Most of us are familiar with Benjamin Franklin's line from his missive to Jean-Baptiste Leroy: "'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
The fear of each - to differing degrees - is universal.   I arrived at half a dozen spins on this week's prompt.  How creative can you be?

The Judge

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This week's judge and returning champion is author Lisa McCourt-Hollar, Mistress of Jezri's Nightmares and hostess of the 55 Word Challenge.  Visit her website at http://www.lisamccourthollar.com/

The Prompt

I don't want to die
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We had a phenomenal week.  Readers from almost sixty cities in eight countries dropped by to enjoy the work of our sixteen competing writers.  I'm also glad to hear from new voices!

Susi Holliday and Miranda Kate brought stories of abusive wives from different perspectives, one very intense and the other deeply emotional
Angelica Dawson gave us an unrepentant cheating husband and Kimberly Gould shoved the intensity of a thriller into just 153 words.

Here is a complete list of our entrants and where you can find them on Twitter:

Sheilagh Lee ~ @SweetSheil
Ryan Strohman ~ @rastrohman
Kimberly Gould ~ @Kimmydonn
Angelica Dawson ~ @angelicadawson
Miranda Kate ~ @PurpleQueenNL
Charles W Jones ~ @chuckwesj
Lisa McCourt Hollar ~ @jezri1
David A Ludwig ~ @DavidALudwig
Susi Holliday ~ @SJIHolliday
Jeffrey Hollar ~ @klingorengi
Cara Michaels ~ @caramichaels
Bob Mahone ~ @Computilizer
Rebekah Postupak ~ @postupak
Nellie ~ @solimond
Rafe B ~ @etcet
Stacey Jaine McIntosh ~ @StaceyJMcIntosh

Judging this many great stories is no small task so I have to offer a huge thank you to this week's judge J. Whitworth Hazzard (or to you twitterati @ZombieMechanics).

Judges Notes

First, a great big thanks to Wakefield for letting me judge this week’s competition.  Second, I was really impressed with the number and quality of entries.  I ended up with 9 (NINE!) finalists after reading over the entries twice.

Honorable Mentions

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 I wish I could have given out more, but in no particular order, @SJIHolliday,  @AngelicaDawson, and @Solimond.

@SJIHolliday:
Susi’s piece was one of three lovely “domestic bliss” stories this week, and her’s was beautifully psychotic.  I thoroughly enjoy a romp through the perspective of crazy people.  Hmm, I wonder what that says about me? Remind me never to be late to dinner at her house. 
@AngelicaDawson: 
Angelica took the flip side of the equation and brought forth the put-upon husband’s perspective in an emotional tale of the regrets/no regrets decisions unhappy people make.  For anyone who’s ever gone through estrangement, this one is hard to forget.
@Solimond: 
Nellie’s Dr. Who-inspired tale of capture and magical imprisonment brought me back to the days of reading classic Strange Tales and watching Twilight Zone episodes.  Weird, scary, evocative, and thoroughly entertaining.

The Winner

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@Jezri1
It had all the elements of a great bit of flash fiction.  It was interesting, fast, cute, entertaining, had a bit of grisly in there for the horror fans, and a bit of fairy tale for the fantasy fans.  Excellent work.

Thank you everyone for submitting and please take to Twitter and congratulate our winner @Jezri1 and HMs, @SJIHolliday, @AngelicaDawson, and @Solimond. 

The Winning Story

A Troll’s Story
By Lisa McCourt Hollar

“It’s too late to apologize.”

I stared up at Shyll, my eyes narrowing. The creep glared down at me, his huge hook nose threatening to drip snot on me, if he didn’t wipe it soon. I couldn’t believe I had gotten this kind of reaction from the burly goon.

“Shyll, please get hold of yourself,” I said. Big mistake. The big lug reached down, wrapped his meat hooks around my waist and lifted me into the air.

