One Wild Ride

They had nothing to say to one another. Each believed the other was to blame. Yet, the car could not have run out of gas by the mysterious gas stealing fairies. Now the couple was stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere at 2 am with absolutely no sign of traffic coming in either direction. All they could do was put the blame on the other person.

They had been on their way to a St. Patrick’s Day party when their car had coughed, spluttered, choked, and died. It was not the car’s fault it had quit in the middle of an important road trip. He had no hands to fill himself up, because, if he did, then he would have made sure this would never have happened. 

At first, this confused the couple because they each thought the car had a full tank of gas. Yet, when they looked at the gas meter it was on that dreaded, fear driving, pure evil E. Shoulders slumped, hopes died, and sighs that signaled defeat escaped their mouths. It was true, despite their delayed protests, they were out of gas.

“I thought you said you filled it up before we left,” the man said.

“No, I thought you said you filled it up before we left,” the woman said.

“Great,” he said, “now we’re stuck here because you forgot to get gas!”

“Oh, so now this is my fault?!”

“Yes, it is your fault. You always do this.”

“Do what?” she cried. “Purposefully leave the car on empty so I can piss you off?”

“Yes!” he yelled back.

“You know,” the woman said, with the last reserves of her patience, “this would not have happened if you had filled up like you said you had after you went out partying with your friends!”

“Excuse me?!”

“That’s right, you heard me.” 

With that they both got out of the vehicle and slammed their doors. Maybe they hoped the refreshing night air would help to cool them off. The man sat on the ground beside the beaten car shaking his head at his partner. Women, he thought, it’s always someone else’s fault but never theirs.

The woman stood by the man waiting for another sign of life which would alleviate her tension and distance herself from this situation and, especially, from the man himself. 

The silence left them to their individual thoughts. The woman contemplated and evaluated their relationship, coming to a conclusion which leaned heavily on the negative side with very few positives. The man, however, was thinking about the hockey game that was on that night and was contemplating the odds of his team winning, also coming to the conclusion that leaned heavily on the negative side.

Hours passed and there was still no sign of another car approaching. Finally, after what seemed like forever, which was beyond their limit to be in the same atmosphere as the other, they saw a car approaching from the opposite way they were headed. They jumped up and down, waved their arms wildly until the car pulled over beside them. 

“Need a lift?” asked the man inside. 

He grinned at them, probably laughing at their situation, revealing long, brown, and crooked teeth. His appearance was no better. He had rags for clothes and a bad smell was escaping from the rolled down window. His demeanor was unsettling to both the man and woman, but they were just happy to receive help even from this sketchy fellow.

“YES,” they said together, “to the nearest gas station.”

“No problem. Hop in.”

They jumped in the back seat full of joy and relieved that they could finally put this whole thing behind them. However, they did not realize that this was the last person that they would see alive.

“Hold on,” the man with the bad teeth said, “you’re in for one wild ride.” 

Letting out an ear-piercing shriek of laughter he locked the passenger doors. He sped down the road, tires squealing, and the screams of his soon to be victims ringing out into the empty night.

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Too Late

The woman is sitting in a chair, wringing a Kleenex in her tiny, shaking hands. She stares at the male form before her, a form she used to love, used to cherish every minute of her life with, but now it held nothing more than a past life, a reflection of long lost memories. She had moved on, but he had not. She stares at him with a mixture of sadness, regret, and guilt. Rocking back and forth the woman dreaded the moment when the man would finally answer her.

The man is pacing back and forth in front of her, arms crossed in front of him supporting his stocky frame which is rigid with tension. His mind reels with possible things to say to her, but none of them seem to fit or do not sound right in his mind.

Finally he stops pacing and knelt before the woman. She drops her head and stares at the ball of Kleenex in her hands; she is too anxious to look into his eyes, the eyes that she felt could see her true intentions.

Taking the woman’s hands in one of his and raising her chin up with the other he stares into her eyes for a long moment before speaking. He shakes his head and says at the same time, “No, absolutely not.” 

He gives her an apologetic smile and silently wishes she could understand why this had to be so.

