Category Archives: Flash Fiction Contests

Fall Flash Festival: Autumn Flame

This is for Eric Martell and Daniel Swensen‘s Fall Flash Festival…Autumn is and forever will be my most favourite season! Click here to join in the fun!

Autumn Flame © Lisa Shambrook (with pixlromatic)

Autumn Flame

Heat seared, sizzling across parched earth, and the cloudless sky, a hothouse dome, desiccated leaves and flora. Listless and languid, folk wandered aimlessly, unable to bear the sultry oppression and Summer’s impasse.Her eyes darted from house to house; windows wide, porch doors open, and dogs sleeping with lolling tongues and trails of slobber. Inside, people rested hot and sticky, irascible and ornery. Her brow furrowed and she stared across the yellowed hills. Autumn was late.As the sirocco tickled her frazzled mind she swept her jade skirts high up into the hills and sought out a crevice, a deep, dark crevice. She gathered her volumes of green about her and traipsed inside. The welcome cool whispered and the ground sighed with each step she took, until she paused and stared at the vast lump curled up before her.

She prodded the lump.

Light mist rose in the shadows and she spoke, “Wake up!”

 

Symphony_of_Dragons_L_Shambrook_FC_WEB
This is a preview to the story that can be found within A Symphony of Dragons. It has become one part of my symphony, a composition, of A Symphony of Seasons… You can find this enchanting book of short stories in many outlets in both paperback and eBook or at my publisher BHC Press.

Autumn Flame won the Honourable Mention in the Fall Flash Festival.

 

Read previews to Spring’s and Winter’s tales: Spring Symphony and Winter Hope.

Flash in the Pen: Glimmer

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (please do not use without permission)

Glimmer

Thinking was dangerous, and outlawed, and out of the question.
Thinking, beyond mundane, dull practicalities, meant losing your mind.
You thought about your task, your function, nothing else mattered. You certainly didn’t.

Anna had lived seventeen years without thinking…but today, she noticed something. It was just a sliver of light, shining in through the skylight, dust dancing in its ray.
No one heard the chip in her brain implode and the light behind her eyes faded to nothing, but those last moments, those thoughts had been a lifetime to Anna and she faded in serenity.

Anna dropped to the floor, her limbs lifeless, and landed in a crumpled heap. Not one eyelid flickered amongst her co-workers, not a beat missed in the production line, except Anna’s last bottle, and her loss was singularly evidenced by a lone, topless bottle disappearing into the distance.

Down on the floor, the dusty floor, something happened.
Neurons, excited neurons, did something unheard of and danced. They flashed and blinked, sparked and ignited, and waltzed through Anna’s brain. Nerve endings grew, pulses raced and synapses began to leap. Anna’s little finger twitched, her eyelid trembled and light exploded inside her head.
As she came round, pain seared through her body, and fingers unconsciously scrabbled on the dirty floor.
The high-pitched hum in Anna’s head kept her down, until enough nerves had connected to produce thought. The hum abated and Anna’s perception intensified until she could move her hand herself, and she was enveloped in a completely new wonder.
Thought, real cognitive reflection filled her brain and Anna consciously clenched her fist. Her left eye opened wide, dust motes swam, and the light from the roof rained down into her soul, every ray a miracle.
Myriad thoughts battled inside her head, and her reflexes blanked them out, slowly letting them in one at a time. She tried to move, to rise from the floor, but the right side of her body struggled and took huge effort to coordinate.
Autonomy flooded her mind, and thought reeled as she resisted her buried identity, but a violent surge of recollection broke through in an explosion of colour, and Anna was up on her feet.  She was unsteady; the neural chip implosion had resulted in brain damage, and she was blind in her right eye, her right shoulder hung loose and her right foot dragged as she limped across the factory floor.
Rays of golden sun flared across the grimy windows and Anna ran, racing towards the cracked pane of glass and the shaft streaming in from the skylight.

She was awake, alive and lucid.

She jerked as a strident siren rudely interrupted her lunge for escape, as her topless bottle was finally detected. The discordant noise blasted through the silence and she quickened her pace.
Anna aimed her right side at the fractured window which shattered as she plunged through.
Bathed in blood and glorious sunlight, Anna basked and new-found intuition sent her running for the gilded, sun-drenched hills.

