Posts Tagged ‘AV Laidlaw’

Happy Tuesday, writers! Thanks to everybody who wrote and/or commented on stories this weekend. Thanks also to AV Laidlaw for reading and judging. You’ll find his top picks below.

So, while I was enjoying myself down at the Icebreaker Festival in Southsea, it seems you lot were busy writing. A bumper crop of stories this week. Alas, time is short and I can’t comment on every one but I enjoyed them all. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling why I might pick one story over another, just something in the story that intrigues me, moves me, or makes me laugh.

HM – A Boring Picture by Richard Edenfield

It’s true, I’m a sucker for meta-fiction. A story based on a photograph that is about writing a story about that photograph… And all done in dialog that gives a great sense of the two people and their relationship. Of course, sometimes stories are a bit more real than you expect.

HM – Uncle Charlie by Frank Key

A nicely drawn character sketch of Uncle Charlie here, and written with a good strong voice that gives a real sense of these people and the world they live in. And Suzy Peek is a great character name.

HM and Best Title Award – Four Hail Mary’s and a Packet of Crisps by Stella Turner

A straightforward encounter between a policeman and a woman. What makes it a story is the tension between the surface actions and the thoughts of the narrator. We don’t know exactly what has happened to Peter John Clay but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is the emotion and the loyalty of the relationship between father and daughter.

2nd Runner Up – Health Kick by Steph Ellis

Oh, that January health kick when we realise that we’ve had one too many guests for Christmas dinner. I’ve always loved the comedy in taking an absurd premise – a jogging vampire – and playing it out logically. The character of Drac is so well portrayed by his thoughts and his actions that I feel sorry for the poor old soul (or non-soul) as his wife and children gang up on him.

1st Runner Up – The Letter by A.J. Walker

A convincing depiction of grief, not the immediate shock but the hollowness and anger that lingers on for years afterwards. The writing is uncomplicated, it doesn’t stretch for effect, but every beat hits an emotional truth.

And your Round 124 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Richard Edenfield

with Time Ghost

The shortest piece here but just packed so full of images and strangeness. I really don’t have much to say about it; it stands on its own perfectly.

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

And on that note we bid the first month of 2017 farewell! I hope you’ll all join the fun next weekend with judge Mark A. King.

Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 124! Your judge this weekend is A.V. Laidlaw.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

round 124

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

Happy Tuesday, writers! Thanks to everyone who submitted stories this past weekend, and thanks also to Steph Ellis for judging. Her comments and top picks (with a surprise award!) are below.

Well you certainly didn’t disappoint this week (not that you ever do I might add) with twelve stories of an exceptionally high standard and as expected I found it extremely difficult to chose between them. I truly enjoyed reading these flashes on the day which has been dubbed the ‘most depressing day’ of 2017. So, thank you for the respite from the greyness and misery that is currently Southampton and now here are my thoughts on your entries (you can all gossip about my judging prowess – or lack of it later!):

A Blanket of No

Weather getting in the way of true love. The snow says no and it’s all the fault of the new President Elect. The sense of her impatience comes through so strongly that you are there with her in the kitchen as she looks at the watch, at her phone, considers coffee. Eighteen calls though points to a certain neediness that might not bode well for the future. Hope the snow clears.

The Snow Wand

The power of the imagination … and belief. Took me right back to the years I had to spend walking home along country lanes in the middle of nowhere in weather like this; wish I’d had a snow wand then to make it disappear. At least the wand worked and allowed the guinea pig to survive.

Wouldn’t That Be Something

Oh dear, sounds as though Mel has failed as a weather witch. A difficulty with some poor human male has resulted in his death and now Mel has to live with the consequences, but ‘it’s just not easy, getting things right’. The niggling and arguing between the siblings as a result of this is spot on.

Snowed Under

I’m hoping that perhaps this young adventurer has mistaken not caring for caring too much and that his family may have moved on because they didn’t want to be reminded of their ‘loss’. This story is a good example of showing how it’s always that ‘split-second decision’ that can send your life on a different path, in this case literally.

