Tag Archive | Flash Dogs

Sixty Seconds IV with: Marie McKay

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Marie McKay.  She’s one of those rare and beautiful writers who has been with us from the beginning (her first week was Year One, Week 26!). Today marks her FOURTH win, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her. Take a moment to read her bio & her winnings stories here. Then take another minute or two to get to know her better below. (Note that four-time winners are never held to the word count rule!)

1) What about the 100 Years of Solitude prompts inspired your winning piece?  The words ‘inescapability of family’ really triggered my story. The world of Carers, I am one myself, can be riddled with contradiction and guilt. It’s very easy to feel guilty when you need time to yourself; after all, you love the very person you need time away from. It quite often takes an outsider to tell you it’s acceptable to be kind to yourself. Carers and the job they do can go unnoticed. I do think societies need to look after their Carers.

2) You’ve been writing with us since Year One, and this is your 4th (!!) win. Tell us about your flash fiction journey. I started on a site called CAKE which was a wonderful site for new writers. On that site, I ‘met’ SJ O’Hart who had written on FF, so I quickly joined in. My stories do tend to be dark, and I do like the spaces to do some of the work. I think I’ve developed my style to a degree, but there’s a long way to go. I like to experiment with form – and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but playing safe all the time in flash seems to me like a wasted opportunity.

3) You’ve written SO MUCH flash with FF. What are a couple of your favorite prompts (and/or favorite stories of others’ and/or yours that rose from them)?  Oh, I could be here forever! I loved Jacki Donnellan’s Flashversary winning story. Jacki’s writing style is crisp and beautiful. I loved Casey Rose Frank’s story ‘She Walks‘ that was in response to the Pilgrim’s Progress novel prompt. It is haunting and clever. All of Chris Milam’s winning stories (any of his stories, in fact). Steph Ellis’ first winning story, ‘Holiday Deals‘ (I was runner up that week, but I’m not bitter because her story booted mine right out of the dragon’s lair.) Mark A. King’s ‘The Dance of the Origami Girl and the Porcelain Boy‘ is breathtaking. Prompts I loved, a photo of two women in safety glasses, allowed me to write one of my own winning stories,’The Factory.’ The picture prompt of the three guys looking at fish tanks along with the word prompt ‘farmer’ caused quite a stir, and it allowed me to write a story that was a blatant tribute to Flash Friday and its High Dragoness. But as I said, I could go on forever.

4) What’s going on in your writerly life? During the summer, I had the privilege of meeting Sarah Miles who writes at FF and runs the publishing company Paper Swans Press. I was included in their anthology ‘Schooldays.’ I had the great pleasure of reading my flash piece at the Edinburgh Book Festival, as a result. And now, I am currently working on my Flashdogs anthology stories!

5) Flash is so different from how it was a few years ago–so many writers these days are SO GOOD. How can writers take their flash to the next level? Stay away from cliche.

6) What’s a writerly bad habit you have (or used to have) that you’ve overcome (or are working to overcome)? I think the problem I need to overcome more than anything is confidence. I constantly battle with a voice inside my head that tells me I am a terrible writer and that I am kidding myself that  I can be at all successful. And even as I write this, I am thinking, ‘hey maybe that voice is right.’ {Editor’s Note: WRONG. And a pound in the Self-Deprecation Jar, please.} It has stopped me from buckling down and finishing longer projects. 

7) What have you read lately that you really loved, and why? The Girl with All the Gifts’ by Mike Carey is wonderful. It is like reading a horror version of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda.’ It is terrifying, dark and incredibly touching. ‘Girl on the Train’ is another great read. The unreliable narration makes for a gripping story. I am reading ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan, at the moment. I think every writer should read Sebastian Faulk’s ‘Birdsong’, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ and Ian Bank’s ‘Wasp Factory.’ I say this because I think each of them has a very interesting narrative technique- and they are just plain good.

8) Name drop for us! who are some writers in this community you’re always excited to read? who are we going to see on the bestseller lists? Well, this one is difficult because, obviously, I cannot name all of the writers I admire in the FF community, there are too many. I love all the Flashdogs, of course. I will only be able to name a few, here: Rebekah Postupak, Mark A. King, David Barrowdale, Grace Black and Rebecca J Allred. These four are terrific writers themselves and are so very generous with their own time. Chris Milam and SJ O’Hart  are incredibly talented writers whose work I can only admire. Steph Ellis, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam have such beautifully dark imaginations. Voima Oy, Casey Rose Frank, Foy Iver, F.E. Clark and Tamara Shoemaker for their poetic prose. It truly does go on… and on… and on.

9) Do you belong to any IRL writing communities? online? Talk about the Flash Dogs! I only participate online. I take part in a few competitions other than this one: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and The Angry Hourglass. A writing community that I am very proud to be a part of is Flashdogs. They are an incredibly supportive and welcoming group of talented writers. They have inspired me immensely.

