Posts Tagged ‘Brett Milam’

Winners! We’ve got winners! Many thanks to everybody who submitted stories this past weekend, and thanks again to Brett Milam for undertaking the task of judging. He’s got a comments for HMs as well as his top choices, so let’s get to them.

I’m excited for my first chance to judge a collection of lovely flash fiction based on an interesting photo prompt from Ashwin Rao, so thank you all for lending your fingertips, brains and ink (or uh, binary code arrangements) to this week’s contest! But enough with my sanctimonious preamble! Let’s jump right into the winning entries.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Foy S. Iver, “Epicurean,”: Oooh, this one is gritty and bloody and interesting. It’s a short tale, but in the span of it, the grit comes in spades. I particularly liked the play on words of “rather eat crow than human heart.” The closing line brought the grit home and solidified it. Well done, I liked this a lot.

Richarde Denfield, “Moonlight Surfing,”: Such a unique yarn weaved here. The opening sentence brought me right into the scene and the senses of the surfer. The analogy with writing and doing it during highly-intense situations added another layer of intrigue to this story (as did bringing in examples of classic literary giants as surfers). This is  well-paced story with a confident vibe to it, tightly, but beautifully written.

Caitlin Gramley, “Queen of the Cyber Wars,”: Nietzsche said it was his ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book. There’s something palpable to brevity when done right, especially in the context of an already limited-word genre, like flash fiction. In this case, you’ve said in six words what others utilized another 354 words to accomplish. But I like it because it’s apropos of the prompt and it says everything in those six words. And now I’ve already gone on over 12 times longer than the story, so I’ll stop.

Fourth place:

Marie McKay, “Modern”: Just a brutal, albeit brief piece. The tone is set right there in the opening with “long limbs and latticed teeth; prom night and cigarettes.” There’s an interesting tone of dispassionate conveying of what it means to occupy space in the “modern” time. “You-will-if-you-love-me,” said too loudly” is great. And the closing line is a dagger. It’s a piece I’d love to spend more time with, exploring those characters in that moment, but I think it works as is it stands.

Third place:

David Shakes (untitled): Much like Gramley’s six-word piece, I dig people playing with the format and shaking it up (lol “shaking it up”…Shakes…moving along…) a bit, so that in itself wins points per my tastes, but of course, I’m also after a good story and David produced that here with some biting social critique based on the photo prompt. I particularly enjoyed, “the vacuous given gravity and we smile at the screen and empty ourselves into binary code.” Nicely done.

Second place:

Voimaoy, “The Firefly Princesses,”: Brilliant juxtaposition of generations, where by the end, I, too, long for the generation before the allure of the bright phones and especially in a time where Romeo goes unknown. And, “The Universe laughs out loud,” is a brilliant closing line on multiples levels. But it’s worth returning to the previous generation bit of the piece; it’s just lovely, confident writing with great descriptions, which helps with the contrast to today. Well done.

And our Round 79 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Rebekah Postupak

with Dreammaker

Quite the piece to unpack, as I found it a carefully crafted and clever, but a tight meditation on life, society and of course, dreams and ambitions. I’m particularly impressed that the entire piece is carried by believable, realistic dialogue that still, nevertheless, moves at a quick pace. There’s no need for diversions of heavy descriptions or action scenes. Everything we need is right here in the back and forth. I found this to be another piece that gets beyond the obvious implications of the photo prompt. I appreciated that aspect. Well done, Rebekah.

Congratulations, Rebekah! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s Humpday quickie! Next weekend, AV Laidlaw returns to judge Flash Frenzy Round 80! Keep your eyes on your inboxes, Flash Dogs. I’ll be soliciting judges for next month later this week, and, as always, volunteers are welcome. See you next week.

Who’s ready for Round 79? Brett Milam is ready. He’s ready and waiting to judge your entries and crown a new flash master.

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, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

 

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

Winners! I’ve got winners! With comments hot off the press. Thanks to Rebekah Postupak for her continued dedication to the online flash community and for volunteering her time this week to judge entries here at The Angry Hourglass. Of course there would be no Angry Hourglass or Flash Frenzy if it weren’t for you, the writers, so a hearty thanks to all of you as well. You’ll find Rebekah’s comments below.

There’s little in our modern world that inspires as many passions as the Church, passions which were echoed in many ways in your stories this round. Your characters battled against belief, against doubt, and above all, against ancient disappointment in humans who consistently fail to live up to the divine standards they wish for the world. As a person of faith, I found the naked honesty of your stories both stirring and convicting. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me; you are wonderful and tirelessly patient teachers.

