Due to an apparent miscommunication, I am judging this week.  There were so many fantastic pieces, this week, and several talented new writers have joined our veterans.  Rather than choosing Honorable Mentions (of which there would have been six or seven), I will share my impressions of each piece.

Exiled Queen  by Lisa McCourt Hollar @jezri1
The imagery of the slightly unhinged and very disgruntled former princess help set this story apart.

Lupus Anthropos' Two Dogs Talking @LupusAnthropos
This story both stuck closely with the prompt and made me blurt out laughter. Funniest entry

Sheilagh Lee with Princess the Cat @SweetSheil
Anyone who has ever been owned by a cat can appreciate this little piece

Princess the Widowmaker by Mark Ethridge @LurchMunster
The mystery around this deadly cutter is told in such a natural way, I would love to hear the rest of the story  - best intro to longer piece

Delusions of Grandeur by Michaela Walters @michelawalters
What starts as story of an imperious woman who I expect to find unloved and forsaken turns into the deranged visions of a mad woman.  I loved the twist in this story.

Jalisa Blackman's little girl in a galactic prison @J_M_Blackman
JM has done a wonderful job in this piece of creating a rich setting and a naturally flowing narrative with a twilight zone stlyed ending.

David Ludwig's story of Lara and Kaitlyn @DavidALudwig
In the space of only 300 words, David manages to create a rich back story, a strong setting and emotional investment. 

Corilith's forced march from Siobhan Muir @SiobhanMuir
The personalities of all three characters are distinct and interesting.  The world behind the story is fleshed out.  Mystery, action and humor are all introduced within this stretch of story.

Circe and Adrius from Cara Michaels @caramichaels
Cara makes excellent use of dialog to move the narrative along while filling in details of the setting.  We've seen romantic action fantasy from Cara before, but that's because she does it so well.

Princess Fredericka by Ruth Long @bullishink
I love the way this casual first person narrative, slowly reveals the narrator's feelings for the people he's describing.  The history, the intrigue, the import of the situation slowly unfold in a very natural manner.

Nellie's Princess the Horse @solimond
An excellent description of a strong-willed horse.  I would have liked to have seen more narrative.

DC McMillen and the case of the unfortunate names @mcmillendc
This piece was absolutely hysterical, with rich characterization and the narrator's realization of their own prejudice.

Winner

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Golden Gate Bridge
by Chris Pearson

They call her Princess.

We have a 130-lbs Rottweiler who wears a pink collar and sits with her paws crossed. Naturally, we call her Princess. Whether it's irony or simple observation, there can be great power in a name.

I wonder what that says about me.

Princess and I used to go on these long walks in the city. We’d start in the old bagel shop near the highway, I’d get some croissant or something and we’d leave Sausalito, cross the bridge and head to the marina. That alone is at least four or five miles to walk, but I really needed to get away from my family back then, not because they were bad or anything, but just because, for whatever reason, I needed to distance myself from my house, my dad, my mom, my brother, my sisters. So I walked with princess, and the walks were long because there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. I liked the feeling of the bay air, of crossing the barrier the water made, heading into something different from Sausalito, my hometown. Plus there’s the bridge. Walking on that bridge…well that’s something else entirely.

Anyone who’s been on the Golden Gate Bridge knows what I’m talking about. That bridge has a certain energy to it, something you feel inside you as you look at it from inside the city, or walk along its edge.

The feeling isn’t necessarily a good one, and that’s why it used to creep me out so much. The feeling is of peace, happiness, an internal song being sung that says for you to jump, to leave it all behind. The water below is nice, it says. Better than where you stand is where you could be swimming, it says. I don’t think I’m the only one who noticed that feeling, and Princess, being the good little baby that she is, would always be anxious to cross, tugging me as if the bridge wasn’t a million tons of steel, but the rickety planks of a drawbridge near collapse. I think she knew somehow, that I wanted to jump.

