Monday, December 29, 2014


We're back for one last jaunt in 2014! I hope your year was blessed, and added love and growth and contentment to your life. May the next one be even better. Now go check out the prompt and write one last (or near last) story in 2014!!! :)

If you haven't read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronounspunctuationtense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is Michael Simko. Read his winning tale from last week here! Michael is a story teller who writes novels, shorts, and dabbles in flash fiction. He's a father of two, a lover of storms, and works as an engineer and instructor. He is a regular contributor to (he's the barkeep). He can be found on Twitter at @MichaelSimko1.

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-26 is:

"Proclaim your [love] for [me], and [I] [may] spare you," [she] says.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

In honor of the new year, include a theme of rebirth or a fresh start. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Merry Christmas Eve!!! Our judge is amazing and managed to speed off her decisions before the festivities started, so now I get to post them for you as well! If you missed reading any of the entries, go here. Otherwise, read on to see what the judge had to say:

I’ll keep this brief since it’s the holidays – happy holidays, if you’re celebrating!

A True Learning Experience
By Mark Driskill

There were some important lessons learned by the characters in this one, and I loved the finale. I hope the taco experiment yields good results.

How Uncle Vern Found Work
By Foy, d.b.

Loved this take on the prompt, particularly the twist at the end. Uncle Vern is a delightful character and it’s a touching story of true love and emus.

Thank You
By Anna Elizabeth

This was a lovely tale, and the whiskey was incorporated in a sweet way. The opening paragraph about their family camping trips was lovely.


A Study of Everything
By Amy Wood

Any story that begins with an emu in a classroom is okay by me. The ending was grim, but with a glimmer of hope as well. I especially liked the use of the juggling bear as the foundation of the universe.


Christmas Joy
By Michael Simko

This one’s fun because a four-legged friend is the main character. It’s war out there and our hero (anti-hero?) is determined to win. I like the subtlety of the narration and it stood out as the winner from the beginning.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Welcome back! We are running the contest like normal this week, but the judging may take a bit longer (or not, depending on what Christmas Eve looks like for me and the judge). So we're going to try for results by Saturday at the latest (and Wednesday if we're lucky). :) Join the fun and write us a story! On Dasher! On Dancer!... er, um... Go forth and wow us once again. :)

If you haven't read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronounspunctuationtense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is Holly Geely also known as @hollygeely. Read her winning tale from last week here!  Check out her website here. Holly has been under the influence of fantasy and science fiction since she was young. She is a fan of bad puns and bright colours. If she's not cackling her way through a ridiculous story, she might be found playing video games or saving the world from evil (probably the first one).

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-25 is:

In the beginning, there was only [explosions], [chaos], and a bottle of whiskey.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include at least ONE of the following:
A juggling bear
A zombie taco/burrito
An emu


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Phew! What a ride! If you missed any of the stories, go check them out here. Done? Great! Let's read what the judge had to say about our amazing entries this week:

This is the first time I’ve been tasked with judging on my own, err so thanks for making my job so difficult. I was sent the stories blind - i.e. all the names and Twitter stuff taken off - and didn’t look up the names until I’d finished typing up the little reviews.

I enjoyed reading each of the entries, which cover a gamut of ideas, people and ways of telling their stories. Everyone took on the Special Challenge and thanks for that - it was a rather odd-ball mix of items I put in there, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of you hadn’t attempted it.  And I apologise for putting a courgette in there, which some of you may have had to look up I should have bracketed as a Zucchini; English, one language hey!

As ever it is difficult to pick the winner and runners up and reading them on another day... well, you know. But pick them I have and I think that they are all fab. So well done and congratulations to all of you.

Well done and best wishes to you all. Carry on writing - you’re all rather good at it.

Regard, Andy


Joyful - Michael Simko

Nice change to the ‘happy stick’ and enjoyed the imagery of the insanely happy horde marauding through the suburbs making everyone uncomfortable. Always happy people do have the effect don’t they.

The ending was nice - in a not nice way - with the cursed family taking all the protagonist’s joy from him. He didn’t have that much to spare and they sounded far too happy before they stole the rest away from him. Poor man.

Well done.

The Bear Necessities - Erin McCabe

Nice change to the first line. Some great imagery in here too, particularly liked the fur coat looking like ‘a hairy sea anemone caught in a storm’.

