WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #5

Welcome back to WRiTE CLUB 2018. Today is our final contest of the week, the 5th of 15 bouts with new contestants ready to muscle their way into the next round.

For those of you who might have just stumbled in, let me give you a run-down of what is going on here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Thursday, April 26th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have BananaGram representing the Cozy Mystery genre.

Where was Gabby yesterday after the casino players came back to Wise Acres? There was something going on with Gabby and Gertie was bound to find out what. “More research,” she chuckled to herself as she went to meet with Maude and Clarice about the murder.

All they knew was that someone had been murdered at the casino the day before while the residents were on their monthly gambling outing and Ben, one of the residents of Wise Acres Independent Retirement Living Center, was arrested. They decided the best way to get information was to visit the scene of the crime: the casino.

“There won’t be another bus trip for a month, though. We can’t wait that long. Poor Ben will already be convicted by then.” Maude pointed out. “And, since none of us has a car, we can’t drive to the casino.”

“I know! We can take MyRide! My daughter uses MyRide all the time.” Clarice sat up and looked at the others.

“Do you know how MyRide works?” Gabby asked.

“No, but I have seen my daughter touch something on her cell phone, and a few minutes later a car drives up.”

“She must have an app on her phone for MyRide. Do any of you have apps on your phone?” Gertie took out her phone and looked at the screen. “I have no idea how we can get apps. Or even what apps are.” 

“I remember when phones were for calling people. Now you can take pictures, do email, order food, and apparently even order MyRide cars. At least that is what I have heard. I have never done any of those things.” Gabby flipped the lid open on her phone. “I’m not even sure if this phone will do those things.”

“Gabby, I told you to get a new smart phone when I got mine. That old flip phone won’t do anything but make phone calls.” Gertie tapped the screen on her phone, frowned at it, and then set it on the table. 

“Well, let’s figure out when we want to go and then figure out how we will get there.”

“Let’s go tomorrow. We can ask around and find out who was murdered.” Clarice liked going to the casino. Her favorite machines were the penny slots. She could play all day on $10 worth of pennies and not feel like she lost anything.

“What day is tomorrow? I have a chair yoga class on Friday at 2:00.”

“Tomorrow is Thursday, Maude. You won’t miss your chair yoga class. Does anyone else have any plans tomorrow?” Gertie picked her phone up again. “I think there is a calendar on here somewhere.”

“I think we all can go.” Gabby said, “Now, how will we get there?”

“I’ll call my daughter and ask her to order us an MyRide. She’s always telling me that I should get out more.” Clarice picked up her phone and punched in some numbers. 

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And in the near corner, we have Peter Pen representing the Science Fiction Romance genre.


The lightning strike hurt almost as much as getting dumped five minutes earlier.

Of course this happens to you, Dave, I thought as the bolt violated my body on its way into the ground. Only, I didn’t so much think the words as get the vague sense that I was the butt of some cosmic joke. There’s not much to think about when electricity is scrambling every anxious thought in your brain.

Speaking of anxious thoughts, as soon as I hit the sod my head began filling with them. Would Laurel come out to help me? Would she even look out her window and see my body face down, smoking on her front lawn in the rain? Part of me hoped she wouldn’t, because I’d have to tell her I’d been on her front porch crying for five minutes. Which is more embarrassing than getting struck by lightning in your ex’s yard.

Maybe she’d take care of me, feel sorry for dumping me? Or maybe now I was just like any other crispy twenty-five year old guy dying in front of her house. I mean, we dated since our senior year of college. Three years, two months, and sixteen days. That’s at least worth an ambulance call, right?

When we had dinner with Laurel’s parents last week, I’d overheard her dad saying I didn’t have a future. Guess the lightning proved him right.

Then a new anxious thought arose. Partly because my hair was standing on end with that feeling of static like I’d rubbed a balloon all over my body. But mostly because I found myself hovering six inches above the rain-soaked grass.

“What the…” I croaked. I didn’t curse. Couldn’t. Laurel always called me a boy scout for it, but my parents hated foul language.

Then another strange thing happened. My skin started glowing with a pale light. Faint, the way blue flames lick the yule log at Christmas. Shoot. Christmas. I won’t get to give Laurel the earrings I got for her. Then I realized how ridiculous I was to worry about that, what with hovering above the ground, glowing blue and all. Do I worry too much? Is that why Laurel broke up with me?

