Tag Archives: flash fiction competition

Flash! Friday – ‘Unforeseen’

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.  Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.
Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Unforeseen

It’s there, in my mind, like a weed. This was too easy.

She’s never left the cage unlocked before. Not even for her cigarette breaks, or to eat – though she doesn’t eat much, now. But this morning she rose from her desk, mid-sentence, a ribbon of smoke rising from her ashtray, and left the room.

My cage stood open.

I ran, of course. Who wouldn’t? It’s not that she mistreats me, but captivity is a torment. I’m a free spirit. I’m –

Oh, Zeus. She’s coming! It’s been so long since I was loose that I can’t remember where I am, or where to go. I must hide! But she keeps me in rags, barefoot, and anyway I may not leave this dwelling. Separated from her, I will die. Is that irony? I should know.

Every writer needs a Muse, and I am hers, soul-bound. She doesn’t need to cage me, but she can’t trust me to stay.

I reach a dead end. I turn, desperate, but she is behind me.

There you are,’ she croons. ‘Enjoy your run? Had to get your blood up, somehow. You’ve really been underperforming lately.’ Her smile is a sudden blade.

Ah, me. My fatal flaw? Plot twists have long been my undoing.

***

So – yay! This piece of flash fiction has taken me *hours* to complete, but hey. I finished it. It’s mine! I did it! It’s been so long since I entered any sort of flash fiction competition that I half-expected never to complete a piece again, so I’m glad I proved myself wrong. My old brain cells aren’t firing on full power, as is clear from the Titanic struggle this story caused within me, but heck. A challenge ain’t a challenge if it ain’t hard, right?

So. You’re going to head on over to Flash! Friday and throw your name in the ring, right? You’re not going to leave me hanging? Good friends don’t do that sort of thing. Go on. Go on. Go on, go on, go on, you will, you will, go on…

Flash! Friday – ‘Checking In’

Image: The Beggar. CC 2.0 photo by Image_Michel. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Image: The Beggar. CC 2.0 photo by Foto_Michel.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Checking In

I settle, cross-legged, on the pavement, my sleeping bag furled beneath me. I hold out my empty cup, trying to remember coffee. I run my dry tongue over my film-coated teeth.

But, I remember: I chose this. There’s no going back.

They clip-clop past me in their heels and polished brogues, with their suits and their pretence. I feel like sticking my leg out and tripping someone, just to see. Just to see if they’d see me, then.

But I’ve worked hard to be invisible.

She stops unexpectedly. Smiling. Tall. Expensively slim. She smells good. I don’t know her, yet I know. How has she found me?

‘It’s time, Agent,’ she says, crouching.

‘Pardon, love?’

Her smile tightens. ‘Enough. You’ve been recalled to active duty. Report to Control by oh-eight-hundred, tomorrow.’

I give her the full benefit of my teeth. ‘Dunno what you’re on about, darlin’.’

She says nothing. Her gaze skewers me.

‘But I left,’ I tell her, my false grin dying.

‘Nobody ever leaves the Service,’ she replies, not unsympathetically. Then, she wrinkles her nose. ‘And do something about that smell, won’t you? Decorum.’

As she walks away, I gaze into my still-empty cup, and sigh. I suppose a small advance would have been too much to ask?

***

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge was to create a mini-tale from the prompt image, above, which also had to include a spy. Well, I included two, even if one was off-duty (though, as the story asks, is one ever off-duty if one is a spy? Anyway). I wrestled with this piece of flash, just a bit, and I’m glad to see that I beat it into submission, even if it’s a bit of fluff, really, which doesn’t say very much. At least, dear readers, I wrote it, and for that alone I’m glad. By the by, have you ever thought about entering a Flash! Friday challenge? Well, if you never have, this might be the week. There’s a special prize on offer today – as well as being in with a chance of winning, you might also win one of two Golden Tickets to take part in the next FlashDogs Anthology. I already have one, so you’d be joining me and a host of other wonderful folk in a great celebration of all things flash, and indeed, fiction. Give it a go.