Really enjoyed the relationship of the children to their unusual grandmother and the gift they all took from that. And of course who doesn’t like ‘The Bear Necessities’ (I’ll be singing it all day - though no skipping).

Great story.

Blessed - Susan O’Reilly

The only story switching the ugly stick to the pretty one - Oh those pretty ones, don’cha just hate ‘em. I enjoyed this take. It certainly is an obvious blessing if all too paper thin in reality, who really wants to be taken at face value?

I particularly liked the ending which included the father recognising the beauty and other blessings that the plainer daughter had and that she would ‘save them’ all - rather than just the girl winning out by herself almost against her family.

Well done and Welcome to the Finish That Thought fold. Hope to see you again.

You Should Not Be Dancing - Holly Geely

Ha! Loved this one from the off. I’m no disco dancer, you maybe surprised to learn but the idea of an illness that was rapidly taking over the school then the entire town with Saturday Night Fever visuals was brilliant.

Tightly written with good dialogue and it certainly will get the conspiracy theorists going...

Disco WILL never die - I won’t say “unfortunately”... ahem, but instead I’ll do that funky thing and I’ll put my finger up to the sky!

Dance-tastic and boogilicious!

Love is Blind... or is it? - Mark Driscoll

The first of the tales to not change the first sentence and it was used in an ultimately surprising way. A tale of true love and understanding, family and friendship, holding hands or holding tentacles.

I enjoyed the playful use of the surname particularly liked the description of the plastic Faye King lady. Boy, she seemed the worst of the King tribe, but each to their own. And the one eyed tentacle people could see past that. Huzzah!


Upcycled - DB Foy

A gnarly twist to the first sentence had an entire carful of people dead before you could shout ‘Where’s the courgette?’ And then the main man of the story came in to do his difficult job, looking for parts to upcycle.

Some nice descriptions and having gone out earlier I very much sympathise with ‘the December wind trying to rob warmth from my bones.’

The relationship with the officer was nicely done: looking down on the guy doing his daily, and a job he wouldn’t want to do himself.

Hoping I won’t be upcycled anytime soon, though I’ll keep a courgette on me at all times which can be used instead of any body parts.

Well done.

Finding His Niche - Geoff Lepard

Ahh! The Talents what a family. I really liked them straight away, ‘glorying in (their) difference’ and is that not a life lesson in itself? Then looking for each of their talents. Isn’t that something we all go through. Watching others excel and wondering what it is we are good at. I’m still looking myself. At the moment I think my talent may well be ‘waiting’.

The Special Challenge was taken on with zeal and panache. The last paragraph mentioned something about #FlashDogsAnthology being read on a Kindle, whatever that is!?

Despite that last strange paragraph I very much enjoyed this story ;-)

Problem-Solving - Tamara Shoemaker

An unusual story of people with the ability to glow a blue neon and ask an open question. As I’ve been looking for work lately I am well aware of those damn open questions, at interviews... there to hang you...?

Onions are more an evening smell for me and one of the characters professed to like the smell of onions in the morning - clearly onions aren’t bacon and this character is therefore wrong! (okay, that may be my personal preference getting in there).

It set a unique scene in another world/time and was a story that longed to be longer - and left me with some - non-neon - questions. 

Well done.

Fugly - Michael Seese

The first sentence was split up, which shouldn’t be done in this challenge. But I enjoyed the story albeit reminding me of a certain ‘camel’ story I did for Angry Hourglass (I think) a while back - that story got lots of eughs! too.

The tragi-comic idea of wanting to fly with the flying Ducks but struggling with heights and a gut problem led to an all too inevitable conclusion. But it was nicely drawn further around with the short-sighted witch’s spell.

Top flying, but don’t look down.

Broken World - Anna Elizabeth

Only the second of the challengers to use the sentence unedited. I enjoyed the images given to us of this war and disaster ridden world. The ending when the man with the binoculars (there were a lot of those about in these stories, I must get me some) felt conflicted - both sorry but unable to contain a laugh - was well developed.

I thought the first part of the story was particularly strong in showing us the characters and I felt for them as they made their way into the camp.

Well done.

Shifted (and just for fun!) - Nancy Chenier/Annonymous

The last story also used the first sentence untouched. It sounds like a nightmare shift for the lad when the caravan load of loud and uncouth loafers came ploughing into his work, when he expected a quiet day for reading. Best laid plans and all that.