Snow Country

The perils of jumping headlong into something without preparation. The consequences in this instance appear to be almost certain death, a sacrifice of some sort. The Festival is made to sound sinister and menacing rather than having the usual inferences of fun and excitement. Perhaps the ‘cold and bitter’ herb tea was poisoned, perhaps he may be killed in some other way; either way he definitely won’t be enjoying the event.

Six Inch Marzipan Man

A different take on death by chocolate. Beware all those who cheat – you can’t always have your cake and eat it – you’ll probably be clobbered to death with it instead. The one-sided dialogue flowed perfectly and Caroline sounds like a right old gossip with an eye for the main chance. Very Midsomer Murders.

And to the results:

Firstly, a special award here

The Trump Award for Fantastical Fiction and Taking Liberties goes to

Two Extraordinary Women And A Modest (But Handsome In A Rugged Way) Young Man by Ewan Smith

A real puzzle as to who wrote this piece! Obviously they don’t realise that I cannot be bribed – although offering me some freebie books (print not digital)  may weaken my resolve somewhat. Alcohol doesn’t work either, I just fall asleep … can’t answer for Lady Hazmat though. Great fun and just to boost the unknown author’s self-esteem, I declare them the winner of this week’s Trump Award for Fantastical Fiction and Taking Liberties.

HMs

I am a Practising Eccentric by Stephen Lodge

Wonderful nonsense that nearly lost me with the Hawaiian shirt (loathe them) but pulled me back in with mention of a shrubbery (can never hear that word without thinking of Monty Python). The names were a particular delight: Cliff Hanger, Jobby & Squalid Dobbs, and of course the flora and fauna. And yes, I googled some of them just to make sure! I’ve a feeling that perhaps the art collector was pretty gullible in his dealings with the Dobbs brothers but he seems happy enough.

Neighbourhood Watch by Alva Holland

Snow, the great leveller of genteel suburbia, covers all that the residents take pride in, all are the same. I love the little descriptions of the house owners’ petty jealousies and their competitiveness. I dread to think what will happen when they try to keep up with their newest neighbours, the Jones’s.

Second Runner Up

The Fox and Two Sisters by A.V. Laidlaw

A story told in the manner of a traditional tale and which would not seem out of place in early mythological collections, having the feel of a story that has been around and accepted for centuries. The narrative is perfectly paced and beautifully descriptive with the silver-tongued Fox craftily getting his own way as he switches between the two sisters  so causing the change in seasons; a sly old dog indeed.

First Runner Up

The Visitor by Marie McKay

Small but perfectly formed. The atmosphere is tense, the fear strong. The personification of the buildings show how even the inanimate are affected by the presence of the bogeyman. He disturbs buildings, prayers and dreams. His presence is all-pervasive, dark and grey, pressing down on them as his feet ‘thud, thud, thud on their roofs’. But he is just ‘toying’, enjoying the torment he creates as he passes through the town and when he leaves, the colour doesn’t rush back in, instead he leaves a ‘grey nothingness’ behind. Wonderfully dark writing.

And our Round 122 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Richard Edenfield

with

Reading an Avalanche

Rich imagery takes your eyes away from the words on the page and into your own snow world. The cold seeps out as ‘ice cracks like bone’ and ‘mist from my breathing’ floats through air, numbness seeps in and limbs become heavy. The reader matches their pace with the injured creature. Is this a story or is it the author fearing ‘writer’s block’, the blood being the ink, the pale stark blanket, the empty page. Author, reader, subject – all interweave on the page, none exist without the other, viewpoints flit in and out so that this becomes the art of creation. Poetical and beautiful.

Congratulations, Richard. Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! This weekend A.J. Walker will be back to judge stories, I hope you’ll all be back to write them. Cheers!

Happy Tuesday, friends! Thank you to everyone who stopped by to write and comment this past weekend. Thanks also to David Shakes for judging and commenting on this week’s entries. You’ll find his thoughts and top picks below.

