. The MC sums up her situation succinctly in the line, “Do I have a choice?” Excellent title too.

2nd Place

Long Shot by Brian S. Creek

So much tension for such a short story! From the details (“drinking his favourite coffee: a cappuccino, with cinnamon and chocolate on top”) you know this operation has been long in the making. We don’t know what the target has done, but the MC dislikes him (“the fat bastard”) and that’s good enough for us. I love the three short, short sentences, “My rifle waits patiently, trigger begging to be squeezed. My target looks up at the sun. My phone beeps.” Then BANG. It’s all over in a moment. Nice closing line.

Winner

Miscalculation by KM Zafari

This emotive piece made me think of two cultural references: the scene in The Godfather where Vito Corleone is frolicking with his grandson in the garden before dying the perfect death (oh, the injustice after he was the mastermind of so much violence) and Vultures by Chinua Achebe where “the Commandant at Belsen Camp going home for the day with fumes of human roast clinging rebelliously to his hairy nostrils will stop at the wayside sweet-shop and pick up a chocolate for his tender offspring waiting at home for Daddy’s return.” Yes, love can be found everywhere even in those “whose very name inspired fear.” The line “caskets were not supposed to be that small” had me reaching for the tissues. And the conclusion brings home the perpetual cycle of violence these people are involved in because you just know their families are going to want revenge…

Miscalculation

KM Zafari

Five years old. Capricious. Mischievous smile. He could still feel her tiny arms wrapped around his neck. “Faster, Grandpa!” she’d shout as he galloped around the house like a pony.

What a softie she turned him into. He, of all people, whose very name inspired fear.

Loving her left him vulnerable; he knew that. But there were unspoken rules, lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

Caskets were not supposed to be that small.

If they thought they’d finally broken him, they were right. Was it time to hang his hat? Perhaps.

But not yet.

He checked his watch. Dinnertime – perfect.

They were about to learn the true meaning of “family”.

Sep 172015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.48. Something a little psychedelic for you this week. Have fun:

The Merry Pranksters were a group of people, with American author Ken Kesey as their figurehead, who came together in the 1960s to experiment with psychedelic drugs. The group lived communally in Kesey’s California home and are best known for their 1964 road-trip across the United States in a psychedelic-patterned school bus called Further. The Merry Pranksters were the forerunners of the hippie subculture and were recognisable by their strange clothes, long hair, odd behaviour and their renunciation of normal society.

Ken Kesey, would-be leader of the Merry Pranksters, was born on this day in 1935 in Colorado, USA. In between his road-trips and acid-trips he wrote some extremely influential work, the most famous of which is the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which was inspired by his time working at the Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital. The novel was later adapted into a movie starring Jack Nicholson which was only the second in history to win all of the big five academy awards. Kesey himself was not a fan of the movie, claiming never to have seen it but that he disliked what he knew of it. Kesey began suffering ill-health in his sixties, first being diagnosed with diabetes, then suffering a stroke, then undergoing an operation to remove a tumour from his liver, a procedure from which he did not recover.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Steven O. Young Jr., winner of MB1.47. Read his winning story and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with MERRY and ending with PRANKSTER(S) 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 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, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Who is Steven O. Young Jr.?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Who is Steven O. Young Jr.?
Sep 152015
 

Steven O Young JrOur most recent winner is Steven O. Young Jr. Check out his blog here and go read his MB1.47winning story again. Steven has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:

Steven holds no titles outside of the familial inherited without his initial efforts (brother, son, uncle), but tends to point toward his BA and MA in English as a superficial and inefficient indication of who he might have been, currently is, and may become.

He also wants to apologize for the photo. He doesn’t belong on either side of a camera, and consequently settled for evidence of the grief that is being left-handed, preferring pencil, and inexplicably writing lines on top of one another, over and over again.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? The image prompt first led to ideas about a character lacking in its mental capacities, but an effective breaking down of the brain seemed a tad impossible in this space, especially without knowing enough about it. A turn toward investigating who might have caused such an injury made for a more interesting direction anyway.

As for the bookends, I scrolled through a dictionary looking for a unique starting point with the flexibility provided this week. After failing to find one I wanted to use, referring to something without an established name in our language seemed necessary. The closing bookend lent itself well to using a cigarette as a symbol of chronic repetition and a general measurement of time, which aided in determining the pace.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Relying on implied relationships and actions seems most effective for me. I tend to get allusive when trying to develop settings, but that’s perilous as readers rarely share reading experiences.

