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PostPosted: December 30, 2016, 12:38:58 AM
by kailhofer
My travel plans changed a bit, so here is the next challenge, a day earlier than expected, and with an example story, too:

The "Murder in Cranberry Bay" Challenge

Picture if you will, a sleepy town nestled on the shore of one of the Great Lakes in North America. It's a nice place--very picturesque with a lot of character. It's the kind of place where tourists visit quaint, small shops and pay a little more than they should for quality, rustic home décor merchandise or homemade candy. People also charter boats for fishing, and that's about all there is to the town. Nothing really happens there.

Until today.

Today, Oola, an alien, was murdered there.

Oola was a typical tourist: nice, kind of dumb about the townsfolk and their ways, and spent a lot of money for touristy goods. "Townies" only noticed her because she was an alien, but kind of liked her.

However, here's the real kicker: you killed her. Yes, you, and you don't want to be caught.

This month, we're doing a study in villainy by making the murderer be your main character.

"Bad guys" are in practically every story. In fact, without some kind of villain, there isn't a lot of reason to keep reading. If they're that important, we as writers need to know villains inside and out, to know what makes them tick, to see the world from their point of view... This challenge should help us learn to look at a story from a new perspective, and the ability to step out of our normal selves and see things a new way is important for what we do.

For anyone geographically challenged or entering from another part of the world, the five Great Lakes border the Canadian province of Ontario and the US states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. If you've never seen a Great Lake, but have seen an ocean, it looks exactly the same, but with smaller waves and fresh water instead of salt water. It's not overly warm around them except for the heart of summer, generally speaking.

Feel up to a challenge?

REQUIREMENTS: (1) Your story must be set on Earth in the fictional, Great Lake town of Cranberry Bay, and be told from the point of view of the human who murdered the alien tourist Oola; (2) 1,000 words or less, not counting title, byline, or "The End"; (3) You must have at least two characters that "talk" to each other in some fashion. (4) The characters and story must be original, fictional, and not previously published, even in these challenges; (5) One entry per author; (6) Give your story a title and a byline; and (7) Keep it clean. Rated 'PG-13'. (Basically, think, "Could I see or say this on ABC network television, even late at night?" That allows a lot, really.)

CHARACTERS & SETTING: No copyrighted characters or settings, or references thereto. Famous, non-copyrighted, fictional characters like Santa Claus, or non-human religious figures such as the Devil, named angels such as Gabriel, or gods like Thor, etc. as minor supporting characters at best and at my discretion. The Wicked Witch and Dracula may be in the public domain, but don't expect me to allow them. No person that was ever a "real life" human being may be used as a character, but can be referred to, as in "President Kennedy had declared it would be so." Except as noted above under non-copyrighted fictional persons, character names may not be copied from fiction or real life, even if changed, i.e. Char-less Darween. For the purposes of these challenges, all human (or born of man) individuals who appear in Greek or Roman mythology, the Bible, Torah, Quran, Mahayana Sutras--basically any major religious text--are considered real people, and therefore may not appear. One of the objects here is to practice creating fictional characters.

All non-copyrighted settings are ok. Famous, unique sites like Stonehenge may be used over and again. No fan fiction or sequels, so don't bother putting your story in the Land of Oz or using that great character you thought up two challenges ago.

DISQUALIFICATIONS/REFUSALS: If, in my judgment, any requirement or rule is missed, I won't post the story for voting, but authors are free to resubmit with changes until the deadline. Should a story be initially accepted and posted in the challenge, but then later judged by me to be in violation, the story may be disqualified and removed from contention at any time before contest end. Authors who feel a story may be in violation should send me a PM and state their case.

HOW TO ENTER: Stories must be sent by PRIVATE MESSAGE, and NOT posted into a thread. Just click the 'PM' button at the bottom of this post and paste your story in the message. You are responsible for doing your own formatting, and leave an extra line between paragraphs, just like when you see them in the 'zine. I will allow different colors, but not changed fonts or sizes, artwork, or any other embedded or external links.

DO NOT send a regular email to me.

Stories will be posted "blind"--without the author's name on them. All tales are literally tossed into a pith helmet and chosen in random order. When the poll closes after the voting week, I'll post a list of the stories and who wrote them. All entries will then be reposted in the Flash Archive with the author's byline.

