WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Bout #7



Our next winner has been posted on the WRiTE CLUB Scorecard and it will continue to be updated as we move through the week. Let me remind everyone that voting for each bout remains live for one week. That way there's always time to catch up on bouts you may have missed.

As we continue through the second week of matches, the challenge becomes how do we keep interests high so people will continue coming back? For those of you who've been Tweeting (#WRiTECLUB2016) and/or updating Facebook - THANK YOU - but we need to step up our game.  We've started seeing a drop-off in visitors and votes, and I need help combating the slide. After six years of doing this I think I've finally figured out why this happens. VOTING IS HARD! Choosing between two quality writers is not easy, and after people do it a couple of times some readers stop coming back because they don't want to face a difficult choice. So why do I make you do it? Because in the end, the struggle...and the competition, makes us all better at our craft. At the end of it all maybe some aspiring writers will get the exposure they need.

Here's a reminder of how things work. This is the 2nd of three weeks of daily bouts (M-F) between writing samples that are identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters. Once we get through the preliminary skirmishes, then the playoffs will immediately follow.

The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization. The two writing samples for each bout will be randomly matched and step into the ring for a chance to find out what they're made of.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.  Anyone can vote, as long as you have a Google ID or belong to Google Friend Connect. Anonymous voting is not allowed. It is also customary to leave a brief critique of both pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

How do you choose a winner? What criteria should be used? The method by which you determine who to vote for is entirely up to you.  Which one resonates with you the most? Which one makes you want to read more? Which one demonstrates a total command of the English language and how it can be used to elicit emotion or paint a mental picture you can't stop staring at. There is no hard and fast way rules for determining a winner -- and that's exactly what the publishing world is like. But today you get to decide.

The voting for each bout will remain open for one week, so even though a new bout will be posted every day, you don't miss out on anything if you miss a few days.  You can always catch up on several bouts at once if you so desire.  Once the voting period ends and the votes have been tabulated, the results will be posted HERE, on the WRiTE CLUB scorecard. At stake is a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.

The voting for this bout - Bout #7 - remains open until noon on Monday - March 21st.

That's the bell...and its trying to tell us something.


Let me introduce to you the contestants for this bout.  In the near corner, representing the YA Hsitorical genre with 500 words, welcome to the ring Eva.





“Take this corner,” Bahadur balanced a fraying blanket in one hand while gripping hammer and nails in the other. “Quickly, hold tight Mariam jan. The daylight for maghrib prayer is fading fast.”

“I’m trying.” Mariam scrambled to his side. On tiptoes, arms outstretched, she pressed the blanket to the window in their tiny living room. Three taps and the blanket was secured. A flicker of movement caused Mariam to clasp her hands together and squeal.

“Oh, look!”

She lifted a corner of blanket and pointed to a dragonfly.

Bahadur clicked his tongue and tugged her from the window. Being exposed to the outside made him nervous. “How many times do I have to—”

Mariam twisted from his grip. “Remember what Baba jan said, about the dragonflies?” She hopped up and down. “Remember, brother. You have to. Remember what they are?” Mariam darted to the window, mesmerized by the bug.

“The souls of the dead,” Bahadur muttered. Old Uzbek lore—a childish tale fifteen-year-old Bahadur no longer believed. He opened his mouth to shame his sister for entertaining nonsense, but the words faded the moment her bright grey eyes turned to meet his.

“Who do you think it is this time?”

Her question seeped into the quiet spaces of their home, igniting memories Bahadur promised to bury.

“Mammy?”

Mariam’s breath fogged the glass; she waited for an answer. Bahadur swallowed the bitterness of longing, shrugged away the tightness of loss in his chest.

“We both know where Mammy is, Mariam jan. Now please. Come say your prayers.”

Mariam’s shoulders slumped as she drew away from their makeshift curtain. Regret drowned Bahadur’s heart, but he knew it was best to banish these fantastical thoughts—make her reality easier to bear.

The consequences of performing their daily prayers were tremendous. One utterance of an Allahu akbar, God is great, and Bahadur’s fate was sealed. In 1934, no one in the town of Samarkand was safe from the Communists. Not him, not Mariam—even Baba knelt at the mercy of the Soviets.