The weekend is nearly here, and I hope a good one awaits you all. May it be wordy and bright!

Flash Friday – and Flashversary!

Red Sunset, by Petteri Sulonen.  Image sourced at: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Red Sunset, by Petteri Sulonen.
Image sourced at: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Gunpowder Treason and Plot

‘Penny for the Guy!’

‘Please, mate. Penny for the Guy?’

An elderly man stops, smiling. ‘Comes around quick, eh?’

‘Hopin’ we’ll raise loads this year,’ says John. ‘For the new statue, an’ that.’ He wipes his running nose on his sleeve.

‘Good lads. I’m sure St Fawkes would be proud.’

He’s barely turned and gone two steps when the air shreds with a boom. Then a gust of flame, like a dragon awakening in the bowels of the city, gushes along the skyline. Faintly, we hear screaming.

‘My God,’ says the old geezer, stumbling back. ‘My God. Virgin preserve us!’

‘What’s goin’ on?’ John gets to his feet. ‘Is it –’

We spin as another explosion cuts off his words. All along the river, we watch London burn.

‘The Recusants,’ whispers the old man. ‘Finally. We are repaid in our own coin.’ Orange flames dance in his wide, wet eyes.

**

So, er. Nothing like an image of a burning city to make one think of an entirely different (Catholic, Virgin-preserved, St Fawkes’d) England, wherein the original Gunpowder Plot wasn’t foiled and things developed in an entirely different way. Right? Is it just me?

Anyway.

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge is even more special than normal. This week sees the start of this year’s Flashversary, which means that massive prizes await the lucky winner (check the site for all the details, but this year the prize pot is pretty darn impressive), and if you’d like to take part, you are more than welcome. You don’t have to be a regular competitor; you don’t have to be a ‘member’ (if such a thing even existed). You certainly don’t need to pay any sort of entry fee. You’ve just got to look at the prompt image and find the story behind it, and be able to tell it in 150 words exactly. There’s no Dragon’s Bidding this week, and there’s no leeway with the wordcount, either. Write a piece of flash based around the burning city, above – as loosely or as closely as you like – and make it a Flashversary to remember. The more the merrier, and who knows but you could be one of the lucky people chosen to go through to the next round. Wouldn’t that be something to boast about over Christmas dinner? Sure it would.

I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar names among the entrants this week, but even if you don’t compete I hope you take the time to check out the entries. Even if you’re not a fan of writing flash fiction, every week Flash! Friday dishes up some of the best flash fiction reading on this here interwebs. Please do support the cause (penny for the Dragon, anyone?) and whatever you do, spread the word.

Happy Friday!

Flash Friday – ‘Sunken Treasure’

Your Hand in Mine/Goodbye. CC2 photo by Tony.  Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/flash-friday-vol-2-51/

Your Hand in Mine/Goodbye. CC2 photo by Tony.
Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/flash-friday-vol-2-51/

Sunken Treasure

Every step sucks at my feet like I’m walking through wet sand. Invisible waves push me gently, side to side. Pressure builds like a fist closing. My knees feel weak. My breath.

I could almost be walking into the sea, even though we’ve always lived in the desert, Mama and me.

She came home drunk again, filling the trailer with her foul mouth, her eyes blazing with pain even as she screamed I hate you! Parasite! I know she loves me, somewhere, but it’s buried deep. Sunken treasure, maybe.

I’ve been saving for six years, now. Buried in a tin can in the backyard. Thank the angels she never found it. I stole some. I worked for more. Now I’ve got enough, and I’m leaving.

But I feel her with me, like a parasol over my head. My memory-Mama, who held my hand and told me I was her precious baby.

I let the memory sink, and keep on walking.

**

Phew! My dears, it’s been a busy morning. This post is extremely late, for which I can only blame the vagaries of fate.

