WRiTE CLUB 2014 - Playoff Round 2 - Bout #2



Continuing on with the second round of the WRiTE CLUB play-offs, today we bring you Bout #2.  In this round our ten contestants will be battling it out with a brand new writing sample, which could very easily turn the tide.  The bouts will be posted on Mon - Fri, but the voting will remain open for all bouts until Sunday at noon.

Once again...every vote counts. 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 advance to round 3.  

Whether you've been following along from the beginning or this is your first time here...no matter...it's just a matter of choosing the one you feel deserves to move forward. Please 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. 

If a contestant should make it to round 3, their sample will be paired off against a different opponent.  

And now...stepping into the ring with a brand new story to tell...here is...Cocktail Lion




Unless you’re a tropical plant or a cold-blooded reptile, outdoors is not a fun place to be during summer in Kansas. That’s why twelve-year-old Conley Hoss and his little brothers spent so much time in the neighborhood pool, even though it irritated them.

“Cannonballs, on the count of three!” Conley stood poolside, water lapping his toes, arms windmilling. Then he made the mistake of glancing toward the deep water and one of the Pink Whales caught his eye. Sunglasses up, her gaze was red-rimmed…threatening.

In the middle of the pool, a pod of middle-aged ladies sipped diet coke and flipped paperbacks on queen-sized floats. Although their skin gleamed with coconut oil, the Pink Whales never browned up. That didn’t stop them from taking over the deep end every day. 

“Hey guys, try not to splash.” Conley actually meant it.

Beside him, his brother Wyatt snorted. Kindness wasn’t his curse.

“One, two, three!” Knees tucked, the boys hit the water and plumes of spray showered the Pink Whales like tropical rain. When Conley surfaced, the ladies were shrieking and floundering like cats at sea. He smiled…guiltily, darn it.

“Your parents are in so much trouble for this! You Hosses don’t belong here!” The orca-woman’s fists rocked her inflatable, then she face-flopped into the depths. Spluh-plash.

Conley winced. Oh man, serious revenge factor now. And no other kids to blend in with…

Wyatt was laughing so hard he could barely keep his head above water. 

Keller grinned, eyes darting toward the floating riot. “Um, should we go dry off?” Conley’s third brother kicked his feet one more time, waved at the advancing Pink Whales and fled. 

Conley dunked Wyatt’s bobbing head and followed. Another day, another whale attack, another round of calls to his mom… Summer break was becoming a stress fracture. But as traumatic as the pool was, Conley’s neighborhood had other problems.

His home in prosperous Johnson County, Kansas, had a flat lawn and beige siding, like every other house in the Eagle Mountain subdivision. Conley’s dad joked that living in a cookie-cutter home was killing their souls. His mom called their house “The Prestige” because a movie with that name involved clones. A world of clones would be lonely and in a strange way, The Prestige was lonely too.

Stick-thin with unruly hair, Conley wasn’t exactly one of the cool kids, although he blamed that partly on his lack of video game skills and his crazy little brothers. They deserved a page in his favorite book, the thrilling Deadly Perils: And How to Avoid Them. But “annoying perils” would be more like it. 

Conley sometimes wondered why his family didn’t seem to fit in. Maybe it was because there were so many of them: four boys, counting baby James. Maybe it was because they resented their neighborhood’s deceptive name—no eagles or mountains. Or maybe it was because they thought the pool was actually for swimming.

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And with their own brand new piece of writing, welcome back to the ring....A. Bard.




The Fires of Troy

I would have been as Odysseus,
Fighting against the designs of the Moirai
To find home again.
I would have been...

When my sails were ready,
I left on your lips
The promise of a new meeting.
I left you waiting by a fire
That you would always keep burning. 
I led my men to war.

On the shores of a place that wasn't home
A city stood in flames.
In that fire, we burned our ships
And our soldiers.
But the gods refused our offerings
Until we burned ourselves as well.

I saw the gods turn away from the city,
As one by one, their bastions fell.
Their prophets wailed in despair,
But their tongues were turned to stone.
Yet the city still burned too slowly. 

I stood outside the gates and planned.
I dressed death in bright robes,
I gave her a wooden mask
To hide her from the eyes
Of people tired of fighting.
I placed a white flag in her hands.
I marched her to the gates,
I knocked
And the gates opened.
And there were only ashes left. 

Even stone screamed
As burning men dragged women away from their temples,
Away from the stone feet of fickle gods,
Away from what would never again be home.

I washed my hands in the sea,
But it didn't took my scars.
It didn't put out the fire.
The silence of the dead
Was louder than the thousand trumpets
Proclaiming our triumph.

And in the ashes of the city
I knew there was no going back
To Ithaca. 

To the sea I turned once more, 
For water knows nothing of fire.
And the sea was endlessly silent,
But it would not give me rest.

