Friday, January 31, 2014

Short Fiction Blogs We Love

It's one of those months where we have one extra Friday in the mix and no more stories to post, so we thought we might direct you to some other blogs that do short fiction too, places we visit to get our creative juices flowing, or to read some excellent stories by other writers. Hope you take a moment to check them out!

My new personal favorite, and not just because I know most of the writers involved is The Hanging Garden, a relatively new short fiction site that uses animated gifs for story inspiration. Genius! And so far the stories are amazing.

American Literature: Okay, so this isn't a young adult specific site, but it has a treasure trove of short stories, many from literary heavy weights and it features a short story of the day.

Another awesome, awesome, awesome young adult/middle grade story site is The Cabinet of Curiosities. The authors involved are all truly unique and so wickedly talented. It has a fairytale, magical vibe to it and the offerings are so creative.

Another good reference for flash fiction/short fiction sites is from The Review Review:, which includes many lit mags that specialize in flash fiction.

How about you? Do you have any sites to recommend? We'd love to hear about them in the comments.

Friday, January 24, 2014


My father will not let me be beautiful.
             "Beauty is for silly girls," he says. "Beauty only causes pain to others."
             I avoid my reflection in the mirror as the familiar burn of embarrassment turns my cheeks a shameful red. My hair falls over my face and I let it stay there; the less of my face that anyone sees, the better. I know that that he relishes in the fact that I will never be beautiful. The doctors said they could fix my skin. They said they could turn the thick, leathery scars that covered my face and arms into skin that I could be proud of again.
But Father told them no. He told them that the scars would remind me of who I really am inside; that they would remind me of what we both lost the day of the accident. The scars are my lifelong punishment for my mother’s death.
             Of course everyone teases me at school.  Teenagers are usually merciless when it comes to pointing out other people's imperfections, and I had enough of them to fuel their entertainment for the rest of their immature lives. As I wash my hands in the girl’s bathroom, I feel the presence of another person walk up beside me. I avoid eye contact as usual, never wanting to give anyone a direct line of vision to my hideous face.
             "You know that Gabe will never go for you," I hear a sharp voice say to my right. I inwardly cringe and look out of the corner of my bad eye. I already know that it's Marilee, but I want to know if she is looking at me. The accident changed her as well, though her physical appearance was as beautiful as it had always been. Only her soul had been damaged that day.
             As always, she is staring straight ahead, avoiding me as she slowly runs a brush through her perfect blonde curls. I let my gaze fall back to the sink, and wash all the soap bubbles from my hands, ignoring her statement. I hope that she will let it drop, but it's in her newly defined personality to drive the knife a little deeper.
             "You know that he would never date a beast like you". She drops the brush into her purse and turns to leave. But not before she leans over and whispers in my ear, "So stop staring at him. You're only embarrassing yourself."
             She smacks her lips and leaves the bathroom, her platform heels clacking on the tile floor behind me. When I am finally alone again, I force myself to look in the mirror. Out of habit, I immediately want to look away, but I don't give myself that pleasure. The glass windshield had shattered into my skin, slicing it open like a ripe grapefruit. The right side of my face had looked like something akin to a lump of raw hamburger meat for months after the accident, and Marilee had felt sorry for me for a little while. Now she just shuts everything out so that she doesn’t feel anything at all. I run my fingers over the jagged lumps on my face, and watch as a single tear zigzags its way through the scars. It's my fault that I look this way. It's my fault that Marilee turned into a cold bitch. And it's my fault that my mother died. I pull the hood on my black jacket as close to my face as possible so I can block out the world and get through the day as best as I can. What else can a beast do?