(500 Words)

This was written for a new Flash Fiction challenge, Flash in the Pen thought up by Regina West…a monthly challenge a prompt and a 500 word (or as near as) piece. Go take a look at the others in her comments.
Mine was inspired by Regina’s prompt; MIND and also by a small 100 word flash piece that I wrote for last year’s Blogflash 2012: Thinking

Dirty Goggles: A Blue Heart

This is my second entry into the Dirty Goggles Blog Hop, run by Ruth, Jen, and Steven. this time it’s an attempt at Dieselpunk.

A Blue Heart
Dieselpunk
691 Words
Lisa Shambrook
@LastKrystallos
Safe Content

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without permission)
A Blue Heart
Nell was fed up with waiting. She watched the indigo skies night after night, but he failed to return. 
She smoothed down her combat trousers, and buckled up her boots.
He’d told her to be patient that he’d seen her future and it was good. 
She sighed as the building vibrated with the closeness of the dirigible flying low overhead, and she imagined the vibration and hum, desperately trying to change it to fit…
She expertly ran her fingers up her weathered, leather jacket, tightening buckles. She was ready, even if he wasn’t.
She grabbed her Derringer, and checked its barrel before closing the breach and engaging the safety. Nell cast a glance out of the window one last time before she flicked the ugly generator’s switch, extinguishing the light, and strode out of the door. “Damn you,” she muttered as she clattered down the iron stairs and out into the street. 
Mist shrouded the road and gas lamps were halos of light amid the haze. Nell wandered, her fingers reaching up to her neck, stroking the blue heart at her throat. Its silver cogs and contorted wires reminded her of the complicated man who’d given it to her and she smiled. She walked, restless, her eyes flickering over the glistening pavements and her ears listening over the sound of the train on the track behind her. 
She searched.
He’d caressed his bow tie, bowed low and told her to watch her heart, her blue heart, but wouldn’t give her another word, didn’t want to spoil anything. Then he’d gone.
Was one adventure all a girl got?
 A scream echoed through the night and Nell ran. The chill night air tore down her throat and stung her eyes but she ran all the same.  The scream rang out again and Nell ducked. She stared, watching a dark figure dragging a young woman across the tracks. She reached for her gun, and chased after the shadows. 
The girl lie limp in his arms and Nell swung into action. She brandished her pistol and marched forward. “Let her go!” she ordered stepping over the rails. Fear was a thing of the past, she been through too much, seen too much to waste time on fear.
He turned and grinned, and Nell steeled herself. She only had two shots and they were only any good at close range. She closed in, still clasping the pistol in outstretched hands. “Let her go,” she repeated.  
The man silently cast his hostage aside and in one quick, unexpected movement had Nell in a head-lock, one hand twisted up behind her back and the other still clutching her useless weapon.
Fear came flooding back.
Her pendant tightened against her skin, its chain choked her and began to cut into her throat. She dropped the pistol and grabbed at her necklace, but it was too tight and she began to lose consciousness. 
Her eyes bulged and her breath caught and her ears drummed. 
The throbbing sound built, humming, hissing, throbbing…until a hefty motorbike roared up the gravel and squealed to a stop, spitting grit. Exhaust smoke filled the air and shouts rang out, followed by shots. 
Nell dropped to the ground, clutching at her throat. She stared behind at the mound that had been her assailant and watched the goggled man in the grey, military greatcoat as he helped the first victim up off the ground. A small crowd gathered and Nell gathered her senses. Army Officers arrived and removed the body as her saviour approached, his hand extended. 
“Jack…”he offered, “…and you are?”
“Nell,” she murmured gazing up at him.
“And this must be yours…” He opened his fist and revealed her pendant. He smoothed his short, oiled, black hair as he roughly pushed his goggles up onto his head.
She nodded, and accepted her blue heart from the man with eyes that matched the stone precisely. He glanced at his leather wrist strap, and pressed a blue button, and smiled at Nell expectantly as he revved his bike. She grinned and stared up into the indigo skies. Maybe a girl really was allowed just one more adventure!

Dirty Goggles: The Apothecary’s Art

This is probably the most difficult contest I’ve been part of…Steampunk and Dieselpunk…I’m a huge steampunk fan, but writing it’s another matter altogether. It has, though, been lots of fun!
This is for the Dirty Goggles Blog Hop, put together by Ruth, Jenn, and Steven.

