Wish: Costumed Curses Entries

The Costumed Curses Flash Fiction Contest is ongoing, and, just to entice you, we’ll be featuring some of the entries as we approach the deadline. Remember, we have awesome prizes for our winners, including an Amazon gift card, goodie bag, and partial-manuscript critiques!

Click the image above to be taken to the main contest page, where you can remind yourself of the rules and post your own story in the comments. Also visit CurseMaster Emmie’s site for more stories!

Wish

by Chris Goodwin
474 words

I can still hear them. Oh, God.

I know they’re not there, there’s nobody there. Nobody is talking to me. Nobody is talking. Nobody.

Did I see something move? Every now and then, I fall for that one. I should have learned by now, but I– There it is again! Nothing.

I can hear them. Always.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

I live here, in the forest. Nobody comes around here. Nobody comes, except for them.

I’m getting off topic already, aren’t I?

I used to live with my wife–

Sorry.

I lived with my wife and daughter, until just recently. Margaret was her name. My father trapped and sold pelts, while my mother taught at the school. She taught me writing. My father traded with a man with a daughter, Margaret. She was shy. It was her father’s idea to write to each other.

The letters arrived. At first, they were very short. Maybe a page. After a time, though, she grew comfortable telling me things she’d tell nobody. I’m lying if I said I didn’t feel the same way.

Who’s there? Never-mind.

After years, I finally met her and we were in love. I assumed, at least.

Years passed, and we married. She moved to our little town.

There was a bad accident. My father didn’t make it. I took over. She didn’t like that, but she smiled anyway. And then we had our beautiful daughter.

And then I met him.

Checking my lines at the river, I looked up and there he was. Tall man, thin. Dark eyes. That smile.

Is someone at the door? No, it can’t be. No, no, I’ll check.

Ah… I knew better.

Him. Right. Sorry.

He told me things. Horrible things. “Your Margaret doesn’t love you. She doesn’t need you.”

I told him to shut up.

“The whole town thinks you’re a fool. But I can help. I can give you three wishes! Just ask!”

I asked why? He shrugged. I agreed to get him to leave. He left.

I went home early, spooked. Went home to my family.

She was there, with someone else.

“No!” I remember screaming.

We fought later. She said she was leaving with my daughter. That she didn’t need me.

And then I said it.

“I wish you needed me more than anyone ever!”

“Granted,” his voice whispered. Margaret fell, sick. She dropped our daughter to the floor. She bled, while Margaret turned white. It was–

I can’t describe it. Not thinking, I said out loud, “I didn’t want this! Make it stop! Make it stop for both of them!”

“Granted!” The voice spoke louder. His voice.

I buried them the next day, and moved away from the town. I drank. I got scared.

And I said “I wish I wasn’t alone anymore.”

And there it was. Loud. Yelling. Piercing.

“Granted.”

The Costumed Curses Flash Fiction Contest HAS ARRIVED.

The time has come… for you to wow us with your fairy tale creepiness.

So what is a costumed curse, you ask? A poisoned apple, a cursed spinning wheel, a dress that forces you to dance until you’re sweating blood. A kiss that kills instead of saving, a smiling face that lures you to your death. An assassin’s blow that feels like a caress, a whispered word that deafens. A granted wish that turns to dust, a maestro’s work that rots the brain…

The choice is yours: hide the evil and make us bite. We want dark fairy tales, stories that make our hair stand up and keep us awake at night, wishes, dreams, and hopes gone wrong.

BUT our wish (that will be granted, lest we punish you) is that you follow the rules. And what are those, you ask? Well…

When: 15 October at 0900 EDT (THAT’S TODAY!) until 27 October at 2359

Genre: Fantasy and all sub-genres. Dark fantasy, urban fantasy, horror fantasy, epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, fairy tale fantasy, dystopian fantasy, whatever. (No sci-fi this time, sorry!)

Theme: Curses masquerading as blessings, granted wishes, deepest desires, secret yearnings. Take a gift and twist it. Take a wish and make it rot. Grant a deep desire and watch it burn.

Length: 500 words.