The man takes away his hand from her trembling chin to hold both of her shaking hands in his own. Without his hand to support her head she lets it drop. A tear escapes from her eye and rolls down her smooth pale cheek, glistening in the pale moon light shining through the window. She forgets about the Kleenex and lets the tear continue its meandering path along her lowered face. 

Finally she musters up enough courage to tell the man what she knew had to be said, yet she cannot help but feel this will be the end for him, the end of any hope and happiness he has left inside himself.

“Too late,” she says.

The woman gently pries her hands from his and gets up to leave but not before taking off the ring from her delicate finger and placing it silently on the now empty chair. 

The man gathers up the ring in his hand and closing his fingers gently over it, bows his head and cries.

Not According to Plan

​The man fixed his hair, straightened his tie, and did up the buttons on his beautifully pressed and lint-free black suit. He was getting ready for his first date since the divorce, which had happened well over 3 years ago. His friends from work had kept telling him that it was time to move on, to get a new girlfriend, to start over fresh so he could forget about the past. 

“They were right,” he said to the reflection in the mirror. “I shouldn’t have wasted all this time thinking about how it could have been my fault or what I could have done better. After all, it was her that walked out on me.” 

The man took one last look at himself in the mirror to make sure everything was just right then left his apartment with his car keys in hand.

He was going to meet her at the restaurant but he wanted to get there before his date did so that way she did not have to wait by herself. He arrived at Leo’s restaurant 30 minutes before she was supposed to arrive. Perfect, he thought, everything is going according to plan.

He had reserved the best, and most romantic, table in the restaurant, he had gotten his favourite parking spot near the front entrance, he looked pretty damned good, and he was meeting the prettiest single mother he had laid eyes on. This made him smile because he had not felt this good in a long time.

“Can I get you anything while you’re waiting, sir?” asked the waiter politely.

“No, thank you,” he replied. “I’ll wait until the special lady arrives before we order.” 

The waiter bowed his head in acknowledgement of what the man said before going on his way.

The man hummed tunelessly to himself while he waited. Half an hour passed and it was now the time for which she was supposed to meet him. Getting excited he checked his appearance and straightened his cutlery in nervousness. Then another half hour passed and there was still no sign of his date.

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything? A drink perhaps?” asked the waiter again.

“No, no. I’m alright. She might just be running late. You know women, takes them forever to get ready,” he said, chuckling. “I think just a little bit longer if you don’t mind.” The waiter bowed out again. The man quietly hoped to himself that this was the reason she had not showed up yet. 

Soon another hour passed, but slowly, and she still remained nowhere to be seen. He was getting worried. What if something had happened to her? What if she had gotten into a car accident? What if he had the date, or even the time they were supposed to meet, wrong? What if she wasn’t coming at all?

At this point his cell phone rang. He answered it after the first ring and was relieved to hear his date’s voice on the other end, although she sounded distracted and was talking in no more than a whisper.

“Hey,” she said, “listen, I’m so sorry, but I have some bad news.”

“Oh no!” he cried. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Did you get into an accident?”

“No, no nothing like that. I’m fine.” The man covered the receiving end and breathed a sigh of relief. She continued.

“I just called to say I couldn’t make it tonight. My husband, your boss as I just found out, came home early from a business trip and he wants to take me out to dinner.” 

His mouth hung open. 

“Wait…Boss? Husband? Business trip?” he stuttered into the phone, but it was too late, she had hung up.

He had not expected this at all. He had almost had a secret love affair with his boss’s wife!

“Waiter!” he yelled. “I think I’ll have that drink now!”

My Query Letter: Before, During, and After

As a way to get back into the writing groove, I decided to take a look at an old query letter I’d written for my first (and now published) Horror novel.

For your (and my own) benefit I decided to show you the before, during, and after screen shots of the query itself and the comments I received so you can see the difference in quality and length. The query letter was composed and edited in Word. Where possible, I included all comments from The Editor. Nothing has been left out regarding the content of the query itself, however to protect the identity and privacy of The Editor I blacked out their name and henceforth they will only be known as The Editor.