10) Final thoughts/comments/encouragement/advice for the community? My final thoughts, well, I think it’s probably obvious that I am about to tell you how much I am going to miss Flash! Friday. It has been a big part of my writerly life for a long time. However, I cannot remain sad for too long when I think of FF, because I am truly joyous at the opportunities it has given me and other writers. Rebekah Postupak, you are a truly gifted writer who has given so much of your time to others. The foresight and imagination it took to come up with the site at all is part of the reason I consider you a leader in flash. The other reasons are manifold. Whenever I’ve had the privilege of reading your work, I have seen how stylish, versatile and effortless your writing is. You have been a teacher. I have read every Flash Points you were kind enough to share, and your knowledge of flash fiction and literature, in general, is staggering. You have championed all of us, when indeed you, yourself, are The Champion. I am forever indebted. Thank you. 

Spotlight: Holly Geely

Today it’s a pleasure to welcome Holly Geely, dracopodiatrist extraordinaire, to the Spotlight mic. Please don’t be alarmed by the sheets and sheets of newspaper spread across the stage; it’s just that Holly’s brought along her new BFF, Robin Goodfellow. This is Robin:

Holly Geely Robin Goodfellow

This is Holly:

Holly Geely pic

This is a microphone:

Microphone. CC3.0 photo by Chris Engelsma.

Microphone. CC3.0 photo by Chris Engelsma.

And this is her new book, The Dragon’s Toenailwhose cover Holly says you should click on so you can see where to buy it.Holly Geely dragons toenail cover

Now that we’ve introduced you to the main characters, all that’s left for me to say is ADD A COMMENT at the end, and you’ll have a shot at a free copy of this brand new book, which, it happens, is called The Dragon’s Toenail! And now, without any further ado, heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Holly!


Most important question first: your book’s title, “The Dragon’s Toenail.” Now of course you know dragons’ toenails are normally considered a very personal topic. Why did you choose such a personal topic for a title, what qualifies you to speak about this, and what sorts of hoops did you have to jump through to get the dragon’s permission to name a book after his toenail?

The toenail is actually a vital part of the story. The dragon in question will tell you that I didn’t ask permission first, and indeed, the toenail is not the worst thing that happens to him.

I knew that for my debut novel I would have to include a dragon. I didn’t realize it would be about his toenail until I’d finished the first draft. It’s an attractive toenail, of course, I just didn’t know how important it would be.

I suppose we should do our due diligence and back up a little. Word on the street is this isn’t your first novel. I dare you to share the opening lines and a drawing from that fine, fine 3rd grade work. And tell us your inspiration.

I searched high and low with no luck – my first novel is lost forever. I can tell you that it had an orange construction paper cover. It starred all of my friends and we went on an adventure together to meet a unicorn (with wings!). One of my friends got mad – I described her as “short, short-haired” and she thought I was calling her “short short”  (she wasn’t tall) and she yelled at me. It was my first bad review.

I’d love to know the journey of Toenail. When you started writing it, did you know how the story would end, or did the Finnaly brothers keep changing things up for you? Did you ever have to pick drafts back out of the trash, or was your love constant and unshakeable? What kept you going?

When I started, The Dragon’s Toenail was a serious story. (…I know, right? Impossible to believe.) I thought I had to write something meaningful. My brother suggested that it was too mopey, and that I’m better at humour. My second attempt won me approval (and chuckles) and the first draft was completed on those terms.

The first ending was completely different. More of the book was dedicated to the Finnalys’ cruel father, and that didn’t fit. In the final version, their father was a good man who loved them – but he also loved to gamble. The original ending is about somewhere in the middle of the book now, and more of that gets resolved…but not all of it, since this is a trilogy…

Critique groups? Beta readers? How did you approach and/or survive the editing process?

My brother read the first, second, third…well, every draft. When it was closer to complete, a good friend of mine edited the heck out of it. I’ve got day job (that I love dearly) but I’m not rich; writing is what I do on the side and I can’t afford to pump a lot of money into it (especially now that I’m getting a new puppy :D)

That being said, I take my writing seriously, even if the content is outrageous. It has been polished to the best of my (and their) ability to provide a light-hearted but well-done product. Also there are pictures of a chubby goblin.

This is a HUGE challenge for a ton of us writers: how FOR THE LOVE OF AN OGRE’S WART did you know when to write “The End” and stick to it?

I didn’t know it was a trilogy until I was making the final edits. The epilogue is a bit open-ended but I thought I did that for laughs…turns out there’s two more books in my head. I didn’t want to be done with the Finnaly brothers.

As for the ending of this first book, like I said the original ending was different. It didn’t feel right. When I thought of the title of the epilogue I knew just what to do.

Titles usually come last for me and they tend to be a pain in the butt. Once I realized that this book is called The Dragon’s Toenail, a new world opened up. Chapters titles came flooding in. Once those final edits were complete and the next two books had been plotted, their titles came to me as well. It was like title Christmas.

Did you query it first a la the traditional route? What made you decide to go indie — and what is going indie like? did you hire artists, editors, lawyers, hairstylists? was the indie experience harder or easier than you thought?

