WRiTE CLUB 2014 / Semi-Final Bout #1









Here we go.  

The last of the open voting rounds for the WRiTE CLUB 2014 playoffs.  Starting today we will narrow this list of contestants from four down to just two.  There will be two bouts...one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday...with our fighters randomly re-matched.

The fighters have been given the opportunity to "tweak" or edit their current submission based on the input voters have left for them, and that is what will do battle in this round.  No wildcard winner.

The two fighters who make it to the finals will be asked to once more submit new 500 word writing samples, and that will be what is forwarded to our celebrity judges. Of course I'll post them here on my blog for you to comment on, but it will be our judges who make the final selection.

Our writers are ready, the crowd is restless, let's get this show on the road!



Stepping into the near corner, please welcome back to the ring...Lord Codpiece.



Say what you will about smugglers, but they have a flair for creativity. I pondered this as I crouched in a hidden compartment, somewhere beneath the bilge of a leaking ship. The stench was like a living thing. It burned my lungs with each shallow breath. 

The ship was a two-masted trader bound for New Kestani. If she made it halfway, I’d be truly surprised. But I’d seen worse, even smelled worse than this. I would again, if the queen’s agents found me.

A trapdoor creaked open overhead. I gripped the hilt of my dagger, but it was only Legato, the ship’s bearded captain.

"Get up on deck," he said. “Double quick.”

 "Why? We're not even out of the harbor yet," I said.

"We're about to be boarded for inspection. They've got a gods-damned witch with them."

I cursed. If her delving magic found me hiding down here, they’d probably search me. The loot from her majesty’s gala would be hard to explain away.

"I'll need a shirt from one of your men," I said. "Something grubby, so she doesn't get too close."

"One whiff of you should do the trick," Legato said.

"Captain!" I said in falsetto. "You make me blush."

I changed out of my rumpled finery and raced up to the deck. Armed women were everywhere. They wore the queen’s colors, and swarmed over the deck like angry termites. Which the ship already had aplenty, judging by what I'd seen below. I slipped into the line of sailors at the leeward rail, hoping to avoid notice.

On the wheel deck, Legato made his displeasure known to the severe-looking woman who seemed to be in charge. She kept a hand on her sword-hilt, ignoring him. I forgot them both when I saw the other woman. She was short and dark-haired. Not unattractive, if you forgot what she was. Her slate dress was iridescent, and shimmered when she moved. My eyes wandered down the neckline of their own accord. Until I saw the medallion. Then I remembered.

I stared too long, and she caught me looking. Damn.

She glided over, across the tarred ropes and other filth that covered the deck. Legato kept it that way while in port, to discourage inspections like these. I hoped she’d go past, to no avail. She halted before me. I tried to look away. But her eyes were slate, too, and they had me.

"See something you like?" she asked. Her voice was soft, her words like a song.

I shook my head, not trusting myself to answer. 

She leaned close, and I realized my mistake. I was the only clean-shaven man on deck.

"You don't look like much of a sailor," she whispered.

"You don't look like much of a witch," I replied.

She never moved, never even blinked. But an invisible arm scooped me up and held me over the rail. Dangling upside-down. With gold and pilfered jewels raining from my pockets.

"How do I look now?" she asked.



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

And in the far corner, their willing opponent....petrichor.






Music lured Marina to the small pond in her backyard where koi fish puckered notes into a melody only she heard. Her best friend Rain was there already. On her stomach and stretched across a flat boulder, Rain trailed her finger along the water’s surface.

“Rain, look what my dad made for me.”

“Nice.”


“You’re not even looking!”

Rain twisted her body and glanced back. Jagged bangs framed her wide-set eyes. Marina pointed to her sandals. Iridescent and purple, the sandals shimmered like butterfly wings.

“They’re good,” Rain deadpanned. 

Marina scolded herself. She knew better than to ask for approval from someone whose fashion sense began and ended with running shoes. She sat next to Rain and slipped off her sandals, placing them nearby where she alone would admire them. Then she plunged her feet in the cool water to let the koi fish kiss her toes.

“Pru’s granddaughter moved in,” Rain told her.

Marina’s left shoulder blade felt hot. She shifted on the rock, searching for shade, but there was none.

“Name’s Angela.”

The heat spread up the nape of Marina’s neck. She splashed water on herself. Steam rose off her skin, heavy with the exotic scent of cinnamon and cloves.

“You want to knock on the door and say hello?”

No, Marina wanted to say. She didn’t feel like explaining herself to the new kid in town. Instead, she asked, “Do you?”

“Be nice to have another friend,” Rain said, piercing Marina’s heart.

“What if she’s a weirdo?” Marina asked.

“Ok-ay,” Rain said, drawing out the second syllable. Her shoulders shook.

“Don’t,” Marina told her.

Rain laughed. The pond water rippled.

Marina tugged down her sleeve. “I’m not weird,” she told Rain. “Lots of people have tattoos.”

“Yeah,” Rain said, turning away to pet the koi, “but they’re not twelve.” 

Marina bit her lip. She knew what was coming next.

“And their tattoos don’t move,” Rain finished.

Marina cringed. Usually she had no trouble hiding her dragon. It rose at dawn, circled once, and resettled back on her skin. A shirt covered it just fine. But now the dragon climbed Marina’s shoulder and sent inked plumes of smoke down past her sleeve to billow and collapse in eddies around her elbow.

She had to ask, “Can we trust her?”

