WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #11


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

Today begins the final week of WRiTE CLUB first-round bouts and the last opportunity for ten new contestants to step into the ring. The battles so far have been fierce and tightly contested and this week will be more of the same.  Best of luck to everyone.

Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, May 6th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have FoundMissing representing the Suspense genre.


HALLOW ROAD

It was a game he used to play with his wife, back when she was still around. They’d walk the neighborhood with Sir Lancelot, their regal Chow Chow with its blue-black tongue and lionlike looks. They’d create stories of what was going on behind closed doors. Lori developed the narrative, having spent her youth in this neighborhood and knowing the history behind some of its houses. Liam provided the dialog—male and female voices.

Especially in the evening, when houselights hinted at which rooms were in use.

The genre shifted as the houses changed—a sitcom where a family sat for dinner; romance when the upstairs lights dimmed; and mystery when the windows were dark, yet the door sat open. For Liam, every house represented a romantic comedy. But Lori’s narrative often veered off into dark corners, blind alleys, and serpentine pathways.

The night she crafted the story of a dark affair as they walked by Nils Eriksson’s house, Liam didn’t chime in with dialog. He wondered, instead, about the excitement in Lori’s voice. Anticipation, even.

The sexy Swede with a confident swagger grew tired of his wife’s so-called business trips. He took a younger lover—

“How much younger?” Liam interrupted.

Lori shrugged. “Five years, let’s say.

Lori was five years younger than Nils Eriksson.

She continued her tale, lingering, letting Sir Lancelot smell every bush near the Eriksson’s Saab.
He and his lover grew bolder, unable to stay away from one another. Even when his wife was in town. They found places—the back seat, the park, the library, once. Places his wife would never—

“What about the lover’s husband?”

Lori smiled, playfully tapped Liam in his chest. “You’re changing our game.”

Her impish grin was too much for Liam. Was she the co-star in her own story? This was her way of confessing?

Two evenings later, Lori added another chapter in front of Nils’ brick home.

His wife returned early from a business trip and discovered the lovers on the back porch. Devastated her. As one last act of revenge, she vowed to expose the woman who stole her man. She’d find the woman’s husband. She’d—

“Nils’ wife has a name,” Liam said. “Ana.”

Lori looked Liam in the eye. Tilted her head. Ashamed? Ready to make an admission?

“I don’t know Nils or Ana. Let’s cross the street to that dark house. We’ll tell a horror story.”

“This is a horror story.” Liam walked away, leaving Lori and Sir Lancelot to create stories without him. He’d seen Lori talking with Nils once in the grocery, possibly a second time in a restaurant.


Nowadays, walking the dog alone, Liam avoided Nils Eriksson’s house. To be clear, the game had lost its charm before he lost Lori. A laugh needed a conspiring ear. A mystery required a sidekick to bounce ideas off for solving the riddle. And a romance, of course, demanded a willing partner.
*********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have Solar Eclipse representing the Fantasy genre.


