Saturday, November 18, 2017

“In her eyes” by Rebecca McTavish

Heather knew she was in trouble when the water turned to glass and she was still only half way across the bay. She was racing the sun to the horizon but her shoulders ached with each stroke. Without her glasses, she felt acutely vulnerable. Her nearsightedness blurred the oranges and reds of the fall foliage lighting the shore ablaze.  
A late afternoon swim had seemed like a great idea in light of the unseasonably warm temperatures. She needed to stop hearing the gunshot and seeing his bloody eye in an endless loop.
Earlier, while gardening, the rustle of pine needles had alerted Heather to an unexpected companion. Looking up from her bed of hydrangeas, she had found a young buck watching her, not 20 feet away.  She struggled to disentangle the image; parts were all wrong. The buck’s early-budding antlers were caught in the hammock, so tightly twisted that the hammock resembled a clothesline. Though the deer sat on his haunches, his back leg stuck out at an unnatural angle.
As she approached, she could see that his left eye was bloodshot, a window to his pain. She sensed his desperation and stopped short of the hammock unsure of how long the buck had been there and how his fight-or-flight instinct might manifest. Watching him, a rind of sadness settled at the pit of her stomach. He was a beautiful animal, unaware of the human implement that had stood in his path. Heather, his inadvertent hunter, had set the snare. She felt his powerlessness, and her own, as she went to the cottage to call for help.
She swam faster, hoping to outpace her memories. While she glided with her left arm, she turned her head, sipping air from the corner of her mouth. Her right arm posed to strike.  
Zach, a representative of the nearby wolf centre had driven up the driveway in a compact European style pick-up, followed by O’Brien, a police officer, in his cruiser. Zach was tall, edging on 6’5, in his late 20’s with a dark beard. O’Brien was middle-aged and balding, his uniform neatly pressed, hands on his hips. Both had a gentle confidence to them that denoted years of experience. 
The two men followed Heather down to the hammock. The deer was as still as when she had left him, though he had managed to reorient himself 180 degrees. His fractured leg now shielded underneath his body. He could have passed for dead, save for the gentle swaying of the hammock in time with his breath.
In the water, Heather tried to level her breath, to keep her strokes even.
“Stand up-a-ways, please,” said O’Brien, “In case the bullet ricochets.” Zach and Heather obliged. O’Brien held his pistol aloft, steady, aiming between the buck’s antlers. Heather braced herself. O’Brien fired.
The deer’s body went limp; his left eye had rolled back into his head. Only the red was visible, an unblinking siren. Zach and O’Brien chatted amicably as O’Brien held the antlers and Zach cut-away the threads of the hammock. O’ Brien shifted the antlers from left to right, though the deer’s head remained still. “This ol’ boy had a lot of fight in him,” said O’Brien. “You can see here that the scalp has been torn from the skull.” He repeated the gruesome action of wiggling the antlers. “Must have ripped it off when he tried to free himself!”
Heather’s eyes expanded to contain her shock. O’Brien scrambled to assuage the situation. “Now we did the right thing,” he said. “This guy may even have been struck by a car, and wandered here in delusion. We’ve seen that before.”
“You’ve seen other deer get trapped in hammocks?” Heather asked.
“Well, no, but certainly a lot end up on the side of the road.” O’Brien looked down as a mark of punctuation, putting an end to the conversation. Heather appreciated his sentiment, though she doubted the buck had tussled with a car. His hide was unmarred.
Within minutes Zach had finished cutting the deer’s antlers loose. “Ready, on my count. One, two, three,” he said. Zach and O’Brien each hoisted an antler and started dragging the 200-pound carcass up the gravel path towards the truck, a trickle of blood left in their wake. Soon the buck would be fed to the wolves. His hooves made sickening clicks of protest as the two men climbed the flagstone steps.
The familiar drone of a motor brought Heather back to the open lake. She had misjudged how much daylight was left and cursed herself for being so irresponsible. At this point she would be invisible to boats passing by. She shuddered, envisioning a propeller tear through flesh. Heather slowed her front crawl and scanned the lake’s surface. 
The drone grew louder, but she did not see any boats. Heather followed the sound and looked up. There, above her, making a beeline in her direction was a float plane. It was coming for her, the fronts of its pontoons like beady eyes staring her down. She inhaled as much air as her fear-constricted lungs would allow. Then she dove, deep into the cold waters. 

