WRiTE CLUB 2014 / Semi-Final Bout #2









Here is the last of the open voting rounds for the WRiTE CLUB 2014 playoffs.  This week we will narrow this list of contestants from four down to just two.  This is the second of two bouts...the first was on Tuesday and the other today...with our fighters randomly re-matched. The voting for both bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday (9/21).

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...Cocktail Lion.




Unless youre a cold-blooded reptile, outdoors is not a fun place to be during summer in Kansas. Thats why twelve-year-old Conley Hoss and his little brothers spent so much time in the neighborhood pool, even though it cramped their style.
    
Cannonballs, on the count of three! Conley stood poolside, water lapping his toes, arms windmilling. 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-rimmedthreatening.
        
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 didnt stop them from taking over the deep end every day.


Guys, try not to splash. Conley actually meant it.


Beside him, his brother Wyatt snorted. Kindness wasnt 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 dont belong here! The orca-womans fists rocked her inflatable as she shouted, then lost her balance and face-flopped into the depths. Spluh-plash.

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


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


Conley dunked Wyatts bobbing head and fled, bare feet slapping the pavement. Tanning kids on towels stopped tapping their phones to give him youre-such-an-idiot looks. Another day, another whale attack, another gang of cooler-than-thou kids Summer break was becoming a stress fracture. But as traumatic as the pool was, Conleys 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. Conleys 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 tooat least for the Hosses.


Stick-thin with unruly hair, Conley wasnt 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 subdivision’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 in the far corner, their willing opponent....Swick.






"This is no place for a little girl." The ‘coyote’ has inky hair, dull eyes, and a smile that belongs on a wolf. The sort of smuggler whose fees are more than money.

I raise my bow. "Good thing I’m no little girl."

"Estadounidense." He spits my nationality like a curse word.

"Mexican-American."

He clutches something in his pocket, not a gun—too risky this close to the border. Something he won't be able to use before my arrow pierces his heart. Blood rushes in my ears and I fight to keep my hands steady. This is the sort of thing Juanito trained me for. Now that it’s real, I feel unprepared without my partner.

But I’m not a little girl.

I lift my chin, tighten my grip on my weapon. "Leave this clearing and I'll let you live."

His wolfish smile widens.

Arms wrap around me from behind, trapping my bow at my side. Too busy twisting and writhing; I don’t see the first man coming at me until his boot collides with my torso. Sharp pain rockets up my ribcage and my vision flickers in and out like bad reception. He kicks me again before his partner releases me.

A fallen branch buries itself in my palm as I stumble to the dirt, unable to catch my breath. I crawl away and turn on my back, a groan escaping my lips as I yank the wood from my palm.

"Go back to the playground, little girl." The first man spits in my hair.

His partner laughs and, together, they leave the chaparral.

I crawl toward my bow, but lifting it sends stabs of pain through my whole torso.

"Robyn?"

"¡Juanito! ¡Aquí!" Black spots filter my vision as I try to sit up.

"What the hell happened?" His hard expression breaks at the sight of me lying in the dirt. He kneels beside me. "Were they armed?"

"Depends on whether you consider boots weapons. Shit, this hurts."

I am a little girl. I clench my hands to block the thought. Blood dribbles down my wrist.

Juan and one of the women help me to my feet. He does some quick first-aid on my palm, his jaw twitching more than ever. The woman tries to hand me her bottle of water, but after weeks in the desert, she needs it more than me.

"Can you walk?" Juan asks.

"Yes. But I can't raise my bow."

He draws his spare gun from its holster and holds it out. I shake my head. "Robyn--"

"No, Juan."

He sighs but stows his pistol, handing me a switchblade instead. I flick it open and carry it in my fist. My grip distracts me from the pain shooting through me with every step.

Juan shakes his head. "I'm taking you to the range. No arguments, or you will not come with me again."

I don't argue because we need to get the hell outta here.

But I won’t use the sort of weapon that killed my father.
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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!

63 comments

  1. Again -- two very strong contenders, but I'll go with Swick.

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  2. This is tough, like the other bout. Two different types of scenes, one action, one setting up for more story.
    I think the writing and the voice is stronger in Cocktail Lion--more creative metaphors and imagery, and hence I cast my lot with the Lion.

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  3. cocktail lion. hard to beat the brilliantly apt description of suburban pool loungers.

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  4. Cocktail Lion! Loved it.

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  5. Cocktail Lion. "Orca-woman" had me chuckling this time round. Swick's descriptive writing is excellent, but I'm giving my vote for the humorous tone Cocktail Lion achieves so well.

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  7. I like the originality in Cocktail Lion's piece, and I applaud the clean-up. Good work there.
    I also like Swick's piece and I'm glad to see a strong multi-ethnic MC. Maybe because it's written in first person present tense, I feel like the action isn't slow enough and needs more sensory detail. Gosh darn it, it's a helluva start, though.
    I'm going to swing my vote to Cocktail Lion today, mostly because I'm impressed with the edit and it sorta reminds me of Jack Gantos' writing. Cocktail Lion.

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  8. Cocktail Lion. Had me laughing repeatedly.

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  9. I'm going with Swick. I have strong feeling that story, as a whole, would do well. I feel like there's an audience for it.

    Cocktail Lion has a good piece, too. I'm just not quite as grabbed by it.

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  10. Cocktail Lion. Good luck to you both.

