WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #4

Welcome back to WRiTE CLUB 2018. Today is the 4th bout of 15 bouts with a fresh pair of contestants ready to muscle their way into the next round. For those of you who might have just stumbled in, let me give you a run-down of what is going on 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, April 25th (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. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

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 & 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 Windsong representing the Fairy Tale genre.


There was yet another girl in the castle. I didn’t bother with any attempt to look civilized. Dropping to all fours, I crept to the door. The fire roared, highlighting the decay of the hall. I had gotten rid of two girls with the dust alone. This girl seemed to be made of sterner stuff.
I shook out my fur, making myself into as much of a Beast as I could. This one would need a personal touch. My tail lashed as I prepared to pounce.
She was not a girl. I nearly bit my lip in shock. Damn fangs. I noticed the shoulders first, broad and strong inside the heavy brocade coat. Pure white stockings showcased well-formed calves. The coat flowed to cover the upper legs, but the hands were delicate, encased in a froth of lace. Chestnut hair, pulled back in a queue, glowed in the firelight.
I should’ve worn a coat. In fur, I wasn’t exposed, but neither was I decent.
The man turned as I entered. He was younger than I thought, beardless but beautiful. I wasn’t aware that I could blush.
“Why are you here?”
He didn’t flinch from my rumbling. Better and better. “I’m here for my sister.” He was spoiling for a fight.
I sighed. “Name?”
“Ivan.”
“No. Your sister.”
“You don’t know?”
I settled down near the fire.
“She’s been here two years. You’ve allowed her to send things home.”
My tail tapped on the floor. His eyes followed the movement.
“Rose,” he said, as if I was stupid.
“I’ve five Roses.”
Giggles drifted down the hall. They were flocking again.
He blinked, then sat abruptly. “Five?”
I beckoned with a claw. “Description?”
“Gold hair, curls. Black eyes. We call her Daisy.”
I nodded. “She will be fetched.”
He didn’t question how. He was perfect. Goddamn curse. Goddamn fairy. We waited. He shifted. I used to be good at this. Words. I needed words.
“We don’t get many of your kind here.” Not those words!
Ivan raised an eyebrow. “My...kind?”
“Men. Or, well, brothers, fathers. You know. They don’t make it past the gates.” I couldn’t hold his gaze.
“Were you expecting many?” At least he sounded amused.
“You have no idea.”
“How’d that happen?” He waved one elegant hand to indicate the gigglers.
I groaned. “It’s been a long curse.”
“And you’ve liked none. Of five.”
“Twenty, right now. Five Roses, nine Belles-”
A servant came to whisper in my ear. I frowned at Ivan. “I’ve one Rose called Daisy. She doesn’t have a brother.”
Something ugly crossed over Ivan’s face. An old hurt. “I’m Daisy’s brother.”
“She doesn’t claim you, if that is true.” My heart twisted for his pain, but I wouldn’t just give one of the girls away.
He fisted his hands inside the lace of his sleeves. “I was born Ivy.”
Ahh. That’s how he made it inside the doors. Perhaps the fairy wasn’t so stupid after all.
“Could I offer you a room, Ivan?”

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

And in the near corner, we have I.N. Summer representing the Flash Fiction genre.


Here is the chair where the old woman sits, beside the window with the streamers of fly paper hanging from the frame. When the wind blows in, the coils of sticky parchment swirl in the breeze, and the bluebottles twitch.

One of the flies struggles to escape, and the old woman crushes its head between her fingers. As she wipes its ooze off on her apron, she thinks about the camouflage scraps, the melted buttons, those bits and pieces disfigured by shrapnel and gunfire.

The flies will be getting to them now.

Here are the ruts that the legs of the chair have worn into the floorboards. They are almost like the ruts created by the old rocking horse with the ratty mane, the one she rides as she waits for the front door to open.

It never opens.


In the golden years, she was too heavy to ride the rocking horse, but fear has eaten away at her. She is almost as light as a child herself now.

When she rides the wooden horse, she feels close to the boy that is gone. She feels that if she just rocks fast enough, she will reach out and touch him.

She never does.

Here are the framed portraits on the wall. The boy smiles at her from each of them. He’s a soldier now, she proudly tells her friends.  He’s fighting overseas for his country.