Hello folks.

Thank you Rebecca for inviting me to judge. 2016 has be a pivotal year. Interestingly, a couple of stories touch upon quantum mechanics and the multiverse. My own theory is that we’re now on the wrong timeline – hopefully The Enterprise, Time Cop, The Sliders or Dr Who will show up soon to make some adjustments without causing a temporal rift.

When we’re course corrected, I hope I still have my new job. The only downside is that it’s eating my time like there’s no tomorrow. I’m not writing. I’m still reading. (Always read – always!)

What a pleasure it was to read your stories for what I considered a great prompt. Think I detect some new (to me) voices too. I really loved everything you wrote. Glad to be back in the saddle.

May I just add one more thing? Thank goodness the Hourglass is back! We need this.

As always, judged blind and random order. I’ve made short notes for all and then it’s time for winners:

Thin Spaces, Shadow Places

One of my top three titles. Alluded to this in my introduction – Sci Fi with depth of emotion and some great philosophical moments. Making the here matter most – someone knows my own outlooks or just resonated?  Lovely writing.

From Fear to Modernity

Another of my top three titles. A familiar style – full marks (or Mark’s?!) for emotionally charged imagery. I connected with the character on a really deep level and the ‘caldera eyes of her gaunt doppelgänger…’ is fabulous imagery and heralds that ending. That single word at the end. That word. Sublime.

Of Quantum Ticketing and Squashed Ducks (and Don’t Even Mention the Dog)

Last of the top three titles, first of the laugh out loud tales this week. I first spat my coffee at the line:

‘…it’s not doing duck things anymore.’ and then didn’t stop laughing. The punchline was fabulous and grounding too. Great fun here. Northern humour through quality dialogue? It’s like a treasure hunt this!

LaVon King, Street Artist, Dies at 26

Brilliant in its blunt simplicity. A social commentary wrapped in a tragic story. The brevity of the descriptions of the artwork for the moving gallery still managed to conjure great pictures in my head and the juxtaposition of ‘…dark eyes peering from jungles’ and ‘angels weeping over expressways’ really worked – felt cinematic. Strong endings abound this week – this was one of the strongest.

Through Hell and Beyond

A ‘does what it says on the tin’ title here but a well handled story. Some of the side roads presented us with another type of social commentary and I kept thinking: The Wages of Sin (I suppose you can take the boy out of church…) I liked the last line very much – I suspected that reincarnation beckoned – a chance to be reborn?

Big-Boned

Second laugh out loud story of the week and just great. In the first paragraph and I guess eternity / maternity link and thought – this is the man – The Prince of Puns, Guardian of Grammar, doing his thing. In the second paragraph I didn’t see the ‘…back in two shakes’ and ‘David!’ coming – stories should, they say, connect on a personal level though!

Final paragraph and the set-up pays off – the punchline was brilliant. Well worth it.

A Choice to be Made

This gave me a coffin fit! No – I can’t do puns can I? I thought the white van man reference and the fact that we were delivering one side of the Mersey (mine or Zev’s?) made this a FlashDog tale (tail?) at least and I drew up a shortlist of suspects but can’t guess as well as in others. I found myself in the position of typing ‘Do they burn coffins in the UK?’ in to Google. Seems it’s an FAQ! This is the second example of a simple tale that works because it is what it is without pretense. We’ve had life after death and now life with death.

No Through Road

No parking, deep emotions.

The second story to do the life after death trip and the second one (in the order I read them at least) to feature the loss of children. There’s a focus on memory here, of memory being stripped away perhaps, but not before it’s recalled and reconciled whether our narrator wants to or not. What’s beyond the tunnel? No parking.

No Parking

or ‘To be Frank, He Gets What He Deserves’ – No, puns still not my thing at all. I do like a nice tables-turned story and the predatory Frank will eternally regret dating Ashley. I liked how she still had time to appreciate the well described view at Lover’s Cove and this was the first, subtle signs that she may not be as intimidated as we’d first imagined. Blowing him up may have been a tad too far though!