The darkness was disorienting. She swam and swam, the adrenaline supplanting her need for oxygen. She felt like she had been submerged for minutes, hours even. Whatever light had been in the sky didn't follow her into the depths. Terrified that she was swimming in the wrong direction, deeper into the abyss, Heather fought her impulses and simply let herself float. Her natural buoyancy brought her to the surface. It was pitch black, save for the twinkling lights of the cottage, beckoning her home. Water streamed down her face; tears of relief, she thought.
Heather was confused to see that the plane had already vanished. The lake had repaired its glass ceiling.
When she emerged from the shower, Heather was cloaked in steam. She cleared a section of the mirror with her forearm. Through the haze her reflection stared back at her, she gasped. Her left eye stood stark red against her garish complexion. She leaned in. Every blood vessel had released its wares into her eye, like a poppy cultivated by the underwater pressure. A cold chill knotted her spine. She tried to forget, still, the plane looming overhead flashed through her mind. Her recollection was embodied as a full body shiver that she could not shake.
As the wee hours of the morning crawled closer, Heather let the coals burn down. Her unease had not subsided and she hoped that sleep would offer some refuge. The lone candle flickered in the great room, ready to be blown out, but Heather found she had no breath. Instead, drops from her sopping wet hair extinguished the flame. With the fire’s exit, Heather’s senses were heightened. A rhythmic creaking drew her attention to the window. Cupping her hands to combat the glare, Heather looked out onto the lawn. 
There, regal in the moonlight, was her buck. His red eye honed-in on hers, his back leg jutted out bearing no weight, a clean bullet wound oozed between his antlers. Heather was filled with a familiar sinking feeling at the sight of him, like she had already sunk.

Rebecca McTavish  is a young professional, currently living in Mississauga, Ontario. She has started writing in her spare time to explore her interests in authoring different types of fiction. This is Rebecca’s first short story. 

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Friday, November 17, 2017

How to Build Your Story: Plotting Novels & Writing Short Stories, Saturday, Nov 25, in Burlington, with guest author Hannah McKinnon

How to Build Your Story
Plotting novels & Writing short stories
Saturday, November 25, 2017
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Burlington Central Library, Centennial Hall, 2331 New Street, Burlington, Ontario (Map here)

This workshop will show you how writers plot a novel and will give you the best tips on writing short stories. We’ll also look at where to get your stories published and how to win contests. Best yet, you’ll see how to apply the story-building techniques you’ve learned to your own writing.

Guest speaker Hannah McKinnon, the author of Time After Time (published by HarperCollins in Britain), a novel about love, loss and second chances that’s full of humour. Her second and third books have been acquired by MIRA (a North American imprint owned by HarperCollins). The first of these, The Neighbors, a novel about the implosion of two families, is scheduled for March 2018, and her third book a year later. 

When she’s not writing novels for adults, Hannah’s three boys give her plenty of material for children’s books. You can read a review of Time After Time hereAt the workshop, Hannah will be speaking about the different trial and error approaches she’s used to plot her novels and short stories. She’ll also be sharing her story of her writing career so far.

Image by Mary Steer
Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University, and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Charlottetown. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get their first book published and launch their careers as authors. 
See reviews of Brian's classes and workshops here.

Fee: 43.36 + 13% hst = 49 paid in advance by mail or Interac
or 46.90 + 13% hst = 53 if you wait to pay at the door
To reserve a spot now, email:

See Brian’s complete current schedule hereincluding writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

“A Day in Paradise” by Mary Ellen Main

Santorini, Greece, a true Paradise by any other name. It is exactly like all the photos you see.  The white-hot sun reflects off the pristine white walls of the Greek architecture. The deep blue of the domed roofs mirrors the azure blue of the Aegean Sea and endless indigo sky. As the sun starts to dip below the horizon, the entire vista changes into the colours of a coral seabed. Santorini is most definitely beautiful, but when you are 28, single, and travelling with a bunch of your girl friends, there is one thing that is foremost on your mind; Greek boys.