I attempted to force away the thought. Laurel couldn’t come out and find me crying again before I died. I tried to stifle the tears, and, luckily, only two thin laser beams escaped my eyes. Uh... I blinked away the beams and stared at singed grass. I need to stop hovering. I pushed at the ground to stand, but instead shot straight up fifty feet into the air. I hung there for a moment, thunder peeling around me as I stared down at Laurel’s house. Then it dawned on me.

I could fly.

Maybe it was the shock of the lightning bolt—I realize that’s a pun—or maybe I thought this was just a dream, but in that moment all I could think was, Wait till Laurel sees me now.

********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back next week with another five bouts.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #4

Welcome back to WRiTE CLUB 2018. Today is the 4th bout of 15 bouts with a fresh pair of contestants ready to muscle their way into the next round. For those of you who might have just stumbled in, let me give you a run-down of what is going on here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, April 25th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes & Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Windsong representing the Fairy Tale genre.


There was yet another girl in the castle. I didn’t bother with any attempt to look civilized. Dropping to all fours, I crept to the door. The fire roared, highlighting the decay of the hall. I had gotten rid of two girls with the dust alone. This girl seemed to be made of sterner stuff.
I shook out my fur, making myself into as much of a Beast as I could. This one would need a personal touch. My tail lashed as I prepared to pounce.
She was not a girl. I nearly bit my lip in shock. Damn fangs. I noticed the shoulders first, broad and strong inside the heavy brocade coat. Pure white stockings showcased well-formed calves. The coat flowed to cover the upper legs, but the hands were delicate, encased in a froth of lace. Chestnut hair, pulled back in a queue, glowed in the firelight.
I should’ve worn a coat. In fur, I wasn’t exposed, but neither was I decent.
The man turned as I entered. He was younger than I thought, beardless but beautiful. I wasn’t aware that I could blush.
“Why are you here?”
He didn’t flinch from my rumbling. Better and better. “I’m here for my sister.” He was spoiling for a fight.
I sighed. “Name?”
“Ivan.”
“No. Your sister.”
“You don’t know?”
I settled down near the fire.
“She’s been here two years. You’ve allowed her to send things home.”
My tail tapped on the floor. His eyes followed the movement.
“Rose,” he said, as if I was stupid.
“I’ve five Roses.”
Giggles drifted down the hall. They were flocking again.
He blinked, then sat abruptly. “Five?”
I beckoned with a claw. “Description?”
“Gold hair, curls. Black eyes. We call her Daisy.”
I nodded. “She will be fetched.”
He didn’t question how. He was perfect. Goddamn curse. Goddamn fairy. We waited. He shifted. I used to be good at this. Words. I needed words.
“We don’t get many of your kind here.” Not those words!
Ivan raised an eyebrow. “My...kind?”
“Men. Or, well, brothers, fathers. You know. They don’t make it past the gates.” I couldn’t hold his gaze.
“Were you expecting many?” At least he sounded amused.
“You have no idea.”
“How’d that happen?” He waved one elegant hand to indicate the gigglers.
I groaned. “It’s been a long curse.”
“And you’ve liked none. Of five.”
“Twenty, right now. Five Roses, nine Belles-”
A servant came to whisper in my ear. I frowned at Ivan. “I’ve one Rose called Daisy. She doesn’t have a brother.”
Something ugly crossed over Ivan’s face. An old hurt. “I’m Daisy’s brother.”
“She doesn’t claim you, if that is true.” My heart twisted for his pain, but I wouldn’t just give one of the girls away.
He fisted his hands inside the lace of his sleeves. “I was born Ivy.”
Ahh. That’s how he made it inside the doors. Perhaps the fairy wasn’t so stupid after all.
“Could I offer you a room, Ivan?”

********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have I.N. Summer representing the Flash Fiction genre.


Here is the chair where the old woman sits, beside the window with the streamers of fly paper hanging from the frame. When the wind blows in, the coils of sticky parchment swirl in the breeze, and the bluebottles twitch.

One of the flies struggles to escape, and the old woman crushes its head between her fingers. As she wipes its ooze off on her apron, she thinks about the camouflage scraps, the melted buttons, those bits and pieces disfigured by shrapnel and gunfire.

