Who are the Winners of the Stories of the Stars Contest?

Talk about intense competition! So many awesome tales for fellow judges Sheri Yutzy, Laura L. Zimmerman, and I to choose from. Narrowing them down was difficult.

The top three spots were hotly contested, but we finally selected the winning entries for our flash fiction contest.

First Place: Sam Graber, with Starfinder’s Sacrifice

Somehow, I missed this entry the first time I read through the stories. As soon as I read it, however, I knew I’d found my first choice. The quick action and high stakes grabbed my attention right away. And the ending!

Favourite line? Starlight thrums through my veins.

Second Place: Maggie Graber, with A Million Heartbeats

This narrative shows off a perfect YA voice. Not to mention quirky details (how’d she fit so much characterization in such a short story?!?), a dynamic brother/sister relationship, and hints of trauma and isolation. Plus, it has all the feels!

Favourite line? Above me stretches the ceiling of heaven itself, a vast canopy of inky, fathomless darkness pierced by thousands and thousands of pure white lights.

Third Place: Catherine Hinkle, with Bones of Cobalt Blue

I loved the imagery in this story. Such a strong setting that swept me into the moment! The themes of love and loss are palpable. I feel like there’s so much more that could explored with the two characters, and I was sad to finish reading!

Favourite line? Unfurling her wings, she soared high in the currents, where stars whispered of hope. 

We were thrilled with the response to this contest and appreciated each story we received. Some amazing talent out there. We hope you keep reaching for the stars!

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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering your identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

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Starfinder’s Sacrifice by Sam Graber

Stories of the Stars contest first prize winner:

No one knows what the stars are. Only that they are far away, and they give us our power.

And now they are winking out.

“Danar?” Charis steps beside me and slips her hand in mine. Starlight gives a silver sheen to her ebony hair. If the stars die, I will never see her like this again.

“Where is he?”

Charis closes her eyes and points to the south. That much starlight would be like a beacon to her.

I raise a hand toward the nearest star and it begins to dim, light flowing easily to me until the star resists. With time the star will regain its brightness if it isn’t completely drained. Fully depleting a star is a thing no Starlighter would dare do.

Except Murdock. For this transgression he’ll be branded Starkiller.

Charis puts her hand on my forearm. “I’m coming with you.”

“No, Charis. I can’t protect you from him, and you’re too important. If I fail, you’ll need to bring other Starlighters to deal with him.”

Charis shakes her head. “By the time others reach him, Murdock will have purged. He will be invisible to me.”

So it falls to me to stop him. I start to pull my arm away.

Her grip tightens. “Murdock is my responsibility. I won’t have you dying for me.”

Death and darkness. “You can’t possibly blame yourself for all the death he’s caused.”

Starlight thrums through my veins. I need to shift soon or it will overwhelm me.

I close my fingers into a fist, preparing to jerk out of her grip.

Charis takes my chin with her opposite hand and turns me to face her.

“Danar, I’m not your child to coddle. You will take me to Murdock Starfire, now.”

Her eyes glow with the starlight inside her. How can she hold it constantly without it burning her up? I have never seen Charis Starfinder without the glow of starlight.

I look away. I can’t argue with her.

Stars forgive me.

I open my fist and release a burst of starlight. My vision blurs as we shift through space. When we materialize again, we’re standing in the middle of a Starlighter habitation. My arm aches from the strain of drawing Charis across a hundred miles in the span of a second.

Charis grabs me and pulls me down beside a picket fence. A whoosh is followed by screams. Murdock is here.

Anger boils up in my chest. I risk a peek over the fence. Murdock blazes like the light of a full moon. Around him is death and carnage. Houses engulfed in white flames. Lifeless shapes on the streets.

There are women and children here. I won’t let him kill everyone he wishes.

I jerk my hand out of Charis’ and shift to the street directly behind the killer.

“Murdock! Stop this madness and face me!”

He turns and hurls a brilliant white fireball at me. I shift three steps to the left. Heat blisters my skin as it streaks by.

“Why, Murdock? Are you so calloused that you would kill even women and children?”

Murdock chuckles, his voice resonating with starlight. “You want to know why? Ask your Lady Starfinder. Did she tell you what happened between us?”

My gaze flickers to where I left her by the fence. Murdock and Charis? Fury pulses with the starlight in my blood.

