WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 16



The winners room is becoming a bit crowded as we welcome yet another contestant... Dinah Annella. Our round 13 winner will be moving on to the play-off rounds and her opponent, Tangled Words, will have his/her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout. Make sure you check my WRiTE CLUB 2012 results page for a breakdown of all the winners, along with links to all of the writing samples.  

Reminder: I'm changing this week's because I'm taking part in Justine Dell's book tour on Friday, so the third contest this week will go up on tomorrow instead of Friday.

This is the where I attempt to personalize the post...so they don't all run together...and today I'm going to express an opinion.  I've previously made mention of submissions that were over the 500 word limit and recommended that everybody check their entry to address this.  My wife has heard from several of you, but we haven't heard from the two writers in question. That makes me wonder, are the people who've submitted samples even reading this blog? More importantly, are they voting?  How many of the people who have sent in submissions are actually voting? This is where my opinion comes in. If you enter a contest for the chance to have people read your work, vote for one or the other, and offer some pretty insightful opinions about your piece, then it's your obligation to vote for as many of the other contests as you can. Based upon the number of WRiTE CLUB submissions we're received...and the number of votes we've been seeing recently...I can say that is definitely not happening.  That's my story...and I'm sticking to it.

Ding.....Ding....Ding



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

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 491 words, please welcome to the ring……..Sedney of the Castonod



It’s not like the other. Well… it holds bodies. But not those fondly remembered.

It started as a single grave, after we learned barkers could die… sort of. Garret killed the first one. He’s always been quite the brute. Ma said any boy who sees barkers eat his parents would be that way.

We were beyond the wall collecting dogbane for rope when we found the barker. It must have fallen over a steep ledge. It was a bloody mess, wedged between sharp stones, legs broken. It didn’t bark when it saw us. It didn’t try to bite either. It just stared with black eyes. Never made a sound. Garret didn’t care. God, he was ruthless. He went to it with his machete. Its wide eyes held him as he hacked at it again and again. He laughed when I covered my ears and turned away.

There wasn’t much left when he finally stopped. We collected it in a sack to show off in town. We’d never seen one so still… so convincingly dead. Even now, its grimy skin wouldn’t take a flame so we buried it. Just inside the wall.

That night our blunder became obvious. It wasn’t the first time I’d awoken to screams. A trail of thick black blood connected the ruptured grave to Garret’s window. The barker must’ve remembered what he’d done to it. It left him in a similar way.

Dharman says he heard it barking just before it burst from the ground … but he crawls under the cherope tree to eat its fruit and stare, and argue with shadows.

The grave wasn’t deep enough... They say.

A mistake we made only once.

We grew angry… and bold. Regular parties now hunt barkers as they once hunted us. One grave has become hundreds. They now outnumber houses and so the cemetery creeps ever closer to my window, one silent stone at a time. I shouldn’t complain.

With each new below is one less above…

No one ventures inside the cemetery. A stone wall wouldn’t deter so effectively. Even if someone were willing to up keep the yard, it isn’t allowed.

The more between them and us, the better…

That’s why the headstones lay flat, like great, cold blankets, rather than stand tall to be sought out and gazed upon.

This morning Dharman was hysterical. He wailed and shook and wouldn’t approach the cemetery even for precious cherope.

“They all bark! We’re doomed!”

Like the others I scoffed until, drawing the shortest straw, I was sent to inspect.

I’d never been into the cemetery and now, stealing through bristly grass under gnarled stone sentinels, my hand couldn’t grip my machete’s pommel tightly enough. The stones had withered and succumbed to grey lichen and were ground away by thorny vines. I arrived at the cemetery’s heart, from whence grew a blackened, impassable tangle. I sighed, as going farther was impossible. Then I heard it. Faint at first, but now inescapable. Barking. From under each stone.

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

And in the other corner, weighing in at 485 words, let me introduce to you ……..Lucky McGee.



Just my luck. As someone who’d escape a group of marauding zombies only to be eaten by a wild dog, I should have expected this. Only for me would a shortcut end up in a dead end with a mugger in front of me and only a brick wall behind. Typical.

“The mobile and your money.” His voice snarled, as if he could scare me out of my belongings with the very vibrations of his growl.

The knife he held was more likely to do that.

“Okay. Hold on.” I fumbled in my bag trying to find my mobile, but my hands shook too much. I tossed aside a lipstick, comb and mirror, littering them in front of me like sweet wrappers.