The flies will be getting to them now.

Here are the ruts that the legs of the chair have worn into the floorboards. They are almost like the ruts created by the old rocking horse with the ratty mane, the one she rides as she waits for the front door to open.

It never opens.


In the golden years, she was too heavy to ride the rocking horse, but fear has eaten away at her. She is almost as light as a child herself now.

When she rides the wooden horse, she feels close to the boy that is gone. She feels that if she just rocks fast enough, she will reach out and touch him.

She never does.

Here are the framed portraits on the wall. The boy smiles at her from each of them. He’s a soldier now, she proudly tells her friends.  He’s fighting overseas for his country.

What she doesn’t say is that Uncle Sam is a cannibal god, and war is his black mass. She does not speak of the weary days by the window, or how she has taken to sleeping on her son’s bed. Or how every day she stands in the front hall, praying that when she opens the door, there will not be two consolatory men, waiting.

But she knows there will be, and every day, she must rock the horse to dispel her clairvoyance.

She remembers that the boy kissed her on the cheek. How proud he was to wear his uniform. When he dies, will they bury him in it?

Never. She will never allow it.

She must ride the rocking horse to prevent it.

Here are the ashes in the fireplace and the charred flag—that flag they told her was draped over—no, she doesn’t dare think about it. Three rifle shells gleam from the soot, and the soot is like the food she must force down, dry and tasteless.

Here is the pile of letters overflowing from the mail slot. She gathers the envelopes without reading them, and places them on the counter, next to the bowl with the moldy fruit.

Here is the rocking horse, with its inbred smile and dead fish eyes. She strokes its frayed yarn mane. Its piebald spots are flaking off, but the paint inside its open mouth is red like blood. Maybe it has fed recently.

She sits down on the leather saddle and begins rocking.


Soon, her son will come home.

********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #3

Welcome back to WRiTE CLUB 2018. Today is our 3rd of 15 bouts with a fresh pair of contestants ready to muscle their way into the next round. For those of you who might have just stumbled in, let me give you a run-down of what is going on here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, April 24th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes & Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Stella Sterling representing the Suspense genre.


I sit with my butt planted in the sand and my back resting against the Joshua tree. People think I’m outta my gourd, coming all the way out here for a phone call. But that tired, dusty phone booth—eight miles from the nearest paved road and fifteen miles from the closest highway—it’s my lifeline.
               The phone rings. It’s a harsh, metallic sound. It’s out of place in this scorching stillness.
               I scramble into the booth. “Hello?”
               Static.
               “H—hello?!”      
               That rhythmic, beautiful sound.
               The call disconnects.
               Relief crashes over me in a welcome torrent. My chest heaves with elation. I return the phone to its cradle as if I might hurt her by performing the task carelessly.
               I wave goodbye to the woman who’s standing in a wide stance a few yards away, hands on her lower back. She tips her head in acknowledgement. I don’t know when her call will come, but I sure hope it’s before sundown. I hike back to my truck, which I was instructed to park at least half a mile away. Something about interference. I keep my windows down and drive for two hours, the smell of desert sage all around me. It’s dark out when I get home. As soon as I pull into the driveway, my wife yanks open the front door.
               “Jimmy…” she says, a look of tentative hope on her face.
               I don’t scold her for being on her feet, which is against doctor’s orders. For the first time, I know that everything’s gonna be alright. “I heard her, Annie,” I say, bringing my hand to my wife’s round belly. “I heard her heart beat.”
               My wife erupts into tears and shaky laughter.
               I hold her and press my lips to the crown of her head. “We won’t lose another, Annie. This time, everything’s gonna be different.”


********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have Richard Knight representing the Short Story/Fantasy genre.


The Various Wanderings of the Wondrous Wizard Rorr: The Ring
A slight breeze blew through the tower room.

“Sir,” Xed said, “might I reiterate that this is exceedingly dangerous?”

Rorr didn’t look up from the items in front of him. “Depends. Have you hit one thousand yet?”

“This would be warning nine hundred ninety-three, sir.” The thick book stood on the end of his worktable. It wobbled back, closer to the edge. Despite a lack of eyes, or a face, or any features to speak of, Xed looked worried.

