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Every year around the holidays, Rhonda Parrish, who is awesome, runs Giftmas: a month-long short-story fest that raises money for the Edmonton Food Bank. Yesterday’s offering was Spider by Jennifer Lee Rossman, a story about “orphaned kids who live in a junkyard, a girl with an awesome wheelchair, and FIGHTING ROBOTS!!!!” Which, I mean. Is so cool. Go read it.

This story originally appeared in 10Flash in July 2010, and is also about hardscrabble siblings, but it does not include fighting robots, and now that seems like kind of an oversight.

If you enjoy it, you can check out all the stories here, visit Lizz Donnelly tomorrow for another great story, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for great prizes, and help feed Edmonton.


Things That Matter
Amanda C. Davis

My brother Rory hunched in the mouth of our cave and cut a groove in his index finger, like a spiral, from nail to base. He crooked it like a crescent moon and looked it over for a while; then he grinned at me and licked off all the blood.

I said, “Why did you do that?”

“Because it’s snowing,” he replied. “It’s really important.”

He does this every year. We ran out of plastic bandages so long ago I can barely remember using them, but our box of books is still plenty full. I tore out page 130 of The Lovely Bones to wrap around his finger. He took it off before he went hunting, though. I burned the paper in the fire, blood and all.

When Rory came back after checking the traps, he had three birds in his hands and one on his head, turned inside-out, a red cone with dirty white feathers entwining with the black of his hair.

I made him take it off, but he made me leave it by the fire while we plucked the others and set their meat to boiling. He kept looking at it like he wanted to put it back on. I combed the blood and feathers out of his hair. He twitched under my fingers.

“Somebody is supposed to wear it,” he insisted, and since he’s seven years older and was around before the New Winter I didn’t argue.

We strung up his inside-out bird-hat to dry for sinew. Its meat wasn’t good by then anyway.

At sunset, he took the hat-bird’s boiled-off bones and stood them alongside each other like trees, and he wrapped them each in paper, and he lit them each on fire, one after another, until he had nine little white sticks smoking side by side.

The smoke wasn’t so bad, so I let them go until they burnt out. He watched them the whole time. When the one in the middle went out he said, “That’s not right,” and relit it. He smiled to see them all lit in a row. That was nice to see. He doesn’t smile much.

After dark fell and there was nothing left to do but sleep, he took me far, far up the mountain, and pointed out at the pinpricks of fire below. “That’s where the city was,” he said. He used to do it all the time–every night, almost–but now he only brings me here when it snows.

“You should have seen the lights,” said Rory.

He took one of his dull brown coins from his pocket, those things he carries around that have been useless almost my whole life, and rubbed it between his gloved fingers until it got back a little bit of shine. He handed it to me.

I said, “Thank you.”

He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the metal in my hand. I rubbed it a little more, wishing I’d seen it when it was as bright as Rory says it used to be. Then I gave it back.

He clenched it hard in his palm, and then he started to cry.

He gets like this sometimes.

I gave him a hug. He’s much taller than me, so he hunched over to put his face into my shoulder. “It’s so important,” he said, into my scarf. “It used to be so important…to do this stuff, and do it right, right now, when it snows….”

I said, “We don’t do it anymore, and we’re still alive. So it must not have mattered that much.”

“It mattered a lot,” he mumbled through the wool. “You don’t remember.”

I hate when he says that, because I suspect he’s right: that there were things before the New Winter that I don’t understand and will never see, and that they really were important, not just in my brother’s messed-up brain but for real. I don’t like to think about a world where his dull brown coins were worth something, where people had to light bird-bones in a row every year when it snowed. I liked this world, no matter how cold or empty.

Rory sniffed back his shudders. “Let me show you something.”

Down the hill he pulled me to an evergreen tree. He had chopped down all the brush around it so that it stood alone with its branches heavy with snow. He gave it a shake, and the snow fell away.

“See how beautiful?” he said.