Composing a Sonnet

Most disarming title award. Psycho killer qu’est ce que c’est?

I really liked how this one played out, with the narrator’s voice taking us along with it, drawing us in to his thought patterns, his motivations. ‘My house is ETERNITY’ – a bold line with, I felt, layers of meaning – backed up with the finality of HERE for the boy’s fate. ‘There, there – all done.’ Chilling – especially ‘…although I must say crimson is a most becoming colour…’ A master of show not tell at work here.

Those Things Are Going To Kill You

Warning signs eh? Signs that give warning. This was great and, upon re-reading, the clues are there from the start – dry lips & breath tests; pins, needles and fast food wrappers. I wondered if the businessman who burned himself was our guy? A glimpse of the future or a past not remembered?  Certainly the repeated use of the word ‘burning’ gave hints, the air being too thick to breathe. Great last line, (haven’t they all been though?) loaded with meaning. Kind of thing I’d try to write to be honest.

A Heartbeat in THX Sound

We start and end with some Sci Fi. A future where the death of cinema and the rise of technology has reached its sad conclusion. I loved the question ‘Would you put The Grand Canyon in your pocket?’ – a fabulous summary of the point our author is making. The real horrors are hinted at in the one-liners – like kissing in person or believing the truth (topical!) being a thing of the past. This is the only entry to directly reference the film too. That last line is so loaded with imagery that I’m still unpicking it.

There are no special mentions as they were all special (and not in that ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ patronizing kind a way) – that’s why I mentioned them all. You’ve taken time to make thought into word and now something unique exists in the digital ether because of it. How cool is that?

Second Runner up is A Heartbeat in THX Sound by Richard Edenfield for premise and execution

First Runner up is Big-Boned by Geoff Holme for the humour and audacity

And our Round 117 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

AV Laidlaw

with

Those Things Are Going To Kill You

…because I enjoyed it the most

Congratulations, AV! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend we enter the magical month of December, and Brady Koch will be there to kick-off the judging.

We will be breaking for Christmas, but if I can find a volunteer to judge, The Angry Hourglass will ring in the New Year with Round 121!

Until next time!

Happy Tuesday! Thank you to everyone who submitted stories this past weekend, and thanks much to Voima Oy for judging and commenting. You’ll find them below:

Welcome, everyone. It’s so good to be here, in this place. These uncertain times need stories more than ever. We need all kinds of stories–funny, sad, warnings, courage, hope. This photo by Ashwin Rao is wonderful, even iconic. Where would it take you? You have risen to the challenge brilliantly. Thank you for sharing your stories with me.

On to the comments—

The Last Fires of the Fall–I love the voice in this one, so down-to earth in the bleak landscape–“I’m an old man and Sonny is my last dog.” This is a post-apocalyptic world without much hope, a virus has devastated the earth. But the smile on the boy’s face as he pets the dog Sonny is a sign of life. There is a moment of beauty and grace, even here.

Mabel and Ron, Stella and Roger–The characters and details really make the story, here. This an everyday tragedy, a harsh reality–the judgements, the separateness of people. The dog, Roger, is a reminder of our shared humanity. Very sad story, and beautifully done.

The Big Move–Let’s hear it for the power of brevity! This says it all in those few words–six if you count the title. Perfect with that photo. My sentiments exactly.

Byron & John Keats on the Road–In this traveling library through a post-apocalyptic landscape are spirits of Whitman and Kerouac (On the Road) and Ray Bradbury (“I sing the body electric,” and Fahrenheit 451) too. This is a powerful story of hope. The last paragraph is marvelous, pure poetry.

A Dog’s Life–I can picture these dogs on the road–what great characters they are. I love the point of view. There’s wonderful humor here “stop using our wee-mail!” — and such a free spirit. What a delightful story!

Ragnarok–It’s not the end of the world–yet–but the sense of impending doom is so strong in this story I can feel it. I can see the Norse gods among the rusted trucks and dreadlocked potheads. I love Loki as the dog and Odin on the roof of his van turning his eye to the sun. Great stuff!