Rorr didn’t blame him. One little slip up with such a powerful enchantment and he might well blow his entire tower to dust. Or another dimension. Or universe.

“Then you have seven more warnings to give in the next…” He glanced out the window. The sun would reach the midday apex any second. “…few seconds.”

“All right sir. I’ll save those in case you survive.” Xed lifted into the air and sailed across the room, landing on his back cover in the armchair by the fireplace with a soft thud.

Rorr raked the other bits and pieces he didn’t need off the table and onto the floor. He took a quick look around his tower. The huge single room looked as if a battle had been waged through it. In a way, one had.

Books older than the tower’s stones lay scattered everywhere. Bits of parchment covered the floor like stale snow. In the center of it all Rorr stood over his infusion table. He stared down at the six-pointed star he’d drawn on the flat white surface with an aeonic crystal. At each point sat a different item for the ritual. The top was an angel feather, light and pure. Given as a gift. To its right an air crystal plucked from the forehead of a griffin. Next a mote of fire. At the bottom sat a frozen black soul, the remains of a clumsy necromancer. Next a stone heart once belonging to the earth elemental who lived in his garden. Last, a kraken’s tear in a tiny vial. He’d almost drowned getting it.

In the center of the star sat a ring of solid omnium. The silver-white metal glinted as the sun moved into alignment with the hole in his roof overhead.

“Little bit more,” Rorr whispered, watching the beam of sunlight move onto the ring.

The beam hit the center of the table. A web of blue lines on the table lit up like lightning. Runes carved along the edge glowed so bright they stung his eyes.

“I’d step back if I were you sir!”

Rorr took a step back as energy swelled along the table’s crystal network. The swirling energy glowed brighter than a star. Rorr stepped back again. No such thing as too careful.

He reached into a pocket of his robes, took out his obsidian tinted goggles, and pulled them over his head. With a black tint over the world he could watch the enchanting process at work.
********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #2


***  UPDATE  ***
The genre for yesterdays Groovy Girl submission was mistakenly reported and is actually Upmarket Speculative.  This was corrected at 1:30. If any of the 29 people who voted prior to that time would like to change their vote based on this info please email us at WRITECLUB2018@GMAIL.COM

Welcome back to WRiTE CLUB 2018. Today we bring you a fresh pair of contestants ready to dazzle you with their prose. For those of you who might have just stumbled in, let me give you a run-down of what is going on here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Monday, April 23rd (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes & Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Jakkym representing the Adult Fantasy genre.


Ulmer dipped his bloody hands into the wash basin.  Red, oily tendrils spread into the water briefly before diluting into a pink clouds.  He made sure to go in all the way to the elbows.  Small specks of blood dotted the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt, much to his annoyance.  Meticulousness was a trait Ulmer prided himself in, it’s what made him a good surgeon.  Still, no matter what apron he wore or how careful he was, blood always got on his clothes.  It seemed that war was a dirty business for all parties involved.

The corpse on the wooden operating table next to him flinched as he was working some soap into his fingernails.  Ulmer paused a moment to regard the dead man from the corner of his eye.  Such things weren’t uncommon in the newly deceased, so the battlefield surgeon prudently resumed his task.  Many of his peers chastised his thoroughness, saying that he wasted too much time while people were dying on other tables.  He’d stopped trying to explain his theory about sanitation and infection rates long ago.

His hands abruptly began to shake as he reached for a nearby towel.  The tremors were becoming more frequent and he was afraid they would start impacting his abilities as a surgeon.  He wondered how long he could hide his weakness from his colleagues, who were looking for reasons beyond his odd personality to be rid of him.  Ulmer often wished he was more diplomatic so he wouldn’t have to rely so much on raw talent in order to succeed.

He was still brooding when he toweled off and turned around to find the corpse sitting up.  A high-pitched yelp escaped his mouth, and he nearly jumped out of his skin with fright.  There was no doubt in his mind that this man was dead —having had the misfortune of being impaled by a Varatu spear.  Thrown at nearly point-blank range, it had pierced not only his wooden shield, but the arm behind it, and the torso behind that.    Through and through, as they say.  When Ulmer first saw him lying on his side in the triage tent he thought someone must have been playing a trick on him.  The spear had missed every vital organ as far as he could tell, but had unfortunately severed an artery.  All Ulmer could do for the poor fellow was reassure him as he bled out.