After school, I begrudgingly climb into Father's car. He picks me up every day and drives me straight to our house on the outside of town, furthering my outcast status. I am allowed to go nowhere but school and home, school and home, school and home. The pattern grew old and annoying very quickly, and I frequently think about sneaking out after he passes out every night. But where would I go? I have no friends. Marilee was my best friend before the accident, and she has since turned everyone against me. Nobody wants to be friends with the town beast.
When we get home, I go straight to my room. Father and I have as little contact as possible with each other since Mom died. Having finished all my homework in study hall, I have nothing to do but read; just the way I like it. I settle into my latest favorite novel, when I hear the thundering rumble of a car.
 I walk over to the window and see a black Mustang sitting out front. My heart flutters in my chest because I know that Gabe drives a Mustang. But there’s no way he would be coming to see me, right? Surely he is just pulling over to send a text message or something. But the driver's door swings open and I watch in amazement as he climbs out.
             Gabriel Bell, the hottest guy in school, is standing in front of my house. I watch him indecisively walk back and forth between my house and his car, and I bite my lip in desire. I habitually let my hair fall over my face, wondering what in the world he is doing here. I watch him for a moment longer, and he finally begins walking up the pebbled path to my front door. I can read the curses spewing from his lips as he mumbles to himself.
What could that be about? I wonder as I fly down the stairs to answer the doorbell.
"Hey, Emmy," he says. My heart flutters as fast as a humming bird's at the sound of my name coming from his mouth. He knows my name! "Um, can I come in? We need to talk about something.”
"Of course,” I squeak. I cringe at the sound of voice because it seems to have gotten lost somewhere inside my throat. I know that there will be consequences if he comes in, but his eyes seem to have locked into mine, and I can’t help it. No one ever looks me in the eyes, and it’s like he doesn’t even see my scars.
I step aside and let him come in, hoping that he doesn’t sense the danger in my house. If Father finds out that he is in here, I will never be able to see daylight again.
“Can we go to your room?” Gabe whispers, and I am suddenly afraid that he knows my secrets. “I don’t want your dad to know I’m here.”
My voice lost again, I nod at him and begin climbing the curved, wooden staircase.  We enter my room, and I am suddenly glad that I keep it clean. Gabe makes himself at home and plops down on my bed. He looks so perfect there; like he was made to be a permanent ornament in my room.
“Emmy,” he starts, sounding like he doesn’t want to say what he is about to. “I have something to tell you.”
His sea green irises are burning into mine and I can’t look away. After years of not seeing my reflection in another pair of eyes, it’s like a drug to me.
He drops his gaze and stares at my carpet for a few moments, so I decide to break the aching silence. “Um, Gabe? Why are you here?”
“I… I am the one who killed your mom,” he finally whispers, so low that I almost don’t hear him.
“No. I fell asleep and hit a tree. No other cars were involved.”
He lifts his eyes to mine again, and I am suddenly not so sure that I am right. “I was drunk. I shouldn’t have drove, but I did. I didn’t see you, and my car must have drifted over into your lane, and I freaked out and left the scene… It’s… It’s all my fault.”
My legs suddenly feel like noodles and I fall to the floor. I don’t feel it; I only hear the thump my body makes as it lands in the plush carpet. For years I have blamed myself for killing my mother, and it was never my fault.
Gabe is beside me immediately, carefully cupping his hands on my face, crying for me. He wants me to feel better. He wants me to forgive him.
I want to scream at him. I want to tell him to take his hand off me, to never ever touch my scars, but it is too late.
I hear another thump as he hits the floor beside me. A single tear runs out of my undamaged left eye, and I roll over to face him. I run a scarred finger over his lips and consider kissing him. I have never kissed anyone before. But I can’t bring myself to kiss a dead person, no matter beautiful he is.
I hear footsteps in the hallway and my door slowly creaks open. Father lets out a disappointed sigh behind me, but I ignore him. I just want to lay with my beauty for a little while longer before they have to take him away.
“Emmy, how could you let him touch you? You know why I had to do that—why I had to curse your scars. Beauty only causes pain to others.”
I continue to ignore him, hating him with every fiber of my being for doing to this me. I hear his heavy footsteps retreating down the hallway, probably going to get a shovel. Gabe’s green eyes stare eerily back at me, and I can’t help myself. If no one can touch my scars without dying, then I will never get my first kiss; my lips were torn into pieces during the accident.
Father won’t let me be beautiful. He doesn’t want me to fall in love and end up filled with emptiness and horror for the rest of my life like he is. So he cursed my scars so that anyone that touches them meets the same fate that my mother had to face all those months ago when I—no, when Gabe—killed her. But what Father doesn’t know, is that I have cast a curse of my own. He forgets that he’s not the only one with special blood running through his veins.
I lean over Gabe’s face, careful to not touch him until the moment that I choose for our lips to meet. I hover over him for a second, trying to will myself to not do what I am about to do. It’s wrong. But I can’t help myself. I softly press my lips against his.
Gabe suddenly gasps for breath, and he violently throws me backwards into the wall.
He stares at me in horror. “What have you done?” he chokes out. He knows what he is now—that he’s no longer human. He knows I have turned him into something dark.
A slow smile spreads across my leathery lips, and I crawl towards him, cupping my hands around his face, just as he had done to me earlier. “Don’t worry, my beauty. Now we can be together forever. Now we will always have each other to love without consequences.”
He grimaces and pulls away from me, but I know he will come around eventually. He will have to. Being undead is never easy. But now I have my beautiful Gabe who will have to stay with me always. The curse that now wraps around his un-beating heart will be forever bound with the curse that intertwines in my scars.
Beauty and the Beast. Two hearts forever lost in a scarred world.

