Posts Tagged ‘A.J. Walker’

Happy Tuesday writers! Here is the unfashionably late Round 129 winners post. Many thanks to the patient writers who submitted last week and also to judge Ewan Smith. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

The photo from Ashwin Rao this week shouted the word “Relationship”. Nine AHers responded with cracking stories.

A Certain Tomorrow
This is a story of waiting and, as such, not a great deal happens. But the author skilfully builds up the feel of impending fate. There is a wonderful sense of Laura having become disconnected from her body which is now little more than a physical shell. Soon, she will be disconnected from Jeff entirely but for the moment the two of them just hold on, waiting for the Certain Tomorrow. Very moving.

The Broken Spoons
I love the wheels within wheels aspect of this with a real image being fictionalised both externally and internally by the story. (Does that make sense? Well I know what I mean…) Great natural dialogue and there really should be a band called The Broken Spoons. I just wonder if that’s a reference to the couple spooning in the picture…hmm…

The Quarrel
A violent relationship under stress; always an opportunity for sparks – and anything else at hand – to fly. By starting the story in the middle of a furious argument, the author hooks the reader straight off. I did like the idea of Mike lying awake half the night worrying where Jessie was when she was asleep on the sofa in the next room all along. Lots of swirling emotions there.

Holding The World In Your Arms
The story of an abused narrator whose personality has been systematically ground up and destroyed. “…with every explosion a little more of me turned to ash, my soul as empty as any Pompeian plaster cast.” Driven by the wish for revenge, or perhaps simply the need to end the fear, she poisons the abuser and finds her own resolution in death. Although set in modern times, there is a mythical quality to this story that is deeply satisfying.

Loving Whole
I like the sense in this story of the fragility of life. A sliver of inattention, a moment of carelessness and the world becomes engulfed by grief. The image of the girl found dead with the phone still in her hand, message showing, is a strong one. There is a lot packed into the story and it has a great structure with the brief final sentence taking the reader right back to the start. A good read.

If The Bar Burns Down, The Rain Gonna Cry All Night
A really entertaining spoof biography of everyone’s favourite child star, Piril “Dame Judy” Quench. The humour is perfectly judged throughout so that I felt, somewhere at the back of my mind, that I really did remember a TV series called Knackers Yard. (Oh – and I’m going to steal “implausibly lovely” to use in my CV.)

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Profile Pix by David Shakes
A lovely story. From the off, the simple descriptions are very evocative, giving an immediate sense of place. The lack of emotion and intensity in the narration only magnifies the unfolding horror. The structure of the story is so elegant; I love the single short sentences between the paragraphs like a solemn drumbeat of commentary. And the clarity throughout – gorgeous.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: As The Sun Goes Down by A.J. Walker

Now this is funny! There’s the first narrator having his perfect romantic moment by the lake – well, apart from the mosquitoes, the winos and the screaming children. Then the second narrator with two mozzies up her nose feeling as unromantic as it’s possible to be. Brilliant. The contrast between their physical closeness and their mental distance gives the story such energy. It made me laugh at 6.53 on a Monday morning – there ain’t no greater praise than that.

and our Round 129 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

J.R. Hershberger

with

“Sisters”

Two sisters; one betrayed, the other aching with her pain. Unable to face the grief of the present, they retreat into the past and into a childhood game they once shared. Time passes and only when they are ready do they return to reality. I love the way that this is a story about something mentioned in passing at the start and then barely referred to again. It’s as if we readers, like the sisters, can’t face the agony of the betrayal; we’d rather think about playing Rotten Tomatoes instead. The more I read this, the more it grew on me. A super piece of writing.

Congratulations, J.R.! Your story will be featured as one of tomorrow’s Hump Day Quickies! Stay tuned for the Round 130 winner’s post which will be along shortly for this week’s Twofer Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday, writers. The long weekend was a bit of a surprise for me (a good one!) so I’m thankful for those of you who took time away from your extended break to submit stories. Thanks also to David Shakes for reading and choosing his favorite entries. You’ll find his comments below.