It seems uncanny that he was in the process of reading ‘Pumpkinhead‘ when it all started going south - that’s one of my stories. Like I say, uncanny.

Hope he can hide in the closet or under the bed covers with his Kindle at some point to finish the Flash Dogs Anthology. That said being under the covers after Aunt Gwen’s courgette casserole may not be a good place to be...

Well done.

Special Challenge Champion: Geoff Lepard ‘Finding His Niche’

Surprised that everyone took it on with gusto and some great ingenuity (I loved the courgette hair colouring for one). It was a rather random selection of items I put in there so kudos to all.

This week’s winner included seven of the items which were neatly put into the fabric of the story, without feeling shoehorned in - and ended with the main man becoming a writer after reading the Flash Dogs Anthology - who knows maybe it will have that effect on someone. We can but hope.

Well done and congratulations.

Second Runner Up: Mark Driscoll - ‘Love Is Blind’

Another well constructed tale with a sting in it, I never saw the tentacles coming - I never had a chance. Everyone deserves their shot at it and I say good luck to them; and well done to you too!

First Runner Up: Erin McCabe ‘Bear Necessities’

A lovely story well told. Even throwing in a bit of Mario ‘Why always me?’ into the mix. Why indeed and was that just coincidence? The transition from the ‘lunchtime atrocities’, to the circus and the attempt of the teacher to bring a bit of reality back was seamless.

Congrats. But I don’t thank you for the ear-worm.

Grand Champion: Holly Geely - You Should Not Be Dancing

I just fell in love with style and tone of this story and its general feeling of fun. The whole imagery of it made me laugh, which on any given day is a good thing.

Creating the idea that disco was killed off by unseen party poopers perhaps funded by the CIA, hand-in-hand with some tentacle clad mercenaries and various relatives of George Bush... yes, I can see it. Disco was murdered, you better believe it.

Top writing and a pair of virtual stack shoes and bell bottoms to you!

PS if I’m dancing at the moment it is not to disco it is to: ‘Bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife...’

Monday, December 15, 2014


WELCOME to another fun Tuesday writing prompt! I'm so glad you could join us. I'm in and out a lot less with my new job, so if you want to share or retweet for me, that'd be great. Have a great time writing for the new prompt, and I look forward to reading your amazing stories! Go check out the prompt and get to it! :)

If you haven't read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronounspunctuationtense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is A.J. Walker. Read his winning tale from last week here!  A.J. Walker (@zevonesque) is a keen flash fiction writer from Liverpool, England. He is involved with The Poised Pen writing group and this year put together their two ebooks. He is proud to be considered one of the #FlashDogs (if you haven't got it already their spanking new anthology is available on Amazon). He also loves real ale, music, walking and footy. When he’s not testing real ale or looking for dragons he occasionally updates his website at

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-24 is:

The entire family had undoubtedly been hit with [the ugly stick], but they had been [blessed] in other ways.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include at least FOUR of the following:
A pair of binoculars.
A fur coat.
A stencil.
A potted plant.
A painting.
An aromatherapy candle.
A pair of sunglasses.
A Kindle with a copy of FlashDogs Anthology on it. ;-)
A courgette.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Well done, everyone! I'm so glad you all could join us this week! If you missed any of the stories, you can read them here. Now on to what the judge had to say:

What a pleasure to judge the stories that flowed once again from your imaginative writerly brains! The list of literary characters below are the tip-top of all my favorite bookish heroes that have traveled with me thus far into my life, and I was excited to see how you all incorporated them into your stories. You did not disappoint! You introduced many of my old friends into delightful and interesting new situations, and made me laugh, and think, and ponder, and reflect. Good on you!

At any rate, without further ado, your stories!

The Harvest
By: Mark Driskill

First of all, I thought the world-building in this one was mesmerizing. Red sand and lavender skies, and a second summer (who wouldn't want a second summer, I ask you?). The description reminded me at first of the Reaping in the Hunger Games, but then it branched out and built on itself until I could completely picture this world as it grew.

The second thing I noticed and appreciated was the introspective take by the narrator, the tendency to step back and appreciate the short life he/she is granted. This line in particular resonated with me: “When you're one of the few who've managed, by some mocking providence, to make it beyond 33 harvests, you learn to live a little more intentionally. You take your time with the water rations, drinking deeply, with a kind of sacred reverence. You used to run across the dunes, but now you stroll hand in hand with the world around you, like two young lovers dreading the goodbye.”

