The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

The winner of the 2013 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is Chris Wieloch of Brookfield, WI, who writes: “Since it is too easy to unmask an imposter in these days of the Internet I am forced into the rather boring truth. I am a late middle aged male who has been lucky enough to be married to a woman I love for 31 years. I have 3 male children of college age. I have a wonderful family life. I am an engineer by trade and training and am intrigued by science. I enjoy the creative/inventive side of this and hold more than 60 patents on a wide variety of things. I have an engineering and technology development business. I find the world a magical place and the people who live in it fascinating. I love books, poetry, music and art. Language has always fascinated me. An artful turn of phrase or a great line can stay with me for days. I stumbled on the Bulwer-Lytton Contest this year for the first time. I laughed loud and long. I was awed at how truly awful language could be on purpose. I was hooked immediately and had many days of great fun composing my own chance at immortality. The downside of this is that I continue to have horrible little lines popping up in my head at the oddest times. I will be throwing these turds at this contest for years to come. To even be considered bad enough be named a finalist is beyond any hope I had. Thank you.”

Winner:

She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination. — Chris Wieloch, Brookfield, WI

Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award

“Don’t know no tunnels hereabout,” said the old-timer, “unless you mean the abandoned subway line that runs from Hanging Hill, under that weird ruined church, beneath the Indian burial ground, past the dilapidated Usher mansion, and out to the old abandoned asylum for the criminally insane where they had all those murders.” — Lawrence Person, Austin, TX

Winner: Adventure

“I told you to wear sensible shoes, but no, your vanity would not allow it!” he yelled at me as if that had something to do with the airplane crashing into the jungle and all the bodies draped in the trees, but it was just the sort of nonsense I was used to from him, making me wish one or the other of us was hanging dead above us, instead of Rodney. — Thor F. Carden, Madison, TN

Runner-Up:

  • As the sun dropped below the horizon, the safari guide confirmed the approaching cape buffaloes were herbivores, which calmed everyone in the group, except for Herb, of course. — Ron D Smith, Louisville, KY

Dishonorable Mentions:

  • It was a tricky situation, given the complex behavioral instincts of the Lowland Gorilla, and this accidental group encounter with a silver-backed dominant male was taxing Professor Wiesenheimer’s knowledge of interspecies primate interaction to the limit, yet confidently and without hesitation, he turned to his startled pupils and whispered, “Run like Hell.” — Mark Watson, Raleigh, NC

Winner: Crime

It was such a beautiful night; the bright moonlight illuminated the sky, the thick clouds floated leisurely by just above the silhouette of tall, majestic trees, and I was viewing it all from the front row seat of the bullet hole in my car trunk. — Tonya Lavel, Barbados, West Indies

Winner: Fantasy

The fairies of Minglewood, which is near Dingly Pool, were having a grand revel with flower-cakes, and butterfly dances, looking ever so pretty, while Queen Bellaflora swept her wand o’er the waterfall’s foam, making it pop like the snot-bubbles on your baby sister’s face. — Janine Beacham, Busselton, WA, Australia

Runner-Up

  • There once was a nasty, evil troll who lived beneath a bridge and took pleasure in collecting gold from the unsuspecting users of the infrastructure; however, no one used the bridge because an evil troll lived under it so the troll didn’t do much of anything. — Rachel Flanigan, Honolulu, HI

Winner: Historical Fiction

The Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered around the feast, a veritable cornucopia of harvest and game, a gastronomic monument to the bountiful biodiversity of the land, and while Mrs. Standish’s cranberry sauce was a far cry from the homogeneous gelatinous can-imprinted sacrosanct blob which has become the holiday’s sine qua non, the rest of the food was good. — Jordan Kaderli, Dallas, TX

Winner: Horror

Even though Letitia had brushed her teeth, Draco could still smell her garlicky breath, but assuming her blood would at least be toxin free, if not particularly appetizing – because of the antibiotic properties of the garlic’s allicin, an organosulfur compound – he gleefully plunged his incisors into her throbbing jugular vein. — Maggie Lyons, Callao, VA

