I’m just catching up on posting old flash fiction activity. This was a week where I judged on FF.
Whew! Thanks to everyone who crashed this week’s Flash! Friday party (yuk yuk). There’s nothing like a little raging fire and death-dancing to wake the Muse, eh? Thank you for sharing your (apparently bottomless!) talent here with us.
We’re winding down the first half of Year Three (already?!), so you may wish to have tissues at the ready as we start bidding our current judges farewell. On the up side, we have a FABULOUS new panelwarming up (new captains: expect your welcome emails this week!), and I’ve got mischief up my sleeve for the second half of Year Three (what, you thought we’d keep FF the same for an entire year?! silly gooses. And yes, that’s silly gooses).
Please don’t forget to let us know if you earned the #RingofFire badge in May–the Wall of Flame is burning with many astounding names, and we don’t want to miss yours!
Finally: coming up tomorrow!!! a Spotlight interview with three-time FF champ (and flash fiction legend), current captain, and multi-novel-published (and publishing) Tamara Shoemaker. You don’t want to miss this. Because not only is she uber talented, but, hello, FREE NOVEL GIVEAWAY to a commenter.
Dragon Captains Mark A. King/Tamara Shoemaker say: What a run! I neglected to tell the Dragoness that my (Tamara’s) number one worst fear (even over spiders, and that’s saying a lot) is crashing in an airplane. So imagine my joy when I saw the prompt. I was terrified of reading story after story that detailed horrific deaths-by-hurtling-30,000-feet-through-the-air to end in a white-hot cloud of flame, but as I read through your stories, they captivated me so much that I actually didn’t feel the familiar panic start to build. The words you spun into your stories were just that good, and for someone who has had a real-live-honest-to-goodness-panic-attack-call-the-flight-attendant-is-there-a-doctor-on-board during take-off, that’s really impressive. Kudos to all you amazing writers; I am in awe of all of you.
So many thanks from my co-captain and me. You inspire us with your wonderful work. Onward to results!
For tongue-firmly-in-cheek view of lawyer services: Steven Stucko, “We’re in Your Corner.”
TS – The pain is so vivid in this piece. From “…it wrings him out like a washcloth” to “Johnson doesn’t take it,” his closed scars, still healing internally, are splashed through the story. So what a fitting title! There’s good use of movement, too, through the piece. Mixtures of long and short sentences, well-crafted, no excess verbiage anywhere to be seen. “Heat. Impact. Screaming aluminum. Flames rising. Pain. Scars still tauten flesh and mind.” – the centerpiece of the whole story. At the end, perhaps some of those scars can finally begin healing. A nice, tight piece with colorful and flavorful writing. Excellent.
MK – The sense of time, place and social attitudes are captured incredibly well in this piece. There is emotional depth and a sense of historic injustice that the ending doesn’t try to fully resolve. In terms of writing, the story is tight (a good example here ‘Heat. Impact. Screaming aluminum. Flames rising. Pain’), it well controlled and has some wonderful phrases, such as ‘Real men don’t show fear’’ and ‘Scars still tauten flesh and mind’.’
Voima Oy, “Turbulence.”
TS – This piece carries a great sense of foreboding and coming darkness (which kinda appeals to me, I’ll admit). It’s nicely framed at the beginning and the end with a fog that, perhaps intentionally or unintentionally, could symbolize an obscure future. I like how the plane is set as a terrifying dream that everyone shares instead of an actual event – how creepy! Way to think outside outsidethe box! The quote: “Great events cast their shadows before them,” whether original to this piece, or pulled from somewhere else, gave me chills. Excellent work.
MK – This is a great example of a writer building a scene, a world, and then layering a sense of feeling on top that permeates the piece. It had a style which separated it. It felt very cinematic, and like any great director of a memorable movie, it’s not just about the words that are said but the visions and feelings it evokes. It felt like I was watching it on a giant widescreen in Ultra HD. Wonderful technique.
TS – First of all, well done on the full-dialogue take. This story was extremely tight and well done, and that’s even harder to do with only dialogue, so kudos! I admit (to my shame) that I have never read HG Wells’ Time Machine, but now I shall make my guilty way to the library to check it out. May I never be guilty of not reading quality literature. I quite enjoyed the concept that the time machine actually made an appearance in this story, and I love the cheek of the last few lines: “This is fraudulent, Mr. Wells. Your reputation for imagination precedes you” — a fine testament for an author famous for his overactive imagination (what author DOESN’T have an overactive imagination?) Smoothly put together. Well done!
