Posts Tagged ‘Cathy Lennon’

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday filled with joy and love. Week after week the flashdogs give their all to create stories for The Angry Hourglass, and now it’s time for me to give back. Below is a list of the winning stories from the past 22 rounds of Flash Frenzy. You have until Dec 30th to vote for your favorite (get your friends to vote, too!).

You can vote once every 12 hours, and the three authors with the most votes will win Amazon gift cards. So, return and enjoy your favorite stories again, and stay tuned for the winners. 😀

 

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It’s Tuesday again! Time for winners. Many thanks to Jacki Donnellan for volunteering her time to act as judge this past weekend, and many thanks to YOU, the writers, for coming out to play.

Here are Jacki’s thoughts:

Comment: I really loved the prompt this week-there’s just something about pumpkins, isn’t there?- and I have had a really fantastic time reading the thirty (thirty!!) truly amazing entries. Each take on the prompt was different from the next, and it felt like that pumpkin had just exploded in everyone’s imagination. So many wildly colourful and vivid tales; so many bright and tender moments. Each and every writer produced something wonderful and  as always I am grateful for the privilege of reading your work.

With so many stories, I’m afraid I will have to use that old judging cliché “I wish I could comment on them all”, and beg you to believe that it’s heartfelt.

And so: these are the stories that were, for me, the pumpkin-flavoured cream of the so-very-juicy pumpkin crop:

Runner-Up: The Pumpkin Patch by Karl.A.Russell

I just loved this story, because it was just that- a complete (thrilling and entertaining) story with a beginning, middle and end, all told within 360 words with enough room left for gasps. It’s not that I believe that every piece of flash has to follow the arc of a short story- far from it- but when you read something short that manages to do so, it’s fantastic. Like a bite-sized bar of (very dark) chocolate.

Runner Up: Wifely Wisdom by Catherine Connelly

I read and judged all of the stories blind and I was surprised when I subsequently discovered that Catherine had written this one, as I had no idea that she wrote humour so spectacularly well! But this is not just a humorous tale, it is also skilfully sinister, from its ridiculously gruesome and wonderfully described premise right through to its brilliant ending. I loved it.

Runner Up:In the Dirt by Casey Rose Frank

This is such an exquisitely sad twist on a fairytale. So cleverly, beautifully told- once it became clear who Cordelia really was, I looked back through the story and realized just how many deftly crafted clues there had been. The corset to create “the perfect posture I was raised without”, the yearning for the hay and dirt, the mouse… A truly original and lovely take on the prompt.

And your round 39 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Nancy Chenier

Carving Out a Space

I loved the brilliantly clever title. I loved the way that the first line opened as a movie in my head. I loved the gorgeous, effortless world-building- “the waning glow from the primary oozes maple syrup light over griddlecake hills”-even while the story is all about what’s happening inside the narrator’s head. A lot of flash fiction which describes another world gets as far as “imagine a place where…” and stops there. I love that this story not only took me to another world but told me its history, its probable future and the zoomed-in life story of two of its characters, all within 360 words. I was left feeling satisfied, and yet yearning to read more. And I can still see Copiae in my head, as clearly as if I’d spent all of last week reading a whole novel set there. A stunningly, enviably good story.

Congratulations, Nancy on your two-week winning streak!  Your story will be featured tomorrow as the HumpDay Quickie!

Thanks again, Jacki, for your time and comments. This weekend, Amy Wood will be climbing into the judge’s seat. Hope to see you all there.

~Cheers!

Fossilized

by Cathy Lennon

‘Ben,’ I say. He has taken his arms out of his coat sleeves, put the hood up and fastened the top popper. ‘Ben.’ Louder this time. He is being a superhero, or a fighter pilot, or a bird of prey. He circles a few times and I stand stock still, hands in my jeans pockets, pierced again by how precious and amazing he is. He comes to a stop beside me, pulls down his hood, wrestles his hands back in his sleeves.

