WRiTE CLUB 2018 / Semi-Final Bout #2



This is it! Your last chance to impact who will become this year’s WRiTE CLUB champ. After this round, we turn things over to our celebrity judges.  Whoever you choose as our two finalists, they will get to stand before our celebrity judges with a 1000-word sample, and then it will be on them to crown a new winner.

Several of you have asked or made mention of wanting to find out just who these wonderful writers are that you've been following over the course of weeks. Apart from the two finalist...who are named when the competition concludes...revealing the identity of the contestants is exclusively up to the contestants themselves. Shortly following the post where our champion is recognized, I will follow that up with a wrap-up in which I invite suggestions for improvements -- but also invite our writers to remove their masks if they choose to do so. I encourage everyone who is willing to step forward and do just that, but we will not push. All 30 contestants deserve whatever recognition you can give them.  

This week, four writers will again enter the ring brandishing another new 500 word writing sample. The voting will remain open for both until noon central time on Sunday, June 3rd.

Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a standalone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.

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

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

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, there's also a chance to win a couple of gift cards and free admission to the 2019 DFW Writers Conference.





Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.

Our first contestant steps forward representing the YA Dark Fantasy genre, please give a hearty WRiTE CLUB welcome to I.N. Summer.


Slats of sunlight fell through the attic’s blinds, illuminating crates, old scrolls, and a massive figure chained to the floor. Shrouded in a soiled sheet, the figure resembled a human but three times larger. Chains tethered its gangly limbs, while iron stakes pinned it down.
“Is that a person?” I whispered as Vanya hurried past me.
“No, just the shape of one.” Vanya fell to his knees in front of the motionless form, grasping at the chains. Although his voice remained steady, his hands trembled as he inserted key after key into the locks, trying to find the right ones. “Can you remove the stakes, Toma?”
“What is it?”
“A golem.”
“What’s that?”
“No time to explain. Just remove the stakes!”
I seized the spike nearest to me and yanked it free from the underlying wood, grunting in effort.
“Thirty years ago, the Old Quarter was almost destroyed during another massacre,” Vanya said, tossing a lock aside. “My grandfather made the golem using clay from the Vesna River. He had the same gift as me, but he was even more powerful—he couldn’t just make things grow, he could give life to them. Even when they had none to begin withHe created the golem to protect everyone, but after getting its first taste for blood, it began going after the same people it was supposed to defend.”
Click, clack, clunk. The steady metallic tinkling of locks and chains striking wood. As the final chain spread across the floorboards like an uncoiling serpent, Vanya yanked off the shroud.
A noble face frozen in indifference, long limbs, sexless form. The golem’s eyes were open and without irises, lips parted to reveal a sliver of darkness.
Vanya turned to me. By the second, the color drained from his face. “Once it’s over, if I can’t control it… if I hurt innocent people… aim for its forehead. Or mine.”
An unnatural silence fell over the room as Vanya stood and embraced the sitting golem. Even at his full height, he had to stand on his tiptoes to kiss the lifeless lips. No, not to kiss. To breathe into them.
At first all I heard was our hoarse breathing, then the floorboards creaked as the golem twitched. Stirred. As its arms encircled Vanya, its mouth widened to expose a black hollow.
“Don’t hesitate,” Vanya whispered. “If I can’t come back, shoot to kill. No matter—”
His words were lost beneath the resounding crash of the golem toppling down upon him.
“Vanya!” I shouted, rushing forward to push the figure off of him. Too heavy. All I could see of Vanya was a boot trapped beneath the golem’s torso—then, as the golem shifted, nothing at all.
The golem lumbered onto its hands and knees and shouldered me aside, sending me staggering into a stack of crates. It tottered to its feet, its belly as bloated as a tick’s.

Where Vanya had been, the ring of keys was all that remained.
************************************************************************

Contestant number two is representing the Romance genre this time. Please welcome back Wingsong.

