Posts Tagged ‘Marie McKay’

Happy Tuesday! Thanks to everyone who wrote and commented on stories this past weekend. Thanks also to Marie McKay for volunteering her time and judging. You’ll find her comments and to picks below.

Thanks, Rebecca, for allowing me to judge this week. I always feel unworthy of the task especially when the stories are all so fantastic. We had mystery, tragedy, humour, murder and the supernatural:

Three Mile Stretch

The narrator finds the story of ‘Old Man Redpath’ eerie but treats it with a good dose of scepticism. The real story lies in what the old man’s family are trying to hide in creating the ghost story in the first place. Intriguing, I really want to know what truth is buried beneath this ‘stench’ of lies.
I love the line: ‘Now it is fear that follows the course of the lake.’

The Hipsters and Mister Takada

This story outlines beautifully the details of how Mister Takada’s interest in photography has developed:
‘The youthful past-time became a teenage hobby that progressed into an adult profession…’
Mister Takada seems to have fallen prey to a scam. We’re not sure if ‘the hipsters’ are moved by conscience or by Mister Takada’s brilliance, but things are squared by the end

Five Friends At The Lake

This is a tragic tale that tapped into one of my worst fears. The reader is introduced to what seems like an idyllic setting. But as the first part ends, we are made aware of a tragic event, this event dominates the second part.
I like how this writer works with structure. This sentence makes ‘the deep pool’ a character in itself:
‘I made sure to catch the reflection of the deep pool against the rocks.’

Distant Memories Now Freshly Awaken

This is a sinister story. The repetition of questions gives this story pace. The reader is not made fully aware of who the voice in the story belongs to, at first, but it is slowly revealed. I love how this one unfolds and the details that help provide great characterisation:
‘When Anna-Marie cut her hand in craft class. You were first there to help- tasting the coppery blood whilst others fussed with bandages.’
In the end, there is no reward for Satan’s work.

“At the Bank of Gallow’s River”

The ending of this story has stayed with me. We don’t know if the mobster is sparing the lives of the characters, or if he is just toying with them before they are executed, but the line:
‘”So this is what fear looks like,” he said, and he gazed out over the river, his head tilted to one side.’
is incredibly menacing.

Summer Afternoon

This is a beautiful piece of science fiction. We are given snippets of information about Earth, and we can perhaps assume that something has gone wrong there:
‘“A place like this would be protected by razor wire, guards.”’
On their journey to Earth 2, Riley, the main character simulates Iowa. The photograph that is taken of the characters is of their simulated experience, making this line very poignant:
‘Life becomes a dream of life, a summer afternoon with friends, just the way he remembers.’

Macbeth In The Park

The dialogue in this story is blended with Shakespeare’s text to great humorous effect. I love the idea of the river being the cauldron. But my favourite part of its being the cauldron is the dialogue:
‘”You can get the worst diarrhoea from it.”
“Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”’

Memories of generations

This story is reflective and beautiful. This is the last photograph the narrator will take as he/she appears to be nearing the end of their life. Looking on at his/her grandchildren, the narrator says of youth:
‘I remember having boundless energy which I wasted doing everything and nothing.’
And life brings us full circle:
‘I made all the mistakes that my son is currently making and my grandchildren will make in the future.’

Should Have Used the Flash

The title gives us some idea of what the conclusion is going to be, but it is the events leading up to that conclusion that are very entertaining. The three characters are truanting from work; yet, I can’t help but like them: the writer’s characterisation and depiction of their relationship make it hard not to. Therefore, when the photograph doesn’t turn out, it is rather a happy ending.

The 60-Watt Pulse and the Garden Wall

This story is brimming with stunning imagery:
‘The moment was caught and placed in a tiny zoo where is was kept and fed with just the proper amount of darkness and light…’
The extended metaphor of the embryonic nature of a photograph as it’s processed is used fabulously throughout the piece.
Also, the idea the main character is making a ‘noise’ by snatching a photograph off an unsuspecting photographer is wonderful.

Snap Harry

This story uses a clever play on words to create a terrifying plot. The narrator’s longing for a relationship with the girl in the story is made very clear, and once he employs the skills of Snap Harry, the results are horrific. The fate that befalls the narrator’s love rival will haunt me for a while! The final line is perfect:
‘The picture was of a young man, captured on a perfect summer’s day.’

Honourable Mention: Five Friends at the Lake by Alva Holland

Second runner up: Summer Afternoon by  Voima Oy

First runner up: The 60 Watt Pulse and the Garden Wall by Richard Edenfield

And our Round 128 FLASH MASTER is

FLASH MASTER

David Shakes

with

Distant Memories Now Freshly Awaken

Congratulations, Shakes! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! And with that, February is a wrap. Tune in next weekend when Ewan Smith is back for another round of judging. Hope to see you all there.

