Wednesday, May 30, 2012

June Photo

A new month  is about to start and so without further ado, here is the inspiration photo! We hope some of you will be inspired to write a story based on it and submit it to this blog. We loved reading the last batch of entries and can't wait to read more. And stay tuned because this month there are five Fridays which means that we have some truly awesome surprises in store for you.

Amy Haslehurst

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Collector by Suzanne Gale

free from her cage

I murmur to myself in the blackness, praying that today I might have more courage than yesterday.

“Be careful what you wish for,” the old crone screeches near my ear, her breath hot and wet and smelling of rotting fish. Looking pleased with the fear she sees on my face, she rattles the bars of my cage for good measure, letting out a cackling laugh when I flinch.

“Crone!” His deep, guttural voice vibrates the dark walls of the cave. “Are you frightening my pets?”

The old woman whips around, eyes panicking as she searches the shadowed corners of the cavern room. “N-no, master,” she stammers, shrinking from the thing we cannot see. She points a gnarled finger toward the back of my cage where I cower like an injured animal. “F-forgive me. I heard the girl talking to herself. Talking about escaping,” she hisses. Her hunched form shakes as she casts all blame on me. “I only told her it was unwise to keep such thoughts.”

“Leave us,” he booms, and the old crone recoils like she’s been slapped. She hobbles from the room, dragging her bad leg behind her.

I cling to the back of my cage, pressing myself into the bars until it hurts, my shaky breath the loudest sound in the room. His eyes, burning liquid amber, come at me from the furthest corner of the darkness. The room illuminates around him—face of a black bull, body of a strong man. Steam puffs from his nose as he exhales, leaning closer, horns reaching between the bars of my golden cage. Like always, he at once makes the room both horrible and beautiful. It is only in his presence that I can see all that is around me, all that is normally shrouded in damp darkness.

My cage shines—the golden light of it stings my eyes, making me blink a million times, and I cower further away from him.

“Why do you fear me?” he asks, the deep bass in his voice rattling the air around us, the very bones in my body.

I wonder, not sure if what I feel for him is actually fear or something else. I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes and I realize that I am quivering like a broken leaf in a breeze.

He kneels before the door of my cage, leaning closer until his horns nearly reach my forehead where I crouch like a tiny bird. My breath comes ragged and fast—an unnamed emotion rolling off of me like a tangible stink. My eyes dart around the musty room where other cages—older cages, rusty cages, broken cages—litter the corners. There are others, living things like me. But no two of us are quite the same. Some are naked, some old, some feral and gnashing at their cage doors. For some it is impossible for me to tell if they are man or monster.

“Why,” he asks again, “do you fear me?” And though his guttural voice sounds dangerous, his firey eyes look tender.

“I—I do not want to die,” I manage to whisper.

Now his eyes change—from boiling amber they shift to deeper brown flecked with orange. I suddenly clutch at the necklace dangling at my chest. A tiger’s eye. Given to me by someone called my mother, so long ago that I can no longer remember what she looks like.

But his eyes look like my tiger’s eye, and something about that comforts me as I hold the stone in my hand.

“Why do you think you will die?” he asks, his eyes sparking. “I have saved you—all of you. Each of you the last of your extinguished races.” His eyes burn me, melt my soul, and while part of me wants to flee, part of me wants to know what would happen if I ran into his strong arms. “Each of you is unique. But you, in particular, my love—believe me when I say I would never hurt you,” his voice rumbles.

I almost entirely believe him.

Today I have wished for more courage. I gather the few errant scraps of it together and muster the words from my mouth. “But what if I want to leave… what if I ask to leave?”

His eyes smolder with a sadness I’ve never seen before. I immediately want to snatch the words from the air and gobble them up.

“I cannot make you stay,” his voice mourns. “But I would beg of you not to ask me to set you free. You cannot live without me.”

Now my cheeks warm with a stubborn will. I find more slivers of courage and snatch them into my heart. I want to be brave. I want to show him that I am strong. Not afraid. I gulp and force my fragile limbs to stop shaking. I stand and lean into his face.

“Open my door,” I demand, sounding brave and strong and worthy of his love. “Please.”

Tears well in his eyes, extinguishing their fire. He reaches down and smashes the lock with one huge hand. The other things in the cages go crazy—moaning, wailing, screaming, bashing themselves against the bars of their cages. He stands to the side, his dark head hanging in despair.

I step from my cage, and for the briefest of moments I am free. I spin toward him, a proud smile on my face.

I reach for him, only to feel the air rip from my lungs. And then I am floating, reeling through the air, unable to balance or find my way to the ground again.