This one time, on a summer Saturday when Princess and I were yet again heading out across the bridge, I saw a man jump. It was really early in the morning, and I think him and I were the only pedestrians on it. He was probably there for several minutes before doing it, the way I saw him standing there, looking into the water below, that looked so still when seen from the bridge, but so violent in reality. He’d, as if a consensus had been reached, lifted his right leg over the railing, then his left, and then he’d let go.

Nobody but me was around to see it in that dense fog, and nobody would ever know what I knew.

He was smiling when he hit the water.

 
 
We have a 130-lbs Rottweiler who wears a pink collar and sits with her paws crossed.  Naturally, we call her Princess.  Whether it's irony or simple observation, there can be great power in a name.

The Judge

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Last week's winner and this week's judge is Robin Abess.  You can follow her on Twitter @Angelique_Rider:

"Writer, nature lover, singer, GEEK, eccentric, NaNoWriMo Nut...you name it! I love being in a roomful of people who are singing along to 'Dr. Horrible'!"
[Host's Note: if you haven't seen Neil Patrick Harris' performance in Dr Horrible you should.  Google it!]

The Prompt

They call her Princess

The Rules

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Another week of fantastic stories from around the world.  This week's contestants included:

S Jayanth ~ @sankarajayanth
Robin Abess ~ @Angelique_Rider
Ryan Strohman ~ @rastrohman
Afsaneh ~ @Afsaneh_Dreams
Charles W Jones ~ @ChuckWesJ
Sheilagh Lee ~ @SweetSheil
Angelica Dawson  ~ @angelicadawson
Stevie McCoy ~ @theglitterlady
Rebekah Postupak ~ @postupak
Lisa McCourt Hollar ~ @jezri
Cara Michaels ~ @caramichaels

Special thanks to our Judge Jeffrey Hollar @Klingorengi! Here's what he had to say:

Judges Comments

Yet another truly awesome group of stories. The quality and the variety of the entries made the decision a difficult one at best.

Honorable Mentions

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Ryan Strohman
I liked this tale because it took the predictable "two guys fighting over a girl" formula and blended in a delightfully-unexpected bit of science fiction. Nerds rule!

Afsaneh K
This story had a wonderfully flowing fairy tale feel to it. I wish you'd used your full word count to try to bring it more of a sense of an ending.

Lisa McCourtt Hollar
I loves me a good zombie story. It had a good, tight feel to it even if it confused me a bit.

Winner

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Robin Abess
I have to say that this story was just downright freakin' creepy (a good thing). It conveyed a real Tales From The Darkside/Twilight Zone feel that was very compelling.

Cassie
by Robin Abess

“You don’t need to fight over me.” The voice was soft and very hard to hear. Emily and Cassie looked at each other and then around the room to see who in the world could be talking to them.

“Down here.”

Two sets of wide eyes – one dark brown, one green – slowly lowered to the item that was clasped between them. Each little girl had a death grip on the china doll they had found in the attic of their aunt’s house. She had been the prettiest thing they had ever seen, and they scampered downstairs immediately to examine her in their bedroom. As they looked her over, each wanted to hold her.

“I saw her first, Emmy.”

“No, you didn’t Cass. We saw her at the same time and you know it.”

“Well…I’m older.” Cassie had tried to sound important. “That means I get to play with her first.”

“That’s not fair! I’ll tell Aunt Gert.” Emmy sounded as if she would start crying.

“Oh, you’re such a baby… go ahead, I don’t care…”

That was when the voice had broken in, leaving them staring in wonder. Slowly they lowered the doll to the flowered rug. Cassie licked her lips nervously, and Emmy put her right hand up to her mouth, chewing on her fingernail. It was silent for a few moments, then Cassie said “Did…did you say something?”

“Yes, I did. You young ladies have no business fighting over me. You can share me easily, you know.”

The doll sat up and the painted lips moved in cheerful smile.