“Hello?” called a familiar voice from the reception area. “Anyone home?”
 “In here!” Cal jumped up from behind the desk and greeted Isaac Bingham with a smile. “What a nice surprise. You look great. Retirement agrees with you.”
Despite the white hair, the elderly man’s grip was firm. “The grandkids keep me and Julia busy. No regrets taking over my law office?”
“None, except I have to pop a few extra-strength aspirin before every appointment with George Lydecker.”
Isaac’s eyes twinkled. “Trust me, his father was worse.”
Cal ushered him to a leather armchair. “Can I get you something? Coffee?”
“No thanks, I’m fine.”
“I take it you’re back for the harvest festival and to watch the eclipse.”
“Not exactly.” Isaac regarded the room with a pleased expression. “I like what you’ve done here; new paint, carpet.” He nodded at the laptop on the desk. “Everything is up-to-date the way it should be. I’ve heard good things about you from others in town. Now I know he was right all along, and I left clients in good hands.” Isaac’s expression took on a far-away look as if recalling a long-buried memory. “Why am I surprised? He was always right.”
The clock on the bookcase ticked off the seconds. Cal cleared his throat. “Isaac?”
“Forgive me.” Isaac shook his head with a laugh. “I must sound like a crazy old poot. I came back to see you. I have something I’ve waited a long time to deliver.”
Cal raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
Isaac reached into his pocket and handed him a three-day pass to the harvest festival.
“Um, thanks.” Cal’s confusion deepened. “But I only planned to stop in for a few hours—”
“I also have a message. Strange,” Isaac murmured with a half-smile. “I’ve imagined this conversation often over the years. Now I don’t know where to begin.” His bemused expression vanished and he leaned forward. “Have you ever heard of the Lux Foundation?”
“Of course,” said Cal with surprise. “I wouldn’t be in Avalon Springs without it. The Lux Foundation awarded me a full scholarship to college and law school. When I passed the bar, they offered a grant contingent on locating to a rural community. It allowed me to buy your office and start debt free. Otherwise, I would have gone to a big city law firm.”
“Do you remember applying for the scholarships or the grant?” said Isaac.
“Well, no, but I applied for so many financial aid packages, and was told the grant was from an anonymous donor. Why do you ask?”
“Phillip Bingham was the founder of the Lux Foundation and my grandfather. He earmarked funds for your education and the grant. He’s the reason I approached you to take over my practice.”
Cal blinked. “Y-your grandfather? I don’t understand. Why?”

“I don’t know, but that’s not the strangest part. He set aside the money and made me promise to help you relocate to Avalon Springs fifty years before you were born.”
*********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #10


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week.

Today closes out week two with the 10th of 15 bouts.  Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Thursday, May 3rd (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Alex T. Hilton representing the YA Science Fiction genre.


Aside from the white spectral creature stalking Jude, the night was perfect. The Tower Comics theme park, curtained with scents of hot-fried dough, pinged with laughter, and clanked with climbing rollercoasters. Everyone in that park—including Jude’s friends—reveled, all unaware of the danger. Rob, his denim-clad arms crossed, smiled at Heather, the curly haired wonder, who giggled and nudged him with her hip as Jude let them walk ahead.
            Behind Jude, the feathered creature slithered through the crowd. It bumped around kids in capes, only wanting Jude. Like his friends, no one else could see—had ever been able to see—the ghostly creatures except for him. Yet, this floating mist-snake and its long, jagged teeth could take a chunk out of any of the costume clad park-goers. So, it was Jude’s responsibility to do something about it.
 Tonight, though?
Couldn’t it have chosen a night when Jude was in his room reading a comic and not surrounded by people?
            He sighed deeply. For the first time in five homes, he’d found a place where Mom didn’t move them within a year. Sure, Austin, Texas had its share of weirdos, but for two long years it’d lacked the normal—let’s say—excitement that came with being him. In Michigan, he’d watched as a fellow fifth grader’s voice was stolen by a Butterfly. In Ohio, his two thirteen-year-old friends had been sucked into the sidewalk. Compared to all that, Austin had been relaxing.
            If he tried to stop this thing, his family would be packed and running by 3:00 AM. If he didn’t, then what would happen?
Someone let out a squeak.
Sudden anxiety gripped Jude’s stomach. He turned to spot a girl with android face paint—wires spiderwebbed around her eyes. Her circuit painted hand clutched a cup of popcorn as she stumbled back. She had just walked into the creature and was mere inches from it now.
The creature rolled in on itself, pretzeling its lithe body so it could face her. It hissed, flashing rows of spiraling, screw-sized teeth. She blinked, completely unaware of the jaws hinging open in front of her face as it reared back.
Jude forced heat to snap in his chest that quickly spread outwards to his fingers and toes. He couldn’t Burn too hot right now, not with all these people. Too much, and he’d start glowing like a paper lantern.
The girl couldn’t see the monster, but she must have been able to sense the impending danger because she backpedaled. Jude imagined a thin, coiling string in his hand, felt it form there. In a flash, he tripped her. Popcorn leapt from her cup onto the bricks as she landed awkwardly on her butt.
The Snake whizzed over her head, biting nothing but the trails of her hair. The long, floating, feathered body twitched with frustration. But then the eye-less, forked head sensed through the crowd by tasting his spent energy. The creature swung its head, practically salivating.