Photo By: Kostas Kitsos
Story By: Stefanie Marks

Friday, January 17, 2014


Fire’s gone out.
Rubbing my hands together and blowing onto the tips, I stare at what’s left of it. The pile of smoldering ash stops giving off heat almost immediately and my shivering starts back up. I pull my coat closer. It’s warm enough to keep me from freezing right now—during the day when the sun is out, shining weakly in a sky the color of dull steel—but night will be here soon.
I look out over the ocean. The waves are enough to make me dizzy, plowing into the shore on top of other waves eager to go back out again. I can’t watch for long before I have to close my eyes and wait for the nausea to pass. A gull cries out overhead and then wings its way over the island, towards the flock circling the far side of the beach where the others are. I can see the crude sea grass and driftwood shelters we built, leaning into the brush, all but falling over.  I shake my head and face the opposite direction. I don’t like to think about them anymore or why the gulls are so anxious to get inside.
I’m back to staring at the water, for some sign of Sarah and the boat. When we found it freed from its spot in the cargo hold and bouncing  white hull up on the water, it took days to fix all the leaks with the few supplies we’d scavenged before it was sound enough to hold five people. A third of our group.  I knew right away that Sarah needed to be on board when it shoved off in search of rescue. It wasn’t an easy task. Not everyone wanted to take their chances at sea, trying to drift into trade waters where some other boat would find them, but enough folks did that there were heated arguments about it. In the end, everyone who wanted a space drew a length of sea grass from Jonathon’s fist. He made sure not to watch while we pulled them out.
“Fair is fair,” he said out loud to no one in particular. Mr. Benson popped him one in the mouth when he said it again just after his wife drew a short one. Longest lengths meant a spot, shortest that you stayed behind.  When it was our turn Sarah drew well…I did not. But I was glad for her to be going. Even then I knew that staying would be worse.
Before she left she asked me to hold out my hand then she lifted it palm up to her face, touched her lips across the center of my palm. “Keep that for me til I get back,” she said as she curled my fingers over the kiss dampened spot. “That and our chair.” She grinned conspiratorially. Our chair isn’t ours at all, just someone else’s belonging that dropped from the plane with the rest of us and managed not to break or sink.  I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. If I’d opened my mouth right then I might’ve begged her to stay. The goodbye was awkward because it was long. It took some doing for the boat to float out towards the horizon. Soon most of the others went to lie down in the shelters, already feeling the stomach churning chills and fevers that would take them just a few days later.  I was content to keep waving. It felt important, like my hand was somehow pushing Sarah and the others along.
I turn from the sea to steady myself  and stare out past the dunes. The island is nothing more than a long strip of sand and unforgiving peaks of rock. There are no trees, just brush. There’s no fresh water either. Though the sky is always this same godforsaken gray, it never seems to rain much.  Sarah and the others took the last of our precious bottled water. A carton of it washed up one day after the remnant of our plane was taken back out to se. We found it lying on the smooth section of the beach between the shelters and where I stand now along with random bits of the wreckage: our steel and wooden antique chair, a set of airplane trays meant to hold first class meals, seat cushions, several suitcases full of clothes, shoes, and not much else, and the remnants of the beverage cart—which is how we ended up with a small stock pile of alcohol and Cokes for those of us who stayed.
The Cokes have been gone for several days, the alcohol long before that. I’m thirsty and weak. All I want to do is kneel down and lap up the seawater with my swollen tongue. For now telling myself that that will be the beginning of my end is enough to keep me standing, but only barely. I just have to wait and have faith. Sarah will find help and when she does, she will come back for me.
I try not to think about the last moment where I could see her close up, or the half wave she gave me--faltering midair before her arm dropped to her side. I think instead of the wood and metal chair and the moment we found it together.
“It’s not damaged at all,” she said, her hand caressing the wooden back. “To see this chair sitting on this beach by itself, you’d think someone just pulled it from a house and plunked it down in the sand with the intention of sunbathing.” She pressed on the seat experimentally to see if it was as sturdy as she thought before she sat on it, stretching her legs out in front of her and crossing them at the ankle. She stared out at the sea, her hand fiddling with the gold chain at her neck. “It’s strong. It survived. Same way we did.” She closed her eyes and lifted her cheeks to the sky. “You know what? I think this chair is our portent.”
I knew what she meant even if she didn’t  word it right and so I nodded my agreement because she is forever doing that—using words she likes the sound of, that fill her mouth in a pleasing way and make her feel smart, but never quite fit or worse, mean the opposite of what she intended. I didn’t bother to correct her this time—though I felt desperately afterwards that I should have. Sometimes speaking a thing can make it real.
I pulled the chair apart last night when the cold was a knife slashing at me face and hands and feet and every other burnable thing was nothing but soot. I kept throwing grass on it, making it last as long as I could. It was a lonely business. Now I’m lonelier still without a place to sit and watch the sea and pretend to merely be sunbathing, but I’m alive for now and that has to count for something, doesn’t it? Any day now and she’ll come for me…I just have to hold on and believe.
When the first white painted board washes up at my feet, I can’t figure out where it came from. I pick it up and turn it over and over in my hands, feeling the waterlogged weight of it and wondering. But then I see another and another and suddenly with overwhelming horror I know.