Wag this Tale Off–This is truly the dog’s tale–I love the voice in this, the spelling and the language, how it conveys the energy, the enthusiasm and loyalty–the bond with the you-man. Truly dogs are in a state of grace. They do have a buddha nature, living in the moment. Just beautiful.

Sparrowditch. The Beginning.— I love how this story unfolds, such subtlety. The voice is just a little bit creepy at first, but it becomes more and more sinister. Scary stuff!

Idiosyncracies– I’m reading this as a vampire tale, and humans are the prey. It could also be an allegory of the wealthy elite. The voice here speaks of clans, entitlement, and a rejection of that society–“I left behind the comfortable life they had created.” and a need to “feed my soul,” embracing a life of uncertainty, the thrill of the hunt. Really chilling.

931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway–This pilgrimage to the last piece of America rings true. So many great lines–“show what this country blows up for..there was America in those eyes…we were ready to take back our country..” The appearance of Jefferson, and the violet of forgiveness is breathtaking.

Nature versus Nurture –What a great opening! This is flash at its finest–not a word wasted, and the details are so vivid. The story gets darker and darker. It has a medieval feel, or post-apocalyptic. The last paragraph is a terrifying twist. The God of Greed is Mammon–I looked online and pictures look frighteningly familiar. Amazing piece.

He looks like the Dog’s B*ll*cks in the Light of the Super-moon—I had to look up the reference to the Dog’s B*ll*cks, but it means the best there is. This is a tale of personal apocalypse, a story of survival and hope. It is harrowing, heartbreaking, beautiful.

Well-done, everyone!  I love all these stories, and every one of you.  Here are my choices–

Special Mention

The Big Move by Bart van Gothem–power of brevity!

A dog’s Life by Angelique Pacheco–great characters and humor

Honorable Mention

Last Fires of the Fall by AV Laidlaw–sad and hopeful–a moment of beauty

Wag This Tale Off by Sal Page –Beautiful writing of a state of grace

2nd runner up

Ragnarok by Steph Ellis –Feeling of doom, and Odin in the sun

1st runner up

Nature and Nurture by Stella Turner –subtle and horrifying.

And our Round 115 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Richard Edenfield

with Byron & John Keats on the Road

Powerful spirit–epic and hopeful

Congratulations, Richard! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s Hump Day Quickie! Thanks again, Voima, for volunteering your time. Next weekend Steph Ellis is acting judge. Hope to see you all there.

The Weight

by AV Laidlaw

After the funeral, Maria’s dad returns to work at the factory. The sympathy of his boss will only last so long, and there are medical bills to pay. Her mum hangs the black dress in the wardrobe and puts on the apron she always wears for housework. In the evening they sit at the kitchen table, knives chinking against the plates, and discuss moving house now it is over. Maria runs away from home.

She sneaks onto the bus while the driver counts change for an old woman, and sits behind a boy listening to headphones. Maria taps him on the shoulder to ask what the song is, but he ignores her. The other passengers stare at their phones. Nobody says anything. Maria looks at her reflection in the window: darkness around her eyes, skin so pale it turns translucent. The further she travels, the more insubstantial she becomes.

Maria gets off the bus at the promenade. It is winter and the tops of the palm trees are wrapped in plastic to save them from the frosts. A grey sky stretches overhead until it merges with the grey sea in a faint mist.

Her parents brought her here when she was sick, thinking the sea air would help a little. There was little else they could do. And Maria loved walking across the shingle and picking out stones worn smooth by the sea, then later when in the wheelchair, watching the timeless shift of the waves against the beach. The waves still break over the shore. They always will. She could wade into the water, let the sea erode her until there was nothing left at all.

“Maria!” her dad calls her. He stands with his hands in his pockets, hair ruffled by the breeze. “I knew I’d find you here.”

“I was afraid you’d forgotten me.”

“Never.”

“You’re going to sell the house. As if it didn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t. Death is such a little thing, compared to love.”