Runner-Up:

  • Count Glandula’s castle flickered with eerie lights, where the immortal villain slaked his evil thirst in the dungeons with innocent victims – two moldy old peasants because the virtuous maidens had all been taken by the hot teenaged vampires down the road whose breath wasn’t so icky. — Janine Beacham, Busselton, WA, Australia

Winner: Romance

On their first date he’d asked how much she thought Edgar Allan Poe’s toe nails would sell for on eBay, and on their second he paid for subway fair with nickels he fished out of a fountain, but he was otherwise charming and she thought that they could have a perfectly tolerable life together. — Jessica Sashihara, Martinsville, NJ

Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions

  • The dark and foreboding landscape was littered with crumbling castles, collapsed crypts, and earthworks for forgotten fortresses wherein lurked those most dastardly of degenerates, whose blood curdling cries made the lives of the locals a living hell – the historical reenactment society. — Phil Davies, Cardiff, UK

Much of this is reprinted from http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2013win.html I picked my favorite parts to share with you. If they don’t cause you to laugh right out loud, they should at the very least provoke a groan – hope you enjoy! PJ

Need a laugh today?

The Annual Bulwer-Lytton winners are always good for a laugh! Here are some of my personal favorites from the 2012 winners’ list. Be sure to go check them all out!

“Your eyes are like deep blue pools that I would like to drown in,” he had told Kimberly when she had asked him what he was thinking; but what he was actually thinking was that sometimes when he recharges his phone he forgets to put the little plug back in but he wasn’t going to tell her that. — Dan Leyde, Edmonds, WA

Corinne considered the colors (palest green, gray and lavender) and texture (downy as the finest velvet) and wondered, “How long have these cold cuts been in my refrigerator?” — Linda Boatright, Omaha, NE

The stifling atmosphere inside the Pink Dolphin Bar in the upper Amazon Basin carried barely enough oxygen for a man to survive – humid and thick the air was and full of little flying bugs, making the simple act of breathing like trying to suck hot Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup through a paper straw. — Greg Homer, Placerville, CA

As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta’s face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows. — David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

The syncopated sound of the single-cylinder steam motor, designed by Mier Vander, reminded Mier of the time his father took him to the Mollen Bros travelling circus to see the “Corpulent Lady” and to sit upon her lap immediately following her lunch of sauerbraten and ale. — Jim Tierney, Murrieta, CA

Her fixed gaze at dinner reminded him so much of an owl that he found himself wondering when she would regurgitate her meal into a pellet and told the waitress they didn’t need a dessert menu. — Leah Sitkoff, New York, New York

Her skin was like flocked wallpaper and her eyes had seen better days, but when her bloodless lips murmured “Hi, Sailor,” my heart melted from the inside out like one of those chocolate-covered ice cream bars on a summer day that runs down your arm and gets all over your new shirt. — James Macdonald, Vancouver, B.C

Many years have passed since the events related here, but I remember them almost as well as if I had really been there, because I think about them frequently, turning them over and over in my mind, changing the facts to make me into more of a hero than I actually might have been, had I been there to do half the things I claim I did. — Thor F. Carden, Madison, TN

He got down from his horse, which seemed strange to him as he had always believed that you got down from a duck or a goose. — Terry L. Johnson, Tularosa, NM

Milton’s quest for the love of Ms. Bradley was a risk but no sorry trivial pursuit yet he hadn’t a clue why she had a monopoly on his heart’s desires – in fact, it boggled his mind and caused him great aggravation because, in his checkered and troubled careers, he had always scrabbled hard and it drove him bonkers that she considered life just a game. — Linda Boatright, Omaha, NE

