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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Semi-Final #1



We're not messing around anymore! By the end of this round we will have narrowed the field down to just two contestants, and they will be submitting their 1,000-word writing sample to the panel of celebrity judges. 

We do ask that you leave a brief critique for both of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for both semi-final bouts will close on Wednesday, Feb 2nd (noon central time).

Here once again are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but 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 cause 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!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.


Without further ado...welcome back to the ring our first contestant...Fern Calloway


For Their Sake

Gayle leans forward, bracing herself against the headstone, hanging her head as if in prayer. Guilt and failure settle into her throat. She swallows them down as she traces a finger over her sister’s name.

These children, her baby sister’s children, are sucking the life out of her. She shouldn’t be raising them. She doesn’t know how to be a mother. And to four young children? Impossible.

Gayle pulls the leather-bound book from her coat, flopping it open onto her sister’s grave. “I’m sorry, Lynn,” Gayle says. “I tried. I did. But I … I can’t.”

Behind her, the kids cry in the car. One of them pounds on the windows. She glances their way and holds up a finger as if they might understand she just needs one damn minute. Something they haven’t allowed since they’d become hers. But they aren’t hers. Not really.

They need their mother.

She turns back to the open book. Rain splatters onto the pages, threatening to wash away the words. Between sobs and apologies, she reads aloud, raising her voice over the storm, determined to maintain the proper cadence, careful to hit every accent. Gayle doesn’t speak Latin, but desperate times have led her here.  

The final words linger on her tongue, buzzing with potential. She pants from her efforts, her throat raw and burning. “Please don’t hate me for this.” Her voice cracks. “They need you.” She closes her eyes and falls prone onto the grassy grave. “I need you.”

As the rain pelts into her backside, she cries, letting her tears mix into the soil, pleading with whatever may be listening that can bring Lynn home.  After a while, the children fall silent and her own sobs fade. That’s it. There’s nothing more she can do. No more pleading. No more begging.

Crestfallen, she trudges back. The children are once more pounding on the windows, their little faces wide-eyed with a mix of panic and something she hasn’t yet seen on them. Joy?

The oldest girl points, then opens the car door. She races past Gayle, giggling as a gap-toothed smile lights up her face.

“Momma,” the other children shout in unison and chase after their sister, leaving the infant to wail in his car seat.

Gayle glances over her shoulder, her gaze following them.

Her sister stands by a mound of loose dirt, covered in mud and dripping with rain. She holds out her hands as the children rush into her. She licks what’s left of her lips, the skin of her gaunt cheeks sallow. Useless veins snake dark purple lines over her features.

She redirects her attention to Gayle, her eyes narrowing as she peels herself from her children and closes the distance.

“You’re a selfish bitch, Gayle.” She glances back to her children. “If this is going to work,” she whispers. “We’ll need meat. Fresh. Raw. Bloody.” A maggot drops from her ear and wriggles in the grass. “For their sake.” 

#################################################################################



And their most worthy opponent...give a hearty welcome to Durden Mayhem


I’m in a one-way love relationship. 

I have a major crush on a woman who doesn’t know I exist. 

Steph’s a Starbucks barista, and when she waits on me, I swoon. 

As an introvert, I’m always looking for quiet ways to impress her. When I go to her store, I always take three heavy, hardback books hoping to appear intelligent. I figure if she sees the titles I bring in, she’ll think I’m a medical student rather than an Amazon delivery guy.

 

Steph’s always nice to me, but it troubles me that she always asks my name for the order. I’ve told her “Mark” for 21 days straight, yet she never remembers it. 

I wish she would.

Being an un-remembered, unknown is hard.

Maybe I’m just a Smiths song…or the one by Beck.

 

Still, I return today, hopelessly devoted.

 

After parking my books, I get in line behind a corporate-looking fellow. He’s the sort I immediately despise because I imagine he is much better off than me and, thus, better than me. I’m decent-looking but he’s an Adonis. Well-dressed, white-toothed, wealthy, and fluent in frat boy.

 

He snaps out his very specific order: “Venti latte. Extra hot. No foam.”

Then his phone buzzes, and he takes the call - in Chinese.

 

As Steph tells him his total, he frowns at the interruption and holds up a serious, silencing finger as if he’s tele-counseling the Dalai Lama. Then, wagging his finger at her, he mouths again, “NO FOAM!”

