Flash Fiction

A Flash Fiction Contest for THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE!


Folks, I’ve made it. I have arrived.  🙂

Well, that’s more or less what one of my writer friends (Micki, I’m looking at you) tweeted out; “You know you’ve made it when offers a contest in your honor!”

And yes, indeed Ms. Janet, NYC literary agent extraordinaire and Director of Literary Services at New Leaf Literary and Media, Inc., is doing just that.  There is a Flash Fiction contest this weekend in honor of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE’s Next Indie Pick selection and the fact that the book is soon to be released!  (only a month away!)

For about five years, I’ve participated in these contests.  I’ve won some, had numerous finalist mentions, long list mentions, and several special recognition mentions.  The competition is fierce because the writers who hang out there are some of the best I know.  They have 100 words  (the word limit for these FF contests) to spin a story that incorporates a beginning, middle and end.  Some of the entries from past contests have taken my breath away, made me laugh, or made me sit in awe, while wondering how did they do that?

The prize?  Well, a copy of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE – of course!

Good luck, y’all!  I can’t wait to read your entries!

the education of dixie dupree

Flash Fiction Addiction


I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m addicted to Janet Reid’s flash fiction contests.  They’re fun.  They’re great practice for learning how to use words sparingly while building a story, which must include a beginning, middle, end.  They give you a sense of accomplishment – yay I finished something! – especially if in the throes of a WIP.

Lucky for us, Ms. JR held a couple contests the weekends of May 30th, and June 6th.  For May 30th’s contest, I think blog comments may have prompted a North Carolina themed contest, and the one on June 6th was a suggestion from Colin Smith a “reg’lar” on her blog.  He reads a lot of books by a client of hers, author Gary Corby, whose latest book, DEATH EX MACHINA was released.

Of course I entered both.  As usual, she gave five prompt words, and then we have to write a story in 100 words or less.

Here is my entry for May 30th, where I placed as a FINALIST (whoop!) out of about 75 entries. Prompt words:  balloon, heart, wife, dare, plott (yes, with two t’s)

I watch the sun rise, a red balloon in the eastern sky. Haint stands at the river’s edge while Banner runs nearby sniffing traces of yesterday.

Never had much heart for anything other than these old Plott hounds, God love’em. Last year when that water moccasin bit Lloyd, then Haint, it tested that very fact.

Lloyd had hollered, “Wife! Move your ass, I’m bit!”

Forty years. Never once called me by my name.

I daresay my decision came then.

Is puttin’ a dog ahead of a human a sin?  

Maybe.

I wipe spittle off Lloyd’s chin and watch the dogs.

***************************************************************************************************************

For June 6th contest which I WON (!)  Double WHOOP!  Prompt words were:  chorus, ghost, actor, crane, stage

Back when I won’t more’n a speck, I heard what sounded like a chorus of voices under my bed mumblin’ some word.

I couldn’t rightly make it out at first, so’s I kept on listening, night after night.

Finally, I got it.

Useless.

I reckon they was ghosts.

That actor what shot Lincoln? Useless was last word he said afore he died, no foolin’.

Troublin’ what I see when I crane my neck like so. They been hammering since yesterday.

Come dawn, reckon I’ll be center stage.

It’s alright. I ain’t ever amounted to nothin’.

Funny.

Useless comes to mind.

These are The Shark’s words verbatim, below my entry in the finalist area, “This is a stunning demonstration of how to show rather than tell, and establishing character through diction.”

Reading that was SUBLIME, and then she added this with her determination of how she chose this piece as the winner, “It was very hard to pick a winner this week because all of these stories had things I loved.  In the end though it had to be Donnaeve for a compelling demonstration of craft and story.

ON.  THE.  FLOOR.

Then, I got up and did this:

Happy Dance

courtesy LOL.ROFL

Chuck’s Challenge


Chuck Wendig challenged his readers this week with a one hundred word flash fiction contest.  Well shoot.  I just happen to have a few of those from the Shark’s very own one hundred word contests.  How convenient.  And besides, Chuck threw down a double dog dare, and that means I have to do it, right?

Some of you might remember this one:

The blush of dawn came. Summer stretched before them, along with the thought of endless, monotonous hospital treatments. She watched a sandpiper scurry after a crab, one hand over her chest where evil grew, virus like, insidious.