A message I think most people can understand and appreciate. Gorgeous and profound. I loved this.

Fifty Shades of (Gandalf the) Grey
By: Dr. Mike Reddy

I enjoyed the set-up—the three strangers appearing as the death to any fan boy/girl's dream, representing the major publishers of the various literary characters, who (who knew?) hung out in Sally Antrim's kitchen.

A very tongue-in-cheek approach that had me giggling my way through it. Vivid details added strength to the story, and captured and kept my attention: “Steam coming from the downstairs bathroom recalled my hurry to answer the door, thinking the intrusion another Amazon delivery.” Also, “The three men turned about, insisting that each other go first, then swiftly walked down the garden path, stepping gingerly over the weed strewn cobbles.” I got a good laugh out of that line, picturing the men bumping into each other in their over-zealous politeness.

The banter between Harry, Gandalf, Sherlock and Katniss in the kitchen was well-done and in keeping with their characters. And of course, the last line wrapped it up nicely, delivering a delightful comedic question to the reader. Indeed, what would the world be like if Sherlock loved Katniss Everdeen? This will go on my list of “questions I have never asked myself, but now can't stop thinking about.”

Life After Death
By: Anna Elizabeth

Wow, this was a compelling piece. Impending death stands on this girl's doorstep, and like a true revolutionary, instead of bowing her head, accepting the inevitable, she does the only thing she can do to reverse her fate.

I enjoyed the world created here, the dark mentions of “the One,” his unrequited hunger for a soul. I particularly liked the hopelessness woven in here: “The first takes your soul. The second takes your mind. The third, it takes what’s left. Your body. Your broken, empty shell.”

And then the seed of hope appears, the idea sparks, and in one final, powerful ending, she says, “No.”

Really enjoyed this.

Death: Hand Delivered
By: A.J. Walker

I loved this! So tightly written (as I've come to expect from the author) and with a mix of humor and a dark sadness that really dipped into my emotions as I read this. The first line delivers the whole tone of the piece as with death in the pockets of the strangers, the narrator “welcomed them.”

I thoroughly enjoy a well-shown phrase, one that doesn't say something straight out, but only hints at it. This line in particular stood out. “The packets were scrunched up by the glass to look something smaller - less important.” And so, of course, I knew that the packets were immensely important, the crux of the entire piece.

Loved how the literary characters were seamlessly woven in, the delusional state that had Harry Potter in a fight and Katniss breaking the glass door, Sherlock deducing the situation in the kitchen, the final line that shows us an outside perspective of what's going on.

Perhaps it was the despair that got to me in the end. It was never explicitly stated, but my heart wept for the protagonist by the time the last line scrolled into view. Well done!

Into the Nothing
By: Erin McCabe

This one made me laugh in several places. I enjoyed the unexpected idea of Gandalf the Grey as some sort of horrible, flesh-eating monster who, no longer a kindly wizard with a propensity for fireworks, instead chose to attack legs and other body parts. This line in particular, while morbid, made my “awesome-phrase-o-meter” waver wildly: “Tiny sharp pieces of Gandalf's skull, embedded in the floorboards, continued to mark the location of his untimely inauguration.”

I enjoyed the build of courage from the beginning of the piece to the end. She begins in the house behind boarded up windows, Harry Potter protecting her with his wand at the front door. By the end, she's entering the dark night beside him, and hang the consequences. I love the last line: “...and if that meant spending an eternity staring blankly into oblivion, at least it was an oblivion shared.”

Great job!

Back to Life
By: Hollygeely

Oh, the power of pets to heal deep-seated wounds. I love the emotional arc the protagonist takes us through, from the bitterness at the beginning, to the emotional bond with the kittens (especially the ginger one) at the end. The line, “So you see, not only did these three little strangers bring death to my duvet, they also murdered my misery,” illustrates so well the compelling healing nature of love, and its ability to dip beneath the surface to erase the stains of things that may have scarred earlier.

Plus, with names like Hairy, Stinky, and Curly, how can you not love them?

Mercenaries and Dinghy Fever
By: Charles W. Short

Wow, chills! I love the twist at the end of this; it totally caught me by surprise. Now, I wasn't sure whether the bag of penicillin was used as a result of messed up communication or as a result of intentional vendetta, but either way, it was a shocking end.

