WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Special 4Way Cage Bout

If you showed up today expecting a quarter-final bout and are confused, then you should take some time and read my Sunday post HERE which will explain everything.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way...lets get going.  This special bout is between four writers...each in a separate corner...each with a new writing sample...and each given a special generic pen name for this one bout.  Your job is a little more complicated than a regular bout...vote for TWO samples that resonates with you the most.  It is not necessary to rank them in any order.

As always, we encourage mini-critiques of all pieces - but in a constructive way.

The voting for this special bout will remain open until Wednesday, July 8th at 6 PM CST.

Let's do this!

In the first corner I present to you Writer #1.


Pineapple-laced, baked to perfection ham assaults the deepest layers of nose. It careens through my head, triggering that annoying drooly effect. Like a dog about to get his Thanksgiving bone—that’s what I imagine I look like right now.

“Not yet,” William scolds, smacking my hungry fingers. “Coffee first.”

Brown liquid drizzles from the pot, into the most expensive looking mug I’ve ever laid eyes on. I swivel the tiny cup on the saucer, examining the fancy painted flowers and arc of the rim. This little thing could easily pay the light bill in my tiny apartment.

William lifts and blows at his steaming share of coffee. “Try without cream first. This is the best coffee in the world.”

I’ve visited my fair share of street corner coffee shops, always dumping enough sugar and cream to energize an entire army of preschoolers, but I’ll try it his way first. I sip at the hot energy. “Not bad.”

“Not bad?” William says, rolling his eyes. “This is the best in the world. You’ll never taste better coffee than this.”

Another drizzle runs down my throat. It’s smooth. It’s warm. But, coffee connoisseur, I am not. I’ll just take his word for it.

Turning to the sound of bare feet thumping expensive hardwood floors, I see Steph. She plops in a chair across from me. “Ham and coffee? Sounds good to me,” she says, reaching for a slice of the baked goodness.

I nudge the pot of coffee her direction. “Try the coffee,” I say, in my most refined voice, like I know what I’m talking about and this fancy house and uppity food has been part of my life since birth.

“It’s Kopi Luwak. The best in the world,” William informs Steph.

I’m still on the fence about that whole best in the world thing. But whatever. I’ll drink the coffee if it means I can tear into that ham when my cup goes empty.

Steph cocks an eyebrow at the pot. “Isn’t that the coffee that’s made with monkey poop?”

Hot liquid spews from my mouth, across the table, across the beautifully dressed ham. “Excuse me? Monkey poo?”

“Not really,” William says, taking another drink. “Monkeys eat the coffee beans then poo them out. It enhances the bean’s flavor.” He says this all matter-of-factly, like drinking animal feces shouldn’t bother me in the least.

“That’s just not natural, William. It’s weird,” Steph says, swiping at giggle induced tears streaming her face.

I reach for an ice-clanking glass of water. Gulp after gulp, I attempt to dilute the poo bacteria swimming in my belly. “Do your parents know about this?”

“Of course,” he says. “They pay good money for this coffee. A hundred and fifty a pound.”

Water shoots from my nose, drowning the perfectly folded napkin on my plate. A hundred dollars for monkey shit—beyond crazy. Ready to bolt from my temporary life of luxury, I point at the meat on the table. “Where’d that ham come from?”
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In the next corner I present to you Writer #2.




It was so hot out that me and Clemmy sat by the abandoned coal mine and helped ourselves to the dank, cool breeze.

Paul Whalen, a grown man on a bicycle, went zooming by us. He had a strange, hollow laugh. Nobody could make heads or tails out of anything he said.

“He’s a veteran, ain’t he?” Clemmy whispered.

“A veteran!”

“He talks like a veteran. That’s how all the veterans talk in the hospital where Dad lives. Paul talks to people nobody else can see. Just like Dad.”

“That doesn’t make him a veteran. A veteran is somebody who fought in World War II, stupid, like Dad. Any war. Not every man at the V.A. talks like Dad, men that got their legs blown off and stuff like that. Dad’s in the building for veterans who can’t think straight anymore.”