The corpse spoke, first taking a breath that seemed for that purpose alone, “It always feels so heavy…”  It brought its hands up close to its face, inspecting them.  They were alone in the tent as Ulmer was always the last to leave for any meal (especially lunch), since he found it to be more bothersome than beneficial.  Other tables stood in neat rows, each one bearing a mangled body that had been beyond saving.  Despite all of this, the young surgeon stood in amazement —his curiosity as a physician outweighing his panic.

*******************************************************************************
And in the near corner, we have Quinxun representing the ??? genre.


Shrouded by the moonless night and his black robe, Zhou Haoran crouched on the slate-topped outer wall and watched Sun Jiechu -- his best friend, his sworn brother, the man he had promised to kill. Below, in the courtyard that unfolded between the men, two red paper lanterns cast ephemeral halos across the surface of the compound’s central pond. From opposite ends of the garden rose two sets of grand, double doors. Had Haoran come under any other circumstances, Jiechu would throw those doors open for him like welcoming arms. Now, they lay barred from within.
            On the far side of the house, all the windows to Jiechu's study were shut save one, as if an invitation to come in out of the summer heat and join him in the brightly lit room. Haoran could use his lightness skill to glide down from the wall, cross the manicured garden, and have a seat in the finely-crafted oak chair across from his white-haired friend, who would smile at him like the sun itself. The time that amassed between them would fall away, and the dawn would find the two still laughing over tea.
            During the decades since they'd last seen each other, Haoran had traversed the breadth of the Ming empire, slaying his martial brothers -- everyone who had studied Fierce Mantis Style. Jiechu had used that time to grow prosperous enough to own the manor he now sat in, but it was not grandiose -- Haoran could no more imagine Jiechu being ostentatious than he could imagine the sun rising in the west. But his old friend had paid attention to the details : the outer walls of manor’s two main halls were decorated with carved stone, and wooden lattice protected the interior paper windows. That kind of craftsmanship took money. Could Jiechu have gone soft?
            No, Haoran would be a fool to think Jiechu an easy kill. In the old days, Jiechu’s skill mathed their master's, Old Mantis. But in virtue and kindness, Haoran reflected, Jiechu had no equal. Murdering such a hero would be a transgression against the world, but a vow to one's deceased master held more power than any other bond, and Haoran had spent a lifetime fulfilling this promise. When Haoran had given his word to Old Mantis, he knew this day would come. He'd put it off too long. Now all that remained was to find a suitable opportunity.

            Below, a small servant girl, perhaps fifteen, approached Jiechu. Her black hair hung in a smooth braid down her back, and she had the ruddy cheeks and wide face of a Tibetan. Haoran watched the girl give Jiechu a comically deep bow. Jiechu grinned with pure joy, and his ease might have enabled Haoran to catch him off guard once the girl left, except that she had turned to face the courtyard, and her gaze was wandering up in Haoran's direction. 

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Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 – Bout #1

Welcome to the inaugural WRiTE CLUB 2018 bout. We’ve been building to this moment for five weeks and you know what’s exciting…that it was totally worth the wait! For those of you who might have just stumbled in, let me give you a run-down of what is going on here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, April 22nd (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes & Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Doctornoir representing the Crime Novel genre.

Raunch sat on the edge of the pool with one foot on the drowning man’s back and wondered if he had time for a cigarette. Turns out you really can drown someone in less than three feet of water­—if you knock him out first.

He thought it would be more difficult. Not the physical punch—he was as tough as they come, if he dared say so himself—but the emotional wallop. Despite an extensive criminal record for a variety of minor offenses, he’d never whacked anyone before, and he expected a rush of fear or horror or…something. Instead, he felt numb. The way he saw it, if the mob wanted this poor guy dead, he wasn’t a stellar citizen to begin with, and when you’re hungry and months behind on the rent, well, the truth is, money makes a great anesthetic.

The neighbor’s hound dog howled a warning. The scraggly brown hedge separating the two suburban houses rustled. The darkness obscured the source. Raunch tapped his cigarette back in the pack and pulled out his gun instead.