Entries from new authors are strongly encouraged. C'mon. Give it a try!

NOTE: ONLY REGISTERED MEMBERS who have posted at least one message may submit a story. Without that one post, the system will not let you send a PM.

DEADLINE: Stories should be in by 9 p.m. Central Standard Time (GMT-6), Sunday, January 15, 2017. The stories will then be posted for voting at approximately 10 p.m. Voting will close on Sunday, January 22nd at approximately 9 p.m., GMT-6.

VOTING: Stories are rated on a scale of 0-10 in whole numbers in 6 different categories by filling in scores in a form that is posted by me immediately following the post containing the stories for this challenge. Voters copy and paste the form into a Private Message (PM) and send it to me through the forum for tallying. One vote per user (and/or per ip address). Authors may not vote for their own story, but must vote for all of the other stories in the contest. A challenge entrant who does not vote for the other stories will receive a 30% deduction in their own score at the time of contest close, and the other stories will be given marks equaling whatever their story's average is at the time of contest close.


If more than two stories are tied at the end of voting, there will be a succession of one-day runoff votes until a single winner is chosen or the number of winners is reduced to two.

WHAT YOU WIN: Writers get improved short fiction skills, increasing their chances in the marketplace, without the lengthy investment in time a longer story would take. That, as well as bragging rights and pride--there is stiff competition each month amongst some great stories.

LEGAL STUFF: I'll try to do my best lawyer impersonation: By entering this challenge you are technically granting Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy perpetual electronic rights only to post and archive your challenge entry. Aphelion would rather not lay any claim on them at all, but by posting them on a public site, they'd legally count as being published no matter what.

Ok. A real lawyer would have been less interesting. I tried.

Example story using above requirements, not eligible for entry:

Hooked on Oola

N.J. Kailhofer

Oola's thick, neon-pink blood dripped all over me. I was drenched in it. It smelled like sour milk. If it all wasn't so horrible, I'd have looked ridiculous.

"So," I asked, "you're saying this is normal?"

County Sheriff Wayne Landreman looked at me. "Yes, Bill. They call it the Blood Dance. Hoosacians like the victim here do it when they have been 'breached,' as they call it. They spray it all over before they die. They believe the further their blood travels the more chance they have of uniting their life force with the universe, or some such thing. I heard about a traffic accident in Chicago were a car spun out and drove into three 'Hoos' on a sidewalk. That stuff sticks to everything, and stains. They were scrubbing and hosing down the storefronts on those buildings for a week. Your hair and skin will be that pink color until it grows out."

He pointed to my squad car. A pink spray peppered it, except for a void in the shape of my body where I stood in front of it, and also where my favorite lure dangled at the end of my fishing pole out the back window. It was open just a crack. "They'll have to repaint the car. After the crime lab releases it, of course."

"Crime lab?" That's just what I needed. The Village of Cranberry Bay only had one squad. I got enough guff from the county deputies for being a part-time constable, but wait until I had to report to crime scenes in my old, rusty Geo Prizm with the words "Long Cast Charter Fishing" on the side. Even school kids I picked up for speeding past Lambert's Hardware would laugh at me.

Wayne shrugged. "Oola here was a visitor from another planet. Some kind of linguist who could communicate with almost any species, even animals. That's special, even for them. You're lucky three witnesses saw you respond. You pulled up, stepped out, and pow. Since this stuff goes everywhere, it would be inside the squad if you had something to do with it." His tone became a little condescending. "Well, except for that little bit where your fishing pole was. Otherwise, you'd be a suspect. Obviously, you can't work the case, though."

"Hardy Brockman flagged me down because she was in the alley behind his bait store screaming like a banshee. I never heard anything like it."

He nodded. "That's the windup. They do it for around two minutes while the internal pressure builds. Then 'pop goes the weasel.'"

That was important. "So, she was... breached... within two minutes of me arriving. Do we know what 'punctured' her? Did she get shot, or something?"

Wayne frowned. "Bill, you can't work the case."

I knew my place. "I'm the only police force this town has."

"My office will make extra patrols. You're out of this." His voice softened. "It takes more than a paper cut to do them in, but any knife or sharp metal object could do it. Their world is very watery, soft, and squishy. They lvisit wet places, like the Great Lakes, and swim. They can stay underwater for hours."

"Was she inside Hardy's bait shop? There's a lot of sharp fishing tackle on sale in there."

