Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Chenier’

Happy Tuesday, it’s time for winners. Speaking of winners, I’d briefly like to announce (for those of you who are interested and have not already heard) that last week I received an email from the American Board of Pathology informing me that I have passed both of my board exams and am now a board certified pathologist! I appreciate all the kind words and understanding from the flash community earlier this year when The Angry Hourglass was on hiatus while I was studying for the aforementioned exams.

Enough about me. Catherine Connolly was our judge this weekend and she has many words about YOU. Here they are!

It was a pretty difficult task judging Angry Hourglass last time for me and second time around you guys have made it even harder, if that’s possible!  This week’s photo prompt provided a wealth of stories with themes including (but certainly not limited to!) ageing and death and emotions ranging right from tongue in cheek to horror and geographical realms, including those reaching skyward..

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to write for me and making me mull over my decisions so carefully.  Genuinely, any one of the stories could have placed without difficulty this week, which is no mean feat!

With that in mind, I’ve commented on all stories:-

“Circles” is beautifully written, utilising plain, spare prose in its tale of the unnamed narrator who climbs towards his “splendid” windmill daily at 6 am on the dot.  There is a wealth of detail within just 181 words and we gain a clear impression of the man’s longstanding love and affection for “her”. The personification of the windmill, with her “latticed blades” and “giant vanes” is a wonderful way of emphasising the close relationship between man and landmark, to the extent that they become coupled together within the prose through linguistic choices.  Language is key to this piece – from the mirror image of the shoes polished to a “reflection” and bow tie “symmetry”, to the circular passage of time and similar circles of the windmill’s blades.  Wonderful work.

The tone for “Charging at Windmills” is seemingly set from the first paragraph, with Gerald striding forth, umbrella bearing, courtesy of Shank’s Pony.  I loved the references to knights errant, as our protagonist apparently goes forth to slay his particular and personal “giant”.  I found myself feeling for Gerald, as he comes into close quarters with his Dulcinea and all becomes clear to be reader and character alike.  Particularly once Betty takes relatively quick consolation in the opportunity to waddle off with Bert to the afternoon Bingo, despite her apparent feelings beforehand!

The relationships in “Top Room of the Windmill House” are wonderfully observed – showing not telling us about our characters.  The feeling Nora has for the as yet unnamed inhabitant of the top room of the windmill house in the title is in her fretting at the curtain as the storm approaches and gussying up of the silo room – contrasting with Vincent’s emphatic confirmation he is not Jasper’s father later in the piece.  His uneasy relationship with their resident grey shadow is in the clenching of his jaw as he endures the chill of contact; a gesture to enable all of those dwelling within the windmill to enable their co-existence more easily.  Nicely done.

“A Miller’s Tale” is a lovely story of father and son, with son outstripping father once he has been taught to tune the sails until they sing (beautiful description!)  The suggestion that a step is being added to the climb each year is a wonderful way of emphasising the passage of time subtly – as is the reference to the father’s wet face; ostensibly due to the failings of his traitorous umbrella.  The image of father and son, wives buried below but remaining faithful and married to the wind (“always”), is a powerful one – particularly when tied in partnership with the endless turn of the sails.  A beautifully observed ending.

I loved the characterisation of Kees in “The Keeper” as a frequenter of Tasting Houses, about whom gossip concerning his name “swirled” (very apt phrasing!) – particularly given the contrast with his stiff and broken knees as he faces the journey home post Jenever.  (Jenever is also well observed for this particular judge!) We feel empathy for Kees as he stumbles towards what we sense has been inevitable and fact that he has sought brief escape from it..  The final image of Kees alone, having trudged up the many steps to the windmill, contrasts with his preceding travels around the village – although even in the midst of apparent company, Kees is a man who has deliberately kept himself at arm’s length from those who do not understand him.  The breaking of the waves on the rocks accompanies the breaking of Kees’ heart as he bids his beloved farewell.  Well done.