I thoroughly enjoyed how the literary characters came to life as hazy parts of the protagonist's consciousness, each of them serving their own character so well. An Asian Gandalf, a French Anne Shirley, and of course, a British Sherlock Holmes.

The short rhythmic sentences in the middle, “Yes, I know I am in Thailand. Yes, I am allergic to penicillin. No. I don't know what happens when I get it. No. I am not aware of any other allergies,” breaks the whole piece nicely into two sections. The first section is dedicated to the haze of consciousness, the second to a conscious decision to escape.

Very well written, well thought out. I really enjoyed this one.

Three Wise Men
By: Stella

This piece is set inside a hard-hitting frame: the three strangers on the porch as Rhett Butler, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes. In the end, the protagonist identifies with each of these three, using the blood lust of Dracula, the shrewdness of Sherlock Holmes, and the charisma of Rhett Butler, who together present “a devastating trio of qualities that have yet to reach their peak.”

I liked the concept, the ability to use his/her mental powers to make things happen. In a rather chilling sentence, the protagonist admits that he/she can “look at a photo and wish a person dead and it happens.”

I did particularly enjoy Sherlock's perusal of the cupboards. I wonder what he would find if he should visit my house? Perish the thought!

Ask Jeeves
By: JM MacF

Ha! This is fantastic! So many humorous twists throughout. I particularly enjoyed the arrival of the police box, and the introduction of the doctor. “Doctor Who? No, no. Just the Doctor, mate.”

The mystery surrounding Pip's benefactor was a hilarious question that only Jeeves could answer, and as we come to the brilliant last line, I was a melting pool of giggles. “Well, sir, I suggest you read the book.” If I only had a dollar for every time I've said to that my husband, I'd be rolling in riches.

A wonderful tongue-in-cheek tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Happy Solstice
By: Necwrites

Beautiful, descriptive, seamless writing. I love the concept of death as a “she,” singing “a slurry version of Silent Night. That snagged my attention right away and didn't let go. The imagery throughout the piece is stunning: “...kind of a reprobate Anne Shirley, one who would paint anarchy symbols on the  green gables and fancy herself edgy.” Also, “She glared challenges at me that I let drop to the rug.”

The back and forth dialogue between Death and the narrator was full of twists, and kept my attention riveted. That last paragraph was amazing. As a lover of books, I could thoroughly identify with the “fortress of human imagination.” And that final line sunk deep: “The worlds within the pages, though, continued to thrill me.”

Beautiful job.

Special Challenge Champion: Necwrites

There was so much I loved about this piece, but the thing that stood out to me was how seamless the literary characters were woven into the work without feeling contrived or inserted. The harder the characters are for me to find, the better they work, and I had to go back to search a few times before I caught some of the references. Gorgeous work.

Runner Up: Mark Driskill

More than the world you built in your post, more than the excellent ideas and imagery you offered, it was the concept of appreciating each day, making the most of the time given us, that stuck with me, that resonated in a message that I could take with me and use. I loved the piece. Well done, sir.

Grand Champion: A.J. Walker

It was the gripping emotion that made me remember this long after I had read it and come back to it many times since it was submitted. It delved deep and resonated and I couldn't forget it. Flawlessly written, beautifully put together. If I had a hat, I'd tip it to you, sir. Brilliant.

Monday, December 8, 2014


We're back! Thanks for joining us again! Life is hectic this time of year, so I won't keep you. Go check out the prompt and write us a story! :)

If you haven't read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronounspunctuationtense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is Tamara Shoemaker. Read her winning tale from last week here!  Tamara Shoemaker was penning harrowing suspense tales from little on up, and the older she grew, the more harrowing they became. While this genre still holds her interest, her most recent love is young adult fantasy. Three of her suspense books are for sale on Amazon. Her newest suspense, Soul Survivor, will be available in January 2015. The first book of her latest young adult fantasy trilogy, Mark of Four, will hit the market in February. Bonus points if you follow her on Twitter (@TamaraShoemaker) and/or go like her Facebook page (

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-23 is:

Three strangers appeared on my [doorstep], and in their [hands] they brought death.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include at least THREE of the following literary characters: Edward Rochester, Jo March, Harry Potter, Anne Shirley, Sherlock Holmes, Katniss Everdeen, Dracula, Miss Havisham, Rhett Butler, Lucy Pevensie, Gandalf the Grey.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Entry for Flash Friday!