Bank holiday in the UK and Memorial Day in the US may have thinned out submissions a little – but wow, we had some cracking tales this week. The quality of the writing made it so hard to pull out any single story for overall praise. Genres were many and varied and no two stories alike. Thank you for writing – I am always astonished at the talent on show.

I must also say a huge thank you to Emily June Street for sending me a tidy little document so that I could judge anonymously as usual.

Ashwin

‘He fills an angry hourglass with substance’

A wonderfully written doffing of the cap to our muse and photographer. The author eulogising in great alliteration the subtle skills of Mr Rao. I love the idea of being shown the world but having to find our own paths. Really well done. I hope Ashwin reads this story, for so say we all.

I May Be Stoopid, But I’m Not Clever

Great comedy at play here (that time Max tried to take his trousers off over his head!) and some well timed dialogue. I liked the pace and the slapstick – it’s hard to get the right balance in pieces like this but our author manages it in style. I do hope there’s a plan B!

The Weight

This is so beautiful. There’s an economy of language and yet it says so much. I loved: ‘The further she travels, the more insubstantial she becomes.’

And, at the end, her father knew where to go and exactly what to say – because death is such a little thing compared to love, isn’t it?

Judgement

A chilling story of mob mentality with a twisted child at its core – you can almost feel the intensity of her gaze. Poor Marion has been accused by her own child and many are complicit in her untimely demise. The way that the mother stares at the daughter until the bitter end was a really powerful image. This was an excellent study in refined horror writing.

The Park

A really evocative opening of park life, really well described from the child’s perspective and rather uplifting – then a second child appears, wielding the opposite magic to the first. Are they both the same child? I think they might be. I liked that this story used a very straightforward reading of the prompt to come up with something original.

‘Patriotic Motifs’

‘Why did you buy so many chips Daddy?’ – the humour and warmth running through the first three quarters of this story is great, then we’re sideswiped at the end. A story within a story and one that doesn’t appear to have a happy ending. Good rug pulling from this writer.

Horror Story Number 1

They’ve quoted King – this had better be good…luckily it is.

‘They say the devil is in the detail.’ is one of my favourite phrases and there’s allusion to one of my favourite films in the moonlit walk across the moors. That hell is bureaucracy and modern life speaks directly to me. I think this writer was speaking directly to me! Some excellent imagery.

Memories of Grass & Hope

A truly emotional piece of writing, so many excellent lines.

‘Your eyes are mine. But mine never looked so soulful.’

The anguish of the father and that last line that lands like a punch really made this stand out.

Second Childhood

A clever little time travel story here – the son becomes the father. Small details have been considered, such as the relative ages of our protagonists. Quantum physics and ley lines are involved. There may be paradoxes ahead – if David changes the past then he’d never have been born. Luckily, in quantum theory there are many branes on which different realities can exist. Good stuff.

HM – ‘Judgement’ by Steph Ellis, for it’s quality horror-tinged storytelling.

RU – ‘Memories of Grass & Hope’ by AJ Walker, because I can’t have two winners (I’ve asked before).

And our Round 109 FLASH MASTER is… 

FLASH MASTER

AV Laidlaw

with

‘The Weight’

… because it still has me thinking.

Congratulations, AV! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. Next weekend, this week’s HM, Steph Ellis, returns to the judge’s seat. Hope to see you all there.

Hello again, and Happy Tuesday. Thanks to everybody who wrote stories for last week’s prompt and to AJ Walker for reading the stories and choosing his favorites. You’ll find AJ’s comments below. 

Thanks again for making the job easy for me. Er, well maybe not. Loved the prompt photo myself. It seemed to open up so many possibilities. Yet, the similarity in some of the stories was striking (even down to ham sandwiches turning up in more than one story – what’s that about?!). The photo seemed to provide a definite chance for reminiscing it seemed. Though as well as ham sandwiches many of the stories seemed to be quite sad. I’m going to need cheering up after this. Great writing as usual of course, but there must be a winner. And today’s winner is…. (drum roll)… 

 ….Leicester City. 

 No. Not really. Well, yes, really. But no, not in Angry Hourglass it ain’t. Though I’ve judged blind and if the winner turns out to be Jamie Vardy… well, he just bloody well deserves it okay. And he can put this up there with his Champion’s medal.