As I gardened, gazing towards the autumnal sky, I longed to run my finger through the trail of mucus left by a single speckled slug – innocuously thrusting past my rhododendrons – and in feeling that warm slime, be swept back to planet Alderon, back into the tentacles of the alien who loved me. — Mary E. Patrick, Lake City, SC

Tucked in a dim corner of The Ample Bounty Bar & Grille, Alice welcomed the fervent touch of the mysterious stranger’s experienced hands because she had not been this close with a man in an achingly long time and, quivering breathlessly, began to think that this could be the beginning of something real, something forever, and not just a one-time encounter with a good Samaritan who was skilled at the Heimlich Maneuver. — Mark Wisnewski, Flanders, NJ

Haley’s crystal eyes surveyed the vista that stretched in front of her like a vast comforter tossed over the form of a slumbering giant to the hills that arose abruptly like the hastily drawn up knees of the giant when he has to reach down and rub the cramp out of his foot that he experiences when he’s stretching underneath his vast comforter. — Robin Siepel, Bakersfield, CA

BROWSING, METAPHOR OF COWS by Nancy Springer

I was fascinated when my first copyeditor told me that “main force” comes from the French for “force of hand” and it was therefore inappropriate for me to have a character kick someone with main force. (It was a fantasy novel, and I was young. Forgive me.) At the time I was teaching a creative writing workshop, and I shared my new and exciting insight with the class, adding similar niceties, such as how “nit-picking” refers to the eggs of lice and is not to be confused with knit-picking the fuzz balls off of sweaters, and a “strait jacket” is not straight but tight, like the Straits of Magellan or the Biblical “strait and narrow path,” which is not straight either. I went on to explain what it meant to be on “tenterhooks,” meaning the hooks on which canvas is stretched to make tents, having nothing to do with fishhooks or tenderness. And I was just about to explain that “spitting image” is ludicrous, the old term being “spit (spirit) and image,” when a student raised her hand and asked plaintively, “Do we have to know all this stuff to be a writer?”

At the time I became speechless, slack-jawed with astonishment at the apparent fact that she did not want to know “all this stuff.” But once I got home and had time to mull over what she had said, in bed, which is where I do my best mulling (not a mixed metaphor; “mulling” as cogitation is simply a homonym for the process of heating, sweetening or spicing beverages such as wine) – once I had time to consider, ponder, and ruminate (metaphor of cows?), YES, I decided, writers should know all this stuff, or at the very least they should want to know it. What had taken me so very much aback, or by surprise (note to self: look up “aback”) was that anyone who wanted to be a writer should ask such a question, because how could anyone possibly want to be a writer if she did not like words?

(“To take aback” turns out to be a nautical metaphor, referring to the wind pushing against the wrong side of sails and sending the ship backwards. It does not, as I had conjectured, refer to being attacked from behind. I am relieved to have cleared this up in my own mind.)

My first copyeditor has long since given up the ghost (or perhaps her spit) and I have had oodles of copyeditors since, and I still welcome every new word or nuance of words I can learn from them. To be a writer one must like words. Arguably, one must love them. And to love them means to learn and respect their nuances, their connotations, and their derivations so as to choreograph them to best effect.

Here are some worthwhile words from my big, new novel, Dark Lie: candor, verity, fulcrum, malar (referring to the rash on my protagonist’s face; she has lupus) and Mylar (balloons). Ascenders, descenders, arcades and garlands as jargon of handwriting analysis. Sociopath as differentiated from psychopath. Psychopomp, meaning shaman without the tribal connotations.

Prismatic, luminous, pellucid, limpid lake of light – all are words that might be used to describe the near-death experience. But I guess maybe the more important words in Dark Lie are simpler: daughter, mother, danger, suspense, dark, secret, love.

AUTHOR BIO
Nancy Springer has written fifty novels for adults, young adults and children, in genres that include mythic fantasy, contemporary fiction, magical realism, horror, and mystery — although she did not realize she wrote mystery until she won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America two years in succession. Dark Lie is her first venture into adult suspense.

