Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Reads Recommendations

Where I am school lets out next week, so summer officially begins for us and it got me thinking about some books I've read recently that would make perfect additions to anyone's beach bag. So, I figured I'd share! In no particular order, here are some of my favorite books from 2013 so far. (I'm going to highlight three top choices and then list a few more). I've linked to each book's Goodreads page so you can read their synopses and decide if the book is for you. ALSO: Don't forget to check back here tomorrow to see who won our Fifth Friday Giveaway this month!!

Pretty Girl 13 by Liz Coley. I loved this book. It's about a girl who was abducted while she was camping, but shows up years later at her house with very little memory of what's happened to her since her abduction. It's a mystery wrapped in a psychological thriller wrapped in a coming of age story. Liz managed to bring me to tears and creep me out and keep me turning pages way past bedtime. This is a more serious read, but so well done. This book is on shelves now.

Reboot by Amy Tintera. This is my blockbuster pick, the book I saw unfolding movie-like in my head while I read it. I loved that Amy had such a unique take on zombies and that she created such a tough, yet vulnerable character in Wren (I love, love, love this name by the way). There are some very creepy moments in this book, which I adored (given that the creepy is my favorite), but it also had a very sweet romance and some kick butt action scenes. In short it had all that I look for in a summer read. AND it looks like it will be a movie as they are moving forward in Hollywood with a screenwriter and such. I can't wait to see if what I pictured is how Hollywood depicts it as well. This book is on shelves now.

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn. So unique. I had no idea what was happening for a little while, but I had to find out and basically read the book in one sitting. It was bloody and eerie and downright unsettling and I loved every minute of it. This book comes out June 11th.

Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton. Emotions manifested as actual beings, such an interesting concept! I loved the main character here and I'm not afraid to go on record saying that her love interest in this book is e-hem, quite the hottie. A great paranormal. This book releases July 8th.

Now those are all YA, so here's a look at what I loved on the adult side of things (both books are on shelves now):

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. If you haven't read this book, what the heck are you waiting for? The writing is perfection, the characters are all unreliable. I love it when I can't figure out what's going to happen. This book surprised me for sure and it's one of my favorites from Gillian. (I sort of fan girl over her for sure).

NOS4ATU by Joe Hill. I'm not totally done with this book, but I'm still listing it because, well, this writer is so good at horror that it makes me giddy. This book is scary and awesome and I'm trying hard to savor it and not gobble the words up too fast.

So this list has a little sci fi, a little paranormal, a little contemporary and probably more than a little horror mixed in. Basically it is a road map of my tastes as a reader. Hope you find one or two that peak your interest. If you do, let me know! And of course I'd love some recommendations for what I should read come summer. My to read list is long, but I'm always looking to add to it!

Friday, May 17, 2013


Ten minutes left to wait.

I look down at the watch, heavy on my wrist. Daddy’s watch. I haven’t taken it off since he died. I like the way it spins, the large, round face—much wider than my wrist—always settling below my pulse point. Momma’s next to me. We’re both dressed up. Maybe it’s strange that we’re in our Sunday best. Nothing says that we have to be…it just felt fitting for this moment. It was my idea. Really, though I suppose it wouldn’t matter if I were stark naked. It’s just…I don’t think I could do what comes next without some kind of armor—even if it’s made out of cotton and lace.

The day’s ticked by so slow that I can barely stand still. I look up at the sky. Thick clouds cover most of it—fluffy and tall and in shapes that look like trees or dragons or faces. The sun is practically buried in the grass along the far field behind the barn, low enough that I can stare directly at it and not feel as if I’m going blind. Everything is peaceful and lovely and postcard beautiful. This pleases me. The wind kicks up and ruffles my skirt, sending it twisting and turning around my legs. I put a hand over my hair to keep it from twisting too.

“It will probably seem scary at first,” Momma says, her voice high and tight. She grabs my hand. Hers is damp with sweat. “But we can’t move, you see. You especially have to stay put if we want them to come.”