 Anyway, today’s other winner’s are… (real drum roll)…. 

HMs 

 – After School by Daisy Warwick: A nice picture, built up largely through simple dialogue, of brothers being best mates trying to get by in awful circumstances. You feel for them.

 – Otters by AV Laidlaw: Similar style of story to After School. The bible nut ‘full of pious vinegar’  told the story of the boy’s home in the simplest way. The change in the place through time – otters now a possibility where once the land and water could not support them seems familiar to us (we even have them in the Mersey now – and not always just floating on their backs). 

 – Je Suis by David Shakes: Stayed with Shake’s at the weekend, who turns a bit French after a pint of Under Current. He may be ‘a little bit French’ but he is mostly English when it comes to breakfast. So, really it’s a gratuitous HM for the black pudding! 

 2nd RU – Wilted Flowers by Firdaus Parvez

 Yet another difficult childhood picture (I hope all you writers this week can access some suitable help or special little pick-me-ups) nicely paced. Being put up in the attic whilst their mother did things she didn’t want them to see, wth people other than their gravely ill father, was a simple idea (sad yet an adventure for the kids). And the whole piece was sad and told straight without the storyteller becoming judgemental. ’Beautiful, like a booked pressed flower’ was a lovely line to end on.

 1st RU – Cast a Spell by Stephen Lodge

 This deserves a place for being up beat and fun. The photo seemed to inspire mostly introspection along the line of; life’s all a bit crap really. So a bit of Mary Poppin’s was surprisingly welcome. The dialogue between the two children was fab and the spoonful of something in this cast a spell on me. I almost smiled. Several times.

And our Round 105 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Sal Page 

 with

 What They Expect of a Monster

 Je suis un winner! Loved this story of a monster being created. The inevitability of it was sad and all too predictable – children being the cruel beasts they are/we were. The story was the most satisfying read for me with nice development and story arc (whatever am I talking about now?), which was well done in such a short piece. It had just the right amount of drippy blood gore and, yet surprisingly, no ham sandwiches.

 Congratulations, Sal! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend, Rob Knipe joins the Flash Frenzy Judge’s team. Hope to see you all there. 

Happy Monday! Thanks to all who wrote stories this past weekend and to Marie for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

Thanks, Rebecca, for allowing me to judge. The stories this week were all fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them. I won’t go on too long here, as I’ve said a little bit about each:

Swinnish

The premise for this piece is brilliant:
‘“You are very welcome to the first Wimbledon Open Tennis Singles Final post global warming.”‘
It is a witty piece,
‘”new design for a new sport eh, sport?”’
with a sinister edge.
I love what this writer saw in the photograph.

Last Commute

The imagery in this story makes it gripping:
‘Behind us, through the haze, the remains of our city still burn, the high-rise buildings its smashed teeth – biting at the sky lest more bombs fall from it.’
The world building continues
‘Our own teeth will fall from our bleeding gums in time.’
In a post apocalyptic world, there are survivors, all with their own stories that this writer conveyed in the not telling:
‘that’s her story and perhaps you’ll read it elsewhere.’ A lovely little device!
The ending may be one of despair or perhaps it’s about taking control. Excellent.

The Scream.

The title and first line drew me in completely:
‘She sits on the ship, hands on molten face.’
The pace builds with the imagery and repetition:
‘She screams in the waiting rooms of the unwanted diagnosis.
She screams in the monotonous offices of loathing, bullying and oppression.’
Who is this embodiment of our anguish?
‘Edvard Munch once saw her… She is the Scream.’

A Pirate’s Pirate

A pirate raid has left our young hero without his family
‘All I could do for them in this moment was to survive.’
To avenge their deaths, he boards the ship of a pirate whose name reveals all (another excellent device for flash fiction): Captain Robin Hook.
‘a pirate who pirated pirates, and gave back to the destitute victims of their invasions.’
A tense adventure.