 

He steps to the side – no tip.

Steph’s obviously just machinery to him.

I’m next. I order in insecure mumble-tones. I pay, tip, and step aside because Steph is busily covering both register and bar due to a late co-worker.

 

When she finally delivers Zeus’ drink with an obligatory smile, he doesn’t smile back. Instead, he does a quality check. He removes the lid and stares into his drink with horror. 

I see why.

Foam.

FOAM!!!

FOAM!!!!!!!

He sees it. I see it. She sees it.

 

“There’s foam,” he barks. “I told you twice. Are you stupid? Re-make it.” 

He shoves the open cup back across the counter. It flips over and splashes molten liquid onto Steph’s hands.

She bounces backward - burned and bewildered.

He glances at me, laughs, and utters a flippant, “Oops.”

But no apology. 

Steph is crying, and I am Fight Club furious.

I radar-lock onto this oppressor. With two quick moves, I grab the top book from my stack and swing it into his face. His nose bone cracks. As he stumbles, I swing the other side of the book with violent intent and crush his mouth. Then I grab his Hermes tie and hurl him temporarily into the Underworld.

He’s out cold.

Shocked, I stand over him...rage subsiding.

Steph approaches, smiling.

“Thank you, Mark.”

“Wait, you know my name?”

She touches my arm, “I’ll never forget it.”

I hear distant sirens blare. I await the cuffs. I anticipate jail time. 

Doesn’t matter. She knows my name!

#################################################################################



Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detraction's.

We’ll be back tomorrow with our other semi-final bout. 

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!




I'm Visiting Alex J. Cavanaugh Today


While we pass the time waiting for the next round of WRiTE CLUB bouts to begin (Thursday), how about visiting a close blogger friend of mine who happens to be featuring me and my book KNIGHT RISE on his blog today?

Alex J. Cavanaugh is the founder of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, & Dragon of the Stars, and a prolific blogger. We both started blogging about the same time and I credit him for showing me how to go about making blogging interesting.

If you've got some time today, drop on over and say HI. Thanks!

https://www.alexjcavanaugh.com/2022/01/movies-about-writers-publication.html

WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Playoff Bout #3



We are now down to just six contestants and it's time to see how they match up with ALL NEW MATERIAL.

Please pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs. In addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.



We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, Jan 26th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with yet another NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but 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 cause 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!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.


Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material - 

Durden Mayhem


The worst payoff will be for the $7,000 bet I made on a badminton match. 

Yes, I bet on a badminton match.

I had a dream about playing backyard badminton with a panda who was a beast with a birdie. So, I thought this was a sign I needed to drop a major bet on whatever Chinese badminton player I could find the next day. Jeff usually doesn’t take badminton bets, but after hearing my reasons for doing so and after some research revealing my panda pick was up against the top Thai player in the world, he was happy to indulge my dreams.

When my human panda was soundly beaten, Jeff issued the payoff I dread the most: “Run naked down Rodeo Drive while loudly singing the Baby Shark song.”

But that payoff must happen later. 

First, to pop the trunk and set my young captive free. 

When I open it, will he leap out and kill me? 

Or will he be too oxygen-deprived to do me much damage? 

Guess it’s time to find out.

I set my phone to video because Jeff wants to see the post-lock-up altercation, and I back up to give myself some space. Then I hit the button.

The trunk door raises, but nobody leaps out. Just an extended arm and a voice saying, “A hand, please.”

I move toward the trunk with my phone recording.

As I reach out, I point my camera over and catch the most shocking sight.

A man about 95 years old is in my trunk.

I drop my phone.

How long did I leave this guy in my trunk?

Had 75 years magically passed?

I grab my phone and rewind the video from the night before to see if I captured a geriatric rather than a youth. No. The video shows I’m not crazy. Black-haired, college-age drunk kid begging to get into my trunk.

Contrast that with the gray-haired man who’s taken his place. “A hand, please,” he says again.

Madness.

I pull him out.   He’s wearing the same clothing as the youngster from last night.

“What the hell? How…?”

He smiles. “Doesn’t matter. All you need to know is this. I’m here to help with your payoffs. I made a deposit into your account. Check it.”

I open my bank app and am shocked once again.

“There’s a million dollars in there,” I say, flabbergasted.

“Transfer 20k to Jeff, and let’s move to your other debts. Your real debts.”

