Monday, February 08, 2016

Orphan X contest results (yes, this time for realz)

You love to torment me with your talent don't you?

Herewith the results (and don't for a minute think this was easy!)

I love the word play in this sentence:
All it takes is one loose nut to send a car out of control. In this case the loose nut was behind the wheel
Chase Canyon 11:05am

And of course the idea that painting and color choice will drive you to murder appeals to me very much!
Matthew Masucci 11:06am

The Steve Forti Award for excellence in use of prompt words
Steve Forti 11:27am  The dying sun plummets like a shergottite.

These entries cracked me up completely, 
particularly this punchline
“I bought it, not my fault.”
Irene Olson 12:36pm

and these two lines here
Who the hell dates somebody named Herb anyway? Me and some half-wit smutbag named Stephanie, apparently. 
Christina Seine 1:50pm

And you have to read this twice to really get the laugh, and even though this joke is a classic,

it still made me laugh.
RS McCoy 2:43pm

Not quite a story but I like the elegance of this writing a lot
Kae Ridwyn 3:43pm

Talk about a great punchline! Yowza!
"or something" 3:47pm

Very meta
Robert Ceres 1:03pm

This entry is based on a true story that just boggles the mind
Donnaeve 1:22pm

Not quite a story but holy moly, talk about scary
Timothy Lowe 2:31pm

This isn't quite a story but it's the start of a novel/novella I'd sure want to read!
CED 12:18am

The Loaner Cat is offended that this entry wasn't given the Grand Prize INSTANTLY
Sara Halle 11:20pm

Here are the entries that made the long list:

Jennifer R. Donohue 10:05am
Her hair is the only color here is great description.

Craig 10:28am
Our orbits separated when she tried to delete the r from mine is a GREAT sentence.

Celery Larkspur 10:42am
the story is entirely what the reader brings to it. VERY elegant and subtle.

lizosisek 12:15pm
She wore death well. GREAT opening line.

Here are the finalists:

Steve Forti 11:27am
“Pull!” The skeet flies, the man fires. “Dammit!”

High above, the sun clutches its fresh wound, painting the sky with blood.

“Fantastic sunset,” the man says.

The dying sun plummets like a shergottite. Far away, a pajama-clad moon leaps from bed. “Shit, I’m on early tonight!”

Hours later, the man snores in the dark, unaware it’s nearly noon.

The nervous moon thumbs the index of his employee handbook. “When the sun doesn’t show, it’s the moon’s responsibility to…” He cringes. Duty bound, he lights the torch.

A rooster? No, a scream outside. The man jolts awakes, late for work. 

This is just a breath taking imaginative story. It's that penultimate sentence that really makes it work.

Amy Schaefer 11:43am
“Keep your wits!” The voice echoes: witch, witch…

I turn away, scabbed fingers steering me through the black. No echo means no wall means a way out.

“Esther.” Stir, stir…

For days the broken voices have dripped honey in my ear.

“Almost—fan—“ Fang, fang…

But they make so many mistakes.

I move faster. The voices rise, tumbling over one another:

“Slow—fore—“ Orc, orc…

“No exit—“ Hex it, hex it…



Panic takes me. I run.

A sharp, short scream.

The rescue coordinator switches off the microphone and hangs his head.

 So, two points of view; amazing word play, and an ambiguity that haunts the reader. What's not to love here?

S.D.King 12:16pm
July 2016
The snaking line of sobbing women are dressed from Goodwill to Gucci. Keeping her wits, Anna clutches an ultrasound proving a perfectly round head. One more chance to plead for a waiver. Last chance.

A cart with hundreds of paper pill cups ahead, she rubs her swollen belly, humming the symphonic cello part of Brahm’s Lullaby. She’s next.

“Anna Mueller?”

A supervisor checks his laptop. ”Boston Philharmonic?”

Now reclining her seat on the transport to Calgary, she rubs her tummy, cooing Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Seems the President’s a fan of classical. Operation Noah needs a musical baby. 

What makes this entry sublime is the date stamp. I'm not sure I've ever seen a story that used a time stamp quite so effectively. 