Oh, shit.
*********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have TravelingGnome representing the Mystery genre.


Gertrude mentally checked “murder” off her bucket list. She watched as two crewmen carefully wheeled a gurney, a white sheet contouring the decidedly dead body, off the cruise ship and headed toward a van discretely marked Coroner. She clutched her cane and hobbled toward the gangplank, an attendant wheeling a cart-full of matched luggage in her wake. Handicapped people always debarked first, (barring any dead bodies, at least); that was one of the perks of being old.

At eighty-seven she wouldn’t get many more chances to execute her bucket list. So, when the opportunity had presented itself, with a handy knife she’d stolen from her steak dinner and an invitation to the cabin of an elderly windbag with tufts of white hair she’d met at the casino on the Lido Deck, well, it was fate. Like God had personally approved the execution of the odious man for chain-smoking cigarettes non-stop (a nasty habit!) and tossing down liquor like he was immune to death. Moderation was key. She would have told him that, if he was still alive.

“Watch your step here,” the attendant said, helpfully offering a hand onto shore.

“Thank you,” she replied. “You’re such an obliging young man.” She patted his arm and he beamed.

The coroner’s van was parked by baggage claim and sat silently like a hearse, which she supposed it was. Gertrude couldn’t resist a peek at her handiwork. It would just take a second. Her hands trembled slightly as she balanced herself on the fender, pushing herself up high enough to peer inside the rear window. The sheet had slipped to the floor, and there he was, the man who used to be Floyd. Her face flushed at the sight of him. Except for the rather hideous gash across his throat, he appeared to be napping.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Did I do that? She held a chubby hand to her chest feeling the fluttery thump of her heart through her floral muumuu. The jagged flaps of his throat would have to be sewn back together before the funeral. It would be closed casket.

“Ma’am, are you ok?” It was that pesky attendant again, looking to help where he wasn’t wanted.

“I’m fine. Thank you, dear. I just needed to rest my old bones a moment before I call a taxi.”  

“I’ll take care of that for you.” He pointed away from the van. “There’s a covered bench just over there where you can wait comfortably.”


Gertrude risked another peek at Floyd and closed her eyes savoring the feeling. Warmth like a cup of hot tea on a winter night swept through her body as she replayed the event over and over, watching on the movie screen of her eyelids at the horror on his face when he realized an eighty-seven year old great-grandmother was ending his life. She clenched and unclenched her arthritic hands where they had held the heft of the knife and smiled.
*********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #9


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

Today is the 9th of 15 bouts with a pair of contestants ready to climb into the ring.  Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, May 2nd (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Catnipped representing the YA Paranormal Mystery genre.


I sipped. As potions go, it didn't taste half bad. The guy had called it a treatment. But I liked potion better, because potions were all about mysterious magical adventures and not just about a bought and paid for guinea pig. Easy money, my alley-mate had said. Not so much, I had since decided what with all these wires stuck to my shaved head. “What is this stuff?” I asked, something I probably should have found out before I signed the papers and took the money.

“A simple mixture,” Professor Baldy said. He’d told me his name. I’d promptly forgotten it because his name didn’t matter. All I cared about was the money. But that was before the wires and the head shaving and getting strapped into a chair at the front of a classroom with a gang of white-coated geeks gawking at me. Some looked bored. Several smirked. One was wide-eyed terrified. Another had a creepy hoping-for-a-cadaver grin.

“What does it do?” I asked.

“I can’t say,” the professor replied.

“You mean you don’t know.”

“I mean telling you would taint the results of this experiment.”

Uh. Huh.

“Go ahead. Drink up,” he urged like a bartender offering his latest feel-good concoction. 

I took a larger gulp and gagged. The sip had been not-so-horrible. A swallow was road-kill nasty.

“More,” he insisted.

