Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Lodge’

Hello, writers! What happens when your hostess is post-call? She forgets to schedule the winners and humpday quickie posts! Never fear – I have results and a story for your Wednesday enjoyment. As always, thank you to everyone who submitted stories this past weekend, and thanks also to Voima Oy for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

I’m happy to be here to judge Round 132 of Hourglass. Thank you Rebecca for having me as judge, and Ashwin Rao for providing this intriguing image. Thanks to everyone who wrote stories this week. The variety of stories here are all examples of excellent writing and the possibilities of the flash form. So much can be said in 360 words or less. Well done, everyone!

Here are my comments—

Now Sing–This story is set behind the curtain, in the moments backstage before a performance. There is a feeling of reluctance, then resolve. The details here are wonderfully observed, and the countdown is very effective. I especially enjoyed the ritual of the shoes before going onstage. The ending is perfect.

Santa Played the Sax–what a great title! The idea of a snowman costume made of industrial glue and white rice is so funny and surreal. The dialogue is superb–“Just hope this sh..pardon me boys, this stuff comes off cos did I mention I’ve got a job interview tomorrow?” Great characters and a story that begs for more stories.

JoySmile–I think this story makes very good use of the black-and-white photo. This is a story of a dazzling smile and a lifetime in show biz, from the early TV days of Ed Sullivan to an appearance on The Ellen Show.
I really liked this line, too–“Unless, of course, the unexpected happened which, of course, it did.”

Kawaii–The setting is Japan, Eiga Mura, movie town in Kyoto. This is a place of appearances–geishas and ninjas and Hello Kitty. The narrator is a traveller, an outsider, a stranger. The word “Kawaii” is the common connection. People seem friendly, but the experience is elusive, the meaning just out of reach.

Dad had a Fan in His Office–Here the setting is a movie theatre, years ago. It is as if the curtain is pulled aside to reveal the horrible events. The details here are so vivid–the velvet seats, the sound of the gunshot, the red everywhere. That ending–wow!

The Stain of Laughter–Here is a story with a history–There are the two adopted Vietnamese brothers. There is Grandfather, and his memories of the Burma war. The “Incident” seems to be an ominous foreshadowing, but the game of hide-and-seek behind the curtains turns out to be quite funny. The “yellow peril” ending is wonderful!

As Close as it Gets–The narrative voice carries this story of distance and photographs. The writing here is beautiful–“Why didn’t you ever say? Why didn’t you show your face?” Holding the photos is the closest they will came to touching. This realization is all that’s left, now. A sad and beautiful story.

These are all excellent examples of the flash form–possibilities as varied as the writer’s imagination. Thank you all for your stories. Here are my choices–

Special Mention–

Now Sing by Margaret Lonsdale–marvelous details

JoySmile  by Frank Key –Surprise ending? Yes!

Honorable Mention–

As Close as it Gets by Sian Brighal — Strong narrative voice, beautiful writing

Santa Played the Sax by Stephen Lodge — Great characters, and an open-ended story

2nd Runner Up

The Stain of Laughter by Geoff LePard –Vivid characters, a story within a story, and a very funny ending.

1st Runner Up

Dad had a Fan in his office by C.R. Smith –The details, the horror, the ending, wow!

And our Round 132 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Angelique Pacheco

with Kawaii

–worlds within worlds, mysterious and elusive, this story lingers.

Congratulations, Angelique! Your story will be featured as the HumpDay Quickie! This weekend, April Foolery will be judged by David Shakes. Hope to see you all there.

Happy Tuesday, writers! Thanks much to everyone who submitted and commented on stories this pas weekend. Thanks also to Sal Page for commenting and making the tough choices. You’ll find her top picks below.

A man holding a microphone, with a raised arm. Who is he? What’s he doing? Well, you came up with a wide variety of different interpretations. Amongst other things, he was a singer, a motivational speaker, a footballer collecting an award, a volunteer for a space mission, a grieving father and there were, coincidentally, a pair of onstage renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ earning each the coveted Ham Sandwich Award. Congratulations!
Good work all round and so hard deciding which to place, which is why I ended up with three HMs. Don’t make me do this again …

Glory Song
A lovely celebration of the reasons for and the power of music, through the character of the singer. I like the varied sentence lengths, the line ‘The rhythmic stamping of feet rises to a crescendo and only the earth beneath his feet hears’ and the idea of ‘inviting the world in.’ This flash itself, all in one paragraph, also rises to a crescendo, reiterating that this man always sings.