Cruise 

A little romance in this one, or there might be, if things weren’t going wrong:
‘Tourists looked dolefully at clouds that were almost incessantly dumping their loads on lakeside cafes and bars. The walkways were slippery…’
However, the mood does change and the descriptions are magical:

‘Somewhere in the depths of the boat, a band struck up, horns blazing, guitar chiming through the night air.’
But, even so, it seems that it might not have been the weather causing the problems, after all.

Lighthouse Road

Beautiful use of language throughout this piece:
‘A flick of a cigar. The sea air rushing with waves hitting laughter. Cars underneath making a sturdy brushing sound.’
Excellent descriptions of family life, ‘My mother swearing with 300 dollar perfume and a thrift store dress. My father wearing a 2 dollar cologne with a 500 dollar suit. We were lopsided but ready to go out,’ give way to a beautiful story of falling in love.

Meandering

We feel the heat in the phrase ‘a memory of a breeze…’ when a criminal takes a short break from his ‘voluntary exile’ and is the subject of a covert police operation.
The contrast between the police sergeant’s idea of luxury and the criminal’s is very revealing allowing excellent plot and character development. The structure of this piece is also expertly handled.
And I can’t not quote this line:
‘He’d choose objectionable books with lurid covers as a guarantee of being left alone. This time; Piers Morgan.’

Summer’s Children

This is a beautiful tale depicting, for our narrator, how spring transforms into summer:
‘Spring lasted into the big commuter parking lot, summer started once sandaled feet hit the docks on the island.’
The joy of summer resonates throughout:
‘they built wobbly sandcastles and dug moats doomed to fail.’
The wonderful twist; however, reveals that this trip might actually be about the recapturing of summer for ‘Summer’s Children.’

It was a tough decision but here goes.

Honourable Mentions for their beautiful poetic prose: ‘Summer’s Children’ by Casey Rose Frank and ‘The Scream’ by Mark A. King

Runner up for its world building:  ‘Last Commute’ by David Shakes

And our Round 103 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

AJ. Walker
with ‘Meandering’

The winner for its tight construction.

Congratulations, AJ! Your story will be featured as Wednesday’s HumpDay Quickie! Thanks again, Marie, for your comments.

Keep your eyes on your inboxes as I’ll be sending out a call to April Flash Masters (and perhaps a runner up or two) to fill the March judging roster. Meanwhile, I hope to see you all  back next weekend with judge Voima Oy.

Happy Tuesday. I’m not sure how the weather is shaking out where you all are, but Utah didn’t get the memo about spring (rain and snow). I didn’t see very many bikers on my way to work this morning, that is certain. Thanks to everyone who wrote for last weekend’s prompt, and thanks to Catherine Connolly for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

A really interesting photo prompt this week – one that I knew would be taken in many diverse directions – and you didn’t disappoint in that regard!  Unsurprisingly, given the warning to cyclists there was a tendency towards darker tales this week, which I’m normally never averse to 😉 . That aside, though, there was crime (and pointed punishment), a trip towards Wonderland, sci-fi style slants, friendship and betrayal.  As ever, my task was a pretty tough one, so thank you everyone for making my deliberations so difficult.

Seeing as Sal seems to have created, as they say, A Thing, I’m following recent Hourglass tradition and running through my favourite lines whilst I was reading before confirming my winners.

Lines

Run Rabbit

“Run, my little Rabbit.”

Untitled

“Children left warm beds, gifting only their small, cold shapes in rumpled blankets to those they left behind.”

When You Go To Tulgey Wood, Beware

“There is no signal in the labyrinth of shadows at the heart of the forest.”

Breaking The Cycle

“It has come to our attention that a movement has been formed amongst rebels, to square the circles and break the cycles.”

Alleys In Bloom

“The tangled wires of radios and cracked screens of TVs proliferate among the blue mirrors in the alleys, silently reflecting the empty sky.”

Refreshment Break

“He had battered and shattered that.”

Recurrence

“Arms flailing I tried to grab at anything as the forest turned upside down.”

Bermuda Triangle Squared

“I climbed over the warning sign and took down its metal carcass.”

Double Trouble

“They look like Popeye’s biceps but in the wrong place.”

 The Tree In The Dust

“The stabilisers are off.”