 
 
Originally the prompt was going to be "It was a dark and stormy night, but I just couldn't find enough ways to play with the punctuation to keep from boxing writers in.  Instead this week's prompt comes from a more general theme.
My wife and I watched "The Descendents" and a cheesy Lifetime movie this weekend.  One of the shared themes was forgiveness even when it doesn't come easily.

The Judge

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J. Whitworth Hazzard lives in the vast cornfields of Illinois with his wife, and four nearly perfect children.  A Geek-for-Hire by day, J. Whitworth has worked for over ten years fixing minor computer problems, some of which he did not even cause.   He prepares technical documents for a living and tries not to include any zombies in reports on server upgrades and network outages (although not always successfully).
Dr. Hazzard has a PhD in molecular biophysics that he now uses to figure out how to scientifically justify the existence of mythical creatures.  Trained in science and critical thinking, J. Whitworth spends his leisure time writing fiction that would make his former professors cringe.  He has been a life-long writer and has spent more than his fair share of time writing about all kinds of ridiculous things.  His dream of writing for a living started in the 5th grade when his five page story “The Blood and Guts 500” entranced and thrilled his classmates.  His passionate prosody received a standing ovation and from that day forward he was hooked on the art of story telling.

The Prompt

It's too late to apologize

The Rules

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This week we had twelve entries including returning favorites and two new-comers.
@postupak gave us, one of my personal favorites, a nod to Jane Austen and @mtelschwilliams brought her own brand of western flavor with a bounty-hunter tale.

Here's the complete list:
Stacey Jaine McIntosh ~ @StaceyJMcIntosh
Ryan Strohman ~ @rastrohman
Sheilagh Lee ~ @SweetSheil
J. Whitworth Hazzard ~ @zombiemechanics
Charles W. Jones ~ @ChuckWesJ
David A Ludwig ~ @DavidALudwig
Cara Michaels ~ @caramichaels
Siobhan Muir ~ @SiobhanMuir
Rebekah Postupak ~ @postupak
Margaret Telsch-Williams ~ @mtelschwilliams
Nellie ~ @solimond
Nance P ~ @ModernBard1024

Check out all of their stories here

Thank you to J. P. Sloan for judging this week!  Let's see what he had to say:

Honorable Mentions

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Nance P:
I tend to say that my goal as a writer is to elicit an emotional
response from the reader. This vignette accomplishes this in a
touching way.

Margaret Telsch-Williams:
We receive a refreshing choice of genre here. Being an old softy for
Louis Lamour, I felt this concretely appointed scene was like a trip
into familiar territory.

Cara Michaels:
Once again, Cara gives us a well-realized scene with organic dialogue
and a sense of grounded believability. The refreshing twist comes as
this is no simple soldier-come-home story, but one of a hard-boiled
black ops badass recovering from a head wound, setting our expectation
of the character on its ear.

But the winner is...



Winner

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J. Whitworth Hazzard:
Lately I've been musing how intrigue and dramatic irony tend to propel
the pacing of a story. We have this in spades from Hazzard's entry.
The characters have a world of knowledge, and the reader is trying to
catch up. Hazzard gives us only a couple inches of coattail to ride
upon, and it's enough to pull us forward. As we find our bearings in
the dystopian landscape and deal with the ominous gravity that playing
the "game" infers, we want to know more. And as we finally hit the
ring, Hazzard pulls the Zed-word twist on us, and we have our footing
in time for the action to begin.


The Winning Story

He loved to play to the game. To Jeremy, it was the only thing left worth living for.
“Jeremy, I don’t want you going to the Exchange today,” his mom said.
Jeremy scooped the tiny scraps of oats from his bowl and looked balefully at his mother, “I’ve got batteries to trade. How am I supposed to get food if I don’t go?”
“I know what happens on Fridays, and I won’t have you part of it. You can go tomorrow.”
His mom knew about the game—most everyone did—but she only knew half the story. She thought he bet on the games, like all the other teenagers. Wagering bits of reclaimed treasure, food, or booze is the only sport left to their world.
Jeremy was going to play again, whether she liked it or not. He’d had enough scrapping about.