How to Enter: Post your entry in the COMMENTS TO THIS POST, and be sure to include the following information:

  • Your NAME
  • Your TWITTER HANDLE or EMAIL ADDRESS*
  • Your WORD COUNT

If these things are not included, you will have to drink from the Cup of the Blind, which will erode your entry into nothingness. Meaning, you will be disqualified and will have to wear the Cone of Shame.

*No, we won’t use your email address for anything other than notifying winners, distributing prizes. No, we won’t give it to evil cyber stalkers. No, we are not evil cyber stalkers. Does anyone use the word “cyber” anymore?

Prizes: Super snazzy prizes will include an Amazon gift card, manuscript critiques, goody bags (when was the last time you got goodies in the POST?! Alas, these will have to be limited to US residents only because we’re broke), and mucho de bragging rights. And some sweet badges which will be revealed later. Muahahaha! Winners will be crowned as follows:

  • 1st Place — HERO
  • 2nd Place — WARRIOR
  • 3rd Place — MINION

Your Judges: Me, of course, and Emmie Mears. We will be judging the posts on originality, use of the theme, quality of writing, and general badassery. R-rated stories are fine, but we’re not looking for erotica. Some sex is okay, but remember the theme and ask if it’s necessary. Don’t shoot for shock value. Wow us with your story and how you weave in the prompt.

Now, go! Be free! Write to make us shiver! And look forward to some featured stories, some curdled wishes to burn your mind.

Best of luck from,

Announcing The Costumed Curses Flash Fiction Contest!

 

Are you longing to celebrate the season? To put on fanciful makeup and scare the bejebus out of the people who know you? And do you ever wish you could scare more than just your neighbors and friends?

I heard those secret yearnings.

And because I heard those secret yearnings, I’ve teamed up with the fabulous Emmie Mears to bring you a creeptacular flash fiction extravaganza.

Costumed Curses Flash Fiction Contest

When: 15 October at 0900 EDT until 27 October at 2359

Genre: Fantasy and all sub-genres. Dark fantasy, urban fantasy, horror fantasy, epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, fairy tale fantasy, dystopian fantasy, whatever. (No sci-fi this time, sorry!)

Theme: Curses masquerading as blessings, granted wishes, deepest desires, secret yearnings. Take a gift and twist it. Take a wish and make it rot. Grant a deep desire and watch it burn.

Length: 500 words.

How to Enter: There will be a post bearing eerie similarity to this one that goes up at 0900 sharp on 15 October. On that day, you may post your entry in the comments WITH THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION (this is where I find out who reads the submission guidelines):

  • Your NAME
  • Your TWITTER HANDLE or EMAIL ADDRESS*
  • Your WORD COUNT

If these things are not included, you will have to drink from the Cup of the Blind, which will erode your entry into nothingness. Meaning, you will be disqualified and will have to wear the Cone of Shame.

*No, we won’t use your email address for anything other than notifying winners, distributing prizes. No, we won’t give it to evil cyber stalkers. No, we are not evil cyber stalkers. Does anyone use the word “cyber” anymore?

Prizes: Super snazzy prizes will include an Amazon gift card, manuscript critiques, goody bags (when was the last time you got goodies in the POST?! Alas, these will have to be limited to US residents only because we’re broke), and mucho de bragging rights. And some sweet badges which will be revealed later. Muahahaha! Winners will be crowned as follows:

  • 1st Place — HERO
  • 2nd Place — WARRIOR
  • 3rd Place — MINION

Your Judges: C’est moi, of course, and Emmie Mears. We will be judging the posts on originality, use of the theme, quality of writing, and general badassery. R-rated stories are fine, but we’re not looking for erotica. Some sex is okay, but remember the theme and ask if it’s necessary. Don’t shoot for shock value. Wow us with your story and how you weave in the prompt.

What are you waiting for? Start writing! And feel free to talk it up on Twitter using the #CostumedCurses hashtag! See you Monday!

Love and kisses!

Yours,

 

Who Chooses the Chosen One?