Marie McKay 12:33pm
stilettos tick tocking, run-walking on the pavement; killer heels for the woman who had it all: career, infant - an ex with a twenty-year-old wife; tick tock, run-walk; can't be late for daycare; "left the office, picked up her kid"- no time to see red, blood, gore, body on the floor; tick tock, run-walk; act normal; smile at staff; small talk, small talk; just picking up my kid; kisses for my baby girl - girl without a daddy; woman widowed at twenty STOP gather your wits; can't get caught, can't get caught; not planning on doing Time 

Let's just start with the fact that this is one sentence, not even a sentence since there's no start/finish indicators.
And the rhythm!! If you read this out loud it's like a heart beating.
And the entire story is there, but the reader has to find it.
This is flat out amazing, and BRAVE. Holy shit ONE SENTENCE!!!

Mark Thurber 4:03pm
The aircraft is below its glideslope. “Transcon 209, Metro approach. You are low.”

“This is Transcon 209. Hit birds. Lost both engines and… uh… lost the rudder. We’re going down.”

Mr. Ganso surveys the debris field. He must finish before the gaggle descends.

He finds what he is looking for: PW4000 turbofan, split open by impact. Verifies: white feathers at compressor exit, charred ones in the exhaust duct.

No innocents died this time, though. These feathers were donated willingly. To the weapon.

It is only the beginning. Let’s see how the wingless ones like this foie gras.

I'm a sucker for a subtle story and this is a perfect example of one. Somehow I also knew to google "ganso" to confirm.

SiSi 8:51pm
“Darling,” he said once upon a time, “you’re everything I want. Will you marry me?”

During the honeymoon at the fancy beach resort he laughed and called me childish.

“Of course you’re stupid,” he said years later. “You come from a family of half-wits.”

“She means nothing to me,” he told his girlfriend last month.

Just now, as he reached across seven years of bad luck, he said, “Crazy bitch. Give it to me.”

The wall behind him, where the mirror hung before exploding into pieces, looks barren. Empty.

When I raise the gun again he says, “Don’t.”

I do.

The bookends of this story "will you marry me" and "I do" are lovely. And "reached across seven years of bad luck" is a lovely phrase. My only suggested revision would be removing the sentence that starts with "The wall" since you've already told us the mirror is broken. Trust your reader to get it.

CarolynnWith2Ns 7:42am
August, Northern Maine, 3 Am, four hours ‘til home.
Back in the car after the rest stop.
Exhausted, boredom is my passenger.
70. No one else on the road. Hot.
Damp cloth smell. Someone shifted position. Crouched, floor, back seat.
Wits pumped into overdrive.
80. Think.
Shadow. Rearview.
90. Car rattles, I am terrified.
He comes up over the back seat.
Brake. Hard.
White knuckle wheel. Screaming tires, burning rubber.
His fantail body flies forward through the windshield. Sickening speedbump.
70. No one else on the road. Wind.
Gotta’ get the windshield fixed when I get home. 

Yea, so I'm never driving alone again without thinking about this story. The pacing is perfect, and achieved beautifully by using length of phrases.
This is stunningly elegant writing.  

It took a long time to read all these carefully and think about them. 
(thus the delay in posting the winner)

In the end I was just blown away both by the story and the sheer confidence of Marie McKay 12:33pm who broke a lot of rules to wonderful effect.

Marie, email me with your mailing address and I'll get you your prize.  If by some chance, you're not a crime novel fan (heaven forfend!) let me know and we'll come up with an alternative.

Thank you to all who took the time to enter. I really enjoy reading your work, although some of you really scare me (probably just an added bonus for you, right?)


french sojourn said...

Congrats Marie....epic one liner takes on a whole new fashion!

I really enjoyed so-so many of these pearls.

Thanks again to the QOTKU for her time and the entries which were sublime.


Colin Smith said...

WOW!! Well done Marie. Bold and original. Much deserved win.

Great entries this time--very tough competition. :)

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and for the record, this is Mary's second win. And I think she currently holds the record for proximity wins. Her first win was only last November. I don't think anyone else has won more than once within three or four months. Double congrats, Mary! :)

Unknown said...

Wow, these were amazing, and congrats to Marie -- "Tick tock, run-walk" definitely got into my head.