‘What daddy?’ His eyes have the new watchful expression. That dark uncertainty that twists my heart.

‘What does that look like to you?’ I nod at the sculpture, the last along the trail we are exploring because, for once, it isn’t raining. It stands on end, a gleaming copper spiral on the forest floor. It’s more ram’s horn than snail shell and about ten times actual size and I wait to hear what a five year old will make of it. He goes up close and sticks his head into the opening.

‘Helloo!’ he shouts. ‘Can you hear me?’ He looks back at me. ‘I think there is a dragon down there. It lives in a cave under the ground and it breathes fire. Roooaaaarrr.’

He’s seen dragons in everything today. ‘It’s even more exciting than that,’ I smile. ‘It’s an ammonite.’

He repeats the word, mixing up the ‘m’ and the ‘n’ and we make it into a tongue twister until we are both giggling. Then I explain about fossils. About a living thing that died. About sediment and the passing of time. About the preservation of something that still has meaning, just in a different form. When his eyes cloud with bewilderment I stop myself. I ask him if he’s hungry. He asks for nuggets and chips.

On the doorstep Kirsty barely meets my eye. Ben rushes in without a backward glance. ‘Same time next week?’ she says.

I concentrate on geological time as I drive back to the flat. Then I stand with my key in the latch and listen very hard for dragons.

Hello, friends.

I’d like to say thanks to everyone who sent their condolences this past weekend. I also like to give an extra special thank you to Shakes for stepping in to judge for me – though it seemed a particularly difficult challenge this round. (There can be only one!)

Before we get to Shakes’s comments, there are some calls for flash fiction I wanted you all to be aware of.

1: Perpetual Motion Machine is looking for flash to feature in their newsletter. Pay is $20.00 per accepted piece. Limit is 1,000 words. You can find all the information here.

2: The Molotov Cocktail is hosting another flash fiction contest. The theme this time is Flash Future. 1st prize is $200.00.Limit is 1,000 words. You can find the entry information here.

3. Freeze Frame Fiction is accepting submissions for their second issue. Payment is $10.00 per accepted piece. Limit is 1,000 words. You can find submission details here. They are also looking for experimental flash for a special issue.

And with that – let us move forward to Round 34 results!

Hats off this week to my Hourglass brothers and sisters – 21 uniquely wonderful tales from the best flash writers on the internet. I really mean that. It is an honour to consider myself part of this group…until it’s time to judge.

I’m afraid that work commitments have prevented me from being able to wax lyrical about every story – and though it sounds like an empty promise, I could write at length about how much I loved each one. I truly did.

There’s not a story this week I didn’t see a flash of brilliance in – something to try and emulate in my own writing.

That shell was employed so creatively – see for yourself the broad and inventive uses.

How to judge?

How I usually judge:

  • Enjoyment.
  • Connection.
  • Resonance.
  • Language.
  • Structure.

Right – that didn’t narrow it down one bit.

You see, when you read them a few times, the stories become connected. Themes and commonalities come to the fore – and how do you choose one above another? They have come at it at totally different angles…they all use such great language…

A quick DM to our fabulous host. A pleasant enough reply but the implication is clear – MAN UP!

THIRD PLACE: Carlos Orozco ‘Outside’ @goldzco

I am father to the son in the photo. We have had those exact conversations.

I am the son of a man I’m proud to call my father. We have had those exact conversations.

When my time comes around…

You all know I’m a sucker for symmetry. The father’s lesson to the son – remembered, reused, its power increased exponentially.

What a cool use of that shell – a metaphor for life’s twists and turns. It’s only when we stand outside and look down, see the whole that its true beauty is revealed.

SECOND PLACE: Mark King ‘Hide and Seek’ @Making_Fiction

Mark takes his title and uses it to structure the whole story. Each line a carefully constructed blow to the senses. We are caught up in the narrator’s stream of consciousness; the raw hopelessness of the situation – ‘hide when he drinks, hide when he doesn’t…’

Every time I read this there’s a new line that stands out. The form and structure are experimental but fit the piece beautifully. It also helped it to stand out in the outstanding field.