I cannot live without him. I cannot live here.

I hear the other caged things rage and wail. And I hear my captor—the gentle beast with the tiger’s eyes—weep.

The room around me dims as I at last stop struggling for air.

Today I have escaped—not careful about what I’ve wished for.

Suzanne writes things that she wishes were true.

She enjoys inhaling pumpkin pie, pretending to know how to garden, taking naps, and watching movies (a plus if they make her laugh her butt off or showcase Jason Statham's abs).

She resides at the foot of the mountains and dreams of the ocean. She lives in a lovely, rather disorganized house with her husband and their three monkey butlers (aka children).

Photo by: rosiekernohan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Exciting News from Krystalyn

I'm pleased to announce that one of my short stories, "A Stitch of Blood," is being featured in the next issue of "Nine: A Journal of Imaginative Fiction." Visit their website for the complete lineup. And see where they say the issue contains "a re-imagined fairy tale?" Yeah, that would be mine. Any idea which fairy tale it could be?

Tomorrow, we'll bring you a story from our guest author for the month, next Wednesday we'll post our picture for the month of June, and next Friday we'll post my take on it.

Have a great day, everyone!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Submission Deadline Day & This Week's Story: The Cage

Before we start this week's story, just a quick reminder that today is the final day that we will be accepting flash fiction submissions inspired by the picture below. Don't forget that the writer of the chosen story to be posted on the blog next Friday will also win a copy of Veronica Roth's newest book, INSURGENT! Check out the guidelines page and SEND US YOUR WORK!

     Penny wouldn’t have stopped at the folding table crowded with tarnished bird cages if the child standing behind it hadn’t been so arrestingly beautiful. She was late for ballet rehearsal and Meredith would cover for her for only so long—best friend or not. But the child was absolutely breath taking, her skin as smooth and pale as corset bone, her eyes the same vivid purple as a field full of lavender. That kind of pretty practically demanded she stop. Rehearsal wouldn’t be ruined if she was late. Meredith was the indispensable one, she was merely the understudy. Maybe someday that would change, but Penny doubted it. Meredith cast a long shadow. She wasn’t a big enough talent to get noticed in spite of it. Still, it did give her the luxury of lingering a little.

     The girl was dressed in black from neck to knee. It showcased the intensity of her beauty, served it the way a jeweler’s velvet ring box would a diamond. Penny realized that she was obviously staring, so she turned to the cages.

     “Would you like to buy one?” The child walked around the table, tilting her head up to look Penny full in the face. She smiled just enough to dimple her cheeks, reminding Penny of a fairy—or maybe Thumbelina—impish, tiny limbed, and fragile.

      “Sorry, I don’t have a bird.” She patted the girl’s shoulder apologetically. It was surprisingly firm for being so slim.

     “Why would you need a bird? Have you no imagination? It could be meant for other things.” The child had a formal way of speaking. Her voice wasn’t the high-pitched chirp of other girls her age. It was gravelly and low—mesmerizing—but wrong somehow.

     Penny ran a finger across the side of the cage closest to her. There was something about it, the delicate turn of the metal work or the way the bars cooled her fingertips that made Penny consider it. “You could maybe use it to store hair ribbons,” she said more to herself than to the girl.

     “That’s something then, but in truth, it’s meant to grant you your heart’s desire.” The girl whispered the last three words and leaned a little closer, putting her hand on Penny’s arm. Her fingers were filthy and rimmed in a rusty red, the nails ragged as if she’d spent the morning scraping them across cement.  Was it dried blood? Abruptly, the girl put her hands behind her back and winked at Penny. Those eyes. Staring into them made remembering the girl’s awful fingers difficult.

      “Really? How?” Penny asked, her voice sounding disconnected from her body. She should be going. She had to be somewhere, didn’t she?

     “You find a physical item to represent your desire and place it inside the cage.”

     “Then what?” Penny asked.

     “It comes true.”

     “That easy, huh?” Penny gave the girl a wry smile.

     “My father put magic in the bars,” the girl boasted. “It works—if you want it to…but I wouldn’t say that it is easy exactly.”

     Penny thought about the upcoming performance. She was happy for Meredith—sure she was—but still…. Her hand gripped the cage’s top.

     “You’re thinking of yours right now!” The girl clapped her ruined hands and jumped up and down. “Then you should buy it.” She pushed the cage towards Penny.

     “But I don’t have any cash,” Penny took a laughing step backwards. The girl’s enthusiasm was infectious.

     The girl frowned briefly before her face lit up again. “Just take it! On one condition. If it works, you will walk me home. I hate to go by myself.”