The geeks stared. The professor glared. A row of machines impatiently beeped and blipped behind me. I’d signed the papers. I’d taken the money. I couldn’t back out now. I sighed, held my breath, and swigged down the rest.

A warm sensation started in my stomach and spread through me like a super-charged whiskey shot.

Baldy took the empty goblet. It was really a glass beaker, but I liked goblet better.

“It may take a few minutes,” he said more to the others than to me. “Try to relax.”

Relax. Right. Fat chance.

“While we wait…”

I half expected him to pull out a deck of cards.

“A little background information,” he continued instead in an announcer type voice. “The subject is…”

“My name is Arianna,” I interrupted.

“The subject is…” Baldy repeated. Apparently he cared about my name as much as I cared about his.

“A twenty-one-year-old female.”

Sixteen. Twenty-one. Not much difference, excepting they wouldn’t have paid a sixteen-year-old.

“Reasonably intelligent and relatively healthy.”

Relatives? Did he know about my brother? I squinted at him. He’d gone all blurry.

A monitor beeped faster.

“She also scored impressively high on our psychic aptitude tests.”

The monitor buzz-ga-leaped and then moaned. Or maybe it was me, because a killer headache suddenly stabbed me between the eyes. 

Baldy peered at the monitor. “Accelerated heart rate,” he announced. “Increased cortical activity. How do you feel?”

“Fine,” I lied. “Excepting I’m awfully hot.” Sweat drenched me. My flimsy gown clung to me like wet tissue.

A monitor suddenly went into a high pitched dit-dit-dit.

Baldy turned kind of pale.


“I’m fine,” I repeated just before everything wasn’t.
*********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have Canister McIntosh representing the Short Story genre.


Ross Barnett

     Twin Harbors doesn’t have a minimart. It doesn’t have a store, or a cash register, or anything like that. Just houses. They crust the edges of our little inlet on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, almost spilling into water, alive even, clamoring to get away from the driveways and the pine thicket that covers everything but the roads in this part of Mississippi. A-frame and two-stories and car ports all crawling down the bank to get away from the fact that nothing around here ever moves.

     Everybody in Twin Harbors, except for one, swims with the water moccasins and copperheads, and none of us are afraid. Once you see the older kids do it, you do it too, and everyone knows you never wade into the tall grass.

     Lois never swims with us. This is a known fact in Twin Harbors, that Lois Trudeau does not swim with us. Her aunt and uncle won’t let her go beyond the edge of their driveway. Most days you can find her standing at the edge of her property line, by the street, in short shorts and a tight t-shirt, watching for anyone who passes by. House arrest. Endless, and unexplained. In summertime, the days wheel by so slow, morning, afternoon and evening, all turning on that little patch of lawn, and that two-story house with the concrete slab out back, and I don’t know how she can stand it.

     At thirteen, Lois already looks like a woman. Round hips, C-cup boobs. She’s too pale to tan, but she tries anyway, lying next to me on a cheap TG & Y beach towel on the concrete slab porch, baking in the sun. In the summer, she smells like Coppertone and sweat, and when we go inside the cool, dark cave that is her aunt and uncle’s house, my skin as hot and tight as hers, she has this look, like she’s accomplished something her dead mother would be proud of.

     In the summer, most kids in Twin Harbors hang out at the dump. Lois stays home and plays her records. “Fat bottomed girls” and “We Are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” When I come by after, she names the songs and glares at me when I don’t know what they are, in this way that says of course you don’t know.

     We stay up late, me and Lois, until the narrow strip of light under Aunt and Uncle’s bedroom door goes dark. The house smells cool, like a knife edge. Like the inside of her aunt’s clean refrigerator. And we listen to Queen records, and Lois tries to cornrow my hair even though it’s too fine. Then we dress up our faces with cheap TG&Y lipstick. How exciting it is, she says, all the changes. And how much more she will change, how her whole life will change, when she’s old enough to leave. No more house arrest. No more acne. No more aunt and uncle and Mississippi summer.

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

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #8


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

Today is the 8th of 15 bouts with a pair of contestants ready to climb into the ring.  Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, May 1st (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Elvis Pugsley representing the Short Story genre.