There’s a wonderfully tongue in cheek tone to the start of “Philosophy 101”, given a number of serious pieces this week.  I couldn’t help laughing at the intro classes taught by a professor named Staff – plus Levi Strauss blue jeans!  I could clearly picture Dr. Farley too (who couldn’t?!) courtesy of the John Cleese tie in.  I think everyone’s been taught by a “character” teacher at some point too!  There’s a nice analogy in the reference to the narrator’s crush on Dr. Farley as a “first draft”, given the preceding one to dreams and illusions in connection with romance.  Clearly, there’s going to be a better endeavour in the narrator’s future!

“Departure Time” presents us with the “chance for new beginnings” in a world of wondrous technology (worldwide information nets – imagine!), set out by the smooth talking owner of a gunpowder beard with honeysuckle eyes (great descriptions!)  I really enjoyed the concept of the windmill as a method of transportation through the ages and fact that the narrator found it impossible to leave the somewhat peevish Felix behind.  Nice characterisation.

Lots of great sound references in “Things In Common”, which tie in with the way Ronan is haunted by the ghosts which clamour in his head like non-musical ear worms, “chattering” to make themselves heard.  Added to that, Ronan’s afflicted by the drone of mankind for all his meditation and chanting – small wonder he’s attracted by a self-confessed witch who might have some spells and tricks of her own!  I can just picture the two of them flying over the rooftops if Ronan’s date can manage to drown out his voices with the sound of her own!  Great ending.

“The House That Derek Built” starts with a “Field of Dreams” style vibe, as Derek builds a windmill after losing his son and to deal with his grief.  The reference to loss is cleverly done, given we read the reference to disappearance as death, for the story’s purposes.  However, things take a different turn (pun intended – blame judging pressures for the lack of originality!) as Derek takes to the skies in search of his missing son by the conclusion of the piece.  I have to hope with such dedication Derek proves successful in his mission and brings him home to the no doubt taken aback Melissa..  Nice story.

We get a clear picture of waitressing from the repetition of “service” in the opening paragraph of “Coffee and Headlines”, right down to the “service with a smile”.  Nicely observed!  The dialogue flows easily back and forth between Jack and Rebecca and a more ominous tone creeps in as they discuss the apparent Act of God lightning strike to the windmill.  I really enjoyed the reference to leaving for “unforeseen circumstances”, as I could tell where the story was going by that point in time but enjoyed it all the more for being privy to Jack’s secret whilst Rebecca remained oblivious.  Great story with very few words.

A really great horror story in “This Is Really Him”, which starts off all cafes and cake and admiration for Danny’s assets, before becoming something a whole lot more sinister.  I liked the way the story made the journey from light through to dark, along with the character’s climb up the steps.  Our narrator should have stuck to her guns and gone with the coffee, as opposed to walking up to the windmill – although I do admit a slight bias where coffee is concerned…  The final paragraph ups the ante courtesy of the howling rotten teeth and clutching bony fingers.  Ultimately, we as reader, too, are trapped with the narrator in the final words, having nowhere to escape as she(?) confronts a nightmarish possibility.

“The Forecast Calls For Rain” – brilliant title to fit with the story!  Nice twist on the concept of the Ark, with Donovan voting to save solely himself, despite the impending floods.  I loved the tongue in cheek musical references for the reader’s benefit, foreshadowing where the story was going.  Plus, something this particular Poised Pen member is hardened to due to previous fictional occurrences – cats in peril!  (Poor ballast!)  Additionally, I’m presuming Cheryl, may well meet an untimely end too (albeit “off screen”!) for storytelling purposes!  Great story and nice ending.

There’s a wonderful world in “Protected” that I’d love to explore further, with its guardian protector who raises questions concerning both need and the reasons he scares those he is apparently watching the horizon (and any apparent threats) on behalf of.  Where does the other one come from and where do these structures originate from?  How long have they stood guard over the inhabitants?  Moreover, I want to know which one won!  This has the makings of a longer and highly original off-kilter piece.  Tell it to me, please!

Great world building in “Vocation” within only 204 words.  I liked the fact that this story provided a completely different slant on the photo prompt and the use of nude statues as a means of justifying a new form of living statue.  Plus – great catchphrase in “If you move, it’s rude!”, with the sinister tone,  courtesy of the watchful eye, to ensure none of the “statues” move a muscle.  Great irony in the final paragraph and a real sense of our narrator there too.  Nicely done.