She said, “Promise?”

He nodded, “Promise.”

Helpless, he watched her grow weaker, until one day, she said, “Today.”

He carried her to the beach, waded in and lowered her down. She struggled, only a little, but he could see her smiling through his tears.

Later his cell rang, interrupting his anguish.

He answered and her doctor said, “I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

One Hundred Words


I’ve talked about this before.  Those addicting flash fiction contests run by Janet Reid, literary agent extraordinaire.  How hard is it to tell a story in one hundred words?  Doggone hard.  The last one, a couple weekends ago, was in honor of one of her clients, Jeff Somers, for the publication of his latest book, WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE.

The rules are simple.  She will provide five prompt words, usually something to do with the reason for having the contest.  When using those five words, we can have a bit of leeway.  As long as the word is part of a larger word and appears “in whole” that’s okay.  The word “like” is okay as “likeness,” or likeability, but not lickety-split.  See?  And we, (we being the collective group who follow her blog religiously) are to write a story using those five prompt words, in one hundred words, or less.

When I wrote about this the last time, I think I mentioned what good practice these flash contests are at learning how to make your writing more crisp.  To learn how to eliminate useless words – or maybe words that aren’t necessary to the meaning of the story.   The overall process isn’t that far from how I write in general (Pantster that I am).  That’s sort of scary when I think about it.  Anyway, what I mean is, I begin to write – something – with no idea where it’s going. Eventually, an idea sticks. Sometimes, I end up with more than one version, and then I have to choose which one I like better.

That’s what happened in this last one.

Here are the five prompt words we had to use:

  1. spirits
  2. blood
  3. magic
  4. pants
  5. cat

Here is Version One:

Preacher Dan lifted the bottle of tonic and proclaimed its potency.

“Drink it!” he caterwauled, “your spirits will be lifted, what ails you will be gone!”

The crowd eyed the concoction doubtfully.

“It’s black magic!” some yelled, “prove it!” yelled others.

He hitched up his pants before reaching down to lift a venomous snake, antagonizing the serpent by waving a hand at its face.

It struck!

Preacher Dan showed them his hand, “Not a drop of blood!” and coins fell like rain into the little collection basket.

Hours later he counted the money one handed, his prosthesis resting beside him.

And, Version Two:

Sunday, under a big tent, Preacher Dan was busy cleansing spirits, urging followers to drink the blood of Christ. His gospel invoked speaking in tongues, a yielding of souls, complete and utter faith.

Doubters whispered, “Its black magic!”

He adjusted his ill-fitting pants, lifted a venomous snake in one hand while waving the other in its face.  

It struck!

He stood firm, unwavering, and caterwauled, “A miracle! A message from God himself! “

Believers now, the crowd surged forward, coins raining into his little collection basket.

Only when he headed to the next town, would he remove the prosthetic hand.

I had to choose one for the contest, and honestly, it was kind of tough, because I liked both equally.  However…, the version I chose was a semi-finalist out of ninety entries, and that was Version Two.

If I’d chosen Version One, what could have happened?  Same placement?  Or not?  This is why writers are torn over their words, why we shuffle them around ad nauseum, telling a similar story, yet different  This is why when we say, “it’s done,” we know it’s never really done, is it? 

 

Achieving Goals


When we set goals for ourselves, there is nothing better than achieving them.  A few years back, I set one for running a marathon.  I trained for it for about nine months, a race held in Bluffington S. C.  It started at 7:00 a.m.  Even though it was October, it was already in the mid 70’s.  Anyone who runs and runs distance, knows this is already hot, and not conducive to running more than, say, five miles.  By the time I finished, four hours, forty five minutes later – it was 86 degrees.  I missed my finishing goal by fifteen minutes, about 30 secs slower per mile than I’d wanted, but I was so happy to be done, I didn’t care.  I’d done it!  Of course I threw up for about four hours after the fact (heat exhaustion) but who cared?  (Ha.  Runners – a breed of their own)

Two years later I ran a second marathon, also in October.  This time, the weather was cooler – thanks to an impending Nor’easter – keep that in the back of your mind as you read.  The race was on the Outer Banks of N.C., and at mile 20, there was this…, well, this bridge.  We all heard about it.  We had all seen it because we had to cross it to get to the island, and let me just say, crossing it in a car is much different than crossing it on foot.  The morning of the race, it was overcast, with a slight wind.  The gun went off and we were on our way.  The first half I was kicking ass, beating my previous half marathon time by about twelve minutes.  I clocked in at the half marker in two hours and ten minutes. Whoop!  At that pace I’d beat my goal of four and half hours.