“What real debts?”

“You were abandoned by your dad, right? He was a gambling fool, too.”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Now you’ve done the same. You’ve abandoned your wife and son, all to chase that rush. Well, it’s time you fix that. Do right by the ones you left.”

“And I can keep the million bucks?”

“Yes, but I’ve got five payoffs you’ll have to complete first. When those are done, you won’t care about the million anyway.”

I shrug, certain I’ll still care about the million.

“Okay. What’s first?”

#################################################################





Our second contestant is ch3ru


"You sure this is safe? Not gonna fry your internals or, I dunno...me?"

Sol is already submerged up to their chest in Leah's bathtub. "My exoframe is entirely hydrophobic, and my 'internals' are hermetically sealed within several redundancies. There is no risk of damage or injury to either of us."

"Alright, alright..."

The water is hot. Bordering on too hot, which is to say, perfect. Leah's skin prickles all over as she sinks down and gets settled, back to chest with Sol. Their exoframe is the pinnacle of android engineering: smooth and sleek and capable of withstanding the vacuum of space, among other hazards.

It had not, however, been designed for cuddling.

"Leah?" Sol says questioningly, after a solid five minutes of her splashing around.

"Almost got it. Just a sec… There. Perfect."

The water is nearly up to her ears and her toes are braced on the far wall of the tub. The back of her head rests on a dip in Sol's sternum. It's more good enough than perfect, but she's not complaining. It'd been her idea, after all.

Sol's exhaust vents cycle at regular intervals, churning steam into slow-moving spirals. The occasional kssst sound acts like white noise, lulling her to sleep.

"Leah."

"Mm?"

"It would be inadvisable for you to lose consciousness."

"M'not sleeping...swear," she lies, stifling a yawn.

Kssst go Sol's vents. Water sloshes, little waves stirred up by Sol moving their—

"Sol!" Leah yelps, but she's too late to stop them from standing up, or from bringing her along for the ride. "I'm freezing!"

"Your body temperature will regulate shortly."

Her bedroom is warm, but not that warm. Leah whips a towel over her body and dresses in record time before diving into bed.

Sol slides in beside her. "If the object of cuddling is sustained and uninterrupted physical affection, and you require sleep, then this..." they tuck one of her many pillows against their side, "...would seem to be the superior location."

This is exactly what she'd signed up for, dating an android: logic, with a side of charm. Never mind whether Sol's logic was sound, it was the principle of the thing. You didn't interrupt a girl in the middle of a relaxing soak!

She glares at the inviting little nest Sol has made.

"You win this round, circuits," she says, and curls up under their chin.

+++

 Sol's half-shuttered optical lenses pulse a dull, empty amber.

Since they'd woken her up last time, Leah had missed this sight. Talk about unsettling. She'd get used to it eventually. Probably.

"Sol?"

Amber flickers, brightens to familiar electric blue. "Good morning, Leah. Did you sleep well?"

"Never better," she says, honestly. "You?"

"Forty-seven reports graded and returned to students."

"Productive," Leah snickers. She plants herself on Sol's chest, prepared to explain the importance of lazy, decidedly unproductive mornings, when their arms press into her back without prompting.

"I may have also researched cuddling further."

Oh yeah, she would definitely get used to it. 

#################################################################

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

That's the last playoff bout and the decisions aren't easy. The semi-final round will kick off next Thursday. 

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!



WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Playoff Bout #2




We are back with Playoff bout #2 with ALL NEW MATERIAL from our contestants.

Again, pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used this week again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs. In addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.



We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, Jan 26th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with yet another NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but 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 cause 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!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.


Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material - 

Lady Warbleon


House of Whispers

Partie Deux

 

They lied. The house was far bigger than the advert let on.

Au pair sought. Light housework for modest provincial manor east of Mont Saint Michel.

The only thing modest about the Château du Chuchote was the woman standing under its portico as I collected my luggage from the coach, her frame dwarfed by the thick balustrades and towering columns. I was early and the weather fair, but there was something urgent in the way she shuffled from foot to foot as I approached, going so far as to press her hand to my back to coax me inside.

“Pleasant travels, I assume?” She shut the massive doors behind us, silencing the chittering of birds. “The agency is grateful you could come so quickly. The family’s last au pair left rather suddenly. Please.”