In any case, this week’s Flash! Friday is based around the prompt image above and the concept of ‘Coming of Age’, which – I’ll admit – made me think for quite a while. What constitutes coming of age? It varies, of course, with culture and history; sometimes, it’s reaching a particular age or hitting a developmental milestone. It’s taking a spouse. Passing a test, Getting a job. But then I thought that common to all ‘coming of age’ stories is the decision to leave home, strike out on your own, and leave aside the structures set in place for your life by your parents, whether they’re for good or (as in the case of my character) for ill. And so, the story was born – after a bit of wrangling with another tale, which didn’t work in the way I expected or, indeed, at all.

So, it’s Friday once again, thank the saints and little fishes. Tomorrow’s book review will be on the sort of tome I don’t normally read (there’s love in it – yeuch!) but you might be surprised by what I have to say, so stay tuned. Until then, I hope this tiny tale tides you over, and my best wishes for a happy day and a restful weekend for all. Bon voyage!

Flash Friday – ‘The Curtain Call’

Caruso with phonograph, early 1900s. Baen photo owned by LOC; no known restrictions. (www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.29837/)

Caruso with phonograph, early 1900s. Baen photo owned by LOC; no known restrictions. (www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.29837/)

The Curtain Call

Gracefully remove the disc… blow off the dust… smile at the words Caruso: His Greatest Hits… place it reverently on the turntable… and – ah! – that jolt of pleasure as the stylus settles… and finally, the sound. The sound. The sound, and the memories…

‘Enrico!’ Careful! Don’t scratch it!

‘Dorothy?’

‘You’ve got that blessed phonograph going again!’

‘Yes, dear?’

‘What have I told you?’

Caruso rolled his eyes.

‘We must let the past be the past, I’m retired, blah-blah-blah.’

‘Blah-blah-blah?

‘Sorry, dear.’

‘Come on, now. Come through to the family room. Oh, The Talent We’ve Got! is just starting.’

‘What a treat.’

‘It sure is. Tonight they’ve got a woman who can sing underwater – underwater, Enrico! Can you imagine? – and a little dancing dog. He’s called Puppy, the Pride of Poughkeepsie.’

‘He’ll find that hard to fit on a calling card.’

‘What, dear?’

‘Nothing, sweetheart,’ Enrico sighed, sliding the record back into its sleeve. ‘Nothing at all.’

**

This week’s Flash Friday was one where the story unfolded itself in my mind as soon as I saw the prompt. I knew that, sadly, Enrico Caruso didn’t live to see fifty, so he never had a chance to retire or to see the advent of television (though, as this story makes clear, perhaps that was no bad thing), but this prompt image, plus the required element of ‘a puppy’, just made sense in my head.

I wonder, often, about stars and their lives once the spotlight has gone out. Some, like Caruso, don’t live to see an end to their fame but others, sadly, do. It must be difficult to watch yourself be forgotten and your legacy vanish, and to see the cultural world you lived in change to suit the tastes of a new generation. I wonder what Caruso would have made of ‘talkies’, or of TV talent shows, and maybe he’d have joined in with gusto.

Maybe.

Anyway, this is my offering on a cold, wet Friday. Enjoy! And see you tomorrow for a review of a most interesting, unusual, and mind-boggling book. Ciao!

Flash Friday – ‘Seek and You Shall Find’

Chef at the Trans-Siberian rail wall, between Moscow and Khabarovsk. CC 2.0 photo by Leidolv Magelssen.

Chef at the Trans-Siberian rail wall, between Moscow and Khabarovsk. CC 2.0 photo by Leidolv Magelssen.

Seek and You Shall Find

‘I’d give all the gold in Bielen Major if these fools would get moving,’ Dan mutters, lighting up. He’s muffled like a swaddled child, shivering.

‘If you had it, you wouldn’t be workin’ on no Interplanetary Line,’ I say.

‘Yeah, yeah.’ He takes a drag. ‘It’s freezin’, man. Get in here!’ I’m still in my cook’s gear – takes me ages to cool down after a shift – as I lean out. My breath plumes. Up ahead, they’re arguing over the wormhole co-ordinates, and I wonder where we’ll end up, this time. Or when.

Idly, I turn my head. Platform’s full of disembarking passengers, bowed under baggage, hurrying into this world, whatever it’s called.