Wow! If you haven't visited Rebekah Postupak's Flash! Friday this week, you're missing out! She's celebrating the year two FLASHVERSARY! (I can't believe it's been TWO YEARS!!! CONGRATS, Rebekah!!!) The first round is open until midnight tonight, so there's still time to get in on the AMAZING prizes! I've already told Rebekah that she's not allowed to read my blog until noon tomorrow when she and her team are finished judging the first round of stories. (That's right, there are TWO rounds this year! The top 25 are semifinalists!) Join the fun! (But hurry!)

The rule today is 150 words exactly. Here's the prompt:

Red Sunset. CC2.0 photo by Petteri Sulonen.

Thanks for reading. Here's my story:


They set the fire on purpose.

To contain.

To protect.

A few, upset, protested peacefully. When that fateful spark jumped, no one could’ve predicted the damage. Destruction. Devastation. Smoldering embers of rubble that once held people’s lives and livelihoods.

Vitriolic hate spurted from both sides. Blame surged hot, spreading faster than fire. Virulent voices spewed condemnation, pointing fingers and vilifying everyone.

The next fire may have been an accident.

But not the next.

Or the next.

Soon the world was burning. Retaliation. Revenge. Retribution.

Ash and smoke choked our throats and our bodies smeared with soot as we scrabbled through the blackened wreckage. Searching. Seeking. Scouring. Scrutinizing. Sifting. To find the grain of truth. The right. The side.

But there was nothing.

Nothing left.

Nothing gained.

Listless among the ruins, the ravages of what remain, we dream of refreshment.


A deluge to quench the fires raging out of control.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Sorry for the late post! The judge got me the results last night, but I was scheduled elsewhere. Then I woke up and have a sick kiddo... I just now remembered. Great job everyone! If you missed any of the stories, go here to read them. Here's what the judge had to say:

What an amazing set of stories you all wrote! It was quite a thrill to see how a woman in a red dress launched a dozen stories. As for what the prompt meant to me... well, there's a lovely red bow atop the Christmas tree that my wife and daughters just put up. But what does my opinion matter? I'm just the judge, so let's take a look at some of these great stories you wrote:

Rebekah Postupak

An interesting twist on a classic fairy tale. I love how this is framed as a haunted fantasy - yet the story is just as strong after a second read, with the ending already known.

Holly Geely

A campfire ghost story of sorts: a man is haunted by ghosts from his past. There is definitely an interesting backstory for this unreliable narrator, and the story reveals just enough to be intriguing. Even though he is unreliable, he has clearly suffered an incredible emotional loss.

Jessica West

Rich with descriptions, and particularly in its visual appeal. Throughout the story, the red herrings kept me guessing about the nature of the story. Was this a murder mystery? Ghost story? Psychological horror? The true story is quite mundane, but also one easily relatable by any parent, and the special challenge words are integrated seamlessly throughout the story.

D.B. Foy

Though excised from the beginning of this synesthetic stream-of-consciousness, she appears toward the end. With an unusual premise and creative language, this story went in a completely unexpected direction. The main character remembers her phone number, but misses the point... and likely spends the rest of the day humming a half-remembered tune.

Mark Driskill

Hasn't everyone had a disturbing recurring dream? This story integrates a lot of common dream elements, and creates a lot of questions. Who is this woman in his dreams? Why does he pursue her so relentlessly? When the dream spills over into reality, what will happen next?

Tamara Shoemaker

I love the language of this story: the varying shades of red that convey shame, sin, and the burden on her conscience, the refrain of "come" that builds a sense of urgency, and the way a single touch expresses relief and forgiveness.


The old tales of faerie changelings is turned on its head, with a human stealing a faerie child. This story makes me want to know more. What is the history between the man and his victim? What are his plans for the child? What penalty will he pay for this crime?


I don't know whether to call this a fable, a myth, a fairy tale, or something else, but the story is interesting nonetheless. In my mind, the story played out as an animated mystical fantasy movie; the story was that vivid.

Nancy Chenier

Who are the Shapers? There's something fascinating about aliens who communicate through our fairy tale archetypes, and find it natural that the forest itself is a sympathetic character. I found myself reading and rereading this story, trying to tease more meaning out of it.