It was, it really was, lit by his lantern and the moon.

“Now watch,” he said.

He opened his lantern and held it to the lowest dead branch.

Fire took hold along the lower boughs and tickled up the trunk. Orange flame danced with green prickles that curled and blackened. The light was blinding against the dark forest. The green tree flickered into brilliant yellow.

He stood back with me, smiling. “This is the most important part.”

“What?” I said, pulling back. “Burning down a tree, or freezing to death?”

His brow crumpled. “No.” He took my hand: his in an old plastic glove worn nearly to shreds, mine in clean rabbit fur I made myself. “The important part is watching it together.”

“Oh,” I said.

He smiled and squeezed my hand. “You should have seen it in the city.”

We held hands and thought about a long-dead world with rows of bird-bones in real glass windows, strange hats in the winter, and pine trees that shone like torches in the cities where people used to be. The pine tree blazed and my brother stood calm. Strange things to long for in the snow…but his hand warmed my hand, and his smile shone. Maybe Rory had fixed his brain on something worth remembering after all.


Like this story? Say it with food.

More stories to read, here:

Craving something longer? The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is a 9000-word sword-and-sorcery novelette, available now at Smashwords or Amazon.

First appeared in Not One of Us #47, 4/10/12

The Living Dead
Amanda C. Davis

We survivors bathe our skin in mud
To hide in shattered alleys
From our sharp-eyed conquerors.

We rend our parents’ bodies–
Flesh, fat, meat, marrow–
This gray hair
Will make a pillow
Or a fire.

We keep our women pregnant.

We eat dogs
With collars on.

Weep for us,
Our lucky brothers
Carried off at the start:
We, the damned victors,
You, the lucky failures!

Blessed are the poor in stamina,
For they elude the kingdom of Hell.

We curse the strength
That powers us through desperate evils;
The will that drives our crime,
The health that squeezes out
Each stabbing breath.
We dance to puppet-strings entangled
In our own cruel hands.

To be weak,
The happy dead!

But we live on,
We soldiers,
Strong enough to suffer,
Monsters, all.


More poems, here: Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Anthology

Check out all my free-to-read work–including podcasts!–here.

Love this story?Buy me a coffee at

First appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57, 4/30/13.

Missed Connections > Pocket Universe
Amanda C. Davis

At the time travelers’ ball,
You had a HELLO MY YEAR IS sticker
With a date just ten years from mine.

I was drinking very old wine
From the future, cached in the ancient past,
Aged for millennia, very pricey.
It went to my head.
Such things do.

I cornered you by the hors d’oeuvres.

“It looks like we’re from–”
I said in my mind,
“No–going my way?
“No–more like coming from my direction,
“But that’s terribly clumsy,
“And speaking of time as if it were space
“Is so amateur.
“You’d think I’d have a line all ready
“For this situation–”

But you’d spotted me, it was too late,
So I said,
“I can’t help but notice
“Ooh, what kind of pâté is that?”

It was very old wine.
I hadn’t eaten since lunch.

You said, “Some kind of dinosaur.
“It’s such a waste.”

I said, “I say that all the time,”
And finished my glass
(Grapes genetically perfected,
Yeast designed in a lab,
Squirreled in a cave near the Dead Sea
To wait four thousand years
For our sommelier.)

I said, “I noticed you’re from my historical era.”
I said, “Do you recall”

You said, “I prefer not to.
“We anachronists run in two colors, you know;
“The nostalgic
“And the avoidant.”

I said, “You avoid?”

You said, “Time is another kind of space we use
“To buffer ourselves.”
(You hadn’t seemed like an amateur.)
“Enjoy the pâté.”

I never saw you again.

On the balcony with some Edwardians,
A Harvard Neanderthal,
And some tourists from Gliese 581 c,
I asked if they knew you.
They said, “Don’t mind that one.
“We know the type
“And knowing you,
“My dear,
“You’d never have crossed paths


More poems, here: Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Anthology

Check out all my free-to-read work–including podcasts!–here.

