WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Cage Bout #2


Three writers enter...but only one can move on!

You thought the voting was difficult before? It's time to take it up a notch. Winners from the previous three weeks of preliminary bouts have again been randomly matched, this time in groups of three, to do battle against different opponents using the same writing sample from their first round.  We will host five of these cage bouts this week (M-F).

Here's how it works. Writing samples from three different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another. 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. If you haven't already done so in a previous round, it is customary to leave a brief critique of all the 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.  At stake is a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference and bragging rights.

Your voting takes on an added significance this week as not only will the five winners move onto to the next round, the submission that does not win their bout but tally's the most votes among the losers will move forward as a wildcard selection as well.

Hear that?


It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.

Writer #1 is representing the YA Contemporary genre with 499 words. Please give a warm welcome to Ann Mcknight.




At 5:43 pm Emmaline Frazier's young life is cut short in a tragic car accident. Her mother, Justine, and younger sister, Birdy, survive her.
This is as far as I get in my imaginary obituary. I repeat it on a loop, changing the time as each minute ticks by. She dies at 5:44, at 5:45, at 5:46, at 5:47.

Each minute I survive is a victory against my stepfather. I consider opening the door and jumping, but Birdy clings to my hand and I can’t leave her alone. I don't tell her it will be okay, because I may be a crap sister, but I'm no liar. My silence is one of self-preservation. I’ve learned it does no good to sob loudly and beg for our lives. It only feeds his crazy. Our tears and fear: the anti lithium.

In lieu of screaming, I bite the inside of my cheek, pinch the skin along my thighs, and keep my mouth shut. He hugs the curves, swerving dangerously close to the sheer drop where only a flimsy, metal barrier stands between the Pacific Ocean and us.

Occasionally the back end of our Honda Civic smacks the metal with a dull thud and shudders, our car fishtailing into traffic, cars honking, people swearing. Hank occasionally strokes the thick chestnut waves of Mom’s hair, smiling with love at her, not seeing her fear.
           
“Love you so much babe.” He blows her a kiss.
           
“Love you too,” she whispers.
           
“Have you ever seen such a gorgeous day?” he shouts. He throws back his head and laughs.

I hate his laugh. It reminds me of a hyena ready to tear open its prey.

“Hey Em.” His eyes collide with mine. “You scared?”

“No sir,” I say. I hate him more than I’ve ever hated anything. My hatred scares me almost as much as dying in this hideous pea green, tin can of a car.

“You sure girl? You look kind of scared. Should I pull over?”

“No sir.” If he pulls over it will be worse. He will make me pay in another way.

“Well, okay then.” He laughs, enjoying my misery.

Birdy picks this time to whisper, “I have to potty.”

“What’s that little bird?” he yells, like she's ever going to tell him. Birdy never talks to him, her little birdy heart too delicate.

“She has to pee,” I say.

“Piss out the window.” He laughs like he’s told the funniest joke ever.

I wish his bladder would explode and he would die of sepsis.

“Okay little bird, let’s pull over here and you can go in the bushes.”

She looks at me, her sea glass eyes taking up most of her face. She is all chubby cheeks and eyes. If she were any cuter I might puke, but I love her anyway. “I don’t want to pee in bushes,” she mouths to me. Her distress turns her cheeks into blotchy red maps of misery.

“You don’t have a choice,” I whisper.
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Writer #2 represents the YA Paranormal Historical genre with 500 words. Please welcome back into the arena Marie de France.




Prologue

Some say the woodcutter’s daughter met the wolf by chance, on the way to her grandmother’s house. Not so. The truth is that the woodcutter had long suspected that his mother-in-law was really a Bisclavret.

A werewolf.

To test the old woman, he sent his little girl, dressed in her red cape and carrying a basket of little seed-cakes, to visit her grandma. It was like baiting a trap with a rabbit. The father sharpened his axe and waited outside Grandmother’s window, hoping the demon would manifest itself.

It did. Flinging off its nightgown and cap (that is to say, every shred of humanity), the Bisclavret threw itself on the woodcutter’s daughter. The woodcutter leapt through the window, swinging his axe, which has been provided with a blade of silver. He clove the Bisclavret asunder, and to his astonishment the human part of the grandmother sprang free, cleansed of all sin and every evil intent.

The girl was too young to grasp what she was seeing. She thought her grandmother had been swallowed whole, and then hacked out of the wolf’s stomach. Her father was content to let the girl tell the story that way. The truth would have been too hard to swallow.

So—happy ending! Grandmother, wholesome and harmless now, could not even remember her nights spent roaming the forest, howling at the moon.

But in the instant before the axe fell, the Bisclavret’s fangs had pierced the little girl’s shoulder—not deeply, not enough to draw blood or require a bandage. The shoulder itched a little, that was all.

It can take almost a year before the contagion of the Bisclavret works its way completely through the victim’s veins.

Chapter 1. The Wolf Hunt

“Ach! Granny! That can’t be the ending!” Marthe cries.