On the shores of an untouched land,
I saw a woman smile.
She knew nothing of what I knew. 
But away I turned,
Hiding my blackened hands
And my cruel mind.

I saw the island of the witch
Who offered me oblivion in sweet wine.
I drank all but the last drop.
For I saw the animals who knew nothing
And thought this fate too kind.

I kept away from temples
And away from taverns,
The silence of a dead city burning in me.
I would have welcomed the screeching
Of the Erinyes,
But they gave no such mercy. 

To the end of the world I went
And descended into the promise of nothing. 

In the darkness that would always be,
I felt a hand take my hand.
It was death wearing bright robes
And a smiling mask.

In the darkness that tasted like ashes and smoke,
I heard you call my name
Until your voice broke.
I saw you, bright and beautiful. 
You saw me
And the shadow that walked next to me.
How could I have answered your call?

For the man who would have been as Odysseus,
Who could have returned to Ithaca,
Burned away with the city of Troy.

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Leave your vote and we'll see you back here tomorrow for the next match-up!

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



29 comments

  1. I really enjoyed both, but A. Bard is my choice for this round.

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  2. Another close one. Cocktail Lion this round.

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  3. Cocktail Lion, excellent scene and nice voice :-)

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  4. Cocktail Lion! Resonates so much with my childhood, grabs my attention, and makes me smile. Poetic verse (in this case, quite dramatic) has always been hard for me to digest in fiction.

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  5. Tough choice.

    I liked A. Bard's previous piece, and this is a fine follow-up, pulled from the same rich and lyrical vein. Poetry about ancient myths is definitely not my normal reading material, I must confess. It's a piece that for me requires focus and effort -- a little distraction and suddenly it's like Charlie Brown's teacher is reading it to me in my head ("Whah, whuh, wah, wu-whah..."), and then I have to go back and regroup. But it does reward the effort, and I appreciate that. After several reads, I found it touching and evocative.

    In contrast, Cocktail Lion's is as easy to get into as a cool pool on a hot Kansas day. The familiarity and humor make it easily accessible and entertaining. But there are also a few hiccups for me. For one thing, I don't care for being directly addressed though "you're," and I also found the voice a little hard to pin down -- it felt more like the author talking to me than Corey at many times. I also don't have much of a sense where the story is headed or what it's about. Yes it's only 500 words, but it's mainly seems like just character introduction. Still, I was entertained and would keep on reading.

    Like I said -- tough choice, but I'm going with A. Bard. I had to put much more effort into it, but in the end I was rewarded by being able to get much more out of it.

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  6. I really enjoyed both. But I'm going with Cocktail Lion this time.

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  7. I enjoyed both, but Cocktail Lion had me from word one.

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  8. Both deserve to move on. But I go with Coctail Lion.

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  9. Really tough one, I could seriously vote for either in another bout.
    My vote today will go with A.Bard. Best of luck to you both.

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  10. I am not into poetry, so I am bewildered by the vote, dragged from my heart. A. Bard

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  11. I liked the tone of Cocktail Lion's piece and feel that it (the tone) matches a fun summer scene in Kansas. I was a little distracted by the references to tropical plants and tropical rain because Kansas isn't tropical. I was confused with so many proper names in one scene. And, diet coke --> Diet Coke. Overall, though, this piece is fun and reminds me of one of my favorite tv shows, Malcolm in the Middle. I'd keep reading.

    I'm a sucker for evocative poetry, and A Bard writes it well. I might quibble with some word choice, like "Odysseus fighting against the designs of the Moirai" because it seems like the Moirai have a choice in weaving fate when I argue that they weave what is already known to them. And there are a couple of lines that might be refined, like "Yet the city still burned too slowly." But, on the whole, the rhythm and texture of the lines is beautiful and I can sink into the emotional context.

    My vote is for A Bard.

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  12. Hmmmm.... going with A. Bard. Another fun piece from Cocktail Lion with nice voice. Seemed a bit info-dumpy, though. Try to weave in the backstory and details about the family in smaller, more concise bites so as not to take the reader out of the story.

    Good luck both!

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  13. Cocktail Lion. This round was tricky as well, as both have elements that are effective but both also need a bit more work.

    Cocktail Lion's entry has some minor errors like missing commas, and I'm not sure the balance is quite right between the scene and the background information delivered at the end. However, it succeeds in portraying the scene and the boys' characters in a way that's believable and appropriate for the genre.

    Like A. Bard's first entry, this poem has some strong lines that are both evocative and lyrical, but also has a number of stanzas that are lacking in rhythm and flow so they just read like prose artificially lined as poetry. For that reason I'd say it doesn't entirely fulfill its intended function, while Cocktail Lion's entry -- though it needs tidying up -- clearly still works as an entertaining passage from a MG book.

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