WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Elimination Bout #5


Over the past two weeks twenty writers have stepped into the WRiTE CLUB ring and ten emerged victorious. But before we call upon the next twenty writers to do battle, first we must whittle our winners down to five. This is called the elimination round because it’s the first time winners face off against one another. Our ten winners will again be shuffled and -- like the first bouts -- randomly matched to compete against one another with their same submission. A writer who emerges victorious from this round will earn a spot in the play-offs and will be asked to submit a new 500 sample to use in the next round. Let me remind you that our competitors are not only scuffling for notoriety…recognition…a $75 Amazon gift card…but also free admission to the 2016 DFW WritersConference, who helps sponsor this contest.  



This week I’ll be holding daily bouts (M-F) between the Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by the winners of our first 10 rounds.  The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. Today is Elimination Bout #5.  Read each sample carefully and then leave a vote in the comment section for the one that resonates with you the most.  If you didn’t have a chance before, please leave with a brief critique of both submissions as well.

As it was with the early bouts, voting for each will remain open for one week. The winner of each will be posted at the WRiTECLUB scoreboard. 

Are you ready?


Here are today's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, please welcome back to the ring……..Annie Corvo



Jerusalem, December 1917

A scream from the alleyway below Jack Solms’ window. A woman’s scream, then shouted commands in German, then other shouts in a language he guessed was Turkish. The report of a handgun echoing off the stone walls in this quarter of the old walled city.
On his bed in the upper room, Jack ran a finger along the deck of cards he’d shuffled.

He wouldn’t look. Wouldn’t look out the window.

In spite of the wind whining through the streets as Jerusalem staggered toward its third Christmas at war, he kept the shutter propped open. Better to be cold than trapped. Better to leave the window open to the sounds of that conscription gang working its way through the streets than to suffocate with a mouth full of dirt. Knowing the collapsing trenches of the Western Front were half a world away was one thing. Making the nightmares believe it was another.

He couldn’t find his card. Why couldn’t he find the goddamned card?

He tossed the deck onto the blanket, clasped his shaking hands together. Tight. Tight. Breathe in, breathe out.

He’d been OK until the shooting started. He’d got himself dressed this morning without help, not an easy thing for a man with a leg blown halfway to hell. Dressed, shaved, even combed his hair. He had an intuition about those things he’d once taken for granted. It was like finding the card he wanted on the first try. It meant a good day, a day he could limp downstairs to help Isabelle with the shop’s bookkeeping.

Thank God for Isabelle. She’d saved him, lit into the surgeons, kept them from sawing his whole damn leg off. Lucky day for him when he married her. Not so lucky for her maybe, left with a crazy, crippled husband to look after.

The screaming in the alley had stopped. The tramping of boots sounded fainter. Maybe they were moving the other way, maybe this would be a good day after all, a day he could stave off taking a morphine tablet until evening. He had intuitions about things like that.

He’d never held much truck with intuitions until the war. Now he knew better, knew to depend on them the way all soldiers did, all who survived. Intuitions told him which side the shells would come in on, when to advance under fire, and when to flop belly down on the ground. Intuitions saved him¾except when they didn’t.

He gathered the cards again, cut the deck, and glanced at the top card before he shuffled. He’d worked for the past week to turn his few card tricks into a Christmas treat for Isabelle, a treat to make her smile, maybe even clap and laugh after the dreary years of war. The glow of her anticipated delight warmed him more than the heat from the room’s charcoal brazier.

The noises in the street started again.
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And in the other corner let me re-introduce to you……….Blythe



I wept bitter tears the day Mervyn Brimble’s cologne vanished from my sleeve. I wept not because he was handsome-he looked every bit a toad with his muddy eyes and sallow skin-but because he had acknowledged, with a solitary brush of his rubbery lips, that I was indeed human, a girl crafted of flesh and bone rather than the sullen second half of the phenomenon known as the Wellingsley sisters, the girls who defied nature, the freakish twins ensconced in billowing striped walls, standing in plain view for all the world to gawk at.

My heart battered my ribs as I inconspicuously swept a hand beneath my nose, seeking the cologne’s heady fragrance. A cry tangled in my throat when the musty tang of mothballs clouded my senses, wreathed in the acrid stench of the cigarette my sister Phoebe accepted this morning from a doting gentleman. My tears hobbled down my cheeks, carving floundering ribbons through the rouge that our manager insists Phoebe and I wear at all times. I dabbed fiercely at my tears, reprimanding them with my stained lace handkerchief, yet they only continued, drawing stares from the side show’s patrons.

 A ragged sob bubbled in my throat, rousing Phoebe’s attention. Her gaze swept over my tears, her eyes narrowing. “You really mustn’t do that,” she hissed through gritted teeth. Her gaze flickered to our hands, entwined between us in a tapestry of emaciated fingers, all for the show’s cruel spectacle. “It makes us appear weaker than we are.”

Another watery sound splintered in my throat, causing a lady in lavender to start.

Phoebe’s nails plunged into the clammy flesh of my palm. “Hush, Emma,” she whispered, her voice gentle this time. “You mustn’t startle our visitors. After all, it is their hard earned wages that put meat on our plates and tea in our cups.”