If only the main character had been more genre-savvy. He might have recognized the woman as a Siren of the forest, or perhaps left a trail of breadcrumbs, Hansel and Gretel-style.


A man pursues the red dress, apparently to the point of obsession. In an innocent twist, the red dress turns out to be the feathered markings spotted by a birdwatcher. Though he still sounds quite obsessed, the hints about his own mortality -- particularly in the last line -- suggest that he may be so determined to complete his bucket list for good reason.


Somehow, in spite of the cyberpunk detective style of this story, I never saw the big reveal coming until the end -- never imagined that the woman would turn out to be Carmen Sandiego herself.

Special Challenge Champion:

Jessica West

You came up with shades of red that I had never thought of, and all of them fit perfectly within this story of parental despair.

Grand Champion:

Tamara Shoemaker

You told a compelling story that flowed beautifully from beginning to end, and ran the gamut of emotions: shame, despair, relief, joy. Shades of red carry multiple meanings, and multiple readings of the story do not lessen its impact.

Monday, December 1, 2014


HAPPY DECEMBER!!! I love this time of year! (And I really love not being sick anymore!) My NaNo didn't go as planned (what with the sickness of myself and my family), but I plan on working on the novel and finishing the first draft within the next couple of months. I have a TBR list a mile long that I might partially tackle before I get back to it though. :) Go check out the prompt and write something amazing.

If you haven't read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronounspunctuationtense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is Phil Coltrane. Read his winning tale from last week here!  Phil is a software developer, husband, and father of two alien creatures known as toddlers. He enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction of all sorts, from atompunk to zombie. Some of his short fiction may be found on his blog,, and he hopes to complete a novel prior to the heat death of the universe. He can be found on Twitter at @pmcolt.

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-22 is:

As quickly as [she] appeared, the [woman] in the red dress vanished into the [woods].

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include at least FOUR different words for shades of red. "Red" doesn't count as one.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Wow! I am so thankful you all joined in the fun this week! What a ride! And I'm super thankful for our judge who stayed up late to read them all and get her decisions to me before the holiday craziness began. We had two latecomers this round, but the judge was gracious enough to comment on those as well. Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day with your families and loved ones (or if you're not in the USA, have a great day anyway!). Go read any stories you missed here. Now let's read what the judge had to say:

I was so excited to see where this particular first line would take you, and you did not disappoint! Obviously, I geared it toward the idea of a high school setting, which some of you embraced, and some pulled me worlds outside of my parameters, and I respectfully incline my head in awe. Each of your stories was a delight to read, and I truly enjoyed them. Thanks so much for making my job of picking a winner so hard! You all win! High fives all around! (Looks over shoulder at Alissa). Never mind. I suppose I'll have to come up with a top two. Here we go:


Oh, such a story of remorse, or lack thereof. I can feel the spiraling despair in this one, the lack of emotion, because to feel is pain.

It wasn't specifically stated, but I wondered if the man in the bar next to Kayleigh was her conscience. Casual mentions of his immortality, how he has been there with her from the start, his disapproval from the beginning, his affinity for bourbon that helps to drown out his dissatisfaction.

I loved the dark tone of this, the mystery. It didn't matter so much who the people she killed were, David, Alex, as the fact that she did the killings, and we get wrapped up in the hopelessness of it all. As the last line says, “What else was there?”

The conscience, as I'll label him, gets shoved to the back burner, and Kayleigh welcomes the darkness with all the hopelessness of despair.

Mark Driskill

What a story of grace! Or G.R.A.C.E., as the case may be. I enjoyed the journey in this story from one end to the other. The concept of her spiky hair that kept everyone out was brilliant; and Mr. Spitzel broke through that wall. I love how the narrative throws the reader off-balance with the expectation that Miss Rangin (pardon me, Miss Isabelle Rangin) would be angry at his intrusive desk-carving, but instead, her eyes fill with tears at the love so obviously just for her (I'm a romantic at heart; how could I not love this?).

Those final few sentences are rife with gorgeous imagery: “Her eyes softened and filled like cups of warm joy.” Also, “Miss Isabelle Rangin literally danced in the school cafeteria on top of tables and on top of the world.” What a beautiful picture!


Chills! What a well-put-together story! A modern-day take of Snow White and the wicked queen who looks with all shades of jealousy into the mirror and asks, Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of us all? Lindsay, Kayleigh, Lindsay is the fairest of us all, and don't you forget it.