Born in New Jersey, Nancy Springer lived for many decades near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, of Civil War fame, raising two children, writing, riding horseback, fishing, and birdwatching. In 2007 she surprised her friends and herself by moving with her second husband to an isolated area of the Florida panhandle, where the birdwatching is spectacular and where, when fishing, she occasionally catches an alligator.

Hot August Nights

Here we are in August already. Amazing. Seems like it was just January a minute ago and now we’re nearing the end of the year and the onset of 2013. Or is this a comedy of errors? Wasn’t it just a year or two ago we were all worried about Y2K? On the one hand, days are long and hot and there seems no end in sight. On the other hand, school starts in a few weeks (didn’t the school year just end a week or so ago?) and if we blink a time or two it’ll be Thanksgiving. What?

Proof that everything is influenced by personal perception and that opinions can rise and fall with the outdoor thermometer. It’s best not to be moved by them. However, every writer’s life is a roller coaster of sorts and this time of year in particular, it can be a really bumpy ride. Our New Year’s resolutions have lost their shine and many have been abandoned altogether, leaving behind that hopeless feeling of yet another failure. The list of things we’d planned to have accomplished by this time has grown enough that we’re no longer comfortable looking at it so we spend more time on Facebook where we can Like and be Liked. The decision is no longer how do we catch up, but what do we do now since there’s no way we can do it all by the end of the year.

In the background of my mind I hear Rob Thomas and  Carlos Santana serenading me with that deceptively titled old favorite, Smooth.

Or maybe it’s Neil Diamond singing about hot August nights:

I wonder if it’s time to tilt the office chair back and close my eyes for a quick accidental nap or if this day deserves the get-up, march-to-the-couch-and-lie-down on purpose variety. The point? We all have these days, and frankly, just pretending that we don’t doesn’t change a thing. What to do?

Like so many self-employed people (including moi) writers tend to be “on duty” 24/7 with little relief. Continuing that way with no end in sight will lead down the road to total burnout. The cure? Or more accurately, the Prevention? Scheduling. Oxymoronic? Not really. Not if it’s done right.

Just like it’s important to schedule regular writing time, and if you’re excelling in time management, a set-aside time for promoting your work, you need to pencil in some regularly scheduled YOU time. Call it R & R. Maybe that stands for Rest and Relaxation, or for Research and Rejuvenation. Maybe it’s a day on the couch reading a book you don’t have to read, or taking your grandkids to the zoo. Oh wait, I forgot it’s August. Maybe it’s an appointment at a spa nearby, or a trip to the nearest Natatorium. Museums and libraries are usually cool (temperature wise) this time of year. Movie theaters aren’t as appealing today, but they will be again. I like to go to the lake. Even when it’s burning hot outside, it somehow seems cooler there.

Whatever you do, make sure it feeds your soul. After all, what kind of writer will you be if you have no soul? As much as the project manager in me believes in planning and scheduling and essentially making every day count, life is too short to always be working and feeling like it’s never enough. So especially in August, pause. Take a day a month, or a day a week (gasp!) and just live. Do something that matters to you even if nobody will ever read it. Enjoy. I promise, the lists will still be there when you get back.

PJ

Sometimes on Mondays we need a laugh…

…and this is always a good place to find one: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest winners. The 2011 winners are right up to par, but feel free to go there and browse previous years’ winners as well. Too funny! But here are the latest to make it easy for you:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Sue Fondrie Oshkosh, WI The winner of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is Sue Fondrie, an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh who works groan-inducing wordplay into her teaching and administrative duties whenever possible.  Out of school, she introduces two members of the next generation to the mysteries of Star TrekStar Wars, and–of course–the art of the bad pun.

Prof. Fondrie is the 29th grand prize winner of the contest that that began at San Jose State University in 1982.  The contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels takes its name from the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who began his “Paul Clifford” with “It was a dark and stormy night.” At 26 words, Prof. Fondrie’s submission is the shortest grand prize winner in Contest history, proving that bad writing need not be prolix, or even very wordy.