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Happy Saturday, and welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 128. Our judge this week is Marie McKay.

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.

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photo courtesy Aswhin Rao

Happy Tuesday, friends. As always, I appreciate everyone who submitted and commented on stories for sharing a few minutes of your weekend with me. Huge thanks to Ewan Smith for judging this week’s entries. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

Ten strong entries this week by AHers inspired by a great photo from Ashwin Rao. It’s amazing how, in just a few hundred words, such individual narrative voices can be created. Good job, everyone.

Tornadoes and Toilets
Great title; the uncomfortable sounding combination neatly presages Mrs Veldhoen’s predicament. It was a light-hearted story told with a real lightness of touch. Very nicely done. And the last sentence made me laugh loud…

The Day After
I love the build-up of tension and mystery in this story. The reader is drawn on, not really knowing what’s happening but eager to find out more. When the reveal at the end does come, it’s very satisfying. As for “I’m mesmerised by the movement of what looks like an onion ring dangling from its nose.” Well, we’ve all woken up to morning afters like that (or is it just me…)

Starting Over
There is such a sense of love in this story. Not only between the narrator and Jill but also through the memories described which sketch out a reservoir of family support and caring stretching back a lifetime and longer. This is a story of hope for the future – it comes in many different forms but we all need it.

Wombling Free
“Underground, overground, wombelling free…” Thanks to this story, I now can’t get that song out of my head. Hmm. Dreams shattered, hopes destroyed, memories sullied – this story is Dostoyevskian in its scope, Shakespearian in its language, Austenian in its depiction of social mores and a right load of Trollopes into the bargain. Ach, I can’t lie to you, author…actually, it was funny and bittersweet and much more truthful than it pretended not to be.

Into The Blue
There’s an appealing strangeness to this story. An established relationship shattered with violence. Emotions repressed; emotions unleashed. The narrator a betrayer and murderer who justifies her actions: “I will always need to remind myself of that- you snapped first.” From the very first sentence, there is a sense of inevitability about a tragedy that just has to be played out. I like that.

When Rot Sets In
It’s not easy to sketch out a cataclysmic worldwide event which took place over years, link it to a small-scale human incident which occurs over minutes and then wrap up the story with portents of imminent disaster all within 360 words. But the writer of this story manages that with effortless skill. I’m only just a bit concerned about my own feeling of pleasure at the end that the young things would have the chance to fulfil their destiny (and in the process destroy humanity…)

HONOURABLE MENTION
The Morning Begins with a Hammer by Frank Key
This is such a nicely judged story. The conversation between the realtor and the buyer is wholly convincing and down-to-Earth; then you remember that it’s actually taking place in Heaven. There are lots of lovely linguistic touches; I particularly liked “the zephyrs of a primeval prairie”. And while the description of Eve with her vigorous sailor’s handshake and a farmer’s friendly “howdy-do” might not be entirely Biblical, it is entirely wonderful. A great read.

HONOURABLE MENTION
Blue Light by @JamboStewart42
“with a pitched roof like a shark’s dorsal riding the hilltop wave on the horizon.” When I read something like that, I know that it’s time to settle back in my chair and enjoy. I liked (a lot) the ideas in this story, particularly the thought that “Perhaps we never lived at all. Perhaps our existence was just on loan…” This is a good piece of flash fiction, but I think it has potential to be developed into something much more substantial. Ace.

RUNNER UP
I Have a House by Steph Ellis
I love the idea of the house being a character in the story with “Its jewellery of locks and bolts”. Fine description. There is real skill in the way the author takes the reader’s hand and leads him/her past a succession of increasingly stark images. As each paragraph is peeled away, a new layer of foulness is revealed. This is a chilling story with depth to its horror. Lovely work.

And our Round 127 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Steve Lodge

with

Ghost Town Radio (Barnstorm)

 

The first paragraph made me laugh so much; it took me right back to The Intro & The Outro from my student days. The whole piece is glorious nonsense, spun out of nothing. Yet it firmly establishes characters and setting, tells a complete story and has a hoot of an ending – all in no time at all. There is lots of craft going on beneath the surface hooey. And the dialogue – snappier than Snappy McSnapsnap the crocodile. A delicious thing to read.

Congratulations, Steve! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Requests for March judges will be going out shortly, but in the meantime, Marie Mckay will be back this weekend to judge Round 128. Hope to see you all there.

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!

Welcome back! This weekend marks the official Flash Frenzy relaunch! Your judge this weekend is Marie McKay.

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.