Regarding the screenshots, I will do my best to keep them orderly, but the format on WordPress and depending on what device you are reading this on may change the layout of this post. 
Here’s what I sent to agents, publishers, and, lastly, The Editor. *Runs away and hides in shame*

**Author’s Note: the novel was originally called DECADENCE and is now called EXISTENCE (a more appropriate title for a Horror novel), and the genre changed from New Adult to Young Adult for marketing reasons. Most publishers and agents hesitate acknowledging or calling something New Adult because it’s not widely accepted as its own genre thus making it difficult to market.

As you can see/read, this query was lengthy (two full pages, double-spaced) and wordy, among other things. I sent this… thing to quite a few agents and publishers. *Groans*

Now I will show you the query, after The Editor reviewed it, in two ways: the first image will show you the red markings where they had a comment and the image after will show you the actual comments with a blue arrow or markings pointing to which red mark it is referring.

Here’s what The Editor had to say after they got their hands on it:

Here are the comments for that section:

**Author’s Note: I won a contest on Twitter for a once-over query edit.

**Author’s Note: This comment refers to the sentence beginning “THE KILL ORDER…”.

**Author’s Note: He’s referring to the closing quotations inside the sentence. They should be on the outside if NOT writing in British English. 

Yes, I missed a word. 

*Slaps forehead* So obvious right? And I strongly suggest re-reading your query multiple times and have other people read it to make sure you didn’t leave out any words. Important words. 

Next section:

Usually not a lot of red means you’re doing the right thing… In my case not so much. Read on:

 (I’m on a roll here of what not to do).

The Editor was kind enough to include a brief note after my query. Here’s what they had to say:

REDREDREDREDRED 

SO MUCH RED

I took The Editor’s comments and guidelines into consideration and drafted a whole new query. This one was much shorter (one page double-spaced) and clearer. Take a look:

Short and to the point and you can see from all the red that The Editor was able to do their job and give me appropriate feedback on a query and not the clustermuck I had previously written.
Here’s a breakdown of those comments:

As you can see, my query is clearer than the previous one but it still needs work especially the beginning. Agents and publishers go through piles of query letter so you need to be able to get straight to the point and grab their attention right away in the first paragraph.

Here are the comments for paragraph 2:

Of course. It’s so obvious. It’s refreshing to have another pair of eyes take a look. They can spot the mistakes and inconsistencies your eyes may have missed. 

No telling. Telling is bad m’kay.

Unless an agent asks, do not include backstory or subplot (like I did).

I kind of got this one right. You can see The Editor cut out the fluff words. I have to remember I’m not still in University trying to hit that word count. It’s a query letter not an essay. 

Paragraph 3:

Simple mechanics/stylistic preferences for the last paragraph. Getting there. (Insert thumbs up emoji here)

And the closing, and encouraging, comments:

Remember, remember… the stakes. Make it clear.

Overall, I was happy with the comments and the result. A+++

I let the query sit for a while and recently I came back to it and tried fixing it again. Here’s what I came up with:

I’m sure there are still a few more things I can do to clean it up, but I think it’s a big improvement over my original one.

How’s your query writing, and writing in general, coming along? I know I need the practice.

Until next time! Happy Writing!

MH

***If you wish to leave a comment about my query then you are more than welcome to do so. You are also welcome to agree or disagree with The Editor, however be advised that I have nothing but respect and gratitude for The Editor (they did not have to do this for me; they owe me nothing) and any comments I find disrespectful or unprofessional regarding their comments on my query will be removed. Please be kind.***

One Mistake Can Change Everything

​The little girl, hardly in her teens, reached inside her petticoat out of habit to reassure herself that she had not lost it. Her fingers brushed against the soft and warm feel of the wood and she smiled. Good, she thought to herself, it’s still there. That little box, and the contents inside it, was all she had left from the fire. Without it she felt she would no longer feel she has a purpose in her now solitary life. Reaching again into her pocket she made sure the box was pressed all the way down as far as it could go before she made her way over the ashen remain of what was once her home.

