Monday, June 08, 2015

Death Ex Machina writing contest results

Sorry this was delayed this morning. I was felled by a brutal headache, and you REALLY don't want me reading contest entries in a haze. (Much like you don't want anyone reading your requested fulls when they are tired/hungry/worried etc.)

This round of entries was top notch. I had to read the entire roster of entries twice to fully appreciate how much good writing was here. You're not making this easy!

Herewith the results:

Special recognition for a meta entry!
Kitty 10:04am

In which the author exiles himself to Carkoon for his dastardly treatment of our man Felix Buttonweezer!
Jeff Deitering 10:10am

The Tawna Fenske Award for Frisky Phrasing
"Swampy fornication" and "a frog-on-frog couple"
Tiffany 12:02pm

Special recognition for excellence in use of prompt words
Steve Forti 12:17pm

Special recognition for what isn't a story but is beautiful, evocative writing
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli (whose name is also a poem) 12:37pm
NotAWarriorPrincess 5:30pm

note: it's rare to get even one entry so lovely, let alone two

The Oh My Godiva I can't believe he would PUNish us like this Award:
Scott Sloan 10:22pm

this entry delighted me!

Special recognition for a great line:
Terri Lynn Coop 11:12pm "Even the dead guy hates me."

Not quite a story, but intriguing writing
James Ticknor 1:09am

Love this use of the prompt word
Pharosian 2:04 am "cranesbill"

I'm always on the lookout for unusual and imaginative uses of the prompt words.

Not quite a story, but compelling world-building!
Lance 8:35am

And here are the finalists:

(1) Gabriella 10:18am
Elizabeth craned her neck and reached deep into the mailbox to remove the large padded envelope. She bristled, preparing herself for the mortgage foreclosure documents. Instead, large blue letters declared: RETURNED DUE TO INSUFFICIENT POSTAGE. The package was addressed to the Cayman Islands in her late husband’s ghostly handwriting

Grabbing a plastic knife from last night’s dinner, she tore open the envelope. Inside, legal documents named his young secretary as benefactor. To a numbered bank account. Containing three million dollars.

Tears spilled down her face. While the Hallelujah chorus erupted in her head.

 This is a great story BUT taking out the last two lines would make it even better. Trust your reader to know what Elizabeth will feel.

(2) Lobo 10:29am
The war not five days over and this greenhorn was fixing to get the President killed. Christ! If the Union’d had parlor soldiers like that at Appomattox, we’d be a chorus singing Dixie.

“B-But, Chief,” the kid stuttered and craned his neck toward the balcony seats. “S-Someone could sneak behind—”

“Ridiculous!” I huffed and slapped the stage. “Request denied. Next you’ll be telling me the actors are a threat. Now, skedaddle!”

He slunk away.

I shook my head.

Stand sentry behind the President the entire performance? Like some nagging ghost? Christ! Not an ounce of sense in some people.

I love this; it trusts the reader to get what the story is about.

(3) Donnaeve 11:05am
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.


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.

This is a stunning demonstration of how to show rather than tell,  and establishing character through diction.

(4) Stephen Parks 7:26pm
“Assume the crash position!” The famous Shakespearean actor awoke.

Glancing around as panicked faces craned to peer out the windows, abject fear at the angle of their descent ghosting their faces.

What do they know of fear? Peons!

Fear the indignities of ageing. Fear indifference and degradation! Flying to an audition? Audacity! Sitting in Economy, among the Greek chorus? And not even a window seat!

If they must die, let them die enlightened. One final stage then and not a critic to besmirch the memory, he thought as he arose, clearing his throat for their attention.

“To be, or”


I'm not sure what it says about me that this made me laugh out loud.

(5) Steven 8:34pm
Another rainy, Bayou Sunday.

Another three A.M. body dump.

A chorus of gasps escapes as I arrive. No eyes find mine.

The “Director’s” fifth victim appears more staged than usual. Perhaps only I’d notice.

The actor du jour, another blonde yogelite.

Techs erect a tent, but any evidence left has since settled in the Gulf with Katrina debris and Connick’s career.

Another tech futilely chalks a dissolving ghost line around the vic.

From a kneeled position at the body, the ME cranes toward me. “You can’t be here, Jack. You don’t wanna remember her like this!”

Only … I do.

 I loved this, but couldn't figure out what a yogelite was. I'm ok with made up words, and odd/unusual words, but it's important to be able to extrapolate definition from context.  

(5) John Frain 2:3pm
Living in his shadow started early.

I tried to impress Mom with my athleticism, but you’re a GHOST competing with the “world’s greatest athlete.”

So I became an actress. Thought I’d fACTORed in everything, but suddenly Bruce was Mr. Reality TV. I couldn’t keep up with the Kardashians, much less garner attention from Mom.

Finally landed a lead role in a Broadway musical. I was so high, it would take a CRANE to get me down. Pictured myself receiving accolades, recognition in Playbill.

But who was on the cover? Some dancer. This CHORUS girl? Caitlyn. Of course.

UpSTAGEd again.