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Photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

Happiness

by Marie McKay

He owned my mother’s happiness. He broke it up like breadcrumbs and fed it to her when it suited him.
Mum was an ever decreasing presence. First, her body shrank and then her soul.
He made everything shrink. His mates would come round, the pecking order clear to see. They’d make this one guy cry, said stuff about his sister. I think he didn’t have any words to fight back with. After, they’d have me make them thick sandwiches. And they’d show off to the big man who made them feel big and small all at the same time; profanity and food erupting from their mouths until he tired of them.
He made the world too real for a 7-year-old. Once I wet my trousers because I was too scared to walk past the chair he was sprawling on. I’d held off going to the toilet for hours.
He made my stomach feel like razor blades. He was bovver boots stamping on my guts. He was a pneumatic drill in my head.
One day, in the back room I found my mum’s box of happiness. He’d forgotten to lock it away. I gave it back to her expecting things to be the way they once were. She kissed me and that was the last time I saw her.
On the night she died, he watched a film. He laughed and laughed and laughed. I eventually fell asleep on the couch dreaming of nothing.

Hello again. As the first half of the year winds down, I’d like to say how much I appreciate everyone who has contributed to The Angry Hourglass. I truly couldn’t do it without the collective efforts of everyone involved. This week an extra special thanks goes out to David Shakes who has contributed as a writer, judge, and photographer. He’s been here since the beginning and once again performed admirably in his capacity as judge. You’ll find his comments on this week’s entries below.

Thank you for having me back once again to judge. It was a bloody weird weekend in the UK and our country is still reeling from the fallout. These stories, largely humorous, brought some light relief (in most cases) and the last one nailed the schizophrenia we’re currently experiencing.

Anyway, this site is for writing, not politics, so let’s crack on.

The quality of the titles was particularly noteworthy this round.

The Birthday Present

A great effort, full of humour and sharp observation – made me think ‘thank goodness for show don’t tell’! Builds to a satisfying pay-off and reveal. Great mechanics and a seasoned hand with the writing.

Best line:

For me,” squealed Ruth surfacing from the duvet like a whale erupting from the depths.

What a simile – what a fate!

The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular Show

Poor Mark is getting more damage to his privates than the guy in the Birthday Present – albeit self-inflicted. How many ways did this writer find to describe his increasingly painful wardrobe malfunction and the physical consequences? Hilarious.

Best line:

Mark winced, convinced his left ball was being scythed off and was probably hanging by a thread, he tried to juggle his precious pair by standing like a gunslinger and gyrating his hip.

 

A Magnificent Mugful of Minestrone ( or Super Soup-erlatives)

So, by now I’ve realised there’s been a conspiracy to write the funniest or most bizarre story between you all. A soup drinking robot who rebels against his programming to sample soups of the world in many a #flashdogs hometown? Come on!

Littered with alliterative soup-erlatives and humour and, like the first two, really well written.

Best line:

He was told  by a laughing Jamaican lady that it would put hairs on his chest. Perhaps he hadn’t drunk enough of it yet.

Happiness

Well, there’s an ironic title for you. Image after sad or disturbing image layer up until you marvel at the writer’s skill and are moved by the child’s plight. Did this writer not get the humour memo?

Best line:

Mum was an ever decreasing presence. First, her body shrank and then her soul.

When you realise what the happiness was, you see this line in its bleak, literal sense.

Excellent writing.

I’ll Do Anything for Love, I’ll Even Do This

Back to the humour again. Tight dialogue reveal two characters with a plan, and, despite some hints and reveals, it kept me guessing right up to the last minute. I didn’t have to Google Durian fruit having smelled the stuff once. I’m with the wife to be – that guy must really love her! Great title and nice twist ending.

Best line:

She better drink the damn thing as soon as she gets in else I’ll be charging her for a fumigation.

€uro-septic

Classic juxtaposition and inverted expectations? Bet I know who this is! (post-edit note – yep, quick check proves me right!) The whole, disgusting, overblown mess of the UK referendum captured in the tight writing, repetition and returns of the imagery. I loved the irony of Harmony’s name and the panning the writer gives social media (despite me being a massive user!)

Best line:

She’d tell you who drew it but you’d only judge

RUNNER UP:

The Birthday Present – by Steph Ellis

It took the obvious fetishistic elements of the story and twisted them into a story full of humour and subtle horror.

And our Round 113 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Marie McKay

with Happiness

Achingly sad and yet beautiful in its execution. Raw writing from somebody clearly skilled in the craft.

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

Next weekend, I shall be making the drive to my new home in a new state, so there will be a short hiatus followed by Flash Face Off 4. As always, thank you for being a part of The Angry Hourglass. See you all soon.