He watched Mariam grasp for her worn white hijab—the last present she received from her mother. Bahadur remembered the grin on Mammy’s face, the excitement of laying the headscarf lightly on Mariam’s shoulders, kissing her forehead. The stray bullet that hummed its song through the yard. Mariam’s scream had pierced the air as Bahadur rushed to his mother’s side, blood pooling beneath his fingers.

“Never leave her,” she had begged.

“I-I didn’t see it. Mammy, please. Baba will come.” He had shouted at Mariam to fetch their father before clinging to his mother’s chest, listening for the steady whoosh of life passing through her lips.

“Promise,” she had rasped.

“I promise, I swear.”

Bahadur had waited for the whoosh to come next, but it never did.

Later that night, after completing their prayers, Bahadur settled on the ground next to Mariam and watched her sleep. He counted the rise and fall of her small chest, listened for the steady whoosh. ___________________________________________________________________________________

And in the far corner, representing the Adult Near-Future Thriller genre with 478 words, also welcome to the ring Corvus Corax.




Drive full.

The message flashes in my brain. I grab the cable jacked into the base of my skull with sweat slicked fingers and scan the list of documents.

Shit. The Proxy software isn’t downloaded. I rearrange the files and send mental instructions to override the wetware-brain barrier. It will overwrite some personal memories, but I need that software.

My past is best forgotten anyhow.

“It's time, Ethan.” Meridian takes her eyes off the view of Central Park and rises from my couch, dark face crinkling with anticipation. “Got everything?”

“Not quite. Proxy ‘ware’s incomplete.”

“You didn’t download it first?” Meridian scowls at me. "I thought you were supposed to be smart."

“Just a few seconds.” I flick a nervous smile at her. "You can give me that much more of this life."

Meridian takes in my penthouse apartment. "You got it good here, but you'll adapt." Her face twitches. She's a surprisingly bad liar for a double agent betraying one of the most secretive and powerful companies in America.

"I'm tougher than I look." I puff out what little there is of my chest. "What's it like… being poor?"

"For starters, don't say shit like that or you'll get a punch in the—"

Loud popping noises from the hall outside cut her off mid-sentence.

“Time to go.” Meridian draws a pistol from inside her jacket and chambers a round.

"You're going to kill them?"

"No, I'm going to ask nicely if they'll please let me take the one person who can destroy their operation and waltz right out of here… maybe tango, I never was good at waltzing. You think this is a fucking game?"

I shake my head. “Almost there.” I hold the plug with quivering fingers, ready to yank it out the moment the download’s done. “I hijacked the Proxy system while I was in there.”

“Good for you.” Her body tenses. “Get ready.”

More popping noises from the hallway. Someone shouts instructions.

“You don’t get it…. Next time they hack somebody I’m going hitch a ride on their signal.” The download timer reads forty seconds.

My apartment door flies open and three men from my security detail burst through. “Ma’am, we’ve got a situation,” The leader addresses Meridian.

“Cover the door.” Meridian points her pistol at my head. “If they get past you, I’ll kill him myself.”

The man nods and the three guards kneel inside the doorway, guns at the ready.

Meridian turns her pistol on the lead guard’s head.

My stomach heaves in anticipation, but I can’t look away. I’ve never seen anyone die before.

Meridian pulls the trigger and the man’s head explodes spraying grey matter and blood across the ivory white wall and a corner of the Jackson Pollack my designer hung there. The wall will never be the same, but the gore blends right in on the Pollack.
___________________________________________________________________________________


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.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each.

Now go tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016. Tell everyone about WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!





50 comments

  1. My vote goes to Eva. I didn’t get hooked until halfway through the story and I still don’t know who Baba is. But your characters are likeable.

    Covus – I had to read the story a few times before I could see the scene. The waltz/tango line felt out of character for Meridian. Also Ethan refers to the Proxy ware at the beginning of his interaction with Meridian and then during the shooting scene appears to refer to it again as if for the first time. I think Ethan will develop into a very interesting character for you.