Runner-Up:

As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.

Rodney Reed Ooltewah, TN

Winner: Adventure

From the limbs of ancient live oaks moccasins hung like fat black sausages — which are sometimes called boudin noir, black pudding or blood pudding, though why anyone would refer to a sausage as pudding is hard to understand and it is even more difficult to divine why a person would knowingly eat something made from dried blood in the first place — but be that as it may, our tale is of voodoo and foul murder, not disgusting food.  

Jack Barry Shelby, NC

Runner-Up: 

Sensing somehow a scudding lay in the offing, Skipper Bob tallied his tasks:  reef the mains’l, mizzen, and jib, strike and brail the fores’l, mizzen stays’l and baggywrinkles, bowse the halyards, mainsheets, jacklines and vangs, turtle and belay fast the small cock, flemish the taffrail warps, batten the booby hatch, lay by his sou’wester, and find the bailing bucket. 

Mike Mayfield Austin, TX   

Winner: Crime

Wearily approaching the murder scene of Jeannie and Quentin Rose and needing to determine if this was the handiwork of the Scented Strangler–who had a twisted affinity for spraying his victims with his signature raspberry cologne–or that of a copycat, burnt-out insomniac detective Sonny Kirkland was sure of one thing: he’d have to stop and smell the Roses.

Mark Wisnewski Flanders, NJ

Runner-Up:

Five minutes before his scheduled execution, Kip found his thoughts turning to his childhood– all those years ago before he had become a contract killer whose secret weakness was a severe peanut allergy, even back before he lost half of a toe in a gardening accident while doing community service– but especially to Corinne, the pretty girl down the street whom he might have ended up marrying one day if she had only shown him a little more damn respect.

Andrew Baker Highland Park, NJ

Dishonorable Mention:

The victim was a short man, with a face full of contradictions: amalgam, composite, dental porcelain, with both precious and non-precious metals all competing for space in a mouth that was open, bloody, terrifying, gaping, exposing a clean set of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth, but clearly the object of some very comprehensive dental care, thought Dirk Graply, world-famous womanizer, tough guy, detective, and former dentist.  

Basil McDonnell Vancouver, B.C.

Winner:  Fantasy

Within the smoking ruins of Keister Castle, Princess Gwendolyn stared in horror at the limp form of the loyal Centaur who died defending her very honor; “You may force me to wed,” she cried at the leering and victorious Goblin King, “but you’ll never be half the man he was.”  

Terri Daniel Seattle, WA

Runner-Up: Veronica, two months pregnant and attempting to get her boyfriend to notice, and Ricky, who wanted to end things with his expansive girlfriend, sat at a table-for-two around lunchtime at the Olive Garden in Columbus, Ohio, eying the bottle of house rosé which, unbeknownst to them, doubled as the portal key to Khrysandelt: The land where everything glitters slightly more than normal.  

Andrew Allingham Fairfax, VA

Winner:  Historical Fiction

Napoleon’s ship tossed and turned as the emperor, listening while his generals squabbled as they always did, splashed the tepid waters in his bathtub.

John Doble New York City

Runner-Up:

The executioner sneered as the young queen ascended the stairs to the guillotine; in the old days, he thought, at least there was some buildup, a little time on the rack or some disemboweling, but nowadays everyone wants instant gratification. 

Andrea Rossi Wilmington, NC

Winner:  Purple Prose

As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue. 

Mike Pedersen North Berwick, ME

Runner-Up:

The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog, the word being a portmanteau of smoke and fog, though in LA the pollutants are typically vehicular emissions as opposed to actual smoke and fog, unlike 19th-century London where the smoke from countless small coal fires often combined with fog off the Thames to produce true smog, though back then they were not clever enough to call it that.   