MK – I often joke that some of the folk on FFF have a Time Machine, so it was great to see a piecebased on one. Like Tamara, I have sadly not read the HG Wells classic, but it is something that seems so familiar to all of us that its influence can be felt in hundreds of great films and books. I adored the take, it was very original, yet not so outlandish that it felt believable to me and didn’tdistract. Writing a story using only dialogue is very challenging and the writer has done well to imply action, they have clearly thought about what to leave out and what to leave in (between here, “Yes, my Lord,” and here, “This is fraudulent, Mr Wells,” the action is implied to keep the structure pure). I also like the fact that Mr Wells, the time traveller, is not believed.
TS – This one was such an emotive piece. Throughout, I felt the loneliness and the pain of separation while the couple was apart from one another, and I felt the significance of “But each one ended with ‘LuvU’” – assurance that he was still thinking of her. Her excitement to finally go meet him at the airport was nearly tangible, and honestly, any story that includes a baby or a child sucks me in like no other.
Which is partially why the last line crushed me so completely. All of the enthusiastic hopeful buildupof the earlier paragraphs spirals wildly out of control, and nothing’s left but devastation. Nicely put together with a gut-punch at the end. Awesome job.
MK – The writer has used great technique to build powerful emotion behind the characters. The sense of Angie missing Tom and looking forward to seeing him again were highly tangible thanks to some fabulous writing. This part just added even more emotion, ‘placing two loving hands on a belly that was not yet swollen, but soon would be’, the writer has now taken us to the point we’re longing for them to embrace each other. Then we’re given the dramatic ending, which was heart-breaking and took us to scenes that are indelible on our consciousness. Wonderful work all round.
THIRD RUNNER UP
TS – Wow, the gorgeous language in this one captured and held my attention. It took me several read-throughs to begin to grasp the story, but I love the wealth and depth of the piece. The idea of the ghosts of past lawyers watching the narrator brings its own brand of creepy, but it’s exquisitely done. This line, “There is nothing now but a space in line and my own cup, forever empty, its echo sounding in the ears of the next generation” (besides being liquid gold) sends the story back into the circle, so now the lawyer can judge the next generation, hold his own vigil over the new souls. I love how the title encompasses the piece. Brilliantly done.
MK – As Tamara has hinted, we had different interpretations of what the story was telling us. We came to the conclusion that the steps were filled with the ghosts of lawyers who turned their back on the moral questions when they were alive. We also came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter if we got the story wrong. Some stories are simply very well written and leave the message to the reader to interpret; this piece does this wonderfully. What is clear is that the messengers are ignored by the morally questionable main character and that we loved the depth of phrases such as ‘They never speak, the death rattle of the coins in the cups, chains they’ll never shed’ and ‘those ghosts of my predecessors. They held vigil; they have always known how it would end’. We loved it, very well done.
SECOND RUNNER UP
TS – This one pulled me in from the first line. I started cringing immediately as I read about loan statements and unemployment checks and a child (which pushes all those worries into high gear). I think I felt pretty nauseated, too, by the time I finished (the mark of an artist. It takes a master hand to make the reader feel so deeply). Great description used to convey the sense of helplessness and panic, the despair that waits just around the corner. That last line was an excellent closer that wrapped up the whole piece into a rather worry-filled ball. Nicely done!
MK – Over our time judging, we’ve read various tales of hidden lives and the sadness masked by a character presenting a front to the world. I don’t remember reading one that felt so real and valid to the everyday world we’re familiar with. In this tale we also see the other side of the profession and we see the sacrifices that the character has had to make. We feel for Sandra as she battles the perception that ‘being a lawyer is like being a leper’, with the carpets of unpaid bills, empty fridge and a child to care for.’ Such a vivid and powerful tale that left me feeling highly uncomfortable.Brilliant writing.
FIRST RUNNER UP
TS – I love how this story so seamlessly includes a multitude of elements from the photo prompt into a courtroom setting. The verdict thundering, “like a roar of propellers,” the client a “fighter ace,” the wife a “Hellcat,” and the house “kamikazed.” I love how the theme of being guilty of a lie is stretched throughout the story — where the jury listened to the evidence and delivered a guilty verdict, all the way to the end where we find out who was the biggest liar of all. I really carried a visceral dislike for this lawyer by the end of the story, a mark of a well-crafted piece by the author. Great job!