     “Fine. Deal.” Honestly, Penny would’ve walked her home anyway. It was almost dark. This girl would be inviting trouble—walking home alone.

     No one at rehearsal noticed she was late—except Meredith—who gave her a questioning look as she slipped through the studio door. She gave her a reassuring smile and sat along the wall amongst the ocean of discarded bags and pointe shoes. Penny watched Meredith do a Grand Jete. She was so graceful, so sure of her place as the lead. Penny felt the familiar pang of envy she always felt despite her fierce love for her friend. Her hand gripped the cage’s top.

     She was being silly.

      It would never work.

     Still, what would be the harm in fantasizing?

     It took only a moment to pick the appropriate item, an old program filched from Meredith’s bag from the company’s last ballet. She rolled it up, slid it inside the cage, and closed her eyes. She imagined herself in the lead.
      In seconds, Meredith was screaming. Her feet had left the ground and her body was arching upward. For a brief moment it looked intentional—like she’d somehow learned to fly, but then her arms and legs bent at weird angles and her screams turned into a terrible keening.

     Oh God, somehow it worked. She thought it was for fun. She thought…

     Panicked, Penny jiggled the latch on the door and tried to remove the program. It wouldn’t budge. Meredith’s keening rose to an unbearable level then cut off completely. Penny flinched as Meredith’s body slammed into the ground beside her. The other dancers started screaming. Meredith was facing her, blood streaming from her nose and mouth. Her hand was palm up on the floor, an unspoken plea for help, but Penny couldn’t make herself move towards her friend.  Instead she turned and ran.

     Outside the girl was waiting on the steps. Penny shook her as hard as she could. “This is your fault! I didn’t want that!”

     The girl began to giggle. “Oh, deep down you did. I merely offered you the opportunity. You didn’t have to take it—although I suspected you might.” She grinned enough to bare her teeth which were pointed and rotting. Penny wondered why she hadn't noticed them before.

     Suddenly, there was a rumbling underneath them and a fissure formed in the ground. Screams rose from it like steam.

     The girl grabbed her arm and held it tight, pulling her to the edge of the fissure. Impossibly, there was a narrow path leading into it. 
     She pulled Penny down until her lips were by Penny's ear.  “Now walk me home.”

Photo by: rosiekernohan
Story by: Amy Christine Parker

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Submissions Deadline Is Looming

Calling all writers! This Friday marks our very first submissions deadline for flash fiction inspired by the photo for this month.

We can't wait to read your work, so don't wait until the last minute to submit! We will post what we feel is the strongest piece of flash fiction that we receive and highlight the writer responsible. AND to further sweeten the deal, we are throwing in a giveaway since this is the very first open submission for Fiction Femme Fatale! The chosen writer will receive a copy of this very awesome book by Veronica Roth:

Just follow the guidelines below and get your entry into us no later than this Friday. We will accept entries right up until midnight that night. Our hope is that this site not only showcases our experiments with flash fiction, but yours as well. So don't delay! Send us your stories today. (I'm even rhyming now in an attempt to get you motivated!)

For the fourth week of each month, we invite you to submit an original thousand word (or less) story inspired by our chosen picture. We will pick one to post on the blog!

    There are no rules or boundaries other than these:

    • It must be rated PG (no extreme cursing or explicit sexual content. There can be kissing. We like that.)


    • You must follow this blog.

    • It must be geared towards young adults or middle graders.

    • Please paste your story into the body of the email to the email address above. We will not open any attachments.

    • All stories must be submitted no later than the third Friday of the month. The three of us will review all submissions and come to a collective decision. If we pick your story, we will notify you by email the following Wednesday and your story will post that Friday.

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Free Fall

    “How long are we going to just lay here?” Michael asks.

    “Just give me a few more seconds,” I say. He really irritates me sometimes.

    Michael sighs dramatically, but he doesn’t say anything else.

    The grass underneath my bare arms itches my skin. The tickling sensation flickers at my elbows and wrists like a snake’s tongue but I don’t allow myself the pleasure of scratching. Goose bumps crawl over the millions of freckles that stain my entire body, but I like the way it feels. It’s not enough, though. I stare up at the turquoise sky and try to see how long I can go without blinking.

    “One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, four-one-thousand,” I count silently. 

    After fourteen and a half seconds, my screaming eyeballs start to quiver, and my lids close without my permission. I groan and bang my fists into the ground. Something. There’s got to be something I can do to do this on my own.

    My entire life I’ve felt different. Strange. Unfocused. But most teenage girls say that, don’t they?  The thing is, most girls aren’t distracted by the ever-present yearning to let their wings unfold.