We Believed
The narrator goes to see a motivational speaker and is convinced by him. ‘I heard the tiredness in my own voice’ is the moment of them coming down from the euphoria of the event, the realisation that there was nothing specific being spoken about. It was about being caught up in the moment. There are hints that all is not as it seems; he’s ‘dangerous’, a ‘master salesman’, ‘Dad says he’s a fraud.’ And now the moment’s gone, maybe, as the pleasing ending indicates, eating cake with friends is just as good.

Alexander Thompson Jr.
This whole story enfolds in an impassioned speech by the father of a drunk driver victim. ‘I will never feel his small hand in mind as we head to the ball game’ he tells his audience, going on to eloquently stress what this boy with the same name as him has missed out on by being killed and to persuade those listening to join him in his campaign in his son’s name.

One Day the Muse Spoke to Him
Bus driver Jeron’s muse is an old lady who is a bit like his grandmother. She knows things about him. His poetry, for one. I love her persuasive speech about the Open Mic, especially the line ‘You with your poems about pigeons and skinny kids’ which really made me smile. As did the ending when his muse is in the audience as he performs. Hope I meet her on a bus one day.

Things Can Only Get Better
George is infatuated with singer Reggie, born out in sentences like ‘He ached for the next time while dreading its arrival.’ He’s supported in his infatuation by his sweet sister Pelly, who organises a concert trip for his birthday where he goes up on stage and, never mind things can only get better, it’s more like dreams can come true. Though we don’t yet know why Reggie is inviting him to his dressing room and can only speculate.

Honourable Mention
The First by Mark A. King
A veteran footballer – the first black player – rebels against the problems of racism and homophobia in the sport by rejecting his lifetime achievement award. When he remembers racial abuse he says it didn’t ‘throw him off his game’ as fans of the opposing team might hope for, but ‘he used it like Popeye used spinach.’ Wonderful! And, as he has ‘grabbed the microphone’, it leaves the reader speculating on what he is about to say.

Honourable Mention
Can’t Hear Ourselves Think by Sian Brighal
Set decades into the future and narrated by the owner of a rare photo of a black person. We aren’t fully told what has happened but can surmise, from such lines as the shocking ‘Eighteen months in a detention centre at the age of twelve for the crime of searching GlobalNet for ‘black person’ and the reference to ‘cleansing repentant fires.’ The words on the back of the photograph ‘Did you hope we’d lose our voice?’ reminds me of the belief of slave traders that those people whose descendants went on to form the African diaspora would just forget their culture. Then, a hopeful ending, an implication of online communications and the realisation that the narrator is black in ‘we’re louder than ever.’ Of course …

Honourable Mention
Strange Band by Steve Lodge
These memories of a local band made me laugh, beginning with the absurd but still kind of believable lyrics to Cold Hands. Once heard never forgotten I’m sure. This piece contains some lovely phrases; the pleasing and economical description ‘dreadlocked and jetlagged’, the sentiment behind ‘It may have been a rat hole but it was our rat hole’ and the repetition of ‘gutted’ using the two slightly different meanings. And then, despite the humour throughout (I missed ‘Lost Vegas’ during the first reading!), a sad, end-of-a-era ending.

2nd Runner Up
Bernard’s Brilliant Ideas by Ewan Smith
This one made me laugh. It felt like an episode of a dodgy but fun sitcom. And I LOVE sitcoms of many different types. It gave me that feeling you get from sitcoms of wanting to stop these daft characters from their silly ideas. Cringing & laughing at the same time (Why don’t they just let themselves be inspected? Because it wouldn’t be funny, that’s why.) Full of good dialogue, ridiculous but fun. Feels like a very complete story as the three suggested ideas give way to the punchline, what Bernard actually did. Kidnapping the entire inspection team? Who says Bernard’s ideas aren’t brilliant?

