WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 11


I wanted to start off by thanking everyone for the kind comments in the last round of voting. It really means a lot. :)

Back to business…another round is in the books and we now have a eighth WRiTER moving into the next phase of this little contest.  A job well done to both WRiTER's, but Silver will move on to the playoff’s!  His/her opponent, Perdida, will have his/her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout, and as always writers who have battled once are welcome to submit a different piece if they so wish. You can check my WRiTE CLUB 2012 results page for a breakdown of all the winners along with links to all of the writing samples.  

There were a couple comments this week regarding the “random” selection process, as a couple of the contestants who recently squared off against one another were extremely similar. I know most of those remarks were made in jest, but just to alleviate any fears let me explain how our combatants are chosen. When my wife receives a submission she saves a word file with the writing sample under the pen name of the author and then logs the entry into a spreadsheet, giving it a number at the same time.  I use random number generator app on my iPhone to select two numbers within the specified range, and those are the two files that are put in the ring together. I promise you, there is no hidden agenda here. Any similarities are purely coincidental.

Also, I ran across a couple more submissions with a word count greater than 500 words. Anything greater than 500 will not be selected, so please check what you sent in and if its above the limit, edit and re-submit.


Here are this week's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 497 words, please welcome to the ring……..Dragons R Us.



For a ghost, lying is like a verbal tango. For the length of the dance, they become lovers, concentrating only on their partners, ready to improvise. Swerve. Dip. Graceful to the max.

And then slide the knife home.

Marv, the recently deceased, had his moves down pat. His elegant lies interwove through my prodding like sensual dance steps.

But time was running out and this apparition was pissing me off.

Ghosts look as real to me as my living, breathing colleague, Thorne, a transplant from Australia. He stirred and uttered a low curse. Marv’s smile brightened.

“Smallest violin, Di,” Marv said rubbing his thumb and forefinger together. “Compel me, make promises. Come on, you can’t do nothing to me. Not anymore.”

He gestured. “Won’t that mess up your nail polish?”

I forced my hands to relax.

Marv laughed outright and gave an elaborate bow. His green and red plaid vest hugged his trim waist. “Oh, wow,” he deadpanned. “Next you’ll threaten me with ‘you’re a dead man’.”

Thorne gave in and snarled something unintelligible then glanced at a slim woman caught in the act of giving him the eye. With his blond hair and svelte physique, Thorne turned many a gal’s head. But this time, his face made her quicken her steps.

I leveled a stare at Thorne. “Postal.” I sang. “You’re lookin’ a little bit Crazy Town, buddy. Don’t  wanna attract attention here.” I flicked my hand at the nearby hamburger joint.

 “Ratbag piece of…”

I turned back to the ghost. “Geez, Marv. You’re a regular fashionista,” I said. “Look. Here’s the deal. No more games. She needs those papers.”

Marv’s grin dimmed. He picked at his ebony-black tie clip, biting his lower lip.

“My daughter you say.”

Finally. A chink in the armor.

I nodded. “Yes. And you kept her safe. They never found out about the connection.”

“They killed me.”

Marv’s suit had turned into a polo shirt and tan slacks, a style more like what he’d worn when he was alive. A logo, Rainaire Industries, decorated the left side of the shirt.

I patted his shoulder. “They didn’t get what they wanted though did they?”

He barked a short laugh. “For sure they didn’t. No papers. I wasn’t gonna sign the company over to ‘em. I mean, what the hell. It was my life, my work. And Mickey…he wants the easy way. Always did. Thought it was his. All that time, he thought I’d roll over, give in. Well, by George, he sure got the shock of his life when I croaked on him, right there in the office.” After looking down, he huffed irritably and changed to a black muscle shirt and tan shorts. “I always wanted to wear something like this,” Marv muttered.

“Quite a turn of events, huh, Marv? Mickey trying to shake you down in your office,” I said.

“You should’ve seen his face when the gun went off. I don’t know who was more surprised, him or me.”

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

And in the other corner, weighing in at 491 words, let me introduce to you ……..Avery Normandy.

The curtain goes up and I stare back at a hundred pairs of eyes. Men, women, children, the young, and the old occupy every seat under the red tent this evening. I hear people passing outside the draped entry muttering about the hung posters promoting my show. Some are uninterested and keep walking, and others are intrigued. It’s the curious ones that support my family and me. The roar of the roller coaster sounds in the distance, followed by screams as it falls back to the ground. Inside the tent, the lights dim and the hum of a long single note begins, cutting the noise around me. The note grows louder and is joined by others, slowly building into a haunting rhythm. That’s my cue. I steal my attention from the audience and focus on the dead things surrounding me.

Three round tables are in front of me, each a platform for my lifeless subjects. I pick up the butterfly from the first table, and hold up the motionless insect by one of its delicate blue wings, and a soft powder coats my fingers. A few of my guests fidget in their seats, others are still, but all appear expectant and eager to see the phenomenon they paid their five bucks to witness. I imagine the banner that drew them here flashing in their minds: Inside: The Boy Who Awakens The Dead.