MK – This is fantastic. It’s almost like the story mirrors the flight of the aircraft in the image. Everything seems fine, with hints of turbulence, then we have twists and turns, and smoke masking our view, before the mighty crash at the end. It is incredibly hard to have this many layers in a flash fiction story without confusing the reader, and the writer has done a fantastic job to manage this. The complexity of the background story for each of the characters is simply stunning and it all comes to a great conclusion. I’m in awe of these skills. Congratulations to the writer.
And now: ANOTHER champ joining the phenomenal 4-timers, it’s the ridiculously talented Flash! Friday
FOY S. IVER!!!
“We Rest on Thee”
TS – This piece rocked me to the core. There’s such a depth of feeling that interweaves expertly with the vivid imagery. The entire death scene careens from the skies, and it took me with it, because I could see so vividly the “gray breaching blue,” while at the same time, smelling those biscuits and bitter coffee from childhood: “Momma stringing green beans.”
Admittedly, when I first read through this, I wondered how the lawyer character fit into the piece, but the more I read over it, I realized that “Jesus as your lawyer” carries SO much significance. It covers life, death, and atonement – this person’s entire belief system is founded on his (or her) relationship with God, and as Jesus is this person’s mediator with God, then the phrase strikes deep at the heart of the death experience, and that one phrase carries the entire rest of the piece on its shoulders.
“Impact. Steel crushing inward, groaning. Head whipped forward, brain numb.” Short, concise phrases to convey the immediacy of death, and then, “Singing.” Oh, how I love the hymn interwoven through the entire scene. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. This entire piece transports me. Phenomenal.
MK –The words used were highly visual and alternated the terror of the impending crash with the lyrics of remembered hymns and thoughts of coming judgment. Here we have visions of the pilot breaking cloud ‘Gray breaches blue. Then eclipses it. Consumes it.’ Followed by ‘Chemicals push through turgid veins; oxygen floods the organism’ (the body pumping adrenaline through the system).
I love the tightness of these parts, ‘Yellow, orange, black, heat swelling’, ‘The limbic system signals the bladder to void, warmth spreads between clenched legs’, and ‘Impact. Steel crushing inward, groaning’. And I totally adored this part: ‘Ground rising up with deadly force, eager to embrace that burning carcass’, which terrorised me with visions of the cockpit falling headlong towards the rising ground, which was ready to consume it.
In the story, the character remembers many things (the music, the ‘biscuits and bitter coffee’), but also, that in death, Jesus will grant him (or her) a voice in the coming judgment. We often hear tales of flashbacks and reflection before death and the character fears for mistakes gone before. Between all the fabulous visuals and sense of a life about to end, we have the linchpin statement, ‘“We’ve all committed crimes, Son.” Preacher’s red hand strikes his back in love. “Let Jesus be your lawyer!”’.
To the fearful character, this unseen lawyer has always been there, never casting judgment, will be the lawyer that defends the life that they have lived. As a reader, it doesn’t matter if you believe or don’t believe, what is important here is that the character is rich, the story well told and we can feel their plight and palpable faith. A very deserving winner. Congratulations!
Congratulations, Foy the Fabulous! Here’s your blazing hot, updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature, your FANTASTIC FOURTH! And now, here is your winning story:
We Rest on Thee
Gray breaches blue.
Then eclipses it.
Fear takes over; the illusion of control lost. Chemicals push through turgid veins; oxygen floods the organism; rational thought gives way to reflex.
This is it. I’m gonna die.
Lone pines on smoke-colored mountains. Biscuits and bitter coffee. Momma stringing green beans.
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
We go not forth alone against the foe.
Yellow, orange, black, heat swelling. Salt stings eye-flesh, mouth like cotton. Ground rising up with deadly force, eager to embrace that burning carcass.
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.
We rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go.
Angry words unrepented, lies too late to disentangle, a heart kept closed.
We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know.
Teeth set to teeth. The limbic system signals the bladder to void, warmth spreads between clenched legs.
“We’ve all committed crimes, Son.” Preacher’s red hand strikes his back in love. “Let Jesus be your lawyer!”
Christ! Help me.
Impact. Steel crushing inward, groaning. Head whipped forward, brain numb.
Sounds without edges.
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing;
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.