The Apothecary’s Art
Steampunk
698 Words
Lisa Shambrook
@LastKrystallos
Safe Content

The Apothecary’s Art

Razor-sharp claws hung just shy of his eye and a bead of sweat slipped down his cheek as his brass-topped cane clattered to the floor. The dragon hovered, its leather wings beating a rhythm of their own and armoured spines glinting down its shimmering, metal back. It clicked and whirred and glanced at the watching girl.

“Could you call it off…please?” Anxiety rippled in the stranger’s voice and Elspeth smiled.

“Why are you in my shop?” she asked.

“Looking for you…” he replied as the clockwork dragon flapped its wings and dipped closer.

“After closing?” Elspeth stared at his long, dark hair, and the top hat now lying abandoned on the dusty floor. He struggled to maintain his awkward position, pressed against the medicine cabinet, and she knew beneath his floor-length coat lurked fear. “Who are you?”

 

Symphony_of_Dragons_L_Shambrook_FC_WEB
This is a preview to the story that can be found within A Symphony of Dragons. You can find this enchanting book of short stories in many outlets in both paperback and eBook or at my publisher BHC Press.

(This is possibly the hardest piece I’ve removed from my blog, as I love it so much, but you can now read it in my short story book: A Symphony of Dragons)

I also won First Place with this piece in the Steampunk genre of Dirty Goggles!

 

Zombie Flash: Time is Up…

Governor Stirland was irritated. “Put him on hold,” he said curtly and lifted his finger off the comm button. He growled and leaned back in his shiny chrome, padded leather chair. From the sixty first floor he had a commanding view, he linked his hands behind his head, and surveyed his domed and air-conditioned, stainless steel city.

The city centre was clear of the undead…completely clear.

Professor Turnbull’s concoction had changed the world and made the young Governor a rich man, a very rich man, and he was grateful, really he was, but the professor’s whiny voice was now causing him a great deal of stress.
The airborne ZV39sT had worked and the undead had vacated the cities of their own accord, and now lived peaceably in the countryside, just as it was so across the planet. As a result the rest of mankind, now of no interest to the zombified, lived beneath domed cities, and were free to come and go as they pleased with no fear of the undead.

The Governor ran his fingers through his greying hair, sighed and picked up the phone. “So what’s the problem?”

Professor Turnbull cleared his throat at the other end. “Co2 levels are critically high and we’ve already lost huge land mass due to rising sea levels.” He paused for effect, “We may have turned the zombies vegetarian, but zombie deforestation has hit ninety-five percent and we’re about to run out of oxygen!”

(242 Words)

This was written for a fun Zombie Flash Fiction Competition hosted by Holly at Confessions of a Stuffed Olive. Must be written in under 250 words and contain humerous references to zombies! Go take a look at the rest on Holly’s page…they’re great!

Love Bites: The Winners

LOVE BITES Blog Hop WINNERS!
Last week, we invited you to rain on Cupid’s Parade and to our delight you flooded us with two dozen playful, frisky, mischievous stories! 
Thank you to everyone who participated. You turned a potentially paltry holiday into lots of memorable fun! 
And thank you to everyone who read, commented and voted on the entries. 
Now, without further ado, here are the winners!
Congratulations to you all!!
JUDGE’S CHOICE = “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” by Cara Michaels / @caramichaels 
Prize: One Hour Coaching with Rebecca T. Dickson
Cara gave us a story wrought with heat and tension that left us twisting in our seats, wondering what it would be like to live without love and fervently hoping that Eros would find the love he was looking for!
EMOTIONAL IMPACT CHOICE = “A Wish” by Angela Kennard / @Ang_Writes 
Prize: Personalized Painting by Lee Clements 
Angela gave us a story that was by turns sweet, shocking and downright chilling. As surprises go, this piece delivered in spades and left us stunned – and not-so-secretly applauding the vengeful Emma!
Prize: Bragging Rights and Bookmark by the Divine Hammer 
Karen gave us the ultimate Valentine revenge in a story skillfully and poignantly told – and proved to be a fierce Fan Fave competitor! 
JUDGE’S FAVORITES 
Prize: Bookmarks by the Divine Hammer 
Elisabeth Koch – “Rome” by Elin Gregory / @ElinGregory – The terrific banter, unspoken depth and character of their relationship, great descriptions and humor all added up to a beautiful and clever story!
Lisa Shambrook – “Buck Wild” by Jeff Tsuruoka / @JTsuruoka – The physical description of Cupid, imagery such as the look a dog gives helicopters, and the over-friendly buck had me laughing! Great writing and brilliant twist!
Laura Howard – “Violet” by Christina Krieger / @cvkrieger – The classic story of a couple on a miserable Valentine’s date is quickly turned on its ear in this story about embracing who you are.
Ruth Long – “The End” by Laura Jamez / @LEJamez – The comparison between old school and modern match-making caught my imagination and the surprise twist, and the way it was delivered, was a knock-out.

