WRiTE CLUB 2019 - The Finals


This journey began for 30 writers seven weeks ago and now as it draws to a close we should take a moment and reflect on all of the wonderful writing we've seen. To reach this point in WRiTE CLUB - having your work read and judged by a conglomerate of industry professionals - is no easy task. But then again, it's not supposed to be. Writing is a gift, perfected with hard work, and this contest plays only a small part in drawing that gift out into the light. A hearty WELL DONE to each of the contestants that made it into the ring this year.

The readers/voters have spoken and decided that IshYouNotIshMe and Sicaria will face off again (they went against each other in a very close bout during the Playoff round) for the opportunity to be crowned the 2019 WRiTE CLUB Champion. An interesting side-note, these are the two contestants our Slush Pile readers picked as the top two submissions in their voting as well. The winner of this final bout will be announced at next weeks DFW Conference in Dallas.  Both of our finalists have had their 1,000-word samples forwarded to our celebrity judges (listed below) and those samples are also displayed below. Although the votes/comments will not carry any weight towards deciding a winner, everyone is welcome to leave a vote/critique in the comments. Comments in this round do not count towards the gift card giveaway.

Chuck Wendig Author, comic book writer, screenwriter, and blogger. New York Times & USA Today bestseller.
Lisa Regan USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author
Riley Sager International bestseller and New York Times bestselling Author 
Tiana Smith Copywriter turned novelist & 1st ever WRiTE CLUB Champion
Barbara Poelle Agent - Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Kristen Nelson Agent - Nelson Literary Agency
Shelly Stinchcomb Editor - Acorn Author Services
Melanie Newton Submissions Supervisor & Social Media Trailblazer - Clean Teen Publishing
Jennifer Grimaldi Agent - Chalberg & Sussman
Savannah Brooks  Agent - Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Ann Rose Agent - The Prospect Agency
Weronika Janczuk Agent - D4eo Literary Agency
Sandy Lu Agent - L. Perkins Agency
Eva Scalzo Agent - Speilburg Literary Agency
Trodayne Northern Agent - Prentis Literary
Kaitlyn Johnson Agent - Corvisiero Literary Agency
James McGowan Agent - BookEnds Literary Agency
Margaret Bail Agent - Fuse Literary
Lisa Dunn Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Aden Polydoros
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Solange Hommel
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Dan Koboldt
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
“Tex” Thompson
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Mark Hough Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner

We will also announce the two winners of our random voter giveaways at the conference as well.

Without further ado, here are the last two submissions from our finalists.