I shift in front of Murdock and punch him in the face. His head snaps back and pain sears my fist. I shift back a few paces.

Murdock raises a hand to his cheek. “It seems I’ve struck a nerve. Are you going to tell him what really happened, Charis? Or should I burn him to ash?”

Charis steps out onto the street behind him. Tears make glowing streaks down her face. I’ve never seen her cry.

“Don’t do this, Murdock. Please.”

Murdock turns to face her. I shift between them to shield Charis.

Murdock smirks. “You’re not going to tell him how much we meant to each other? How you told me we could spend the rest of our lives together?”

My vision flashes. I clench both fists, ignoring the throbbing in my burned hand. “You lie!”

Charis puts a hand on my shoulder and steps past me. “I loved you, Murdock, but I never promised you anything.”

I press a hand to my chest. This isn’t real. “Charis, what are you saying?”

Her hand moves to my cheek and she glances at me. “What I should have told you weeks ago. Please forgive me?”

“Forgive?” Murdock laughs darkly. “You never gave me that choice. You walked away without ever looking back.”

Charis takes her hand away. I sway as if it was the only thing keeping me upright.

“Because I saw you for what you were, Murdock. You never loved me, only how I made you feel.”

“That’s not true!” Murdock roars.

“If you truly cared about me, you would let me go. You would stop this killing.”

I raise a hand to Charis’ shoulder. “I wish you had told me first,” I whisper.

I make eye contact with Murdock. He glances away.

How would it feel to lose someone you care so much about? Murdock is willing to kill to mask his pain. But me?

I would sooner die.

I draw the last of my starlight into my fist and step forward. Charis pushes me aside and steps in front. She places both hands on Murdock’s face.

No!

Starlight flares around them both. Their outline burns into my eyes. Then there is only darkness, and Charis swaying in front of me. I step forward to catch her.

Above, I feel another star pulsing in the night sky. Murdock has gone to take the place of those he consumed.

Charis is limp in my arms. I have never seen her so frail and lightless. I don’t need my star sense to know that she’ll never be able to hold starlight again.


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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet?
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A Million Heartbeats by Maggie Graber

Stories of the Stars contest second place winner:

I’m not an insomniac. I’m just lying awake at 2 am.

I stare up at the dirty, white ceiling. There’s a crack that runs from one side to the middle, as if it will split open at any second causing the roof to crash down and kill me.

What will it say on my gravestone? Here lies Venus Taylor, the girl that lived in a trashy apartment?

Because that’s all I’ll be remember for. Anxiety crawls up my spine, but I fight against it before it can choke me. Think of something else.

I shiver and pull my comforter closer around my chin. We don’t have any heating and it’s November. My little brother, Zane, sleeps with Mom, which keeps them both warm. I don’t mind because I get to have my own room. I’d rather be cold than have his stinky feet in my face. It’s impossible to sleep when he’s in my bed.

Of course, I’m not sleeping anyways. I groan and roll over onto my belly. Go to sleep. Go to sleep. I press my face into the pillow until all I can smell is Mom’s detergent and pretzels. I hate the smell of pretzels. I have to sleep with it every night because when Zane used to sleep with me he’d eat pretzels before bed. It helped him to be able to sleep. No matter how many times Mom has washed it, it still smells like pretzels. Like insomnia. Which I definitely do not have.

There’s a whisper in the darkness and my body turns to ice. Is it the high school boys from down the street? They always try to break into houses and steal stuff. And beat up little boys.

My heart races with the memory. I rise from my bed slowly and reach for the large stick that I keep under my bed. A shape moves in the darkness. I leap forward and give it a hard thwack.

“Ouch!” The shape emits a high-pitched squeal. “V, it’s me!”

I squint in the darkness at the figure. Zane is lying on the floor and cradling his arm.

“Zane?” I bite my tongue to keep from saying a bad word. “What are you doing? It’s 2 am.”

“I know!” Zane whines. He pulls himself to his feet. “I was trying to sneak into your room before you took me out with your cane.”

“And why are you trying to sneak into my room?” I whisper, pulling myself to my full height so I will stay four and a half inches taller than him. He’s growing so fast, even though he’s only eleven.

“I can feel the magic.” Zane grins, then yanks me towards the window.

“What?” I gape.