“Hurry up.” He closed in, the smell of smoke and sweat making me cough. He motioned with the knife, stabbing toward my bag. At least, I hoped the aim was toward my bag and not my body.

“Trying,” I said. My throat dried, which prevented me telling him waving the knife didn’t help. The main road was too far away for anyone to hear me. A guy about my age idled on the corner, staring at his own phone as if it contained the secrets of the universe. I willed him to turn toward the alley. Instead he tucked his phone away and stared in the opposite direction, taunting me with his not looking.

“Now.” The mugger grinned, the scar on his chin stretching. Without the scar he was nondescript, with even features and dirty brown hair. The scar would eventually get him caught.

I finally drew my mobile out, trembling so much I nearly dropped it. I willed something to distract him. A comet to fall out of the sky. A rat to dart out and frighten us. The guy to turn and come to my aid.

The knife gleamed in the rays of sun glinting through the tall buildings overhead. At the same time a crash from behind the mugger made him glance away.

I darted past, jumping over the overturned garbage bin spilling its guts on the floor. I thanked whatever made the bin fall over and provide my escape. Maybe luck was on my side.

I belted toward the guy. I went to yell at him, to call out.

A stone took me down, dashing my knees and hands hard on the concrete. I let go of my mobile in the process, aware of it sailing away.

“Hey!” A new voice shouted.

I looked up in time to see the mugger make his escape. My rescuer jogged toward me, not stopping the mugger. As he neared I saw he held my phone. How on earth was that possible? He had been miles away.

“You okay?” The man asked, taking my arm to help me up. “This yours?”

“Yes.” I steadied myself against his strong grip. “’Good catch.”

“Just lucky.” 

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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!


 

49 comments

  1. Oooh, this is a tough one. Both pieces are well-written and suspenseful, with a couple of rough spots. In the second selection, I am curious about the guy at the end of the alley who didn't help, then turned up in time to catch a cell phone that should've been too far away.

    However, I keep thinking back to the things in the cemetery. Seems like the graves aren't deep enough after all. In spite of the confusing first line (unreferenced pronoun "it" -- Maybe it should have been: This cemetery is not like the other one.) I am voting for Sedney and the cemetery and the barkers.

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  2. I think these are both fairly close in writing skill, so it's a hard choice. I think I'll have to go with Lucky.

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  3. Okay, I have to be totally honest. Both of these were far too grisly for me. I couldn't make it through the opening sentences of either. This is extremely subjective but I've made it a point to steer clear of certain images and ideas and I'm way too set in my ways to start changing, now.

    Sincerely, though, best of luck to both entrants!

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  4. Good job to both writers but I'm voting for Sedney of the Castonod today. It had me wishing there was more to read.

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  5. I admit. I like this match up. Zombie mention for zombie mention. One grisly and ominous, the other active. It is the active one that kept me moving and wanting to read, wanting more. Perhaps it was the use of dialogue and the narrative voice. But I choose Lucky McGhee for this round.

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  6. This Round is the worst for having to choose. I am, however, going with Sedney of the Castonod. I had to re-read both entries to make my decision, but Sedney's writing was a tad more seamless than Lucky's in terms of the flow. Both are gifted wordsmiths, so I'm betting this round will be tight!

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  7. This round is more difficult, as both are well written. I really liked the atmosphere of the first one. Had a real sense of dread. My vote goes to Sedney.

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  8. Tough call on this one. I like Lucky McGhee better due to voice.

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  9. My vote is for Sedney. I enjoyed both pieces very much, and this was a difficult choice for me. I chose Sedney because I'm intrigued by the Barkers and would love to read more.

    Lucky's piece was also very intriguing, but I did have a lot of questions at the end of the piece. Was the man who caught the cell phone the same man she saw at the end of the alley? I think that scene can be more fully developed. It seemed rushed.

    Very exciting stories today, though. Good luck to you both.

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  10. Oh, man~ tough one this week (and I apologize for not tuning in for each of the fights! I didn't enter, but I really enjoy commenting~ I haven't gotten as much blogging time in lately and I've missed a few, so sorry!). I've gotta go with number 1, Sedney, for pure creep factor and the fact that I'm still thinking about it. Pretty gross stuff, but effective :)

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  11. Wow, this round was hard as both entries were quite good.
    I do like the voice in both but I feel Sedney's voice to show a little more confidence and finesse.

