Sep 27, 2013

Winner Winner Nightmare Query Dinner

The Nightmare on Query Street mini contests is over and now it is time to announce the winner.  Before I do though, I want to give a one man round of applause to the runner up of the mini contest, Sonia Hartl, for her short story, Beautiful Cruel. Check it out below.


Sam was a loyal employee of the Limb and Organ Regeneration Organization, a for-profit company that paid their regenerates good money, plus stock options, for their particular talents. Adhering to his contract was simple, until beautiful, cruel Sandra walked into his life. 

Sam met Sandra in a spring park, where he attempted to eat an egg-salad sandwich with only one arm. When their eyes met, she smiled. Not the pitying kind others often gave him, but a genuine smile. It was all Sam needed to fall in love.

They spent as much time together as the days would allow. She would push his chair during leg regrowth, spoon feed him during arm regrowth, and even write him funny love notes during ear regrowth. Proposing seemed like a logical step.

He waited through knee regrowth, so he would have one to get down on. Instead of saying yes, she spilled the secret she’d been keeping from him. She couldn’t plan a future. Born with a heart defect, death was certain as she couldn’t afford LORO’s prices. Unwilling to let cruel circumstance take his beautiful Sandra, Sam made arrangements as organ season drew near.

“You already have my heart,” he said.

As Sam stepped into the dingy motel room where the unlicensed surgery was set to take place, he thought twice. But she gave him that smile. It was worth the risk.

“I’ll come back when LORO is gone,” she said. “They’ve been watching us this whole time.”

Spending a week on ice in a cracked bathtub, Sam waited for his heart to regrow. He passed the time by dreaming of Sandra.

When he recovered, he called her phone, but it had been disconnected. Panicked, he sped toward her house, but his new heart was not yet strong enough to take in the scene of his beautiful Sandra embracing someone else. Sam’s tender heart swelled and broke to pieces. She caught his eye and smiled. Not the spring park smile he’d loved so much, but a sneer, a cruel smile. She’d gotten what she wanted.

Sam returned to work that week. With his contract violated and his swollen heart broken, LORO suspended Sam until they could decide how to proceed. Fortunately, they didn’t have to wait long. A young female came in needing a new heart due to complications from a black market transplant. LORO often donated less than desirable organs, and they were eager to be rid of Sam’s broken heart. Sam was desperate to be rid of the pain. During prep for transplant, he was wheeled past the woman whose life he was about to save, where he was met with the beautiful, cruel smile of Sandra.

In taking his heart, they took his love for Sandra with it. The anguish she caused him had been surgically removed. Sam left the recovery room fully healed, with a fresh dedication to his work.

As for Sandra, she spent the remainder of her days drowning in the sorrow of her own heartbreak. 


Though I can't offer you much, I can ask all my followers to become your followers. That would be pretty awesome, right? So everyone, follower her on Twitter @SoniaHartl1. Also Sonia, email your query letter to NightmareOnQueryStreet (at) yahoo (dot) com and I'll give it a critique. I'll try to convince Michelle to critique it too. She's a lot more practiced at it than I am.

And now for the winner of the mini contest... (drumroll please) 

UNTITLED by Pasha Westbrook

My sister tucked a plate of apricot couscous under my arm. It is the mark of a happy occasion among us, the Lyrians. She said, be brave my dear sister, you are doing a noble thing.
what if i conceive?
do not worry sister, if you come back pregnant, you come back pregnant with a god.
but father will not approve.
we don’t care what father thinks. this is a new world, little sister. our world. we do as we please.
I wish she were with me now, my brave sister Kai, here in this other land where rumbling clouds and ashes reign. The couscous is a day old now, warm and soggy under its plastic covering. I grip it in my hands, my fingers slick with fear, her excited whispers still in my ear: gods, my sister, they are gods.    
They don’t look like gods. These armed men in makeshift uniforms greedily eyeing us. There’s ten, maybe twenty of them. I don’t lift my eyes very high to count. Their leather boots are caked in mud and animal dung. It’s dark in here. Roasted pig scents the air, its blood drippings still fresh on the ground beneath the dirty table.
they’ve been watching us this whole time, the girl to my left says with her dark night skin and white snow teeth, see how they surround us? we have the power to make their world good again.
She smiles with feverish eyes. Like my sister.
I nod, wishing it were yesterday when I still had a choice.
Then she’s whisked away from me. From us. A horde of girls stuffed in a too cramped space. Her cries are heard from the next quarters, but even still she’s giving thanks, screaming it to the sky, applauding it for her sacrifice. The girls around me nervously shuffle their bare feet.  
And now it is my turn.
I lift the veil of pure, white cloth from my face. The men say, ahh, except for the boy in the middle. He stares with disgust, not at me, but at the men around. The way he is standing with his hands clasped before him and the sweat beading on his forehead tells me this is his first time. The men shove him forward, clapping their hands and stomping in place. Their calloused palms leave pig grease on his tan uniform creased to perfection. Their oily mouths shout in celebration. Not the boy’s. His is silent. His eyes ask mine for forgiveness as he comes near.
oh kai, you were wrong, I whisper to the night; I whisper to this boy’s cheek made of human bone and skin. 


Everyone follow Pasha on Twitter @PashaWestbrook. Pasha, you can also email your query letter to NightmareOnQueryStreet (at) yahoo (dot) com for a critique by me (and hopefully Michelle). Congratulations and great job Pasha. Your short story grabbed me up and still hasn't let go. I'm so SO eager to read more. Good luck in the contest. I'll keep an eye out for you.

Big thanks to everyone who submitted short stories. It was a pleasure reading all of them. I wish you all the best of luck in the contest.  Until next time...later days!


  1. Seriously, I won? How fabulous this is! I feel SO honored. Thanks a million, Mike!! I'll be sure to email my query soon. =)

    Congrats Sonia! Wonderful story!

    1. Your story was very good and your writing style is addictive. Congrats! Please message me here when you email your query. I don't check the NOQS email too often and I want to get yours back before all these contests begin.

    2. Thank you for such a nice compliment. Also, I just sent my query!

    3. Just sent your query back Pasha!

    4. Hi Mike, I just resent my query. Thanks so much!

    5. Oh, and by the way, the title for the above short story (and now my newest MS) is Ashes. =) Thank you for the inspiring line.

  2. Wow, I'm so excited to be first runner up! Thank you so much Mike, this was such a fun contest! I'll send my query over as well.
    Pasha, huge congrats on winning! Your story is fantastic, so haunting, and the writing is just gorgeous :)

    1. Aw, thank you Sonia, you're too sweet! I loved yours. Great payback to that devious Sandra!

    2. Check your email. Ran into a tiny problem :)

    3. I sent it again from my gmail. Yahoo can be temperamental :)