HMs:

Richard Edenfield, “My Little Church.” This piece painted an anti-Church in which a child’s spiritual life is developed not by human priests but by absent literary giants. The story’s substitutions – Oscar Wilde in place of Jesus, with 12 apostles including Camus and Whitman and their words serving as angels and choir – offered clever religious counterpoints in perfectly crafted synchronization. But it’s the final line that gives us the zinger, relaying the condemning, tragic, underlying truth of the narrator’s feelings: “..(T)he son is sometimes just as telling as the father.” So powerful.

StellaT, “Lucifer v God Almighty.” LOVED the voice of this one, the slow, wonderfully paced unveiling of the character’s true identity, along with her cunning, vicious plotting. So well done, funny and yet terrifying. Poor beautiful Linda Bell had better be careful; I don’t think the narrator’s going to be deconverting anytime soon.

2nd RU

Steph Ellis, “Silence.” OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH the world building!!!!!! Freak me out giddy over how good that is. And when I got to this sentence, it’s so good, so powerfully succinct, I actually yelped out loud. “Money has reclaimed its place in the temple.” This is the story of a near-future world in which religion is obsolete, and industry hurries society along, hurry hurry give me your money, having failed to realize (as the narrator does) that eschewing faith has left them with a gaping hole they are unable to fill. A university could design a semester-length course on the rippling depths of this story.

1st RU

AV Laidlaw, “The Belly of the Whale.” This story, both structurally and philosophically, gave us a wonderful matryoshka, removing layers only to find more beneath, the form of the church in which a pregnant woman sits contemplating her ex as a rebellious Jonah stuck in the whale. There’s so much going on in this story, I’d need an entire blog post to unwrap it: the layers of rebellion and shirking responsibility, the thing-within-a-thing-within-a-thing, oh goodness, just so much. And the irony of the last line: the narrator’s ex is the one who left her, but she is the one who is trapped. Complex, wonderful structure, and it’s a story ABOUT structure. Oh, I love this.

And our Round 78 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

David Shakes

with Knight to King’s Bishop 3

The story itself is simple enough: a dying agnostic’s confrontation of God, a lifetime of disappointment and bitterness standing in direct tension against the gaping question, “Where else can you go when the doctor says that’s it?” But the story’s simplicity belies its true, sophisticated form, set up (just as is described in its opening) as a life-sized chess match between a desperate humanity and an apparently silent Creator. The narrator’s questions pummel the cathedral’s vaulted ceilings in the face of such silence. His anguish over cancer and world hunger seem to be answered by decadence and apathy. And yet, in the end, the narrator’s stubble-topped head is matched in truth by a fresh-faced priest, and he finds his anger checked by laughter. Checkmate? No. Not yet. But… as he says himself, “Maybe I’ve a few moves left.” This story is utterly amazing: its voice, its structure, its intelligent strategizing. Reading this was like watching Kasparov. So very well done.

Congratulations, David! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s Hump Day Quickie. Next weekend you will all face the judging prowess of Brett Milam. Hope to see you there.

Waste
by Brett Milam

The only possession Mateo had to his name was a worn-out picture of his wife and newborn baby back in Mexico.

He currently sat next to a wastebin meant for cigarettes. It was sturdy enough to support his back as he leaned against it. The trip across the border had left his back aching.

It took three days to get from Chihuahua to Texas, which Mateo didn’t understand since they bordered each other. But he put his faith in the smugglers.

Dos gringos, as Mateo would say, walked by him and flicked their used cigarettes toward the wastebin, but missed it and hit Mateo in the face.

“Pendejos,” Mateo muttered under his breath. His wife had warned him about his language before he crossed.

The two gringos turned around, one was stockier than the other, but both loomed over Mateo with ease. They both wore white tank tops with dirty sweat tattooed to their flabby pectoral muscles.

“What’d you say, greaser?” the stockier one said.

“Damn illegal scum, I bet he is. Think they can just come here and take our jobs, Joey,” the other said.

“And I bet he doesn’t know a lick of English; do you, José?” Joey said.

Mateo stood up off the wastebin.

“Me llamo es Mateo, cabrón,” Mateo said. He didn’t know what they they said, but he could tell by their body language they were mocking him.

Joey swung at Mateo, a wild, slow-moving fist. Mateo, smaller and more agile, ducked it and returned a fist to the man’s stomach.

His other friend sucker-punched Mateo in the jaw, knocking him to his knees. Joey regained his composure and grabbed Mateo by his black hair and slammed his head into the wastebin.

The blow knocked Mateo out, causing a gaping wound in his forehead.