“That’s as far as the story goes.”

“Then tell us another. It’s too early for bed.”

Marthe’s granny, sitting next to the fire with her back against the warm hearth wall, narrows her eyes at the children lined up on the bench before her. The five of them nestle together like peas in a pod, biggest to smallest, and Marthe’s in the middle.

“I’ll give you something better than a story,” Granny Cutter says. “The truth. If you can bear it.”

“Yes! Yes!” Marthe knows—they all know—that Mother and Father wouldn’t approve. But Mother and Father have journeyed to the harvest market.

“Well.” Granny looks doubtful. Half her face is lit fire red, and half is all shadow, so she looks as
if she’s winking. “Don’t blame me if it makes you shiver.”

Marthe wriggles with anticipation. She’s seven, and fearless. Besides, the house will keep her warm. A big fire is one thing a woodcutter’s family need never stint on.

So Granny tells them about the Bisclavret, who is sometimes man and sometimes wolf. When the fury is on him, the Bisclavret throws off his humanity and roams the forest on all fours, hunting and slaying and ravening and devouring.


_____________________________________________________________________________________


Our third and final writer  represents the Adult Short Story genre with 480 words. Please also welcome back into the arena BonsaiBabe.




He leaned in close to the glass, his breath creating a small patch of fog, and probed lightly at his left eye with a fingertip. Overnight, the skin had darkened considerably. His mother, already suspicious about his refusal to eat dinner with the family last night, would undoubtedly have questions he wasn't willing to answer.

Aaron sighed. It was still early. Maybe if he got his shit together quickly he could get out of the house before she made it to the kitchen. He'd better hurry. She'd be up to make breakfast before long. He slapped some water on his face and ran his damp hands over his hair. Pulling on a black t-shirt and his favorite hoodie in quick succession, he stuffed his feet into the ratty old sneakers his mother kept threatening to replace.

He grabbed his backpack, which already held the only item he needed, throwing in a few textbooks to give the bag the right shape. He considered putting on his sunglasses, but decided they would only draw attention to the rapidly spreading bruise around his eye. The weight in his backpack felt strange as he slung it over his shoulder. Strange, but powerful.

He took the stairs two at a time, avoiding the squeaky edge as best he could. THUNK. The nylon bag wasn't enough to muffle the sound of hard metal rebounding off wood paneling. He froze.

"Aaron? Is that you?" His mother's voice floated up the stairs. "Peek your head into the baby's room and see if she's up, would you?" He could hear water running and pans scraping across the stovetop.

He did as she asked. The baby still slept soundly, her legs tucked under her chest and her little toddler rear shoved high into the air. He pulled the blanket over her, causing her eyes to flutter momentarily. Giving him a little half smile, she turned away from the light and fell back to sleep. He patted her softly. He would miss her the most.

"She's fine, Ma," he called as he dashed past the kitchen door. "Gotta run!"

"Aaron? Where are you going? You haven't even had breakfast." He heard the irritation in her voice. He didn't want her to remember anger in her last words to him. Too late. If he went back, she might say something to change his mind.

He grabbed his bike and headed toward the school, pedaling hard to burn off some of the adrenaline pumping through his veins. The sun just reached over the trees. Most of his neighbors had yet to embark on their daily commutes; their cars still huddled in sleep masks of frost. He could picture his classmates burrowed under blankets, dreams about to be shattered by the sounds of alarm clocks. Would they think of that moment, the sudden switch from asleep to awake, when they heard the sirens later?



______________________________________________________________________________________


Enjoying three 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 if you haven't already done so.

Please 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.

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


37 comments

  1. Marie de France gets my vote. While the story does end quite abruptly, it's the one I'm dying to read more of. BonsaiBabe and AnnMcknight have done splendid jobs, but I don't want to read more due to subject matter.

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  2. Very tough call. I have to go with Bonsai Babe

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  3. If I understand correctly, I'm done voting until the final round, but CONGRATS to everyone who made it this far! I hope you're all polishing your pieces for the next round! Good luck!!!!

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  4. Hard choice, but my vote is for Bonsai Babe.

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  5. I have to go with BonsaiBabe. I loved this one in the bouts and am happy to cast my vote for this great piece of writing again.

    I really loved the other two pieces, too. Please keep writing!

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  6. BonsaiBabe for me. Marie De France is one I hadn't gotten to read yet, and it's extremely good (the only thing I didn't like is that it's just the first 500 words of a story, without any apparent thought given as to cutting it to fit the format). And Ann McKnight was also one I voted for, very intense. But BonsaiBabe is the best! I do want to read on and find out exactly where this is going.

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  7. These are all good, but in different ways, so it comes down to which one I would buy first. Marie de France gets my vote. Congrats to you all!

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  8. This one is so hard because I like them all for such different reasons.
    My vote is going with Marie today because I really want to know more from this retelling.