Out beside the gas pumps in the hot West Texas sun, I was ass-deep in the station wagon’s engine. There was such a wealth of problems I had to start alphabetically, and work my way through. I was up to ‘D’, for ‘Distributor’, when I rapped my knuckles good on that engine block and let fly with enough cussing to have a sailor sanding his ears down.
“Mr. Hoskins, you use a lot of bad words.”
I hadn't heard little Monica come up behind me, and considered just shooting myself but figgered that’d be more traumatizing to her than my language had been.
“Yes I do, and neither you nor your brother should ever, ever talk the way I do,” I told her as I backed out, banged my head against the hood, and damn near had to chew my tongue off to keep from spewing even more profanity.
“Mama’s teaching me to speak good… speak right…”
As I turned around I saw her face screwing up for tears while she searched for the correct word.
“Try ‘speak well’, angel.”
“Mama’s teaching me to speak well… yes sir, that’s it,” she said, as the threat of tears disappeared. She smiled a shy little smile at me and toddled off.
I was leaning back, smiling myself at the sight of her… and wondering if a merciful God’d ever forgive me enough to trust me with such a treasure, when I heard her Mama clearing her throat behind me.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Hoskins. She’s heard much worse.”
I turned to face her.
“Now I suspect you’re fibbing, Mrs. Carswell. I been around rough talk all my life. I know how I sound.”
She smiled, and for a second I could see the beautiful young woman she’d been before life had beaten her down like a long-hair freak at a honky-tonk..
“Well, maybe I was fibbing, just a bit… but you and Mrs. Hoskins have been so kind… I guess as far as I’m concerned, as far as we’re all concerned, you can do no wrong.”
I winced a little inside, thinking about all that she and her family didn’t know… all they’d never know.
She took my hands, dirty and greasy, in hers, and squeezed them.
“Thank you, Mr. Hoskins… for everything.”
She went to chase down her toddling treasure, and I got back to work on giving them a way to make Phoenix.
They were tearfully grateful for clean, soft beds, and meals while I fixed their car… but the floodgates were well and truly opened the next morning when we forced a thousand dollars on them, telling them it was a ‘loan’.
Watching Ed and Kathy’s reactions, I knew they’d find a way to repay it, make it a real loan instead of a disguised gift, soon as they could. Made me feel good… made Renee feel good… like maybe we wasn’t just predators, taking from the fat and the criminal.


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

And in the near corner, we have Jett Jaguar representing the Short Story genre.


10
The great fish, whose name is a melody days long, broods in the depths. The frigid current chills his pain. All the creatures marvel at his song, and weep.

9
The fish follows the sailing ships of the land walkers. He drives away any of his kind who seek to breach the ships’ hulls. They sense regret clinging to him like remora.

8
The fish nudges the woman’s body. Her golden hair billows about her head. Her skin is pale like moonlight and swells from her bones. The sea has rinsed the color from her face. Her eyes stare without sight, and her lips part without words. The fish mourns.

7
The woman stands on the beach, gazing out over the sea. She does not play. The shaggy four-legs prods her feet. The fish watches and is terrified. After many days, she walks into the water. The fish has grown too great to swim over the reef to push her back to the shore.

6
The fish finds the copper-haired man among debris from the ship.  His coverings drag his body into the depths. The fish fears for the one he loves.

5
The land walkers sail to hunt the tuna, the mackerel, the hake, all those creatures the great fish and his kind must eat. He feels anger at their intrusion and the hunger of his kind, and attacks their ship. The men fall into the sea, dragged downward by their heavy coverings. The fish feels unease, but this puzzles him.
4
The woman and a man with copper hair play on the beach. They throw sticks to shaggy four-legs, splash water at each other, chase seagulls away.  She chooses seashells, and he washes them in the surf.  Later, their bodies lie together in the sand. The fish watches them and feels joy.