Getting to the hard part and because there must be winners for the week, I kept the winners list short this week – simply because it took long enough to try and pick any!  (Once again, great job all).

Runner Up – “Top Room of the Windmill House” by Nancy Chenier for its nuanced portrayal of relationships and the concessions made for them in the interests of love.

Runner Up – “The Forecast Calls For Rain” by A.J. Walker for fitting a well depicted story into 360 words and for incorporating musical references as a means of foreshadowing.

And our Round 72 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Marie McKay

with

“Circles”

-for incorporating language so effectively within such a small word limit and creating an affecting portrayal of the central relationship which made me re-read more than once to experience the tale again. Well done!

Congratulations, Marie! Your story will be featured as Wednesday’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 our judge will the lovely and talented Ms. Foy Iver. Hope to see you all there.

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. 😀

 

Hello, and happy Tuesday. It’s time again to announce winners, but before I do that, I’d like to say thanks to Grace Black for stepping into the role of judge this past weekend and undertaking the challenging task of choosing those winners. So, thank you, Grace. And now, her comments and final judgement:

Wow, so many sinister tales this week! Lots of juicy reading. I was thrilled to have had opportunity to read each entry and judge your carefully crafted words.

Robert:
Nothing like a childhood adventure to bring siblings closer together. Robert the stuffed donkey ruling with his iron (plush) hoof is hilarious and creepy all in one! Well done.

Snow Blindness:
The framework chosen almost sets this up as if the conversation with the cop could have been entirely imagined and the short delivery added to the level of psychopathic innuendo.

I Will Wait:
So much to like here. “I will climb into the river, lay my body within the mud, feel the currents of the water and time as it passes. You will all destroy each other and the earth will begin anew.” The flow of this piece is consistent throughout and builds upon each layer until the culmination at the end.

WHERE’D HE GO?:
Nice pacing throughout and the dialogue added to this piece, nicely. Great occult/fantasy flash.

Our Final Dance:
“Her hair is pitch plastered to her skull.” I just love this line! Rich descriptions, concise detail.

The Perfect Job:
Haha! I laughed out loud reading this entry. This had the same flavor as Gone Girl (great read).
“He looked quite peaceful for someone that has experienced major trauma, death. I smoothed his hair back into the fashionable style he liked to wear.” You delivered the disturbing in a delightful manner.

Idiots:
The dialogue really led this journey and it was effective in conveying the true Idiots in the story. Nicely done.

Untitled “What are you doing?”:  And here we have the delusional stalker revealed through dialogue. Glad to know she was calling the cops.

Chilled Memories:
Lovely story and concept. “A dipper landed on one of the stones commencing its twitchy dance before flitting away not braving the icy water.” Beautiful detailing to set the scene.

The Path:
I like how the main character works through her resentment with her ex via the dog, and in the end I think she even realizes that the animal is actually a comfort during this time.

Dead Water:
“And, at a certain angle, in the last dying rays of the setting sun, the water runs red as blood.” Great line! Another sinister tale woven with care and detail. Lovely!

Under Ice:
The entire first paragraph draws the reader in deliciously. You’ve done a lovely job at capturing the emotion and doling it out to the reader in even increments. This is a chilling piece of flash expertly delivered.

You did not make this decision easy to choose, but here is what I finally decided:

2nd Runner up: Catherine Connolly with Our final Dance – Creative take on the picture with imagery that clung to me. Well done!

1st Runner up: Nancy Chenier with Under Ice – This story was a lovely stand alone flash, but I could read a loner version of this as well. Loved the concept!

Our week 47 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

StellakateT

with The Perfect Job

This one just wouldn’t leave my brain. I truly enjoyed the narcissistic sociopath. Congrats!

Thanks again for this opportunity!

Congratulations, Stella! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Thanks again, Grace, for volunteering your time and providing feedback for this week’s stories. Next week, Jaime Burchardt will be judging the last round of Flash Frenzy for 2014! There is only one spot left for the second Flash Face-Off, so be prepared. 🙂

Corralled
by Nancy Chenier

Grandfather and Mama mouthed the words that coaxed the thorny bushes into an impenetrable fortress of vegetation. The sun’s rays, moon-shorn by a partial eclipse, failed to warm the lea. Gooseflesh crawled over Max’s skin.