IshYouNotIshMe

Mother pulled a tray of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Put her in a poofy dress and heels, and she’d pass for a Stepford Wife. Never a hair out of place or a smudge of lipstick on her teeth. Always gorgeous. God, I resented her.
“S’up, Susan!” Mother’s name felt foreign in my mouth.
Mother set the cookies down on a rack and turned to me, Barbie smile glued to her face. “Hello, dear. How was your sleepover?”
She didn’t even glance at my hair.
“Leslie and I did each other’s hair.” How could she ignore that I’d cut it and colored it taffy pink?
“Well, perhaps Leslie can come over here tomorrow and help you study for your Lit final.” She put another tray of cookies into the oven. “Would you like one? They’re still gooey.”
“I’m not hungry,” I mumbled as stomped to my room.
I stood at my locker, looking through my texts. Kids shouted and shoved each other. Lockers slammed. A highschool symphony.
“Hey, Regina, nice hair!” Greg’s locker was three down, but he’d never said a word to me.
“Thanks.” Heat spread across my chest, up my neck, and settled into my cheeks. I brought my hand up to my head. I really did love it.
“Why the change?” He reached up, but stopped just short of touching my hair. I swear I felt electricity run from his fingertips to my head. When he moved his hand away, disappointment gnawed at my heart.
Be cool, Geena, be cool!
“I just needed a change.” I pulled books out of my locker and hugged them. “And I was trying to piss off my parents.”
“Regina Cabot, honor student, yearbook editor, and student council president wanted to piss off her parents? Why?”
anger swirled in my belly. Hearing my accomplishments reminded me how much energy I always put into pleasing my parents instead of myself.
“I guess I wanted to control something for once, even if all I could control is getting in trouble. But they didn’t even notice.”
“I bet going out with me would work.” A crooked smile raised one corner of his lips and his green eyes sparkled.
No way could they ignore Greg. With his leather jacket and motorcycle; his long hair and attitude.
“That’s a good idea.” The bell rang but neither of us moved.
“Does seven work?” His hand came back up, and this time he ran his fingers through my  hair. I shivered when his finger brushed my ear.
“Perfect.”
I didn’t bother telling my parents I was going out. I didn’t want the same old lecture, I wanted World War III. Greg rumbled up my driveway at ten after seven. I ran down the hallway, past the den where my parents sat reading the paper. No joke, they still read the newspaper like it was 1965.
“Bye,” I shouted.
“Just a minute.” Father’s voice was stern. “Come in here.”
“Where are you going?” Mother asked without looking up.
“Out.” 
“With whom?” Father licked his thumb and turned the page.
“Greg. He’s waiting. Can I go?” Disrespect always triggered them. I prepared for battle.
Father took a deep breath. Outside, Greg revved his engine and honked. I could practically see anger rising in Father’s chest.
“It’s a school night,” he said.
“Yeah, I know.” I put a hand on my hip and sighed.
“Okay, then.”
Was this a trick? Mother turned the page and didn’t say anything.
“You look lovely.” He sipped his scotch.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
“Then take your key.” Mother laid the newspaper in her lap and smiled. “Your father’s right, you look lovely. Now don’t keep your friend waiting.”
Greg wolf-whistled as I approached his bike. “You look—Wow.” He held a helmet out to me. “It’s a shame to cover up that hair, but better safe than sorry.”
 I slipped the helmet on and climbed behind him. As we roared past my house, I looked to see if my parents were watching. They weren’t. I don’t know why my parents suddenly stopped caring, but maybe it wasn’t so bad. If I didn’t have to worry about being perfect, I could live my own life.
Greg parked and helped me down. I handed him my helmet and floofed up my plastered-down hair.
“Don’t bother, you look great.” He tilted my chin up and kissed me lightly. My first kiss.
“Hungry?”
“Yeah.” My reply came out a whisper.
“This place has the best burgers. Let’s eat and figure out what to do with our night.” Greg wrapped his arm around my waist like he did it every day.
I wanted to skip the burger, get back on his bike, and take off. To be wild and reckless, but that’s not what I’d suggest.
“I have a Lit. test tomorrow. Will you take me home after this?”
“You’re serious?”
“Yes. Please don’t be mad.”
He smiled and took my hand. “If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do. But can we eat slowly?”
“My parents always complain that I’m a slow eater,” I replied.
“This was too good to be true, anyway.”
“What?”
“I’ve wanted to ask you out since I moved here, but I figured you wouldn’t give me the time of day.”
“What?” I studied him, looking for a crack in his lie. “Why would you think that?”
“You’re smart and busy perfect. I’m not the kind of guy your type goes for.”
“This is so weird.” I tried to hold back a giggle.
“What? Me?”
“This situation. I’ve been fan-girling over you for months, but you never even looked at me.”
He slid in next to me. “This is weirdly poetic, isn’t it? We could have been coming here for months if either one of us had taken charge and said something.”
“It’s weird, alright. But good.”
I looked into his green eyes and my heart soared. I lifted my face to his and kissed him.
“How’s that for taking charge?”


