It’s no coincidence that our “Tales of Havok Success” interview series starts off with fabulous author duos, not individual authors. There is power in community, and after two years in operation the Havok author community has become an environment ripe for mutual support and collaboration. Sometimes there is collaborative marketing, where authors promote each others’ work (like the interviews with Gremikova and Hamm). And in this case, there is friendship, critique, and attending writing conferences together!
Krysta Tawlks has published seven stories with Havok since February 2020, and her story Raiders of Magic was a winner in the Bingeworthy anthology. When she’s not lost in her imagination, she teaches English skills to language learners. Her writing is inspired by real life people and stories—family, friends, UFO documentaries… and her doting husband. (Awwww…!)
Hannah Muldery published four stories with Havok in 2020, and her story Magical Touch was a runner-up for the Sensational anthology. Her favorite book is a toss up between Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or Kidnapped. She spends her time as a freelance artist painting geeky artwork and working on an adventure novel who’s main character struggles with anxiety.
These two authors recently attended the 2021 West Coast Christian Writers Mega Conference, and they each took the bold step of submitting a flash fiction story for one of the conference contests. Today we celebrate their two contest wins, and share with the world the two winning stories: “Sup Girl” by Krysta Tawlks and “The Promise” by Hannah Muldery.
Congratulations, Krysta & Hannah! We’re super proud of you!
by Krysta Tawlks
Unknown: sup girl
Aurora: wrong #
Unknown: wut wrong hashtag?
Aurora: You’ve got the wrong number. Obviously some girl at a bar flirted with you to get a free drink. Should’ve bought her a couple more rounds.
Aurora: Because she wasn’t drunk enough to give you her actual number.
Unknown: ya i got it
Aurora: Because you weren’t attractive enough.
Unknown: dang Elsa. who hurt you
Aurora: ?? Why’d you call me Elsa?
Unknown: cuz you bth stuck up ice queens
Aurora: Wow. That’s rude. Buh bye.
Unknown: figures. girls are to picky. impossible standards. impossible to date.
Aurora: Wow. If only you knew life as a single woman in the dating world.
Unknown: i thoth you left.
Aurora: Changed my mind. My work isn’t finished here.
Aurora: Let me tell you how it is for women in the dating world. Not only am I competing with my friends to catch the interest of a guy, I’m also competing against thousands of filtered faces online. And their cats.
Unknown: not a cat person?
Aurora: No. Can’t stand things that bite me for no reason.
Unknown: hmmmm… me neither
Aurora: What’s THAT supposed to mean?
Unknown: i think you now what i mean
Aurora: Ugh. *know
Unknown: sounds like ur expectations are off. if a guy takes you out, it means he likes you but if hes a nice guy you don’t give him a chance
Aurora: That’s just what guys say when they can’t handle rejection. You expect girls to fawn all over you because you paid for our drink or took us to a movie or bought us a sandwich. Like, wow, you earned money this week. So did I. It doesn’t make you a nice guy. It doesn’t earn you the right to be liked.
Unknown: mostly true
Unknown: sometimes its a fancy restaurant
Unknown: and his sister helps him pick out a suit
Aurora: Oh. That’s kinda sweet.
Unknown: and hes to nervous to ask her irl
Aurora: *eyeroll* just grow a pair
Unknown: cuz they’ve been friends since childhood and hes loved her for years
Aurora: Oh wow… Seriously? That’s tough. I know how you feel. But maybe she only sees you as a friend. Just let her go. *Elsa wisdom*
Unknown: and he watched her date jerk after jerk
Aurora: I feel this girl.
Unknown: and he thought i could treat her better. i already love her. just gotta tell her
Aurora: Maybe you should. She might like you. Stop hitting on girls at bars though.
Unknown: but i don’t want to lose her
Aurora: So cheesy LOL. Ask her anyway. You never know.
Unknown: So… I’ve got tickets to the opera. Care to join me for dinner and a show? Aurora?
Aurora: OMG! Tony? Did you get a new phone??
Tony: Well? Is it a date…?
Aurora: Oh, heck yes. Took you long enouhg. CALL ME.
A Word from the Author, Krysta Tawlks
I got excited about writing for my specific conference contest category, “Bad Writing,” because I had to think outside the box. According to the rules of the contest, we should “write a bad story on purpose, but done in a clever way.” I took a literal interpretation of “bad writing” and constructed an error-riddled text conversation. I wasn’t sure if this would be well-received because it was so unconventional, but it paid off! Hannah and I were watching together when they announced us as the winners. As soon as we heard our names, we did a jump-hug of sorts and started dancing!
I’ve known Hannah since high school, but not until recently did we become writing pals. She introduced me to things I should have known already (I’ve been writing for… erm… a looong time). She introduced me to Havok and the WCCW conference. She showed how to build relationships with other writers and support each other. We regularly critique each other, including the submissions for the contest. I love her stories. And “The Promise” hit so hard. When I read it before all the edits, the emotion was so strong, even in that first draft!