    I pull pieces of grass out of the ground and tear them into tiny pieces. I can see Michael watching me in my periphery, but I don’t say anything to him yet.

    Just five more seconds. I can do this.

     I’m not supposed to shift. My parents say it’s too dangerous a thing until I learn how to control my heart rate and stay shifted, but how am I supposed to learn if they won’t teach me? Michael clears his throat.

    Crap. My five seconds are up.

    “Are you ready?” Michael asks, as he pushes himself onto his elbows beside me.

    I nod and close my eyes.

    I feel his fear before I feel his skin touch mine, but I know it’s not a fear of kissing me. It’s a fear of what I’m about to do. He doesn’t want me to shift either, but he supports me anyway. He is my best friend, after all.

    His lips hover over mine for a second, like two opposing magnets. He huffs out a breath. “Dammit, Ivy. Are you sure you wanna do this?”

    I open my eyes. The feeling of my pupils shrinking to accommodate the bright sun makes my bones curl, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The worried wrinkles in Michael’s forehead match the curve of his knitted eyebrows.

    “Yes,” I whisper. I reach up and smooth the lines from his brow, then tug sharply on a lock of his hair. He narrows his eyes at me. “Just do it already. I have to know what it feels like, okay? You don’t understand what it’s like to hold yourself together all the time.”

    “Okay,” he sighs. But I can tell that he’s hoping my theory is wrong.

    Every time I come close to shifting, something has happened to heighten my senses. The sensations that almost drive you up the wall, the ones that are so annoying that they almost feel good—like itching, tickling, shaking, heck, even sneezing—almost make me shift, but not quite.

    Michael leans over me again, but this time he doesn’t hesitate. His lips fall against mine in the lightest of touches. Nothing happens; but of course a kiss like that won’t work, and he knows it. He takes a quick, shuddering breath, then tries again.

    This time, he presses his lips into mine like he means it. He takes my bottom lip into his mouth as he tucks a piece of hair behind my ear. I knew kissing Michael would be… well, awesome, but I had no idea it would make me feel like this. I can’t breathe. I can’t blink. It’s like all the blood in my body has congealed. Tiny pins are pricking the inside of my skin, and for a split second—for once in my life—I don’t want know what it feels like to shift. I want to stay right here in the grass with Michael, under the sky instead of flying into it. I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve already learned to be.

    But it turns out my theory was right.

    It’s like a ripcord has been pulled from my stomach. I’m turned inside out, blooming into something that isn’t me, yet is me at the same time. My skin turns to feathers. My arms turn to wings. The ground is no longer my prison, and I’m hurtling effortlessly towards the sun.

    The wind pulls me higher into the sky, and I want to laugh, but this body doesn’t have the ability. This body can’t be caged. This body is free.

    I’ve never felt as amazing as I do now. I flap my wings a couple of times to keep up my momentum, but a stream of wind is carrying me along like I weigh nothing. My tiny heart is thrumming wildly in my chest from the exhilaration of the change.

    But as I dip in and out of the blue sky, reveling in the feeling of flight, my heart rate starts to slow. The familiar creeping ache of the need to change into something else spreads through me. Panic seeps into my bones and I start to lose control.

    The ripcord is pulled again, and I am falling.

    The sound of air roaring in my ears deafens me, but I try to focus enough to replicate the feelings I had when Michael kissed me. It doesn’t work—it never works. My human body hits the ground hard.
    Michael calls my name frantically as he runs towards me, and I know he’s afraid that I’ve shattered every bone in my body, but I don’t care if I have. I am broken either way.

    A tear runs down my cheek and dangles from my earlobe. I finally know what it feels like to shift, but no matter what body I’m trapped in, my bones will always be yearning to be something else.

    I will never know what it feels like to be comfortable in my own skin. I will never know what it feels like to be me.

    Friday, May 4, 2012


    free from her cage

    The guards march relentlessly between our cages. The other girls – the wild ones – dash into the corners like animals when the guards approach. I'm not sure why, because the guards carry no weapons. Although maybe they do, and I just don't see them. Here, the eyes and the brain kick into survival instinct, showing a person only what she can handle.

    I don't remember what I did or when I was brought here. I have enough hash marks on my walls to measure more than three years, but I don't know if I started counting when I arrived or when I realized time had gotten lost. Either way, I drag my thumbnail through the thick wood each morning, never minding the splinters or the blood that drips to the floor.

    The guards scowl when I do that. I tell them I want to remember things, but they say my past is irrelevant. My future – what I become – is the only thing that matters.

    Each morning, they tell me I'm destined to become like them. I have...a quality. Something that sings to them when I lock eyes with them and refuse to look away.