This is a so subtle! It depends on the reader bringing knowledge to the story, something I've always liked in story telling.

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.

Donna, if you'll email me with your preferred mailing address, I'll send you either Gary Corby's fabulous new book DEATH EX MACHINA, or the first two in the series THE PERICLES COMMISSION, and THE IONIA SANCTION.

Thanks to all who spent time creating entries! This was a really great contest. I'm in awe of your talent and imaginative writing.


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Woo, Congrats DONNA! And good job everybody.

I do love these challenges. I love doing them, I love reading them, and seeing the ones other people love. Thanks for hosting this!

Colin Smith said...

Woohoo!! Congrats Donna!!! :D Once again, QOTKU has picked well.

And well done to all the mentions, too.

Thanks Janet for adding your thoughts. Of course, if we all learn from your notes, the next contest will be even harder for you to judge. :)

Anonymous said...

*whew* I'd just written a comment for the previous post, and when I submitted it - suddenly comments were closed. I was afraid I'd done something.

So happy that it means Ms Janet is feeling better. Yay!

Congrats, Donna! Great entry!

And how cool was it that Gary Corby commented on the WiR thread? Uber cool, I must say.

S.D.King said...

Congrats to Donna!

Lots of fun entries this time around.

Kitty said...

Congrats to Donna and the finalists!

Btw, Janet, I laughed out loud at #4 as well.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Yay! Donnaeve, beautiful use of inner dialogue. Spare and elegant, flash at its best.

There were some real gems in this weeks batch, the finalists and shout-outs all earned it.

Mine formed in my head as I was driving home from meeting the wonderful Loretta Ross at her book-signing in Kansas City. I'd taped the prompts to my dashboard. Highway 69 is good for thinking.

Kudos to everyone who enters and a standing ovation to Her Sharkiness for these wonderful contests.


Gabriella said...

Congratulations to Donna!

And thanks to Janet for including my piece as a finalist...and especially for having these brain-tickling contests.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats Donnaeve for a great story and wonderful commendation of why it's great! And woohoo, Janet, for quick recovery.

I like the internalizations that QOTKU is bringing here for the Top 5 and the other's who are mentioned for their various strengths. Although this is more work for her. Sometimes...(aack, who am I fooling?) Many times, I need to be told the obvious to get it drilled into my head.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Yeh for Donna! And congrats to the finalists and to all those receiving special recognition. :)

Anonymous said...

Man I wish I was better at writing flash fiction! I just don't get the ropes at all. :)

I vote Donna teaches a course on flash fiction. :)

And Janet! Glad to hear you are feeling better! Headaches are flat out debilitating.

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, Donna! All the finalist entries (and mentions) were outstanding.

Thought about writing a companion piece to my smoke alarm story, since there were more "chirrups" this past weekend, but didn't want to err on the side of redundancy.

Love these contests! Hope the Shark headaches have ceased too.

Dena Pawling said...

Congrats Donna and all the finalists! And thanks Janet for giving your thought process. It helps newbie folks like me learn some craft points. When I grow up I hope to write like that.

Donnaeve said...

Anyone want to guess the first word out of my mouth? It wasn't WHOOP! That came after.

Totally unexpected, because, as mentioned, the entries really were stellar. I do love doing these.

Brian (Brina?), ha, I had to ask QOTKU just weeks ago why she would sometimes flag stories as "not quite a story." I'm still learning too.

Thank you all for your congratulatory remarks!

And, thank you so much, Ms. Janet, for the contests and all the time you devote to us here. Much appreciated.

*music cue. They're telling me to wrap it up.*


french sojourn said...

They like you, they really like you. a matter of fact we love yah!

Way to go! It never ceases to amaze me, all those incredible entries and the permutations of the prompts.

It just makes us all dig in deeper. Thanks again to the hostess with the mostess for holding these f.f.contests. It is really a highlight; for me anyway.

Cheers Hank.

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Donna! And to everyone else who contributed and was mentioned. I love reading these short pieces, more so because I can't manage to get the hang of it myself. It's HARD to write short. Really appreciated the editorial notes from Janet, too. Great insight about what worked for her.

If I could go off topic for a minute (as if we need permission for *that* over here), just wanted to say I'll be offline for a few weeks. Don't want you all to think I'm ignoring you, just having a wee bit of surgery. I'll look like the poor little pup in the last post, only the bag of ice will be soothing a different body part. [All the gory details are on my blog, if anyone *really* wants to know. Click my name, that should take you there.] I'll be reading along, just not commenting from my drug-induced fog. No need for that kind of entertainment.

HA! Recaptcha just made me laugh. I'm not a robot, but I'm getting there. One body part at a time. :-)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Donna and all the finalists (and mentions)! Great job everybody! :)

Unknown said...

Congrats Donnnaeve and all the finalists. I loved reading them all.

Colin Smith said...

We'll miss you, kd! I hope the wee surgery goes well. :)

Sam Hawke said...