The please was another encouragement to follow her. I had stopped to stare at the chandelier in the foyer, which dripped with hundreds of glittering crystals. This was not the house’s only luxury. We passed a library with floor-to-ceiling stacks, an orangerie bursting with peach trees, archways carved in milky marble. I had worked for wealthy families before, but this grandeur bordered on obscene. Perhaps the last au pair had found the upkeep overwhelming.

“When do I meet the Monsieur Gabin?” I asked the agency woman as we passed through an enfilade of sitting rooms.

“Soon,” she said.

“And the children?”

The woman stopped so suddenly that I nearly crashed into her. The air around us was heavily fragranced with peony, and I thought it was her perfume until I noticed a cluster of fresh-cut flowers laid on the table beside us.

She had been looking at the flowers but then glanced back at me. “The Château du Chuchote has no children.”   

“But I—”

“This makes for an easier job, no?”

I couldn’t argue with this logic, so I shouldered my luggage and followed down the corridor.

“The guest quarters.” She placed a hand on the door, then seemed to think better of it. “You should have everything you need. Take care.”

She was already backing away from me in the direction we had come. I realized then it wasn’t urgency I sensed in her mannerisms. It was fear. She didn’t want to be here.

Alone and unsettled, I pushed open the door to my guestroom and stifled a scream. Someone was staring back at me.

A doll sat on the bed, doe eyes bright and lifelike in her tiny porcelain face.  I walked over and lifted it gently in my hands. It wore a white dress patterned with red roses. A strange vestige for a house with no children.

I was eager to dispose of it, but then I noticed parchment curled in its palm. I tugged it loose and unrolled it. On it was a single word written in French. It took me a moment to translate it, and then everything in me went cold.

S'enfuir, it said. Run. 

#################################################################





Our second contestant is StoryWeaver


“Can I have the paper?”  Harriett knew her brother only cared for one section, he didn’t have the right to hog the rest. 

“Here.”  He passed the stack of crumbled sheets over his pancakes without looking up. 

Rolling her eyes, Harriet rooted through for the news headlines.  Robert had been temporarily staying with her for almost a year now, and she was finally adjusted to the assault on her privacy.  It no longer annoyed her to find him sitting at her table, her newspaper disassembled and her mail inspected.  If only he perused the help wanted ads as thoughtfully as the baseball scores. 

She watched him turn the final page of the sports section.  “Don’t you care about anything else?” 

Robert huffed before answering.  “You mean like your precious environment?”

Harriett knew better than to rise to his bait.  She was proud of her activism and he couldn’t take that away from her.  Hours of magic lessons, anonymous phone calls to authorities.  She still remembered how proud she had been the first time she had seen her work reported in the paper.  After that, she’d stopped having to call and provide a warning. 

He deserved a dig about his laziness, though.  “Something to benefit your future children wouldn’t hurt.”

“If your real concern is betterment for all, then you’ll enjoy today’s cover story.  One of you save the world types just got five people killed when an overpass collapsed.”

“What?”  Harriett struggled to keep the panic out of her voice.  No deaths.  That was the oath she took.

“Here.  You can watch the live coverage on TV.”

She forced herself to turn, to school her face into a mask of disinterested concern. 

The screen brightened to life, filled with images of carnage.  One car teetered on the edge of the void where the roadway had crumbled.  Crews attempted to secure it to tow trucks located well away from the disintegrating structure, hoping to prevent it from joining the two mangled cars below.  One gas tank had ruptured, turning the ground beneath it into toxic mud. 

Harriett hoped the red running on the remaining support was her spray paint.

The images burned in Harriett’s mind even as they faded into the face of a commentator and guest.  A special news bulletin interrupted the interview, the official death toll was now six individuals.  A motorist had suffered a heart attack after witnessing the collapse and calling 9-1-1. 

“I can’t watch anymore.”  Harriett turned away, but she could still hear the coverage as the mayor began a press conference. 

“This is a terrible tragedy that could have been prevented.  For too long, we have looked the other way when the vandal known as ‘Preservationist’ tagged a structure.  Starting today, my office has instructed every law enforcement official to use all available resources to track down this individual.” 

“I have to go.”  Harriett grabbed her coat and headed to the overpass.  She needed to know what had gone wrong.  

#################################################################

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

We’ll be back tomorrow with our final playoff bout. 

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!



 
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