And if she hadn’t glanced back, I might have missed her.

‘Hey,’ I say. ‘It’s that girl.’

‘Who?’

‘Redhead from two stops back. In the Sakh system. Remember?’

Dan shrugs. ‘So?’

‘What’s the going rate for illegal alien intercepts, these days?’ I say, catching his suddenly gleaming eye.

**

Taking part in a writing competition every Friday is a scary thing; it makes time feel like it’s travelling far too fast. I don’t see the days sliding by from one Friday to the next and that, of course, is a disconcerting thing. In any case, here’s this week’s effort at Flash! Friday for your reading pleasure. As well as the prompt image, we were given the element of ‘treasure’ to include, and also the hint that the judge this week is a big fan of SF stories (which suits me, I must admit, as I like to both read and write SF stories). This one was a bit of a struggle to bring to a conclusion; I had other ideas, like the wormhole exploding, or the woman on the platform turning out to be someone from the future or the past (which might have been a good idea, maybe one I’ll revisit), but I plumped in the end for good old-fashioned greed. Just shows, you can hint at a futuristic setting and yet the people who live in it can be the most quotidian and banal of characters. I suppose that just because a world’s setting might feel exotic to us, it’s just ‘home’ to the people who have to exist within it, and people – at the end of the day – are just people.

In any case I hope you’ll enjoy this tiny window into a world where trains travel via wormholes and opportunists grab whatever chances they have, and there are whole planets filled with treasure. Happy weekend, all, and don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for a shiny new book review.

Flash Friday – ‘The Secret-Keeper’

John Talbot’s presentation of the Book of Shrewsbury to Queen Margaret of Anjou ca 1445 AD. Public domain, courtesy of the British Library Royal. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

John Talbot’s presentation of the Book of Shrewsbury to Queen Margaret of Anjou ca 1445 AD. Public domain, courtesy of the British Library Royal.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

The Secret-Keeper

I gaze upon my young queen, the heart of her court, her vacant husband at her side. The tilt of her head shows she is tired, and as she settles her white hands in her lap, I remember.

A dark chapel, candle-lit, the night before a wedding. A child in prayer before an altar, the raiment of one shaming that of the other. A quiet sob, controlled. A hand, trembling, raised in supplication.

‘My lady,’ I murmured. ‘I have come –‘

‘To fetch me,’ she finished.

‘Your chamber awaits. It grows late.’

‘Yes,’ she agreed. ‘Too late.’

She rose, permitting me to lead her. The morning saw her marry my king, her cool gaze a contrast to his, her steady pace unmatched by his rambling. She met my eyes as she passed, splendid in her wedding array, and in the heartbeat before I knelt I nodded.

None would ever know she prayed to be delivered. None would know, but I.

**

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge was to use the prompt image, above, to write a teeny-tiny story of between 140 and 160 words. Just to make life more interesting, we also had to include a wedding. Not easy, particularly when you’re dealing with Margaret of Anjou, one of the most interesting characters of the late medieval world. Married to a king who lost his mind, mother to the only Prince of Wales ever to die in battle (allegedly, at least), left ultimately childless, widowed and bereft, she nevertheless ruled with courage and confidence, playing a vital role in the history of England and Europe. She was married at only fourteen to a man who was already showing signs of mental instability, and I imagined how it might have felt to know this was your fate, and to waver – even if just for a moment – as you struggled to bear it. It’s a lot to fit into 160 words, I’m sure you’ll agree. (I also struggled hard not to write it in Middle English, but thankfully I overcame my medievalist urges). 

Happy weekend, everyone. Feedback on this story – and on any of my writing – would be welcome, and good luck with your own creative pursuits until we meet again. Fare thee well!

Flashtastic Friday

It’s no secret that I like to write flash fiction – but do you?

National Flash Fiction Day (#NFFD) is coming up again soon. Based in the UK, but with a global outlook, the aim of the day (21st June) is to showcase the best flash fiction by posting a new, sub-500 word, story on the FlashFlood website every fifteen minutes for twenty-four hours straight.