The scent of burning wood and the sweetness of hay left over from harvest time are still in the air. The screams of the horses were still echoing painfully in her head. She tried to think of other things like how the sun shone down on her and made her feel warm all over, but the memories from that night wormed their way into her every thought and being. For a few seconds that was all her life seemed to be about; burning flesh, death, and the loss of everything she knew.

Finding the remains of a wooden beam which used to hold up the roof of the barn she cleaned off a spot in the ashes covering it and sat down and watched a family of ducks swim in a lazy weaving pattern in the nearby fountain. As she watched her mind involuntarily drifted back to that night, back to just before the fire had even started.

She had just come back from the market with a basket full of fresh fruit and vegetables, some eggs and bread she had gotten from trading the family pig. Her hands tightly gripped the top of the basket so she wouldn’t drop the precious food which would sadly only last the family for a few nights. With five children, her parents had found it hard to feed all five mouths at one time, so usually each child had to take turns eating meals. A few would eat breakfast, there was usually no lunch to be had, and supper was reserved for the youngest child, whom was barely three years, and for the parents, for whom this was their first meal all day.

She had just reached the front door when she heard shouts from inside. Oh no, she had thought, mom and dad were fighting again. She had shaken her head in disgust. No matter how hard she had tried to understand she could not understand the reasons her parents gave her for why they were constantly fighting. “It’s part of being married” they had said, or “we do it because we love each other”. The excuses they had given became less and less understandable. They were just making everyone, especially each other, miserable!

Sighing with frustration, she had pushed open the door and walked inside. Light filled the empty alley way behind her and she had closed and locked the door before any ‘wanderers’ had happened to find their way inside. Turning around she was immediately faced with a view of her parents who were standing almost nose to nose screaming at the top of their lungs.

“You don’t care about the welfare of this family at all,” had yelled her mother, her tiny frame shaking with anger and her tiny feet stamping the floor every time she finished a sentence. “You only care about having enough money to buy yourself a drink!”

Purple with rage, and too flustered to retaliate, her father had rushed past her without as much as a greeting and stormed out of the house. Sighing again, she had locked the door behind her father, knowing that he was going to the barn to drink and would not be back until at least tomorrow afternoon with a half-baked apology and guilt written all over his face. The barn was his favourite place to cool off with a whisky bottle in one hand and a cigar in the other.

She went to the window to see that her father had made it there safely and, seeing that he had, turned to her mother and had given her a hug as if to apologize for her father’s behaviour, yet again. Seeing that the hug had given her mother a little comfort she released herself gently from her mother’s arms and had taken the basket to the kitchen table. Someone had to remain calm enough to feed this family, she had thought.

Her mother, after regaining some composure, had walked over to her and took the few groceries to put away. 

“Go get your brother ready for supper,” was all she had said.

“But what about Daddy, he’s had nothing all day.”

“Your father isn’t going to eat with us tonight.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. Now, go do what I said.”

“Yes mother.” 

Finishing putting away the precious food, she had complied with her mother’s wishes and fetched her three year old brother from his crib for supper. She had found him playing with his toy soldiers, hand-me-downs from his older siblings, and had told him that he could play with them after supper.

She had watched her mother feed her brother and then herself, in absolute quiet. No one spoke, not even her younger brother who had known something was wrong, in fear of saying the wrong thing. Her mother had cleaned up then had prepared all her children for bed. There was no bed time story that night; she was too in her own thoughts to remember her night time promise. She was too tired to change out of her day clothes, and after her mother had left the room and had closed the door she just crawled underneath the covers and had drifted off to sleep.

The screams were what had waked her up from her deep slumber. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she had crawled out of bed and went to check on her siblings to see what the matter was. The matter, however, was not in the room with her siblings all tucked safely in their beds as she had soon figured out. The screams were coming from outside, from the direction of the barn. Only half awake she had smelled smoke and there seemed to be a filmy haze filling the room, but she had immediately dismissed it as part of a dream. If only she had paid greater detail to that ‘dream’. She had made her way to the front door and as soon as she had unlocked the door and stepped outside she had known at once what the cause of all the screaming was. The barn, her barn, was on fire, and the screaming she had heard was coming from inside the barn. The horses were being burned alive! Belatedly she had thought of her father who might still be inside.