 
 
A great story starts off with a memorable line and keeps the reader engaged throughout.  The first line of my current work in progress is far to specific, but I'd like to see how many places our fearless writers can take a similar prompt.

When you're done reading and writing, please take a moment to visit Carolyn Arnold's site to read my latest interview.

The Judge

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This week's judge is J P Sloan

Please show your support by visiting his blog where he describes himself thusly:

"I am an author of speculative fiction, daily honing my craft and striving to maintain my sanity."

The Prompt

He loved to play the game.

The Rules

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  1. Story must continue from the prompt. (This means the prompt is the first sentence of the story.)
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the one on the right.
  6. Have fun!

 
 
Let me just repeat what I said on one of my social sites:  I love hosting this competition.  It really is like reading a quick anthology every week!  This week we had 12 amazing entries from


J. P. Sloan - @J_P_Sloan
Bob Mahone - @Computilizer
Lisa McCourt Hollar - @jezri1
Sheilagh Lee - @SweetSheil
Nance P - @ModernBard1024
Charles W Jones - @ChuckWesJ
Cara Michaels - @caramichaels
R Brox - @etcet
David A Ludwig - @DavidALudwig
Nellie - @solimond
Ryan Strohman - @rastrohman
Stacey Jaine McIntosh - @StaceyJMcIntosh


The juge said, "This was a hard choice with ton of variety.  So much creativity at work from one little phrase and all were entertaining and great fun."  But, as always, the judge has a job to do,

Honorable Mentions

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Ryan  Strohman  
@rastrohman

I enjoy themes of redemption almost as much as I enjoy a good common literary convention turned one hundred and eighty degrees.  And when his fellow captive said: “Son, are you telling us that you were a zombie, an undead, and that a human bit you and you became human again?” I have to admit that I immediately thought of every zombie movie I’ve ever seen and asked “Wow, why didn’t they ever try that?”  Interesting take and well told for the length of the piece. Nice job!

Nance P
@ModernBard1024

Thoroughly entertaining.  I liked the fast pace and the inclusion of so many descriptive characteristics yet still managed to complete the tale with a fun ending.  And a bad ass, Elvis loving, shape shifting manhunter?  Definitely my kind of girl.  Well done!

Cara Michaels
@caramichaels

She managed to tell an intriguing and complete mob tale in a short venue.  It made me long for the Sopranos and their crew (God, I love those Jersey girls).  Nice job and the lines “I’d gone to the mattresses for my man. His testimony would follow mine and nail every last inch of Johnny DiBuono’s coffin shut” made me want to grab some popcorn and turn the page.  Fun stuff! 

The Winner

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J.P Sloan
@J_P_Sloan

I believe this week’s overall winner is J.P Sloan.  I was expecting the mystical, the paranormal or even a modern horror.  What I got was a racing tale of legislative politics as gladiatorial games.  It was a great way to bitingly satirize today’s political atmosphere and do so in a novel, well told and entertaining story.  And the line "Down to one arm, but he's about to take the question on corn subsidies." in response to the question “How’s the Libertarian doing?”  Priceless.  Very clever and very relevant to our crazy world today.


The Winning Story

We never thought we'd see him again. But when that magnificent son of a bitch climbed out of the debate arena without so much as a scratch, I knew we had an electable candidate.

I turned to Sophie and gave her the "stop staring at the blood and fetch him some water" glare. The poor girl was new to West-Am politics. I could tell she was trying not to toss her cookies onto the deck of the debate armory as she backed away from Tavender.
 
 
The season of reflection has come to completion.  Jewish families remember the night Israel escaped from Egypt and Christians remember the morning Jesus overcame death once and for all.   So it's only fitting that this week's prompt be about good news.