Emmy scooted backward a bit, her lower lip trembling and her brow furrowed. Cassie leaned forward, studying the doll.

“How are you able to do that?” she asked.

“Do what? Move? Well, my dear, I was put under a magic spell a long time ago. Turned into a toy to await the day when a nice little girl would pick me up and love me again, then I could be human once more.”

“Cassie…I don’t like this…” Emmy sounded scared to death. “I think we should tell Aunt Gert.”

Two pairs of eyes turned toward her, both dark brown. The expression in neither set was friendly.

“Emmy, you’re being a baby again. What’s your name?” Cassie turned back to the doll.

“Cassandra.”

“That’s my name too!”

“Is it? How marvelous.”

Emmy was terrified by the doll and refused to sleep in the same room with her. She slept on the sofa downstairs. When she came up to wake her sister the next morning, hoping she would be through with the doll, she was surprised to see it was nowhere to be found.

“Cassie? Time to wake up.”

As Cassie stretched and yawned, Emmy looked around again. “Where’s the…you know…”

Cold dark brown eyes studied her. “She was hungry…so I fed her. She won’t be hungry again…at least not for awhile.”

Cassie began to laugh and Emmy knew it would be a long time before she could stop screaming.

 
 
Rodney King was much lampooned for uttering those words but he spoke them with sincerity.  The troubled man, most famous for being beaten up, never meant to be in the spot light.  He passed away this week after a life that changed far more than he would have imagined.

The Judge

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Poet, father, husband and Klingon/Ferengi hybrid . Writer without genre: YA, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, horror, humor, paranormal satire...you name it,

The Prompt

You don't need to fight over me.

The Rules

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Seventeen stories this week.  Eighteen if you count the late-comer.  New authors are joining the ranks of our returning veterans every week and the quality just keeps getting better.  This week's entrants included:

LupusAnthropos ~ @LupusAnthropos
Jessa Russo ~ @JessaRussoDee ~ @dee_768
Chessny Silth ~ @ChessnySilth
David A Ludwig ~ @DavidALudwig
Sheilagh Lee ~ @SweetSheil
Miranda Kate ~ @PurpleQueenNL
Stevie McCoy ~ @theglitterlady
Kimberly Gould ~ @kimmydonn
Anthony ~ @unfoldingmyth
Stacey Jane McIntosh ~ @StaceyJMcIntosh
Rebekah Postupak ~ @postupak
Jeffrey Hollar ~ @klingorengi
Jeff Tsuruoka ~ @JTsuruoka
Ruth Long ~ @bullishink
Alissa ~ @lissajean7
Nellie ~ @solimond
MLGammella ~ @MLGammella
S Jayanth ~ @sankarajayanth

A special thanks to our judge:Michelle Smith ~ @msmithbooks

Judges Comments

You all did such fantastic work with these stories. Thanks so much for allowing me to be your judge this week! It was truly a pleasure.

There were some awesome entries this week, and choosing a winner was no easy task. There were so many different twists and takes on the prompt, but ultimately, I did have to choose. Let's start with the three honorable mentions:

Honorable Mentions

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Jessa Russo - @JessaRusso

I kid you not, this one literally made me snort. I loved the authenticity of the voice, and the story itself was very well-done.

Jeff Tsuruoka - @JTsuruoka

This is one of a few that took on a supernatural theme, but something stood out with this entry. Another well-crafted story.

Bullish - @bullishink

I truly loved this. Never underestimate the power of a Book Worm and an Ink Slinger!

And now...drum roll for the winner...

Winner

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Jeffrey Hollar - @klingorengi

The final line of this entry is what stuck out to me the most:

"He spent his final hours reflecting that while the light of Truth could not be forever extinguished, neither, it seemed, could the angry heat of ignorance be banished easily."