“Fuckin’ greaser,” the smaller one said, spitting at Mateo.

“Let’s go,” Joey said.

As Mateo lay unconscious, others walked past him, not noticing him or his condition.

A man with a dog walked toward him. As the dog sniffed at the congealed blood, the man flicked a cigarette into the wastebin and pulled on the leash to keep the dog moving.

Winners! We have winners here! Thanks to AV Laidlaw for judging this weekend, and thanks to all of you who submitted stories. Tiny Woodrow appreciates the opportunity to play muse once in a while. 🙂 Below you’ll find AV’s comments and top picks.

Okay, here we go with my first time judging and it really was tough to pick the top three, let alone deciding their order.

First up, thanks to Sean Igo (and Tiny Woodrow) for the photo-prompt.

Woofer’s Murder – Two real Inspector Hounds investigate a murder… The opening exchange between the dogs sets up their respective characters, and although the story takes us through alien invasions and a killing, it’s these two canines that keep the story ticking along.

Waste – Well structured, well written with a cool, detached voice that never intrudes on the story.  The real sucker punch comes in the final paragraph.  No Good Samaritan for Mateo.

A Dog’s Life -Now, I never expected Buddha to turn up this week.  Not to mention a touch of ancient Egypt.  There’s a whole bunch of allusions bubbling away in here – Moses found in the reeds, the floods that came with the rising of the Dog Star.

Hole – A great sense of sinister mystery wraps itself around this story.  The narrator seems almost mythic – a heartless creature – but their misanthropy and cynical tone grounds them in reality.  Chills.

Old Phil Rupp – On the surface, nothing much happens – a dog sits on a man’s lap, a girl tells then man the dog can sniff out cancer.  But the real story is underneath in the metaphor of “being filled … with everyone’s stuff” becoming the cancer that will kill him.

The Dogs – A Pavlovian nightmare.  Full of strong imagery “curled themselves into question marks” and “wrote tales of despair with their writhing bodies” contrasted with the detached scientist’s words, which lets slip the horror in the story.

If Goliath Were Literate – Dogs being dogs, in whatever shape or breed. Fun use of words – exactly how you imagine dogs would speak.  They might not have found “the motherlode” but it’s not going to get them down for long.

We All Have To Go Some Day – A couple of real events and a retired couple who seem real rather than fictional, as if this were an overheard conversation.  All the little specific details – the place names, their breakfast – give these two an existence beyond the story.

Walking the Dog – Although Dean’s mistake ruins his life – and probably other peoples – he’s nicely presented a sympathetic character – “poor little dog probably didn’t have much fun in his life” – with a human side – “his street cred was going to plunge”.  And the moral is, always read the instructions.

Two Butts and a Maybe – Canine telepathy explains so many things… This is a fun story propelled by the voice of the pooch narrator, a character and a half.  Also has the best joke of the day – “Telepathy … Telepathetic”.

It’s a close run thing but here it goes:

Third – A Dog’s Life by Voima Oy

The most off-beat take on the prompt.  A story much bigger than just the words on the screen.

Second – Two Butts and a Maybe by A. J. Walker

The tone and the voice of the narrator are just perfect.

 

and our Round 75 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Brett Milam

with Waste

 

Often I’m a tad wary of stories with a serious subject because it’s so easy to get  preachy.  But here the plain detached style adds power to the story.  Nothing flashy or showy, but solid and profound.  And again, that last paragraph gives the story a real bite.

Congratulations, Brett! 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, Marie Mckay will step up to try her hand at judging. Hope to see you there.

Winners! Winners! And comments galore! It was a bit of a wait, but well worth it, in my opinion. Many, many thanks to Nancy Chenier for volunteering her services as judge this past weekend. Without further delay, here are Judge Nancy’s comments:

Thank you for the opportunity! It was fun and hard (insert whine here)..

Death and taxies! Dead bodies abounded in this group of stories, though manifesting in a delightful variety of ways (morbidly delightful).  So much incredible writing, it was nearly impossible to choose my favorites. Well, I’m already behind in getting these done and the squidlet is about to awaken, so let’s just jump right in.

Fare Game—the line about shadowing the “molten surface” of the coffee lassoed me as I suspected there was more than rich imagery going on here, that something else was lurking under that molten surface. I was not at all disappointed. The voice was very American-Psycho in its dispassionate flippant relaying of brutal details and its narcissism. You touch upon the twisted psychology here. I loved the dynamics of power and how waiting affects the perception of power. He has to control the charade in the relationship, yet allows it from cab drivers (he accepts the subversion of his power on a racial level but not at all on a gender level). The close is pitch-perfect, dialing up a mistress so he can “win” in a way he couldn’t—not even through killing her—with the wife. 