I nod. My throat’s too dry for speaking.

The sky grows darker still. The breeze dies. Five minutes to go.

“How many will come?” I finally manage to ask in spite of my mouth’s desert-like conditions.

“Quite a few I’d imagine. I can’t be sure, though.” Momma shakes her head, her face sad and hopeful and afraid all at the same time. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“And you’re sure that they’ll come tonight?”

Momma presses her lips together and closes her eyes.


“Yes, they’ll come tonight. You read the spell before I did, Cassie. It said four days.”

“And if it works everything will be right again?” I need to ask this once more although I’ve asked it countless times over the last four days.

Momma leans in close to me. She smells like cinnamon and cloves. Cookies and baked goods. The smell’s always comforted me, but tonight I’m close to gagging on it. “Yes, baby girl, everything will be much, much better.” Her voice breaks a little on the last word and I know that she’s lying…more to herself than to me. She thinks she can put tonight behind her someday, but I know that she won’t be able to and maybe this pleases me just a little.

In the distance I hear the first faint whistle chirps of the bats. My heart starts to thump in my chest, beating against my ribs like it’s trying to escape. Momma puts her arms around me and pulls me hard into her body. Her heart is frantic too.

I can’t breathe.

“Let go,” I grunt. She loosens her grip, but only after a moment’s hesitation.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I say as I go limp enough to slide down and out of her grip. She lets out a shaky breath, but doesn’t try to snatch me up again.

Together we step off of the porch and walk out into the field towards the last thumbnail of sunlight on the horizon. I shiver even though it’s warm out. I can’t help it. I know what I need to do. I think I have the courage to do it… but that doesn’t mean I’m not scared out of my wits.

I can see the bats now, streaking silently across the sky, first in a wavering single file line and then in a looping pack. From where I stand they look like ashes scattered across the sky. I look over at Momma. Her eyes are on the bats.

“Aaron.”  She whispers Daddy’s name and my body goes cold. Is this what I really want? Suddenly I realize that until now I didn’t really believe in the spell. Not when we carried Daddy’s corpse into the cave and left it beneath the bats while they slept, not even when we said the proper words and spilt our blood onto the white sheet we draped him in. I did it thinking that it was what mom needed to get through the grieving, so she would forgive me and take care of me again the way she used to, even if it was for just a few days more.

You should know I killed my Daddy. It’ll make this easier to understand.

 I didn’t actually mean to…well that’s not entirely true. I did mean to, I just hadn’t expected to get caught.

 I’ve always been a difficult child you see.

It was right after Momma had given him the watch I’m wearing. I was peeping at them through the cracked bedroom door and I saw her slip it onto his wrist. He kissed her—long and slow and intimate-like. It hurt me to see it. He was always her favorite. Even when I was smaller and tow headed and so cute that people in the streets would stop to admire me. I hate being second. I tried my best to change it by playing sickly all the time and faking nightmares every night so she would stay with me. But that night when she gave him that watch it was clear that she would always put him first.  

I waited until daylight and then begged Daddy to walk me down to the creek so we could skip stones. He didn’t want to go. I think he always knew me better than Momma did—he’d seen the animal remains in my playhouse ages ago—but he took me anyway. The fact that I’m twelve and ninety pounds soaking wet probably had something to do with his bad judgment. He was confident that he could overpower me. He wasn’t the brightest man.

We stood by the water together for a while, not talking, just skipping stone after stone before I took out his gun—the one he kept in his closet under the reindeer sweater he always wore at Christmas and shot him in the back. It only took him a few minutes to die. I stayed and waited with him then I wiped the gun off with my shirt and threw it into the far end of the creek before I ran back to the house. Momma was still asleep when I got there, her arm around his pillow. It was hours before she found dad and days before anyone found the gun.

