Friday, July 27, 2012

We're Adding Another Fiction Femme Fatale!

I'm way beyond excited to introduce our newest member to the Fiction Femme Fatales...

Jenn Baker!!!

 I met Jenn last year at the Write On Con which if you haven't heard of it already, is a boatload of absolutely free & awesome online seminars, panels, agent pitches, and critique partner matchups (and so, so much more) for children's authors that happens every August. You can find out more about it here. We swapped work and over the past year became regular critique partners. Jenn is my final puzzle piece, the last critique partner I needed to complete my trifecta of fabulousness. I owe her HUGE for helping me to get my book agent and editor ready. Once I introduced Jenn to  Krystalyn and Stefanie, none of us could imagine the Femme Fatales without her. We asked her to join and are pleased as punch that she accepted! Jenn will now take our fourth Friday slot for each month and contribute her own flash fiction based on that month's picture prompt, which means we will be asking for flash fiction submissions from you in a slightly different manor (stay tuned this month for the new guidelines and for our next VERY BIG GIVEAWAY). For now, here's Jenn's picture and biography.  

A native New Yorker, Jenn Baker has been writing since she entered the academic institution and continues to do so every moment she gets. Jenn works as a production editor in academic publishing; has been a mentor for Girls Write Now; and also freelances as an ESL tutor, proofreader/editor, and food blogger. In addition, she is a big baking enthusiast (Yes, Baker bakes). Jenn's writing tends to focus on relationships, how they grow and how they define us. Her writing ranges from short fiction to young adult but is character centric at it's core. She is steadily working on a linked story collection and light sci-fi YA novel with diverse casts.

You can follow her on Twitter and read her writing and/or see pictures of baking shenanigans on her website.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Winter Tale

"The last time the lake froze over I was your age,” the girl’s grandmother said, her cloudy eyes tilted in the direction of the window even though she couldn’t really see it anymore.
The girl sighed and settled onto the small wooden chair next to her grandmother’s bed. This was the beginning of her grandmother’s favorite story, the one she told her every time winter settled in around them again. To her grandmother it was a memory, a truth she clung to with the tenacity of a drowning woman, but to the girl, her mother and practically everyone else it was the ramblings of an old woman prone to asking the same question over and over and wandering from the house in nothing more than her nightgown most days no matter the weather. The girl ran her fingers over the patchwork quilt on her grandmother’s bed and tried not to sigh so loudly that the old woman would hear it. It was the third time she’d heard the story this evening. The girl knew it was because the lake was frozen over again-the first time in eighty years. No one had told the old woman and yet somehow she’d sensed it and spent much of the day in a state of high agitation. The only thing that kept her calm was repeating her story, and so the girl listened each time and didn’t try to stop her.

“He came over the ice. Normally Winter Beasts like him can’t cross water, but when it’s solid...” Her grandmother lifted her cup of tea to her face. She mouthed the side of it until she was confident she could tilt it without spilling. “I saw him the night he crossed, out there on the blackest part of the ice. He shone silver in the moonlight, his hair tipped in icicles. He was all sharp angles and long limbs. Terrifying to watch, scrabbling like a spider on skates. I hid under the bed that night. The next morning we found out that the Parson’s son went missing and I knew right away who done it. One child went missing every night after that. Each one turned up dead a few days later with their eyes...gone. Wasn’t long and every one of us kids were locked up tight come sundown, our fathers standing watch at the foot of our beds and our mothers murmuring prayers by candlelight. But it didn’t help. Somehow he still managed to steal them. Twenty in all before he made his way here. To me.”

                The old woman coughed and her tea cup slid across its saucer. The girl jumped up, grabbing the cup and saucer just before both landed on the quilt. She set them on the bedside table and tucked the old woman in tighter, pulling the blankets to her chin. The temperature was dropping despite the healthy fire in the fireplace. The girl shivered a little and tucked her hands inside the sleeves of her sweater.

“What did he do with the eyes?” the girl asked, not because she was curious, she’d heard the story enough to know the answer to her question but because the old woman expected her to ask and would get very cross if she didn’t.

“Winter Beasts are frozen inside. The only thing that brings them warmth is innocence. They crave it, nourish themselves with it. Innocence lives in the eyes you know. It’s that light…that twinkle.” And the girl did know. Very well.  Her grandmother had made sure of it. She took a deep breath and shifted on her chair. How much longer before her grandmother grew tired and quieted?

“No one believed me when I told them about him. No one wants to believe in creatures, do they? Easier to blame every horror on those we can punish, not those we’ll never be able to pin down. They hung a man that lived down by the docks for the murders. He was found with one of the kid’s coats one night. He said he’d only just found it down by the lake, but no one believed him. They didn’t want to believe him. But I did. Course no one wanted to hear what I had to say. Not after that other night.”