He pushes open the window, cringing as it squeaks slightly, then pulls himself easily onto the sill.

“What in the world are you doing?” I reach out to grab him, but he’s too fast and disappears out the window.

I bite my tongue fiercely and rush to the window, peeking out after him. He’s climbing up the drainage pipe of our apartment building to the roof.

“Get down here at once, Zane Taylor!” I hiss. “Or else I’ll get Mom!”

He reaches the roof and sticks his head over the edge to see me. “Mom won’t be able to climb up here and get me.”

I clench my teeth and haul myself after him. I’m heavier than he is since I inherited Mom’s curves, and the pipe trembles forebodingly. I don’t dare look down, and I let out a sigh of relief when I reach the roof.

“What were you thinking?” I turn to face him with my most wrathful expression. I’ve practiced it a thousand times in the mirror to look exactly like Mom’s, and I’m proud of it.

He’s not even looking at me. He’s staring up, his eyes wide and his face glimmering with pale light.

“You-” I can’t remember what I was going to say, because suddenly my eyes are drawn to the sky.

Above me stretches the ceiling of heaven itself, a vast canopy of inky, fathomless darkness pierced by thousands and thousands of pure white lights. It hangs over me, a brilliant display of divine beauty that goes on and on and on.

“Can you feel it?” Zane whispers.

The sky reaches down and wraps me in the warmest embrace. This feeling, it’s what’s been keeping me awake. There are no words that can describe it.

“Listen.” Zane looks over at me and smiles, his face glowing in the light.

I try to protest, I try to say that we should get off this roof and get back into our beds. I try to say that I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I can’t. Not with the starlight filling every crack in my heart that I didn’t even know I had.

Instead, I listen. I listen, and I watch the stars. They pulse up in the sky like a million beating hearts. Then…voices. First, it’s indistinguishable, then it’s whispers. Voices whispering pleas and prayers.

“I don’t understand.” I press my hands over my ears, but I can still hear the voices.

“Shhh.” Zane grabs my hands. His fingers warm my freezing ones, and he presses my hands onto his chest.

“Listen to me.” He smiles.

I stare into his twinkling eyes and listen to him breathing. Soft and gentle as a feather. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

V…

V…

Zane’s voice.

His lips aren’t moving.

His heart beats against my fingertips. Far above us I see a tiny star pulsing to the same rhythm.

I love you, V.


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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

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I give away New Zealand chocolate and an e-book in every one!

Bones of Cobalt Blue by Catherine Hinkle

Stories of the Stars contest third place winner:

She landed with the practiced ease of centuries, blue talons gripping the cliff’s edge. Wind whistled through the granite crags, and small stones scrabbled beneath her feet. With a low growl, she dove from the cliff. Unfurling her wings, she soared high in the currents, where stars whispered of hope. Gliding down to the last of her hunting grounds, she crept into her den to sleep, alone on the spine of the world.

Altogether alone.

With a shuddering sigh, she rested her chin on a floor polished smooth by centuries of use, and slept.

The scent and sound of man woke her while the afternoon’s light fell through the pines, and her ridges stiffened. His horse waited at the tree line. She heard it shake its head, its tack rattling. The horse’s sharp scent was overlaid by his. He smelled of wood smoke, of leather and salted meat.

She snaked her long neck to watch him.

The man rubbed his neck, staring down the mountain side. Thick shafts of sunlight reached through the branches to touch his face.

Then, for no discernible reason save the golden light and the dust motes, he smiled and laughed. She crawled closer to the mouth of her cave. His laughter faded, and the music stopped.

The man lowered himself onto a fallen log, head in his hands. He drew a deep breath, and rolled his shoulders. His jaw clenched, and he returned to his horse.

She waited before easing herself out of the cave. With practiced stealth, she followed him to his camp, her blue wings tucked close, and through the forest the next day. He sang to himself and to his horse, scratching behind its ear until it closed its eyes and chomped. His slow gentle chuckle and the way his horse leaned into him in the evening drew her in.

She flew far to hunt without frightening the horse and crept into a dark cluster of pines to rest during the next day, intending to find him after she had rested. The crack of a branch woke her.

He froze, the smell of terror filling the shadows. His hand drifted to his insignificant knife. Her amused snort blew the bracken away from him, and his face paled. He staggered backwards.