3
The fish hunts cuttlefish in the tidal pools. He grows.

2
The fish watches the woman play on the beach. She throws sticks to a shaggy four-legs, chases seagulls into the sky, gathers seashells and washes them in the surf. She sits by the water, dragging a stick through the sand.  She gazes out over the water with her eyes far away.  The fish loves her.

1
The tiny fish flees a cuttlefish with angry dark stripes and waving tentacles. He is foolish for swimming in the shallow pool, so close to shore. Just as the beast strikes, a woman with golden hair plucks him from its grasp. She holds him in her palm and speaks to him:
“Oh, you are a fine fellow. Do not fear, little one. You will grow to be great and mighty, and all the creatures of the sea will harken to your song and marvel.”

The fish feels wonder, and believes.
*********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #7


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

Today is the 7th of 15 bouts with a pair of contestants ready to climb into the ring.  Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Monday, April 30th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Birdie representing the Novel Excerpt genre.


With All His Heart


BEEP. BEEEP. BEEEEP. Sang the metal snitch on my chest.
I get three beeps to stop doing whatever I’m doing. If I don’t obey, it calls an ambulance.
I caught Coach’s eye and patted my chest. He blew his whistle and called a timeout.
A girl with curly pink hair and a hoodie yelled at me from across the field. “Little boy! Little boy!” She clapped at me with each word. “THERE. ARE. NO. TIME. OUTS. IN. SOCCER.”
I thought academic probation was the worst thing that could happen during my first varsity game. Mom thought that the worst thing that could happen would be me dropping dead on the field. We were both wrong. Everyone was looking at me, confused. This was the worst thing that could happen. The coach ran over and walked me a few steps away from the other players.
“You alright?”
“I’m okay. My monitor messed up.” I lied. The snitch was always right. It was supposed to let me play soccer. It was supposed to let me be normal. I reached under my shirt and I slipped my finger under the wire that grew out of my chest like a thick hair. It looked like I was scratching.
The timeout ended. We raced onto the field. I dug my shoes into the dirt.
I thought a raindrop hit my head. It was sweat. Pink-haired girl had the ball. I was the closest. I fought to close the distance and show Pink Hair what a “little boy” could do. I fought to keep my lunch from coming up. My steps rang out louder than the deep bass of my heartbeat. There was no beeping song to stop me this time. Freedom.
Pink Hair inched nearer the penalty area. Near me. Time for the “little boy” to force her off the field. Her shoulders turned toward the touch line. My heart vibrated. Excitement. Maybe.
The October air sucked the warmth out of me. Everyone was watching. Judging. Goosebumps popped up. Pink Hair almost drove the ball out of bounds. So close. We’d get the ball. Hero. Mom would regret telling me to play goalie.
The air thinned like had just sprinted up a mountain. Cold.
I slowed. Pink Hair crossed one foot around the ball. No air. Her shoe like a planet around the sun. Breathe in. The next foot orbited and kicked the ball behind me. Breathe out. A perfect crossover. My heart sank. Kept sinking. Fell into my stomach. Knotted into an angry little fist. Breathe in. Breathe in.
Foot, move. Lungs, work. My heart quiets. Buzzing. Heavy. Brick shoes. Bricks on my chest. Bricks in my chest. Pulling me down. Now there’s a mountain of bricks on top of me.
There goes the ball. Spinning crazily. Great. If my feet would-
Then the world started spinning.

Before everything went quiet and black the last thing I heard was Pink Hair’s voice, “give him the red card, he’s obviously faking it…”.
*********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have Wordmonger representing the Sci-Fi genre.


Most of the trailer was taken up by a large topographic map on the command table. Black and white pictures of the destroyed town were tacked up on boards along the walls. Samira stood in front of the largest panel, searching the photos carefully. There had to be something she was missing, a clue waiting to be uncovered.
"How does an entire town just disappear?" she said.

"Well, looks to me like the tornado took it," Larry said.

Samira groaned. That wasn't the answer she was looking for but Larry was just messing with her as usual. She turned away from the pictures and began to pace. It was an annoying habit, but one that helped her brain get unstuck whenever she was faced with a puzzle. And the fate of Jensen, Missouri was a pretty big puzzle.