Max knew that the brambles weren’t what held the Thing back. It was the spells. The brambles were supposed to keep outsiders from going in, from poking around and awakening something best left sleeping.

He let his gaze slide to his sister. Megan’s eyes were bright, her lips moved over the incantation. When she noticed Max watching, she slammed her lips shut. Her warning stare stabbed into his gut. A warning that reminded him of the late winter day in the attic, a place he hadn’t dared enter since. He shuddered.

Grandfather tried to buck him up with a smile that never managed to reach the sad wrinkles around his eyes. His smile had been like that ever since the Thing got Grandmother. Max’s memories of Grandmother consisted of wide warm lap and a hug just a little too tight.

Mama gathered him close. “Someday, I’ll teach you two the words to keep it contained,” she told him, her breezy tone belied by the concern creasing her brow. Megan’s glare found its way through Mama’s embrace and stitched his throat shut. His mother’s arms might as well have been coils of razor vine.

What the adults didn’t understand was that impenetrable brambles become invitations for summer-bored children, whose traded dares intensified as the days wear long. Megan never refused a dare.

With the truth sewn shut in his throat, he couldn’t warn them that it was probably too late. He’d needed that knowledge last winter.

The nest of baby squirrels his sister had secreted into the attic, their little mewlings and blind fumblings. The tiny heads squished between her thumb and forefinger. The way her eyes rolled back and her voice shifted between her own and two others. One that had a growling laugh too much like Dad’s. One that had a coo too much like Grandma’s.

No amount of adult assurances could erase the fear that Grandfather and Mama were now outnumbered.

Hello again, friends. I’d like to thank to Shakes for volunteering his time to judge stories this week and wish many heartfelt thanks to all of you for sharing your talents once again. Here are the judge’s comments.

Glad to be back judging round 46. Our esteemed host chose one of the more personal photos I’ve posted – my kids, dad and wife all the subjects.

You’re probably wondering what it was they were staring at? Nothing as exciting as the things your imaginations conjured up. The bridge over the drainage ditch had collapse, cutting the walk short for us but allowing the dogs to deftly leap the gap. Interestingly, several of your stories feature dogs.

Voima’s ‘The Field’ merged human emotions with science fiction. The deceptively simple narration from the child’s perspective making the final lines all the more poignant.

Avelina gave us ‘The Leader’, a tale of growing up in a post zombie apocalypse world and the fun kids can have with the walking (running) dead. Jenny was fast discovering that the burden of leadership is a heavy one.

Nancy wrote ‘Corralled’, a fabulously creepy tale that built up to a chilling and well planned end.

With ‘Tradition’, Casey managed to make me smile and choke up almost simultaneously. A beautiful tale.

Stella threw a curveball with ‘The Making of Me’. She said on Twitter I’d not spot hers and she was right. She characterises the children well and the last line is all the more disconcerting as a result.

There’s more than meets the eye in Brett’s ‘Field of Demons’ (great title) and it stands up to several readings but try to keep your scream monster in.

Catherine’s ‘Statues’ captures the reader and locks them in until, en masse, the statues turn. Then it’s too late to unsee… Lovely, subtle horror done beautifully.

AJ presented ‘Walking on a Grey Sunday’ and a fab opening line. The story that unfolded was clever and original. That dog clearly loved chasing cats!

Rebekah painted ‘Picture Perfect’, showing us that the fantasy realms have stolen a born horror writer from our ranks.

Carlos sold us on ‘Timeshares’, proving that there’s always a better predator around the corner.

2nd runner up is Casey with ‘Tradition’ because even magicians have to die, but how spectacular and celebratory a transition was it? Awesome.

1st runner up is Rebekah with ‘Picture Perfect’ because subtle horror can be the most unsettling and even her word count hints at the fact Rebekah shocked herself!

and our Round 46 Flash Master is…

FLASH MASTER

Nancy Chenier

with ‘Corralled’

This story left me unsettled but returning to it several times. Great phrases, such as ‘with the truth sewn shut in his throat.’ add to the growing disquiet until we get to the squirrel squishing and the full extent of the horror is unleashed.