Beautiful Adonis clones that all seem to be 24, inhabit the island and all of them are looking for you. “Let me show you my country,” was the favourite line used by these dark-haired, brown-eyed pictures of perfection. So many choices – so little time.

I met a particularly fetching 24-year old named Dmitri. He asked me to go with him to the aptly-named Paradise Hotel on a part of the island that was not one of the usual tourist haunts. This place was run by a friend of his and it was reserved for Greeks alone. My girl friends were all so jealous and I felt quite special to be invited to such an exclusive destination.

Dmitri picked me up on his moped bright and early from my pensione in Kamari. Now that the day was here, I was feeling a tad apprehensive, I hardly knew him and his English was minimal. The first leg of the journey was along a proper road and I started to relax a bit as I lost myself in the scenery. Then we veered from the road and embarked on a tiny sand-covered path that would eventually take us to our destination.

In my opinion Dmitri was driving a bit too fast and I was starting to get nervous. Before I could ask him to slow down the back tire of the moped started to fish tail and the next thing you know he was desperately trying to keep us upright. I was hanging on for dear life when I saw a huge thorn bush ahead to our right. Yes, you guessed it, after a valiant attempt to recover, we ended up crashing right into the thorns.

As I said before, Dmitri didn’t speak much English, but when we went down, he blurted out a big “Fuck!” Now that is a universal word we all understand and with it he captured my sentiments exactly. We managed to untangle ourselves and the bike out of the bush and back to the path, both of us covered in scratches but basically unharmed.

We finally reached the hotel without further incident, and I was happy to see I knew a couple of people there. Christos and Stavros were bartenders at the same bar in Kamari where Dmitri worked, and yes, they were both 24. After meeting the rest of the guests there, I asked if there was a bathroom I could use.

We were a little way down from the hotel proper, nearer the beach, so I was directed to this white washed structure not unlike an outhouse but without a door.  Inside there was nothing but a hole in the floor. I assumed you just stood there, straddled over the hole, and went to the best of your abilities. I would never have gone in if it hadn’t been so clean. The inside was spotless white just like the outside, and it didn’t smell, so l I took a final look around to make sure no one could see in. I then took one leg out of my shorts, put each foot on either side of the hole and started to pee.

When the first few drops hit the hidden contents, I must have disturbed a hundred flies having lunch. Within a second this black mass of flying creatures shot out of there like a cannon straight into my bare butt.

Ancient Greek toilet
I started screaming and managed to stop myself peeing in mid stream. I bolted out of there, shorts bunched around one ankle, batting away flies from my behind like a mad woman. Thank the Lord the door was facing away from the guests because if they had witnessed my less than dignified exit, I would have kept running all the way back to Kamari, bare ass notwithstanding.

After straightening myself out and wiping the pee off my legs, I made my way back down the path to the tables where lunch was now being served.  At this point Dmitri decided he was going to feed me a piece of zucchini.

This might have been charming had it not been for the fact that I didn’t see it coming, so it ended up going down the wrong pipe and I started choking. For 15 minutes straight, I couldn’t stop coughing. So now I am bright red, tears are rolling down my face, my nose is covered in snot and I think I just let out some of the pee I had managed to hold in earlier.

After I had calmed down, again, the owner said he needed to get something from his room so he asked if anyone would like to come and see the hotel. I jumped at the chance, anything to get away from that table, so Dmitri and I went with him to have a bit of a tour. After our look around, we stopped at his personal room so he could get his camera.

Once inside, I noticed a proper bathroom, and of course I still had to pee, so I asked if I could use it. The owner and Dmitri decided to go back to the party and I could meet them there once I was done. I removed a towel hanging over the door and closed it. After I took care of business with out a fly in sight, I went to leave but the door wouldn’t open. It had somehow managed to lock itself.