What she doesn’t say is that Uncle Sam is a cannibal god, and war is his black mass. She does not speak of the weary days by the window, or how she has taken to sleeping on her son’s bed. Or how every day she stands in the front hall, praying that when she opens the door, there will not be two consolatory men, waiting.

But she knows there will be, and every day, she must rock the horse to dispel her clairvoyance.

She remembers that the boy kissed her on the cheek. How proud he was to wear his uniform. When he dies, will they bury him in it?

Never. She will never allow it.

She must ride the rocking horse to prevent it.

Here are the ashes in the fireplace and the charred flag—that flag they told her was draped over—no, she doesn’t dare think about it. Three rifle shells gleam from the soot, and the soot is like the food she must force down, dry and tasteless.

Here is the pile of letters overflowing from the mail slot. She gathers the envelopes without reading them, and places them on the counter, next to the bowl with the moldy fruit.

Here is the rocking horse, with its inbred smile and dead fish eyes. She strokes its frayed yarn mane. Its piebald spots are flaking off, but the paint inside its open mouth is red like blood. Maybe it has fed recently.

She sits down on the leather saddle and begins rocking.


Soon, her son will come home.

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

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.


84 comments

  1. Windsong, in the rainbow trunks, and I.N. Summer, in the faded camo, meet in the middle of the ring — the bout is on.

    Windsong stalks, tense and wild-eyed, around I.N. Summer, who settles into an odd — disturbing even — yet effective form of defence. I don’t know what this style is, Jim — some sort of deranged, Drunken Master fighting perhaps, but the seemingly random and awkward turns of phrase (“as she does X, she thinks about Y”) come together to dodge the blows from Windsong’s strong opening set-up of her “Beauty and the Beast” retelling — even though, good or ill, it does take a little while to identify the retelling world, which is a hinderance in that it is only after identifying the retelling that we can clearly picture the main protagonist, who up till then could have been some sort of wild fairy his or herself.

    However, Summer’s stumbling, dishevelled fighting style soon bears its own fruits, landing solid punches, with the mounting power of realisation, against Windsong — who seems to lose a lot of momentum when hitting the dialogue, with perhaps an overly-heavy reliance on imprecise “they”s and “that”s which force rereading to visualise the scene properly.

    Summer finishes with the satisfying roundhouse blow this commentator had been hoping for all story-long — the result is a disturbingly convincing interior view of a mother gone mad.
    Windsong’s excerpt finishes well, highlighting the excellent ideas behind the retelling, but the need to reread multiple times to get there detracts, and means the fighting style lacks the staying power of I.N. Summer’s final punch.

    Two strong writers, but it’s one point on the scoreboard for I.N. Summer!

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  2. Windsong's twist of Beauty and the Beast is intriguing. They definitely manage to paint the world around the MC well, and by the 2nd paragraph I was able to make the connection. However, the dialogue manages to throw some confusion my way. A rose named Daisy? But I thought her name was Rose. It just seems EXTREMELY odd and out of place. I might be inclined to roll with it if Rose was her last name, but then later on he speaks of having 5 Roses and 9 Belles, making it obvious Rose is the first name. This is seemingly unimportant on its own, but the fact that I as a reader was more drawn to trying to understand this unimportant detail instead of focusing on the rest of the story is problematic. Some details are just filler and don't help it along.

    I.N. Summer was the opposite. The purple prose at the beginning made me groan, and seeing the unique formatting made me dread trying to read the rest, but I am glad I did. Eventually we get to the meat of the story: a mother driven mad by loss. The author made great use of visual emotions and connecting mundane things around her with her grief. It gave quite a powerful emotional punch by the end.

    My vote goes to I.N. Summer

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  3. Wow, of course these two would have to come head to head. I think both of them deserve to move forward, but since I have to choose, I must go with I.N. Summer. The imagery and emotion of that one were haunting.

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  4. Wow, both so good. I vote for Windsong

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  5. L.N. Summer wins this one.

    I feel like it wasn't the best pairing. One is a straight genre piece. The other is almost a prose poem. That being said, I always go for the imagery and atmosphere you see from I.N. Summer. I'd like to read a full short story from this author.