1st Runner Up
The Stranger’s Voice by Frank Key
Our guy is making a speech about how he’s been accepted after arriving as a stranger. But its cut short. This flash surprised me. Twice. Surprise One: the crowd sing happy birthday. He realises ‘as much as he liked listening to the sound of his own voice, the unified sound from other, he like more.’ It’s a lovely moment, utterly spoiled by Surprise Two: the shock of the authorities coming to take away this man who’s become a part of his community and isn’t a stranger.

And our Round 131 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Steph Ellis

with
Penance

This needed a couple of readings for me to totally ‘get’ but when I did … what a whole lot of story it is. As much as I like funny, I like proper tragic too, as this certainly is. I like the way it makes excellent use of the raised hand in the prompt picture. And then there’s the countdown to blast off, as we gradually find out through his reliving what happened as the numbers count down, why he’s so keen to volunteer for a space mission, ‘a one way journey into the unknown’, he knows he will not survive. Penance indeed.

Congratulations, Steph! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay quickie. Thanks again to Sal for judging. Next weekend Voima Oy returns to judge round 132. Hope to see you there.

Ghost Town Radio (Barnstorm)
by Steve Lodge

“Great stuff there. That was our three-in-a-row slot for the morning, listeners. First was The Silent Band, with Denis ‘Mule’ Edgar, trumpet, his brother Slut on sax, Aiden Goodwillie on drums and Rancid Weekes on piano with a number entitled ‘Silence Of The Harmonica.’ Then The Single Finger Tribe with ‘Chase The Pace’ and lastly for this hour it was Newly Hughes And The Loos with their big hit ‘One Man’s Plate.’ I’m Don Makemee and now it’s Weather Watch and I’m told it’s the Pitts. Our one and only, Judy Pitts. What have you got for the good people of the Peninsula region this hour, Judy?”

“It’s raining, Don,” replied Judy.

“These weather reports just get more and more technical. Now, listeners, got some news about our old friend, Limey Bennett. He’s reading some poems from his new anthology ‘Lime’s Disease’ tonight at a Poetry Slam at Carsons. Also there tonight will be Wolfgang Laemmle, the German film Director. And there’s an open mic spot too.”

“Anyway, if it sounds windy here it’s because I’m now standing outside the radio station with the delicious Judy Pitts. We’ve worked together here for six years, Judy. Don’t you just love the place?”

“Don,” she said. “It’s falling down. It has no redeeming features at all. It’s cold, damp, in the middle of nowhere, no road for 20 miles. In fact, listeners, as we speak, another piece of timber has fallen from the roof. It should be condemned. Don, I’m serious.”

“No, listeners, I’m the one who’s serious. Judy, darling, we’ve been together through thick and thin here at Ghost Town Radio. Now, as I look around, I see the first bunches of spring steens on the trees, with almond colouration and pink pigment. Nature is open to possibilities, are you, my love? I have planning permission to pull this place down and build a proper radio shack and living quarters. Oh, Judy, my love, it’s so exciting. Take this ride, this new adventure with me. I bought this for you, darling. I hope it fits your finger.”

“It’s a doughnut, Don.”

“It has a hole in the middle.”

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, and Happy  Valentine’s Day. I wish I’d thought ahead and posted a more timely photo prompt. Despite this glaring oversite, you persisted! 😉  Many thanks to everyone who wrote stories last weekend, and thanks to Firdaus Parvez for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

This was my first time as a judge here and I cannot tell you what a pleasure and privilege it was, not to mention how difficult. It’s amazing how a picture prompt can be interpreted in so many ways. I loved all the stories and the poem at the end. Truly amazing.

The minute I laid eyes on the picture, I thought, what on earth is this man up to; it can’t be pole vaulting, he has a beam in his hands! The kilts gave away the fact that it had something to do with Scotland. Unfortunately, my knowledge about the nation stretched between kilts, bagpipes, the novel ‘Kidnapped’ by R L Stevenson and the 2008 Hollywood flick ‘Made of Honor’ (which I’m assuming had all the stereotypes and was highly exaggerated). So when the stories popped up I took a crash course on google about caber tossing. I’m an enlightened soul and I had so much fun.

The fun stopped when I had to choose the winner. There is very little between the ones I’ve chosen and the ones left out. It broke my heart. I wish I could give everyone a prize.