The Light Of Truth
by Jeffrey Hollar


The trouble started when they threw the book in the fire. It was on the day when over 200 refugees had streamed into the Pleasanton Community Library seeking shelter from the climactic changes that had plunged the world into its second Great Ice Age.
No one knew who’d kindled a small fire beneath the skylight in the ceiling but soon others scurried about, ferrying cartloads of books towards it. A small, bespectacled man in a tweed suit pushed his way through the mass of bodies, seeking, with minimal success, to be heard over them.

“Stop! Please, stop. You can’t do this. What you are doing is wrong, terribly wrong. Please, listen to me! You have to stop.”

One man detached himself from the crowd, a de facto leader perhaps, and strode purposefully over. It was plain, by his demeanor, he was accustomed to getting his way by dint of sheer size and intimidation.

“Now, you listen here. We got us a whole lot of real cold folks here. What we don’t have is no time to waste listenin’ to yer pansy-assed, philosophical arguments. If we gotta burn these books to stay warm than burn ‘em we will, ya hear me?”

The man looked confused. “Hello, I am Orville Quint, Chief Librarian of this facility, and I suspect you misunderstand me good sir. I don’t object to your actions on a philosophical but rather upon a practical basis. To whit, books will simply not burn in the manner you imagine.”

“The hell you say! I may not be no ivory-tower egghead like you but I ain’t no complete dumbass neither. We read us a book way back in 10th grade by some fella was all about burnin’ books! Said they burned at a good 450 degrees or so and that oughta go a powerful way towards warmin’ up these womenfolk and little ones.”

Orville sighed with the infinite patience of an educated man confronted by misassumption. “A fine book of Mr. Bradbury’s, indeed, albeit one based on a flawed premise. You see, the 451 degrees the book spoke of did not, as you’ve surmised, refer to the heat a burning book might well generate. That number is the flash point at which paper would spontaneously combust without the application of flame to it. In practice, due to their condensed nature and the lack of air flow between the pages, a book is quite unlikely to burn without some accelerant added. Smolder yes, burn no.”

The leader, as well as many others, did not want to hear any such thing and Orville found himself pushed aside as they continued in their ultimately hopeless endeavor. He huddled in an alcove, secure in the knowledge the coming night temperatures would see most of them dead of hypothermia long before any sunlight might, otherwise, succor them.

He spent his final hours reflecting that while the light of Truth could not be forever extinguished, neither, it seemed, could the angry heat of ignorance be banished easily.



 
 
In honor of a legend and one of my personal literary heroes, this week's challenge is inspired by the 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.  Rise to the occasion, dear authors, and show off your skills!

The Judge

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Michelle Smith is an author of young adult fiction, and currently lives in her home state of North Carolina with her husband. However, if you were to ask her, she would say, “Home is where the Coast Guard sends us.” She’s a stay-at-home mother to an exuberant toddler and a border collie mix, both of whom are never low on energy. While her days are filled with Mickey Mouse, crayons, and Play-Doh, she’s constantly writing a story in her mind.
Michelle is a self-proclaimed “lover of love and all things happy.” In short, she’s an eternal optimist that believes everyone has at least one chance at happiness, and that while the journey may be daunting, the destination makes the path worthwhile.

The Prompt

The trouble started when they threw the book in the fire

The Rules

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Fifteen stories this week, but the most amazing part was the quality of the writing.  I'm so glad I don't have to judge these every week.  This week's entrants included:

Kimberly Gould ~ @kimmydonn
Sheilagh Lee ~ @SweetSheil
Lisa McCourt Hollar ~ jezri1
Michelle Smith ~ @msmithbooks
Afsaneh K ~ @Afsaneh_Dreams
Chessny Silth ~ @ChessnySilth
Cara Michaels ~ @caramichaels
SiobhanMuir ~ @SiobhanMuir
Charles W. Jones ~ @ChuckWesJ
Jessa Russo ~ @JessaRusso
Phoenix Lavan ~ @PhoenixLavan
David A Ludwig ~ @DavidALudwig
Ruth Long ~ @bullishink
Ryan Strohman ~ @rastrohman
Nellie ~ @solimond