    For Windsong, I love the idea of a fairy that tricks the magic because he's transgender. Cool idea. The dialogue is snappy (although I was confused a little by the five roses), and I like the situation too. What the piece needs a little more of is subtext in the dialogue, and a little more characterization from the beast before we meet the fairy. He's irritated at his job, and then he's a little turned on, but that's all we get from the MC. Need to get more of a sense of who he is for me to care that he's just met the love of his life. Still, great imagination, and I'll read that book when it comes out.

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  6. Curses vile and foul, and a toddler-worthy tantrum. Two of my faves, head to head already?!?

    Windsong. Deft handling of the gender-bent fairy tale. A very good choice to unfold this scene in dialogue; both these characters just shine. You've trod the fine line between reader bafflement and giving the secret away too soon. You've used the few visual cues effectively. Nicely done, though like others I wondered about the Rose/Daisy switchup. If Ivan needs a nickname for her, might I propose "Thorn"?

    I.N. Summer. Powerful contrasts between the bleak emptiness of this home, and the gory mayhem of war. Excellent use of the telling details - flies, soot and shells, inbred smile, dead fish eyes. Some powerful emotional punches here and they don't stop coming until the very last line. Really strong writing, but in some places perhaps overmuch.

    Today's vote, by half a hair, to Windsong. I could have seen these two in the finals. Well done, both.

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  7. My vote: Windsong. The story moved along well, kept me engaged, and had an interesting plot twist. This is a story I would read.

    Summer's story was very poignant and beautifully written. The choice of words did a great job of putting me in the mindset of the mother. Excellent writing, but I likely wouldn't read it simply because it's too sad for me. Personal preference.

    Both pieces were stellar, so great job, writers!

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  8. Vote is for I. N. Summer. Tough choice.

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  9. I.N. Summer has my vote, with really powerful imagery. It packs a big punch.

    Windsong's story, I too was confused about Rose vs. Daisy, on so many levels. I think there's an entire system here that is not made clear (she sends things home... letters wherein she tells Ivan that her name is Rose now?) And what about Ivan showing up would make the beast know he was there for Rose/Daisy? Was Ivan just assuming there was only one girl? There's something significant I'm just not understanding about that entire exchange.

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  10. Easy choice for me today, definitely Windsong

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  11. I enjoyed both but IN Summer wins for me. I can't get the story out of my head. A mother's grief and reaction to the loss of her son was heartbreaking. What the mind does to cope which such tragedies is amazing. Doesn't seem fictional at all ... could be anyone of us.

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  12. Windsong - An intriguing retelling, but it left me with the wrong sort of questions. Like others, I was thrown by Rose called Daisy. Also, I wanted a little more about the collection of giggling girls. A little more information, delicately woven in, about how your curse differs from the original might have helped with that. In the opening line/paragraphs, work on eliminating "There is..." and increasing the pacing by paring down to the bare essentials. For example, "I didn't bother to look civilized" is unnecessary because you immediately show the Beast's lack of civility. That said, your dialogue went a long way toward characterization, and I'd be curious to read more about Ivan/Ivy and his relationship both with his sister and the Beast. There's a promising story here. Good work.

    I.N. Summer - This piece was so evocative of Goodnight Moon that I almost feel like we have two retellings today. There were words here and there that I would have cut for the sake of rhythm, but you superbly captured the essence of a mother driven mad by fear and grief. It's a hard and dark story, definitely not suitable for a child's bedtime read aloud, which makes the similarity to Goodnight Moon all the more horrifying.

    My vote is for I.N. Summer.

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  13. Read Windsong's and thought, This! You've taken my beloved Beauty and the Beast, flipped it into another world, and I'm so ready to follow and see where it leads. No need to read further.

    No. Not fair to the other contestant.

    On to I.N. Summer. Holy bejeebits. The style, the visuals, the voice. Those three rifle shells in the soot.

    Gnashes teeth and pulls at hair. What am I to do? How can I choose? Read through each two more times. Unofficially, it's a tie. Since a vote is required ... Arrrgghhhh!

    I.N. Summer for masterfully breaking my heart.

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  14. I. N. Summer! I love the poetry of the lines--a very bold choice, but it worked very well. I would offer some constructive criticism that the middle sags a bit in tone. I think a few re-worded lines would help to maintain the evenescent flow of the words, but that's a niggling complaint. Overall, excellent writing.