 

Second Runner Up

The Tree In The Dust – AJ Walker

A powerful, hard hitting and emotive piece – all within less than two hundred words.  I loved the original take on the photo prompt here, with the literal stabilisers becoming figurative in the concluding sentence.  The reference reversal at the end packs a powerful punch.  Plus, the somewhat chilling suggestion of the tree nourished by the dead stays with the reader beyond the words themselves.  Nice work.

 

First Runner Up

Untitled – Marie McKay

A great title generally works wonders for me when judging – but this piece of flash genuinely speaks for itself.  In less than 150 words(!) we are transported into a world where children are summonsed towards the seam of space above, leaving the mere suggestion of themselves behind them.  Great world building and imagery, with poetic, spare language.  A haunting tale.

 

and our Round 99 Flash Master is…

FLASH MASTER

A.V. Laidlaw

with

When You Go To Tulgey Wood, Beware

The repeated refrain style paragraphs drew me deep into this story, similarly to our protagonist drawn into the heart of the forest.  Alice references aside, the use of language in this piece is wonderfully effective, with bicycles “twisted in the trees” and a “labyrinth” of shadows hidden at the centre of the “thorny brambles”.  The continued contrast between myth, magic and trespassing technology are well developed and sustained throughout.  Ultimately, the suggestion of a meeting with the Jabberwocky clinched it for me!  A lovely, imaginative piece.  Well done – and congrats!

Congratulations, AV! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie!

I’ll be soliciting judges for April this week, so keep an eye on your inboxes, writers. Next weekend, Stephen Lodge will make his judging debut. Hope to see you all there.

Hello, friends. Welcome back. For the few of you who might not yet know, the latest FLASH DOGS anthology Time is now available, so you should go order a copy and then come back for results. It’s okay. I’ll wait…

Done? Great.

As usual, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who posted stories this weekend. You are sand pouring through the hourglass, and without your efforts it would cease to exist. I’d also like to extend my thanks to Sal Page for judging the entries. Volunteer judges take the bulk of time commitment each week, making it possible for me to host a weekly competition. You guys are great. Without further ado, here are Sal’s comments.

On the Edge by Steph Ellis This city is a strange and sinister place; empty, with watching eyes and not even on the map. With each line this is reinforced. The city’s a creature that, quite casually, (love the image of the courtyard turning into a tongue), swallows the man down, leaving the woman alone. The last line just adds to the sinisterness by leaving us in darkness.

Tourists by AV Laidlaw. A good take on the prompt to make the man a statue (I did think those white shorts were just too white) and then the whole city full of statues, with the implication that maybe they were once alive. Yes, they’re almost too real, spookily so, with their beads of sweat & tiny hairs. And even, we learn at the end, the tour guide thinks this particular statue may come to life.

Nervous by Jaime Burchardt. Told entirely in dialogue, we learn a lot about the two characters situation. I like the idea of the vampires being nervous about moving to a new city and having to keep a low profile to start with, something Ricky is clearly struggling with. Angela and Ricky sound so normal in many was and yeah, ‘Even freaks need to unwind.’

Tourist Class by AJ Walker. Despite going their separate ways at the end of this, these really two deserve each other. There’s a dual point of view here, which is fine as they really are both as bad as each other. The reader won’t want to pick a side. ‘She was happy though to notice his dandruff seemed to be getting worse.’ made me laugh and, looking again at the photo, he’s very obviously a Cosmo.

Walking in My Girlfriend’s Shoes by Fae Fielding. When I saw the photo on Saturday, my immediate thought was ‘they should swap clothes’. No idea how I would have preceded with that. This, however, is very clever and well executed, with the title and last line working well to tie everything together and create completeness. Based on the idea that each should walk in the other’s shoes, it then becomes so much more. The two of them ‘found their freedom’ from expectations.

Transaction by Stephen Stucko. The two characters begin looking out across the city, in what appears to be a romantic scene. This gradually fades away as we learn more about them. Michael is bored of the city and talks of wanting to go home to his wife. Vicky is there to get money for her hormone treatment. The last couple of lines made me laugh and wonder whether they’re going to stick together after all.