Rain shrugged. “Angela probably has more secrets than we do.”

“I doubt it,” Marina said. Her arm tickled where the dragon’s tail swished.

Rain said, “She’s like Pru doing psychic stuff with tarot cards and crystals, only worse.”

“Worse?”

 “Angela’s a shaman. She speaks to the de-e-a-a-d,” Rain said in her spooky voice.

Speaks to the dead? Marina couldn’t think of anything more frightening. Rain had to be joking. “So like, she talks to zombies, knocks them over the head with a shovel, and pushes them back in their graves?”

Rain snorted. “That would be hilarious.”

The dragon breathed fire. Blisters raised on Marina’s skin.

"No," Marina whispered. “That would be evil.”
**********************************************************************************************

Please leave a vote in the comments section for the one who you believe deserves to move onto the finals. Voting for both semi-final bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday, September 21st. Help me spread the word about what is happening here.  Anyone can still vote.
Remember the WRiTE CLUB motto, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!

38 comments

  1. Oh my, what a difficult choice. Ultimately I'm going with the one I would be most likely to pick up first (although I think I would devour both pretty quickly) - Lord Codpiece gets my vote.

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  2. Lord Codpiece by the thinnest of margins.

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  3. Wow, no more easy voting choices. I have no quibbles with the writing decisions of either, so this ultimately comes down to my personal preference. While Lord Codpiece appears to be a somewhat typical swashbuckling adventure story with a few genre twists, Petrichor appears to be a newer confluence of ideas (tattoos that come alive? Koi that can be petted?).
    So, ultimately my vote comes down to which book I would choose to read, something know genre-wise that I know I enjoy, or something newer, an unknown that I could love or hate.
    While Petrichor piques my interest, it doesn't do enough to convince me I'd enjoy it more that Lord Codpiece. I choose the Codpiece.

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  4. This is a tough call, and I'd be happy to see either advance.

    Today I'll go with the creepy foreshadowing and inky intrigue of Petrichor.

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  5. Lord Codpiece's story seems like a light, fun adventure and I'd probably read the whole thing. But, it's also a continuation of a previous entry. In a writing contest, I want to judge the writer's skill at storytelling more than I want to judge how much I like the story. Petrichor's writing displays more depth and character development, I think. Petrichor's storytelling is subtle, the foreshadowing is unobtrusive, and the dialogue is great. I have to give this bout to Petrichor, who has displayed masterful skill in diverse genres (Middle Grade here, and Adult in a previous round). I'd read both of those stories to the end. In my opinion, this writer deserves to go to the next round. And if he/she doesn't, I hope they know just how good they are. My vote goes to Petrichor.

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  6. I still like Lord Codpiece just a little more.

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  7. Regarding "Anonymous'" comments on Petrichor...I don't know....magical tattoos aren't all that unique in YA/UF. Melissa Marr has a best-selling series centered around it. And I think there's a good bit of cleaning up to do in the writing. For example the dialogue tags are distracting from the dialogue itself. I counted at least three uses of "told" tags, which are redundant of the dialogue. For me some of the narration feels forced.

    Lord Codpiece, on the other hand, has really clean writing. There's an action sequence to what happens, giving it a stronger pace. And the writing is super clean. This is a fun scene with clear conflict. I would definitely keep reading.

    I'm voting for the Codpiece. (Things I never thought I'd say in public.)

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  8. Geez I had my heart set on Lord Codpiece and then Petrichor's was just as amazing! But I'm going to have to for Codpiece as I am desperate to see what happens next just that little bit more ;)

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  9. Close call! I like Codpiece's more suspenseful ending...voting for Petrichor!

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  10. As I expected in these bouts -- this is a very tough decision between two deserving writers. I like both, but I'm going with Petrichor.

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  11. Lord Codpiece. I like the first-person narrative style--well executed.

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  12. What a difficult choice! I'd read both of these. So, by a tiny hair, I vote for Lord Codpiece.

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  13. This one is easy fir me - Lord Codpiece.

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  14. I like both; and both show their willingness to accept constructive feedback. There is one minor error in Petrichor's writing, and while I'd like to disqualify it for that, I'd be doing a disservice on a minor technicality. Petrichor has consistently kept my interest with characterization and world building. So Petrichor gets my vote.

    But overall, I think I'd be more likely to continue reading Lord Codpiece.

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  15. Lord Codpiece (attempt 3 to vote. LOL)

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  16. Wow, these are both really good writing. An iridescent witch and a dragon tattoo that steams and sends out smoke. Good characterization in both. I would personally continue reading Lord Codpiece's first for his wider scope of action. So one for Lord Codpiece. (dottyleevan)

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  17. This is really tough, and I have to say congratulations to both authors, but I'm giving my vote to Petrichor.

    I feel that Petrichor deserves kudos for the excellent revisions to this passage -- since the art of revision is half of the art of writing, it's worth something to demonstrate that you have that skill. Also, I want to give credit for the fact that I think Petrichor's initial entry was one of the most memorable and the voice in that passage was both compelling and more sophisticated than most of the entries.

    But Lord Codpiece has also shown a lot of strengths. Although this isn't the style of fantasy I personally prefer, it's a style that certainly has solid commercial appeal, and both of the excerpts from this story were consistent and clean, and definitely among the more professional writing samples -- it looks like they were taken from a work that's close to being publication ready.

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  18. I enjoyed reading both pieces. The tattoo continues to enchant me, especially with these edits. I cast my vote to petrichor.

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