Title: The Hunt for Death
Language: US English
Synopsis: Mara’s life turns upside down, when her old friend Donn seeks her help to summon the Grim Reaper, unearthing a past she buried long ago (figuratively and literally). Stopping the ritual should have been a no-brainer, but the more Mara fights against it, the closer she is to losing everything.
Of all the bustling Tuesdays, this particular one went off the rails from the moment the sun’s rays touched the ground. And no, it wasn’t just the doomsday anniversary spicing up Mara’s life.
The morning show host chirped from across the screen. “After the commercial our guest will spook the sleep out you.”
“Yes,” the co-host chuckled. “With stories of naughty mischief.”
At the mere mention of mischief, her son erupted into a toddler frenzy. He launched off his chair and his high-pitched screams thundered throughout the kitchen as he sprinted toward the hallway. Shouts about Santa and presents climbed the staircase to the second floor, along with the hyperactive Max.
As Max’s tiny feet pounded the stairs like a dozen drumsticks, thrilling a loud metal crowd on a concert, the foldable kiddy tray slid off the table edge and slammed into Mara’s foot. She wobbled on her heels. Pain shot up her leg and made her teeth clatter. In the background, the TV blared a nauseating jingle for the local wholesale shop’s soap sale, drowning out Mara’s curses. Yes, today was going to be a bad day.
Trapped between the island counter and the table, she braced against the expensive, yet very unstable, glass tabletop. Of course, the damn thing tilted sideways when she needed it to be sturdy. That’s what she got for choosing ‘artistic pieces’ over practical furniture. Shit.
Her coffee sloshed, teetering on the brink of spilling onto her white blouse. Like a seasoned coffee-geddon expert, she used the classic ‘step back while flicking your wrist’ trick to fling the scorching drops of doom to the right. They splattered against the glass, leaving brown stains that looked like disappointed gremlins. She steadied herself on her stilettos. “For the love of — Max, it’s not Santa,” she said, but her son had already scampered off to the master bedroom. “It’s May, for crying out loud.”
On normal days, Max stumbled over his own shoes two to three times per run, but today he seemed to have smoke coming out of his feet as he took perfectly coordinated leaps. She sighed at yet another evening spent explaining why Santa came only once a year. If his little brown eyes didn’t outshine the twinkle of the Christmas lights, she would spill the beans.
He also lacked the conventional understanding of the traditional ‘if you’re a good boy, you get a toy’ shtick, because his doting grandparents loved to spoil him. Last year, Max’s Santa showered the house with gifts, including a tiny Porsche car, a rocket larger than him, construction builders, dinosaurs, and a fully operating robot dog.
Mara drowned the remainder of her coffee, keeping it far away from her clothes. From the backyard, the discarded toy car taunted her. Right next to it rotted the forgotten mini jeep she bought. The bitter gulp of morning salvation burned her throat, obliterating other sensations and scalding her tongue.
Her phone chimed. Three new messages in caps lock popped up on the screen, each more vicious than the previous. Yeah, yeah, she sighed. She was late. The last thing she wanted was to be later due to a wardrobe malfunction, so she slammed the cup on the marble counter and snatched the stack of open files. Because getting even with a cup would fix this hell of a day, she snorted.
Glancing at her watch, she puffed out her cheeks. Her dad would have to start the witness examination by himself. Not that he needed her help or anyone else’s to do his job. He was known as Jaws Lockwood in the legal circles for a reason. Sadly, that also meant no chance of escaping the impending ‘disappointment’ lecture about punctuality during their lunch break.
Despite the perpetual love affair she had with her career, there were times when she wanted nothing but to crawl under the covers and veg out until sundown, then repeat. And today was drenched in bittersweet memories of the old Mara.
Twelve years later, she still mourned the friendships almost as much as she hated the stupidity of their actions. The ‘what if’ stirred inside. It woke from time to time to poke at her insides and to remind of the lost friendships.
A tickle appeared between her shoulder blades. At least that’s what she called it in public — a bothersome itch. To be more accurate, it was her powers poking her. She slammed the mental barrier against the rousing intruder while it stuck its tongue out and continued to mouth Donn and Tia. She gave the inner force the middle finger. “Stay put.”
Mere weeks before graduation, a series of events tore them apart, haphazardly rearranging the shattered pieces of their beings. By the end of summer, their souls bore a striking resemblance to disjointed Frankenstein monsters. And while Tia felt an inkling of the same, Donn grew into a person they couldn’t recognize anymore.
Mara shook her head, and the fog cleared a fraction. The past was just that— a past. She made her choices, same as the others, and no amount of prayers mended the bridge over the trench they dug between themselves.
Mara’s therapist always assured her that it was normal to feel low on anniversaries, but she had enough of these weak moments. She wanted them to stop. They served no purpose other than making her crave more wine a few days per year. Plus, the power within her churned enough nightmares of burning corpses, raising the dead, and her friends’ faces melting in acid. Maybe it was time for medication… and an exorcist.
After collecting Max’s bowl, Mara loaded the kitchenware into the dishwasher, leaving it for their housekeeper, Holly, to finish later today. The poor woman deserved the additional help, considering she dealt with Mara’s penchant for all things white. Every day Holly cleaned white marble tops, white floors, white sinks, and white appliances, which cost more than a small condo in Eastern Europe. Yeah, it was that bad.
I’m afraid this doesn’t work for me on a number of levels. Firstly, it’s littered with simple mistakes. Although a piece for submission to agents or publishers doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect, it is you putting your best foot forward, trying to convince a publishing firm or agent to invest in you as a writer. That means impressing them with your natural talent at putting sentences together – being able to use words. Only the third line “The morning show host chirped from across the screen”. “Across” the screen? Next line “After the commercial our guest will spook the sleep out you”. Do you mean “out of you”? It took me a few reads to understand what you actually meant by “As Max’s tiny feet pounded the stairs like a dozen drumsticks, thrilling a loud metal crowd on a concert …”
After that we got 1000 words of childcare and housework, interpersed with vague references to an itch between her shoulderblades. Where is the start to the story? Is Max demonically possessed? Is the dishwasher? This is a horror story, but we’re reading about a toddler’s Santa list – at the very beginning of the book.
No. If I were a real agent I probably wouldn’t have read beyond the third line, where it becomes apparent that you haven’t tried too hard to read through your own manuscript and make sure it makes sense. If you can’t see your own errors, then you need to get help from a good beta reader or editor. That’s not a criticism, by the way, most authors can’t see their own errors – that’s why editors exist. As I said, an agent submission doesn’t need to be perfect, but it must not trip the reader up with many simple errors that wouldn’t take any time at all to fix.
Because I’m not a real agent and you came here for feedback, I read on, but there’s nothing here that makes me think “horror story”. It sounds like I’m going to be reading a lot about Mara’s problems at single-parenting, which, I’m afraid, as someone who’s picked up this book hoping to read a horror story, I’m not in the slightest bit interested.
You need to think where your story starts, and what part in it Mara’s parenting issues take *if any*, and at least get the first 10,000 words (if that’s what agents are asking you for) edited or reviewed before submitting to a real agent.
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