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  2. My vote goes to Eva. It moved along well and painted a picture I was interested in reading more of. I felt like I need more of Corvus Corax's piece to get interested to the point where I'd want more.

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  3. My vote is for Eva - I felt more drawn into the characters and their situation than with Corvus Corax

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  4. My vote goes to Eva. The content carried a lot of emotion,hints of oppression that will obviously be developed, I'm not sure how old his sister is, I guess around about nine or ten. The extract certainly drew me in to the characters.

    Corvus Corax I found to be a bit confusing, so much action in a short space of time.
    C

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  5. Eva gets my vote.I connected with the characters and their situation/emotions.

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  6. Both pieces are strong but my vote goes to Eva.

    I love this setting for a YA--it feels fresh and unlike anything I've read before.

    In Corax--am I reading correctly that she double crosses the guards? As for last image--cut "my designer hung there" we already know he's rich and a Pollack further indicates. That's just a detail that takes you away from the scene. Also, the whole must-get-the-download-complete-while-the-bad-guys-are-rushing-in... is a trope popular in the genre but so familiar that, for me, it hurt you in this match-up.

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  7. Vote: Eva

    There's a lot more to surprise me in that story than the other. The Corax story is just a lot of things I've heard before.

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  8. Eva: This is my favorite entry so far. If I had to predict who would win the whole contest right now, I'd choose you. This passage works as a complete, heart-wrenching short story for me but it also works as an excerpt from something longer that will hopefully give us a happier ending. YA historical fiction tends to focus on a few well-covered eras and characters. This feels like a new story and a new perspective. The language is evocative and the storytelling pulled me along. Favorite line - "Her question seeped into the quiet spaces of their home, igniting memories Bahadur promised to bury."

    Corvus Corax: This is also incredibly well-written. The futuristic aspects are clear without being over-explained (a pet peeve of mine). The tension is established in a believable way. The dialogue felt real to me and I absolutely loved the line "... maybe tango, I never was good at waltzing." I'm filled with questions about what has happened to society, who this kid is, and what he's going to have to do to fix the situation. I was hooked right up until the last paragraph. Although the violence at the end was necessary to the plot, the description of it felt gratuitous to me and the Pollack reference is too "on the nose".

    It was tough, but my vote goes to Eva.

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  10. Eva/ this whole thing confused me. Started with "take this corner" and i thought they were driving. Ha to go back to reread. The hard to pronounce names got me lost a few times. So the mom got shot and "whoosh" died. So why is he waiting for the "whoosh" from his sister? Was he waiting for a deep breath to tell she was asleep- but you used the same whoosh to describe death? Or is she dying? Of what? This irritates me

    Even though I didnt care for the wire in the head (overdone) this would have done much better (obviously my opinion) as a story about a hacker/ trying to get through firewalls or install malware- things most people can automatically understand in such a short story. I vote for Corax mostly cause I detested Evas

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  11. I vote Eva.

    The piece was fresh and poetic. I hope the author is watching #MSWL on Twitter or visiting the Manuscript Wish List website, because this is what diversity is about - beautiful stories that draw readers into another culture/viewpoint. Well done.

    Corvus: There's some promise for this story, but the pacing felt a bit off - almost like the action was moving too quickly to get a real feel for the characters. Fast action is necessary in a Thriller, but I wonder if it would have worked better to slow the scene down a tad to allow the reader to connect with the protagonist. Also, it may be only because of yesterday's racing story, but when I read "Drive full," I thought it was a command to drive quickly or live fully or something of that sort, not a computer message. I did love the tango comment. It was a little out of place, but I felt like it was the one spot where we got a real sense of Meridian's character. Oh, and I love the name Meridian!

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    1. Edited to add: By out-of-place, I meant the tango comment seems random, but life can be a little random and I appreciated Meridian's break from business to insert that random personal comment. :)

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  12. I'm a thriller junkie. I vote for Corvus. Plus, I liked that last line.

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  13. Both entries were great! I connected with Eva's characters, but was pulled in by the action in Corvus' piece. It was a hard decision, but my vote goes to Corvus.

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  14. Eva's piece was a little confusing in the setup, but things became clearer as the story moved on. The language and tone was very well done. The characters were full of life and emotion.

