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!

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Buy me a coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

 

This post first appeared on World Weaver Press as “When to Trash Your Flash” in July 2013.

This mess has to go.

A couple of weeks ago, my local writers’ group issued a flash fiction prompt, and I completely bombed it. I made four wildly different attempts. All were terrible. This isn’t unusual; I write a lot of flash fiction, especially prompted or to theme, and I end up retiring most of it right away. This time, when I griped on Twitter about discarding all those bad stories, someone ended up asking: Well, how do you know if your story is a dud?

Good question!

I don’t explicitly use a rubric to decide whether to put a story into circulation or throw it into a locked drawer, but I probably could. Here’s the one question I ask myself when I suspect a story isn’t working:

Is it really a story?

Most of my stories fail by not actually having all the elements that make a story satisfying and salable. They’re oddly easy to skip. I like to use the definition Marion Zimmer Bradley gives in her essay What Is a Short Story?:

A LIKABLE CHARACTER overcomes ALMOST INSUPERABLE ODDS and BY HIS OR HER OWN EFFORTS achieves a WORTHWHILE GOAL.

This is meant to apply to commercial genre short fiction, and a genius can break any guidelines they want, but I write genre and am no genius. I could write reams about the meaning of “likable” in this context, but I take it as “someone you don’t hate reading about”–whether you’d actually want to meet them or not. Writing dark fiction, I also don’t believe that achieving the goal is strictly necessary, although I do believe the failure to achieve it should be the climactic point, and that failure should be the character’s own fault.

Personally, my failed stories almost always fall short on the points of ODDS and EFFORTS.

Here’s a storyline I write a lot: a character wants something, does what it takes to get it, and succeeds. This isn’t a story. There’s no opposition–the “odds” are unimpressive. People following me on Twitter know that I bake a lot, but I only tweet about the disasters. Nobody wants to hear about the time you made a cake according to the recipe and it turned out fine. They want to hear about the time your cat dropped something in the batter.

Here’s another storyline I used to write a lot, when I was new and did more horror: something bad happens to a character, who tries to escape, but can’t. The problem’s not that they fail, but that a) the “odds” didn’t initially spring from their own wants or actions, and b) the “goal” is a return to normal. It’s hard to make a satisfying narrative out of such tenuous cause-and-effect and such a commonplace goal.

They look like stories: they’re about yea long, they’re fiction, they’re made up of words. They sure feel like stories when I’m writing them. But taken as a whole, they don’t hold up.

So if this thing I wrote is not a story, what is it? When I’m able to stand back and really evaluate a failed story, I can usually reframe it as a different form of writing. Maybe it’s just a proof-of-concept for an interesting storytelling mechanic. Maybe it’s a scenario worth exploring further. Maybe I was just test-running a new character type. I never regret having written what I wrote; something about it must have intrigued me enough to do it. Running a quick eye over Bradley’s definition, however, tells me whether to retire it (NEVER to delete it–nothing’s THAT bad) or to send it on into the world.

I rarely manage to “fix” a piece of flash fiction. It’s more efficient for me to just write another piece. Speaking of which, I finally got back on that local writers’ group prompt. Fifth try, almost done. The main character wants something, and goes for it, but runs into unexpected opposition and has to either overcome the problem or change her goals. Sounds like a story to me.

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wolves_and_witches_tinyTo read the stories and poems I didn’t trash, check out Wolves and Witches, a collection of dark fairy tale retellings with Megan Engelhardt, from World Weaver Press, 2013. Or you can find all my available work on my Read Free page and bibliography!

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More writing advice:

Cataloging My Kinks – How to find the story elements you’re passionate about writing.

The Total Beginner’s Guide to Submitting Short Fiction for Publication – The name says it all: getting started confidently and effectively.

Wounds on Our Fronts: Failure and Success – How long should you keep submitting a story that’s racking up rejections? Longer than you think.

Motivation-Encouragement Profiles – Figuring out what makes you write more and what helps you to love it.