“John! Did you get it? Can I see?”
“Of course I got it, Becca. And no, you can’t. Tommy’s gonna see it first. Eat your salad.”
“Ugh, the salads are terrible here. Come on. Let me see.”
“What do you expect? It's a corporate cafeteria. And no, Becca.”
“But you have terrible taste. Take some sisterly advice and let me see.”
“Brat.”
“I’m serious. The only good taste you’ve ever had is falling for Tommy. But otherwise…”
“Fine. Here.”
“Oh.”
“I should have gotten a ring, shouldn’t I? Or is it too plain? I shoulda saved up more.”
“What? No. It’s beautiful. And he wouldn’t be able to wear a ring in his workshop anyway.”
“It’s just a dumb gold chain.”
“John.”
“No, seriously, Becca. He’s a certified genius. He’d built and sold three companies by the time he was 25. I didn’t even graduate college till I was 27.”
“Hey, stop talking about my brother that way! You were a little busy, oh I don’t know, fighting for your country. Give yourself some credit. You own your own business too. Have you thought how you’ll ask him?”
“Dinner? Or is that too overdone?”
“As long as it’s an actual dinner out, suits and everything, and not a ‘Netflix and chill’ thing.”
“This is going to go so badly. He’ll never say yes.”
“Not if you don’t ask. Come over tonight, we can talk outfits.”
“Oh no. I’m not going to be primped and prepped by my baby sister.”
“Come on, you wouldn’t go to a job interview in sweats, would you?”
“No, Becca”
“Fine. Ask Tommy just as you are, then.”
“Ask me what?”
“Tommy!”
“And that would be my cue. Bye John. See you tonight.”
“Bye Becca. No, you won’t.”
“Very interesting. What was that about?”
“Nothing.”
“You know, you have a truly awful poker face. It was definitely something.”
“No, really. Just Becca giving me a hard time. How’s your day been?”
“So busy. I wanna go back to regular people hours.”
“Working all night and getting up at 3pm?”
“Shut up. I hate being a grown up. Don’t think I don't see you sneaking that box off the table mister. What is it?”
“Nothing. Stop jumping, you idiot, you’ll hurt yourself!”
“Don’t hold it over your head, then! What are we, five? Ha! Victory is mine!”
“Jesus, be careful.”
“What do we have here? Oh.”
“Tommy…”
“It’s beautiful, John. Someone’s gonna be real lucky.”
“Someone? It’s for you, you doofus.”
“It is? Well, of course it is. People give me presents all the time. Jewelry, well, that might be a little different, but, no, no, I like it. Stop trying to take it back, it’s mine!”
“Tommy!”
“No. Mine! Back off! Back! Security! Right, you’re my security. I’d like to report an attempted theft. Stop laughing, we have a serious jewelry thief here. Totally serious. Stop smiling.”
“Tommy.”
“Yes, John?”
“Willyoumarryme?”
************************************************************************

There are no wildcards or saves this time. It's win or go home. Which will it be? As always, please honor these writers by offering a brief critique, and be respectful.

What contest is it where the audience gets clobbered?



Tell all your friends.

#WRITECLUBDFW



WRiTE CLUB 2018 / Semi-Final Bout #1



This is it! Your last chance to impact who will become this year’s WRiTE CLUB champ. After this round, we turn things over to our celebrity judges.  Whoever you choose as our two finalists, they will get to stand before our celebrity judges with a 1000-word sample, and then it will be on them to crown a new winner.

Several of you have asked or made mention of wanting to find out just who these wonderful writers are that you've been following over the course of weeks. Apart from the two finalist...who are named when the competition concludes...revealing the identity of the contestants is exclusively up to the contestants themselves. Shortly following the post where our champion is recognized, I will follow that up with a wrap-up in which I invite suggestions for improvements -- but also invite our writers to remove their masks if they choose to do so. I encourage everyone who is willing to step forward and do just that, but we will not push. All 30 contestants deserve whatever recognition you can give them.  