    Corvus's piece was more my usual genre and I loved the punchy dialogue and tense pacing.

    The Pollack reference felt like it was trying to hard to be edgy instead of showing the MC's current wealth, but it had everything to do with the way it was written. It takes the reader back out of the scene at a crucial moment instead of leaving them up close to the action.

    There was an error in the middle: "Next time they hack somebody I’m going hitch a ride on their signal." Should have been "going to" or "gonna."

    And there was a lot of "trapped dialogue" - dialogue that's sandwiched between two bits of narration.

    Corvus's piece needs more polish, but I really liked the setting and would want to see more of the world and characters.

    My vote is for Eva.

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    1. *too hard

      So much for proofing my own comments :P

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  15. FANTASTIC! Both entries are just awesome today, action packed with intense writing and the dialogue tells us a lot about the characters in both stories. I'd be interested in reading more from both writers :) I think both entries deserve to move forward but I will cast my vote for Eva as I'm a big fan of historical fiction and the time and place of her entry is very intriguing to me.

    My only real critique of Corvus' piece is that it smacks a little too close to The Matrix to me when it comes to original story. Awesome writing all around though. Congrats to you both and good luck!

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  16. Sorry for the vote and run, but my family has caught what I'm pretty sure is the plague.
    I vote Eva today.

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  17. My vote goes to Eva. Something about the way it flowed reminded me of "The Kite Runner" and I was drawn to Bahadur's plight - losing his mother, taking care of his sister, having to adult. Would definitely read more.

    Corvus - I enjoyed the action and I thought the dialogue worked. But the first line also confused me and I didn't feel drawn to your MC. It's only 500 words though...I would keep reading.

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  18. Eva had some sloppy writing. Corvus, although participating in the lazy first person narration that's already far too well represented in this contest, is less sloppy. So they get my vote.

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  19. I like Eva's scene very much. I don't want to pick on any of the petty little tripping points except to suggest that when writing: every word matters and every sentence deserves thoughtful reflection: "Does this really say exactly what I need it to say?"

    I sense there are a lot of YA fans here who lack an appreciation for subtlety which is of course foreign to that genre by necessity. Bad luck for Corvus Corax who writes here with density, maturity and humour. I love that nearly every sentence develops more than one objective at once.

    I have to vote Corax because I require subtlety. I need to experience a story rather than hearing about it.

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  20. Both good.
    I instantly fell in love with Corvus though. I absolutely want more.

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  21. I loved both of these, and unlike some of the meaner spirited comments about first person being lazy - I think it can actually be harder to get right. Eva reminded me of several young adult novels very popular right now and that I enjoy. You have a great twist on it with the Soviet oppression and I think it has great potential. I think you might want to change the line about the whoosh coming next. It can be just as heart wrenching with different turn of phrase and I think it would flow better.
    Corvus - I really loved the pacing of your piece. I thought your writing was excellent and I was sucked into your story. My only problem is your MC isn't someone I wanted to root for. Or even not root for. I needed to care more, but I'm sure that happens as your story unfolds.
    I'm so torn between these two, but I think I'm picking Eva. I love the older brother taking care of his younger sister and loving her.

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  22. My vote is for Eva. The characters were compelling and I related to the brother's flashback of his mother's death. I find it completely understandable he would feel compelled to listen to his sister's breaths at night for reassurance of her continued existence.

    That being said, Corvus has some good things going for it: snappy dialogue, a double-cross and easy to understand setting and situation. I think, for me, it was just hard to beat Eva's piece.

    Oh, and I'd like to weigh in on the Jackson Pollack line. I loved it! Really loved it!

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  23. Oooooo, this one is really, really close. But Eva, by a hair.

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  24. Corvus Corax gets my vote. Both are great, but I was more intrigued by the second read.

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  25. Corvus Corax, I really loved this. Good job!

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  26. Eva.
    They were both good, but I just enjoyed Eva's a bit more - it's subject matter, my better connection to characters...

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  27. My vote is for Eva. I was confused by the opening, but I liked the emotion at the end. I enjoyed the action in Corvus Corax's story, but I was thinking Matrix right from the beginning, and it was hard to get that out of my head.