“When you lost your sight,” the girl said, her eyes resting on her grandmother’s face. She tried to avoid her grandmother’s gaze when she could. It was disconcerting to see the spill of milky white there. Sometimes the girl could swear that they looked like two misted over crystal balls. In some weird way she was sure if she stared at them long enough she would see something of her future in them that she wouldn’t like.

“He came for me. Woulda took me too if I hadn’t done what I did. They all thought I was crazy, but I knew, I knew it was the only way to survive. The lye worked quickly, but oh it was painful!” The old woman rubbed at her eyes as if even now they stung and the girl squirmed a bit in her seat. “You have to be brave to survive. You have to be willing to do what’s necessary.” She leaned forward and somehow her sightless eyes found the girls’. It made the girls insides tremble. This was a new string of words added to her usual recitation. Her grandmother seemed painfully awake and aware. “He’s coming for you now-the frozen lake points to it. I think I can hear him out on the ice. Do you hear it too?” The girl heard nothing but the ticking of the mantle clock. She was beginning to feel scared, not of some Winter Boy scrambling over the ice and towards her grandmother’s cottage, but of her grandmother.

“I don’t want to hear any more now,” the girl said and she backed off of her chair, nearly upending it in the process. “You just need to rest.”

“Listen! He’ll come for you first! Because of me. You have to be prepared. Where’s the lye? We’ll get it together, I’ll help you.” Her grandmother sat up and inched her way to the edge of the bed.

The old woman had finally lost what little sense she had and the girl was terrified. She ran to the door and through it, locking it from the outside like she sometimes had to when her grandmother was in one of her wandering moods. She leaned against it, too scared of the state her grandmother was in to rely on the lock alone. Inside the bedroom her grandmother shuffled along the edges of the room. She was feeling her way towards the door. The girl began to cry.

“He’s coming. Mark my words. I can help you. I love you just let me help you,” the old woman said from just behind the door, her voice breaking on the words. But the girl stayed where she was. She wished hard that her mother would come home soon. Outside the wind picked up, howling a warning around the house as something began to tap lightly on the window glass.

Story by: Amy
Photo by: Octagon

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Boy with the Bleeding Feet

by: Krystalyn

I first saw him when I was nine years old, a skinny boy curled up in a ball, naked and shivering on the frozen lake. It was out by the edge of town at a large fissure in the ice, as if the water had coughed him out. Lines of blood dripped down the soles of his feet, and when I examined them, he cringed in pain.

I draped my cloak over him and bandaged his wounds. He never spoke, but when he touched his finger to my cheek, I saw his every thought.

For years, he'd watched my village from his watery world, enchanted by the people, their simple lives, and above all by the little girl with the long black braid. She stood out in such brilliant contrast that the village seemed blurry by comparison. I saw myself through his eyes, and even though I shouldn't have, I blushed.

Since I was very little, Muta had warned me, “Poseidon's children are full of curses and betrayals. Do not get involved with them.” But I couldn't help but love a boy who held such passion in his soul.

At sunset, the boy returned to his home, and I never told Muta of our meeting.


The lake gave him to me the next year, and the year after that, always for just one day and always on the first day of spring when the ice became thin enough to break through. We filled the time with childhood games, then in later years, with silent moments and shy stares. We rarely walked because of his feet. No matter how I wrapped them or what ointments I chose, they wouldn't stop bleeding. I saw in his thoughts that they were his punishment for coming to my world.

In the long days between his visits, Muta talked to me about growing older. Her favorite speech began: “Fisherman's sons make good husbands.” But just because Muta had married a fisherman, it didn't mean I wanted one. I was too far drawn into the arms of my silent boy.


In my seventeenth year, under a sliver of a moon, we stood on the ice facing each other. The next time we met, I would be of marrying age. He knew it as well as I.

He brought my hands to his lips and pressed gentle kisses across my knuckles. It was a promise that he would be back. But even more than that, it was a question. Was I his?

Breathless, I nodded my reply.

He smiled, and when the lake stretched out its tentacles and dragged him back to his home, my heart broke and soared at the same time. Once I agreed to his hand, he'd shown me his deal with Poseidon. If he could win my love, he would be allowed to remain at my side forever. But how could I survive the next year when all I had were his bloody footprints on the ice?


Those 364 days passed slowly, interrupted only by Muta's odd stares and her whispered conversations with Vati. I had no interest in them. I only wanted to see my boy again. I longed for the day when we would make our silent vow.

On the first spring day of my eighteenth year, I dressed in the early morning darkness, excitement tripping across my skin. I crept through the house in the predawn hours, but just as I reached the front door, a rustle in the corner startled me.

“Where are you off to?” Muta called from her chair.
“There's a fishing expedition leaving this morning. I volunteered to help load the ship.”

Muta stood and approached me. The lines in her face were hard, an expression I rarely saw. “There is no ship, Biala. Why do you lie?”