I jiggled, pulled, and basically used all my strength to try and get out of there. I started calling for help but everyone had gone back down to the beach and no one could hear me.  I noticed a curtain fluttering and thought maybe I could crawl out the window, but to my horror there were bars covering it from top to bottom. 

Now I was really trapped and all I could do was wait for them to notice I hadn’t returned. I swear it was a good 45 minutes later (thanks for noticing Dmitri) that I finally heard him calling.

I started yelling, “I’m in here, I can’t get out!”

He tried to open the door from his end without success so he went back to the beach to get the owner. Once he arrived, he started yelling in broken English for me to use the key.  I kept saying that there was no key, there never was!

The next thing I hear is this incredibly loud banging. They are literally breaking down the door to get me out. With splinters flying, it finally bursts open and there was Dmitri and the owner standing there looking none too pleased. I was so embarrassed I tried to make a joke but no one got it and all it did was add to my humiliation.

Once I was safely back at the table, again, it was time to go. I did not want to ride back with Dmitri, so when Christos offered to drive me back on his larger bike I readily agreed. When we started off I noticed that my left leg was getting really warm. I looked down and saw that his exhaust pipe was not covered so this bare piece of metal was getting hotter and hotter the farther we drove.

So there I sat, left leg akimbo, trying to keep from getting burned. On one particularly tight corner, Christos leaned heavily to the left and my leg and the exhaust pipe finally got a proper introduction. The pain was huge, I swear it seared a hole right through to the bone.

I spent the rest of the ride home in agony, but I was not about to let anyone see that, as far as I was concerned they had seen enough for one day. Now that I was home, I limped my way up to my room; legs and arms covered in burns and scratches, pee stains on my shorts, hair in a disarray and mascara running down my face. My friends were there to greet me and the first thing they said was, “Welcome back; how was your day in Paradise? We want to hear everything.”

I looked at them and then down at myself and said, “Oh you will, but I’m going to take a shower first!”

Mary Ellen Main grew up in Burlington and is now back there after living in Vancouver for 33 years, where she worked in the film industry and started writing after taking two online University English courses. She needed to be inspired to begin writing again after she moved back to Burlington and Brian’s course has done just that. She hopes to write a novel one day.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here,  including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Writing and Revising workshop, Saturday, Feb 10, in Guelph

Writing and Revising
Saturday, February 10, 2018
10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Harcourt United Church,  87 Dean Ave, Guelph, Ontario (Map here.)

If you want to refine your story-telling skills and cut the time you will need to spend editing, this workshop is for you. You'll learn how to step back from a manuscript in order to find – and fix – flaws in your plot, structure, characterization and style. You'll learn how to rethink, rework and rewrite so that your manuscript will live up to your vision.

Special Option: You’re invited to bring the first 500 – 1,000 words of one of your pieces of writing. You don’t need to bring anything, but if you do, three copies could be helpful.

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published. 

You can read reviews of Brian's courses and workshops here

Fee: 43.36 + 13% hst = 49 paid in advance by mail or Interac
or 46.90 + 13% hst = 53 if you wait to pay at the door

To reserve a spot now, email:

See Brian’s complete current schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New literary agent Rachel Horowitz seeks Middle Grade and YA fiction, plus memoirs with teen protagonist and some commercial women's fiction

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli,
represented by The Bent Agency
The Bent Agency
19 West 21st Street,
Brooklyn, NY 10010
21 Melliss Avenue
Kew, Richmond TW9 4BQ

Note: Don't ever miss a post on Quick Brown Fox. Fill in your email in the box to the right under my bio, and get each post delivered to your Inbox. ~Brian

Since Jenny Bent left Trident media in 2009, the Bent Agency has grown into a mid-size trans-Atlantic agency with ten agents. But it’s still a young agency, and most of the agents there are actively looking for authors. 

Rachel Horowitz just joined the team on November 1, 2017, and like all new agents, she needs authors. Rachel represents commercial children’s fiction and accessible literary children’s fiction and also select commercial women’s fiction or memoir with a teen protagonist.