I also want to give a shout out to Claire and Lucie, whose parent nightmare stories of two different types hit home for me in between the delightful silliness of the other entries. And I didn't get Matthew Wuertz's story at first, but it was totally awesome once I managed to figure it out. Speaking of which, "your not sam" is still spinning round in my brain from the last contest. I think that line works great as a blanket signifier of a horrifying twist. Maybe if Janet's blog ever has its own T-shirt that phrase could go on the back.

S.P. Bowers said...

Congrats Marie, you truly deserve to win.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Great job, Marie. Impressive truly.

Congrats to all the mentionables, finalists, and long listers. And to all who entered. So many great entries. No one can envy the shark for having to munch down on just one.

Since the author is not part of prize, must go check my traps.

Steve Forti said...

Congrats Marie! Well done.
And props to 2N's - definitely dug yours this time.

And woo-hoo for getting my award back! (And another finalist!) *Does a much-needed dance on this snowy afternoon.*

nightsmusic said...

Congrats, Marie and to all the mentions, and entries! Wonderful reading :) There is so much talent here.

Marie McKay said...

Thank you so much, Janet. I am so pleased. Thanks for all the lovely comments.(Thanks Colin for that information - that's nice to know!) You are all so kind and talented. I've said before, I don't comment that much, but I do read all the brilliant info. You all seem so knowledgeable, and Janet is incredibly generous with her time and expertise. Thanks again and congrats to everyone.

Craig F said...

Congratulations to all and sundry who entered. Especially the new names.

I too loved the way Marie's blurb sashayed through the competition.

To top it off I got on the long list. Hot diggity. I was somewhat afraid that the orbit/obit sentence would be too subtle to be noticed.

My Stupor Bowl aftermath story is posted in two comments at the bottom of the last post if any wishes to read it.

CynthiaMc said...

Congrats, Marie!

Hated missing this one.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Congratulations, Marie! Count me also as among those who read your story in awe of your talent :)

And YAY! The QOTKU thinks my writing's elegant! She "likes it a lot"! *crazy happy dancing* *walks on air*

Have a wonderful day, everyone! :D

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Marie! I love the rhythm to your story. Great entries from all!

Timothy Lowe said...

This bunch was better than ever - great job everyone. Very neat story Marie.

Amy Schaefer said...

Great stories as always, and I loved yours, Marie. Nice work!

Anonymous said...

Marie, you turned the story form inside out and upside down and still wound up with a beautiful, complete story. Amazing work, and a well-deserved win. All the entries were terrific. I can see why it took QOTKU so long to decide.

And, and, and --- SHE LIKED MY PUNCHLINE! I'm swooning over here.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

wow, Marie, that 100 words left me breathless! Congratulations.

There were a lot- of socks knockers in this field. And super points to Donnaeve for including one of the most mind boggling stories of the week in her entry. The truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. Or just as strange as. Whatevs.

Thanks for the longlist inclusion! I was particularly pleased with that line, which meant either it was good, or would've been cut as too purple if I was doing more drafts before the final. The eternal struggle, don'tcha know.

InkStainedWench said...

Congratulations, Marie!
you rock!

John Frain said...

First, congrats Marie.

Second, anyone who made the short or long list should be deliriously proud. So many fantastic entries. So glad I don't have to judge 'em.

Keep rockin', y'all. And writin'.

Brigid said...

Congratulations, Marie!

Mark Thurber's was a favorite of mine. I can feel the smugness at the end.

Lucie Witt said...

Marie, congrats, I loved your entry when I read it and, to be deep embarrassment, was so caught up in it I didn't even notice it was one sentence! That's why QOTKU is the judge and not us mere minions, I suppose.

Congrats to everyone mentioned - so many great entries.

Mark, thank you for the compliment on my entry!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Marie, congrats. What a wonderful entry. There were many incredible entries. Very tough competition.

Cindy C said...

Congratulations, Marie--love the pacing of yours. Like Lucie, I didn't even realize it was one sentence at first, just knew it sucked me into the rhythm and spat me out at the end, dazed but impressed.

Seeing my entry on the finalist list was an amazing end to a looong day--I didn't even realize until right now that the results were delayed since I never had a chance to look.