I love the character building of both Kayleigh and Lindsay—so much in so few words. When I reached the end, I felt like I had just finished a novel. I particularly loved Kayleigh's dilemma—how to get a reaction out of Lindsay, because Lindsay was neutral. She was Switzerland. Great description, and fitting title to go with it.

This piece grabbed my emotions. I couldn't believe how angry I was at a fictional character when the last line pulls out all the stops on Kayleigh's character. Wicked girl! May the odds be never in your favor!!


Boom! From the first line to the last line, I was hooked, and that's saying a lot because normally I don't get hooked on science fiction (just ask my husband, who begged me without success to love Ender's Game).

And it helped that the first line and the last line were the same, and they were the same in a completely non-gratuitous manner. It fit like a puzzle piece! So when I read the last line, I thought, there is no other line that could go there.

I was floored by the worlds/colonies/universes that were brought into this story; so much depth covered in only 500 words (or 498 as the case may be). I loved how well the special challenge wove seamlessly into the text, like another puzzle piece. This whole thing just flowed really well.


It's like I just fell asleep and woke up in the best world ever!! I enjoyed the appearance of myriads of my favorite mythical creatures (or are they mythical??), and contorted into fits of giggles over the lines: “'You can only die once,' said someone cheerfully. 'Not me!'” said the phoenix.

I love the mystery of the chalk line. What's on the other side, why Kayleigh can't come back, what magic holds her there, and what is “the other side” doing to her? The narrative introduced a lot of questions that didn't necessarily get answered, but I felt like that wasn't the main thrust of the story.

The connection at the end is what really stuck with me—the transformation into the same kind of creature as the narrator struck me at once as horrible and fantastic, terrifying and surreal. That final line at the end put a period on the end of a emotion-riddled piece. Loved it.

Michael Simko

Ooh, the ultimate double revenge story. I was reeled in immediately, reading with horrified fascination as Amelia did the unthinkable—took her sister's boyfriend for herself, took him with no good purpose but for the sake of revenge. The end grew darker and darker, and then, whump, the twist.

Wow! What a gripping voice. It pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. I wondered what the dark deed was that “that Jezebel” did.

I love the snapshots of close-up images that wove through the story. The flies that buzzed behind the holes in the screen, Ron's Adam's apple bobbing beneath his too-blonde beard. Excellent setting. I could feel the heat (temperature and other). Great job!


Okay, I know this one came in later than the close of the competition, but I loved it so much, I had to stick it in here. The tongue-in-cheek tone was at once hilarious and connective. I immediately was there, at the prom, watching the ogre kiss the sister, who, yuck, had snot-green eyes.

In true Beauty and the Beast style, instead of speaking in the vocal tones of a boulder tied to a stick (that line made me laugh out loud), his voice is tempered steel. His eyes are less snot-green and more moss-colored. I read the unraveling of the narrator's preconceived notions in that one line: “My sister—I miss her, too.”

Beautiful. And that's not a word usually tagged with ogre stories. I loved this. LOVED it.

Matt L:

A brilliant tone in this one! It left me giggling after it was all read through, and I had to go through it at least twice more to get the full effect (and the laughs). The use of creative, exaggerated imagery kept my attention. I particularly loved the breakdown of Kayleigh's tears: 30 parts water, 50 parts salt, and 20 parts genetic material. And then later, 40 parts Mary Kay Foundation Number Five, 20 parts salt, 30 parts water, and 10 parts genetic material.

And if I were any better with chem/phys, I could tell you exactly what that means. As usual, I have no clue, but I totally enjoyed the concept.

I loved how well the special elements were woven into the story, particularly, the "kiss of Virgin's blush rouge." So creative! Way to break down the parameters of the box! I love it!

Special Challenge Champion:


You portrayed the high school setting for which I was looking, and then you took it the extra mile with Kayleigh's obsession-turned-horrible-secret. The elements were woven in seamlessly; I had to search hard to find all of them, but they were there! Great job including those!

Finish That Thought #2-21 Grand Champion:


Flawlessly written, incredible world-building; I still can't get over how much I loved the frame of the story with the repeated first and last line. Kudos, sir, you may have just converted me into a sci-fi fan. Almost. I might try to read Ender's Game again sometime in the next fifty years. Unless you yourself have a book or two out? ;)