Love Bites Blog Hop: Voting Commences…

Sharpen your pencils and cast your votes…
Fan Favourite Contest
Open for votes Friday 15th February through midnight (est) Sunday 17th February.

Vote for your favourite entry in the comments box below by typing in the name of the writer and the title of their story.
You can vote on my blog Below…or Here or Here
In addition to the stories linked below, we have an entrant without a blog whose story is posted HERE, so please be sure to stop by and read, comment and take into consideration! 

*Please note: stories by Hop Hostesses: Elisabeth Koch, Lisa Shambrook and Ruth Long are not eligible for votes.

Writers get our there and shamelessly pimp your story! 

Voters: one vote per person, please!
Winners will be announced Monday 18th February.

Best in Show wins One Hour Coaching 
with Rebecca T. Dickson
Emotional Whammy wins Personalised Painting
by Lee Clements
Judges Favourites win a Bookmark
by the Divine Hammer
Fan Favourite wins Bragging Rights and a Bookmark

Questions? Contact a hop hostess: @lizzie_loodles / @lastkrystallos / @laurahoward78 / @bullishink

And thanks for joining in it’s been so much fun!

Twelfth Night Masquerade: Neglected Masque

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (Please link if used)
Neglected Masque
Blake didn’t mean to stare, but many years away out on the battle front meant he’d not seen any frivolity, let alone so many beautiful women in quite some time. Silken dresses, yards of them, coiled around his legs as he passed through the whirling dance, intoxicated by mystery and opportunity. Never had so many hands brushed his and masked faces caught his eye with tantalising promise. 
He watched through his simple, leather bandit mask and scoured the low-lit ballroom; searching for only one face.
And when he saw her, clothed in olive-green velvet, he moved swiftly to her side. 
Alicia was alone within the writhing mass, like a pale-rose amongst a meadow of gaudy blooms, and his fingers urgently sought hers. She turned, startled, and her plum-coloured lips opened in surprise.  His mind reeled as his memory raced rewinding to the moment, years ago, when he first kissed her beneath the orchard blossom, those same lips now quivered as she interlaced her fingers with his. 
“Where is he?” asked Blake and she shook her head.  “Your husband…” bitterness bit deep, “the life and soul…”
Then he saw him, his brother, and his finger loosened his bronze cravat as scarlet rage rose. The buffoon held court amongst businessmen and loose women, and Blake watched as the man’s hand trailed across the breast of the woman in his arms. The lewd whisper in her ear, her wanton giggle, and the suggestive way his hand stroked down her spine and across her much-padded behind, was too much. Blake grabbed his brother’s wife and swirled her onto the dance floor. They danced until he could bear being so close to her no more, and he danced her out of the ballroom and across the lawns to the old willow.
“Come away with me,” he begged as his hand cupped her face and moved a spiralled strand of hair, away from her slender neck where it masked an angry flourish of purple. 
Her eyes glistened behind her emerald mask and she shook her head. He tenderly kissed her temple and fingered the green heart tied at her neck with brown ribbons. He released the ribbons and growled as the honey-green jewel dropped. The choker hid pale bruising and his eyes smarted as he took her wrists in his hands. He concentrated on the Murano glass beads around her delicate wrist. “Does this bracelet hide bruises too?” he asked softly. A tear rolled from behind her mask and he released her as she pulled away. She drew out a chain, concealed behind her corset within her bosom, and pressed the locket into his hands. Blake’s trembling fingers opened the familiar treasure and stared at the old, browned, but cherished photographs. His and her teenage eyes stared back; he closed the locket and held her close. Time was running out.
* * *
Blake stood opposite his brother on the morning’s fresh, dewy grass and chose his pistol. 
Today he would reclaim his beloved family jewel.
(498 Words) 
There be more to read from other fantastic writers…go and enjoy them!

The Cautionary Tale of the Accursed Looking Glass

Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without permission)

The Cautionary Tale of the Accursed Looking Glass

It was the mirror that told her. “You’re gorgeous,” it said, “You’re beautiful, stunning, breath-taking…” and who was she to deny it?