Thanks for the revision feedback, Janet. I put that line in and took it back out about 10 times . . . trusting the reader vs. confusing the reader is something I constantly struggle with.

Lennon Faris said...

Congratulations, Marie! Awesome!!

Carolynnwith2N's - yours terrified me, I think bc it could be any normal person behind the wheel there. Nicely written.

Loved reading these.

Kate Higgins said...

Congrats Marie!
The thing that bothers me the most about Janet's contests is that I would put so many of these "books" on a reading list. A list that doesn't exist because the 'books' on these pages are only fragments...sigh

Donnaeve said...

Congrats Marie and all finalists, and other mentions!

Yes, mine was a ripped from the headlines idea, and it DID boggle my mind.

For what it's worth, here's the ones I was really enjoying, but honestly? I eventually stopped writing down names when I got to nine b/c there were SO many good ones!

Marie McKay (for the win!)
Christine Cohen
Lennon Faris
Timothy Lowe
RS McCoy
J Delozier

And I stopped there...

Having said that, some of the ones the Queen had above as Finalists...I didn't get them, and I read a few of them over and over. I really tried. This is why SHE'S the agent.

Great job ya'11! Fun, huh?

nightsmusic said...

Donna, I was in the same boat with some of them and not getting them. But that's not the author. That's me.

Janice Grinyer said...

Congrats Marie - I loved your pacing! And of course congrats to the mentionables, semis, finalists too. It was quite a field to select from :)

I like when certain stories are highlighted here that I may have missed due to rush-reading through the stories. From now on I will try to make some time on the weekend after a flash fiction contest to really "take in" what I am reading; I dont want to miss the nuance of a story. Some of these have a light touch that makes you really appreciate what the writer has achieved, especially after a second reading.

Maybe then I will learn how to write subtle prose too :)

*muttering to self about self's buffalo-style reading and writing behavior*

Great job everyone!

Anonymous said...


Congratulations! And congratulations to all who made the list. That's a great feat in itself. Good job.

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, Marie! Lovely rhythm.

Every time we do one of these, I learn more from the entries, and what words can really do!

Unknown said...

Brigid, thanks! Donna and nightsmusic, I think we're all in the same boat, with only the Shark seeing all as she circles in the water around us. My brother assigned me to write a Cliff's Notes version of mine: 5 words or less using "til" and "eda." My best effort: "Aircraft ill-treated by feathered avenger."

nightsmusic said...

Mark, too bad he gave you prompt words. Kamikaze Seagull works for me! ;)

Unknown said...

Haha, I like it!

Donnaeve said...

nightsmusic and Mark,

The Shark does see all. She's got a superb sharkly eyeball on the talent out here. Your brother's challenge? You stepped up to it! I like it! Although, nightsmusic kamikaze seagull made me snort laugh!

I'm so glad I don't have to judge these things as John Frain mentioned - which btw John...your entry spelled GREG out on the side, and I scrolled up and down through the entries looking for Greg. Were you calling out one of our lurkers who didn't enter? Was this a subliminal challenge?

Colin Smith said...

Of course, it's very possible that some of those that did not make the cut lost points with QOTKU because she didn't understand what was going on, even after careful reading. Now, given Janet has probably read a few more books than the average bear (or shark, and possibly even woodland creature), she probably "gets" more of these stories than most others would. But there are times when we writers put cleverness over clarity--and that can be our downfall. And QOTKU is not insensitive to that. Mmm... there's a writing tip there, I think. :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Marie! Loved your entry, terrific rhythm.

These entries just keep getting better and better. So fascinating to see such wildly different stories using the same five words. Oh, and very clever prompt words this time, Janet-- they cracked ME up.

I went over to AMZ the other day and read the preview of the beginning of ORPHAN X and WOW. I really want to read the rest of it. Trying to convince myself a $12.99 ebook fits into my budget...

Mark, I'm laughing at the idea of a Cliff's Notes version of FF. You should challenge your brother to enter the next contest.

Craig, your story on the last post gave me chills. Stalked by panthers. Geez. Glad you lived to tell it!

Anjeana said...

These were awesome -- so much fun to read, so many different approaches! Congratulations everyone and thank you for the kind welcome. I'm looking forward to learning a lot!