The Judge

This week's judge won on his very first attempt.  Here's a little more about Jake Wilkins, in his own words:
I’m a humorist, comedy writer and entertainer with a day job.  I live outside Fort Worth, TX with a mean ole’ yellow eyed cat.  I’m more story teller than author and probably the last person you’d expect me to be.

Current WIPs include a romantic comedy and the early stages of a sitcom pilot being developed and written with a partner.  I enjoy writing in a variety of genres and am drawn to works with strong female characters (yes, I have a bad girl fixation) and to wickedly clever subtlety in subplots.

The Prompt

We never thought we'd see him again.

The Rules

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We had another phenomenal week of entries, we had celebrations - although some much darker than others - from ten outstanding up and coming authors:

Charles W Jones - @ChuckWesJ
David A Ludwig - @DavidALudwig
Sheilagh Lee - @SweetSheil
Cara Michaels - @caramichaels
Lisa McCourt Hollar - @jezri1
Jake Wilkins - @JakeWilkins3
Nellie - @solimond
Ryan Strohman - @rastrohman
Bob Mahone - @Computilizer
Jeffrey Hollar - @klingorengi

Our fabulous judge Siobhan Muir @Siobhan Muir really liked a lot of them but she had to make a choice:

Honorable Mentions

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David A Ludwig
I liked this story because it had the sense of the girl waiting for the hero only to be undermined by a higher ranking female. It didn't matter that she was a duchess - the Princess always gets the hero. I liked the subtle commentary on how position can outstrip emotion - why would the hero want a princess over a duchess? Prestige? I also felt like the story wasn't over, that it might not be as the MC perceived it (and I'm all about happy endings so that's what I'm hoping for) :) 
Cara Michaels
I liked the sense of an undercover op going on in this tale and how the best laid plans can still go terribly wrong. I liked the camaraderie of the characters and that sense of triumph when the assailant's attack was thwarted, quickly turning to "we have to run" at the end. Nicely done grabbing my heartbeat and sending it skyrocketing!
Lisa McCourt Hollar
While this story seemed to follow the theme of celebrations masking something rotten beneath (a specialty of Mrs. Hollar's), I appreciated the sense of life, the energy of those who realized the "prophet" dressed an awful lot like those who hung on the steps and bled in the streets. It was Animal Farm again and I appreciated the sense of the few understanding the fight might not be over. Well done, Lisa.

The Winner

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The overall winner this time was Jake Wilkins (@JakeWilkins3) I loved how he started the story as a scary suspense tale and you think the MC is going to have to kill the love of his life because she's some horrible monster. But then she swoops in, kills the critter (saving the day), and still has time for a kiss, a parade, and cotton candy. Nicely done. A well told, complete tale with a "happy ending". Fun stuff.

The Winning Story

The streets teemed with people cheering as another fire engine roared by. The last shimmers of daylight waned.

“Man,” Sel thought, “these shore towns love their parades.”

Part of him wanted to join in. But he pulled his focus back to the woman thirty paces ahead of him. He watched Anna walk, taking raw pleasure in the movement of her hips and the sight of the tattoo peeking out above the top of her jeans. He knew the curve of her back and the smell of her hair and could still taste her kiss and feel her skin beneath his fingers.
 
 
Palm Sunday is past, Easter is almost here.  Let's see where the prompt takes you.

The Judge

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Siobhan Muir lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband, two daughters, and a vegetarian cat she swears is a shapeshifter, though he's never shifted when she can see him. When not writing, she's dreaming about the heroes and heroines who make up her world. An avid reader of science fiction/fantasy since she was old enough to know other people wrote about their dreams, she has been writing stories and completed her first fan fiction novel at the age of 13. No, it will never see the light of day.

Siobhan believes in happily ever after, redemption, and communication, all of which you will find in her paranormal romance stories.

Siobhan is one of my favorite rising authors and a regular here at Motivation Monday.

Check out Siobhan's Her Devoted Vampire from Evernight Publishing

The Prompt

The streets teemed with people cheering

The Rules

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