Good luck with the surgery KD and congrats to all the mentions this week! Brian, I'm with you - so impressed with what other people can do with 100 words. I can't even do short stories well, let alone flash!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Donnnnnna, awesome, awesome, awesome.
Congrats, and to all, freakin' wonderful.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Aw, KD best of luck. I know why your knees are weird. You really shouldn't pray so much. Hahahahaha !

John Frain said...

Props, Donna, well struck. And all the other mentionables as well.

Ms. Janet, love the comments that let us see a glimpse into your mind.

One final note. The subjectivity of this crazy business we're all volunteering to enter hits me. With all due respect to all pieces mentioned, my favorite entry (I'm looking at you S.D. King) was not even listed. One more reason to cast the query net wide.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Glad the headaches are gone, I worryied it might be blog burnout.

Way to go Donna! I loved your entry when I read it Saturday. I loved Lobo's too, Stephen Parks, and Steven's. Love NotawarriorPrincess's and so many others.

I knew mine wasn't a story. The prose I wrote sucked so bad I couldn't post it. Decided to write the poem. I'm over the moon that the Shark named it evocative. Made my f-ing day.

Congrats to all, love these prompts and Janet's generosity to teach us. So cool Gary Corby joined the discussion.

KD, Thinking of you.

Donna, look forward to hearing about Corby's book.

AJ Blythe said...

Congrats, Donna! And kudos to the other finalists and those that got a mention.

I love reading the entries (which I do after posting my own, otherwise I'd never be brave enough to include mine).

All the best with the surgery, KD.

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Donna! So flipping envious. You make it look easy.

Cindy C said...

Congratulations Donna and everyone mentioned. Another great group of entries!

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry you didn't feel well, Janet. Congratulations to Donna and all the wonderful entrants. Good job!

S.D.King said...

John Frain,

Thanks for the kind words. I have been querying widely and still have not found an agent who is as excited about my work as I am, but I still believe in my story, so I will keep plugging along.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Yes, it is hard to write short. But, you know what? I'm currently working on a contest entry that must be precisely 200 words long, including the title.

Those extra 100 words do not make it easier. In some ways, it is harder.

I've been hanging around the shark tank for quite a while and have watched the contests evolve. The quality has only increased. The depth and cleverness has only increased. Can't wait to see what y'all turn up with on the next one.

Donna - when your book arrives you are well within your rights to stand under the next full moon and give a Klingon battle cry. Well, okay, it was all right when I did it, but I live in a small town with few neighbors. Your mileage may vary . . .


Stephen G Parks said...

Donna, congratulations! Everyone else as well.

As always I’m amazed at the different directions you all go, directions that would have never occurred to me.

Janet, I’m glad that I induced laughter in you and not the onset of your headache! Take care.

Anonymous said...

Donna, congrats! and congrats to all the other finalists :) I especially loved Lobo's entry, too.

KD- good luck! Hope all goes well.

LynnRodz said...

Congratulations, Donna and all those mentioned!

KD, I wish you a speedy recovery.

Lance said...

Congratulations and a net full of kudos, Donnaeve! What a story! Hearty congratulations to the mentionables as well as the unmentionables, particularly the poets. Great stuff. Thank you, Ms. Janet, for the mention. It makes the old ticker run a bit faster. I liked the notes for the finalists. Thank you for taking so much of your time to help us become better writers as well as better queriers.

KD, make sure they get the right part.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right, Carolynn, it's all that praying. *snort*

Thank you all so much for the good wishes. It means a lot. I'm actually very nervous about this, although I'm sure everything will be FINE. I'll be back before you know it, new and improved and able to leap long comment sections in a single bound. Or something. :-)

Donnaeve said...

I've caught up since I had to leave for a while today, and just wanted to say thanks again for all the congratulatory remarks - you all are very generous!

kd, - ick the surgery thing. (thanks for those knee pics - LOL!) Here's to a speedy recovery!

Hank, Sally Field's infamous statement lives on, no?

Gary Corby said...

Awesome entries, all of them. Congratulations to Donna, and thanks to Colin for thinking of the competition.

I thought Terri's line "Even the dead guy hates me." sounded like me!

Unknown said...

Congrats to Donnaeve for a very good piece! Kudos to our Ms Shark for allowing us to stetch or writing muscles! Love these contests more than anything on the 'net.

Tiffany said...

Congrats to Donnaeve! And a big thank you to Ms Shark for "The Tawna Fenske Award" for Frisky Phrasing (my entry, which included: "Swampy fornication" and "a frog-on-frog couple"). Having just learned yesterday of my grandma's passing, this was very uplifting gesture. Thanks for putting a smile on my face!!

Lilac said...

Donna, how wonderful…Congratulations, my friend! :D

KD, I am sending many blessings your way.

Unknown said...

Fantastic Donna! I love the award titles too! Well done and it was great to read through them all :p

Scott Sloan said...

Would it be considered an unacceptable example of 'gushing', if I said that the fact my entry delighted you gave me a case of the warm fuzzies; the likes of which I haven't experienced in quite some time? Thank you so much for your kind words.