Running back into the house she had yelled for her mother. But when she got to her mother’s room no one was there. The bed had not even looked like it had been slept in. Hurriedly she had checked on her other siblings to make sure they were safe, because their room was connected to the barn by a supporting wall, but her way was barred by the fire that was fast consuming the entire room. Distantly she heard her little brother screaming in pain. A sob had burst from her chest. Her entire family and home were being consumed in flames and she could do nothing!

Panicked she had run outside again to see if any neighbours could help her. Seeing no one, she had fallen to the ground and screamed until the whole neighbourhood was in the street. At first they only noticed her on the ground crying and pointing, yet as they followed her finger they saw the burning barn. Quickly they had formed a line from the barn to the village well which was, ironically, right in front of her house. That was the last thing she saw. She fainted.

When she had finally come to the first thing she noticed was that she was lying on someone’s front porch with a blanket over body. Confused as to why she was not in her own bed she stood up and had looked around. As she beheld the ashen remain of what was once her home the events of last night returned to her a hundred fold. A fresh round of tears burst forth.

The barn had been completely destroyed by the fire. Hypnotized she had wandered through the ashes to find what she knew as no longer there. In her hypnotic state she recalled her neighbours giving her comfort and explanations as to what had happened but their voices had only come through as broken and incomplete sentences. Only afterwards she had put the pieces together and had learned that her father had passed out and his still lit cigar had started the fire. Her mother, she had guessed, had gone out to the barn to talk with her father but had somehow been trapped in the barn and had been burned alive.

Among the rubble she had noticed a few things which had not been damaged by the fire. A gold necklace that had been passed on from mother to daughter in her family for generations, a tiny toy soldier, which would never be touched by a child’s fingers again, and an empty bottle of whisky. 

As she gazed into the pond with the ducks still lazily bathing themselves in it, she recalled how she had carefully cleaned the first two items from any ash and had placed them carefully inside her pocket. Fingering, again, the smooth wood of the box, she shook herself out of her reverie and gathered up the few things her neighbours had given her so she could take care of herself. Making sure she did not forget anything she headed south. She has never looked back since.

It’s Been a While…

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here about my writing progress. To be honest I haven’t done anything to my WIP since October. 

I’ve done a few things to prep but I never wrote anything… not really. 

Don’t know why I’m in this slump. Maybe it’s because I’m working more, maybe it’s because this weather is making me feel blah, maybe it’s because I’m devoting most of my time to family/reading/self-care, or maybe it’s because I’ve lost motivation. 

I feel somewhat okay about all this because I have done some prep work for a new fantasy WIP. I’ve started detailing all the information for my characters, the map, the overall plot, and even started the outline for the first chapters (Don’t forget: reading is prep/research/fuel for writing too).

My character list fills one page (just the names and name meanings and their role in the story); the actual details will fill 3-5 pages for each character. My next step is to create a Pinterest board for each character and pin character related pics for each. 

The map is coloured in and all major areas named with some details about their population, languages, trade goods, etc.; I’m not satisfied with some of them, but maybe with writing the true names will flesh themselves out. 

The plot and all the key points plus research details I need to remember are reaching close to 50 pages or so (it’s a YA fantasy so world building is a big thing here and required me to research a bit before I could start on character development and everything else). 

The outline for the beginning chapters are all over the place right now; half in a notebook and half on my phone. I just need to devote some time to putting them in one place. I have the first two, possibly three, chapters figured out. 

As for my horror novel… haven’t touched it since October. I made some headway by looking at my old query letter and reintroducing myself with the story. My next step is to dive back into editing. I think I left off at chapter 4 (out of 30?).

Oh and I devoted some time to marketing myself and building my social media presence on Twitter by scheduling tweets for the whole year. I joined some fun writing/author prompts such as #AuthorConfession and #WIPjoy. There are tons more so you should check them out. I made a chart showing the progress I made for the month of January. Check it: 


I started off the year with roughly 325 followers and around 2000 tweets. I now sit at 375 followers and 2,208 tweets. Progress!

So that’s how my writing is going right now. Slow itty bitty steps. 

Until next time. Happy writing!

MH