I’m not sure when Momma realized that I murdered him. I just know that she did because she started to avoid looking at me. I’d hug her and she’d freeze up.  That’s when I knew I’d made a mistake and it was time to put things right. So when I came across the spell that could bring him back I showed her. And then I surprised us both by offering to help her perform it. There was only one difficult thing about it. In order to bring him back to us someone else had to die, someone close to him. I decided right away it should be me. I waited for Momma to argue, but now that she knew who I really was, she never uttered one objection. If anything over the last four days she’s seemed sure my offer was some kind of trick. Twice she called the whole thing off. Twice more I found her standing over me in the middle of the night with a pillow in her hands looking like she might put it over my face and keep it there forever. But each time I managed to talk her down.

Now here we are watching the bats, waiting for Daddy to materialize from their midst. The sun is gone and the bats are directly overhead now, swirling into a giant tornado. We watch, our mouths hanging open. It’s beautiful and awful at the same time. The bat funnel lengthens and then I can see the silhouette of a man peeking out between their wings. The light outside the barn shines just brightly enough to make him visible. His hand reaches out slowly and Momma pushes me towards the bats, her hand firm on my back. I let her, but then when we are close enough to reach out and touch the tips of Daddy’s fingers, I turn quickly, moving around Momma until I’m the one at her back.

 I don’t say goodbye.

 I don’t say anything at all. I just push her into the thing that looks like it could be Daddy’s arms and listen to her scream. Then I run, my feet kicking up dirt as I go. I don’t look back, but I know that the bats are already lifting higher into the air again and Momma’s going with them just like the last page of the spell said she would…the page I never let her see.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker

 Photo courtesy of National Geographic from photographer Jamie Zarza.

You can check out other images via National Geographic's Photo of the Day.





Friday, May 10, 2013

The Swarm

The Swarm

The Sheriff mushed his face with his hands asking us for the second time, “Why did you need so many crows?”

“It’s special effects,” Damon answered. He was the director so he should’ve gotten the heat but Mikey was in charge of effects and I was assisting everybody.

When we gathered all the birds we were hoping it’d look cool, just like in the movies. We hadn’t intended them to break out of their cages, take flight, and come together in such a swarm that the flock blocked out the sun.

“Special effects? For what!” the Sheriff asked. His hands moved from his face to scratching his head making his hair shift a bit to the side before he adjusted it.

Damon, Mikey, and I stared all over his office. I couldn’t take my eyes off the small cell behind the Sheriff’s desk that could hold all three of us easily.

“We’re making a movie,” Mikey said.
“We got ‘em cheap,” I chimed in. Realizing when the Sheriff’s gaze slid my way that I wasn’t supposed to answer and I wasn’t supposed to give that as an answer.

A crow crashed into the window, startling all of us. It left a crack in the glass and a ruby smudge where it hit.
“Good Lord!” The Sheriff got up to inspect the damage. “You realize that the town has no light anymore? You do comprehend the situation we’re in right about now? Don’t you?” He looked back out the window and squinted even though we all knew what he said was true.

The lights on the streets were on and the flapping of wings and sound of cawing was in stereo. The only filter we had was being inside. I could imagine what this meant for the laundry outside. I shifted in my seat, my butt already throbbing from the punishment I was expecting from my mom and the fresh load she placed on the clothesline with hundreds of birds in the air.

“We didn’t mean it!” Damon cried. His eyes got watery and his lip trembled. He wasn’t just the director but the lead actor always watching how best to play a scene and get the people believing him.

“We were just trying to make The Birds.” Throwing a thumb Damon’s way Mikey said he was aiming to be the next Hitchcock.

“Hitch who?” The Sheriff said not taking his eyes off the spectacle outside.

Damon broke character to roll his eyes at the Sheriff’s ignorance.

“He was only one of the best directors ever.

The Sheriff started up on the scratching again and shook his head. “But a few hundred crows? Why? Why so many?”

We all shrugged in unison. Why not so many? If we were gonna make a killer scene. It’d have to make an impression. But we sat still and kept quiet. Knowing when not to respond. Nothing we could say helped our case.