I took a step backward. “I...I don't lie. I just wanted to walk and I thought you –”

“Enough.” She gripped my shoulders and looked down at me, disappointment in her eyes. “Did you think I would not notice? I've warned you, and you do not listen. I have no other choice.” She looped her arm through mine and dragged me back to my bedroom, locking me inside.

“No!” I pounded on my door. At the very same moment, the sun's first rays appeared. And when I wasn't there to greet my boy, the storm began.

Thunder crashed, rattling every wall of the house and threatening to shake it to the ground. I ran to the window. The sky swirled with black clouds. Lightning spread across the lake, originating from a single spot on the ice at the edge of town, bringing to life the betrayal my boy must have felt.

The water roiled. Fishing ships, still anchored to the docks, flew and shattered against each other. Men dove from the decks, taking their chances with Poseidon, rather than stay on board and be crushed to death. Shingles flew from roofs. Families ran from collapsing homes. My village was in turmoil, and all I could do was watch. My window was too small to climb through. I could only reach my arms out and cry to my boy. I wanted to come.

Hail pelted through the window, raising welts on my arms. Yet still I called for him.

My door swung open. Muta stood in the frame with tears streaking down her face. And then I remembered. Vati was on one of the boats!

We tore from the house, Muta screaming at me through the storm. “What have you done?”

“I've only made a promise. You're the one who broke it.”

As we neared the docks, Muta took off toward Vati's ship, but I veered to the right, heading for the edge of town, and my boy.

Even though the rain pounded down, washing everything else away, a pool of blood remained on the ice. I ran to the spot and fell to my knees, my fingers catching the edges of ice where it broke off into the frigid water.

Just below the churning waves, I saw his face, pale and beautiful. He reached up to me, his fingertips breaking through the surface. I threaded my fingers through his, and in the instant that we connected, he sent me his message. He was responsible for this, but only I stop it.

I took one look toward the docks, a vague blur in the storm. I blinked away tears and rain and salt. And I jumped.

I lost my breath for only a moment, long enough to feel like my chest was caving in on itself. But then, the sensation was gone, replaced with the pleasure of being able to breathe freely and the warmth of my boy's arms around me.

I looked up through the water and saw the sky was blue once more, the sun shining brightly over the lake. The surface of the water was smooth as glass. Muta stood at the edge of the ice, sinking down to her knees.

I reached up to her, but my fingers could not break the surface. I tapped against it. It was solid as a wooden wall.

I looked to my boy. He shook his head, then glanced down into the lake, the deepest, coldest lake in the world. I looked once more to Muta, who watched me with tears pooled in the corners of her eyes.

Then, I took my boy's hand, and we sank down to my new home.


Picture by: Octagon

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More Contest Winners!

Unfortunately, we had two unclaimed prizes from our first ever contest. Fortunately for you, our lucky readers, we've drawn two new winners. Those winners are:

The Land of Stories Arc by Chris Colfer -- Vivi (Please email us with your mailing address with "ARC winner" in the subject line.)
Query critique by literary agent Lucienne Diver -- SA Larsen (Please email us with "Query winner" in the subject line for instructions on claiming your prize.)

Email address:

If the prizes are not claimed by this Saturday, we will draw more winners. But we really hope you claim them, because they are awesome prizes!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Exciting News from Krystalyn

This week my novel, Spirit World, was acquired by Entranced Publishing. Here is the description:

Riesa Adair knows that hearing voices is not a sign of sanity, so somewhere between her summer in a mental institution and her stepfather’s brutal attempt at an exorcism, she learned to keep quiet about it. But just because she denies the voices, it doesn’t mean they’ve gone away.

In fact, when a trio of Ghosts yank her into their world, Riesa realizes just how far they'll go to reach her. And they're the helpful ones. On the bad side, a megalomaniac Fire Spirit has taken an interest in her, because according to the Ghosts, Riesa's part of an ancient prophecy that's granted her special powers. Her ability to shift between worlds is exactly what the Fire Spirit needs to break through to the human world and gain control of it. Even worse, her abilities complement his. He's fire and she's ice. Combined, they would be unstoppable.

Unwilling to join him, but unable to resist the power which could end her stepfather’s “cures,” Riesa wavers. But when the Fire Spirit grows impatient and kidnaps her best friend, the one boy who loved her even when everyone else thought she was crazy, her choice becomes clear. It's time to see what happens when fire and ice collide.

Spirit World is scheduled to be released on April 15, 2013. I will post the cover as soon as I have it available.

My short story, A Stitch of Blood, is now available over at Nine: A Journal of Imaginary Fiction.

Krystalyn Drown shows us a new look at a classic fairy tale. We receive a lot of re-imagined stories, but this is the first that has made it to our pages.

You get both web access to all nine stories and an ebook download (ePub and mobi formats) of the issue. Stop by to check it out.