Rachel has spent two decades in publishing most recently at as a children’s literary scout at Maria Campbell Associates and before that as Director of Rights and Co-Editions at Scholastic.  She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder and was a two-time fellow at the Breadloaf Writing Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont. She tweets here.

“I’m a cultural omnivore,” says Rachel, “and love to binge-watch a new show, devour magazines, see a new artist; I love literature that reflects what’s happening today in an entertaining way. Yet my first love is children’s books. I believe that children’s literature, more than any other genre, has the potential to influence and change lives for the better. I particularly admire the way Suzanne Collins, Philip Pullman, and JK Rowling celebrate the underdog and show children and adults that appearances can often be deceiving.

“For YA, I appreciate authors like Rainbow Rowell, Elizabeth Lockhart, and Teresa Toten for the way they touch on class and social dynamics in a smart, compelling way that’s also authentically teen.

“I’m looking for well-crafted middle-grade stories that have heart, humour, and adventure, and for YA: romance with an authentic voice and stories that reflect what teens are grappling with today – girl power, body image, family dynamics, race relations.

I’m also looking for memoirs and fiction that feature a teen protagonist and can be read by adults; The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and The Age of Miracles by Karen Thomas Walker are good examples. 

"Finally, I love to laugh out loud – if your story can mix pathos with humor, it it’s beautifully told and cinematic, and if I can think of five people who should read it right now – we could be a great team.

Include the title of your project in the subject line and paste the first ten pages of your book into the body of your email (no attachments).

Author Hannah Mary McKinnon
If you’re interested in and finding an agent or publisher (someday soon or down the road), don’t miss From the Horse’s Mouth ~ Strategies for Getting Published, with literary agent Stacey Donaghy, House of Anansi Press editor Douglas Richmond, and Simon & Schuster managing editor Patricia Ocampo on Saturday, Dec 2, 2017, at Ryerson University in Toronto (see here).

You’ll also be interested in our How to Get Published mini-conference, with literary agent Martha Webb, author Hannah Mary McKinnon, and HarperCollins editor Michelle Meade on Saturday, Nov 18,2017,  in Guelph (see here). This mini-conference is currently full, but to get on the waiting list, email  A space may open up!

Also, this fall, Brian will lead How to Build Your Story on Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 in Burlington with author Hannah Mary McKinnon (see here).

In the new year, Brian will lead Writing Great Characters on Saturday, January 27, in Mississauga (see here) and a Writing and Revising on Saturday, February 10, in Guelph (details to come), and How to Write a Bestseller with New York Times #1 bestselling author Kelley Armstrong on Saturday, March 24, in Caledon at the Bolton Library (see here).

Also in the new year, Brian will again offer a full range of weekly writing classes, from introductory to intensive:
Exploring Creative Writing, offered at two times:
Thursday mornings, Jan 25 – March 29, in Oakville (see here)
and Friday afternoons, Feb 2 – March 23, in  Toronto (see here).
Writing Personal Stories,  Thursday afternoons, Jan 25 – March 15 in Burlington (see here).
Intensive Creative Writing, offered at three times:
Tuesday afternoons, 12:30 – 2:45 p.m. Jan 16 – March 20, at Appleby United Church, in Burlington (see here)
Thursday evenings, 6:45 – 9:00 p.m., Jan 18 – March 22, at Appleby United Church in Burlington (see here)
and Friday mornings, 10:15 – 12:45, Jan 19 – March 23, Glenview Presbyterian Church in Toronto (see here)
See details of all six classes offered in the new year here.

For details or to reserve a spot in any workshop, retreat, or weekly course, email

Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

Hey, everyone.
On Wednesday afternoons, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., throughout the month of November, a whole warren of writers are gathering at the Burlington Central Library to bang out novels, short stories, memoirs – wild words of all sorts – and to swap advice, encouragement, and tales of the writing life. And you're invited. Come for one Wednesday or for all of them. And, yes, it’s absolutely free.
More details here~Brian

See Brian’s complete current schedule here,  including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Navigation tips: Always check out the labels underneath a post; they’ll lead you to various distinct collections of postings. Also, if you're searching for a literary agent who represents a particular type of book, check out this post.