Photo byKostas Kitsos
Story by: Amy Christine Parker

Friday, January 10, 2014


by: Krystalyn

The distress call woke me at the painful side of five am. A chorus of screams interrupted by the rattling death. My brother coined that phrase – rattling death. He described it as the moment when life was most clear, when you could hear the chains of your afterlife calling for you. I ain't never heard a better description of what my short wave played for me this morning.

“Help me,” came the call. “My name is Harlon. Is there anyone out there who can help me?”

“Help us, you mean,” cried another voice.

“Oh.” Harlon sounded surprised as if if never occurred to him that others had joined him on his journey. But oh, they were all in it. Once their boat passed over the devil's line, they were all in it.

I remember how I got this job, but I don't remember why I ever said yes. Family, I guess. My brother did it before me, and when he was gone, it fell to me. To lie in wait for the screams of the damned. To greet those fools who think they can beat the legends. They don't know that the legends are real and will eat you alive.

I'll say it again. They will eat you alive.

Them crackly voices that came through the short wave this morning, they're my proof.

“Please. Please,” the men pleaded. Pitiful. Harsh. Wretched.

Their nails clawed the walls. Their screams filled my ears. I was safe in my little house by the ocean, but I wouldn't be for long. Not when their boat came in.

My hands trembled as I reached for the microphone. I didn't want to touch it. I didn't want to do this job at all, but someone needed to wait.

Not me, I thought. I could shut off the short wave. I could walk away. I could –

Harlon cried out, “Eric, what are you …” Crash! Maybe it was a table. Maybe it was Harlon's bones. “What are you doing? Eric. Nooooo!!!!”

“Yes,” said the thing that was no longer Eric. “Yessss.”

I could picture the scene clear as day. A ransacked cabin. Blood smearing the walls. Former humans, flesh dripping from their faces, spreading their disease with a touch.

The sailors don't believe. They don't understand that the disease rises out of the water at that devil's line. They don't see it, so they don't believe. They're stupid. Then again, maybe I was too.

I swiped the sweat off my forehead and spoke. “I'm here. Waiting.”

“Waiting,” said Former Eric.

“Waiiiiting,” said Harlon. “For you.”

Moans filled the background like white noise on an empty television channel. They were congregating in that cabin, searching for the one human voice among them. Mine. It was impossible to tell how many I would face when the boat came in. Sometimes it was two. Sometimes it was twenty. My brother faced down a crew of twenty seven once, but it was the crew of five that he didn't walk away from. That's the thing about this job. Those things kill you. Maybe not the tenth or fiftieth time, but eventually it happens. Hopefully, you have the chance to train your replacement first.

