Tag Archive | Tam Rogers

Sixty Seconds III with: Mark A. King

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)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is His Majesty Mark A. King.  Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD!!!! yes, THIRD!!!!! win (we did predict this; and did you notice this week how he loftily swept off with the champ trophy and first runner up!? breathtaking!) — read his previous #SixtySeconds interviews here and hereThen take another minute (or two; third-time winners aren’t bound by word count) to get to know him better below.

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?

I am rather obsessed by Flash! Friday and I am always looking for possible stories, settings or characters that I might use if the right prompt comes up. This one happened the day before. I have a picture calendar on my desk, when I scrunched the old picture and threw it in the bin, like I do every day, I was presented with Thursday’s picture of an amazing sculpture called the Singing Ringing Tree (although I changed the order of the words in my story). It just called to me, and I knew then that I would have to write a story about it. The story elements fitted perfectly, so I went with it.

2) How has your approach to flash changed since you started writing flash fiction?

I think it’s about 14 (ish) months since my first FF story. I’d like to think I’ve got better at focusing on the characters and less on my previous obsession with world building. I love the world building, but it’s pointless without an emotional attachment to the character. I try to do both, if I can. But it’s sooo hard with about 100 words to play with.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing?

Up until recently flash fiction has been my only writing. I’m finding longer forms very, very frustrating. I want to take a chainsaw to my current/first novel. However, I know if I do that then I’ll just keep revisiting the beginning forever. Which is what has happened to date. So, I am writing in a continually forward direction, but my flash fiction brain can’t wait to go back and fire up the chainsaw.

4) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet?

New writers should be true to themselves. Don’t try to copy another writer, no matter how good they are — it will only fail, as you’re not them and they’ve had longer at being themselves than you have 🙂 Experiment. Be brave and try unique ideas or structures. As a previous judge, I know that a story that is well-written but whose plot is the same as twenty other stories will not stand out. 

For those folk that are great and haven’t won yet, your time will come. A change of rules really helped me. It’s likely that a change of judges or rules might help you. It’s all subjective; don’t take it to heart. There are no bad writers at FF. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites/online resources?

FF is my favourite and it is a fantastic resource for any writer. It’s an incredible place and it has changed lives (it’s so much more than being wonderful fun).

6) Any new publications/accolades we should know about?

FlashDogs Vol 3 is in the planning stages and we’re keen to find the next generation of flash fiction writers, and send them here and to the other wonderful comps.

It’ll be themed on ‘time’, with Past, Present and Future prompts, and will be launched Chinese New Year 2016. #FlashFicTime

7) Speaking of publication, what are you currently working on? Back in July you told us you were 5k into a novel. How’s that coming along?

Thanks to some prompting and advice from the Best Mentor in the Universe™ (I’m looking at you, Tamara Shoemaker), I’ve made great progress recently. I’m about 25K in now, and that’s about 10K more than I’ve managed before. It’s scary as I know how much work I have yet to do. Then when I’ve finished, that’s just the beginning of another stage. It’s a bit pathetic, but I have a lot on and I’m super proud that I got this far. I’m kinda excited by the project.

8) What are you reading? Favorite book of this past year? Which author would you love to write like, and why?

Eek. This is really an awkward question. One probably best answered in a blog. I’ll write about this sometime, but it was very personal and life-changing in many respects, so it will look really odd answering it here.

9) Let’s talk writing communities. Belong to any? How about writers’ conferences or workshops this past year? Which conference/workshop is your favorite, and why?

FlashDogs, obviously 🙂

I had a rather interesting experience of a writing group last night — actually, it was the first time I’ve ever tried one. Lovely people, incredibly talented, but I don’t think this is for me. I’ll have to find other ways to fill this valuable method of writing development.

10) Let’s say you won a grant to use in any writerly way you’d like. Where would the money go, and why?

I’d buy you some sparkly things for the dragon cave, some fire-proof Cadbury, and maybe a trusted helper (like Dobby, but real – and better). {Editor’s Note: I GRATEFULLY ACCEPT!}

Bonus 11) Any shouts out/thoughts/comments/messages?