Honourable mention:

A Tipper, A Tosser by Frank Key

I love dialogues. This felt real and I could completely see it. The atmosphere, the night before the games, so palpable and exciting. The nervousness of the MC came through. The last lines tied the story to the picture perfectly. Well done!

Second Runner up:

Reverberations by Geoff Lepard

I laughed when I read this, then I felt like a sadist because people were dying. This is such a unique take on the prompt. A propulsion that could fly us to Mars in a week! Wow! No wonder the judge and the spectators vaporised. (I had this crazy thought then – with all the ‘gas’tronomical recipes we have back home, I’m surprised we don’t see Indians floating around in space. Just a thought.

First runner up:

Running Through The Fog by Steve Lodge

Okay, to be honest I did think the names to be true but they did sound ridiculous. Then I realised what a fabulous name faker the writer is. I loved the story. I loved the funny games (I’m convinced they’re real except leopard waxing er… maybe). The whole plot was ridiculously convincing. I had a good laugh. 2075 will be an amusing year when they dig up the time capsule. Very entertaining.

And our Round 126 Flash Master is

FLASH MASTER

Ewan Smith

with

The Fierce Traditions Of Scotland

When I read this I felt myself leaning against the wheels of a horsebox listening to the conversation between Kristie and Homish. I could almost hear the tinny voice of the announcer in the distance. What the writer managed to do was that instead of telling me what was happening, I was shown the whole scene. I think I could hear the song ‘Flower of Scotland’ too (which I promptly went and listened to on YouTube. Lovely accent). The last line held such a strong message. However trivial the rest of the traditions may sound, the traditions of the fierce women were true. Scotland does have a history of some very strong women. I’m a little embarrassed I had to google Jenny Geddes, Flora McDonald and the Edinburgh Seven. I have no excuse for my ignorance. This has been an eye opener. Thank you for that and well done.

Congratulations, Ewan! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Be sure to stop by next weekend as Ewan Smith steps up from the podium to try his hand at judging. 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!

Happy Tuesday, friends! Thanks to all the writers who submitted this past weekend, and thank you Steph Ellis for volunteering your time to judge and comment. You’ll find those comments and top picks below.

Welcome back to all those who either read or contributed a story to this week’s Flash Frenzy. As it’s November, I am aware that a number of you have been hard at work on your NaNoWriMo novels with the FlashDogs in particular racking up the word counts at a great rate of knots.  To those of you who managed to ‘flash’ as well as ‘nano’, you have gone above and beyond. Somehow I crawled across the finish line this weekend but not completed the novel so I haven’t ‘nanoed’ in the truest sense of the word – but it was a kick up the backside to get on with something I’d been procrastinating over for most of the year! And for me that was my November target. I hope you all meet yours.

And now back to the stories …

Is This The End? – Great setting and atmosphere. The silence of the missing crowds – or the dead – contrasts with the eerie sound of creaking cabins, swinging doors and the wind blowing sagebrush down the street.  The sense of abandonment and desertion, of death with the flies buzzing above a cadaver is strong and perfectly drawn. And then that switch, from a place of catastrophe to the mundane traffic and weather report, disaster dismissed and life goes on; very well done. Plus this week’s award for best town name goes to Loose Stools.

The Big Wheel – Those summer days with life literally spread out below you. The wheel turns, they kiss, the wheel turns, she is pregnant and now with major decisions to face, they look out at those below whose worries are all ‘so distant and small’ compared to their own. Beautifully done.

Steel Flower – ‘My mind turns with pockets of sunrise memories.’ What a beautiful opening line. There is a strong sense of the character’s separateness from those around him/her, a feeling of displacement, not quite part of the world which is carrying on in its own sweet way.  He has almost lost his sense of self, become just an ‘idea’, ‘vague notion’. Lovely, almost ethereal piece.

Wheels Within Wheels – It is the tattoos that speak in this story. Each character has, or desires a tattoo which brings with it hope of change, of knowledge and understanding. Lives not fully realised – a job as a janitor, a spell in prison – all point to a dead-end but the idea of the wheel brings back a memory to Snake, of another man with another tattoo ‘Live free or die’. A reminder perhaps that his ‘problem with authority’ might cause him trouble yet.