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  15. Vote: Windsong

    It comes down to style. I.N. Summer's writing style didn't resonate with me quite the same way that Windsong's did. And I do love a good fairy tale twist. Entirely subjective on this one, which isn't helpful, but I have to go with my gut.

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  16. While I'm intrigued by Windsong's concept and considering neither stories are perfectly executed, it's the pain in I.N. Summer's piece that packs the punch. It's palpable.

    I think both pieces would benefit from revisions and have potential, but I'll have to cast my vote for Summer.

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  17. Both excellent entries. I.N. Summer is a complete story in 500 words, and the end packs an emotional punch. But the voice in Windsong hooked me, and made me want to read more. Vote for Windsong.

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  18. Windsong is a fascinating piece, but I got lost in the dialog. It was shallow and somewhat trite. If the author beefs it up and includes more sensory reactions, perhaps it would work better.

    Summer felt more like a poem than a story, but the emotional punch was strong either way.

    My vote goes to Summer.

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  19. Windsong: Fun and fresh twist on the fairy tale. I felt that this little snippet was both too much and too little at the same time: too much content and too little explanation of the actual curse. There are so many twists in this piece that it almost seems gimmicky to me.

    I.N. Summer: Wow…the poetry and poignancy of this piece grabbed me from the start, capturing emotions and objects. Good job. Not a fun read, but so powerful.


    My vote goes to I.N. Summer.

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  20. Windsong has a great story and an even better twist, but the dialogue really left me confused. I had to reread a couple times to figure it out and the repetitive use of the word 'girls' was a little annoying.

    I.N. Summer was a bit cliche, but well written and despite the slow build was easy to follow. Because of the clear writing my vote is for this piece.

    I.N. Summer gets my vote.

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  21. Windsong’s story seemed very familiar (almost too), but then the gender bender twist at the end was a fresh surprise that I really enjoyed.

    I.N. Summer’s flash piece was a solid story that was artfully told, but there was so much distance between the reader and the MC, that I didn’t quit connect to the mother’s sorrow.

    Although both were great, Windsong gets my vote because I love to be surprised.

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  22. My vote is for Windsong. A lot of negative toward Rose being Daisy but I thought it was hilarious. "5 Roses, 9 Belles..." Like all the girls come out of the same fairytale with the same name but they look a little different "blond hair, black eyes" verses blond hair blue eyes. LOL. Maybe it's because I'm black but I had to laugh. This story left me wanting to read more to find out about the curse, Ivan/Ivy, the fairies, the girls, etc. It would've been nice to know if the MC is male or female though.

    I.N. Summer had great description but just didn't enthrall me (i.e. I've been in the military and deployed and military child of someone who's deployed and military S.O. of someone deployed). I just couldn't feel it. I think I'm a sucker for 1st person. 3rd person just feels too far away but if this is your genre/topic of interest the 3rd person works because the woman is distancing herself so in a way it is 1st person of a 3rd person person....LOL hope you got that.

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  23. Dang, these writers refuse to make anything easy. Admittedly, neither of these are genres I read often, but I can say I enjoyed both and I'm second guessing my reading decisions.
    Fairy tale re-tellings can feel lazy to me at times, but there's a solid twist here and amusing use of humor from Windsong. I didn't have the same confusion as others in terms of Daisy and Rose (and Belles). It was one of my favorite bits of humor in the piece. Maybe a slight adjustment with the wording, but I wouldn't go away from the concept. It pokes fun at itself, and does it well. That's difficult to accomplish.

    I.N. Summer use of repetition worked well. If there were one thing (for me) that kept it from overtaking Windsong, it would be the overuse of similes. For me, it becomes too telling. That's not to say this piece isn't beautifully written with an emotion punch, but the constant use of similes drew me away from the scene. It was as if I needed to search another part of my brain to pull the comparison into the scene rather than seeing it as I read.

    Great work by both. In the end, my vote goes to Windsong.

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  24. My vote in this pairing goes to Windsong, because there needs to be more LGBTQ in fantasy/science fi/fairy tale. I didn't get the confusion others had with Rose/Daisy, but then I tend to give nicknames to everything. What I really liked about it was how protective the Beast felt about the girls, even though they annoyed him. He wasn't going to give a girl away until he was sure that Ivan/Ivy was legit.

    IN Summer had a very strong voice, but I left the story confused.