It Was Me—The pacing of this one is superb, layering the mystery to the punch of a climax (an image that won’t leave me). I laughed out loud at the “cliche” of the Phantom Hitchhiker—something that would only br cliche to the other cabbies but not to us poor readers. However, Addi didn’t disappoint with his winner of a tale, complete with props. I really enjoyed the conflicting possibilities here. With the hole in the face, it leaves us uncertain as to whether Addi was telling the truth (and thus somewhat justified in destroying one’s self, in a “If you see Buddha on the side of the road, kill him” kind of way), or if it was a delusion superimposed on a unfortunately-dressed stranger (and Addi is a pure he-was-always-so-quiet psychopath). I hoped it was the first (because I’m a hopeless sucker for spec-fic), but love that it could just as well be the latter.

The Story Eater—I adore the title of this one. By the fourth paragraph I was ravenous to hear some of those bits Tom’s been consuming. The idea of weaving the stories “into his web of knowledge of the world” reminds me of a set up for Clive Barker’s Great and Secret Show, where the protagonist starts to recognize a vast pattern playing out in all the details (only Barker used a postal clerk). A very intriguing idea. Love the contrast with the other taxi drivers and their “sad camaraderie”: slices of life are so much more vivid and we can fill in with out imaginations to animate them—whereas, with the familiar, we don’t have that luxury. 

Teaching the ABCs—This one was a difficult read on several levels. I liked how the red flags for the second speaker go up right away: being drunk with a kid, yelling at the mother, calling her “woman” and it just gets worse from there. The presence of the mother provides the reader with fleeting hope that there is sanity in the household, but that gets yanked away with her retreat and all we can do is witness the horror (not the dead-body kind, probably worse) of a child embracing racism in order to get approval from daddy. And to deepen the horror, I couldn’t be sure if they were seeing beggars at all rather than just the scene of the picture prompt—in other words, the man’s racism doesn’t allow him to see gainfully employed people of color.

Opportunity—The line “And lose this pathetic job that I hate so much” locked me into sympathy with the characters, leaving me appropriately frustrated with the injustice they have to endure. I like the way this one leaves us poised at a crossroads (an opportunity), leaving us to wonder what we might do in Aydin’s place. The description of the jumper (?) was restrained yet shocking, keeping the focus where it needs to be: on Aydin and his choice.

Night’s Shift—Night shift gets the supernatural cases. I like how he’s only a number (and for the most part, she pretty much only a letter). Nice use of action peppering the dialogue, helping shift the tension from two strangers talking to something more sinister.  At first, I wasn’t certain that the perp was demonic—I wondered if it might be poison that he used to make her lungs burn, but then the allusions (the tunnel, the bargain, “anomaly” as a signal word, and the sense that “swallowing one’s words” isn’t just figurative) bring the supernatural element home. 

Psychology—The description in the second paragraph is great: it not only give me a clear picture of what a dump this place is, it also reveals exactly why his job sucks as well as so much of Eileen’s character (without having to say “cheapskate” even once). Her attitude toward the speaker plants her firmly in the reader’s antipathy, so when the reveal hits, it’s very satisfying. I love the way her pronouncement of “we’re dead” comes back around at the end.

Taxi—After reading about all the dead in the last few entries, I thought for sure this one would be going in a similar direction: someone preoccupied with getting attention might do something drastic to get it. (I found it an interesting reflection on my thinking that I would consider murder less drastic.) I like how the turn is never mentioned, yet there is a strong build up to it with the anxiety. I love how the transition is revealed instead in the behavior of the taxi driver, affable vs. professional, the different topics that the cabbie would feel comfortable using with a man vs. a woman. 

Ravi’s Ride—Loved the first paragraph, from the tone of the first line, to the contrast of past lives with the current conditions. With great economy, you give us a compelling peek of the worlds from which the cabbies have come. Ravi’s understanding of his privilege, here, generates sympathy, as does the way he doesn’t see the job as “below him”—it makes the gaining of his own story (one that promises to include a celebrity) believable. I like too that although the actress may have been giving him an empty promise, by kissing him, he still has his story.

Knights of the Road—The pacing of this one is magnificent, introducing new layers of the mystery little by little with the finesse of a tight game of 7-card-stud. I got hooked with the intrigue generated by the line “couldn’t dodge it forever”. The mystery deepens with not ever seeing Carmelita (don’t cabbies get to meet the dispatchers?). His mood darkening and needing “the reason” for the pickup. I loved the play on words over the two uses of “dead drop”. The loneliness inherent in the closing paragraph reverberated for me.

