Spotlight: Flash Dogs–The Return! | Flash! Friday (Previous article)

Spotlight: Flash Dogs–The Return!

We had the privilege of interviewing the FlashDogs back at the beginning of 2015 with the launch of their first anthology. When I saw they’d survived that inaugural attempt, I was impressed. But when rumors (oops, sorry guys, rumours) began circulating of a second anthology? Er, make that a two-part anthology?! Madness.

And since we always set a place at our merry table for Madness, what could we do but invite them back? Please welcome to the mic pack leaders Mark A. King and David Shakes.


What’s left to say, then, but — send up a howl as we go for a run with the fabulous FlashDogs!

Flash Dogs Solstice front

1) So, we all know the first FD Anthology is pretty much the most inspiring collection of flash of all time. What possessed you to imagine you could pull off such a feat again–and DOUBLE???

Wow, thank you. I know we’re biased, but when we actually sat down and started reading the stories like any other reader, we were just as entranced. We knew that there were more stories to tell, more incredible folk to include, more flash fiction to shout about. Reading the new books, we’re fairly confident it was well worth the effort.

2) The theme this round is Solstice, which you’ve split into Light and Dark. What’s that all about?

Mark: Bart Van Goethem recommended that we have a theme and a meaningful date to help with the book last time. Unfortunately we were just too late in the process to do anything about it. However, his wise words remained with us. The theme came about because of two things really. I am working on a novel in which night and day are fundamental to the story, so it is something that is at the back of my mind (when not busy with community work). Near the winter solstice (for UK) I thought it was something the entire world experiences on a specific date, albeit in different ways. In the depths of winter I often see the solstice as the darkest point, but also the point where my dark evening drives from work to home start to become more bearable. Even on the darkest night we can see hope and light. Likewise on the lightest night we might start thinking about the coming darkness. Splitting the book allowed us to give contributors a chance to submit stories that appealed to them rather than try to shoehorn a story into the book that didn’t really fit.

The theme fit neatly into the gap of about six months which seemed a sensible gap between books.

David: When Mark suggested the theme I loved it immediately. The opportunities for contrast, conflict and subversion were too juicy to let go. Our writers have taken the theme and run with it. Although Mark is a modest chap, I really think that it was a stroke of genius – allowing a true global focus within a very clear theme.

Solstice Light writers

3) What’s different this time around, now that you’re seasoned publishers? what advice would you give writers hoping to publish their own work?

Mark: What’s different? Well we have many new contributors that we’re privileged to promote and we can’t tell you how exciting this is. We tried to reduce some of the admin work (this didn’t really pan out as the volume of stories and numbers of contributors were more than before).

In terms of self-publishing, the best advice we can give is to read the fantastic article here on FF by Jeff Gerke.

David: The more people you can involve in production, the slicker you’ll be. We’ve got a great team headed by Mark, Emily June Street {Editor’s Note: more on Emily in the days ahead here at FF!} andTamara Rogers and a multitude of other key players. Take as much time in pre-production as you do in creation. Check, check and check again. Then get someone else to check!

4) You’ve got a massively impressive cabal of writers in this new collection. What sorts of stories can readers expect, and what makes the Solstice collection different/superior to other flash collections already out there? How does it differ from the first anthology?

Mark: We realised that, with a few notable exceptions, readers loved the stories created for the magical prompt photo from Tam Rogers. There was less appreciation for the open stories, so we focused on what the community does best, and that’s crafting magic from a prompt. The results last time were amazing as we didn’t have any similar stories, which is even more remarkable as the submission process was blind.

We were fortunate enough that a winner of some seriously prestigious awards, Chris Beckett, provided us with an introduction to the books. He had spent most of his life working full time and fitting in short story work around it, so it felt like a fantastic fit. He has some wonderful things to say about short fiction compared to longer forms.

We hope that the product is superior in terms of artwork, internal design, and most importantly the quality and diversity of stories. We’re incredibly proud of it as this is something we work on around day jobs and very busy RL activities.

David: There’s a greater coherence to everything this time. There’s still that diversity of stories and the belief that the author’s voice is paramount, but it’s been better controlled. That’s down to the team mentioned above. Within this, there’s still been a huge amount of creative freedom – some of us have even linked stories across prompts and books. That’s quite cool.

Solstice Dark writers

5) Take us behind the scenes: clearly you’ve got wonderful editing/artwork/photography teams etc. Who all’s involved this round, and just how talented are they? And how on earth did the two of you find time to breathe, esp you, Mark, with the audacity to serve as dragon captain at the same time?!

Mark: We are incredibly lucky to have Emily June Street who hasn’t insisted on everyone sending in stories in a specific font or format. She’s turned the rawness into something close to a professional publishing house book. She’s an incredibly talented writer, and I fear we won’t be able to convince her to stay with us after the film rights are inevitably signed up.

Tam Rogers has designed the artwork and it’s just stunning; she’s helped to create a brand that we’re proud to all be part of. She also allowed us to use one of her photographs as a prompt for Solstice: Dark.

A photograph from Sharon Nicks was also used in Solstice: Light, which inspired many wonderful stories.