    My vote: Windsong

    JoAnne Turner
    Joanneturnerwrites@gmail.com

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  25. My vote goes to I.N. Summer.

    Summer's language is almost lyrical, accentuated by the unconventional formatting. The old woman's angst is intensified by her dementia. She waits for her soldier son to come home, but the pall from his coffin lies in ashes in her fireplace. She is an old woman now, her young son long since killed in war. She sleeps in his bed and rides his rocking horse, ever hopeful, but never to see him again.

    Windsong presents an interesting twist to the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, although it devolves into more of a fan fiction piece (use of the name 'Belle' is a clincher - that's from the Disney movie, while in the original tale the girls name is the eponymous 'Beauty'). While leaving some things for readers to figure out on on their own can be effective, this story leaves so much out as to be confusing. The dialogue is terse but not pithy. "He was spoiling for a fight" was a head-hopper, and the transgender reference at the end was a curveball I just couldn't connect with. Oh, and I was never sure whether the fairy reference was supposed to be literal, or a slur.

    Good effort by both, but my vote goes to I.N. Summer

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  26. I liked both pieces and congratulations to both of you for making it into the rounds.

    Each story had issues with tenses and orientation within the scenes. Couldn't easily tell what was where and what was the story past and what wasn't. I loved the twist at the end of Windsong's piece and I'm somewhat intrigued about what might be going on. With I.N. Summer's piece, I loved the bleak and lonely feel of it. Hard to compare and vote for flash fiction vs. long-form fantasy. But because I.N. Summer was clearer and worked my heartstrings, it gets my vote.

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  27. I.N. Summer wins this one. The writing is lovely. Each image described tells a lengthy story.
    Windsong is onto something good, but writing needs to be tightened up.

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  28. I.N. Summer gets my vote for this one. That piece is hard hitting and emotional. I felt a little lost in Windsong's piece, like I was missing something very important.

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  29. I liked both of these pieces, but IN Summer wins my vote. I felt an emotional reaction from it.

    Windsong, I loved the twist at the end. It felt really heavy on the dialogue. I would have liked a little more balance between dialogue, description, and action. But I still really loved that twist.

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  30. Very cool stories, but I vote Windsong!

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  31. I.N. Summer's story is skillfully written but I disliked the old woman and couldn't get into it as a result. Windsong's story intrigued me and, of course, full marks for having a trans character!

    My vote goes to Windsong.

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  32. Toughest vote yet.

    Windsong gave a wonderful tale, deftly told, with a terrific transgender twist. Loved that aspect. I'd like to see the dialog touched up a bit, but otherwise great stuff.

    Summer grabbed me at the open with the word choice. Pulled me right into the story. The ending was also quite worthy. But--and this might just be me--the style was too distant throughout the middle for my liking. I'd like to see that section addressed on revision.

    So, tough call as I flip a coin ... Windsong squeaks by with victory.

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  33. Damn. This a tough one, but I'm going to choose IN Summer.

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  34. Windsong gives us the reimaged fairy tale. Set in another world, there is the idea it won't play out with Belle and the Beast living happily ever after.

    I. N. Summer provides a look into what grief can do to a person. Darkly so, it painted a very real picture clearly for the reader.


    I. N. Summer gets this vote.

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  35. Eeek!
    Had to really think about this one.

    On the one hand, for Windsong, I was confused about the five Roses/Belles thing but something told me it was funny even though I didn't get it myself(had to read others' comments). I was also confused why all the giggling? Are they under a spell?(because I assumed these girls were not there out of their own will. If they are there out of their own accord, are they desperate? careful there). Still something about it spoke to me like the incredible voice which amused me and I really enjoyed the gender surprise. I can get annoyed at times if I'm overly confused but this didn't get there. If the next few paragraphs of the rest of the story were still confusing, I might put it down.

    For I.N. Summer, I enjoyed the old woman and the madness presented. I also think the writer handled the unique style/formatting very well. I didn't really have anything negative to critique but it didn't flat out grab me either.

    By a very slim margin I'm going with Windsong because I want to know more.

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  36. Tough to decide on these two entries but I went with I.N. Summer the madness and grief really stayed with me. Great job to both writers and keep on writing no matter what! Jackie Cestarte @writerjackiec

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  37. I.N. Summer gets my vote. The last paragraph grabbed me and would not let go...”inbred smile and dead fish eyes.” Love that description! And the idea of trying to ignore/prevent a tragedy through a repetitive act that you know deep down inside won’t work is just...tragic. That got me.