Love this story?Buy me a coffee at

First appeared in Retro Spec: Tales of Fantasy and Nostalgia, 9/8/10; reprinted in Bull Spec #8, 04/23/13.

Sparks Between Our Teeth
Amanda C. Davis

I smoked a lot
In the Fifties.
Half a pack a day.
Helped with my nerves
When the job needed done.
We were shrewd and urbane,
Chronos cowboys,
And pretended we belonged to the era
And didn’t know better.

Killing spies and profiteers.
Keeping kinks out of the timeline.
Vintage smoke made it all go down easier.

I quit when they transferred me
To the twenty-first century.
It’s not the same, anyway,
Crushing butts beside your computer
Instead of in a nightclub
In a suit.

But sometimes on the sidewalk
I pass a man
Puffing something sweet and stinging
As my Chesterfields used to be,
And it all comes back:
Gin and Reds and social shaming,
High heels and discretion,
Careless racism,
Constant fear.
Choosing cigarettes
On your doctor’s recommendation.
Tracking a timesquatter to his portal,
Fixing his mistakes,
Unsnarling his damage,
Throwing his body
Where the G-Men can’t go.
And a smoke under a street light
To put you back together.

We choked our lungs with tar
Just like everyone around us,
But cold foreknowledge
Set us apart from the natives:

We knew about carcinogens.
We were trying to kill ourselves.


More poems, here: Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Anthology

Check out all my free-to-read work–including podcasts!–here.

Love this story?Buy me a coffee at

wolves-and-witches-cover_fullAmanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt are sisters. Their stories and poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies from around the world. They wrote Wolves and Witches to collect their fairy-tale retellings and because they wanted to create something together. The volume sold to World Weaver Press and the book was released in 2013. So far their stories have been performed in competition, adapted for podcasts, read aloud at conferences, and discussed in book clubs. Wow!

Wolves and Witches contains retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Diamonds and Toads, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The new edition contains interviews with the authors and a set of discussion questions for book clubs or classrooms.

Here are ten short stories and poems

from Amanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt

that you can read right now for free!

1. The Instructions by Amanda C. Davis

Elves never work for free. A darkly funny modern take on The Elves and the Shoemaker.

Read it: The Instructions at Daily Science Fiction

2. Untruths About the Desirability of Wolves by Megan Engelhardt

Traumatic experiences in your childhood can really mess with your head, but Little Red Riding Hood swears she’s fine.

Read it: Untruths About the Desirability of Wolves at Enchanted Conversation

3. Crown of Bells by Amanda C. Davis

The Disney version of Beauty and the Beast turns the servants into objects, but some tellings curse the servants with invisibility. In this poem, a servant learns to be invisible.

Read it: Crown of Bells at Mirror Dance

4. The Witch of the Wolfwoods by Amanda C. Davis

Granny is hiding something. What big teeth she has! A poem twisting the intentions of an underestimated character in Little Red Riding Hood.

Read it: The Witch of the Wolfwoods at Enchanted Conversation

5. The Long Con by Megan Engelhardt

This sly story wonders why an accomplished magician like Rumpelstiltskin even wanted someone else’s child. And he’s not the only one who wonders.

Read it: The Long Con at Daily Science Fiction

6. Song of Snow by Amanda C. Davis

Before Snow White and her Prince start a new life together, they have business to take care of. A juicy, sweet love poem with poison at the core.

Read it: Song of Snow at Enchanted Conversation

7. A Shining Spindle Can Still Be Poisoned by Amanda C. Davis

What do princes expect to find, when they awaken princesses who haven’t been seen for a hundred years? This poem retelling of Sleeping Beauty has bite.

Read it: A Shining Spindle Can Still Be Poisoned at Goblin Fruit

8. The Peril of Stories by Amanda C. Davis

The witch who kidnapped Rapunzel (Mother Gothel, in some tellings) truly wanted a child. A beautiful, talented, and most of all, obedient child. A story about stories.