Gone – As soon as you finish the first line you know what’s coming, an irritating child, a younger sibling, the one we’ve all had to care for at sometime when we’d rather have been elsewhere. And you just know something bad is going to happen.

Despite the clear hero worship of Cody by Emily, when she ‘beamed as though I had given her the world’, he ‘barely acknowledged her’. He wanted to be checking out video games, not babysitting his little sister. Obediently though, he follows his parents’ orders, after a fashion, until you get to one of those ‘it won’t hurt’ moments and the narrator sits his sister on the ferris wheel next to ‘an older lady so I knew she’d be okay’, and he goes to look at video games. In the end he is disappointed by what is on offer but when he returns she is gone. The consequences of his selfish action, although only minutes, becomes a never-ending moment of horrific realization and freezes the blood in his veins. Fluid story-telling at its best.

Full Moon Rising – Not what you’d expect on an innocent ride on the Ferris Wheel, a moment of fun becoming a living horror story. Graphic description of the werewolf, ‘drool hanging from his half-open mouth’ and strong sense of claustrophobia and tension with words like ‘clamped’, ‘muffled’, ‘suffocation’, ‘intensity’. She cannot escape him and in the end raises a family with him but then it is her turn to become the killer as she watches her children ‘at birth for signs and smothered the hairy ones and the one born with a tooth’. A mother’s lot is not a happy one.

 

Special Mention

Full Moon Rising by Stella Turner – for conjuring up a werewolf horror on a Ferris Wheel.

Honourable Mentions

The Big Wheel by AV Laidlaw – for the repetition mirroring the turning wheel and events unfolding at each turn.

Wheels Within Wheels by Voima Oy – for the way in which tattoos are used to provide the framework and the message in the story.

 

 

2nd Runner Up – Steel Flower by Richard Edenfield. A piece of writing that reminds me of a dandelion clock, ready to break apart and just float away.

1st Runner Up  – Is this the End? by Stephen Lodge For the way in which a horrific event is dismissed in order to report on the mundane.

And your Round 116 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

 Angelique Pacheco

with Gone

A tragic story that serves as a reminder to us all not to look away, even for just a few minutes.

Congratulations, Angelique! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Thank you again, Steph for judging this weekend’s stories. Next weekend we embrace the first official Christmas shopping weekend of the year. I wish everyone who ventures out a safe and kind shopping experience, and I hope you’ll still have the energy to pop by and write some flash for Judge David Shakes. See you then.

Hello again, and Happy Tuesday. Thanks to everybody who wrote stories for last week’s prompt and to AJ Walker for reading the stories and choosing his favorites. You’ll find AJ’s comments below. 

Thanks again for making the job easy for me. Er, well maybe not. Loved the prompt photo myself. It seemed to open up so many possibilities. Yet, the similarity in some of the stories was striking (even down to ham sandwiches turning up in more than one story – what’s that about?!). The photo seemed to provide a definite chance for reminiscing it seemed. Though as well as ham sandwiches many of the stories seemed to be quite sad. I’m going to need cheering up after this. Great writing as usual of course, but there must be a winner. And today’s winner is…. (drum roll)… 

 ….Leicester City. 

 No. Not really. Well, yes, really. But no, not in Angry Hourglass it ain’t. Though I’ve judged blind and if the winner turns out to be Jamie Vardy… well, he just bloody well deserves it okay. And he can put this up there with his Champion’s medal.

 Anyway, today’s other winner’s are… (real drum roll)…. 

HMs 

 – After School by Daisy Warwick: A nice picture, built up largely through simple dialogue, of brothers being best mates trying to get by in awful circumstances. You feel for them.

 – Otters by AV Laidlaw: Similar style of story to After School. The bible nut ‘full of pious vinegar’  told the story of the boy’s home in the simplest way. The change in the place through time – otters now a possibility where once the land and water could not support them seems familiar to us (we even have them in the Mersey now – and not always just floating on their backs). 

 – Je Suis by David Shakes: Stayed with Shake’s at the weekend, who turns a bit French after a pint of Under Current. He may be ‘a little bit French’ but he is mostly English when it comes to breakfast. So, really it’s a gratuitous HM for the black pudding! 