Congratulations, Nancy! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay quickie. Many thanks to Shakes for both the photo and the comments. This weekend Grace Black will be stepping up to judge. Hope to see you all 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!

We’re back! Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 44. Judging this weekend is Nancy Chenier.

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

Good afternoon, flashdogs. Thanks to everyone who indulged me in my special weekend challenge. I enjoyed reading your stories; they were a welcome break from a busy and stressful couple of days. I don’t have a whole lot to say other than, as usual, the quality and variety of tales crafted from a single prompt is both impressive and inspiring. I’ve been struggling with my own writing projects recently, and seeing what you all are able to do week after week in mere hours inspires me to strive harder. You guys rock.

Now, on to our winners.

Everything I read from this week was well conceived, but two stories among them stood out to me. For that reason I’ve chosen a only single runner up in addition to our Flash Master.

Runner Up: Nancy Chenier with Gentlefolk. Folks, there was nothing gentle about this story. It is filled with loss and grief and no small measure of guilt. It wrenches your love from your very arms and leaves you wishing your heart was as stony as the Gentlefolk themselves. There is so much to this story left untold, but the devastation it conveys is complete. I can’t help but wonder what our flute-playing narrator intends to do when the water finally recedes.

 

And our Round 42 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Karl A. Russell 

with

Child Of Stone

Nancy wrote a beautifully chilling tale, but Karl just happened to hit upon a current weak-spot of mine. Of course, the language and lovely final image, despite the early-on horror, are reason enough to elevate Karl and his story to Flash Master status, but the fact that I’m currently writing a handful of Lovecraftian tales endeared this story to me on another level. Much like Molly and the sleeping stones, I felt a special kind of kinship with this tale as I was reading it. It is one thing to read and appreciate a story as a reader, but it is something else to feel like you’re sharing part of that world as a writer as well. For that, I thank you, Karl.

Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. I have fallen behind on my judge recruiting, so watch your Twitter DM inboxes (especially October’s Flash Masters) for an invitation to judge this month. Have a wonderful week, and I hope to see you all again on Saturday.

Cheers!

Carving out a Space

by Nancy Chenier

Arms laden with runty pumpkins, Tannon clambers up the porch steps.

“Harvest!” he announces and I try not to wince. Born here on Copiae, he’s never known a real harvest.

Beyond him, the waning glow from the primary oozes maple syrup light over griddlecake hills. A bloated moon that sees us through the ridiculously long nights on Copiae—only we’re the satellite in its orbital coil.

I corral the fist-sized gourds in the center of the table. I long for one that would yield a whole pie. “Nothing bigger,” I muse aloud.

Tannon’s brow furrows like I asked for a slice of the sky.

“These are lovely,” I say polishing one with the hem of my tunic. What a pathetic jack-o-lantern this would make.

He’s not fooled. “I’m gonna go with Amber to get some more.”

I roll the pumpkin in my palms and watch the glow strips on his coat skip along the furrows. Without a proper summer, the gourds never swell to a satisfying plumpness.

I’m not the only parent who has abandoned the holidays of Earth. With no frost to glaze Yuletide windows, no awakening crocuses to welcome Ostara, no sun-dewed grasses to tickle the feet of Litha dancers, seasonal celebrations don’t stir the soul.

I teeter with the rest of my generation on the threshold between the memories of Earth and the hopes for this place. Stuck like Copiae itself, in its eternal autumn. It’s not fair to Tannon. Human bodies evolved with the rhythms of a tilting planet.

Samhain isn’t the only fall festival, I tell myself. It’s been a decade since I’ve made one, but I set to carving anyway until five puny jack-o-lanterns glower back at me. They’re supposed to keep spirits away, but I’m still haunted by the dead.

Tannon returns as I start on a sixth.

“What did you do to them?” he asks, wary.

“It’s an earth custom. For harvest.”

His tentative smile bolsters my resolve. Maybe we’ll make tarts later.

“Can you get the candles?”

He sprints for the pantry.

I line up the pumpkins. Behind the hollow grins, I know there’s room enough for the spirit of thanksgiving.

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!