William Hammett, Independent Ghostwriter

Writing Sample ~ Fiction ~ Horror 2

Note: The following excerpt has been used with the permission of a former client and/or the publisher. Please note that I can adjust my prose style for a particular genre, and the following is not intended to represent my full range of styles or the number of genres I consider. For nonfiction, the level of complexity can be adjusted depending on client preference.

From the novel The Badlands by William Hammett
©2001, 2022 William Hammett
All Rights Reserved

She was the Queen of Jarvis Avenue, though no one outside of the warehouse district would have mistaken her for royalty. She was a light-skinned African in her fifties, tattered black and yellow veils trailing behind her as she pulled her rusty wagon along the deserted street. The other residents of the district simply called her Queen. No one in this area, in fact, used his or her real name. This was a no-man's land where even cop cruisers didn't patrol. No one here was a real person as far as society was concerned.


Society didn't exist within these borders, at least not in the conventional sense of the term. Society lay somewhere beyond the ten square blocks of dilapidated buildings and abandoned warehouses where signs announced their faded presences like weary, crucified ghosts: Columbian Coffee Imports; Riverside Wire and Cable; Louisiana Paper; Jarvis Street Welding. Society was what inhabitants of the area left behind when they took up residence in the alleys and weed-strewn lots and vacant office buildings.

The Badlands, as the area was known, was a place for broken souls and ruined lives, a place where the needle was very much alive, and dreams – how ludicrous! – were dead or dying.

Queen pulled her wagon slowly, wheels complaining, past St. Patrick's Cathedral, a sagging edifice that God himself had vacated many years before when local businesses began to relocate to suburban New Orleans. Irish immigrants erected the church in 1858 and worshipped in the cathedral for several decades while they dug an intricate canal system throughout New Orleans, thousands of workers dying of malaria and cholera because of the mosquito-infested swamps they worked in. St. Patrick's was said to have more than its fair share of ghosts seeking a wee nip of altar wine. By 1970, most of the church's stained glass windows were shattered, pigeons cooing peculiar hymns near the vaulted ceiling.

The wagon squeaked and clattered over the broken concrete sidewalk, knee-high weeds claiming the cracks, as Queen walked up Jarvis Avenue. Her old Red Flyer held the instruments of her divinations, for she was priestess and soothsayer and teller of tales. Her mother had been a practitioner of voodoo; her aunt had been a Catholic nun. Her father had been a magician, and his most outstanding trick was the way he disappeared every evening in order to buy cheap whiskey. When Queen was fifteen, he performed his greatest trick of all: he vanished when his wife announced that she was expecting their eighth child.

Queen hardly noticed her father's absence. The dreams started, the ones in which she found herself conversing with slaves who'd died on Louisiana plantations in the nineteenth century. The dream slaves instructed her in spiritual matters, told her stories, showed her how to become an eagle, a fox, a snake. They taught her how to mix powders and fashion amulets. They instructed her in the sexual arts, teaching her how two women could make each other pregnant by commingling their menstrual blood when making love.

Queen wandered away one day – no one in her large family noticed – in order to learn even greater secrets from Papa Devereaux, a voodoo priest whose ancestors came from Haiti. Papa was the one who showed her how to mimic death, to slow both heartbeat and respiration to produce the creature known as a zombie.

As an adult, she lived in a small apartment in the French Quarter, making her living by helping barren women to conceive. Even Caucasian women consulted her after spending thousands of dollars on fertility clinics. Queen's prices were more reasonable – a few dollars for rent and groceries – and her methods more successful, if somewhat unorthodox. Some of her potions had unexpected side-effects, however. One of her more desperate patients gave birth to a child who was robust and healthy, if not altogether human. There had been many inquiries from the staff of the neighborhood clinic, and even some of her friends began avoiding her.

Queen drifted to the Badlands, where she was free of nosy neighbors and knocks on the door at midnight by people seeking love potions, people who'd heard from a friend of a friend that she possessed special powers. She was free to live in what Papa Devereaux called “the circle,” which was a frame of mind, a way of life in which destiny and free will were allies rather than opposites.

She was in the circle on this very afternoon, as a matter of fact, when the wind stirred her hair. She stopped, sniffed. A cloud scudded across the sky before becoming impaled on a chain link fence that protected the empty New Orleans Transit Yard, once home to a hundred buses.

Something was most certainly in the air. Queen could always tell when something unusual was going to happen. She could tell when the Devil's Children were going to come out of hiding. She could sense when a tourist, dressed in khaki shorts, was going to accidentally stray into the Badlands while studying a map, a tourist who rarely made it back to his or her hotel.

But this wasn't a tourist she was sensing. This was something – someone – that was very unique.

She looked around at the battered neighborhood. No one else was on the street.

She bent over, taking a handful of polished stones from the Red Flyer. Breathing deeply, she knelt down on the sidewalk, passing the stones from one hand to the other, mumbling “tell me sky and tell me wind – tell me of salvation from the father's sin.”

She threw the stones onto the ground, where they tumbled in a random pattern.


Not to Queen. She drew back suddenly, her eyes wide with surprise or fascination or some combination of both.

"Come, little bird," she whispered, her voice low and full of anticipation, like the first autumn wind. "Come."

Queen's upper torso spiraled, her hands outstretched, her eyes closed in a trance. She hummed, circling some inner vision, some picture that could only be recognized by a soothsayer and teller of tales.

The cloud impaled on the chain link fence moved on, no longer a prisoner of the Badlands. Queen straightened up and smiled.

The little bird – the one she'd seen in her death dream years before – was finally coming into the circle.

A sound like thunder rumbled across the Badlands even though the sky was clear. No storm menaced the deserted streets, but the air was nevertheless electric as the evening air turned crimson and violet.

Another rumble echoed across Jarvis Avenue. Queen turned to the Columbian Coffee Imports warehouse. She wasn't sure what the sound was. It was too early in the month for the Devil's Children to make their appearance, although lately she'd seen a few of the filthy urchins lurking in shadows and doorways, and that was causing Queen some concern. Perhaps a beam inside the warehouse had become dislodged and fallen. Perhaps a large storage drum had rolled across the warehouse floor.


Queen resumed her journey, the Red Flyer's wheels singing a song understood only by the blue jays perched on the chain link fence.

 William Hammett

Dream big.

Write a book.



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