Larry cleared his throat and began to read from his notepad. "As of Friday afternoon the town of Jensen, population 1,179, was still present and accounted for according to state officials. A tornado passed through the town at approximately 9:08 pm that evening and lasted for 11 minutes. Everything in the town has been destroyed. No survivors, human or animal, have been located and no bodies have been found."

"Not yet, anyway," Samira said. "Have we checked above ground?"

Tornado winds were known to whip debris far from the original location and deposit it several miles away. Although Jensen and the surrounding area was as flat as a pancake, there could be a survivor marooned in a tree somewhere. Samira had to check.

"Let’s go up. I want to see the town from above." Samira grabbed her jacket and strode out of the trailer.

"Ah, the good old bird's eye view. Just like crop circles," Larry said, hurrying after his boss.

A wry smile tickled Samira's full lips. Larry was as smart as a whip, but he was a sucker for conspiracy theories. He even dressed up as Fox Mulder every Halloween. But Samira trusted his instincts and he was loyal. She considered him a friend and in this job, friendship was hard to find and harder still to keep.

The helicopter rose rapidly and the remains of the town came into view. Crumpled cars, torn siding, and dismembered furniture littered the ground and twisted branches blocked the roads. The usual tornado side effects, Samira thought. Just then an image popped into her peripheral vision.

"What's that?" she said, pointing to the southern edge of the town.

The pilot nosed the chopper down. Shredded planks of what had been a red barn once lay in a heap next to an oddly shaped metallic object. It was as big as a tractor, with smooth sides that gleamed wetly in the morning sun. As Samira watched, it shifted suddenly to the right and the top end bulged outward, almost like something was moving inside. Something big.


“Get me down there,” Samira said. “Now.” 
*********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #6


Before we kick-off week two of WRiTE CLUB I want to take time out for a mini-rant. Last week we received 282 votes, spanning all five bouts, for an average of 56 votes per bout. That is AWESOME! However, we received 132 writers submissions for this contest, and as of last night, the highest number of votes we've received for any single bout so far has been 73. Even if we assume that every one of the voters was also a contestant (which they aren't - but go with me here), that means roughly half of the people who entered the contest didn't think it was worth their time to come back and support their fellow writers. 

I believe that social media's role in helping aspiring writers get published is all about the Ying and Yang. It provides oodles of information, tips, referrals, and much more - but that also means we need to give back in anyway we can to keep the cycle going. This contest is just one example of that. The contestants who submitted a writing sample and stopped there...are all about the Ying only. You know who you are. Yes, it's hard picking one over the other, but the process is not much different than working with a quality critique partner. Time to step up and keep the cycle flowing! 

Rant over.  

Yesterday we raised the hand to our first winner. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

Today we have for you the 6th of 15 bouts with a pair of contestants chomping at the bit to climb into that ring.  Here's a refresher in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, April 29th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have Martian Magnolia representing the Science Fiction genre.


