WRiTE CLUB 2014 Play-offs - Round One / Bout 3









We've narrowed the field down to eighteen and we're continuing on with the play-off rounds – which as promised will come at a rapid fire pace.  I will be posting one contest a day this week (Mon-Fri) and four next week (Mon-Thur).  The voting for all nine bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday, August 31st.  Your task remains simple…read the submission from each WRiTER carefully and leave your vote for the sample that resonates with you the most.  If you haven’t already done so in the previous rounds, offer some critique if you have time.  Anyone reading this can vote, so blog/tweet/facebook/text/smoke signal everyone you know and get them to take part in the fun.  Vote on as many bouts as you can get around to.  Whether that is one bout, or all nine, how much you participate is up to you. 

Here’s something else to keep in mind for this round...every vote counts. That’s because the contestant who doesn't win their bout but garners the most votes amongst all of the other losers, will become a wildcard winner and still advance to round 2. 

The winners will be posted late in the afternoon on August 31 and then round 2 will kick off the following Monday, September 1st, with all new 500 word submissions from the nine advancing contestants.

Good luck to all of the WRiTER’s!

And now…..

In this corner welcome back to the ring.....Nanato4


My father, in the tradition of his Irish ancestors, was a great storyteller, slipping into a brogue as effortlessly as the wind blows across the fair green isle. His stories had a moral and a bit of humor, but as children we were transfixed by the waggle of his bushy eyebrows, the rising rosiness of his cheeks and the characters he brought to life,each with their own accent and gestures.
One of his favorite stories concerned an incident when he was about ten years old. It was the height of the depression, and his parents, like so many others, struggled to feed their family. My dad, the eldest of four children, did his part by working in the vegetable garden, feeding his baby sister and running errands.
“Bubsy, go next door to the Steinberg’s and get some eggs,” his mother said, handing him a precious dime.
“How many should I get?” he asked, knowing a dozen cost fifteen cents.
“We need a dozen for supper and breakfast tomorrow.”
“Yes, Mommy.” Confused, he hesitated, squeezing the dime in the palm of his hand.
“Ask for the cracked ones.”Handing him an empty wicker basket, she nudged him out the door.
The Steinbergs were an elderly couple, who made ends meet by keeping chickens in their basement. Dad both feared and admired his stern neighbors, having watched Mr. Steinberg whack the head off a chicken with a single swipe of a hatchet.
In a pitch perfect Yiddish accent dad quoted Mrs. Steinberg answering the door that day. “Robert Enerson, you are a sight. Have you brought back my cookie tin?”
“No ma’am.” He stared at his scuffed brown shoes.
“Then what is it boy, I haven’t all day.”
He opened his palm and held out the dime. “I’d like some eggs, please.”
“Come in, young man.” She took the basket and the dime. “You want eight eggs, then?”
“A dozen please.” He looked up at her raised eyebrows, quickly adding, “but only the cracked ones.”
“Sit yourself down,” she waved him toward a sofa as she headed to a door that led to the basement.
“Saul!” she shouted down the stairs. “Robert needs a dozen cracked eggs.”
“I haven’t any cracked ones.” Came the distant reply.
“I said I need a dozen cracked eggs,” she said, a bit more sternly.
Dad got off the sofa and crept closer to hear.
“I haven’t got any cracked eggs, I tell you.”
Sotto voce, she replied, “Then crack some.”
The story was about charity and dignity, for there isn’t one without the other. I wonder if, in our government efforts to ameliorate poverty, we haven’t lost two important things. One, a sense of satisfaction by personally giving to others in need, and two, the dignity of taking only the assistance necessary to live, for the shortest time possible, and graciously accepting cast-offs to that end.
Dad has passed away, but his stories are with me always. Stories meant for enlightenment as well as entertainment.


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And in the other corner, also anxious to return to the ring, let me re-introduce.... Cocktail Lion



Introduction


The brick house was the tallest house on the street and the brick house knew it. It towered twenty feet over the competition and that was without the rooftop launch pad torn down and smashed to rubble in the 1950s. The brick house was three stories tall and could tell a thousand.

On hot days, its limestone windowsills smelled like burnt barbecue and gunpowder. Dark red stains clung to chalky mortar. Thick concrete floors hid old bones and air shafts that whistled in the dark.

A century-long line of home inspectors had said, Completely safe and stable, and each time, the brick house grinned quietly. It was immovable and ingenious and fireproof, but the best word to describe it in English was dangerous.

The brick house was looking out, keeping its eyes open, biding its time. It expected a lot and usually got it. It knew what it wanted. It never settled, would never settle for anything. Its jazz-blue front door and curling ivy vines were cocky: The brick house was strong and good-looking and the brick house was kind of a jerk.

But that didnt change the fact that it knew its stuff. That didnt change the things it had seen and the lives it had helped begin and end. That didnt change the dark corners it would show the right tenants and the questionable plans it had for their future.

And the brick house knew that gangly, twelve-year-old Conley Hoss was the perfect candidate.



Chapter One: The Night Visitor


Conley had been staring at the ceiling for about half the night, wondering who hed hang out with on summer break. He was deciding whether a dent in the plaster resembled an alligator or an amoeba when he noticed the draft. The window had definitely been shut when his dad hugged him at bedtime, the old air conditioner humming and rattling outside. Now a warm summer breeze was flowing over his top bunk, making his forehead sticky.

Weird that the window was open. And why did the warm air smell so strong, like...the zoo?