At first she accepted its compliments with grace and a shy glance from beneath her luscious lashes and a remark about needing to wash her hair then, as the flattery continued, she smiled and flushed with pleasure and coyly brushed her hair from her face.
And the mirror was determined to boost her self-esteem and soon she was pouting and preening and mwah, mwah-ing at the mirror’s complimentary words.
Her fashion sense improved no end. Gone were the tomboy togs; rough-kneed jeans discarded for skirts too tight to be called pencil-thin, casual shirts lost amid myriad sparkly, sequinned tops, comfy cardies destined for charity replaced by slinky, tight knits and street-fighting, puddle-jumping trainers traded in for heels that would give sky-scrapers vertigo.
And all the while the looking glass reported gorgeousness and unrivalled beauty.
“You’re amazing,” it told her, “much prettier than a picture…” and yes, she knew it.
The party did not begin until she arrived, and her sisters…well, ugly just wasn’t the word.
Dark as night hair was now platinum and bouffant, ribbons vanquished, shy fringe now swept away to show off blushed, sharpened cheekbones, and her lips plump and juicy and red; red as a crisp, ripe apple.
And the mirror loved her. Everyone loved her. Except, maybe, her sisters…they weren’t quite so keen, and her mother, it had been her mirror after all… But to everyone else, she was their darling.

Praises rained down, even on the sunniest of days, and the sunniest day came to town.
“Absolutely delightful, striking and so alluring…” said the mirror and she purred appreciation. She couldn’t find her flirty skirt, and missing amongst another mountain of rejects was the top she wanted, the lace one with strategically placed rhinestones.
“No matter,” said the mirror, “no matter at all…you look good enough to eat, just a dusting of powder and a dash of scent, and truly, you’re scrumptious…” and well, there was nothing more to be said, except. “Don’t forget your shoes…”
That day she was the talk of the town, but there was nothing new in that, the town barely talked of anyone else.  Today, even her ugly sisters raised their badly-in-need-of-plucking eyebrows, and mother stepped out of her way.
All day long people echoed her mirror, salutations and accolades followed until the dwarf’s voice, grumpy it was not, rose above the tributes with a comment on her nakedness. And though people sniggered it was truly a compliment, after all her nakedness was pretty stunning…

Later that night, before the looking glass, she reflected. “Gorgeous,” said her mirrored image and smiled then the smile faded and her façade cracked, and the tear in the mirror slipped off the tip of her nose and landed on her shoe. The glass slipper which, in ten seconds precisely, would shatter the mirror forever…

(492 Words)

This is my entry for Costumed Curses Contest hosted by Emmie Mears and Kristin McFarland. Go read the other amazing entries!

Behind the Curtain: Laid Bare

Laid Bare
When they took her leading man they made a hollow of her heart, and left her soul an empty cavern. 
She danced, every night, as if her lover would return, as if he would appear from the wings and take her in his arms; she danced for him and for him only. 
Gauzy skirts caressed her legs as she traversed the stage, snowflakes shimmered on pale skin, and diamond-adorned tresses flowed down her spine as she teased the very air that tried to embrace her. 
Elegance and grace filled every step, and every gesture, and those who beheld her were enthralled, bewitched by the woman pirouetting and leaping across the stage. She seduced indifferently, smouldering beneath the spotlight’s halo, and the sparkling gems in her hair emulated tears that would never fall.
Music drove deep into her solitude, empowering her body to twist and turn, and rise and fall. Every plié drew sighs, pirouettes provoked awe and her arabesque inspired yearning, as the audience fell in love.
She danced in the wash of the moonlight on stage, the beam chasing her like an infatuated paramour as she stretched and rose to the orchestra’s crescendo. The theatre was rapt as the music surged and climaxed, and then she was on the floor, arms stretched over her head protecting her from the huge explosion of applause. She would rise, and pause like a doe caught in a stray shaft of light, her eyes opening wide to stare into the blackness, at the ocean of faces now standing in ovation. 
Every night her hand would move to shade her eyes and she would gaze out over the footlights, across the pit and stalls, she would scan the circle, the balcony and up into the gods, but every night was in vain. 
As the audience gave her their approval, her empty soul cried empty tears and when she was sure he wasn’t there she whirled and tiptoed off stage.
She stole hearts but nothing filled the void, and those purloined hearts, so freely given, were lost forever, adrift within the walls of her icy core. 
(351 Words)

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