This week, four writers will again enter the ring brandishing another new 500 word writing sample. The voting will remain open for both until noon central time on Sunday, June 3rd.

Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a standalone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.

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

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

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, there's also a chance to win a couple of gift cards and free admission to the 2019 DFW Writers Conference.





Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.

Our first contestant steps forward representing the YA Contemporary genre. Please give a hearty WRiTE CLUB welcome to MarlaWriter.


I shove my trumpet into my locker and slam the door. There’s forty-five minutes left until math class, so I pace in front of the locked music room to wait out my exile. The sky is gray although the air is warm—Grams would’ve called it earthquake weather.
            In the quad, some freshmen who used to hang out with Sophie huddle together, shooting glances at me. One of the boys with saggy pants and a shitty haircut jerks his head and arms around, then doubles over clutching his stomach. The whole group is cracking up. With another glance toward me, he makes a face, pulling one side down so his mouth hangs crooked.
            Something in me snaps and then I’m towering over him, staring down his stupid carnival-grin. I swing and my fist cracks as I strike his jaw. Two fingers explode in fiery pain and lightning bolts shoot up my arm and my shoulder.
            He falls into some girls and they all tumble to the ground, a tangle of legs and backpacks. He tries to stand and steps on one of the girl’s hair. She shouts. I pull him up by his hoodie so we’re standing forehead to forehead. My eyes fix on his, daring him to go on. Muscles and bone scream in my right arm.
            “Get off me,” he says, spraying blood and spit. I slam him into the pavement.
My whole body shakes, humming with tension. The girls hug each other, wiping tears and smoothing hair. He clamors to his feet clutching his elbow. My chest heaves and my heart pounds, the metallic taste of his blood sours my mouth. I spit, too.
I cradle my aching hand. Good thing I’m suspended from band, because there’s no way I can play now. With one last glare, I start toward the bathroom to rinse the blood spatter from my face and hand.
            Bella is there, mouth open and wild-eyed, staring at me like I’m a stranger. Like our last four years together never happened.
            “What is wrong with you?” She looks different. I blink. If anyone should be on my side, it’s her.
            “He was making fun of Sophie.”
            “So? Since when do you get in fights?” Shaking her head, she looks at the sky and lets out big sigh. “This isn’t you.” She reaches for me but I step back. Tears run down her cheeks.
            “So? Really?” The air thickens and fresh rage blurs the edges of my eyesight. “Whatever.” I spew as much venom at her as I can. Instead of the bathroom, I rush to my truck. I need to get away from here. From her. From everything.
            I step off the curb into the parking lot and a meaty hand grasps my shoulder, sending shock waves down my injured arm. My stomach flips—I’m going to vomit.

            “Where do you think you’re going?” A large, bearded man in a yellow safety vest jerks his thumb toward the office. “School’s that way.”
************************************************************************

Contestant number two represents the Sci-Fi Romance genre this time. Please welcome back Peter Pen.


Dani was in Lipton’s Arcade playing Space Invaders, right where I knew she’d be. We used to come here almost every afternoon back in high school.

“What are you doing here, Dave?” She didn’t look up as I approached, just pushed at her glasses and continued blasting aliens. “You said this place is for kids.”

I winced, remembering my words. She’d wanted to spend her twenty-third birthday here, but I’d been dating Laurel, who hated video games.

“I need your advice.”

“So now the guy with superhuman strength needs me?” She jammed the joystick left and blasted a UFO. “This about Laurel?”

“I punched her new boyfriend.”

She threw me a surprised glance then went back to playing. “So you’ve graduated from fighting purse-stealers to girlfriend-stealers?”

“Dani, please. How do I get her back?”

Her jaw clenched, and her finger paused over the fire button. In her hesitation an alien passed through her defenses. She swatted the joystick at the game over screen and turned to face me in a whirl of bushy black hair. “Fine. You want best friend advice or news column advice?”

I glanced at her Space Invaders t-shirt, faded from years of wear. Like the arcade, she hadn’t changed. But our friendship had. Ever since Laurel. “Best friend advice.”