Jack Barry Shelby, NC

Dishonorable Mentions:

LaTrina—knowing he must live—let her hot, wet tongue slide slowly over Gladiator’s injured ear, the taste reminding her of the late June flavor of a snow chain that had been removed from a tire and left to rust on the garage floor without being rinsed off. 

Betsy Replogle Nichols Hills, OK

Like a bird gliding over the surface of a Wyoming river rippled by a gentle Spring breeze, his hand passed over her stretch marks. 

Patty Liverance Grand Rapids, MI

Deep into that particular wet Saturday night ugly blues screamed out from the old man’s horn like a hooker being hauled down a flight of stairs, regular thick loud thumps punctuated by nasty and erratic sharp barks. 

John Benson Carthage, MO 64836

She held my hand as if she were having a swollen barrel of fun which was off considering that my teeth were sitting on my bathroom cabinet (eight miles away, no less) and my elbow was peeling like a soggy coconut, the fine hairs of which were standing on edge in fear, as if the coconut had been reading “Dracula.” 

James Hearn Canterbury, Kent, U.K.

Winner:  Romance

As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand—who would take her away from all this—and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.

Ali Kawashima Greensboro, NC

Runner-Up:

Deanna waited for him in a deliberate pose on the sailor-striped chaise lounge of the newly-remodeled Ramada, her bustier revealing the tops of her white breasts like eggs–eggs of the slightly undercooked, hard-boiled variety, showing a nascent jiggle with her apprehensive breath, eggs that were then peeled ever-so-carefully so as not to pierce the jellied, opaque albumen and unleash the longing, viscous yolk within–yes, she lay there, oblong and waiting to be deviled.

Meredith K. Gray Ithaca, NY

Dishonorable Mentions:

They called her The Cat, because she made love the way she fought, rolling rapidly across the floor in a big, blurry ball of shrieking hair, fury, and dander, which usually solicited a “Shut up!” and flung shoe from one of the neighbors, and left her exhilarated lover with serious patchy bald spots and the occasional nicked ear. 

Lisa Kluber San Francisco, CA

She gazed smolderingly at the mysterious rider, his body cloaked in enough shining black leather to outfit an Italian furniture store, wrapped so tightly each muscle stood out like a flamboyant Mexican hairdresser at an Alabamian monster truck rally; and he met her gaze with an intensity that couldn’t have been matched by even a starving junkyard dog in the meat aisle of a suburban supermarket. 

Chris Kemp Annapolis, MD

Winner:  Sci Fi

Morgan ‘Bamboo’ Barnes, Star Pilot of the Galaxia (flagship of the Solar Brigade), accepted an hors d’oeuvre from the triangular-shaped platter offered to him from the Princess Qwillia—lavender-skinned she was and busty, with two of her four eyes what Barnes called ‘bedroom eyes’—and marveled at how on her planet, Chlamydia-5, these snacks were called ‘Hi-Dee-Hoes’ but on Earth they were simply called Ritz Crackers with Velveeta. 

Greg Homer Placerville, CA

Runner-Up:

Sterben counted calcium bars in the storage chamber, wondering why women back on Earth paid him little attention, but up here they seem to adore him, in fact, six fraichemaidens had already shown him their blinka. 

Elizabeth Muenster Columbia, PA

Winner:  Vile Puns

Detective Kodiak plucked a single hair from the bearskin rug and at once understood the grisly nature of the crime: it had been a ferocious act, a real honey, the sort of thing that could polarize a community, so he padded quietly out the back to avoid a cub reporter waiting in the den. 

Joe Wyatt Amarillo, TX

Runner-Up:

Monroe Mills’ innovative new fabric-dyeing technique was a huge improvement over stone-washing: denim apparel was soaked in color and cured in an 800-degree oven, and the company’s valued young dye department supervisor was as skilled as they came; yes, no one could say Marilyn was a normal jean baker. 