Havok has taught me how to self-edit and read with a critical eye. I think our instinct is to protect our creations from harm, but now I understand that I’m not just writing for myself, I’m writing for others as well. I’ve learned to be more considerate of my readers through Havok’s comments and feedback. I’m able to apply these skills to anything I write, even at the novel-length level. Everything must matter! It’s exhausting, but worth it!
By Hannah Muldery
My finger traced over the smooth, creamy paper and down the list of names. Twenty-three men, women, and teenagers, dead. Each typed letter stamped with cold precision. Yet only the vague “tragic accident on Dredge 67” accounted for their deaths. My heart weighed heavy. As marshal, it was my duty to protect my townsfolk.
Valentina and Roland Brooke’s names stood out. I hadn’t known Valentina well, but Roland and I had often shared a drink at Merl’s, his laughter ringing out across the pub. Once he’d walked my beat for me when I’d been ill. On the dock waiting to sail to the dredge, he’d placed a hand on my shoulder and asked me to check in on their twins, Nixie and Trent. I’d stopped by often, the twelve year olds smiling politely at first. Yet just last week the twins had doorbell ditched my office.
Twins who were now orphans.
I rested my head in my hands. Though I had neither wife nor children, my heart ached for the twins. To be robbed of both parents in one night. They needed someone to step into that role. But with the sudden death of so many, would the twins receive the love and care they required?
I stood and paced my lonely marshal’s office. “Check in on the twins for us,” Roland had asked, his face stiff but eyes glistening. He’d trusted me with their safety. I could continue to stop by as before, or…
My heart pounded with the thought. I didn’t know the first thing about raising children. I either gave young ones treats on my rounds or scolded mischievous ones. Beyond that, I was at a loss.
I could at least start by offering my condolences.
Yes, start there.
I flung on my jacket and marched the familiar path to the twins’ home on the opposite corner of town. Cool mist from the sea swirled around me as I passed under the light of glowing street lamps. My breath turned to vapor and each step echoed across the wood path.
Soon I arrived. For a moment, I stood frozen to the spot, one hand raised to knock on the door. Darkness enveloped the houses nearby, light shining from their home alone.
I had my doubts, but Roland had trusted me.
I took a deep breath. Trent and Nixie didn’t need my condolences.
They needed me.
With a creak, the door swung open. The dim glow of a single oil lantern revealed Nixie holding the door with Trent sniffing behind her, a letter in his hand.
“Marshal?” Nixie said, swiping a hand across her face.
The words caught in my throat as a tear rolled down my cheek. I swallowed and tried again.
“Your father asked me to look after you. If you allow me, it would be my honor.”
“You won’t leave us, will you?” Nixie asked, her voice quivering.
My voice rang out strong. “I’m not going anywhere.”
A Word from the Author, Hannah Muldery
After reading the [contest] prompt, I almost immediately thought of the mentor in my WIP novel – a single man who’d chosen to take in orphaned pre-teen twins. I loved writing from his perspective, but struggled to get the right mix of emotions across. I reached out to Krysta and my husband Ryan, who helped me tighten up the story. Mike Lynch’s pitch, “Remember, you can’t win if you don’t enter,” encouraged me to enter. But I was shocked when I won. When both our names were announced, Krysta and I jumped around and shouted together in my living room. It was a delightful moment.
I’ve known Krysta for a while, but around a year ago we reconnected and started swapping our Havok short stories to provide feedback for each other. Krysta has definitely made me a better writer with her detailed notes and thoughtful questions. We both encourage each other and give honest feedback so we can make our stories as strong as possible. We attended the online WCCW Conference together, which was not only fun, but helped us treat the conference like an in-person one.
I’d been writing on my own until I wrote for Havok. Their editing has helped me begin examining my writing through a more critical lens, teaching me how to spot repetitive words, write a twist ending, as well as many other tips and tricks. Through Havok I’m learning to accept rejection and when a story is accepted, I’m gaining experience working with editors. I know that I owe the Goldie Award to the lessons I’ve learned from Havok and the critiques from my friend Krysta.
Fulfilling a Dream
Isn’t that awesome, dear readers? Weren’t those stories beautiful? It means the world to hear that Havok is having a positive impact on our writers. When Andrew Winch, Lisa Godfrees and I decided to take on this publishing venture, that was our dream. But we’re not alone.
Havok operates month after month because of the awesome volunteers who have joined us in this dream. Even with such a great team…that’s not enough. We would be nothing without the readers and authors who support us on Patreon, buy memberships, tell their friends about us, and submit story after story. Every season, we have grown, as a publisher and as a community. New contests and prizes. Bigger award payments for anthology winners.
And the more Havok grows, the more authors are mentored and given opportunities to grow their careers and reach their goals. We hope you find these success stories as inspiring as we do. We hope you’ll join this growing community of story lovers and story makers with big dreams and big hearts. Together we’ll deliver free pocket-sized fiction to smartphones and reading devices everywhere, every day—and on demand!