The anticipation in the room grows, and I sense their need to satisfy their morbid curiosities intensify with the music. In the front row, a plump woman eyes me with amusement. Her dress has risen and settled on her thighs, presenting me with a mortifying view of her thick calves stuffed into flesh colored socks. Hair dyed the color of dead leaves surrounds her fat, wrinkleless face, while new birth of white continues to creep out of her scalp. I watch a smirk unfold on her lips; an expression I’ve become used to. To her right, a boy about eight or nine sits as still as a cactus in the desert. His mouth hangs open as if I already performed my “trick.” The woman holds one of his hands in both of hers on her lap. She kneads her fingers over his, her movements animating the purple and yellow flowers on her dress.

It occurs to me the boy is the perfect assistant for tonight’s performance. “Youngman, may I please ask for your assistance?”

His mouth closes, and he points to his own chest, and mouths the word, “Me?”

“Yes. You, in the red shirt.”

He looks at his shirt, and then up to the fat woman. His head bounces up and down in quick bursts. A plea spreads over his freckled face, as if his dream to be a freak’s assistant has finally come true, and she’s the only one standing in his way.

Wordlessly, she gives him permission to accept my invitation, and hesitantly releases his hand.

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

For you newcomers out there...if you wish to vote you first must sign up on the Linky List you’ll find at the end of the link provided on the badge below.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon Thursday.

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!



44 comments

  1. I'll have to go with Avery Normandy. Really enjoyed that piece. Great job!

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  2. Another round with two good submissions. I can see why someone might choose either one.

    But for me, my vote definitely goes to Avery Normandy for this bout.

    Dragons has much to like. The tone is fun, the premise is familiar but still interesting, and the story ahead looks to be promising, set in motion by story questions smoothly inserted. But I hesitated over some things. The ghosts lying like dancing tango is a nice image to open with, but for me it seemed distracting and confusing (Why do they lie? What do they gain from it? If Marv is only 'recently deceased', how did he get his moves 'down pat'? Seems like he might still be learning rather than an old hand already.). The snippet of interaction with Thorne is completely ungrounded and distracting. Where does he come from -- was he there all along? Who is he? Why is he snarling at a slim woman? And I had to re-read the 'flicked my hand at the nearby hamburger joint' a couple of times to get that (maybe?) Thorne is being sent into it by Di to get him away from Marv. And the 'Ratbag piece of...' dialogue line is unattributed and doesn't make sense -- is that Thorne taking? Or Marv? Or Di? But the story does pick up as we get the details of Marv's death and the missing papers, and I would probably keep on reading.

    Avery's piece was smooth and compelling from the get-go. While not overly derivative, this piece gives me a vibe of 'Something Wicked This Way Comes', or maybe a little like the stages of 'Stranger in a Strange Land' where Valentine is doing carnival tricks, and in my opinion, any writing that makes me think of Bradbury or Heinlein is damn good writing. The pace is not overly fast, but there is clearly a compelling tension being created. The mood is set well, and the descriptions are tantalizing. I might trim a few things here and there, but overall, this is one of my favorite pieces in the contest so far. Nice job!

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    1. Just to correct something: I re-read these entries, and in Dragon's piece, Thorne is clearly introduced as Di's living, breathing colleague. So he was there all along, and it's my fault I missed his introduction. So the exchange later does make more sense -- evidently Thorne is grumbling at Marv.

      I apologize to Dragon for making it a point in my earlier post -- Missing Thorne's intro was obviously my error in reading.

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  3. I'm gonna go with Avery Normandy's piece this morning. The bit about the new birth of white on the woman's scalp is about as visceral a line as I've ever read. I felt situated in the tent among the crowd -- and I dug the earnest kid with the freckles.

    Best of luck to all entries and have a great weekend, everyone.

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  4. I'm going to have to go with Avery as well. I found that I had too many questions with number one. I didn't understand a lot.

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  5. #2 might have been written better, but I liked #1's story better, so Dragons R Us gets my vote.

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  6. Avery Normandy. I was confused in Dragons'. Had to go back and reread too much to see who was talking and what they meant.

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  7. In previous rounds, I've been torn between two entries at times, but my choice is clear in this round. Definitely #2 Avery Normandy. Although both contenders had great description, I liked Avery's better - very deft and subtle. "Hair dyed the color of dead leaves surrounds her fat, wrinkleless face, while new birth of white continues to creep out of her scalp." Beautiful. I got a sense of The Prestige/The Illusionist flavor in this piece and would definitely keep reading.

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  8. My vote is for Avery. Very nice. My only suggestion is to give the reader just a bit more of a hint what the mc is doing before the curtain rises (to start with that line is a bit of a cliche). For instance, he could be tucking scarves up his sleeves or petting his bunny, able to see through the narrow part between the curtains that make it a bit stuffy on the stage... I was a few sentences in before I realized this is a magic show. That first paragraph was all observing the scenario, so adding a few actions up front would help establish your mc. Also, I was confused by the powder thing. Is it scales from the butterfly's wings (This damage happens even in live butterflies if you touch their wings)?