    Windsong - your story was most excellent. I was into the sexual tension (more than I’d admit in public) and I wanted to see where it would lead Ivan/Ivy and the Beast. But I got a little lost sometimes between the Beast’s thoughts and the dialogue, and I couldn’t place myself in the scene. Maybe a little more description of the place would have helped.

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  38. Hmmm. I really enjoyed Windsong. I thought the writing was well done. I.N. Summer started off slow but the bit about the rocking horse got me. My vote goes to Summer on this one, but just by the barest whisper. Very close!

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  39. Why are these all so close? I vote for I.N. but there is nothing between them

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  40. Wind song. I think I get the flower thing but it threw me off a bit too.

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  41. Windsong: I picked up quickly that it was a twist on Beauty and the Beast. Liked the trans twist, interesting concept. I did find it a confusing extract though, and the voice of the MC felt like a girl (I'm assuming not given the rest of the extract). "He was spoiling for a fight" - would be so much more powerful if the character's voice or body language was shown, instead of telling. I'd also consider paragraphing "she was not a girl" out separately, to strike the reader more strongly.

    Summer: This was more like a short story or a poem. Some good prose, though some was a bit OTT in the first 2 paragraphs. I did groan, but I continued and was glad I did because it painted a really effective picture. Not sure I could cope with an entire novel in this vein, so I assume (hope) it's either a short story, or this is an intro, and it gets into real action in the next scene.

    Overall: Summer

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  42. My vote is for I.N. Summer. Though, I found that while this piece was very evocative, the logic was hard to follow in a lot of places leaving me a little confused. I had to read some lines a couple of times.

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  43. Tough choice on this one! Both are very imaginative stories, but with very different tones. My vote is for I.N. Summer because it hit me in the gut and touched my emotions. It was vivid and sad.

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  44. Windsong ... What!? What! OMG. I see the twist you took there and my mind is blown.

    I.N. Summer... My heart can't take it. So much emotion in this. Well done!

    I'm really torn. But, by the tiny margin of which one I'd pay to read more of, I vote Windsong.

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  45. Even as I wish that I.N. Summer exhibited more showing than telling, the story is compelling and reminds me of the D.H. Lawrence story, "Rocking Horse Winner."

    My vote is for I.N. Summer.

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  46. My vote is for I.N. Summer. Clear, concise, poignant and heart-wrenching.

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  47. These entries are so different it's hard to make a choice. They each have strengths, and both could be improved by some editing. Windsong's retelling of Beauty and the Beast is intriguing, but it left me confused about details, detracting me from the main point of the story. Why is Daisy now Rose? What are all these girls doing here in the castle? Are they captives? The Beast seems to want to drive them away, but somehow this doesn't work? Who is the fairy - my first thought is that it was the entity guarding the gates so that men can't enter, but then I though it might be Ivan, then I thought about applying the word "fairy" to a transgender man and didn't like that at all. All this confusion pulled me out of what has the bones of a compelling story. I.N. Summer slayed me with the poetry that slowly built a mesmerizing picture of loss and madness. The rhythm stumbled just a bit here and there, but I have to give that one my vote.

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  48. Definitely Windsong. I'm more into that genre.

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  49. If you make me cry, you win. One vote for I.N. Summer.

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  50. My vote goes to Windsong, for a witty take on the beauty/beast genre. I.N. Summer reads like poetry, but wonderful though some of the imagery is, I had trouble following the apparent shifts of time/perspective.

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  51. My vote goes to Windsong.
    I.N. Summer's piece has a lot of strong, vivid imagery, but I felt slightly confused in several places, and that took me out of the story. My main points of confusion were around the time. Was she waiting for a son who wouldn't come home because he was dead? For how long? Is she waiting to find out he's dead? Is she lost in her own mind and it's all mixed together? If the character has it mixed up, I wish I knew that was the case, rather than feeling like I myself was mixing it all up.
    I'm really intrigued and compelled by Windsong's story. I feel like there's a lot of potential for the story and the characters. There were points that needed clarification, such as understanding the mechanics of the beauties in the castle. And I'm slightly worried that the story could turn into frustrating trans tropes with false equivalencies about genitalia and gender based around the mechanics of the spell. But the premise itself makes me really excited and immediately buy into the story.