Marvin Veto Greensboro, NC

Dishonorable Mentions:

Convinced that the fabled Lost Treasure of Eggsbury was concealed within the statue of the beloved Sister Mary Francis in the village square, Professor Smithee would steal away in the darkest hour of each night to try to silently chip away at her impervious granite vestments – a vain and fruitless nightly exercise, he well knew, but it was a hard habit to break.

Rodney Reed Ooltewah, TN

Milton’s quest for the love of Ms. Bradley was a risk but no sorry trivial pursuit, yet he hadn’t a clue why she had a monopoly on his heart’s desires — in fact, it boggled his mind and caused him great aggravation because, in his checkered and troubled careers, he had always scrabbled hard and it drove him bonkers that she considered life just a game

Linda Boatright Omaha, NE

Winner:  Western

The laser-blue eyes of the lone horseman tracked the slowly lengthening lariat of a Laredo dawn as it snaked its way through Dead Man’s Pass into the valley below and snared the still sleeping town’s tiny church steeple in a noose of light with the oh-so-familiar glow of a Dodge City virgin’s last maiden blush.

Graham Thomas St. Albans, Hertfordshire, U.K.

Runner-Up:

Sunburned and lost, Jake tightened the noose around Randy’s diaper-white neck and growled, “Any last words, varmint?” to which Randy replied, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, Jake–that’s where all the fruit is!” which marked the first and last time Jake and the boys hired a life coach to lead one of their cattle drives. 

Lisa Kluber San Francisco, CA

Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions

Rosy lips aquiver, Lauren drizzled with tears the wave-tousled sands of Wampauset Municipal Area Public Access Beach, hearing in every shriek of shrike and plaint of plover the ancient wail–kreeAHH, kreeAHH!–of good women widowed by the sea, as well as tonal nuances indicating the shorebirds’ relative levels of copulative receptiveness, for our umber-eyed heroine is both lover and ornithologist.

Anna Springfield Raleigh, NC

Business was kinda slow at the ‘If You Build It’ sperm bank.

Simon Petrie Hawker ACT, AUSTRALIA

Day broke upon the Baroness von Hestach with the pitiable insistence of all that she despised–a gray and unattractive intrusion into her sumptuous bedchamber, much like the Baron.

Holly Kohler Concord, MA

No one walked down Bleak Street at night—not where hobgoblins hobnobbed, skeletons skulked, vampires vamped, and the dumpster behind the Chinese buffet smelled like zombies. 

Bill Hartmann Dallas, TX

Dawn crept up like the panther on the gazelle, except it was light, not dark like a panther, and a panther, though quiet, could never be as silent as the light of dawn, so really the analogy doesn’t hold up well, as cool as it sounds, but it still is a great way to begin a story; just not necessarily this particular one.

Warren Blair Ashburn, VA

As the young officer studied the oak door, he was reminded of his girlfriend — for she was also slightly unhinged, occasionally sticky, and responded well to being stripped and given a light oiling. 

Ian Fishlock Harrow, London U.K.

The beast lumbered toward the maiden, its fetid breath announcing its presence to her (since she couldn’t see him due to the blindfold her captors had tied around her head), its jaws gaping open like a sub sandwich with too much meat, so that no matter how hard you try, you can’t possibly keep the lettuce or the tomatoes from squeezing out onto the table or, worse, your lap.

Donna P. Titus Freeland, PA

All the signs, both actual and imagined, made it immensely clear there was trouble ahead for Marlene and, yet, her childlike sense of hope that maybe he was “the one” kept her foot on the accelerator pedal of life even when she came to the “bridge out” warning hand written in Magic Marker on Myron’s Polident cup.

Karen Arutunoff Tulsa, OK

The grisly scene before him was like nothing Detective Smith had ever seen before, but there were millions and millions of things he had never seen before, and he couldn’t help but wonder which of them it was. 

Sean Griffin Tacoma, WA

Maggie said they were birthmarks and they very well could be, but the three very small black moles in a horizontal line just above her right eyebrow looked like an ellipsis to some, but to others who did not know what an ellipsis was, they looked like three very small black moles in a horizontal line just above Maggie’s right eyebrow.