Second Runner Up.  Tourist Class by AJ Walker

First Runner Up. On the Edge by Steph Ellis

And our Round 93 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Fae Fielding

with In My Girlfriend’s Shoes

Congratulations, Fae! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. Please contact me here with any bio information, publications, links to personal sites, or any other information you would like to appear on your winner’s page.

Next weekend AJ Walker will be acting as judge. Hope to see you all there.

Apologies for the late post. As always, I appreciate everybody’s efforts here as writers and as judges. This past week, Voima Oy tackled the responsibility of reading and choosing her favorites. You’ll find her comments below.

I’m glad to be back and judging here at Angry Hourglass. With the closing of Flash! Friday, we need this place more than ever. Angry Hourglass  is  special to me, it’s the first place I ever sent a flash piece. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and  I think that’s  the heart and spirit of flash. Rebekah @postupak the Dragon Queen and Rebecca @LadyHazmat exemplify this. They have created very special places.

I love the format of Hourglass. The 360 word limit is generous, and the photo prompts by David Shakes and Ashwin Rao are always challenging and inspiring. Thank you!

This time around,  I was wondering what the  bats would inspire, and  you have come up with some surprising stories. It is wonderful  to see  such a fine turnout  and variety of tales. Thank you all!   Here are my comments—

Extracts from the Diary of a Castaway– The diary structure to this piece is really an effective way to show how this character’s perspective changes in such a short time–from “I  need protein” to the tiny bones and bat kebabs.  Food for thought, indeed.

Exterminator– Like the cave chambers, this story draws you further and further in, until there is no way out.  It is claustrophobic and creepy.  What is hidden in the shadows is revealed in this tale of revenge. Horrifying!

A Folk Tale– A story within a story, the bats “neither one world or the other” lead the narrator into a reverie, the unfolding  of this increasingly unsettling and spooky tale.  “I dare not dream tonight.”  Beautiful and haunting.

Nocturnal Creatures– This character is a kindred spirit to the night creatures, the owl and the bats in the old barn.  She is a nocturnal creature, too, spying on the grown-ups, finding the baby bat in the box. In time, it flies away. “My bat never returned.”  Lovely, poignant story.

Encouragement of a  Father– A fun father-son tale. The scene is so visual–I could see the boy in trouble, the girl with the bright red bruise, the floor-staring contest, the concerned parents. And what a marvelous twist!

My Truth, Invisible– Here, a culture and a character is created in so few words.  I love the voice of this character, how he can’t bring himself to kill the bat to take its magic. “It lived through me…How could I now kill it?”  Was it luck the Canuchi didn’t notice him?  Maybe it was magic, after all…

I Don’t Trust Them– Effective repetition of “Simon says” here, as if the narrator doesn’t  trust her own reservations. Simon may make fun of her “derivative vampire novels,”   but she is armed with the garlic and crucifix and the holy water of the classic tales. Love the list and the final line.

And the winners—

3rd Runner Up: A Folk Tale by AV Laidlaw –Beautiful writing, and an unsettling, haunting  story.

2nd runner Up: Extracts From the Diary of a Castaway by Sal Page — Excellent use of compact form.  Very funny, and great commentary on what someone would do to survive..

1st runner Up: Encouragement of a Father by Bart Van Goethem — Great  dark humor–“Kids need encouragement”  A  father-son story with a real twist.

 

 

And our Round 88 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

A.J. Walker

with

My Truth, Invisible

A self-effacing  character with a  compassionate heart.  Marvelous take on the photo, and a wonderful last line.

Congratulations, AJ. Your story will be featured as next week’s HumpDay Quickie. Thanks, writers, for submitting, and  thank you,  Voima, for judging.

As the holiday season is upon us, we are now approaching the third FLASH FACE OFF. Next week, I’ll post a survey with links to all of the winning stories from the past several months. Voting will be open until the first of January. Prizes will be announced at the start of the contest.

Best wishes to you all for the upcoming holidays. I hope you vote for your favorite flash and that you all return (and bring your friends) for a new year of Flash Frenzy beginning in January!