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  11. Congratulations to both authors on making it this far, and for improvements that have their pieces working even better. Both of these are among my favorites in the contest. Cocktail Lion's has sort of a Stand By Me vibe going for it, and good humor (which isn't easy to write). Swick excels at a very tight narrative distance and good tension.

    These authors made it tough. I cast my vote to Swick.

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  12. Congrats to both writers for making it this far! Well done!!

    I still feel Cocktail Lion is trying way too hard to be funny instead of actually being funny. Swick's piece is more effortless.

    Swick gets my vote.

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  14. Cocktail lion reminds me of my childhood with my brother!
    My vote is for cocktail lion!

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  15. I'm going with Swick, still love the tension in this scene!

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  16. These are both great, but I'm going with Swick.

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  17. Me again. Are there always this many anonymous voters? I don't recall that in previous years. It seems a bit fishy to me, gotta say.

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    Replies
    1. I opened my blog up to anonymous comments when I received some complaints from readers who couldn't vote because they didn't have a Google + account. I also didn't require voters to sign up on a Linky List this year -- heeding some feedback from last year.

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  18. Cocktail Lion. Snappy, descriptive, witty. Totally visualize the scene--think I felt a splash of water.

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  19. Both have definitely taken the critiques under advisement, and show a willingness to learn and be flexible. These qualities are true writer skills to me. I commend both contestants for making it this far. Very well done.

    Unfortunately I have to vote for only one. I'm going with the one that I feel has intrigued me the most throughout each bout, but both are worthy of the win.

    I vote Coctail Lion.

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  20. Testing the new blog address. This is Donna Hole.

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  21. Swick for me.

    As imagery-painting as calling people "whales" can be, I don't know if, in today's anti-bully cultural attempts, it would sell well. As opposed to Swick, which offers a new hero to certain readers that might be looking for exactly this one.

    (In the event this site turns me into annoymous, or some funny looking letter number combo, this is palsofpen.)

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    1. I think the phrase Pink Whales refers to the woman-raft combinations, and is exactly how kids label things in their minds. :). dottyleevan

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    2. Yes, they do. But they also see a peanut butter cookie and label it a treat. Yet I've seen parent groups form a committee that nearly turned lynch mob over 3 of them. Maybe I just got stuck around some of the nutty ones. The ones that also demanded the original Huck Finn be removed from the library. And then went on to pull more. It is ridiculous. I've watched Looney Tunes without dropping an anvil on anyone- but I'm just one person. And these nuts make up a majority of the paying-for-books people in my area. Maybe the crazy hasn't spread. And if it hasn't, you are lucky. So the question might be if the agent, and the publishing houses the agent has a relationship with, are influenced by it.
      I also considered, by the proper nouns, that Pink Whales might be the name of a club, that these women selected to be called this. However, I don't know it for sure.
      Either way, I think Swick has a niche that isn't being filled. So that's still my vote. But thank you for your input.

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  22. Both are very strong pieces, but Cocktail Lion mixes the ingredients just right for me- strong visual language, humor, vivid characterization & dramatic tension. Cheers!

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  23. Both entries are interesting but I love the character development in Cocktail Lions piece. I feel he does a great job bringing us the story from the eyes of his young protagonist, which enables me to understand and appreciate the character.

    Though I do love action scenes with brave young women and a bow, I can't say I feel much connection to the character from Swicks piece.

    On the strength of character development, my vote goes to cocktail lion.

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  24. I don't have Goggle Profile so, must comment anonymously LFrancis: I vote for Coctail Lion
    I love the conversational writing style used to introduce these mis-placed boys. It was playful like the boys themselves, yet poinant as we recognize that their sense of adventure is being supressed by sterile snobbery of the neighborhood. I would love to continue to follow them as they are sure to escape "The Prestige" to experience REAL adventures--plunging in deep waters, climbing heiights and soaring like eagles. I wanted to "tturn the page" to "hear" what was coming next..... maybe Connely will have a modern Tom Sawyeresque adventure? It was delightful to read and wetted appetite for more.

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  25. Cocktail Lion wins my vote--but Wow, both so awesome!

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  26. Swick grabs our attention with action, but we don't get much character development, except Robyn is obviously a brave one. Cocktail Lion is just easing into his story but much is promised through Conley's character, perceptions, and family relationships. For mid-graders it will probably be a more subtle but more penetrating look onto a world closer to theirs. Not that there's not a place for violent other worlds, like Hunger Games! But Cocktail Lion gets my vote. (can only get in through Anonymous, but this is dottyleevan).

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  27. Swick feels like the start of a very exciting story.

    But Cocktail Lion has a unique brilliance that is hard to deny.

    I vote Cocktail Lion.

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  28. Cocktail Lion-- is still the one that draws me in through imagery and description. Swick has the intrigue of discovering the back story, but the Lion has the more unique character and plot set up. Well written.

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  29. My vote goes to Swick, but again this was a really difficult choice, especially since the styles are so different.

    Although Swick's story is not something I would probably read, both of Swick's excerpts were skillfully executed and consistent. Cocktail Lion's second entry has a lot of great details that create the scene perfectly, and the revisions were effective -- and it's something I might keep reading, since I still really enjoy reading MG books (often more than adult books!). But to help make that tough choice I referred back to the authors' first entries, and Cocktail Lion's first excerpt had a number of issues that I felt needed work; I would have been much more impressed with C.L.'s original entry if it had been similar to this sample!

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