Fury kindled in my chest. “You mean I had best not startle our visitors more than I already do?” I glared down at our intertwined fingers. “More than we already do?”
A gentleman in a waistcoat of shimmering silver threads paused before our pedestal, a frown knitting his brows. Phoebe offered him a seraphic smile that warmed the obsidian of her eyes. When the man reciprocated, she fluttered her silken butterfly lashes in a gesture of coquettishness that made my insides churn. It wasn’t that I never flirted; it wasn’t uncharacteristic of me to smile warmly at a handsome stranger or utter a word of cloying gratitude to the waiter with the glimmering pearl smile. It was the fact that my sister could be so hasty to conceal her emotions, donning a mask of sunny placidity while leaving me to grapple with the emotions scurrying across my face, heralding my private thoughts to the world.

Raucous laughter swallowed Phoebe’s response to my question, freezing the breath in my lungs.

A pair of leering boys strolled towards us, their gazes fastened upon the place where Phoebe’s left hip connected with my right one.


 
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Enjoying two talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

This is WRiTE CLUB – the contest where the audience gets clobbered!

 


35 comments

  1. Corvo gets my vote. The descriptions created a setting I could hear, feel and taste. I liked the character Jack and would like to see where this story goes.

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  2. These are both very strong and I would like to know more about all characters involved. In the end though I vote for Annie. That is simply because the long sentences in Blythe's piece were a bit long and breathless - otherwise, not much between them.

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  3. Wow. Very intense.

    I'm choosing: Annie Corvo.

    But, great job on both.

    Heather

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  4. My vote goes to Annie Corvo this round.

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  5. Both were very good but I have to give my vote to Annie Corvo.

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  6. My vote goes to Blythe!

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  7. These are both excellent. But Blythe's story still takes my breath away, so that's where my vote is.

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  8. My vote goes to Blythe! I really want to read this book (if it is a book)!

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  9. I did vote for both of these the first rounds! Way to go you to make it this far!

    I'm voting for Annie Corvo this round. Even though I don't enjoy historical fiction, it was well written.You get a sense of who he is, what Isabelle means to him, and what the war did to hIm.

    Now that I'm re-reading Blythe's in this round, it sounds quite pompous. It feels like the author is overcompensating with a nearby thesaurus for all the adjectives he/she continues to use. The sentences there in the last full paragraph just seem to go on forever. It felt like this sentence: "uncharacteristic of me to smile warmly at a handsome stranger or utter a word of cloying gratitude to the waiter with the glimmering pearl smile. " Probably started out as: "I could smile at strangers or be flirty with a waiter with the great smile." I mean, it's not just a great smile, it's a "glimmering pearl smile". What the heck is that anyway? A million dollar smile? Beautifully white, straight teeth? Maybe it is more apparent to me this time because of Corvo's no-nonsense writing technique. Straight and to the point. I feel like if Blythe's was a full story I would be fumbling over the words and get exhausted by the second page. Sorry if this one is harsh.

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  10. Tough decision since I voted to put them both through as a pre-judge, but if I have to pick one, I'll go with Blythe

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  11. Have to go with Annie Corvo this time.
    Though I voted for both pieces in the first round, so good job both of you! Both pieces are so strong.. These elimination rounds really are brutal :-/

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  12. This is a hard one. I love both of these but because Blythe feels a bit overwritten ( had to read a few sentences twice to 'get' them), I vote for Annie Corvo.

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  13. This is a tough one! But Blythe, I think….

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  14. Going for Annie Corvo, here. It's gritty, it's raw, its good stuff.

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  15. I hate that these two got picked against each other. Both are excellent. But since I have to choise, I'm voting for Annie.

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  16. I hate that these two got picked against each other. Both are excellent. But since I have to choise, I'm voting for Annie.

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  17. Both were great. My vote is for Blythe.

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  18. Annie Corvo - the sentence about conscription gangs and mouthfuls of dirt confused me. I'm pretty old and read a bit about wars, but I don't know what that type gang is. I assume he's having nightmares about being in the trenches. The rest of it was well written and clear. Good job.

    Blythe - the second sentence of your first paragraph is 4 lines long. Maybe that's a romance thing, I wouldn't know. The rest is a bit wordy, but the twist is sweet. You'll go far with this.

    Based on the writing - I vote Annie Corvo.

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  19. I'm voting for Blythe.
    While I can see while the writing and description may seem overwrought, it really isn't if you consider that the narrator is forced to stare back at people who gawk at her for a long time. She'd notice a lot more than if she were just sitting on a park bench getting glimpses of people who might glance at her as they pass by. Thinking and re-thinking is all she gets to do. The people in front of her have paid money to come in and get a look at a freak. So there is a lot of foul judgment coming at the narrator. Plus, she's attached to her sister, so she couldn't just walk away even if she wanted to. This piece of writing is extremely well done, I think. And it is plotted in a way that lets us discover gradually what the basic premise is.

    Annie Corvo has a lot of good writing in the atmosphere and suspense. But since I have to compare it to another piece of writing, I just find Blythe better written overall.

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