She raised her eyebrows, giving me a chance to back out. When I insisted, she said, “Forget about Laurel.”

I huffed. “That doesn’t help.”

“Let me guess. Boyfriend’s a meathead with obnoxious tattoos?”

“How did you—”

“Because that’s Laurel’s type.”

I frowned, trying to understand. “What is?”

“Jerks.” She gestured at me.

“Hey, Ronnie’s the jerk, not me.”

“Exactly. You just pretend to be one.”

I tried to form a response, but nothing came out.

“That’s why you said arcades are for kids.” Her eyes were now ringed with red. She wiped at tears with her shirt sleeve. “And it’s why you don’t hang out with me anymore.”

Stunned silence.

“Do you know why I wore this shirt almost every day in high school?” She sniffed, eyes slanted toward her initials flashing on the high score screen. “I wanted those kids to know they could call me a nerd and shoot spitballs at my ugly hair, but they’d never, ever change me.” She refocused on me, fire behind her tears. “Best friend advice. You’re not strong because you fly around stopping crime to make a show. You’re strong when you stand up for what’s right. Even when that means letting go of someone you…love.” She suddenly looked away, a blush blooming across her freckled cheeks.

A few heartbeats and it clicked into place. “Dani, I had no idea.”

She laughed, wiping away a tear. “That’s ‘cause you’re stupid, Dave.”

I grinned. I’d missed her playful insults. Then something inside me shifted, as if her words had flipped a switch in my core. “I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot to fix.” I stepped closer and she looked up. “Can I buy your next game?”

She smiled.
************************************************************************

There are no wildcards or saves this time. It's win or go home. Which will it be? As always, please honor these writers by offering a brief critique, and be respectful.

What contest is it where the audience gets clobbered?



Tell all your friends.

#WRITECLUBDFW



WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Playoff Bout #3


There are only six writers left and you know what that means? It's playoff time in WRiTE CLUB! Here is the third and final playoff match.

Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a new opponent, each brandishing a new 500 word writing samples. The bouts will be posted on Mon - Wed - Fri, with the voting remaining open as long as possible.  The voting for Playoff Round #1 closes at noon eTuesday,  May29th.

Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand-alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.

It is customary to leave a brief critique for all the pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

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

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!

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, the winner also wins free admission to the 2019 DFW Writers Conference.



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

Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.


Writer #1 is representing the Suspense genre. Please give a warm welcome back to Stella Sterling.


“Hello?” I croak.
“Oh… Did I wake you? It’s 9 a.m.”
“I know, Mom. I dropped Cara off at school, then came home for a nap. I was up all night watching over her. She had another… episode.”
“What that girl’s going through isn’t a god damn episode, Maggie. You should know; you went through the same thing when you were a girl.”
“No, I never—”
“You probably just don’t remember it because you were so young and it only happened a few times before I found a way to end it. Thank god for Oddo.”
“Mom, I’m not gonna run to some spiritualist hack just because my daughter’s having a rough patch.”
“A rough patch? Margaret, it’s been six months! How long are you gonna let the poor girl suffer?”
An hour later, I pull up in front of Oddo’s Oddities. When I enter the dim, cluttered space, I’m not sure what displeases me more:
The oppressive stink of incense.
Or the way Oddo immediately takes my hands in his.
“My dear Maggie.”
“Hi, Oddo. I came to see if you have something for—”
“Cara’s ‘night terrors.’” He winks. “Your mother called me earlier. I have just the thing for you.”
He leads me into a room filled with really quality merchandise (shrunken heads, cast iron cauldrons, etc.). He hands me a small box.
“Don’t open it until you need it. You won’t see these, but you will see them.”
“That makes no sense.”
He pats my forearm.
Later that night, I’m jarred awake by Cara’s wall-shaking scream. I yank open my nightstand drawer and pull out the box. I lift its lid. I stare in disbelief. “Th—there’s nothing in here!”
Another frenzied shriek permeates the house.
“I’m coming, baby!” I yell, scrambling off my bed.
The box falls to the floor. There’s a leaden thud, then a familiar metallic clattering across the hardwood.
Bullets.
I dash into my closet, jab at the safe’s buttons, and extract my gun. Sweat blossoms from every inch of my body as I crawl around, waving my hand over the floor until I locate some of the invisible bullets.
MOMMY!” Cara cries.
Struggling to load the gun, I shout, “Mommy’s coming!”
I pound down the hallway and explode into my daughter’s room. A black figure is crouched on Cara’s chest, pinning her shoulders to the mattress. Its mouth is pulled into a grotesque smile, viscous liquid dripping from its jagged teeth. Another creature pushes down on my daughter’s forehead with its veiny hands. When Cara emits another agonized howl, the hateful beasts take turns inhaling her outbreaths.
I shoot.
I shoot again.
Inky blood sprays across the room. With each putrid ounce that leaves them, the beasts shrink. I gather my trembling daughter into my arms.
“You’re safe now, baby,” I whisper, holding her close. “You’re safe.”
The creatures wither and moan until all that’s left of them are foul black pools.
********************************************************************************