    I think also that Lucky could maybe work on making the actual details in the story a little more unique and possibly meaningful; for example, the items in the purse only tell us that the mc is a women.
    What else can be in there that tells us more about her?
    A gym pass?
    A Comic con ticket?
    A bracelet made out of toe bones by her zombie daughter for her birthday?
    All right, maybe not the last one.
    But there are many opportunities in this entry to get a lot more across about the mc and her world...and make sure the details you do give aren't just the first ones you think of but are the best details for the scene. The "scar" on the mugger's face, the "stone" which knocks the MC down and others details sometimes feel a little generic or cliche.

    Now that all said, this isn't bad writing at all. I just feel with a little tweaking the story can stand out better.

    Good job, both of you!

    I'm voting for Sedney.

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  12. Ooh, this is tough, but I like the voice of the second entry a little more. I'm voting for Lucky!

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  13. I agree. I like both and I'm a big fan of Zombies - as long as they're no where near me! But I have to go with Sedney. I got a way creepier feel from reading his/her entry. Loved it.

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  14. This is a really hard one, but the first one kept my attention, left me wanting more, both before and after the entry. I've got to go with Sedney - barely.

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  15. I agree with you that if people are entering, they should be voting too (and promoting!) It's strange that they wouldn't even be reading your blog though ... My vote this time goes to Lucky. The first one was too ... yucky... for me (the writing style was fine, it was the subject).

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  16. My vote goes to Sedney. I was drawn in. I like being thrown in to a situation and not being let go. This did that. I want to know more.

    The second one was good, but lacked a bit of suspense for me. It was well written...I simply preferred the first one.

    Tough choice this round!

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  17. A tough one and finally some well written material. Sedney by a dog's whisker.

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  18. Love both of these stories, but voting Sedney because it really grabbed me, great writing!

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  19. Two very strong entries. Interesting that they're both "zombie" entries in some fashion.

    Lucky was too short on detail for me to really see the situation. Sedney caught me right from the beginning.

    I vote for Sedney.

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  20. Both are awesome, but my vote goes to Sedney.

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  21. Those were both excellent, and I can't pick based on writing style or my enjoyment as those are equal for me personally. Therefore, I'm going to have to nitpick

    In the first piece, the sentence "That’s why the headstones lay flat" should read "That’s why the headstones lie flat" since this is in present tense.

    I'm voting for Lucky McGee simply because I didn't find anything to nitpick in his/her piece.

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  22. Wow, another tough choice, but I'm going with the first entry. There's a certain King-Koontz kinda ick factor there I can't resist. My vote goes to Sedney.

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  23. My vote's for Sedney. Wonderful, atmospheric writing. I want to keep reading about the barkers!

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  24. OK! Wow. These are both really good but in very different ways, which makes voting HARD! Argh.

    I have to say, I kept having to reread the first one to understand what was going on. I wonder if there's any way to add clarity to the piece. The strange names for people combined w/"barkers" (are they werewolves? something else? what?) was a bit confusing. I kept trying to figure out the rules of this world, which were being laid out nicely. Great tension, great atmosphere. I was totally freaked out by the end of the passage...

    As for #2, I've been mugged before except my guy had a gun instead of a knife, so I can say, this was a very realistic way of how it can go down! Good work! The one thing that confused me slightly was the part about the rescuer being miles away. Huh? But that's pretty minor.

    Like I said, both very well written, but I'll vote for #2 just b/c I was able to follow it with more ease.

    Best to both of you! <3

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  25. Hey DL, I can tell you that I sent in a sub, and I've voted in every bout so far. But even if I hadn't submitted, I'd STILL vote in every bout. I know how much work you and your wife have put in to this contest and I want to support you, but also I want to support the writers who re willing to throw their work out there for the competition. I sometimes worry I get a little too critical in my responses, but I hope that my feedback is always taken in the spirit it's intended: as a struggling new writer myself, sometimes the best things I can hear aren't just a reflex, "it's great," but detailed feedback about what works and what doesn't -- how else can I grow as a writer?

    But I'm not sure why voting has dropped off -- personally, I think this is an awesome and fun contest. I'm here for the long haul, my friend!

    So for today's bout:

    Sedney of the Castonod offers some gripping imagery and tension, especially in the final paragraph. There's a little too much baskstory leading up to it, but there are parts within it which have strong emotional impact, so at least it's not just a dry info-dump. The stroy questions behind the zombie barkers are compelling and overall, I would keep reading. Actually, I think 'barkers' almost seems a little too mild a term -- it's easy to dismiss them as just dogs, but it's clear their bite is much worse than their bark. Also the opening sentence lacks impact because it's so vague -- in the beginning I have no concept what "it' or 'the other' are, so there's nothing to grab a hold of in that all-important first sentence of the story.