My husband is fond of making the semi-cruel joke that George R. R. Martin may not live long enough to finish A Song of Ice and Fire, and the fans will be left with nothing but questions and the hope that some Brandon Sanderson of Westeros will be chosen to finish the series.

I dub thee, Replacement Author! ©Disney, 1963

I have faith that this won’t happen. Martin will finish the series himself.

Then again, I’m not convinced that fairies aren’t real.

Clap your hands, folks. ©Disney, 1953

Now, Robert Jordan’s wife and editor chose Brandon Sanderson to finish her husband’s work. And presumably many writers would indicate who they would like to see end the work. I’m sure editors contribute to the decision, too.

But since it’s fun to speculate, who would you choose? I’m really not sure who I’d pick. J. V. Jones writes gritty epic fantasy, but she may not have strong enough storytelling capabilities. Jacqueline Carey is well known for her erotic fantasy series, but she also wrote an epic that Martin himself enjoyed. I don’t know if she could pull off the ugliness that’s rampant in Martin’s world, though: Carey’s world is exquisitely, almost painfully (haha) beautiful, even when her character’s face truly appalling situations.

How about Stephen King? He could certainly write the ugliness, and he’s perfectly capable of writing an epic. Or Neil Asher, who writes gritty and bitterly humorous sci-fi? Asher, however, has not yet written an epic.

I’m curious, readers. Who would you pick? Have you had an author leave a beloved series unfinished?

Cultural Themes in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Part 1 of Many

Ah, theme. That elusive concept that our eighth grade English teachers hammered into our tender brains. “What is the theme of A Tale of Two Cities?”

As if a complex masterwork can be adequately explained by a thirteen-year-old’s understanding of the gap between the aristocracy and the peasantry and the political woes that arise as a result. Books just don’t break down that easily—yes, theme is present, but usually in the form of several interwoven-threads that often make a very specific or a very vague point. And literary critics will tell us that the themes we find often say more about us than about the work we’re interpreting.

But we can’t escape it. Writers are so often asked, by people who don’t really care, “What is your book about?”

These people don’t usually want to hear, “Well, it’s about this middle-class, average graduate student, who decides to throw away her huge research grant and, instead of focusing on the social practices of rapidly disappearing indigenous people in northern Asia, decides to go on a quest—both academic and actual—for the origins of a dragon myth. And then she finds that dragons aren’t real, but the myths may stem from a race of dragon people who live in the hills and mountains and are rapidly becoming extinct.”

Some people might want to hear that (it does sound pretty cool, even though I made it up to be ludicrous), but most people want to hear something like, “Well, I’m writing a novel that explores the relationship between those who study native cultures and members of the culture itself.”

That makes you, the writer, sound smart, and the listener can either nod interestedly and walk away or can nod sagely and contribute some nugget of wisdom on the topic.

So not only is theme inescapable, it’s also useful and can help you focus on what is really important in your book.

I’ve digressed so far from what I actually wanted to write about today that I’m going to call this paragraph a transition, and move onto what I really wanted to discuss.

My fiance and I frequently discuss what we’re reading, and I’ve noticed a pattern in his sci-fi books and television lately: the theme that any given race will want to uplift or be uplifted by another race. It’s the myth of progress, but in a disturbing cultural form, not unlike the “white man’s burden.” It assumes that some form of existence is fundamentally better than others, and that all other forms will want to aspire to be like it.

It’s like this, but with “lesser” mammals or alien races.

That’s pretty disturbing, actually.

It got me thinking about common themes in sci-fi and fantasy in the last two decades. I’m not much of a sci-fi person, but I can talk about fantasy fairly well. It seems that there’s been a shift from the 80s/90s fantasy that focused on individual quests, the a hero’s journey that saves the world but is ultimately about becoming fully-actualized self. Nowadays, it seems more like (traditional) fantasy is often about human-on-human atrocity: the wonder is that we’ve made it this far at all, not at how far we can make it.

Are sci-fi and fantasy in the depressive ditch of a manic theme swing? Or is my post-colonial class rearing its ugly head and telling me more about my own education than about the books I’m reading? What are some other themes appearing in contemporary sci-fi and fantasy?