My hubby, who met me at various mile markers, was confident enough that I could do without his cheering me on long enough to go and have breakfast at the Squat & Gobble.  (We laughed about that name, kidding that it was okay to eat there as long as it wasn’t the Gobble & Squat)  Then it began to rain, and I mean a driving downpour that soaked everything immediately.  At first it felt good.  Then it got cold.  Then there came – the bridge.  We go up.  And up.   Lord, this is a long way up.  By now, the Nor’easter is in full force and the wind is whipping along about 35 m.p.h.  At the top – well it was windy.  All that I had gained time wise was blown  to hell.   The thing was…, I had said over and over, if I can just get over the bridge, if I can just get over the bridge…like some sort of chant.  Well.  I got over the bridge and then I realized, I still had six miles to go.  Wet, cold, hungry – six miles.  But.  I finished.  Four hours and fifty six minutes later.  Slower (much slower) than I wanted, but again, the euphoria of finishing outshone my lack of making that four and a half hour mark again.

Lately, my goals haven’t revolved around running.  They’re centered on writing.  I have the little ones, like word count per day, editing a certain number of pages per day, or working through a plot dilemma etc.  Then there are the bigger goals, like finishing a manuscript.  And I’m happy, (make that really happy) to say I’ve made it to THE END of this one, and it’s monumental because I never thought I’d get there.  A few months ago, I couldn’t even picture how the story would go or what it would take to get around some of the plot points.   I went this way, and then that.  I tore out chapters and wrote new ones.  I changed one major plot idea and believe (hope) it’s for the best.

Now, the story is done, at over 106,000 words.  Done – but not done.  Now I need to read it end to end – without touching it. (if I can stand it!)  I need to see how it flows, with the idea that I’ll need to cut at least 7,000 words to get it down to the more acceptable word count of around 99,000.  (remember that previous post where I talked about acceptable word counts?)  However, I won’t cut anything unless I know the story is better for it and if not, it stays in – for now.

So, that was a huge goal to achieve.

And there was another one – a pleasant surprise.  As you know, I love, love, love participating in those flash fiction contests held by Janet Reid.  It’s been my goal to win because to do so, IMHO, is huge.  It’s huge b/c the contest is open internationally, she’s a well reputed agent, and the competition is stiff.  And she cuts no slack.  And there can be anywhere from 80 to 100 entries.  She held another contest this past weekend, same rules – five word prompts provided by her, and then a story, 100 words or less.  After a year or so of submitting something like, IDK, about 15-20 flash fiction stories, I won along with another writer.

The word prompts were:

  1. blush
  2. mono
  3. virus
  4. evil
  5. piper

My entry:

The blush of dawn came and summer stretched before them, along with the thought of endless, monotonous hospital treatments.

She watched a sandpiper scurry after a crab, one hand over her chest where evil grew, virus like, insidious.

She said, “Promise?”

He nodded, “Promise.”
Helpless, he watched her grow weaker, until one day, she said, “Today.”

He carried her to the beach, waded in and lowered her down.

She struggled, only a little, but he could see her smiling through his tears.

Later, the doorbell rang, interrupting his anguish.

He answered, and the doctor said, “I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

 

Here is my co-winner’s entry (which is so creative and hilarious):

Broken shell and yolk lay scrambled on the ground.
“I don’t get it. Humpty wasn’t evil,” Cinderella said. “BTW. Thanks for switching genres to investigate this, Mr. Holmes.”
Sherlock adjusted his monocle. “Always willing to attend to an attractive lass.” Cinderella blushed.
Dopey leaned over the mess. “Careful, lad,” Sherlock cautioned. “Mr. Dumpty frequented the Smurf house. Wouldn’t want you catching a virus.”
“Was he pushed?” Cinderella asks.
The dwarf reaches down, then holds up something round and shiny, like a flat bowl. Sherlock points to it with his pipe.
“No, madam. He was pied. The mark of the Piper.”