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  9. Ann McKnight: Your first two paragraphs make an amazing hook. So much is revealed about the MC in this brief daydream of hers. The terror and hopelessness of this piece is palpable. Your description is strong enough to make my heart race each time I read it. I'm still a bit thrown by the step-father's inconsistent behavior.

    Marie de France: I'm not normally a fan of retold fairy tales, but the twist of the grandmother actually being a werewolf instead of swallowed by a wolf is just too awesome. Your prologue could stand alone as a very strong piece of flash fiction. Unfortunately, I lost interest after the chapter break.

    BonsaiBabe: I like the juxtaposition of the normal (getting dressed, breakfast being made, checking on the baby) with the foreshadowing (the bruised eye, the item in the backpack, the prediction of sirens). I find myself bracing for heartbreak while hoping fervently that things won't go the way they seem they're going.

    My vote goes to BonsaiBabe because I don't think I'd be able to stop reading even if I wanted to. I have to see how this plays out.

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  10. Marie de France gets my vote. It simply came down to personal taste this time; they all were well-written.

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  11. This was a tough one for me. The writing was great in all 3. I had the hardest time choosing between Marie de France and Ann McKnight. I loved Marie de France's fresh retelling and the last line of the prologue. However, my vote goes to Ann McKnight by a hair for her making me want to know more, and her sharp writing.

    Vote: Ann McKnight

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  12. BonsaiBabe gets my vote. This was tough, but BB's character voice won the day.

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  13. My vote goes to BonsaiBabe. Of all three pieces, this is the one that peaked my curiosity from start to end and I need to know what's going to happen next.

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  14. Tough choice, but Ann McKnight gets my vote.

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  15. Tough choice, but Ann McKnight gets my vote.

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  17. Marie De France. I like all the stories, but this one makes me want to read more of it the most.

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  18. Oh boy.... are you kidding? These are all good! I'm having the hardest time deciding. I think they all work. They all grab my interest. Ann McKnight gets my vote for being just a tad cleverer and for having the strongest character I think; the one whose presence I sensed most fully.

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  19. Not gonnna lie, I'm pretty disappointed that we had to vote for the same entries all over again. It would have made more sense to get a fresh new piece. I don't think the writers are having a fair shot.

    With that being said, I vote for Marie de France.

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    Replies
    1. It's really hard to find. But on the post about WRiTE CLUB if you click the image of the schedule you'll see that it says 'new entries' after this round. Unfortunately, I was voting in a way that was just picking the one I liked the best out of the bunch and really didn't consider the potential of the pieces in further rounds because I thought we were voting on these the whole way through. Gotta go change votes. XD

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  20. Okay, so now that I know contestants will get to present new/altered pieces in the following round. I'm going to vote for Marie de France.

    I think her ideas have a lot of potential to be great interesting stories.

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  22. Ann McKnight - you made me feel for Emmanline - great voice and great writing.

    Marie de France - I liked the prologue and would love to read the rest of the story. It reminded me of the opening scene from "The Princess Bride" and I love that movie so I know I'll love your book! Is it out yet?

    BonsaiBabe - you get my vote because your story is amazing. I want more. Like, right now please.

    Congrats to all!

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  23. Ann McKnight gets my vote as it is the one I would keep reading.

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  24. Ann Mcknight is the most vivid for me, so that's my vote. Great job to all of you.

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  25. I'm voting for Ann Mcknight on this one. Reading McKnight's story gave me the chills and it takes a lot for me to get those, since I breathe and eat horror stories. This is a seemingly real life one and I want to know if this man will really have a bladder-exploding, sepsis-induced death in the end. :) This excerpt got me to root for the character in less than 500 words! Great job.

    Marie -- while the writing is beautiful and perfectly fitting for your general and also creepy, I just couldn't get past the fact that I personally don't want to see anymore retellings of fairy tales and I was a bit thrown off that there wasn't enough editing involved for this submission. I was jarred halfway through with the scene switch.

    Bonsaibabe was also well written, but it just couldn't hold my attention long enough. I had to re read it a few times.

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  26. BonsaiBabe for me, although it was very close. These are all great pieces, but this one has me more curious than the others. Well done!

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  27. Ann McKnight. So vivid. Great voice.

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  28. Ann McKnight: In a mere 499 words, this piece evoked a half dozen strong emotions, and that takes talent. Very good writing, but my overwhelming desire to beat the tar out of the stepfather might make my head explode before I finished the first chapter. I only noticed a couple of minor errors.

    Marie de France: I like this one even better than the first time I read it. The prologue/Chapter One thing works for me. Set up the story, then tell the story. It's a creative, original twist on a classic, and I find it quite intriguing.

    BonsaiBabe: Writing is excellent, but I can only assume where this is headed, so I find the story line rather disturbing. If this were a book, I would not want to encourage anyone to read it, for fear it could provoke this type of behavior.

    All three are excellent works, so on this one, it is a matter of personal taste. My vote is for Marie de France.

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