 2nd RU – Wilted Flowers by Firdaus Parvez

 Yet another difficult childhood picture (I hope all you writers this week can access some suitable help or special little pick-me-ups) nicely paced. Being put up in the attic whilst their mother did things she didn’t want them to see, wth people other than their gravely ill father, was a simple idea (sad yet an adventure for the kids). And the whole piece was sad and told straight without the storyteller becoming judgemental. ’Beautiful, like a booked pressed flower’ was a lovely line to end on.

 1st RU – Cast a Spell by Stephen Lodge

 This deserves a place for being up beat and fun. The photo seemed to inspire mostly introspection along the line of; life’s all a bit crap really. So a bit of Mary Poppin’s was surprisingly welcome. The dialogue between the two children was fab and the spoonful of something in this cast a spell on me. I almost smiled. Several times.

And our Round 105 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Sal Page 

 with

 What They Expect of a Monster

 Je suis un winner! Loved this story of a monster being created. The inevitability of it was sad and all too predictable – children being the cruel beasts they are/we were. The story was the most satisfying read for me with nice development and story arc (whatever am I talking about now?), which was well done in such a short piece. It had just the right amount of drippy blood gore and, yet surprisingly, no ham sandwiches.

 Congratulations, Sal! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend, Rob Knipe joins the Flash Frenzy Judge’s team. Hope to see you all there. 

Hello and welcome to the Round 104 winners post! Thanks to everybody who wrote stories last weekend, and thanks also to Voima Oy for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

Greetings again. I am so happy to judge Round 104 of Angry Hourglass. Thanks to Rebecca for having me, and thank you again Mark A. King, for filling in for me the last time, when I was sick. Thank you, Ashwin Rao, for the inspiring photo. This image offered such intriguing possibilities. Is Sand Point a place, a state of mind? I am impressed by all the stories. Well-done, everyone!

Here are my comments—

Sand Point–There is so much packed into this story. What a strange town, and what a quirky cast of characters! Wonderfully inventive. I love the pub names—Fox and Astronaut, Duck and Prime Minister and the Haunted Poacher. Then, there is a disturbing turn, an apparent murder. We are left with a mystery. Yes, I want to read more….

Monstery, I Guess– Dialogue and description tell this weird tale. From the first line of dialogue–“There’s a monster in the garage,” to the enigmatic ending, it gets really scary, really fast.

Always–What a beautiful piece of writing. It is a prose poem, “a life like any other’ in so few words. So many wonderful lines here!

Dull Eyes–A haunting story about a desolate place of beach bums and stray dogs. Tristan drives the Maserati into the sea. No explanation is offered. It has a feel of magic realism, horror and mystery.

The End at the Beginning–The dialogue tells the story within the story–“Because if I hadn’t written all those damned Sand Point novels, if I hadn’t leaked some of that world into this one, then maybe the doorways wouldn’t have started closing.” And, a wonderful ending.

Business at Sand Point–In this story, a sea gull is the sole witness to a scene of brutal violence and murder. There is intense, vivid description, yet we witness the grisly business at a distance. There are no names, no dialogue. The final image is unflinching and unforgettable.

Here be Monsters–Is it just a story that there is a monster that haunts the town of Sand Point?

Could there be a real monster? Is the narrator insane? What happened to Jacky and the parents? This story gave me chills!

Working Things Out–How quickly things fall apart in this desolate town. This story of a father and daughter is beautifully told–working through loss, hoping for a better future. There is saving, in more ways than one.

Destination Sandpoint–There is an uncanny feel to this story. Who is this client? What kind of place is this Sand Point? Who goes there, and why? The story becomes more and more disturbing. Is it a dream or a nightmare?

What I would Tell You–This is a story of dreams and memories. Although there is a dreamlike quality, the descriptions make it seem so real and solid. It is sad and very beautiful. The ending is breathtaking!

Return to Sand Point–Due to a family obligation, the narrator returns to his home town after many years. Much as he would like to forget Daniel and Lucy and what happened years ago, his return brings him back to that time and place, where it seemed like nothing happened.