Stunning. Horrific. Real.

Your Round 34 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Cathy Lennon

‘Fossilized’

Clear, simple language with a layered subtext, and if little Ben doesn’t quite get it – we certainly do. There’s a mix of emotions and the changes in tone and meaning are beautifully, nay masterfully handled. There’s not a wasted word here. The story unfolds at just the right pace; the reveals subtle, gradual – timed to perfection so that the last lines floor you.

Its a perfect little story.

That last line…

How could it not win?

 

Congratulations, Cathy! Your story will be featured tomorrow as the HumpDay Quickie.

This weekend, the lovely and talented Jacki Donnellan will be presiding judge. Have a great week and we’ll see you on Saturday.

The Catcher and the Rye

by Cathy Lennon

It was Oleta’s fault. If she hadn’t stood there with her hand on her hip and a sneer on her face, he would’ve just left him. Even after a bottle of jack. Even then. ‘Cos he’d never been a violent drunk. Not like some of the guys he knew. Dwayne rubbed his eye and the pain in his hand was like an explosion, shockwaves travelling up to his shoulder.

Over the tannoy someone made a joke. The guys all laughed but no one turned to smile at him. He sat behind them, separate like they already knew. The people were starting to trickle down the bleachers. He watched them through throbbing purple patches.

Coach Mercer tilted the peak of his cap up and pushed towards him. ‘You’re drinking in the last chance saloon, son.’ His eyes narrowed when he saw the bruises. Dwayne said nothing. ‘The guys are relying on you. You remember the strategy?’ He swallowed bile and nodded.

When he walked out to the field, his right hand felt the same size as the gloved one. It burned like it was on fire. He felt the pain in every part of him and the pain would make him strong. The game was all that mattered now. Everything would be perfect. It would be sweet like his dreams. He would choreograph and control it and everyone would see what he was capable of.

He looked out through the bars of his visor at Matty, tossing the ball from hand to hand, waiting. Dwayne crouched low and signalled, each finger stiff with agony. The buzz died away and his breath stilled, anticipating the pitch. When it didn’t come he looked from side to side. The hitter turned around and frowned. Dwayne mouthed at Matty who still held the ball in his hand. ‘What?’

People craned forward, his team mates all looked him. Then he noticed the sirens and lights. ‘C’mon!’ he yelled. ‘Remember the strategy!’ He was still crouched, fingers pointing, when the two officers stood over him. The fat one got out some cuffs. Even then Dwayne didn’t realize it was game over.

This week I got clobbered at work on Monday instead of Tuesday, so I’m posting on time. Yay!

Great stories this week—you all hit it out of the park, in my opinion. A sentiment more or less shared by our judge, Karl A. Russell. His comments are below.

OK, confession time; when I saw that this week’s prompt was taking us to the field of dreams, I breathed a hearty sigh of relief that I didn’t have to participate as a writer. The only time I’ve ever seen a baseball bat in action, The Punisher was using it on a mob boss, and for all I know, that’s the correct way to use it.

But the seven writers who stepped up to the plate this week gave us a group of tales which actually made me care about fly balls and hung games, and every one was a home run.

(Can you tell I’ve had to hit Wikipedia for the terminology here?)

With The Catcher and the rye, Cathy Lennon gives us a literary joke for a title, but that’s where the humour ends. Dwayne is a brutish hulk of a character, his pain and anger suffusing every line, believing that the root of all his problems lie elsewhere, right to the pitiful end.

David Shakes takes us into outright fantasy in Death in the Bleachers, but it’s the moments of all too human feeling which make this tale work so well. As father and son face off in the dying moments of the game, there’s a sense of fatalism that goes far beyond the titular narrator’s profession. When Mondell Senior voices his appreciation of Junior’s talent, he is accepting not only his just-sealed fate, but that of all fathers, to be eclipsed by their offspring.