I hired an artist – my brother Ethaniel (ethanielritchot.com). He’s my favourite artist of all time, and not just because we’re related. There’s no one I’d rather give my money too! Seriously, if you look at the six illustrations in the book and the stunning orange cover, you’ll see what I mean.

I didn’t query it first. I thought, here is a ridiculous book that has a niche market (people who have or enjoy my sense of humour and like a good parody) and querying is only going to lead to heartbreak. I was going to trash the whole thing but when I re-read it, I realized how much I love it. The Finnaly brothers have become near and dear to my heart. 

Neal’s my favourite though. I think you can tell when you read it.

Did you find flash fiction — which you write and whose contests you win all the time!!! — a help to writing and editing a novel? in what ways?

Competing in flash competitions has certainly helped me with editing. It’s also been a journey of self-discovery. I have learned that I’m a short story writer with a couple of novels in me. I like a good punch line and the short format is great for that.

Flash has taught me that every word counts. Even in this interview you can see that I like to say “actually” “indeed” and other such things. They can add to the humour but they also clunk up a manuscript. Sometimes it’s hard to let go.

Now that you’ve got a published novel under your belt: what have you learned from the experience that you’ll do differently for the next one? anything that worked well for you that you’ll do again? did you have a theme song when writing it? do you have specific requirements for writing — coffee, silence, loud music, chocolate-scented candles?

I’ve started book two, and this time it’s humour from the beginning. It’s a first draft, but I’m formatting as I go to make my life easier at the end. Otherwise I won’t change much; Finnalys will do as Finnalys have always done.

There’s no specific theme song I use, but depending on my mood I’ll fire up certain playlists. I have a “Japanese Mellow” list that’s good, and I have a “Pretty Female Voices” list that definitely helps. It’s easier to write when it’s just me and my music but I have been known to crank the volume and keep at it even though the husband is chasing the dog around.

Speaking of the next one: Toenail’s cover says this is the first in a trilogy. Give us a hint of what’s in Book Two, and when we might expect to see that, please!

My dream-time goal is to have the book out about the same time next year, but it’s slow-going. The Dragon’s Toenail took me two years to write, but that was when I had no idea what it was.

Book two introduces a couple of new characters and another dragon. At its core, it strives to be a parody of a murder mystery. There will be more romance. There will almost certainly be more poop jokes. Here is a sneak peek at Chapter Two:

Holly Geely sneak peek of chapter 2

Finally, one last word of advice for the dear readers, please. What is Knight Brogan’s secret, that despite being dressed in full body armor which covers every last bit of him, he is still able to pick up a date? Despite how many people wish to kill him out of jealousy, are you considering bottling up that magical formula and selling it somewhere??

His face is visible, so that helps. The Finnalys are dripping with good looks. The Finnaly charm cannot be bottled and sold, unfortunately, but Brogan would tell you that the key to Finnaly seduction… is being a Finnaly.

Bonus Q. Any shouts out? 

First off, I want to say thanks to the Flashdogs, especially the top dogs, because without them I wouldn’t have considered publishing this book. Having my name in print in the Solstice Anthology (psst: go buy it if you don’t have it; it’s wonderful) inflated my ego and made me want more. My head has swelled up and blown away, but my heart remains. The heart wants what the heart wants…and this heart wants The Dragon’s Toenail to be how I’m remembered.

My brother has been my biggest help through all this (I hope he’s reading this) and I thank him from the bottom of my cold, shriveled heart. My editor friend is also near and dear to me, and though she’s halfway across the world, she’s still one of my best friends and biggest fans.

Also, thanks to you, Dragon Boss, for encouraging me – and all of us – to challenge ourselves and our creativity. Without you, I would never have made the online buddies I have now, and I’d be a lonely little writer laughing at her own jokes.

I still laugh at my own jokes, but now (I hope) there’s someone out there laughing with me.


Thank you, Holly!!! And now to the rest of you: LEAVE A COMMENT! Holly is giving away a free copy of The Dragon’s Toenail to a randomly selected commenter. (Name drawn Wednesday 7:30am, Wash DC time).

And while you’re waiting, Holly suggests buying several copies (click on the book cover below to see where) and distributing them to friends, family, and most particularly good-looking total strangers you are hoping will become friends. 

Holly Geely dragons toenail cover

Spotlight: Flash Dogs–The Return!

–CONGRATULATIONS TO CAITLIN GRAMLEY FOR WINNING THE COPY OF SOLSTICE!!!! Caitlin, contact me here with your email address and we’ll get that book in your hands as soon as it’s published!–

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.

**Be sure to leave a note at the end of the interview; Flash! Friday will give away a copy of a Solstice anthology, Light or Dark (winner’s choice, as is the medium: ebook or paper), to a randomly selected commenter (release date of June 21). Full disclosure: I (Rebekah Postupak) and many participants here at Flash! Friday have stories included in these anthologies. Note that 100% of the book’s proceeds go to charity.** 

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!} and Tamara 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.


AND NOW: Please leave comments, questions, congratulations, suggestions, according to your whim — Wednesday morning at 7:30am Washington, DC, time, one commenter’s name will be selected at random to win a free copy of Solstice (details back up top).