I stumbled into the storage closet of an apartment. The only place on the entire space station that belonged to me. Bigger living quarters would have been nice, but I didn't have the credits to throw away on luxury. And after a sixteen-hour shift, as long as it had a bed, I didn't care.
The doorbell chimed.
I put the pillow over my head.
Chime.
For the love of Pete. I stretched my arm to hit the intercom. "What?"
A deep masculine voice, like a rough caress filtered through the speaker. "Beatrice."
Benedick. Station Commander Benedick. Just my luck. A double shift in the hell of the main generator compartment to be followed up by a visit from my ex. 
"Can I help you?"
"Where's Phillip?"
Doing something you'd rather not know about. "He's indisposed."
"How indisposed? It's urgent that I speak with him."
It's urgent that I get some sleep, too, so let's make sure you don't linger. I moaned. "Silk Ropes and body oil kind of indisposed. It could be a while."
The one good thing about having a failed relationship with the guy in charge was knowing how to push his buttons. He knew I'd never sleep with his brother. But it'd still make him madder than a wet cat to think about.
Before I settled into sleep, his fist pounded a tattoo on my door. "Open the damn door, Bea!"
I may have overplayed my hand. "Not on your life."
My digital unit chimed. "Senior Command Lock Override."
"What the hell?" I asked the six plus feet of ochre skinned perfection when his mahogany eyes bore into mine from the passageway. He could have at least broken out in lesions since our split. But no. Because the universe hated me.
"Where's Phillip?"
"He's not here."
"But you know where he is."
True. I smiled.
He glared at me. No, he wasn't glaring. Sixteen hours of sweat and grime and he stared at my mouth. With a look in his eyes that promised...No. That way lay dragons. And copious amounts of ice cream and tears.
His voice dropped to a purr. "You can tell me and spare yourself the trouble, or I'll find him and put you both on probation."
I snorted. "Good luck with that."
"You don't think I can?"
A chuckle escaped me. "I think it's more likely that I'll strip naked and do a jig in front of you than it is that you'll find Phillip in the next six hours."
His eyes softened and he leaned against the doorframe. "Care to make that a wager?"
My throat went dry. "What's in it for me?"
He smiled. "If I don't find him in the next six hours, I'll upgrade you to a suite, no extra credits required. But if I do, that jig better be a good."
Oh my. 
I stuck my hand out. "Deal."
He took it, only to raise it to his supple lips. "Deal."

Oh, Phillip, don't screw this up. 
*********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have BooksRgood4u representing the Short Story Realistic Fiction genre.


Cletus raised a hand in greeting as the P.T. Barnum cab rolled into the Poughkeepsie station, the end of the line for many commuter trains to New York City.  Here, the trains would spend the night while Cletus and his team of train cleaners worked to ready them for the morning’s commute.  Cletus waited for the train to come to a complete stop before driving his tug of cleaning supplies beside the tracks, murmuring greetings to the Mark Twain and the Connecticut Yankee as he passed. 
Sometimes it worked out just right- the Washington Irving alongside the Ichabod Crane, the Henry Hudson pulling the Halfmoon.  A particularly cohesive lineup was guaranteed to make all stops on schedule, require less maintenance, and ensure passengers a smoother ride.
Cletus boarded the first car behind the engine, smiling. Good old P.T. always did love being the ringleader.  He also loved causing mischief, and today's particular mischief seemed to involve a spilled strawberry smoothie, a few hundred footprints, and the sticky finger-paintings of one resourceful young artist on the windows.  Cletus got to work, keeping up a steady conversation with the cab. 
In his nearly 30 years working for the railroad, Cletus had seen countless members of his crew come and go – some couldn’t handle the hard work and late hours, others used the position as a steppingstone to a long and successful career with the railroad.  Cletus trained them all, wished them well when they moved up or moved on, and welcomed the newcomers, but he never accepted a promotion himself. 
After finishing with the Barnum, he said his goodbyes and moved efficiently through the 6125 and the 6142 before boarding the Connecticut Yankee with a cheerful, "Hello, Hank!'  It was good that the Connecticut Yankee was lined up in the middle of the train, Hank Morgan always had trouble keeping dates and times straight, and a train with Hank at the head was sure to arrive off-schedule.  This bit of irony was surely not lost on the cab behind Hank, the Mark Twain. 
Saying farewell to Hank and Mark, Cletus made his way through several more anonymous cabs and the Ichabod Crane, collecting the hats that always seemed to be left behind by Ichabod's riders. 
He stopped for his first break when he reached the Eleanor Roosevelt- it wasn’t every day you got to dine with the First Lady to the World.  Eleanor’s cab was always the cleanest, commuters instinctively responding to the presence of a great lady. Even so, Cletus had the feeling that she didn't mind sharing a meal with a lowly train cleaner.

            And so it went - Writers, musicians, politicians, financiers, philanthropists and inventors - on and on until the sun rose over the Hudson River behind the station.  In 30 years, Cletus had been offered many promotions, and turned down every one. Sure, many jobs could beat the hours, the pay, or the work, but there was no job in the world that could beat the company. 
*********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


 

Archives

Blog Blitz

Design by: The Blog Decorator