“Oh.” Clemmy slumped and grew silent. Finally he asked, “Do you think Mom’s in Heaven?”

Sure. Aunt Irene says so.”

Oooh, that means we can pray to her.

What for?”

For Dad to remember me when we go there tomorrow.”

When we got to the hospital, a village of brick buildings, we found Dad in a bad mood. He looked sloppy. His white shirt was stained with green relish and his shirt tail poked through his zipper. His head hung down like it was fastened on with a broken hinge.

We brought him out to the grounds. Aunt Irene spread a blanket near the bench where Dad had sat down. She peeled foil off a plate. “It’s cold roast beef with mustard. I remember visiting your house, how you’d have Lizzie on your lap, eating this off the same fork.”

Dad took the plate. “Lizzie,” he called. I skipped over and sat on his lap. How cozy I felt!

“And, Frank,” Aunt Irene said, “we brought a bat and baseball gloves if you want to play with all your kids. See? The big ones are already playing.”

“Nah. I don’t feel like it.”

Clemmy sprawled on the blanket and took a toy from his pocket, a New Year’s gadget he’d saved from when we lived with Mom and Dad. It was one of those curled-up paper things that pop straight out when you blow into the tube. Dad used to blow it in Clemmy’s face to make him giggle. Now Clemmy, blowing it over and over, squirmed toward Dad’s legs until it tapped his knee.

Dad paid no attention to him. He kept turning to the side, muttering things I couldn’t make out, nodding and smiling, like he was talking to an invisible man.

Clemmy started skipping round the bench, bellowing, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” a song Dad used to sing with him. His round face kept popping over our shoulders like a bouncing moon.

“Tell that boy to stop,” Dad said. “He’s gettin’ on my nerves.”

“That’s Clemmy, Dad.”

“Who?”

Clemmy.”

“Well, whoever he is, tell him to cut it out.”

I swallowed hard. “Clemmy, stop.”
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In the far corner I present to you Writer #3.





I stood with Cliff’s buddies and watched as the bonfire’s light made their faces look warmer. Their matching Marine haircuts made it hard to tell them apart on a moonless night, so I clung to Cliff’s side as much out of fear of grabbing the wrong guy as out of affection. Through my favorite sweater I felt Cliff’s fingers wander down my spine and hook in the waistband of my jeans.

I still hadn’t worked up the nerve to tell Cliff my plan to transfer colleges, but I had until Sunday night before I had to get back to campus. I had twenty-four hours to change our lives.

“What’s your major?” one guy asked and took a swig of his longneck.

“Chemistry,” I squeaked. Did I just become a soprano? I tried to clear my throat.

“Evans got himself a smart girl,” the guy laughed, and then they all laughed. I smiled to give the impression I was laughing, too.

Yeah, I was smart enough to have a full scholarship waiting for me at a new college only fifteen minutes from his base. I would transfer and we’d date like a real couple. We would be together like other people in love without my mother’s snooty alma mater and the USMC getting between us. We would go for walks after class or just hang out in my dorm room without watching the clock because we could do it again the next day. We would finally be together.

“I think Shelby just needs to ditch that girls’ school and go to State,” said another guy.

This was it! The introduction that I’d been too nervous to say was said for me. I wasn’t even sure which one said it, but at that moment I could’ve hugged him.

“I think so, too” I tried to say, but my words were lost under Cliff’s voice.

“She needs to stay at her fancy girls’ college and get a real education.” Cliff punctuated his statement with a swig of beer.

Cliff’s voice sounded too harsh, like there would be no changing his mind. I noticed a look pass between two of his friends like there was something more going on here.

I didn’t hear much after that. Male voices swirled around me in a confusion of background noise. The flickering firelight made Cliff’s face ghoulish, but I couldn’t look away. I tried my best to breathe, but air didn’t help. Nothing was going to help. I had my answer-- Cliff didn’t want me.

“Shelby?” The Marine standing next to Cliff said my name and laughed. “You still with us?”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” I smiled at Cliff’s buddies and tried to act normal.