She leans against the railings. The sea stretches out before her endlessly. “I’m too tired to walk.”

“I will carry you,” her Dad says. “I will carry you home.”

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.

Welcome back, weekend writers. Thanks to everybody who wrote stories for Round 108 and to Mark King for reading them and choosing his favorites. You’ll find his comments below.

Trees hold a special place for many of us and, as I’m starting to realise, they act as a major source of inspiration for my own writing. Inadvertently, I found that three of my FlashDogs Solstice stories were based forests/woodlands.

Recently (as morbid as it sounds), I’ve been looking at woodland burial sites (nothing sinister, I promise). I like the thought of returning to nature and to be part of these landscapes of stunning beauty and rebirth. Many of the stories captured the mystery, fear, magic and spirituality of these places.

An arboretum – fantastic – a chance to dabble with nature, science and perhaps myth. You worked wonders with such a simple prompt. I doff my cap to you all. I enjoyed all the stories and choosing was a difficult task – thank you.

Favourite lines and podium places below:

Would For The Trees “Beneath this dusting of pine needles rests layer upon layer of nutrient rich earth – the forest feeds itself through biodynamics or God’s divine plan.”

Obscured By Blood “He saw on the dash his loyalty card from Gulch Coffee Shop over in Noon City. The card was soaked in blood. “

Firebug “The masking tape on each was clearly noted with the date he’d set each fire. Some fizzled out after he’d fled the scene, but most got the job done.”

Part Transcript of Interview with Miss D. Tremores “They found remains of more than forty people tangled in the roots of trees at the arboretum.”

The Return “Her ancient bones warmed to the kiss of the Samhain fire, heat rising from the cleft of the yew trunk to ease her rebirth.”

Caught “I look down at my feet, remembering a tango in those shoes. I watch my body turn transparent and start to melt away”

Keep it in the Family “The leaves whispered to me, told me what I had to do. They provided me with the instrument of death; I whittled it to a point.”

The Sound of Darkness “Yet, one day, Earth, beleaguered by our apathy, will surely lose her patience and tremble at her core.”

The Colour of the Fox is Gold “…the credit cards heavy with debt, the photograph of John before he lost his charm to the after-work scotch – and drop it against the roots of an oak tree gnarled with age”

The Fox Bride “There are congratulations from the guests, and the party begins. The frogs have brought their lutes and drums. The squirrels have brought mulberry pies.”

Butterfly Graffiti – almost too hard to pick just one. Breath-taking words everywhere. “The sun started speaking french as it came through french windows. An accent of morning gathered in the applause of your softly fluttering eyes. Wings awkwardly floating past glass. Butterfly graffiti.”

Picnic “He tensed more as they neared, she thought his shoulders might snap like an elastic band pulled too rigid.”

The Place That Talks “I pat the smooth cool timber of the birch beside me feeling its breath. Sensing its memory. The collective memory of this sacred space.”

Honourable Mention – The Place That Talks –  AJ Walker: I loved this piece. The vivid world-building, rich character work and the overall sense of the ‘spirituality’ of the location were rather special. Top work.

2nd RU – The Fox Bride – Voima Oy: There is a beautiful, stripped-back, economic beauty to the piece. I adore the fact that it is carefully constructed, Disney-like, on the surface layer, and so much more beneath.

1st RU – The Colour of the Fox is Gold – AV Laidlaw: To choose between this and the winner was a very tough choice. There were so many beautiful lines in this story that to tell them all would be to tell the story again. The poetry of the words and the hints of ancient myths and legends – I loved it all. Stunning.

and our Round 108 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

David Shakes

with Would For The Trees

I opted for this because I wrote a story about a woodland that allowed the children that never lived to come to life for just one day. This felt like it could have been a prequel in many ways. That story was special to me and this one powerfully resonated with me because of that. Apart from my own connection as a reader – there was so much to love here; the well-crafted bond between the couple, the tangible loss of their hope, the attempts to lessen the grief of their planned future, the inevitable death of a soulmate, the dichotomy of nature/loss vs religion/God. A Hollywood tearjerker in 359 words. A worthy winner. Many congratulations.