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



Sicaria


Damnit. I stare at the message from Des saying she’s broken her leg and can’t be my partner for the Dreor Scavenger Hunt. Without a partner, I can’t enter the hunt. Without the hunt, I can’t win the prize money and possibly redeem myself.
I glance around the dingy duplex that always smells like cheese. I’ve hidden out here for six months, never planning on making it, nor Earth, my permanent residence. At least I look human. Mostly.
My phone beeps again. I’m sorry.
Anger and defeat rush through me. “No you’re not.” I tighten my grip on my phone so I don’t hurl it across the room, but none of this is Des' fault. I’m the one who ran away after starting that fire. I was going to use the prize money to pay for all the damage I caused. And maybe even convince my family to forgive me. But now…I sink to the floor, the rough wall digging into my back. There’s no one else I trust to be my partner—to keep my location a secret.
“Kit!” my co-worker, Chase, calls from outside. “You there?”
Unless…an idea, a wonderfully crazy idea, pops into my head. I bolt off the floor and fling open the door, excitement and hope replacing my misery. “Hey!”
Chase takes a step back, startled. “Everything okay?”
I step onto the porch and immediately start sweating in the summer heat. “Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”
I dunno.” Chase studies me, confusion etched on his face. “You seem, uh, strangely excited.”
“I just had the best idea.” I hook my arm through Chase’s and guide him down the driveway. “I have a favor to ask.”
“You can’t have my shift at the store.” Chase pulls his arm free. “I need the extra hours.”
“It has nothing to do with work. In fact, it’s something that’ll help us both.”
Chase cocks an eyebrow. “The last time you said you had something that would help me, I ended up with two dead fish.”
“That wasn’t my fault.”
Chase gives me a pointed look.
“Well, not entirely. But they were only fish. It’s not like I killed your dog or something.”
“I don’t have a dog.”
“Exactly. And I promise no fish will get hurt. Or anything else that breathes.” Probably.
Chase eyes me, his expression guarded. Which is to be expected, I guess. Some of my ideas haven’t turned out exactly as planned. But, then again, Earth’s very different from my home planet. I flash Chase my most winning smile. “So…?”
 He sighs. “Fine. What do you need help with?”
“A scavenger hunt.”
“Sure. What do you really need help with?”
“Just that, a scavenger hunt. One with a cash reward.”
Chase straightens, obviously interested. “How much?”
“Twenty-five grand. Each.”
Chase lets out a humorless laugh. “You may find it funny to make fun of my money problems, but I don’t.” He turns to leave.
“No, wait!” I grab his hand. “It’s not your normal type of scavenger hunt.”
Chase hesitates and then swivels to face me. “Go on.”
“It’s a scavenger hunt…in space!” I throw my arms up in a ta-da sort of motion.
“I’m going home.”
“I’m an alien,” I blurt out in desperation.
“Right.”
“No really, look, I’ll prove it to you.”
Frustration flashes across Chase’s face. “And how are you going to do that? Pull out a laser gun? Maybe reveal a second head?”
“No, something much better. Well, maybe not as great as a second head, I’m not Andullian after all, but still really good.” I sit on the sidewalk and pull off my shoe and sock.
“What’re you doing?”
I hold up my foot, wagging it in the direction of his face. “I have seven toes.”
“What?” Chase does a double take, his mouth moving silently as he counts. “So? What does that prove? It could be some sort of weird…genetic…thing.”
“That’s six toes, not seven.” At least according to the internet. “Anyway, I can show you my other foot if that’d help.” I reach for my other shoe.
“It’d only prove you have fourteen toes. Is there anything else? Do you have two hearts I can listen to? Or something else I can see?”
“No, but I do have three stomachs and two livers.”
Chase snorts. “What are you, exactly? An alien cow?”
Indignation sweeps through me. “No. There’s nothing cow-like about me if you haven’t noticed. I don’t even eat grass.” Although I did try it once. It wasn’t very delicious.
I scramble to my feet. “I swear, I’m telling the truth. And I’d let you see, but then you’d have to eviscerate me and there’s no way we’d win the scavenger hunt if my entrails were sprawled along the sidewalk.”
Chase glances at my bare foot and then back at me. “Let’s say I believe you. Then what?”
“Then we get on my spaceship and enter the hunt.”
“And where does it take place?”
“All over the Bitali Galaxy.”
“There’s no such place.”
“Of course there is!” Before he can answer, I reach into my pocket and pull out a small ship transporter. “I’ll show you.” I grab his hand and push a button. A second later, we materialize on my ship.
“Told you I was an alien.” I can’t keep the smug satisfaction out of my voice.
“What the hell?” Chase turns in a slow circle, mesmerized. “Where are we?”
“Rannjana, my ship.”
He walks over to the view screen as though in a trance, staring at Earth. “Is that, like, real?”
“Yup. And,” I fiddle with the console, changing the image, “that’s the Bitali Galaxy.”
“Whoa!” He glances at me. “Why didn’t you show me your ship in the first place?”
“Because everyone has spaceships, but not everyone has seven toes. That’s much more impressive.”
Chase looks incredulous. “You thought—”.
“Never mind what I thought—are you in?”
He grins. “Hell yeah I’m in.”
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I'll be at the DFW Conference next weekend and have a vendor table to promote next years contest, so if you have the opportunity to attend the fabulous writer event and you have a free moment, please drop by and say hello!


WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Semi-Final #2


Today is the 2nd and final WRiTE CLUB bout where the readers have a say in the outcome.  After these two bouts, it will be in the hands of the celebrity judges. But first, we need to decide who gets that opportunity.

The voting for both of this week's bouts will close on Sunday, June 16th (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.

Like the man say's



Welcome back to the ring our first contestant...Organized Confusion



“What do you call that one?” Nikki asked the old rancher standing next to her. She pointed at an enormous dark gray gelding watching from the depths of the muddy pasture. An electric shock of recognition zinged through her, although she'd never seen this particular horse before.

“You don't want that one, ma'am,” the man said around the wad of tobacco in his lip. “That one's trouble.” He spit a copper stream at the ground in emphasis.

*

Her father leaned back on the sofa, eyes hard, as Nikki fell silent. “Not in my house,” he said.