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  52. Once again, a tough choice, but I have to vote for Windsong.

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  53. My vote goes to Windsong.
    I like an interesting twist on the classic tale, and would love to know more about all these girls that stay at the manor. I was taken aback by the twist at the end, and am interested to see where it goes.
    For I.N. Summer, it succeeded in making me feel her pain. I feel that the point was a bit belabored, leaving me without any pull for what happens next. The imagery was very heart wrenching, and beautifully used.
    1221bookworm
    fantasywordcraft.wordpress.com

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  54. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  55. Windsong-Concur with others that I was confused about Rose/Daisy. If that's not integral to the plot, maybe give her a birthmark that distinguishes her from the other Roses (I feel like lost princesses/princes always have a hidden birthmark that identifies them when they are found living as peasants lol)? Love that the beast is tired of collecting maidens and is trying to get rid of them. Reminds me a bit of Dealing With Dragons. Fairy Tales always get a side-eye since few can do an unexpected enough twist to make them worthwhile. This twist I would read.

    I.N. Summer-Love that you were able to encapsulate an entire story w/in 500 words. Go flash fic! Lovely, creepy, shiver-inducing imagery. Unfortunately, I felt disconnected from the old woman with such a limited & distant POV. Would love to read more by this author with closer POV!

    Vote goes to Windsong for drawing me in with the twist!

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  56. My vote goes to Windsong! LOVE the twist at the end and the take on the classical story. You have beautiful phrases that say so much with so few words. "I wasn't aware that I could blush" sets the mood of the story and all the background information you could need to understand what is going on.

    Nicely done!

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  57. My vote goes for Windsong!

    Windsong- I greatly enjoyed reading a contemporary, sarcastic take on an established fairy tale. The thoughts of the beast coupled with quippy dialogue moves the plot forward and creates a self-contained story that could be expanded later.

    I.N. Summer- This packed an emotional punch, but I would have liked to see some dialogue, preferably last words/fantasy next words with the son. The description is lovely, but many phrases use precious words that could have been utilized elsewhere.

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    1. Anonymous votes are not allowed, so even though this is excellent feedback - the vote does not count. If you do not register with a Google account you must leave a name and email address.

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    2. I'm sorry, I thought I had signed into my google account!

      Mary Richards
      justapretense@gmail.com

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  58. Clever tales both.... I choose Windsong for the variant of fairytale.

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  59. I N Summer; better writing. Some of the better writing thus far.

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  60. Once again both entries were great stories! Gosh, don't know how the slush pile judges were able to narrow things down with so many talented writers!

    Windsong- Who doesn't love a fairy tale right? I love the story but it sounded too similar to the original story. I was hoping for some big twist that turned the story on its head or played with roles such as switching villains to heroes or vice versa. That said, I do love the trans-gendered touch! At times it was a bit confusing as to which character was talking but over all a well written piece. I think it might have been better suited however for something with 1000 word count as having more of the story would make it a stronger contestant given the similarity to the original story.

    I N Summer- I love that the story is self contained! I also liked that there were many layers and many ways you could interpret the story. I read several comments noting that the mother has gone mad with fear of losing her son, or mad with grief from losing her son. When I read the story I though the word "clairvoyance" indicated she had not yet lost her son but could see the future and knew it would happen so rocked to help herself forget for a time what terrible tragedy was headed her way.

    It is clear there are multiple was to read this story.

    My vote is for IN Summer as I thought the story had multiple layers and was a stronger piece for that reason.

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  61. Gosh darn it!!

    Two excellent entries!

    Windsong presents a charming and well-needed twist to the Beauty and the Beast retelling with great dialogue and description. Would have liked to see a bit more conflict, but that's just a minor quibble.

    I.N. Summmer brings all the emotion with great prose and a story that strikes the heart and a voice that brings the tears.

    My vote this round goes to I.N. Summer!

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  62. Both good but I'm voting for Windsong. What a great twist!

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  63. My vote is purely for connection to the story. Though Summer has a beautiful rhythm to the story, I just read without emotion. Windsong's entry pulled me in. For that reason alone, Windsong gets my vote.