Congratulations, Shakes! Your story will be featured as Wednesday’s HumpDay Quickie!

Next weekend, Round 108 Flash Master, Shakes, takes a break to spend a few days in the judge’s seat. 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. 

Hello all, and welcome to this week’s winners post. Thanks to everyone who wrote for prompt 101 and to AV Laidlaw for taking on the task of judging. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

Oh my fur and whiskers! Plenty of rabbits in this week’s entries (and a few hares but I shan’t talk about them, not in polite company). Plenty of transformations and a fair smattering of horror too, but alas nothing about nice things like carrots.  Anyway I mustn’t be late so, without further ado or twitch of the nose, here we go down the rabbit hole.

The Chase: Now we start with a dark one. The old rituals bubbling away in the bucolic, the green man, the sacrifice of an innocent, the wildness let loose when we put on masks.  The way the story circles back on itself with as Inspector puts on the mask gives a great sense of something old, and something very, very nasty.

The Ritual: Did something happen, or was something only dreamt? Does it matter? I like the language – “jagged splinters of sunlight” and the physicality of the details – “mud on her knees, scratches on her arms and dried blood on her face”.

Mad March Hares: Lots of sensory detail right from the start – “Damp earth clogged her nostrils”- puts us right into a story of tables turned. The mystery is created – what is happening to the girl? What are the treasures? – and resolved with a bold leap, switching from past to present tense, showing you don’t always have to spell out everything.

Petrichor: A mythological tale with a myth’s dream logic. The story is made from images – a white bird among black crows, a fox skull, a glass heart, a forest cat (does he come from Cheshire, I wonder) – all told with matter-of-fact language to keep it grounded. One to come back to, over and over.

White Rabbit, White Rabbit, Black Rabbit: A boy strikes a bargain for good luck but meets something darker… The sinister atmosphere is invoked by the Black Rabbit’s speech patterns, archaic, almost poetical. It’s also a good example of how to strip away excess from a story – we are never told why the boy wants to strike the bargain, for example – to find its core.

Seagull: Jonathan Livingstone Seagull with a ‘tude, I like that. The story is carried by the narrator’s gleeful voice as they revenge themselves on everyone who’s given them a hard time in the past. The seagull may be a thieving git, but you can’t help but side with them.

We’re Different Now, You And I: The horror of loss brought out in the details – “Where once was a cheek as soft as silk, now bares only cold, hard bone.” The little flashes of the past – meeting on the pier, the coat given as a Christmas present- helps give depth to the relationship between these two people, necessary for the sense of loss to come through.

If Two Go Down To The Woods Today: Written entirely as dialogue, but the two characters come across vividly and delightfully as real (you know what I mean) children.  A real tour-de-force best read aloud to the young kits.

Walking On Water – A User’s Manual: How can you not love a tale that begins “The resurrection was a reflection of a perfect light onto the chrome of God’s Daytona Coupe Cobra”. What follows is a great contrast between the dialogue and the extracts from the book.

Blessed Spring: And we end on a happier note. I like how Elizabeth’s problem – her childlessness – is slowly introduced through concrete images: the house with room for more, the birds laying eggs.  It really helps us to empathise with her.

Oh my paws! Apparently I have to choose a winner, or the duchess will have me executed, as sure as ferrets is ferrets!

HM – White Rabbit, White Rabbit, Black Rabbit by C Connelly for its atmosphere.

Second Runner Up – If Two Go Down To The Woods Today by mariemck1 for great dialogue.

First Runner Up – Petrichor by Voima Oy for its images and Wonderland feel.

And by the thinnest whisker of a new born rabbit…

Our Round 101 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

 Richard Edenfield

with Walking On Water – A User’s Manual

He nudges it for that first line.

Congratulation, Richard! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Please contact me here if you are interested in judging next month. Next weekend, CR Smith returns to judge Round 102. See you all then.