"Dammit, no, Bill. Stop it." Wayne paused. "Two questions before we get you out of those clothes, and then you're on your way home. First, did you have any prior contact with the victim?"

I nodded. "Yes, in Mike's café, last night. She asked me who was the best charter captain. She said she wanted to go to the salmon grounds."


"She didn't say, but I assume from what you said, she wanted to swim."

"Who did you tell her?"

"I'm booked tomorrow, so I told her to go to Popp's."

"Anybody see you talking?"


Wayne seemed satisfied. "Ok, second question: Are we still on for tomorrow?"

I smiled. "I'll get you some fish. Still bringing two on the charter?"

"Yeah, two assemblymen from the capitol. Wait until they get a load on how far you can throw a hook. I've never seen the like. So far and spot on."

I tried to look nonchalant, still dripping pink goo, gesturing at the scene around us, "Casting and crime, those are my only skills."


Dawn was beautiful that morning. My charter boat bounced up and down as we pounded toward the grounds, but the waves made Wayne's elected buddies look a little green. The lake smelled like fish.

Wayne asked, "So, Pinky, What're we going for? Salmon? Steelhead? Walleye?"

I said, "We'll see what we can get. They say Brown Trout are hitting well."

Wayne whispered, "Just not perch, ok? These guys are important for my funding."

"Not to worry."

I slowed the boat down and checked the GPS. This was where Oola wanted to swim. She said she wanted to teach our fish about the hooks and lures.

What would we have done then, if the fish wouldn't bite? This was a fishing village. We couldn't make it on selling knick-knacks alone.

I read up on 'Hoos' as soon as they started showing up in town. I made sure I was in the alley when she came out the back door of Hardy's shop. I parked my squad just around the corner. Got her right in the neck. There was plenty of time to drive around to Main St. and get flagged down. I left the murder weapon dangling in plain sight, out of my car door, to be covered with her sprayed DNA, so no one would suspect the lure already had her blood on it.

I looked at the fish finder, grabbed a rod, and let the line fly. The assemblymen were impressed by the distance. I handed the rod to one of them right before the fish hit. He was loving it.

Wayne grinned at me and I smiled back.

No one can cast like me.

The End

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: December 30, 2016, 01:58:27 AM
by Lester Curtis
HA! I might just get inspired with this one.* Great job, Nate!

* Whether I write an entry is another matter, lol!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: December 31, 2016, 09:42:40 AM
by Megawatts
Good idea. With the holidays over, I'll be able to get back into writing.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 01, 2017, 10:39:47 AM
by jpharrin
I've got one that's almost ready to go.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 01, 2017, 01:38:52 PM
by kailhofer
Lester Curtis wrote:HA! I might just get inspired with this one.* Great job, Nate!

* Whether I write an entry is another matter, lol!
So, if you're inspired to think murderously, but you don't write an entry... isn't that a bad thing? :P

George, Jim, bring them on! I'd love to see stories from each of you.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 01, 2017, 05:54:48 PM
by jpharrin
kailhofer wrote:
Lester Curtis wrote:HA! I might just get inspired with this one.* Great job, Nate!

* Whether I write an entry is another matter, lol!
So, if you're inspired to think murderously, but you don't write an entry... isn't that a bad thing? :P

Bad thing? Possibly criminal. 8)

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 02, 2017, 03:41:41 AM
by ente per ente
Mine should be ready within tomorrow, if I just can manage to get out of those Christmas sweets/cakes still wrapping me,eh :D

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 02, 2017, 03:33:20 PM
by kailhofer
First story accepted.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 04, 2017, 03:43:23 AM
by ente per ente
After the usual useful reviews and suggestions, mine was sent,eh :D

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 06, 2017, 11:20:36 PM
by kailhofer
One more accepted and one sent for revisions. Plenty of time left for more!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 08, 2017, 10:29:54 PM
by kailhofer
Another one accepted.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 13, 2017, 10:57:55 PM
by kailhofer
4 entries in.

Time is running out to submit your story. Get it in by 9 pm Central (US) on this Sunday, Jan. 15th, or always wish you had!

This is a perfect chance to get inside the mind of a murderer without actually becoming one, so don't miss the opportunity.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: January 2017

PostPosted: January 15, 2017, 06:56:40 PM
by Megawatts
Got one in!