Favorite Lines–

Sand Point–In the graveyard, a gentle breeze disturbed a mole, who raised his head and twitched his delightful nose, while his eyes and ears remained alert for the arrival of the gravedigger or (less likely) a zombie….

Monstery, I Guess–Rosalie had to fight it off with a large blunt object that turned out to be her right arm.

Always–the invisible words we drew just beneath breath

Dull Eyes–Water gasped surprise as the tires soaked into the fresh tide surf, no stop, no stop, water flooding the exhaust, sputtering, diving into the incoming wave, coasting into complete submersion, salt staining the leather interior, splashing Tristan’s face as he instinctively held his breath, then eased it out and the car disappeared into the ocean’s welcoming embrace.

The End at the Beginning–I hear the sound of the fairground and smell the ocean.

Business at Sand Point–They don’t talk. It isn’t quick.

Here be Monsters–“I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, it’s just a story, nothing more.”

Working Things Out–The house was full of absence now.

Destination Sandpoint–“You’ve been before, perhaps?” the woman asked. “A satisfied customer?”

What I Would Tell You—And then I wake up. And I am broken. And yet I am whole.

Return to Sand Point–To try and forget Lucy and Daniel again and the events of that sticky summer evening.

And now, the winners–

Honorable Mentions–

Sand Point by Steve Lodge –quirky and imaginative

What I Would Tell You by Casey Rose Frank–sad and hopeful –beautiful writing

2nd Runner Up–

Destination Sandpoint–uncanny and unsettling

1st runner Up–

The End at the Beginning by Brian S Creek–Evocative storytelling. Marvelous ending.

And our Round 104 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

David Shakes

with

Business at Sand Point

For it’s brilliant POV, unflinching storytelling, and unforgettable imagery.

Congratulations, Shakes! Your story will be featured as this week’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend, AJ Walker returns for another round in the judge’s seat. Hope to see you all there. 

Hello, all! Thanks to everyone who wrote stories for our 100th prompt. For those of you who missed it, photo contributor Ashwin Rao (@badash13) had some encouraging words for your previous endeavors: 

I just wanted to say what an honor it has been to have my photos serve as inspiration for so many incredibly talented writers at the “Angry Hourglass” blog, which is run by my friend Rebecca. The site has just completed 100 contests, so many hundreds to thousands of stories have been shared and discussed! I am so impressed by the content of her sight and humbled and thrilled that my photos can foster such poignant short stories.

Well done, everybody!

Thanks also to Stephen Lodge who makes his judging debut with this milestone prompt. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

Thank you so much for asking me to judge Round 100. Thank you also for the opportunity to read your “Zoe’s Last Birthday.” I really enjoyed it.

It set the scene for what was to follow. A dark selection of stories from truly classy writers. Made me feel like I was standing in the shadows of giants. Apparently at 4 a.m. my wife found me huddled in the corner, sitting on the untreated wooden floor of an unfurnished dream, mumbling “Some birthdays were fun, weren’t they?” Not the ones that had scary clowns obviously, but clearly here is a collection from the dark side of dark.

Fave Moments

Economical – The narrator composing a menu in her head for meals using decomposing food.

Gaap Year In Hell – Black Widow Cupcakes? These should be at bakeries everywhere.

Baked Alaska – When we received confirmation of what we suspected, that Rick was in death what he was in life – a useless lump.

My Runner Up vote goes to David Shakes for “You Can’t Have Your Cake & Eat It.”  –   Shadows dance in the dim candlelight, their languorous sway seemingly independent of its gentle flicker. The remainder of that first paragraph continued to hold my attention. The story’s imagery and descriptions were always intriguing and the small girl’s song so clever.

and our ROUND 100 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Marie McKay

with …To Me

The old house groans, filled with the noises of it’s past. The woman flaps like a bird.

Into any story, throw in an old dark house, a brooding pile with generations of mystery within the walls and then add a bit of a haunting with a twist and I am already on the edge of my seat, howling at the moon and begging for more.  …To Me was my favourite in a very strong field.

Many thanks, Rebecca to you and to all who took part. 

Congratulations, Marie! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Many thanks to Stephen for judging this round. Next weekend, AV Laidlaw returns to judge Round 101. See you all there.