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  28. Another hard choice. Both were engaging, obviously in very different moods. Both could have used one more polish.

    Eva: Kudos for showing us something of a less-familiar culture, time, and place. The mixed metaphor tripped me. Perhaps exhume/bury or ignite/extinguish, but ignite/bury just didn't work for me. I'm assuming Baba is their (missing? dead?) father but I haven't a clue about "jan." And in the next to the last line, perhaps "had waited for the next 'whoosh' to come...?" I like leaving the brother watching & listening to his sister sleep. With a shine-up, this could work well as a stand-alone, or lead into something much bigger.

    CC: Exciting, and well-written. Took me a few lines to catch up with what was going on. But unfortunately for today, the scene/situation has been done and done again. This would have been a winner for me over some contestants, but the draw worked against you this time. A different excerpt that showed what makes this work truly unique would have had a better go. It's solid writing.

    My vote goes to Eva.

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  29. Eva has the diversity angle. I feel that I learned something, that I was exposed to some culture and some history. That really appeals to me.

    Corvus Corax was well done and interesting. I love Meridian's voice. Because I want to read more of this story, I give it my vote.

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  30. Eva had some good writing, but Corvus Corax is my jam!
    voting for Corvus Corax

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  31. Corvus Corax - when I read this piece, the first thing that popped into my head was Johnny Mnemonic (terrible Keanu Reeves movie), which starts with a startlingly similar scene. Outside of that, the story is interesting, but the pacing felt off and lacked clarity.

    Eva - incredibly atmospheric, and very emotionally moving. I like the glimpse into their world and felt very drawn in. There are some shaky parts, many I assume would be cleared up in a longer sample, others would be cleared up with a quick edit.

    Vote - Eva. Though both were interesting, I found Eva's writing more compelling

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  32. Both stories were good, but the excitement and nervousness of Corvus' piece kept me going and left me wanting to read more. So Corvus gets my vote.

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  33. Eva gets my vote. I too am intrigued by the rich setting and lyrical prose. I love historical fiction of all stripes, so her piece is right up my alley!

    Corvus Corax's piece is interesting and packed with suspense, but I simply didn't feel as invested in it as much as I would have liked.

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  34. Eva sets an intriguing, if painful, scene, but the head-hopping POV shifts are distracting.

    Corvus Corax has some structure issues too, but overall, it gets my vote.

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  35. Corvus GMV.

    While I enjoyed Eva's piece, it too long to really get going in my head. The start was a more confusing than set up--We had no idea why they were hanging a blanket over a window, though the boy was afraid of the outside, and they needed to pray. For a few I thought this was some type of futuristic tale until we were TOLD what year it was and such, which I know was probably necessary for this short of a piece. Still, I would have liked to be immersed sooner and know what was happening.

    Corvus: You almost lost me in your first few lines with the 'grab into' bit, but I persevered and was pleased. The type of story has been done before, but I enjoyed the writing and the banter between your characters, and the fact that your MC seemed more than a little twisted.

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  36. Corvus GMV.

    While I enjoyed Eva's piece, it too long to really get going in my head. The start was a more confusing than set up--We had no idea why they were hanging a blanket over a window, though the boy was afraid of the outside, and they needed to pray. For a few I thought this was some type of futuristic tale until we were TOLD what year it was and such, which I know was probably necessary for this short of a piece. Still, I would have liked to be immersed sooner and know what was happening.

    Corvus: You almost lost me in your first few lines with the 'grab into' bit, but I persevered and was pleased. The type of story has been done before, but I enjoyed the writing and the banter between your characters, and the fact that your MC seemed more than a little twisted.

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  37. My vote goes to Eva.

    I enjoyed both pieces, although both beginnings were scrambled. In Eva - why would they be hanging a blanket in their own home, when surely it is always up if they are worried about being exposed to the outside world? They pray every day, so do they put the blanket up every day to hide that they are praying and then take it down again? Perhaps this is clearer in a larger context, but it threw me off initially. The rest of the story flowed well and drew me along after I got my head around all the characters, their unusual names and lore.