Oh, and editing helps. A lot. I try to edit each sentence and paragraph before moving on, then continue editing several times over once the story’s “complete.” I’m already meticulous when it comes to grammar (not necessarily for what is “proper,” but for glaring errors), but it’s most beneficial towards coaxing out concise, yet rhythmic, language.

Why do you like flash fiction? I have an utter lack of interest in most novels. Or at least popular novelists. Flash fiction can make for equally rich readings analytically (a symptom that plagues my reading) with greater attention to each word and punctuation.

Been writing long? Not publicly, but I’ve scribbled my share of poetry — mostly bad, though a few moderately decent pieces found their way out — throughout college that, for the most part, never offended others’ eyes. Drabbles, by some now-unknown happenstance, became a private practice somewhere during that time as well. At any rate, I’ve only recently begun to submit pieces with any frequency whatsoever.

You write anything else? Job applications and cover letters for the time being, but it hasn’t been a year since I graduated (yet), so it’s too early to lament that too much.

Otherwise, poetry is my primary interest, though it seems to evade my pen of late.

Any advice for other flash writers? Examining how others write certainly helps develop effective stylings, but there’s virtually no point in writing if the author is only a mimic. Study and experiment to develop your own comfort zone, but resist settling into any one style.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Not particularly, though I’ve recently taken to experimenting with haiku, fracturing the previously standardized 5/7/5 form to encourage multiple (divided?) readings. Strange? Absolutely, but it’s an intriguing challenge to make them work.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The only novel I ever recommend is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. As for poetry, Li-Young Lee’s Rose is my absolute favorite collection, particularly “Persimmons” and “The Weepers.”

Sep 132015
 
Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, we must think this week’s judge, Brian S Creek, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I’m a big fan of Formula 1. One of the things that’s interesting, especially this year, is how close some drivers can be on the qualifying, and still be lagging on the back row. Twenty drivers give it their best and end up being separated over just two seconds. It’s the milliseconds that decide the order that they line up on the grid for the race. And I’m talking thousandths of a second between 5th and 15th.

Which brings me to your wonderfully crafted stories.

When judging these contests, the results show you the top picks, and it can look like the remaining bunch were just left by the wayside. But, for me, that simply wasn’t the case. So many stories were hanging around the top bunch that there basically wasn’t a bottom bunch. My order changed and changed and changed; sometimes a story that I’d written off early on would suddenly jump up and challenge the podium.

Unfortunately I can’t pick 36 stories for 1st place. So below are my top 7.  For those of you not listed here, I know you’ll all be back again this Thursday to try again. See you there.

Honourable Mentions

This Thing, I Forget Its Name by A V Laidlaw

There were several mental health stories this week and this was one of my favourites. The piece stood out with some very beautiful lines early on (‘dandelion seeds blown away in the breeze’ to describe fragile memories, and ‘The sense that reality is nothing more than an early draft’).

Jacked In by FE Clark

It’s a playful piece, but darker underneath. With everything we do going digital, how long until we do too?

Teeth Like Colin’s by CR Smith

One of the stories that had me laughing out loud, I really like the use, mid story, of the two characters breathing in. And the brutal honesty of the dentist when letting our guy know that he’s a dentist, not a miracle worker.

Test Run by Colin Smith

So many stories went with words beginning with the opening bookend, that I liked this story for starting with a spelling mistake, an error that builds into the plot.

3rd place

Britopia by Marie McKay

I laughed at several stories this week, but this was the funniest. Perhaps because I’m British, trained from birth to understand the basic protocol for standing in line with a bunch of strangers. It might seem plot-lite, but the journey contained within this piece of Flash Fiction is as epic as the one taken by Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom. Our main character travels from point to point, overcoming obstacles, until he finally reaches his goal; a place in Britopia.

2nd Place

Thump by Iskandar Haggarty

A simple story, that of predator versus prey, and beautifully written. It’s feels like it’s taking too much time for a piece with a 100 word limit, but the ending is far from rushed. Despite the violence of the finale, I found the piece to be quite relaxing.

Winner

Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.

There were a couple of entries this week that went for the mental illness angle, but this one was the most subtle. I’ll be honest and say I struggled through my first reading (the thoughts within the speech confused me), but when I got to the end, it clicked.

And what an ending. I thought this was a simple story of an elderly man with fading memories and a vivid imagination, while the main character is forced to sit through tall tales. But that repetition of the opening line packs way more punch than if the author had simply wrapped the story up with a simple explanation of the older man’s ailments.

And the main character sits through it all again.

Da Capo All’Infinito

Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”

“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”

“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.

“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.

The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.