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  64. I loved both of these, making the decision tough, but my vote goes to I.N. Summer whose delicate strokes paint the image of a mother gone mad. Having said that, I'd love to read the rest of Windsong's because the transgender twist is so clever, and I was left with a lot of unanswered questions.

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  65. Loved Windsong’s twist, and the Rose/Daisy piece didn’t confuse me, those some of the early statements did. I’m not sure how I feel about poor Ivan having to ‘deadname’ himself...but I think in such a short piece it’s difficult to get the point across in another way. Ultimately, I loved the piece.

    IN Summer’s piece, while excellent poetry, didn’t connect with me as much, but maybe only because my mother has lost two sons and her grief looks very different than this. Totally subjective. That said, it was really interesting how it morphed from just a woman sitting to a woman going insane with worry and grief.

    I give the win to Windsong by a hair.

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  66. Congrats to both for awesome entries, my vote goes to Windsong. I felt some confusion as I was reading Summer’s piece, especially at the switch from rocking chair to rocking horse, though I am sure that a longer snippet would have made the imagery much clearer.

    Thanks to both for sharing your work!

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  67. Both stories are beautifully written. Windsong made me chuckle with the giggles and the twist. I.N. Summer had me picturing bursting fly heads and a mother driven mad by premonition. All total my vote goes to I.N. Sunmer. I want to know more.

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  68. Windsong's story was fascinating. Summer's was beautiful and really resonated with me. Both well written. I vote for Summer.

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  69. I enjoyed the humor in Windsong's and I.N.Summer gave me "the feels". Some details were very sad and almost creepy but I could strongly sense the flicker of hope that the mother had waiting for son to return. I'll go with I.N. Summer on this one.

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  70. My vote is for Windsong.

    Both were great pieces. I.N.Summer's definitely had strong emotion, but I felt like the repetitive "here is" start to the oaragrapar became redundant. Just my opinion. The fairy tell retelling was interesting, and I could get a good feeling of the castle and the main character.
    -Jennifer Kinzler

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  71. I'm going to have to vote for Windsong. I want to know more about the characters, the world, and what type of fairies the characters are having to deal with. It sounds like it'd make for a retelling people haven't read before.

    As for the other selection, while I didn't mind I.N.Summer's piece, the style didn't resonate with me. I like the idea, but it sounded like "classic" authors I've read before.

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  72. I love the twisted version of Beauty and the Beast Windsong put together.

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  73. I liked I.N. Summer best for these two. It was hard for me to settle into the story enough with Windsong. Though, I was intrigued by the end of Windsong’s submission, and I wanted to read more, I understood where we were and felt more from reading I.N.Summer’s.

    I.N. Summer has my vote on this one,

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  74. Vote for I.N. Summer. Cohesive and self contained scene.

    Michael Hilton
    Mike.w.hilton@gmail.com

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  75. I'm voting for Windsong for doing more in 500 words for character and plot. That said, I.N. Summer's prose is striking.

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  76. Wow, both just stellar pieces here! Windsong packs so much story into so few words - I was really impressed. And I liked not just one twist on the old fairy tale, but two. Well done not just with the writing but somehow building two very strong characters in such a brief tale. I.N Summer's piece was haunting, and I was definitely engaged throughout, but I just didn't feel the same emotional connection here. Maybe I'm just a sucker for fairy tales getting turned on their heads but...it's Windsong for me!

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  77. Windsong's ideas felt fresh, and the way the story progressed played with my expectations. I liked the idea that the MC was trying to protect the girls in the castle, but I was a little unclear as to what exactly was going on. Why was Rose Daisy and Ivan Ivy? What part of the castle were they in? I'm sure that the rest of the story's context would clear of my questions thought.

    I.N. Summer's piece was haunting and drew me in with the clear imagery. Though everything the old woman experiences is vividly described, I like how I could still feel some of her confusion. I was a little uncertain about what actually happened to her son because the woman was uncertain (he's dead, rigt?).

    I.N. Summer gets my vote because some of uncertainty I felt and lack of clarity was intentional and the short format hurt Windsong.

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  78. Replies
    1. Votes received after noon on the last day do not count.

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  79. I love the story in Windsong's piece but the language it I.N. Summer's was lovely. I.N. Summer it is! Laura Creedle lauracreedle@gmail.com

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