Judges Comments

Thanks to all you awesome writers for turning “getting better” on its head this week. From kitchen to graveside to prison, getting better looked stunning in all the ways you dressed it (sort of like that iconic scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts tries on all the fancy clothes. Except hopefully none of you got kicked out of Rodeo Drive in the writing of your story, though I guess that might make a good tale for next week, eh?). Thank you so much for your efforts and for continuing to support flash fiction, especially here at #MotivationMonday. -Rebekah

Honorable Mentions

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David Ludwig
@DavidALudwig.
I love this story’s wit and your unique spin on the old trope of new relationship nerves. The powerful last line, though, takes the clever to a deeper level. Really nicely wrought from start to finish.  

Ruth Long
@bullishink.
The cop buddies’ banter about girls and food could be routine, but the added complexity of the inoperable brain tumor flips the scene into the edgy unfamiliar. I really like how you expertly balanced humor and death against a backdrop of an already dangerous job.  

Cara Michaels
@caramichaels.
This well-crafted scene plunges past the physical into the raw vulnerability of emotional intimacy, letting us witness an important and tender moment of growth in a couple’s relationship.*  I liked how you managed to show development of the MC in such a short space—impressive.   *Oh, wait. I didn’t mean PAST the physical.

Winner

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Michelle Smith
@MSmithBooks.
This emotional scene between mother and daughter wrings the heart. I love your light touch, how you convey the anguish of both women without veering into the maudlin. Despite the horror of the situation itself, you end the story on an upbeat note; the reader can believe Clara and her mother will find a way forward together. Beautiful.

How Much This Hurts
By Michelle Smith

“It gets better, you know.”

Clara’s eyes opened and fell upon her mother, who hadn’t left her side for the past twelve hours. It was, however, the first time the woman had spoken since Clara had been admitted to the hospital the night before. There wasn’t much that could be said at such a time, of course. What could possibly be said to a sixteen year old girl that had attempted to take her own life at the very peak of her teenage years?

On the outside, Clara had it all: she had the clothes that everyone envied, the brand new car that was given in celebration of her sixteenth birthday, and the friends that parted crowds when walking through the school. Deep down, there was something that remained to be seen. It definitely wasn’t something worthy of jealousy, nor was it something that she wanted people to know about. It could only be described with one word: anguish. Some days, it physically hurt to be Clara and to even exist in her own mind. And she had become tired of feeling that constant pain.

Clara shifted in bed, the thick bandages on her wrist rubbing against the scratchy bed sheets. “How can you be so sure?” she asked her mother, who had reached over to take the uninjured hand into hers. “You don’t know how much this hurts, Mom. You just...you can’t know.”

Tears blurred her mother’s vision as she took in a deep breath, then proceeded to let go of her daughter’s hand before unclasping her watch. Clara’s mouth dropped open slightly when her mother showed her own wrist to her. “I do know,” her mom whispered, her gaze unwavering. “I know the pain. And I also know that yes, it does get better. If you need help, sweetheart, you need only ask.”

Clara felt her lower lip tremble as her eyes shifted from her mother’s wrists back to her face. “I want help,” she whispered. While softly spoken, the three hope-filled words seemed to echo throughout the small room. “I want it to get better.”

Her mother smiled, then took her hand into hers once more. “Then we’ll do it together.”

 
 
After a few weeks of stories of tragic loss and murderous monsters, I'd like to see some positive stories.  I know some of our dear writers will subvert the prompt anyway, and that's okay too. Show us what you've got!

The Judge

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This week's judge is the winner from two weeks ago.  She's recently taken the Flash Fiction circuit by storm.

Rebekah Postupak is a writer, teacher, executive assistant, and believer that coffee is a moral imperative.

The Prompt

It gets better, you know.

The Rules

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