“Sure you’re OK?” He wouldn’t let it go.

“I’ll survive.” I whispered, but he heard me.

He glared at Cliff, but Cliff didn’t look at him.

“Ready to go?” Cliff asked.

I nodded but couldn’t look away from the bonfire, and just like it, I couldn’t stop myself from crumbling to ashes.
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In the last corner I present to you Writer #4.



The tepid water lapped at his ankles, his feet slowly sinking in the hardened mud. Minnows darted around his toes, silver flashes and childhood memories. A thick haze clouded the forest of condos that now covered the distant side of the lake.

He sloshed his way back to shore, watching her as she bent down and picked up a rock. She smiled as she stood, tiny crow’s feet around her eyes, the wind gently tossing a wisp of blond hair across her face. Ancient hemlocks behind her dancing slowly in the breeze, approving of his lover.

“Watch this,” she said and cocked her arm back, a flat black rock between her thumb and fingers. The rock skimmed in the air over the lake, then hit the water at a perfect angle, propelling it onward, still in graceful flight. It skipped eight times before slipping under without a splash, ripples diffusing outward, their commotion the only blemish on the still surface.

She handed him a stone. It too was smooth and black. The sun had warmed it and it felt good in his hand. “Your turn.”

He clutched it and double pumped. “Stand back,” he said then released. The throw looked perfect and the rock skipped along the water two times but then belly-flopped with a splash.

Alison responded by skipping another stone, this one traveling further. He didn’t bother counting.

“Ten,” she said.

“Blind luck,” he replied. “And anyway, it was only nine.”

“Still beats you.” She kissed him gently. Her victory dance.

A kingfisher flew by, from one side of the cove to the other, blue with white patches on its wing and breast before it disappeared behind the trees.

“We’ve been doing this for a year,” he said, fully expecting her smile to fade. It didn’t.

“Yes. We have.”

He swallowed and glanced out over the lake again. “Maybe we can give it another year.” He didn’t look at her as he said it.

“Maybe.”

A cloud, small and sleek, raced by the sun, casting brief shadows across the water.

“Here, darling,” she said, stone in hand, stringing darling out, “be a sweetie and throw this rock for me. And then hand me a wipe so I can clean my hand.”

It was a terrible imitation of his wife, but that’s how she thought of her and he never bothered to counter it. He grasped the rock and threw it, like he had in little league, playing right field, chasing down the balls that streamed past him. It went far, and stirred up a large splash that didn’t last long before the water regained it calmness, now still, a mirror image of sky and trees on the water’s edge, hiding forever the fact that a rock had just been deposited on the bottom of the lake.
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Leave your vote (and a mini-critique) for TWO of the above samples below and help determine who moves forward into the quarter-finals beginning later this week.

And always remember -- this is WRiTE CLUB...where the audience gets clobbered!


WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Correcting A Possible Injustice

WRiTE CLUB fans,

Maybe it was unrealistic to believe that a simple contest that tries so hard to focus on writing -- not the writer -- could remain free from controversy and unfair manipulation, and I guess that mistake is on me. Or maybe picking up a sponsor and adding an awesome prize was the wrong way to go, because it may have inadvertently caused some people to blur their better judgment in pursuit of that prize. Whatever the reason, things have been happening during this seasons WRiTE CLUB that I cannot ignore and must do something to correct.

Irregularities have been brought to my attention in bouts involving Eleanor McInnes. On each of that writers bouts, the voting count nearly doubled. All of these extra votes were by people who didn't vote on any other bouts (where Eleanor was not competing). We went through and tallied them all, and there were usually over twice as many anonymous votes on Eleanors bouts as the other bouts. Plus there are people commenting on her posts that gave their names, so they weren't anonymous, but they only commented with their names (like "Emily" or "Brian") and no links to who they were. These people only commented on her bouts, and there were usually at least 10 people commenting on each of her posts that didn't comment on any others.