Conley sat up in bed and leaned toward the window. A faint sound came from outside, something hard scratching against the houses brick wall. Scritch, scritch, scritch. The sound got closer. So did the smell.

Dont be a baby, Conley told himself. He climbed down his bunk beds ladder and stood motionless. Scritch, scrit-. The sound stopped. Probably one of his moms apple trees, blowing in the wind. He glanced at the bottom bunk. Empty. Strange, Wyatt was missing He took two steps and looked at the second bunk. The sheets were rumpled but they were empty too. Weirder and weirder. Where were his brothers?

Conley frowned and slid over to the window. When he leaned forward and looked out, a hot updraft washed over his face, wrinkling his nose. Ugh, gross. Then he placed the smell. It was the dry, fishy smell of the zoos reptile house. 


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

44 comments

  1. Tough choice. Both have compelling scenes framed by intrusive telling. Nanato4's "what it all meant" ending and Cocktail Lion's "It's gonna be a scary house story" introduction both detract from the well-written parts where the reader gets to see the young characters in action.

    It's very close for me and I've gone back and forth on this one, but I'll choose Nanato4 by a very slim margin.

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  2. I battled back and forth on these two. Since I don't care for the end of Nanato4's or the beginning of Cocktail Lion's, I'll vote based on the parts I liked. Therefore, my vote is going to Cocktail Lion (although the choice would have been a lot easier if the whole introduction was gone and the story started at Chapter 1).

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  3. Cocktail Lion's would be my choice.

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  4. Again, two of my favorites-- Cocktail Lion was a save choice for me. But I have to go with Nanato4

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  5. Two completely different genres, both draw me in, but I'd still have to go with Cocktail Lion all the way.

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  6. Cocktail Lion for me, because I love the voice and that I can tell a bit more what the story will be about. I'm compelled by both, but Nanato4 leaves me with many questions... Which is good, but not enough to make me move away from the drama of Cocktail Lion.

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  7. Cocktail Lion. Engaging voice, draws me in.

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  8. Cocktail Lion. I actually liked the intro with the "house as character" motif. I'll be interested to see what the house has planned for young Conley.

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  9. Very close, but going with Cocktail Lion.

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  10. Nanato4 for me. But damn this was a hard one!

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  11. Another pairing where I like them both.

    Nanato4 gets my vote.

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  12. Cocktail Lion. Has great voice!

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  13. I really enjoyed both of these, and would love both to win. I find that, after all these weeks, Nanato4's story has still really stuck with me. So that's who has my vote. (Really torn, as a huge fantasy fan.)

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  14. Tough choice. Both are good entries. I like Nanato4's story, but not the short summation at the end. IMO readers understand the point of that story without being told how to interpret it. On the whole, though, voice is strong, the pacing is appropriate, and the writing smooth. Cocktail Lion has dark voice in the intro reminiscent of the evil house voice in Libba Bray's _The Diviners_, and a funner voice in chapter 1. Both parts are good, and they get better with repeated readings, but the pairing of the dark with the light in such a short entry is odd, and detracts from a cohesive story, IMO.

    Nanato4 gets my vote this bout.

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  15. I'm not a fan of the intro from the house's point of view. My vote goes to Nanato4.

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  16. Love both of these, but Nana for me between the two.

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  17. Nanato4. The execution is more polished (despite a couple of missing commas), and Cocktail Lion's entry is weakened by the inconsistency in the voice.

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  18. I have to go with Cocktail Lion, though I, too, would prefer the excerpt without the intro.

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  19. Cocktail Lion for me, but I have to agree with everyone else ... both of these offerings are "telly." I don't hate exposition, though, and I liked the house bit until we are told the house was a "jerk." That bit of anthropomorphizing is just begging for "And if it could grease its hair back and use obnoxious pick-up lines at bars ... it would." (I'm getting my two cents in here because I didn't get to vote in Cocktail Lion's round.) Also, I would like to know the name of the MC's other brother.

    Congratulations to both Cocktail Lion and Nanato4 for getting to this round! This year's contest has some terrific writing!

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  20. Voting for Cocktail Lion. I want to see where this goes!

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  21. Cocktail Lion. I've always believed in sentient houses. Now what story is this one going to tell us? :)

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  22. Cocktail Lion. I love the premise!
    Nanato4's was a lovely parable but the last paragraph left me feeling a bit meh.

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  23. Two great stories. My vote goes to Nanato4.

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  24. Cocktail Lion.

    Loved the voice, even liked the intro with the sentient house. I loved Nana's characterizations and I was leaning that way at first, until I got to the end. The moralizing last paragraph left me cold.

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  25. I choose Nanato4. This is non-fiction, so a little moralizing isn't necessarily a bad thing. I depends on what the intent of the piece is.

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  26. Thank you for including the Anonymous voting selection, I tried to vote multiple times via Wordpress and couldn't. I vote for Nanato4. Both the stories have their merit, but for me, Nanato4 is more emotional and has some great dialogue, e.g., Mrs. Steinberg's, "Robert Enerson, you are a sight. Have you brought back my cookie tin?" I get a real feel for who the Irish father is, the hardships and having to scrabble. I don't even think it's moralizing, it reminds me of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." Cocktail Lion has some nice suspense building toward the end, it made me curious... I think the intro describing the brick house could be condensed to one paragraph, and then move to Conley's POV.

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  27. Wow. These are both good but very different, so it's hard to compare them. If I had to choose only one off a book shelf it'd be Cocktail Lion's. Good luck to both writers!

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