    Lucky McGee also has a compelling scene, and I like the symmetry between the "Just my luck" opening sentence and the "Just lucky" of the closing one. But I really have to wonder about the whole 'escaped zombies to be eaten by a wild dog' sentence. It seems to have absolutely no bearing on the story and so it comes across as a really distracting throwaway sentence. This seems to be a scene about a sacred MC who's confronted by a mugger -- where do the zombies or a wild dog or having been eaten fit in? I'd expect a returned-from-being-eaten protag, who's gone through such a radical ordeal, to have a much different persona than nervous woman with a cell-phone and a handbag who is scared by a mugger with a knife.

    For me, it's a tough choice between the story about zombie-dogs and the one with the apparently-irrelevant-sentence-about-zombies-and-a-dog, but I think I'll have to go with Sedney.

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  26. I was pretty sure I voted earlier today, yet I cannot find my entry listed. So, if I show up twice, please forgive me!

    My vote goes to Lucky McGee.

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  27. My vote goes to Sedney of the Castonod. I don't usually read zombie/gory/horror type stuff, but the suspense of that scene pulled me in and forced me to keep reading. And then, when I got to, "Barking. From under each stone." I really wanted to read more.

    I liked reading Lucky McGee's entry, but like others here, I was wondering when the zombie bit would show up again, or have some more explanation, but it never did, and that was enough to pull me out of the scene. If the first two sentences were cut, that distraction would be gone, and the bit of mystery surrounding the man who became the rescuer would compel me to read further.

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  28. Got to go with Sedney. Just because it gave me more of a "no, don't stop yet" reaction.

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  29. I'm going with Sedney on this one. I love that the zombies bark and appear to have more intelligence than the average zombie who just wanders around, seemingly aimlessly, looking for people to kill. It seems first one "tricked" Garret, and then the others all bided their time, too!

    With Lucky's piece I have to confess the part about the dog threw me. She wasn't really eaten by a wild dog, or she wouldn't be standing there, right? Also there were one or two other phrases that weren't quite right. "I went to yell at him" for example, when the writer probably meant something like, "I drew a breath to yell at him" or even "I was about to yell". A few easy fixes could really polish the piece. I do think Lucky did a great job capturing the emotion of the woman and making me feel almost like I was the one getting mugged! Good job there.

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  30. Tough!!!

    In #1, I loved the tone and the atmosphere - but I didn't feel as if I knew the character very well. In #2, I really liked the voice and action, but found it a bit jumpy in places and I had to re-read a bit.

    I enjoyed both but my vote will go to #1

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  31. That's sad that there are so many not reading and voting :(
    I have to go with Lucky on this one. I personally didn't like the style on the first submission but it's obviously just me. Just preference :)

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  32. Both intriguing and well-written. This doesn't get any easier, does it?

    I'll have to go with Sedney. Although I admit it was confusing at first, I found the writing more powerful overall.

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  33. My vote is for Sedney. I liked the detail and slightly more literary feel, though both entries were great examples of well-done pacing and promising plot.
    Thanks, writers, for a fun read this week--even if you did make it hard to choose!

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  34. I guess I just don't get zombies. I couldn't read the first one. The beginning kept me from continuing the story. Sorry. I almost didn't read the second one. After reading it, I was confused about zombies. Is she a zombie now? Why would she be afraid of dying if she's already been eaten by dogs? Garbage spilled out on the "floor"...weren't they outside? How far away was that guy on the corner with the phone? How could she see him if he was miles away? I just have too many questions. I did want to know more about the rescuer when I was done though. So my vote is for Lucky McGee. I'd tighten up the writing some though before going forward with it.

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  35. I thought Sedney's entry was the most creeptastic. Voting is so hard. I want to buy them both something from Starbucks just for entertaining me.

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  36. DL - I agree with you about the obligation to vote or offer feedback or whatever if you enter a contest. It's just not cool to accept an opportunity and not pay it forward. Everybody's busy. Unfortunately, I don't know if your words will find the intended targets - they're not here. Perhaps next year if you laid participation out as one of the ground rules, people would be more mindful. I believe Authoress at MSFV does something like this.

    On to voting. And it is for...Sedney for a super concept.