Anna Springfield Raleigh, NC

As she downed the last Dixie cup of Listerine and let every drop of its 21.6 percent alcohol content hit her like an icy mint anti-cavity brickbat, Karen squinted at the breasts dangling like two electrocuted ospreys from the powerline of her heart and, with a despondency born of a thousand nights spent gaining a decent skill level at internet mahjong, wondered how she and they had all three sunk so low. 

Betty Jean Murray Richland, TX

Her flaming red hair whipped in the wind like a campfire, stroking the embers of passion hidden within the hearth of my heart and I began to burn with a desire that seared me to my very core – oh the things that I would do if only I weren’t incarcerated for arson!

Aubrey Johnson Edmonton, AB, Canada

Carmela’s knees buckled and she (a responsible consumer) collapsed down onto the sidewalk, as  her environmentally green grocery bag bounced — spewing forth organic mixed  lettuces, crispy  eco-friendly cucumbers,  juicy natural cherry tomatoes,  home-grown herbs  — while  in perfect synchronization, a recyclable plastic bottle burst open, spraying droplets of Lite-Italian dressing upon the freshly tossed salad.  

Margie Parker Weeki Wachee, FL

After five years as freelance writer, Greg finally managed to double his income, letting him add a processed cheese product slice to the baloney sandwiches he had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Lawrence Person Austin, TX The mostly, but not quite, extinguished fire’s dying embers writhed upon the floor like tiny little wasps which someone has just stuck in the abdomen with a needle, and they are frantically contracting around the metal protrusion in their gut in a desperate effort to remove it which, let’s face it, is hopeless so they are just slowly dying and good riddance to them too, because unlike bees–which actually have some purpose in the world–wasps are just mean, ornery wastes of space, and who can blame someone for spearing them?   

Darian McGee Petal, MS

“Bleeeck!” nine-year-old prince Crawthula, lord of Undaria and heir to the vampire throne, cried as the lollypop, expertly wielded by his irksome sister, left a bright red gooey smear across his pale cheek, shattering the image of tranquility he was ineffectually trying to maintain in front of his undead ministers and beginning the tirade that resulted in them both being sent to coffin before the first human had been brought out to feast on.   

Eric A. Vanderburg Cleveland, OH

They kissed with the fury and suction of a dart that was shot onto the back of the bus driver’s fat bald head by the red-headed kid that was too big for his age (the rumor was he was “held back”) and everyone knew was going to end up in prison, or perhaps a prop comic if he straightened out in time. 

D. Drake Daggett Omro, WI

Awakened by a howling wind snapping branches against her new but poorly installed storm windows, Stella heard another sound she found puzzling so, grabbing her trusty Colt Python, she snuck stealthily downstairs to find an oddly-dressed gnome-like man methodically dropping breath mints onto her freshly-waxed kitchen floor. 

Ann Hammack Pittsboro,NC

“You’re not in Kansas anymore, people!” the gruff Marine Captain bellowed as I wheeled myself along the tarmac of Planet Cliché, the only place in the Galaxy where you could mine Unobtainium, undergo the powerful Eywa ritual with a blue eight-foot-tall alien Princess, and discover a hunter-gatherer people who despite decades of human contact still hadn’t developed the wheel, the composite bow, or toilet paper.

Adrian McKinty

Urgh the howler monkey was sort of the leader of his troop, though not old enough to be a silverback and not having fathered more than a couple of sons, but he did know where the good berries were and how to avoid the leopards, anacondas, and especially the hairless apes, the ones who crashed through the forest only to stand behind a tree and breathe noisily, and watch them and sometimes leave bunches of those disgusting bananas.

David S. Nelson Falls Church, VA

What an assortment, really! Hope that gives you at least a smile. Wanna try your hand at it for next year’s winners?