Quick shout-outs to Shakes who is on sabbatical from FDHQ. Emily June Street and Tam Rogers for just being themselves (incredible). Karl and Voima for FDHQ service to come. Tamara S for reasons mentioned above.

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

THREE HOURS PAST MIDNIGHT

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).

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 5: WINNERS

Happy Monday, and welcome to the latest #FlashFridayFic results show! I’ve a feeling Joan would have loved many of the adventures you all plotted out for her this week. Or, if she didn’t, she would have loved beating the living daylights out of you to avenge her reputation. Fiery lass, she was, and unafraid of sharing her words with the masses. Not too far afield from many of you, I expect…  

♦♦♦♦♦

Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne sayThis week we’ve been regaled with everything from angels to demons. We’ve had the pleasure of reading through tales of heart-breaking loneliness and sorrow while the damned crept across our pages, hidden beneath flowery language designed to mask their true intentions. We’ve listened intently to whispers of mystery and happiness while we tried to unravel the meaning behind your words. Jeanne d’Arc has leapt from our computer screen, clothed in the imaginations of countless authors, bloody yet unbowed, and for that we have to thank every single one of you that participated. It was a marvelous selection of tales and we can’t wait to see what you manage to come up with next time around.

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Line: Mark A. King, “Construction.” “ … where the builders hung over the edge of the steel bones like handsome angels with hate in their heart.” 

Bravely tackling 3 POVs in one tale: Elizabeth (formerly Dragonsflypoppy), “Gone.” 

Fear inducing line: David Shakes, “Predetermined.” “…and he shall be known as the Prince of Pestilence, the juvenile pariah of nations.”

Most Inspired Use of One Word Dialogue: Josh Bertetta, “A Walk at Night.”

Best Closing Line: Brett Milam, “An Awakening.” “Human flesh was not like wood, but naturally it would be just as stubborn.”

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Clive Newnham, Yesterday’s Tomorrow.” 

This tale carries such a haunting cadence that I find myself longing to read more. There are so many questions left unanswered, but I think these questions really bring the story together because the reader is free to interpret it as they will and the story, like Jeanne’s, will live on.

In light of the recent events in Paris it was understandable, indeed moving, that we would find tales wrestling with the relationship between image and society. No more so than in this tale of a dystopian realm where questioning is the ultimate crime. #jesuischarles

Liz Hedgecock, Teenage Kicks.” 

This was such a brilliant glimpse into the life of a young Jeannie. I love her rebelliousness and how the author has managed to show the difference between what her family wanted for her and what she wanted to accomplish for herself in a few witty words.

There were, unsurprisingly, a multitude of tales that took on our fair maiden and her well documented life … though few explored the little known teenage years of Joan D’Arc Aged 13 3/4 … fun, playful and with a satisfactory ending that left one smiling. 

Tinman, Ring of Fire.” 

The artist’s interpretation of Joan is one that made me smile. After all, she did spill forth words like fire, so to be portrayed as a magnificent fire-eater could be said to be her due.

That final line, our heroine, fist braced to ward off another bout of heartburn, made me chuckle in delight. The rest was pure farce, though with the lightest of touches to convey the sense of community and desire that made up this circus troupe. —Oh, and no clowns; couldn’t agree more.

Michael Simko, “Guardianship.”

This take is one that truly managed to embody the idea of the ambiguous phrase ‘For the greater good.’ In the angel’s eyes there is no greater good than to serve the person he is assigned to, even if it means harming someone else in the process. What really hits me is the tiny hint of empathy and sorrow that he feels for his ‘lady’; but not even that is enough to stir him from his task. A lovely look at morality and manipulation is managed in just a few words here.

The notion of power and the question of the true nature or our narrator is skilfully unpicked. The ownership/connection that is hinted at from the outset leads us down one particular path only to find the rug artfully and expertly pulled out from under us at the last moment. 

Clive Tern, “Foul Justice.”