Damon was the most adamant about changing things up. Every time we saw a movie he’d lean in close and put his chin over the seat in front of him whether people were there or not. We’d rush outside and reenact scenes to perfection, unless they were romantic. We were introduced to the world on screen and when we left the darkened theatre and came outside all we saw were one story buildings. The same ice cream shop with the same flavors. The same bar & grill with the stuffed mountain lion. The same people tipping hats and giving us a smile and a wink. Nothing ever happened, so this was our chance to make something happen.

“I gotta call your parents and maybe even the forest reserve. Who the hell knows this many damn...Looks like they’re attacking Old Man Winters.”

“Wish I still had my camera,” Damon said under his breath.

“What in the world!” The Sheriff reached for his holster but we didn’t know how a small shooter would do in that many crows. When we looked out front of the station a bunch of the birds had gotten organized and were bullying a terrier. Not just any terrier but the Sheriff’s. A fuzzy white dog with a yap that rang all over the place. But these crows were decided animals and they were going after his collar, chewing at the rope that tied him to a hydrant. They almost lifted the dog up.

“Peaches!” The Sheriff screamed and pushed past us, practically throwing us into whatever was nearby as he launched outside to rescue his dog. He swatted away at whatever came his way and marched on, a hero in his own right since nothing really happened in our town of 2,000 people.

He was in a tug of war with those birds and at one point a crow swooped down and plucked the rug right off of his head leaving it to shine under the street light above him, more a spotlight than anything considering the circumstances.

Beyond the show of the Sheriff, a few ladies running clutching purses and pearls, kids jumping up and down excited at first but then crying like the babies they were when they were poked. Men staying in cars and some ushering families inside. People peeking out from under curtains and shadows and others just shaking their heads while rocking on their porches. It was all a good scene, better than what we had thought of. More real, less scary.

The crows swirled around each other, making what looked like a wind tunnel in the sky. It was a good effect, not the one we’d been planning.

Damon held his thumb and index finger out on either hand and put them together to make a box shape. He looked through his fingers out the window and smiled. “Get the camera,” he said to us. “Before we get punished we should go outside and make a documentary.”

Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Jamie Zarza

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fifth Friday Giveaway!!!

It's a five Friday month and that means it's time for another Fiction Femme Fatale giveaway!!! We're excited to have two prize packs for you this month, both of which are being generously donated by our very talented Krystalyn Drown who has two books out right now: SPIRITWORLD and LEGASEA. So without further ado, here are this month's giveaways.

Giveaway One:

- LEGASEA prize pack, including book, bookmarks, and ornament

Giveaway Two:

- ecopy of SPIRIT WORLD, plus Legasea and Caged Graves bookmarks


****Krystalyn will also send Legasea bookmarks to anyone who requests them. You can do so even if you don't enter the contest. Just shoot us an email with your address (our email is on our contact page).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Counting Crows

by: Krystalyn

April 29th – I counted 76 birds today, swirling their way down from the heavens and calling out to Jesus. When I told Momma, she focused on her garden and dug her hands firmly into the soil.

“I don't know why you insist on counting them things,” she said.

“I don't know why you don't.”

My Daddy taught me that to count them is to know them.

I know all the birds. There's Roch with the bent left wing and the wide-open jaw. He jabbers about how many dares he's taken. Erl has the tilted head. He's always listening. And Moony, with the wide eyes, sees things before anyone else.

Today, Moony's eyes were wider than usual, and they reflected something I'm sure would send Momma searching for her garden spade.

April 30th – I counted 212 birds today.

I count them in the mornings before Momma gets up. I find a lonely patch of grass, sit down, and look to the sky just as the sun peeks over the edge of the fields. The day feels lighter then, before she gets up.

This morning, Erl landed on my knee. His head was big with all of his secrets.

Daddy told me the crows would come all the way from Timbuktu if they had something to say. He taught me how to look for their messages. He said it was a secret not many were privy to. But that was before he packed his things and left without a note to tell us where he went. I often wondered if the crows had the answer.

“Do you know?”

Erl bobbled back and forth from one foot to another while his tiny claws made puckers in my skin. He opened his beak like he wanted to speak, but no sound came out. Sometimes, I think his head would burst before he told a soul what he knew.