Flash fiction often works best when it concentrates on the small things in life, and in He Swung, Jaime Burchardt gives the pivotal role to a tiny insect which sets in motion a whole series of life changing events, sending the fates of Barney and his team in two very different directions. This had a great last line too, proving that Flash can also be a perfect medium for tales with a sting in the tale.

Voima Oy also gives us a small moment in One Small Step, reducing the greatest night of “Flash” Gordon’s career to an inconsequential footnote by contrasting it with one of the crowning achievements of human existence. With talk of universal balance and having “the right stuff,” Voima suggests a mystical link between that great leap forward and Gordon’s almost supernatural home run, and the final line is pure poetry.

Like Dwayne in Cathy’s tale, Image Ronin’s Flint is another belligerent drunk, a man of great promise playing out his twilight games in the minor leagues. Twilight of a Champion shows us a man all too aware of his failings, taunted by reminders of squandered promise and a sense that this is not where he should be, but unable to pin the blame on anything but his own appetites. He sees a zombie when he looks in the mirror, knows that he is faking it, and faced with seeing the same dishonesty reflected in the faces of his family, he takes the final step towards complete ruin.

caseyrosefrank gives us a wonderfully surreal image in We Can Do It Better, and perhaps a meta commentary on this contest, asking what happens when a bunch of untrained artists are let loose on the pitch? With a vague idea of what the game entails, they begin to throw in the tricks and talents of their chosen fields, and chaos ensues. The acrobatic antics made me smile, as did the last line, and any story which features a mime being brained with a baseball is alright in my book.

Finally, Beth Deichtman introduces us to Joe, and shows us a little of what baseball is actually about. Not the secret signals and esoteric terms, which all have the ring of accuracy and suggest that Beth is our resident fan, but the idea of capital-B Baseball as a metaphor for life itself. In the midst of the crowds and the cheers and the battle for supremacy, Joe is a man at war with himself, pushing towards breaking point to finish and win the game, regardless of the personal cost. In a game where batters on average miss two out of every three pitches, ball players quickly learn how to lose, but knowing how and when to quit is something else. It takes the intervention of his teammates to convince Joe that it’s better to lose this battle than to forego the whole season, but even with the approval of the crowd following him from the pitch, he cuts a tragic figure as he goes. Whether his team defeat the Yankees or not, Joe has already lost.

So, a great round of stories – as always from these supremely talented writers – but someone has to take the pennant, and this week, the honours go to…

Runner up: Jaime Burchardt for having the guts to make us laugh at his protagonist.

And

The Round 29 Flash Master is…

FLASH MASTER

Cathy Lennon

for her powerful, bruising tale, “The Catcher and the Rye”

Cheers!

Karl

Thank you, Karl, and congratulations Cathy! Your story will be featured tomorrow as the 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 week Stella will be our judge (she’s nervous, but I’m sure she’ll do just fine!). Flash Masters, keep an eye on your twitter accounts, I’ll be recruiting judges for next month later this week.

As always, many thanks to the writers for sharing your talents with us each week. Hope to see you again on Saturday. 🙂

Greetings, Friends!

I’m so pleased to have seen so many of you again this past weekend. As usual your stories were wonderful. Our guest judge this week, Voima Oy, faced a difficult decision. She not only rose to the challenge and provided us with her top picks, but thoughtful comments for everybody who submitted as well. Thank you, writers, for sharing your imagination here every week, and thank you, Voima, for stepping up and making the tough call this round.

Judges Notes:

I have the honor to act as judge this time around.  What an amazing challenge!

First, let me thank everyone who took the time and care to send a story.  This photo prompt is quite evocative–what does it suggest,  a simple cross on a hill with flowers?
There could be many  possible interpretations. These stories are all very  different and  each one is excellent in its own way.  I have learned so much from all of you. Well-done, everyone!