I couldn’t pass this tale up because it has all my favorite tropes… horror, the undead and revenge. I ask you, what’s not to love?

This tale took a different slant to the prompt, taking us into the moments after the burning of Joan D’Arc. The sensation of the aftermath of her fiery demise evocatively captured. The horror tinged ending perfectly bringing closure and hinting at the carnage to come. 

Betsy Streeter, “A Wish, Or a Promise.”

This story was heartbreaking in its simplicity, innocence is woven into every word exchanged between the brother and sister and the ending, with its reference to the inevitable loss that will soon face the two children, is one that will not leave me any time soon.

A simple, elegant, yet heart wrenching tale that toyed with our understanding of the innocence of youth and the fragility of existence.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Grace Black, “Unraveled.” 

The first thing that came to mind after reading this was the punishment of Sisyphus. There is a lingering air of inevitability that makes me ache for the narrator and his/her trials. The final line truly cinched this feeling, and it’s one that will stay with me for a while.

The opening, the imagery of awakening in a world bound around you, was intoxicating, then that line “silence is loudest with the absence of chatter” perfectly sets up the rest of the scene. The tension between silence and chaos, a mind racing against the consciousness of being was artfully captured. Indeed, the skilful merging of the cinematic alongside the interior was what drew me into this realm. The sense of wrestling with oneself, a battle seemingly as old as time itself, wonderfully captured.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tam Rogers, “Kicking Up Dust.” 

This tale is one that has so many layers that I had to read and re-read to actually get the full picture, and I still feel like I’m missing so many things. What caught my attention first was the flow of the words, but then the meaning behind each line (or my interpretation of the meaning) reached up off the page and I was hit with this feeling of absolute desolation. Such a brilliant piece of work I admit I still haven’t fully managed to grasp.

“Grit sticks to my lips, bones cut my flesh.” As a young man my world was shaped by the lyrics of The The’s dystopian tinged album Infected. That line was as great as any of that fabled touchstone, a line I wished I had written. The sensory laden opening meander, a world of sugar and indulgence slowly sliding into a realm of dirt and grim was just wonderful. The rage and anger, resentment and despair … a work of beauty and challenge and a worthy runner up.

And now: for his second time: it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“Wireless Echoes”

J: If there was ever an award to be given for wordplay, this tale would deserve it. Just like the computer system, we’re presented with varying levels of processes designed to portray an almost visceral need for companionship and understanding. Beneath it all there is this throbbing ache for the character Faith that really hit me; even as her purpose to heal the narrator fills me with warmth, the question of her own fate is one that lingers.

IR: The opening line hooked me in deep, setting up what felt like a descent into a William Gibson neuromancer inspired maze. The subsequent unravelling didn’t disappoint. With each binary twist we delved deeper into this relationship that the writer captured with lyrical prose. “Vacant bones” that led to “gigabytes of ache,” the intersection of flesh and date wonderfully dissected. Yet the surface of information was peeled back to reveal the pain and despair that lingered at the core of this tale. A majestic ode to pain that left me reeling in a digital realm.

Congratulations, Chris! Below is your gorgeous, comfortingly familiar winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Wireless Echoes

We were birthed from machines. Armed with digital missives and vacant bones, we found one another behind a blinking cursor and gigabytes of ache. No skin. No voice. We yearned and soothed with prose typed from plastic keys.

Faith wasn’t only her name. She believed in soul mates and the fairy tale of true romance. She worshipped at the altar of sonnets and serendipity. Men had derailed those notions repeatedly.

Her poetry spoke of loss. Of fading heartbeats, like a wisp of crimson smoke dissolving in the night air. Her messages, her electrified ink, told stories of fractured encounters.

She lounged on my synthetic lap. I asked for her sorrow and a purging of the loneliness. Her analog heart spilled throbbing blood across my screen. I cleansed it with a sympathetic text.

I was the therapist. She was the savior. Her melancholy ruminations suffocated my own pain. Faith reached through the machine like a replicated angel and healed me.

FFwinner-Web