Read it: The Peril of Stories at Enchanted Conversation

9. Her Dark Materials by Amanda C. Davis

Cinderella’s fairy godmother isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. A poem about magic.

Read it: Her Dark Materials at Enchanted Conversation

10. The Best Boy, the Brightest Boy

The Pied Piper of Hamelin kidnaps a village full of children–and oh, they have such fun–but he only really needs one. A wicked story about wild, enchanting music.

Listen to it: The Best Boy, the Brightest Boy at Drabblecast

Get more fairy tale retellings in Wolves and Witches at your favorite online bookseller!

Witches have stories too. So do mermaids, millers’ daughters, princes (charming or otherwise), even big bad wolves. They may be a bit darker—fewer enchanted ball gowns, more iron shoes. Happily-ever-after? Depends on who you ask. In Wolves and Witches, sisters Amanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt weave sixteen stories and poems out of familiar fairy tales, letting them show their teeth.

We read all our stories aloud before submitting them–they’re meant to be fun to read and easy on the tongue. Try them out as prose and poetry pieces for competition, oral interpretation pieces, or readings for class–or just because reading aloud is fun!


Buy me a coffee at

Craving something longer? The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is a 9000-word sword-and-sorcery novelette, retelling the tale of the twelve dancing princesses featuring a soldier, her genie, and a castle full of treachery, available now at Smashwords or Amazon.


First appeared in Phobos Magazine #3, 02/08/2015.

When I Am Eighty-Three
Amanda C. Davis

The autumn after I turn eighty-three,
If I am still sound of tooth and knee,
I shall move to a town where they don’t know me,
To the creepiest house, where the witch lives.

I will eat fish and onions and greasy meat
Cooked all day long, so it smells in the street,
And keep forty black cats on my porch and beneath
And teach them to glare into windows.

I will make my own clothing from vintage gowns
And have three dozen hats with tattered crowns.
I will take slow walks when the sun goes down
And mutter at children, and hiss.

I will stay until Halloween. The following dawn,
I’ll pack my car until the trunk space is gone
With hats and cats and footballs that fell on my lawn
And drive back to Florida, where my friends live.

There I will drink cocktails as much as I can
And stroll with my childhood friends in the sand
And find my cats good homes and get a dog and get tan
And live forever, a legend, a witch.


More witchy poems, here: Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Anthology

Craving something longer? The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is a 9000-word sword-and-sorcery novelette, available now at Smashwords or Amazon.

As part of the Smashwords Summer Sale, The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is 50% off for the whole month of July! The price is set in at Amazon; for other formats, you’ll need to hit its book page on Smashwords to get the coupon. (Want to use Smashwords to pick up a Kindle-friendly format, such as .mobi, and put it on your Kindle? Here’s how.)

If you’re also participating, put a link in the comments so we can all check out your work!


Bay has nothing to show for her years of military service but the clothes on her back, a bad leg, and a sardonic imp in a bottle who’s more harm than help. When she hears an open call for bodyguards for the twelve headstrong princesses, she thinks the job could reverse her fortunes. Unfortunately, her new charges are under a nightly curse, and everyone seems determined to keep the details a mystery–including its victims.

Luckily, Bay has a trick up her sleeve. Her imp owes her three wishes, and is desperate to grant them. She’s been hoarding his magic for an emergency, but it might be time to cash in: according to a fine-print clause in her contract, if she cannot solve the princesses’ curse in three nights, she’ll be executed the following dawn.

This 9000-word novelette first appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show in January 2012. Cover elements by Jessica Truscott and Jeannie Ann Numos.

(I’m not saying I’ve also got a small, free collection of zombie stories over there too…but I’m not saying I don’t.)


Lair of the Twelve Princesses on Amazon

Suddenly, Zombies on Amazon

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