    Dragons - I pretty much had the same thoughts as Chris Fries above.

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  9. Dragons R Us gets my vote - the ghost idea is quite clever, and it seems to be handled in a unique way.

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  10. My vote this time around is for Avery Normandy. I enjoyed the description and imagery in that entry.

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  11. Kudos to both writers for such excellent writing. Lots to like here: Humor and snappy dialogue in the first, atmosphere and gorgeous description in the second.

    But I did get confused by the first piece, and wasn't sure if Thorne could see the ghost too. I'm thinking that the entire piece would be much stronger without Thorne.

    I wasn't at all confused about what was going on in the second piece. And I loved how the little kid looks down at his shirt to be sure it's red. Nice detail!

    So I'm voting for Avery Normandy.

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  12. Avery gets my vote. Great writing, well drawn characters and palpable atmosphere.

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  13. OK, this will be a weird vote. If I were about to board a plane and could select one book to take with me based on these two pieces, I'd pick Dragons R Us because it's an intriguing storyline I think I'd enjoy reading. But the snippet was a little confusing to start, I had to re-read it. So to vote JUST based on the words above I'd go with Avery Normandy.

    Avery's piece was well-written and I'm dying to know what happens with that little boy. But I'm not as intrigued to read the whole story as I'd be to read Dragon's.

    So my vote is with Avery because her snippet was very clean. Good job both of you!

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  14. I vote for Avery Normandy, as I loved the intrigue and found the writing unique and well-crafted. My critique would be to experiment a little with paragraph and sentence length--break things up a little, employ punctuation and paragraph breaks to enhance your rhythm. And while your descriptions are excellent, some seemed to detract from the pacing of the story. But great job overall!
    Dragons had a really interesting premise--it would be interesting to see where the story goes.
    Good luck to both of you!
    DL--your wife deserves an extra hug for all the hard work she did/is doing. Thank you both!

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  15. I vote for Avery. The premise is intriguing and the descriptions wonderful. Dragon's bit is snappy and fun and probably works great as part of a whole story, but for a stand-alone excerpt, there's too much information thrown in.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think I mean "information." I think I mean too many moving parts. Like, we're watching this interrogation between Marv & Di, and trying to piece together the ghost's story, but then at the same time we're being distracted by Thorne's actions.

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  16. Avery's entry was well written with excellent imagery, but I felt no connection to the characters. Dragon's entry got stronger as it went along, while the other stayed strong the whole time. As they seem pretty much balanced, I'm going with Dragon because his caught my interest.

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    Replies
    1. Please note that 1st person present is going to be tricky--a lot of the language you normally use is going to be handled differently. Just one example-- "It occurs to me the boy is the perfect assistant for tonight’s performance." In past tense or 3rd person this would be fine, since there's some distance. Since we're in the character's head, "It occurs to me" is too much. The character doesn't have time to think "Oh, this just occurred to me. I think I'll act on it." It's all immediate.

      Delete
  17. I had a hard time with this one! Really hard.

    But in the end I'm going to go with Avery.

    Awesome entries Both!

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  18. Hey, just a side-note DL:

    For whatever reason, this post doesn't show up in my blogger reader under your blog -- the latest post listed is still round 10. Not sure why...

    This may have something to do with why there are so few votes on this bout compared to the other ones.

    Sorry I can't provide a solution, but thought you might want to know...

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    Replies
    1. Follow-up: Maybe it's related, but when I click on the "Home" tab at the top of your blog, I get just this post. Not the usual page with multiple posts under it...

      Delete
  19. I'm going Avery this time. Good luck to both.

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  20. The living aligning with the dead concept in Dragons entry grabbed me big time, but I had to reread a few bits to stay with the story. I'm going to go with Avery this time.

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  21. I'll cast my vote for Avery Normandy.Although this was a lot of 'telling', it was compelling and gave me a real sense of presence in the scene.

    Dragons piece got better as it went along, but I was completely lost for about the first third or so. Having to reread and figure out exactly who is talking about what, is a major turn off for me. I think this could be a very interesting little excerpt, if that first part was cleaned up and made as clear as the ending.

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  22. Dragons R Us, as someone else noted, is probably a better long piece than the snippet we get here. As others have said, it just ends up being confusing. Otherwise this might have gotten my vote.

    Avery Normandy is more clear. Gets my vote.

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  23. I must go with Avery Normandy on this one.

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  24. My vote goes to Dragons R Us this week.

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  25. My vote is for Avery, as the first piece confused me, although I liked the story.

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  26. I love the voice and humor in the first piece, but the second is the one that really drew me in, and made me want to keep reading. Gotta vote for Avery.

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  27. Avery wins for me. The piece flew by so smoothly, and when it ended I was disappointed. I loved it all.

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  28. Avery Normandy. I have to know what happens next!!

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  29. Although Avery's piece was be-YOOO-tee-fully written, I had to vote for Dragons R Us because I want more of this story. It's sort of like "The Graveyard Book Meets Guy (or Gal) Noir & Associate." I'm very intrigued.

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