I told my brother I didn't want the job. I didn't want the burden. My hands shake too much. But what was he gonna do? I was the only family he had. But dangit all, I didn't want this!

I threw the microphone to the ground and looked out the window. The boat approached far more quickly than it should have. They were eager. Ravenous. Once they landed, they could go anywhere. Spread their plague to the whole blasted world.

That's why I was here. That's why I had accepted the job. Because I was the only line of defense against the devil's line. Just me.

I grabbed my shotgun from where it rested against the wall and made my way down to the beach to wait. And hope my hands didn't shake too much.


Photo byKostas Kitsos
Story by: Krystalyn Drown

Friday, January 3, 2014

First Look

First Look

I need to see his face. This whole time I’ve seen the back of his head. Lumps of flesh packed together. Hands that seem older from afar, wrinkled, pockmarked, shaking if you look at them long enough. He favors one side when he walks, even as he stands his left side seems to sink into the sod.

He won’t turn around. Or maybe it’s the angles I’m watching him from. Never face on but from behind. Even when I feel like I catch up. My body speeding up to try and even get a profile view but in those moments he’s too quick. His head jerks away and I get a glimpse of a nose that may have been broken in a fight or two with a dent in the middle looking like a ridge in a mountain.

Wisps of white hair not even noting what was. So many parts I get to see but not the whole and I need to see his face.

He stands on the edge of the land with a jacket above his head. It’s not even raining so I don’t quite get it but he’s covering his face again. I can’t be sure. I can’t leave until I’m certain.

“We have to go,” she whispers behind me. I plant my feet down daring her to move me. She could, she could get the reserves to really but it’ll have to come to that.

I don’t turn to look at her. I feel the wind whip through me and see it push past him. His jacket waving like a flag beckoning the boats passing in the water. He stares ahead and I stare at him waiting, knowing he’ll have to make the slightest movement at some point and face me so I can see.

“You’ll have to trust me on this.”

That’s when I whip around to her and stare her right in those judgmental orbs she calls eyes trying to stare me down. “Why should I?”

“Because this is your—”

“Bullshit,” I spit at her and spit at the ground by her. She jumps back shocked. 

“You want us to stay in line and tell us and show us what you think we need to see. But I need to know for sure. I don’t trust you.”

Her eyes go thin. “You should. We know what’s best.”

I turn around. Refusing to get absorbed in those eyes in any way.

He heaves. His whole body seems to lift and lower on itself, as if adjusting for a better fit. He takes one step to the edge, another, and another shuffling as he goes, leaving tracks in the ground. With every inch he moves towards the edge I move closer to him.

“You can’t,” she says but I don’t listen. I keep sliding forward. My body light, airy, translucent to him but I refuse to let him go any further without confirmation.

“You can’t get involved!” her voice rises bordering on a yell until it’s a shriek of “You can’t!”

His head is down, the blazer completely covering him as a shell does a turtle. He moves like one, looks like one, is going to join the sea as if it’s his natural habitat but the bastard cannot end it before I get a look.

I rush on him reaching out as one foot hovers out like there’s an invisible step the other still planted on the ground. My hand goes through him but I keep trying. I’m swiping at air trying to keep his body from tipping forward and going into the sea. When he goes down it’s face first still. I throw myself off the edge along with him, my body floating than falling faster than his. I go through him, feel a sudden charge in myself as our bodies merge briefly during the fall and then turn around so that I can finally, finally view him face on.

Once again, it’s the eyes that get me. Not just the eyeballs but the skin around it. The scar above the eyebrow from the fight with one kid afterschool. The one gray/blue eye and the other green from the transplant after losing it but having given way worse than I got. There are more scratches, wounds, marks of a guy whose fights didn’t end in adolescence but carried over into adulthood.

It hits me how much things will have to change once the water pushes against my back, he and I hitting it with a smack at the same time. 
Photo byKostas Kitsos
Story by: Jenn Baker

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! Picture for January

Happy New Year! You may still be hibernating after NYE or not ready to start saying 2014 yet. We're with you. We completely understand. But, new year, new month, new photo prompt!

Maybe you have a resolution to write more? If so, this would be a prime opportunity to do so. This month's photo is from Kostas Kitsos (Thanks, Kostas!). And you can find more of his work (in Greece) at his website:

Hope this picture inspires you for whatever medium you choose.