Writer #2 represents the YA Dark Fantasy genre. Please welcome back to the arena I.N. Summer.


As the wind scratched against the boarded windows, I arranged my medical supplies next to the teacup with the severed finger. Needles and water, thread unraveled from blankets, and clean rags.
“This is the second time this week!” I exclaimed, picking up the finger. The first knuckle twitched when I touched it, then curled inward.
“I fell down again,” Galina mumbled, extending her arm across the table. She was in better condition than the other upyry in my family, and still had most of her hair and flesh.
“Be more careful. Keep losing fingers, and someday you won’t have any left.” I took her damaged hand in mine. Her skin was discolored and withered. Mine was a reminder of what hers had once been—smooth and still warm.
 “Can you make a pretty one this time?” she asked. “Like one of your rushnyky?”
 “Okay, but promise me you’ll try not to lose anything else.” I gently tapped a finger against her forehead. "You don't want me to reattach your head, do you?"
Galina giggled. "No."
She didn’t wince when the needle pricked her. I used a geometrical Nabor stitch, embroidering her skin in a delicate red lattice of interlocking lines and diamonds. No blood welled up. The liquid had long since evaporated in her veins.
“This will protect you,” I said, tying off the final knot. Nabor embroidery was said to act as a talisman against ill luck and the Unclean Force. Over the years, I had decorated the walls of our house with rushnyky I’d made using found linen. Some good must have come from the tapestries and their lucky embroidery, because the wilderness had yet to claim my family and me.
After snipping the tail of thread, I cleaned and dried Galina’s hand, then bandaged it. Later, I’d probably find the strips of velvet discarded on the floor, forgotten as she admired my embroidery.
When she flexed her reattached finger and laughed, I smiled. Just that raspy sound made all my effort worth it.
 “Thank you, Toma.” She curled her fingers to test them. “Will you come exploring?”
“I can’t. It’s too cold for me out there.”
“We can look for treasures.”
“Don’t you have enough of those?” I teased, gesturing at the array of objects lining the shelves along the wall. Jars filled with ceramic pipe stems and tarnished coins sat alongside bottles dredged from the mud, the glass so old that it had acquired an iridescent gleam.
 “Please, Toma.”
“Later, maybe, if it stops raining.”
Galina sighed, rising to her feet. A cold draft intruded through the door as she opened it, rustling the bundles of herbs and wild garlic nailed to the rafters and making me shiver.

“Don’t lose anything else!” I called after her as she closed the door. If she answered, a resounding thunder blast stole her words.
*********************************************************************************

Enjoying a pair of talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each if you haven't already done so.

Please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUBDFW.

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


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Playoff Bout #2


There will soon be only six writers left and you know what that means? It's playoff time in WRiTE CLUB!

Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a new opponent, each brandishing a new 500 word writing samples. The bouts will be posted on Mon - Wed - Fri, with the voting remaining open as long as possible.  The voting for Playoff Round #1 closes at noon Monday,  May28th.

Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand-alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.

It is customary to leave a brief critique for all the pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

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

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!

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, the winner also wins free admission to the 2019 DFW Writers Conference.



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

Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.


Please give a warm welcome back to MarlaWriter who is representing the YA Contemporary genre.


“Soph. You all right? Soph! Answer me.”
            Nothing.
            I swallow hard and turn to tell her dog, Nana, to get the meds, but she’s already on the way. I knock again. Sophie knows she’s not supposed to lock it. I run my fumbling fingers along the trim above the door feeling for the key. My shaky hand knocks it to the ground and the hallway is too dark to see a skinny gold rod in a tan carpet. I lunge for the light.
            Nana is back, med bag dropped at my feet. The whole time I’m calling out to Sophie, hoping she can hear me and not be too scared. I try to explain what I’m doing as calmly as I can, but I’m shaking so bad, it takes all my focus to put the key in the tiny hole.
            Damn her for locking the stupid door.
            I finally get the handle to turn. I want to swing the door open, but I don’t know where she’ll be and I can’t risk hurting her further. Nana paws at the carpet, whining. I open the door as fast as I dare. The dog whisks past me and takes her position lying across Sophie’s lap.
            I see her feet first. Her calves twist together, jerking like she’s trying to do backward crunches. She’s lying in a yellow puddle.
            Her right arm is drawn all the way up under her chin and her left is whacking the hell out of the shower door. Red streaks run from her knuckles down the glass and her wrist. Her head is twisted all the way to the right, and a thick pool of blood shimmies every time she jerks her head, hitting the toilet. White foam oozes from her mouth.
It’s not foam, I tell myself. It’s spit and it’s draining, so I know she won’t choke. And that’s good because there’s no way to turn her on her side without hurting her more.
            “Cait. Call 9-1-1. Now.” I pick up the old Toy Story lunch box we use for her emergency meds and fumble with the zipper. My hands are shaking so bad, I can’t get it open. I close my eyes and force a deep breath, steadying my nerves. Dropping the bag, I crawl to Sophie and clutch her hand. “I’m here, Soph.” I pull a towel off the hook and bunch it in between her head and the toilet.
            “Oh shit.” Cait is behind me, staring into the bathroom. I cover Sophie with another towel so she can’t be seen like this.
            “I need to call my mom.” My voice floats above me, disconnected.
            “I’ll do it.” Her voice is strong and steady, and that makes me look up. Cait is sliding her index finger up my phone over and over.
            “She’s under ICE, for emergencies. But they’re at a movie.”
            Sirens.
            “Got it.” She turns to open the door.
            “Be okay, Soph. Please.” I choke on the last word.
********************************************************************************

Her opponent is none other than Wingsong, representing the Adult Steampunk genre.