Our very own David Shakes continues to inspire and was even kind enough to allow us to use one of his photos as a prompt (which was very brave as the image contained his son).

We used a photograph under CC licence from artist See-ming Lee which I could just stare at all night (and day) long.

David: This has not been much of a double act. Mark has been the driving force for Solstice and it’s all the better for it. As you say Rebekah, I don’t know how he finds the time. I have a strong suspicion that he doesn’t sleep. His dragon captain stint with Tamara Shoemaker was as thorough as his FlashDogs work. I’m sure people know, but it needs saying again that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mark and his family for all the time he selflessly commits. The same can be said for Emily and Tam. Mention an edit and it’s done within the hour – time zones be damned! Have need for a media friendly banner? A high res. image is in the inbox before you’ve had a chance to blink. Need something more than an idea or opinion from Shakes? Better put the kettle on, you’re in for a wee wait!

6) Will proceeds from this effort go to charity?

Indeed, we’re still giving the profits to charity.

We’re donating to The Book Bus as we realise that whilst we are all fortunate enough to be able to read and write, not everyone is.

Rather than paraphrase, this is an explanation of their purpose taken from their website:

One in six adults around the world have come through childhood unable to read and write, a situation mainly due to lack of books and opportunity to read. In response to this shocking situation, the Book Bus was founded by publisher Tom Maschler with the aim of supplying books and making them accessible to children.

Currently they work in Africa, Asia and South America.

7) Dare I ask…. will there be a 3rd (4th? depending on how you count…) anthology? What’s your vision for FlashDogs in the future? I’ve heard rumours of a UK meetup…

Mark: We’re seriously thinking of a 3rd volume (we’re thinking of Solstice as Volume 2a and Volume 2b). For now, we’ll need a long rest and maybe partake in some happy dog dancing.

UK meetup – we had one planned before but we thought it best to cancel it as a dear member of the community would not have been there. There is nothing officially booked in but it’s a strong possibility.

The vision is to continue to support and grow flash fiction as an art-form and participation in the wonderful competitions (and their communities) as much as we can. There are interesting plans forming, but they’re just ideas and it wouldn’t be right to share them yet.

David: I think the UK meet up will happen September time. I’m going on record right here as saying I’ll organise it! Image Ronin will be in our hemisphere and it seems like too good an opportunity not to take. It’s weird to think that writers like Tam Rogers, Stella Turner and Amy Wood live practically on my doorstep, but they’re only known to me in a digital world. I haven’t met Mark in real life – one snatched Skype call is all the RL contact we’ve had! I look at pictures from your writing group and have to confess I’m a little envious. {Editor’s Note: I do have the best writing group on the planet! Shenandoah Valley Writers rocks} Maybe one day there will be a global gathering? There’s an ambition to have…

8) How about a Solstice teaser?

Yes! Here are two excerpts:

A Girdle Round About The Earth

By David Shakes

Artificial light bathes this night in neon; darkness inhabits only the forgotten corners of our city and perhaps the empty hearts of a few of its inhabitants.

Here’s one now, smartly dressed and perspiration free, despite the humidity of this summer’s evening in TST.

His sharp blue suit and sharper blue eyes set him apart from the bustling crowds.

See how pedestrians give him a wide berth, despite the dense flow of people on the pavements of this steaming city?

What are we to make of this island in a sea of humanity?

Let us steal a further glance.

Beyond the suit and eyes we are hard pressed to see anything else remarkable about the man, surface details only.

The more we look, the less we see.


Zero Minutes to Midnight

By Mark A. King


Even for a god that can travel the infinite lands of concurrent time, it has been a long wait.

I witness iridescent whale-birds as they hover on the updraft of thermal currents above the lava lakes.

I hear the faint brushing of the flash-dog tails as they play with their young in the vertical tube glass savannahs.

I smell the aroma of languid saffron riverbeds. Touch the silken ribbon-clouds. Taste the sprouting seeds of new life.

And…. I watch how humanity has grown and evolved, and I know I have done well.


9) Anything you’d like to add?

David: I’d like to add something. I don’t know Mark A King IRL, but I know what sort of person he is. He’s quite possibly the best friend I’ve never known.

His patience, resilience and force of will have dragged us through from a  bright idea to a concrete reality – TWICE! FF writers and readers will know him from his brilliantly original work and from his tireless support of all writers. He is a true gentleman, worthy of his title as Alpha Dog.

Thanks Mark, from me, from all of us. 

Solstice Light dedication

Mark: I’d like to ask you a question, Rebekah. I realize it is a bit strange giving you a question when you didn’t know anything about the topic. But how does it feel to have half of Solstice: Light (and all the stories relating to that picture) dedicated to you?

Me: How am I supposed to respond when your question has me in tears?? Completely unexpected. I’m overwhelmed. So I shall wipe my snout on a hapless knight and proceed to the book giveaway; thank you both for all you’ve done to pull off such a beautiful and powerful project. We can’t wait to read every last spectacular story. Thank you.

Source: Spotlight: Flash Dogs–The Return! | Flash! Friday


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