Her mother said nothing, only sat blinking with one hand over her mouth. Finally, she lowered her hand and smoothed at invisible wrinkles on her skirt.

“Nicolette, sweetheart …” She faltered. “What your father is trying to say—”

“I'm not trying to say anything, Marjorie. I'm saying it. If she wants to get up to that kind of—” He grimaced. “—filth, well, she's made her choice.”

“Dad—” Nikki wanted to take it back. After thirty-eight years, the weight of hiding had become unbearable, but she hadn't been prepared for this. She just wanted her parents to see the real her, the whole her.

Instead, he stood, looking past her. “You need to leave.”

“Daddy—”

“I'm not your Daddy. The daughter I raised would never break her mother's heart or disrespect God's laws in such a way. I don't know you.”

He left without making eye contact. She watched him walk heavily down the hall and out of sight. The bang of the screen door jolted her mother out of her paralysis. Like Nikki's father, she stood. Unlike him, she studied her daughter's face.

“I don't understand why you always have to cause such trouble, Nicolette,” she said.

*

Nikki walked the fence-line, mesmerized. She'd come looking for a new riding horse, but her mental list of requirements had evaporated at the first glimpse of rich coat and bold stance.

“What's his name?” she asked the rancher.

“He ain't got no name. Ain't gonna be here long enough to need one.”

At Nikki's questioning look, the man shrugged. “S'the way it is. Can't sell a horse won't let hisself be broke.”

She watched as the animal's velvet nose flared, reading the wind. Her heart thumped in time with his hooves as he galloped to the far end of the field. He slowed near a gnarled old tree and turned to look at her again.

The gelding held her gaze a moment before dropping his massive head to nibble at the grass. I see you, his eyes said. You don't have to let them break you, either.

“I'll take him,” Nikki said, surprising herself almost as much as the old man. All she knew was that she needed this horse and he needed her. They'd figure the rest out together. “I'll pick him up this afternoon.”
#################################################################################



Also welcome our second contestant...Sicaria



The hounds bay in the distance, their mournful cries shattering the quiet of the morning.
“Your red hair will give you an advantage,” Melody, my handmaid, says as she finishes coiling my tresses into elaborate braids.
I glance out the window. Across the manicured lawn, the brilliant autumn colors turn the forest into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows. A breeze carries with it the smell of woodsmoke and the promise of an early snow. “Perhaps.”
Melody grabs a makeup brush and draws swirls of brown on my face, followed by black. “Are you ready for the hunt?”
I swallow my fear. “Of course.” It’s the expected answer after I declared I would rather participate in the hunt to keep my land and my home instead of marry that imbecile, Lord Timothy. In the moment, it’d seemed the better choice.
My words don’t fool Melody. “It was the right choice, Lady Celeste.”
I almost laugh. It was an impulsive choice made by an impulsive girl. Father always said my inability to think before I speak would be the end of me. I bite my lip to stop the tears from falling. If he hadn’t died, my future would be secure.
Outside, the sound of men whooping and yelling races toward my window, and terror coils around me like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey.
“Do you think I’ll be fine?” My voice is barely a whisper.
The love in Melody’s eyes is reminiscent of my mother. “I’ve seen several hunts, and winning always comes down to being brave and smart. You’re both.”
“I’m not brave.”
“You are.” Melody sets down her brush and pulls me to my feet. “You’ll do well.”
“I wish I didn’t have to wear this.” I smooth my camouflage skirt with trembling hands.
Melody gives me a soft smile. “If only ladies could wear pants.”
“If only ladies didn’t have to fight for what’s rightfully theirs.” The bell tower chimes eight, and my breath quickens.
“Come.” Melody opens my door and ushers me downstairs and outside.
“I’ll see you in an hour?” Tears prick at my eyes as I look at Melody for reassurance.
“In an hour.” She kisses my cheek. “Now go.”
I lift my skirts and hurry across the lawn toward the forest. Near the edge, men on horses wait with their hounds.
“My lords.” I eye the five men on horseback. Lord Timothy glares at me when my gaze locks with his. My refusal cost him his honor, and if he wins, he gets that back along with my home and fortune. I lift my chin. He won’t win.
“You get a five minute lead,” says Lord Andrew. “If we don’t find you, then,” he waves his hand as though he doesn’t believe it’s a possibility, “you win. And if we do, well…”
I nod, determination mingling with fear to create a potent fire. They won’t find me—I refuse to die today.
Lord Chambers cocks an eyebrow. “You better start running.”
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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 Monday with the final 1,000 word battle. 

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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