‘Do not look at the workbench,’ I thought, shifting from foot to foot, my skirts rustling, bustle creaking. Everything sounded loud in my tiny shop.  ‘You managed to cover it in time. Everything is fine.’
“Please elaborate, Miss Engelthorpe.” The mechanical agent’s tinny voice interrupted my obsession.
 “Pardon?”
The Time Bureau badge bolted to its chest caught the gaslight.  “You stated that the tourists were from the future. Please elaborate, Miss Englethorpe.”
“Mrs.” I had a wife. Once. My fingers itched to touch the lock of her hair in my pendant. ‘The work is hidden. Do not look.’
The mechanical was designed to show neither impatience nor censure. “Please elaborate, Mrs. Engelthorpe.”
Tourists. Right. “They did not know a shilling from two-and-six. I could see them calculating the change. And they laughed at the telegraph box.”
I waved a hand over to the wall, where the box hung among the cuckoo clocks. It had only been installed last month, after the time tourists had increased to three a week. I had painted the dull cabinet a cheerful blue, but left the label, “Time Bureau Public Call Box,” alone. Future tourists always laughed at my telegraph box.
The mechanical’s human partner spoke up from behind me, “Did they buy anything in particular, Miss Engelthorpe?”
I turned. “They bought a watch, Agent Jones.”  The workbench was just in view. “And please, it is Mrs. Engelthorpe.”
‘One glance. Just to make sure.’ I forced my eyes to stay on the time agent.
Agent Jones was a tall man, with long, elegant fingers and quick eyes. His clothes did not suit the way he moved, bespoke wrapped in ready-to-wear. He walked along the back wall toward my workbench, looking at the freestanding grandfather clocks. They had been Jenny’s favorite to build, with the intricate clockwork and imagination required. He was almost at the bench.
‘Do not look.’ But my eyes were sliding away.
“Was their interest in the watches or the widowed watchmaker, madame?” Jones smiled engagingly, turning to rest right up against my workbench.
I froze. His hand rested a hair’s breadth away from the cover, fingers tapping on the cloth itself. Somehow I kept my eyes on his face. Please let him blame my nervousness on his smile, not his hand.
“I do not take your meaning, sir.”
“Madam, your wares are beautiful, but unremarkable. Your shop, while charming, lies not in London proper. And yet, the tourists flock here from the future. I theorize you, Madam, are the attraction.”
I had to check. Yet, even as my gaze shifted, Agent Jones whipped the cover away. A watch lay spread over the surface. Every piece had symbols etched in gold, tiny and perfect, the work of months. It was an exact match to the one carried by every time agent, the only way to travel in time. Everything I needed. I could not breathe.

Jones’s voice was deadly soft. “Ah. You do know that chronomachina are forbidden, do you not, Mrs. Engelthorpe?”
*********************************************************************************

Enjoying a pair of talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each if you haven't already done so.

Please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUBDFW.

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


WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Playoff Bout #1


There will soon only be six writers left and you know what that means? It's playoff time in WRiTE CLUB!

Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a new opponent, each brandishing a new 500 word writing samples. The bouts will be posted on Mon - Wed - Fri, with the voting remaining open as long as possible.  The voting for Playoff Round #1 closes at noon Sunday,  May27th.

A reminder - voting is still open for Cage Matches 3-6. You can sfind those links HERE.

Here's how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand-alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.

It is customary to leave a brief critique for all the pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

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

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!

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, the winner also wins free admission to the 2019 DFW Writers Conference.



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

Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.

Writer #1 is representing the Sci-Fi Romance genre. Please give a warm welcome to Peter Pen.


I smiled as Ronnie reared back to punch me.

“Stop!” Laurel cried, running across her front lawn and grabbing Ronnie’s twenty inch bicep. “Don’t hurt him.”

I laughed. Hurt me? Didn’t her new boyfriend know he’d shatter his knuckles on my impervious jaw? Had they seen the news reports? Dave Wilks. Twenty-five. Struck by lightning. Flies around the city, stopping crime with superhuman strength and laser vision.

“I wouldn’t do that, friend,” I said, noticing how smooth my voice had become since developing these abilities.

Ronnie dropped his fist a little at Laurel’s intervention, but fire remained in his eyes. I let the lasers burn in mine for a second, not enough to emit a blast, but just enough to let him know I could toast those dragon tattoos off his shoulders. He didn’t back down though, which I thought odd. All the thugs in the city turned tail when I made a show.

“What do you want?” he demanded.

“I just want to talk to Laurel.” I crossed my arms, unsure why I was taking a defensive posture.

“Dave, I told you it’s over between us.” The way she rolled her eyes caused anger to flare in my chest. The same kind of anger that flickered every time I saw someone commit a crime.