CED said...

Congrats to all, and especially Marie for a unique entry. Always something to learn here.

Now to turn my 100 words into a novel and secure sharkly representation... :)

Lance said...

Congratulations, Marie! Wow! And to all the finalists, mentioned. Great stories, all. I am in awe. Thank you, Ms. Janet, for going through what was obviously a grueling decision process.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm a finalist? I am beyond honored.
Janet your comments mean the absolute world to me.
And Marie, amazing.

Theresa said...

Great entry, Marie. Congratulations.

I don't understand subtle very well. What's the significance of the July 2016 date stamp?

S.D.King said...

Theresa, the story referenced the Zika outbreak, so the time stamp has to do with women who were pregnant six months from the outbreak.

Congrats to Marie!

Theresa said...

Thanks, S.D. I thought that might be it but wasn't sure.

John Frain said...


Sorry to make you do that extra work. Janet had spotted us almost the entire cover from the book -- Ore Fan Ex [by] Her Wits. She was only missing Greg, the author's first name. So I thought I'd drop it in to my entry.

Alas, I'm about to win the Most Vacuous Mind award for this contest, and I shouldn't admit to this but I keep reading Steve Forti's entry. The penultimate sentence (No, a scream outside) is supposed to give it away. And yet ... gawd, I'm dense. Before I get sent to the Bluebird group for the slowest of the slow readers, will someone help me out here. Steve? Steve? Bueller? Anyone?

Janet Reid said...

S.D. King and Theresa,
I didn't think of the entry as about the Zika virus.
I thought it was about something about to happen (July 2016)
and the world was trying to save some but not all people (Operation Noah, as in the flood and the ark!)

Each reader brings her own perspective; I don't think you're "wrong" here at all.

Janet Reid said...

was, not as. Geeze Janet.

Anonymous said...

Holy guacamole, Marie, that's an amazing entry! And agreeing wholeheartedly with the Shark with how brave it was.

John Frain, after reading it a couple times, my take is that the moon set himself on fire to become the sun--and that's gotta hurt! Wonder who the moon is now.

I'm kicking myself for my entry. Somewhere in transcribing the prompt words, I lost the 's' on 'wits,' and didn't notice until after the window had expired. >.< Not that it was a particularly good entry this week. I didn't have as much time to work on it as I wanted. Still, disqualification for lack of proper use of the words is a dumb reason to lose.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

CED: I know the feeling! My current wip starts with my entry from I-forget-when, about which Janet commented "I'd keep reading if this was the beginning of a novel." (to paraphrase). Granted, in general what I write isn't Ms. Reid's schtick, but I'm still going to send it to her when it's done, redrafted, read, edited, etc. And I'm having fun writing it, which can be important.

Vanessa Valdes said...

Marie, congratulations! 100 words of amazingness. I was having heart palpitations the entire read.

Jessica Snell said...

Congrats, Marie!

S.D. King's broke my heart, and 2Ns' made me suck in my breath. Wow! You guys are amazing.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congratulations all the mentions and especially Marie. When I first started reading your entry I thought, "Oh, no caps. Then it was clear you'd broke all the rules on purpose. Beautiful.

I loved the lines Janet picked out when I read the entries on Saturday and Sunday. It was fun to not participate and appreciate the entries.

I also like Angie Gregory's entry, even though she didn't get mentioned.

Kate Larkindale said...

What a fantastic bunch of stories! And Marie, wow... Congratulations.

A Room of My Own said...

Congrats to everyone!

And thanks, Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli for the mention. Glad you enjoyed it. Splendid entries, so many excellent ones.

Marie McKay said...

Lol. Thank you. Really appreciated.

Marie McKay said...

Just saying thanks again.You are all so kind. Amazing blog and community!

nightsmusic said...

I wanted to take a moment to thank Lennon Farris for helping me with my non-working comments on my site yesterday. I love Wordpress, but Thanks! :)

Matthew Masucci said...

What a great group of stories.

Thanks for the call out as well!

Steve Forti said...

@John - Yes, luciakaku has it right. The moon set himself on fire to take over for the sun. Hope that made sense :)

Also, I just noticed the typo in my final sentences ("awakes"). Ugh.