Also, many of these votes came at the last minute before voting closed, within a few minutes of each other. They often left no feedback for the other competing writer, and only posted praise for Eleanor. To have that many votes posted within minutes really made us question things.
With all that said, although there is no smoking gun, there is a strong suspicion that somebody has been orchestrating a specific outcome behind the scenes. I'm not saying Eleanor is behind this, because it could just as easily be a misguided fan, but with the number of people who have expressed concern in the comments section about her, there are those that feel disqualification is warranted. But as I've stated, there is no definitive proof.  Instead, I have different solution.

On Monday I will be posting a four-way bout between Elanor McInnes and her previous opponents -- Dean Aye, Blackdamp, and MissWriteNow. All four pieces will be labeled using different pen names assigned by me (just for this bout). The top two vote getters will move into the quarter-final round.  Voting for that very special bout will close on Wednesday, July 8th at 6PM.  Here's the real kicker...I am removing the anonymous voting option from here on out.  If you want to vote, register with Blogger, Google+ or Wordpress, but please vote for the WRITING and not the WRITER!

And on another related note, we always welcome and encourage mini-critiques when placing your votes here on WRiTE CLUB, but it should always be done in a positive way. Mean-spirited remarks that are clearly intended to tear down a writers work instead of offering constructive criticism have no place here and in the future they will be deleted (along with the vote). This is a friendly competition and I will do what's necessary to keep it that way.

I'm sorry it has come to this, but I guess growing pains are inevitable with anything successful.

DL

WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Playoff Round Bout #5


WRiTE CLUB is a writing community sensation sponsored by the DFWWriters Conference that is loosely based on the popular movie Fight Club.  There are numerous versions of this concept floating around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  This unique approach embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.


We've narrowed the field down to ten and we're continuing on with the play-off rounds – which will continue to come at a rapid fire pace, Mon-Fri.  The voting for all five bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday, July 5th.  Your task remains simple…read the submission from each WRiTER carefully and leave your vote for the sample that resonates with you the most.  If you haven’t already done so in the previous rounds, offer some critique if you have time.  Anyone reading this can vote, so blog/tweet/facebook/text/smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun.  Vote on as many bouts as you can get around to.  Whether that is one bout, or all five, how much you participate is up to you. 

Here’s something else to keep in mind for this round...every vote counts. That’s because the contestant who doesn't win their bout…but garners the most votes amongst all of the other losers…will become a wildcard winner and still advance to the quarterfinals. 

The winners will be posted on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard late in the afternoon on July 5th and then the quarterfinals will kick off the following Monday, July 6th, again with all new 500 word submissions from the six advancing contestants.

Good luck to all of the WRiTER’s!

And now…..

In this corner, representing the YA contemporary genre with 500 words, please welcome.....Commando Grace




“Most people wait until they’re dying to do this crap.” My toes curl over the dock’s edge. Ive done many stupid things, for money and pride. This is different. I don’t deserve this. “You and your stupid bucket list.”

Molly shrugs, and I clutch the towel tighter around my shoulders. Forty degrees is colder than it sounds.

“Where’s your sense of adventure?” Molly’s elation scares and thrills me all at once.

“You sure this qualifies as a polar plunge? It’s not even freezing.” I’ll do it—kindred spirits do these things for each other—but I’d rather paint our toenails or something.

“Oh, it counts.” Molly drops the towel from her bare shoulders. “Being naked gives us bonus points. Come on!”

She grabs my hand and counts to three. My knees buckle and straighten, propelling me from the safety of the dock. The water assaults my skin like a million tiny ice picks scraping the flesh from my bones. There’s no way Molly can ever repay me. I come up sputtering, frigid water streaming down my face.

“Molly Braxton! You. Owe. Me.”

She’s laughing, treading water in a moonlit ribbon of lake. She looks toward shore, and her smile vanishes. With a tiny splash, Molly disappears under the surface.

“Hey, who’s there?”

It’s not enough to embarrass me on the soccer field. Trevor Langston has to show up when I’m naked in freezing water. I wish my brothers’ lake monster stories were true. If ever a snaggletoothed kraken inhabited these waters, let it devour me now.