“That’s what this is about?” Ronnie shook Laurel’s hand off and stepped toward me. He glared down at me, but his height didn’t bother me. It was the resolve in his features. A confidence I’m not sure I’d ever felt, super strength or not. “I don’t care that you’re invincible,” he said, words solid as steel. “It doesn’t make you a man. She chose me. So you better fly off, jagweed.”

I clenched my unbreakable jaw against the hit that he somehow just landed.

Then I punched him.

Laurel screamed as he plowed through the dirt, coming to a stop just in front of the tree swing where Laurel and I used to sit on summer nights.

I’d hit with just a fraction of my power, but it didn’t matter. As soon as my fist had connected with his chest, I’d known it was wrong.

He shot to his feet, wiping grass off his mouth, and stormed back to the pavement, putting himself between me and Laurel. He was a huge jerk, sure, but he was more a hero for her than I’d ever been.

“Ronnie, go inside,” she said. “I have something to say to Dave.”

She reassured him, and with a last venomous glance, Ronnie turned on his heel and disappeared inside the house.

Laurel leveled a hard gaze at me. “You have all of this strength.” She made a sweeping gesture at my body. “But none of it’s in here.” She jabbed a finger straight at my chest.

A thousand responses—apologies, accusations, defenses—all tangled in my brain, but when nothing came out she shook her head and went back into the house.

Then I knew.

I’d become the villain.

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

Writer #2 represents the Short Story genre. Please welcome back into the arena Jett Jaguar.


“They’re shutting down SunScreen, Digs. It’s time to pack your shovel and your rake and come home.”
Farren “Digger” Greenwich felt his body collapse lower and lower into the shape-shifting communications chair, as if the artificial gravity on Orbital Greenhouse Alpha One had been tweaked upward by one of his fellow Caretakers. He vaguely remembered office battles over air conditioning thermostats, back when there were such things. Before global warming could no longer be denied. Before super-max hurricanes wiped most of south Florida into the Caribbean and the killer sun baked most of southern Europe into hardpan.
IASA Program Director Tristan Danner spoke again from the holographic display, his voice softer now, as if for a brief instant he’d realized that, even over the lag of Earth-to-station radio transmission, he could still attempt a level of empathy. With his pasty face, white beard, white hair, and white mustache, he looked like an undead Hemingway. Most smart people had avoided tanning for the last fifty years.
“You’ve done your job, Digs. It worked, in no small part because of you and the other believers. Now it’s time to take a well-deserved rest down here where you can enjoy what your labors have wrought.”
“I’m only 80, Tristan, not even full retirement age. I have no skills that translate down there. I’m just supposed to totter into a government village and play pinochle and bocce for the next 40 years?”
The image paused, then reacted with a sharp sniff and a smirk.
“One problem down and a hundred to tackle. There’s plenty for you to take on here.”
“They’ll let it go to hell again, Tristan. You know that. These young ones don’t get it. They’ll repeat the mistakes of our parents. By then SunScreen will have gone fallow and won’t be recoverable. Or it will break its tethers and float away.”
“This will work out, Digger. Trust me on this.”
Trust. It was a four-letter word to him. People didn’t commit to anything until they had to.
After Danner broke the call, Farren left the cramped communication room in the spine tower, took the drop tube to the field level 2.5 miles below, and walked onto one of the spokes headed toward the rim.
SunScreen Station Alpha One was shaped like a roulette wheel, with the outer rim exactly 5 miles in diameter. The flat plain of the wheel level was divided into concentric rings of arc-shaped farm fields from the rim to the tower, the center of rotation. The fields were colored not in the red and black of the casino game, but in greens, beiges, yellows, oranges, and reds, the colors of grains and soy plants, super-algae tanks, and yeast pits. The ag-products had been genetically altered to minimize volatile gas emissions, but the smells were still potent, a wash of vegetable fragrance carried on the spin-driven breeze. All of this was contained and protected by a variable-opacity elliptical dome, rising from the outer edge of the rim.
*********************************************************************************

Enjoying a pair of talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each if you haven't already done so.

Please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUBDFW.

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


 

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