Let me offer some comments on the stories in the order they were submitted—

Karl A. Russell has written a tale of undying love, and a hill covered with forget me nots.  It has a kind of magical realism, as well as  the realities of banks and mortgage payments. There is a timeless quality to the story,
like a fable or a folk tale.

Stella’s story takes a less-is-more approach, told in understatement and vivid details. Relatives gather at a  funeral, and confusion ensues. Even the eulogy could be for someone else. Poor Auntie Sheila!

C Connoly takes a very different turn.  This time, there are  psychic elements, a hurried getaway in the heat and sun. There are suggestions of something dark and mysterious. What happened to Tess and Dan?
Who are Helen and Maddie?  And what about  the missing? This story is haunting, and lingers.

Cathy Lennon offers us a  tale of bad love, tragic loss, and moving on. “She walked until the streets finished, then the footpaths.”  The scene where she buries the box on the hill. She has a different life, now,
yet the past returns. Too late? This is powerful stuff.

Bart’s story suggests the precariousness of appearances,  and how quickly things can change.  I will admit I thought at first Toby was  a person, but the family’s reaction to the dog falling off the cliff is just as shocking–
and well-told.  In time, there is  a new dog, and the girl heads for the cliffs again.  Suddenly, everything changes.  Was  it an accident the first time? Will the story repeat itself?

zevonesque depicts a bleak world with little hope, or possibility. But offering the flowers is a gesture of beauty, not despair. Amid the harshness, this is a story of how fragile and precious all life is–and how persistent.
Head west, and go on.

Beth tells a story of secrets, and  years of things unsaid. This is a vivid moment of clarity, and one is left with a feeling of hope for the future. Moving and powerful.

Image Ronin’s  tale is vividly surreal. This is an astonishing science-fiction story of an experiment gone horribly wrong. The language is as lush as the vegetation, words twining like the vengeful vines of Byrony.

CaseyRose Frank has quite a surprising twist, and what a name for a cat–Prunella Fluffens.  I found this story quite delightful, refreshing  and weird.

Every one of these stories is wonderful, and I’m really impressed by them all.  So much talent here. Thank you, writers!  Do I need to tell you it’s more fun to read or write  stories than it is to judge them? All could stand on their own, without the photo prompt.  But with the photo? You have given me quite a challenge!  Here are my choices—

Honorable mention–Cathy Lennon–for a stark and powerful story. Beautifully written.
Honorable mention–CaseyRoseFrank–for a perverse tale, dark as chocolate in the sun.  And she made the flowers look so cheerfully macabre.

3rd place– Karl A. Russell–for magical realism and careful details.  I can see the hill, covered with a profusion of  colorful blooms.  Poetic writing, but not too flowery, this is a marvelous story.

2nd place–C. Connolly–for gritty detail, suggestions of supernatural, and haunting mystery. I keep seeing Maddie’s  final vision of the crosses on the hill. In spite of the heat, the feeling is chilling.

Your Round 25 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Stella

with The Final Resting Place

Stella wins for saying so much in so few words.  This story is less than 300 words! The narrator’s perspective, the vivid detail and family dynamic is just perfect.  The power of things unsaid. In a way, this is a classic take on the photo–the marker on a hill–a life, a funeral, the awful relatives,  etc.  but there is so much more!  The flowers are even more poignant. This hill on the moor is not Auntie Sheila’s  final resting place–or is this where her true spirit lingers?

 

Congratulations, Stella! Your story will be featured this Wednesday as the HumpDay Quickie!

Thanks again, everyone. Next weekend, Flash Master extraordinaire Karl A Russel is back again to judge your stories. If you can’t wait till Saturday, check out the brand new FLASH MASTERS challenge hosted by Grey Matter Press, and don’t forget the Friday Flash Challenge, Flash! Friday. 😀

Hope to see you all Saturday.