No. He could not leave. She could not be alone.

So she sang. A deep rumble, with the counterpoint above, through her secondary chords. She hummed in a rumbling bass the song he had sung to his horse, and he stopped. His eyes narrowed, and he backed away. That night, she found him again, and they sang together. Their songs became a habit until he reached the town. She watched him leave with a shake of his head.

She returned to the mountains and keened the songs to the stars, who whispered them back.

Summer came and went, and the stillness ate at her. She had to find him, to sing again, and there, in a clearing reminiscent of the ones in the mountains, she found his scent. He had been there recently, and the knowledge comforted her. She curled up in the shadows and slept. Sunlight filtered through autumn leaves, and familiar footsteps woke her.

She arched her back, cat-like, and unfurled her cobalt blue wings. He stood at the trees’ edge, and with a growing smile, he began to sing. He crossed the open space and reached out to her.

“Oh, my friend, how I’ve missed you,” he said, and she hummed in response.

That evening, he headed down back to town.

She followed his scent to the stone town. He sat alone at his window holding his head in his hands. She landed softly on the slate roof and rumbled to him. A smile like sunrise and moonrise together lit his face. He swung out the window and clambered up the roof, but his smile faded. He glanced around and touched her neck.

“You shouldn’t’ve come.”

She nuzzled his arm, and he sighed and settled back against her shoulder until the sky lightened in the east, and the stars faded. She flew to the forest to wait, and by midmorning, he returned. She hummed a greeting. When he reached out his hand to the soft aquamarine of her jaw, she nudged his arm, and he leaned his forehead against her cheek. They stood there until dusk gathered.

He sighed. When he left, the silence was tangible.

She was alone.

She growled and lashed her tail, knocking a boulder into a stand of russet maple.

Perhaps she need not be alone?

Grinding her teeth against the coming pain, she reached into her bones and peeled away the magic. She sang it from within and poured it into her wings until they grew so heavy she could no longer stand. Magic tore through her. With a resonating crack, her left wing fell, followed by the right. They hit the ground, the membranes withering until all that remained were long curving bones of cobalt blue.

The night forest was very still. She raised her head to look on the silent stars with new eyes. She stumbled, then took careful steps across her clearing, gaining confidence and agility until she laughed as she spun on new limbs in the moonlight.

When he returned in the morning, she sat on the fallen log near the curving bones and smiled up at him.

“I have been waiting for you,” she said.

He stopped, stunned, then stepped close and smoothed her cobalt hair away from her face. A smile like the joy of soaring above the clouds lit his face, and a laugh like music broke free. He swept her up in his arms and spun her in a circle.

“How?”

She smiled, an unfamiliar movement, and set her hand on his chest. “I sang.”

He touched her cheek with gentle fingertips. “You will stay?”

“Always,” she said.

Taking his hand, she walked away from the cobalt blue bones, and together, they went home.


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Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, Jebraun lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet?
I give away New Zealand chocolate and an e-book in every one!

Do You Love Flash Fiction? Enter Our Contest!

Yes! It’s that time of the year again.

Fellow speculative fiction fan, Sheri Yutzy, and I are hosting a flash fiction contest and this time Laura L. Zimmerman is joining us!

Stories-of-the-Stars-18

We’re so excited to see the amazing flash fiction work YOU come up with.

We’ve got some great prizes lined up to feed your flash fiction soul.

1st place:

2nd place:

3rd place:

Submission instructions:

Deadline: Friday, October 5, 2018

Submit to: storiesofthestarscontest@gmail.com

Length: 700-1000 words

Genre: Speculative fiction

Theme: Stars—your story must mention stars in some way.

Submit your story as a separate document. Please include the title of your piece, your name, and contact information in the heading of your document. If your story does not fall within the speculative fiction genre, it will be disqualified.

  • No excessive violence or language
  • No erotica

Winners will be announced October 19, 2018. So what are you waiting for? Get writing! And if you need any help or advice about writing flash fiction, check out this great ‘how to’ post by Laura over on Quills & Inkblotts. You can also check out last year’s winning entry and the second-place story for inspiration.

Good luck!

Jebraun-Clifford-LR-3

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in a town filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. She writes about discovering identity, living without fear, and enjoys creating fantastic worlds. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

Have you signed up for my newsletter? I give away an e-book and chocolate in every one!