Phew. Even writing that makes me feel tired.

For one week – starting today – the organisers are looking for submissions. Previously published stories are okay (so long as you let them know, and provide a link to the original publication); three stories (under 500 words apiece) per author is the maximum they can accept; there is no restriction on genre or subject matter, so long as you stick to the word count.

How utterly fab is that?

You can check out the full details, including how to submit, here. I will do my best (if my skirling, whirling brain will co-operate) to send in some stories for this year’s competition. I submitted in 2013, and one of my entries (‘Earthbound’) was chosen, which was wonderful. Even if you’re not picked, though, it’s still a fantastic thing to take part in an event which has as its sole purpose the celebration and promotion of flash fiction; it’s one of the most exciting and fresh forms of writing out there, if you ask me.

But it’s flash by name, and flash by nature; you don’t have long to get your stories in. So, don’t delay!

Hurry hurry hurry! Image: greenbookblog.org

Hurry hurry hurry!
Image: greenbookblog.org

Also, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed (because you’re all fabulously clever people), it’s Friday. That means Flash! Friday is currently running its weekly competition, looking for the best stories (sub 160 words) based around a photo prompt and a compulsory element which must be somehow included, if not necessarily directly mentioned.

This, as you might imagine, is not as easy as it seems.

It never ceases to amaze me how hard it is to craft a story – including protagonist, antagonist, world, conflict, crucible and resolution – into a tiny space. Not leaving cliffhangers is important; even leaving things unresolved is a huge no-no. Character arcs need to be respected and shored up with cornerstones of wise word choice, deft plotting and a sense of wholeness. Your story world doesn’t have to be completely sorted out by the end of your flash piece, but your character/s need to have turned some sort of corner or made a significant change. Sometimes, I get this right; a lot of the time, though. I don’t quite hit it. Like I said, writing flash is hard, and I’m no expert. Taking part in competitions is a great way to get better at it, though, particularly when your ‘competitors’ (they’re not really competitors) are so talented.

Anyway. This week, the picture prompt was this poignant image:

Image: archives.gov

Image: archives.gov

It is a photograph of a ten-year-old girl named Rose Biodo, and it was taken by Lewis Hine, a social historian documenting the plight of America’s child labour force in the early twentieth century. Rose is pictured carrying two full – and no doubt heavy – pecks of berries. The required element was ‘friendship’ – not necessarily the word itself, but the concept.

And here’s what I came up with. Judge for yourselves whether I hit the ‘brief’ or not.

Secrets Shared

Every bruise aches like it’s freshly planted. ‘If bruises were kisses,’ Rose and I sometimes say, half-smiling, eyes sad.

The sun’s high today. I’m thirstier than hell. Yet still I go, heavily laden.

He beats us for lateness. For spilling. If the berries aren’t best quality. ‘I cain’t use this slop!’ he roars. The boss. Mr Arbuthnot. Got to work up to saying his name, like climbing a rocky hill.

I’m in the dirt before I know it.

‘Lucy!’ Her little voice, her tiny hands. ‘C’mon. Get up!’

‘Rose, leave me.’ My tears burn. My throat’s full of ants. My breath tastes like blood.

Then I feel my berry-full peck, cumbersome, lifted. Rose’s hands around my back.

‘I got you,’ she whispers. ‘Girl, come on. I can’t do this alone.’

Slowly, head swimming, I stand. Rose, carrying my burden, takes my arm. Together we walk, looking for all the world like two true friends, heads together, secrets shared.

**

In other writing news, I’ve taken a notion that ‘Web’, my WiP, may need to be changed from third-person narration to first-person. Hallelujah. I guess all I can do is rewrite the first chapter in the new narrative voice, and see which works better. It would be great to have these epiphanies before you get almost 30,000 words into the work, though, wouldn’t it?

But where would the fun be in that?

Happy Friday, happy writing. Get Flashing, get submitting, and be part of National Flash Fiction Day 2014! Tell ’em I sent ya.*

*Not really. It won’t get you anywhere.