    Each evening, I stare at the callouses on my hands, struggling to remember what happened during the day. Every time I'm close to the answer, my stomach churns and the world blurs. That's when I lie down and close my eyes.

    My muscles are strong, so I'm sure I get exercise. My hair is cropped short, clean and combed, unlike the wild snares that top the other prisoners' heads. But for the life of me, I can't tell you how any of it happens.

    Only a few things stick in my memory, like how the guards say I'm “blind,” drawing out the word like it's funny. I see perfectly well. I see that when they tease me, their eyes don't laugh.

    One morning, someone else comes. A tall, rectangular shaped man in a starched blue uniform. “It's time,” he says as he ushers me down a hallway and deposits me into a room the size of a house. He exits through the only door.

    It's cold as a bucket of ice. I wait by the door while the goose bumps chase down my arms and under my thin smock. It's empty, nothing but bland walls that make me question if the room is bigger or smaller than it seems.

    Is this my new cage?

    After a while, the door opens again. The man drags in another prisoner. She's rabid, all snarls and teeth, and her arms are pinned behind her back.

    “This is for you,” he says and throws her at my feet.

    She pushes up into a crouch. She has one orange stripe running through her hair, and the word that jumps into my mind is “tiger.”

    She bares her teeth, and I lunge for the door. The man blocks me, pushes me down. “I told you, it's time!”

    I fall to my hands and knees, face to face with the girl. Tiger.

    “Are you here to kill me?” The question is directed at the man. I know the girl can't answer.

    “Not today,” he says. “Today, you open your eyes.”

    I blink.

    The girl creeps sideways. Her fingernails tap the floor, itching for an attack.

    I skitter backwards, fumbling over my knees. She traps me in a corner.

    “You're not seeing!” he says. “How are you supposed to defend yourself if you don't observe the world around you?”

    “I don't know what you're talking about.”

    “Use your instinct.”

    My instinct tells me to hide, but the room is nothing but open space.

    “I've been watching you,” he says. “I know you can do it.”

    “I can't –”

    “You're blind. Open. Your. Eyes!”

    She slams into me, driving me to the floor. My head hits the concrete, and stars pop in my vision.

    He shouts at me. “What do you see?”

    She is perched on top of me with her mouth open. I push against her shoulders, but she doesn't budge. “Get her off me!” Saliva drips onto my chest. Her weight crushes my ribs.

    “What do you see???”

    When I realize no help is coming from him, I shut down. I do what I always do when the guards threaten me. I wipe my mind clear and stare back.

    Her image fuzzes over, and the world shifts. For one second, I remember everything with perfect clarity. I choose to see things as they're not. But I can choose the opposite as well.

    In this moment, I see who I really am.

    She moves, but a split second before she wraps her hands around my throat, I twist, knocking her onto her side.

    As I scramble to my feet, I notice the room is no longer empty. I doubt it ever was. Countless weapons line the walls. I grab a long, wooden staff and hold it horizontally in front of my chest. It settles into my grip, matching my callouses.

    This. This is the moment I've been training for.

    She darts forward, and I strike her head with honed precision. One blow, and she's on the ground, unmoving.

    I drop the staff and bury my face in my hands, trying not to see the blood flowing from her skull. When I look again, my mind has taken her away, and the man has a hand on my shoulder.

    “I knew you were ready,” he says as he leads me to my new room – one with a golden canopy bed and a view of the gardens. He nudges me toward the bed. “You must be tired.”

    I'm not. “I just want to close my eyes.”


    As I march between the cages, I avoid looking at the prisoners. I don't want to see their fear. I grasp too much of it when they shy away from me and crawl into the corners like animals.

    I don't remember why they're afraid, because the eyes and the brain work together, hiding things we're unable to handle.

    I don't tell them I'm sorry.

    I don't tell them I'd rather be the one in a cage.

    Story by: Krystalyn

    Photo by: rosiekernohan

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    Calling All Authors: Our May Photo

     What about this picture inspires you? Scares you? Thrills you? We'd love to read about it.

    free from her cage

    Submission Guidelines:

    - Email submissions to us at:
    - Please do not send any attachments. All work must be pasted in the body of your email. If you have any special formatting, like italics or bold, please make sure those are notated in the email as well.
    - Please keep the story around 1,000 words, and geared toward young adults or middle graders
    - All submissions must be received by Friday, May 18th. They will be reviewed by us, and the author we choose will be notified by Wednesday, May 23rd.

    Questions? Please see our Submit/Contact page or email us.

    We can't wait to read your stories!

    Photo by: rosiekernohan