I love what JR wrote after the fact:  “It’s always very hard to choose a winner from such varied entries. Whether to recognize innovative style and form, or twisty endings, or just gorgeous prose…impossible to choose.  But this week, I decided that the two entries that drew gasps from me, literally, when I finished reading the entry would be the winners.

I gasped with shock at the last line in the donnaeverhart.com 6:58am entry.  (wheeeeeeee!)

And I gasped with laughter at the last line in the shtrum 12:00noon entry.  (me too!)

Donna and Shtrum if you’ll email me your mailing address and the kind of books you like to read I’ll send you your prize for winning this week’s contest.  Congratulations!”

And there it is…two goals met within days of each other.

I  love that, don’t you? 

Coffee Break


Janet Reid had a flash fiction contest this past weekend and despite my “head down, working towards THE END,” mantra on my latest WIP, I took a little coffee break and participated.  You know, I really love these contests – I think I might be addicted.

The usual rules applied.  She gives participants five words, and you write a “story,” using them, but the real challenge?  The entire story can only be 100 words.  Some people write sentences that long.  The prize?  Usually a book she’s received via ARC’s (advance reader copy) or from publishers for whatever reason.

The words for this weekend’s contest were:

  1. child
  2. parker
  3. finder
  4. berry
  5. rose

By nine p.m. Saturday night when the contest shut down, eighty-eight entries filled the comments queue.  Ms. Reid likes to pick out the stories that strike her a certain way, in addition to naming a winner/s.  I have yet to win one of these darn contests.  *argh!*  But, I have made the honorable mentions several times – and placed as a finalist once.  They’re a lot of fun – to me – and they don’t take up too much time.

From the words above, here’s my entry, and I’ve bolded the five words we had to use.

Roseberry Parker, child prodigy, waited in the Secure Room, hundreds of feet below Capitol Hill.

Her guard said, “Does it work?”

Roseberry rolled her eyes, “Duuu-uh.”

Her fingers hit several keys rapidly. FINDER, the program she developed, began extrapolating terabytes of data.

The guard said, “Does it take long?”

CLICK!

Roseberry said, “It’s done.”

“Impossible! They’ve been at this for years! “

“Well, someone better call the President.”

“You kidding? Call the Malaysian Authorities. If your program can find this, it can find anything.

The result on the screen was undeniable. Dates, times, and most importantly, a name.

Lois Lerner.

Alas, I didn’t win, but received this mention from JR along with another writer.  (she uses the word deliciously a lot because JR also runs QueryShark)

Deliciously subtle

Hilary Cusack 11:44pm

Donnaeverhart 8:10am

Here is what she said about the winning entries, “In the end I couldn’t pick just one. Both #9 and #10 were great stories, well-told, and using form in a way that embellished the story. VERY hard to do that in the word constraints.”

Indeed…and, I think there’s a lot to be learned from that.  Here are their entries:

9) Celeste 6:20pm

Flash mob
@Our_Child_Missing. Rose never came home from school today. Last seen wearing strawberry print dress, carries a satchel. Finder’s reward for our beautiful little girl. Whatever it takes. Plse help and retweet. 17:05

#Our_Child_Missing:
Strawberries are red
Violets are blue
I have her with me
Now I want cash from you
19:33

@Our_Child_Missing. Man arrested on suspicion of abduction. Our baby still missing. Pray for us. 20:16

@Our_Child_Missing. Rose found safe in the mall, thanks to thousands of retwts & phone calls. Sick creep who tweeted fake abduction just released by cops. His name is Parker. His address is…

(10) Ashland 8:33pm

Roses are red
A berry is blue
When Parker raped me
He said ‘fuck you’

Years later he enters the club. I was a child when it happened, so he doesn’t recognize me. When I tell our bouncer Shaun to let him know he’s won a free ten in the champagne room, his eyes light with excitement.

Three minutes into ‘Cherry Pie’ I whip out the switchblade.
Two slashes crisscross his throat.
One long moan escapes.
Zero professional finders will ever locate his body.

Roses are red
The sky is now blue
When it was over
I said ‘fuck you’

Another diversion – but, that was fun!  Now, back to work!

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