    Sedney - I initially had a lot of resistance to your piece because it is nearly all narration - which comes out as backstory infodump. Particularly, I was confused in the beginning since I didn't have any idea what was going on, not knowing what barkers were. However, your concept really caught me. I suggest you open with a scene where the mc (who we have very little info about) encounters a barker - flesh it out! Dialogue! Action! Tension! Who is this mc anyway?! An entire chapter could be made up to the point the barker comes back to life. SHOW this. You have such a cool concept here, and you can write - I'd be all over this story.

    Lucky - I suggest you do something else with the first line. It's just a spoiler. Best to start in the moment. People will know by reading the book jacket that this is a zombie story - no need to have your precious first line applying to nothing for a loooonnng time - after we've gotten annoyed at the broken promise of zombies and wild dogs. Generally I felt you could slow down a bit and allow for some thoughts, reactions, world building (how does it smell in that alley - those sort of things are welded into the brain). The mc notices a few too many things convenient for the author - think of yourself in that position - you might focus on the scar, but probably wouldn't get to the next step about him getting caught until you're out of the situation. For all that criticism, I found your piece intriguing - I particularly liked the mystery of the stranger.

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  37. Sedney started a little slow for me with the narrative voice, but boy did he/she pick up steam by the end. I better not have nightmares about barking coming from under gravestones! Yikes.

    Lucky was easier to follow, and I really got into the character's head. However, she was a bit generic.

    There were things I liked and disliked in both. It was tough, but I vote Sedney for pure uniqueness! way to go.

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  38. Aw, DL... I feel like I've been called out to step it up! I've voted in about 10 of the first 16 rounds, but I know that's not cutting it. Each and every entry deserves a vote and I'm going to do my best to fight my internet connectivity problems and commit to voting three times a week, every week. Of course, I'm not saying that I'm doing it out of guilt... I actually have loved every minute of this project. There have been many good stories and some great advice that not only lends well to the pieces at hand, but to any aspiring writer reading the comments. I generally try to post my vote before reading the other comments, but I do get almost as much out of them as I do the stories themselves. Overall this has been a great experience and I'm so thankful to be able to participate.

    Now, for this round's vote... mine is for Sedney of the Castonod. This was a tough round. Both were strong writers. Both stories had a great flow. However, the vivid and haunting descriptions in the first piece put it over the top for me. Having read a lot of King over the years, I'm accustomed to reading through a heavily descriptive narrative before the subject matter is revealed... and I think Sedney mimicked this style well. Of course, if the 500 word limit were lifted, I could see adding even more to the scene where the barker came back for Garrett. Otherwise, I could find no flaws. The ending imagery was sublime. (I think I got a chill!) I hope when Write Club is over, I can find out where to read more of this one!

    Lucky McGee's entry was well written, but less creative than the first. The dialogue flowed well, but the descriptions were minimal. It was hard for me to picture the scene, the characters, the alley... with some more adjectives and character development, it could definitely lead to a more interesting story.

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  39. Hmmm...I was torn, but I vote for Lucky.

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  40. Both have the appropriate level of tension and character building, and vivid worlds. Unique.

    But, Sedney drew me in a little more than Lucky's. I vote for Sedney.

    I am sorry to miss so many posts DL. Its been a busy time at the day job, and a lot of times I don't even log online in the evenings. But, I didn't submit this time as I knew I might not be around much time of year.

    ........dhole

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  41. This is a tough one as both pieces seem quite evenly matched and I think the overall vote will be close. However, for me, I'm going for Lucky. As always good luck to both writers.

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  42. Sedney gets my vote. Excellent writing on both their parts.

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  43. I didn't participate very well last year, so this year I'm trying to vote in every round. So many talented writers.

    I'll go with Lucky McGee!

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  44. The first piece made me curious and got my mind working which is always good when reading something. Although the second piece was interesting, the voice was too passive considering the circumstances. I'm gonna go with Sedney.

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  45. Oh man, I really like both of these. Sedney's ending was soooo great, so it hurts a little to not vote for it, but I'm going with Lucky. My deciding factor is that I was able to read clean through Lucky's piece with no stumbling while I found myself having to double back a few times in Sedney's piece to make sure I got it (like at the double flashback right at the beginning). Awesome entries though - thanks, guys!

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  46. No submission this time around, at least not yet, but I am here catching up on my voting. Once I'm caught up, I don't think I've missed a round.

    My vote goes to Sedney this time around.

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  47. I am voting for Sedney, too, even though this is not a genre I read or enjoy, I had to admire the quality of the writing. The second piece was good, too, and almost had my vote until the end. It seemed a bit contrived.

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