The Fare—This one had me laughing out loud—”just cause they got lights and a red cross” was hysterical. One of the Horseman driving a cab? Brilliant! War has quite the mouth on him. His earnest assessment of himself (people person) clashing with his behaviour was delightful as was the fact that he feels the need to explain his metaphorical axe. The thought of old deities working the taxies has me wishing to take a trip to the other parts of town. I could easily see this as a collection of stories, each one a ride with a different demoted driver.

Extra—This one has all the fairy tale fun of a Rebekah piece (confirmed!). I particularly enjoyed this what with my own run as an extra (ahem, background actor). A stroke of comic genius to feature the background characters in the fairy tales. I loved the nod to method acting (the plant), the two that are there at least partially for the artistic expression set up against the one who wants his paycheck. The dramatic irony you set up provides sublime humor: we know why Snow White has to live. On top of that, you slip some real zingers in there (pumpkin tasting of shoe leather—doh!).

The Comely Cannibal—The hard-boiled Chandler-esque figurative language seduced me, irresistible lines like: “chilled custard”, “the kind of face that required alimony payments”, “deserted boat in a typhoon”. That last one all the more delicious because she went away alone (“deserted”) despite her professed meal—the MC didn’t take the bait (yet). I loved the confusion over “blow job”—by the end we’re not sure if the cabbie misheard or she was really taunting him. The voice had me hooked despite the fact that we have two rather unsympathetic characters—well-played.

So, here we go with the hard part…

Honorable Mention: Chris Milam “The Comely Cannibal” for rekindling the fires of my love of Chandler’s metaphors. 

2nd Runner-Up: Brett Milam “Fare Game” for the dense writing, where nearly every sentence is doing at least double-duty, tackling a mind that rationalizes horrific actions. 

1st Runner-Up: Rebekah Postupak “Extra” for the fresh fun of it as well as the way you use fantasy to hold up a delightful mirror to mundane reality. 

And your Round 44 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER 

Karl A. Russell

with “The Knights of the Road”

For the poker-game-like tension, the idea of vigilante valorous cab drivers working secretly to rid the streets of “monsters”, and the engaging character. In the end, this one pulled out in front. 

Congratulations, Karl! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Thanks once again to Nancy for acting as judge last weekend. This upcoming weekend, Image Ronin will resume his role as judge. Hope to see you all there.

Cheers!

Hey gang. Sorry for the late post – I’ll keep it short and sweet. Jaime Burchardt was our guest judge this week and here is what he had to say about your entries:

Right off the bat, I have to say that the picture that was chosen by Mr. Shakes proved to be a rather tricky one. You trite bastard (kidding of course, and since reading these I’ve taken on a British accent so thanks for that). I want to thank our fearless boss for having me judge this week, and I want to thank all of you for your time and submissions.

I’ll be completely honest; this was a tough one to judge. Almost all of you had a tone in mine, but to see all of you tackle said tone through different avenues turned this into a roller coaster ride. My imaginary cowboy hat goes off to all of you, with a few stories I’d like to note. Newbow’s story,  “You Didn’t Say Anything”, started off well although the tease of progression lingered. David Shakes’ “Tumulus” story was a head scratcher, but in a good sense. “The Artist” by Image Ronin definitely painted a vivid, somewhat haunting picture. And I really want to thank Volma Oy for participating. Even though she submitted after the deadline and could not be eligible, if that were not the case this would have gone differently. If you’re reading this Oy, I encourage you to come back; your work is very much welcome.

In the end, all of you really did a good job, but alas there can be one-THREE. I meant three winners.

3rd Place Winner—milambc for “Holy Shit”. Granted the narrative wasn’t that steady, but I admired its intentions and the ending was a delight.

2nd Place Winner—Catherine Connolly for “Building Bridges”. One of the reasons I love these flash contests is that writers can give us a peak into a new world with potential. Connolly did just that here.

And the Flash Master this week is…

FLASH MASTER

 

Karl A. Russell

with “In the Aftermath”

Going outside the box is risky, especially when almost every story here was on a set tone, but Russell made his stand out with pure dialogue, excellent intentions and a great sense of hilarity.

Karl, I’ll post your winning story shortly! 🙂

Thanks Jaime for judging, thank you all for writing, and we shall see you again this weekend when your stories will be judged by none other than Flash Master extraordinaire himself, Karl A. Russell!

~Cheers!