“Grace? Grace, is that you?” He saunters down the dock as if he owns the lake and half of Wakefield.

Hiding under the dock, Molly shakes her head, a finger to her lips. Her heart’s oblivious captain crouches above her and peers straight at me with that arrogant smile. “Grace Welch, what on earth are you doing?”

I glance down and pray the water’s as dark from his angle as from mine. Id cover myself, but I have to keep moving. “Isnt it obvious? I’m taking my evening swim. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to finish.”

He stands and surveys the lake.

“Actually…” His voice is muffled as he pulls the sweatshirt over his head, “I’d enjoy a swim myself.”

I ought to let him freeze in this stupid lake, but Molly looks like she’s been sentenced to the guillotine. My head may roll, but I’ll save her neck. Kindred spirits and all. I swim to the dock and pull myself up the ladder. Coming out, the air’s as brutal as the water was going in.

Eyes averted, Trevor hands me my towel. “You’ve got balls, Soccer Chick.”

“You might’ve grown a pair, too, if you had six brothers.”

“Ouch. Well played.” He stoops to pick up a second towel, Molly’s towel. When he looks at me again, his eyes are smiling like he’s the cleverest boy on earth. “So, um, it’s pretty cold tonight. How long do you think Molly will last?”
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And in the other corner, representing the adult contemporary genre with 488 words, let me introduce to you………. Robin Hood




Never color inside the lines, and always take two steps at a time. It was Vanessa's mantra. A promise to hold on to her youth that first fall away at college when autumn stained the leaves piercing shades of orange and red.
           
She lifted her face to the rising sun and teetered on the four-inch concrete edging along the path to class, proving to herself she hadn't and wouldn't lose her balance. She'd be forever young. If anyone doubted it, her audacious laughter ricocheted between the stately stone buildings as proof.
           
Throwing caution to the wind before she went to bed, very late sometimes, Vanessa decided not to set her alarm. What's a skipped class or two?
           
In the late, hazy morning, she bolted upright, threw on rumpled clothes from a pile on the floor and ran to class with her coat half on, not caring about brushing out her mussed-up blond curls. She was untethered for the first time in her life. Free to be whomever she wanted to be. She didn't really know, but the not knowing didn't frighten her. Even if it should have.

Yesterday, she wanted to be a mother...someday. The kind of mother who would strive to be nothing like her own.
           
Today, Vanessa wants to save the world of its misfortune and injustice, stow away with a humanitarian regime bent on ridding the earth of its squalor one speck at a time.
           
Tomorrow? Perhaps she'll go the route of an astronaut, the very first—not just the first woman but the first person ever—to land on Mars.
           
But that night, everything changed as she clip-clopped down a lonely alley, short-cutting to her dorm. A faceless man yanked her arm and quickly stripped her youth away in a nightmarish alcove where no one could hear her muffled gasps. A hot, sticky, alcohol-ed body pressed upon her his impertinence. With his will against hers, his muscles against her, she was powerless, voiceless. Robbed and shaken, she stumbled to her dorm, curled beneath her comforter and went to sleep, forever.
           
Now, Vanessa's mantra turned in on itself. Color in the lines, every single time, and maybe that'll make it all better, pay for what happened. Take the steps, one at a time, slowly. Then maybe they won't notice you. Won't come for you again. Vanessa's heart emptied itself. Her soul faded away. She walked in the middle of the path and didn't notice the lacy snow or the spring buds as they came and went. Too soon, she felt old and very tired.
           
After following a constrictive, direct path in life, she ended up in a small loft apartment overlooking a peaceful no-name river in a peaceful no-name town with a not-so-peaceful dog that did, indeed, have a name. Skittles. His dappled coat reminded Vanessa of the dappled, dying leaves that dreadful winter so long ago...and of lifting her face to the sun. She'd nearly forgotten...
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Enjoying two talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

This is WRiTE CLUB – the contest where the audience gets clobbered!
 


 
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