“It's okay,” I said. “I'll be patient.”

May 1st – I counted 297 birds today. They settled on our rooftop and tree branches and cocked their heads in Momma's direction.

She plunged her arms into the soil, all the way up to her elbows. I couldn't see her face, but every time, she pulled up a potato and plunked it in her basket, her hands shook.

When the basket was halfway full, Roch flew down from the old oak and perched himself on the handle. Two others joined him.

The next time she dropped a potato into the pile, Roch pecked her hand.

“Rabid pests!” she cried as she ran for her broom and bashed it against her basket.

Most of the birds flew away, but Roch grabbed hold of the bristles with his beak and wouldn't let go.

“Leave! Me! Alone!”

I watched, horrified as she whacked him against the ground over and over.

His bones popped and cracked while I screamed for her to stop. She stopped when the broom bristles were red with blood. She washed everything off with her hose. Well, everything except for one dark spot that wouldn't come clean.

Then, she went back to pulling up potatoes.

May 2nd – I counted 495 birds today. They came to mourn Roch as I prepared his grave. I laid him in an old shoe box that I had once used as a doll house, then grabbed one of my Momma's spades. I knelt down at the far left corner of the garden, and the crows formed a circle around me, encouraging me. But just as I plunged the tip of the spade into the soil, Momma screamed.

“Get away from there!”

The birds took to the heavens. I jumped to my feet and dropped the shoe box. Roch spilled out. His broken body rolled to a stop at the base of Momma's prize winning tomatoes.

With her gloved hands, Momma scooped Roch back into the box and tossed them both into a garbage can. “I don't want you anywhere near those things. I ain't got time to take you to the hospital for a tetanus shot.”

Tears pricked behind my eyes, and I found the words that would stab her heart. “I wish Daddy was here.”

Her eyes cut toward the horizon. Did she wonder where he'd gone?

I used to hear them arguing at night. I was supposed to be asleep, but thin walls made for light sleeping.

Daddy would say things like, “I see the way you look at him,” and “That wasn't an innocent touch.”

Momma never denied it. She just said, “Well, if you don't like it, go chase the horizon.”

Then one day, he did. I didn't even get to say goodbye.

May 3rd – The birds blackened the sky today, a maelstrom of caws and screams too thick to count.

Momma was still snoring when I got up and dug Roch's body out of the garbage can. The birds whirled around me, like I was inside a tornado. The wind from their wings drove me, lifted me up to my task.

I knelt at the far left corner of the garden and dug with my hands, because Momma had hidden her spade. I dug deep, clawing the soil, but when my fingers scraped against something hard, I yanked my hands out of the ground.

Moony landed where my hands had been only moments before. His eyes widened, and I saw in them the same thing I had four days ago – my Daddy's face. A few others joined him and tapped their claws against the ground, but it was Erl, landing on my shoulder and cawing for all he was worth, that set my hands to digging again.

I dug furiously, parting the soil around the long thin bone … a human leg bone at the base of Momma's prize winning tomatoes. I remembered the spot on Momma's broom that wouldn't come clean.

I rocked back on my heels and covered my mouth to keep from getting sick. It didn't work. I heaved over and over as the sun clawed its way up into the sky.

When I was done, I tucked Roch into my Daddy's grave and said goodbye to them both. I knew what Momma would say if I confronted her, so before she got up, I went off to chase the horizon.

And the birds followed me.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic from photographer Jamie Zarza.

You can check out other images via National Geographic's Photo of the Day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Picture for May!

Hey all! Happy May! New month, new picture. This one is courtesy of National Geographic from photographer Jamie Zarza (thanks, Jamie!).

You can check out other images via National Geographic's Photo of the Day.

And, is it a coincidence that May is Short Story Month? Who knows? But hoping you'll tackle some flash/short fiction along with us!

Hope this image provides for some interesting stories, ideas, and all-around creative thoughts.

Happy Writing!