“Ow!” The hedge’s brittle branches snapped as a spandex-clad arm and leg broke through the six-foot tall barrier. The flailing continued until, with a final heave, a masked man hurtled onto the manicured lawn and rolled to a rest on his back.

“Jesus, Frank, you trying to wake up the whole neighborhood or what?” Raunch slipped the gun under his belt, covering it with the tail of his Phillies team jersey and removed his foot from the dead man’s back. He shook the water off his shoe. Dammit. He knew he should’ve worn boots. His sock was soaked. His sneaker squished when he walked toward Frank, ruining his attempt to look casual—and innocent. He leaned over Frank, who lay motionless with his eyes closed.

“Frank, buddy, you okay?”

Frank groaned and attempted to roll to his side, but his long cape snagged on a spindly branch, pinning him to the ground. He engaged in a brief tug of war, wrenching on the cape with both hands until the green fabric tore free. Exhausted from the effort and with his legs tangled in the tattered cape, he thrashed around like a bunny snared in a net until Raunch took pity on him and set him free.

“Dude, you’re embarrassing. Good thing there’s no one around to witness how pathetic you are.” 

Raunch grabbed Frank by the shoulders and hauled him to his feet.

Frank hunched over, gasping for breath. “I’m. Lambda. Man.” He lowered his voice, forcing Raunch to lean closer. “I told you not to use my real name when I’m on patrol.”

“Last I checked, ‘Lambda’ is your real name. Whatever. Are you okay, Lambda Man? Shrubbery appears to be your Kryptonite.”

Frank’s breathing slowed to normal. He straightened upright and gagged at the sight of the dead body bobbing in the shallow end of the pool. He was too late.

“My God, Raunch. What did you do?”
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And in the near corner, we have Groovy Girl representing the YA Upmarket Speculative genre.


My grandpa is a dick. I’m sorry about it, but he is.
Nana agrees with me, but she would say, “Keno, don’t be crude. Try another word.”
But she calls Grandpa a jackass – that’s her word for a dick. I haven’t called him a dick out loud. Someday I might, but for now I’m only crude in my head.
This week Grandpa’s problem is he thinks he owns the Mint, the house that used to be secret on Mint Lane. Nana filled it with food and tools and seed back before the sun zapped us with an electromagnetic pulse. This house saved our family and neighborhood. It helps us survive every day, now that the electricity, running water, cars, and phones are gone.
Grandpa’s been keeping neighbors out of the Mint, not letting them use tools to grow our food or get flour and yeast to bake everyone’s bread.
He’s got a damned shotgun and he means business.
He’s out there screaming at someone right now. Me and Uncle Eddie look at each other in the dining room at our house.
Uncle Eddie sighs. “Come on. We better go see what the hell he’s doing.”
I give my wife Alma a look, and she nods at me, rolling her eyes. I don’t know any other eighteen-year-old guys with a wife, but I’m sure glad I have Alma. She gets how I have to deal with Grandpa when he’s a dick. I want to kiss her, but Uncle Eddie is already halfway across the dead lawn toward the Mint house behind ours.
“I said get the fuck out of my yard!” Grandpa’s howling on the east side of the Mint, waving the muzzle of his shotgun at Silas Barnes. Silas is half-smiling, backing away with his hands up.
“It’s not your fucking yard, Dad!” Uncle Eddie yells as we slip through the hedge between our two backyards.
“Shut up, son. Get your pansy-ass out of here!”
Uncle Eddie is all muscly like a wrestler. If he says he’s going to whip your ass, you better run. Grandpa never used to say anything about Uncle Eddie being gay, but I guess now that he’s so angry he’s letting out whatever shit he’s been holding inside for freaking ever.
“Dad!” Mom hollers out of a Mint upstairs window. “Cut it out. Put the gun down!”
He’s like a brat kid gone out of control, my grandpa, except he’s got a gun and he’s meaner.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” he growls.
While Grandpa’s glaring at Mom in the window, Uncle Eddie motions for me to sneak around behind the old fart.
“Don’t try to get the gun, just pin down his arms,” Eddie whispers behind his hand.
Just as Grandpa turns back toward Silas, me and Uncle Eddie jump him from different sides, leaning our bodies into his arms so he can’t move them.
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Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


 
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