    I had to read the first paragraphs of Corvus a couple of times to get the scene in my head. I think it was the "scan the list of documents" that threw me and kept tripping my mental picture. The rest flowed well, but I didn't get as invested as I did with Eva's piece.

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  38. Eva by a nose. I love historicals, especially in a fresh era. What kept this from being a clear front-runner for me was the shifting POVs, not so much the shifting from Mariam to Bahadur, but from omniscient 3rd person to closer 3rd person.

    I had trouble following the set-up with Corvus, though I liked the MC's voice and the bits of snark.

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  39. Hi Don - I'd go for Eva ... took me to reality as it is today ... so sad yet so believing of the past and the future .. cheers Hilary

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  40. Eva: The situation you've set up is full of interesting tension and personal loss. The one issue I had with your piece is that it took me until about halfway through to realise we were in Bahadur's POV. I thought we were seeing things from Mariam's perspective until you described Bahadur's bodily sensations as Mariam mentions Mammy. I would love to know more about what Bahadur's life is like and how he copes with the conflict all around him.

    Corvus Covax: Cool sci fi thrillers are my jam. I had no real trouble following the scene or figuring out what was going on, but I'm familiar with the genre. I think the interest in your story maybe lies with the protagonist's plan to leave his life of luxury. It might be helpful to hint at why he's doing this up front. A bit of dialogue between him and Meridian (whose name I LOVE) might help us to understand the stakes. The cool Matrix-y vibe here could be a very neat setup to a story about class conflict.

    Tough to choose, but my vote is for Corvus.

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  41. My vote has to go for Corvus. I liked the voice and the sense of humor in an extreme situation.

    Eva has a good story, but I had a hard time determining the POV at some points.

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  42. I vote for Corvus, whose story grabbed my attention more than Eva's.

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  43. Corvus- Sci-fi/Software/Action are my thing. After the first few lines I thought this one was going to be it for me for sure. However, there was just not enough to make me want to know more about/care about these characters. I understand the word limit does this but this was just too much of a glimpse and besides the having two parties at odds with each other and there being cool human data uploads to the brain happening I didn't feel like I learned much more about the story. Also, until I read the others' comments I had no idea there was a rich/poor thing going on(even with the "What's it like… being poor?" question). I just somehow missed it. I have no clue what a Pollack is either.

    Eva- It lacked a bit of explanation of culture. I do not want to keep looking up things about another culture constantly while I'm reading so more short blurbs of explanation here and there(because you did have some in there and it was good) would help those of us not accustomed to the different practices. For example I don't know if jan is a last name and why is it italicized? I understood that maghrib was a prayer but why is that italicized? Later on I realized(and I could be wrong on this) that anything is a different language was what was being italicized but it was odd to have only the last name(if it is a last name) being italicized. Aren't the first names also a different language? Like others commented, I too was confused why they were putting up the blanket then if the danger seems to have been there before. Was the blanket up before and had just fallen down? Did they just move from one location to another and had to re-do the covering of the windows? However, the emotion this piece brought was raw and real and this is what won me over.

    My vote is for Eva

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  44. My vote is for Eva. Both are a bit confusing at the start, but pay off further in. The problems I saw have already been mentioned, so here's what I liked...

    Corvus - Great tension, interesting characters and plot, and I love Pollack line.

    Eva - Great turmoil in the main character trying to move past grief. Interesting characters and plot. Fresh. Heartbreaking, yet hopeful.

    Thanks to you both and congrats on defeating the slushpile!

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  45. So tough to choose. Both pieces are great, and grabbed my attention, but my vote goes to Eva.

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  46. Eva gets my vote.
    The beginning was a little confusing, but once I got on board, I was there, in that little house wanting to see the dragonfly too! I loved the older brother looking out for his little sister, and it felt authentic.

    Corvus, your piece moved to the action right away, which is always a plus, but the over-use of jargon right at the get-go made made me want to skim, and I had to stop myself from skimming later in too bc when the action seems to be moving that fast, dialogue can slow it down. Over all, not quite my favorite genre, but could definitely see a lot of people really being drawn in.
    Great job both!

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