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WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Bout #8

Congratulating to Imladris for winning Bout #6 and joining the others waiting patiently for the play-offs to begin in four weeks. The voting for Bout #7 remains open until noon on Sunday, July 13th.

This post marks the mid-way point for the preliminary rounds, and what a contest it's been so far.  Sixteen writers have entered this ring so far, displaying some phenomenal writing, and I dare to say the best could be yet to come.

For anyone who's dropping by for the first time, here's a summary of what's going on. Back on May 3rd we began taking submissions from WRiTER’s far and wide, spanning the globe, representing all ages and multiple styles of WRiTING.  We received 167 entries in all! Those 500 word samples went under careful consideration by 11 judges and that panel narrowed the list down to 32…which are the ones that are pairing off in the ring over the course of eight weeks.  A rundown of past and current matches can be found right HERE.

Note: The submissions can be an excerpt from a larger work...or a standalone piece of flash fiction. The only rules are that they be 500 words or less, and never previously published or posted on a blog. Although I'll never instruct someone how they should choose a winner, I would recommend considering this when doing so. It shouldn't be about how much information is contained in those 500 words, but the way a contestant goes about communicating the information that is.

These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world. But none of that matters here, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why?  Because no one uses their real name…the only identification you’ll ever see is their pen name. This is not a popularity contest.  The focus here is on the writing, where it should be.

Today is the eighth of sixteen bouts, two bouts per week, with a new one posted every Monday and Thursday. The winners are decided by votes left in the comment section and anyone can vote. The voting for each fight will last for one full week, so you can vote for a Monday battle all the way until midnight on Sunday, and you can vote for a Thursday brawl up until midnight the following Wednesday.  And when you do vote, please let the contestants know what you liked and disliked.

Now it's time to find your seat and get settled.  The fun's about to begin!

Here are this bout's two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the MG Fantasy genre and weighing in at 494 words, please welcome to the ring……..Cocktail Lion.


The brick house was the tallest house on the street and the brick house knew it. It towered twenty feet over the competition and that was without the rooftop launch pad torn down and smashed to rubble in the 1950s. The brick house was three stories tall and could tell a thousand.

On hot days, its limestone windowsills smelled like burnt barbecue and gunpowder. Dark red stains clung to chalky mortar. Thick concrete floors hid old bones and air shafts that whistled in the dark.

A century-long line of home inspectors had said, Completely safe and stable, and each time, the brick house grinned quietly. It was immovable and ingenious and fireproof, but the best word to describe it in English was dangerous.

The brick house was looking out, keeping its eyes open, biding its time. It expected a lot and usually got it. It knew what it wanted. It never settled, would never settle for anything. Its jazz-blue front door and curling ivy vines were cocky: The brick house was strong and good-looking and the brick house was kind of a jerk.

But that didnt change the fact that it knew its stuff. That didnt change the things it had seen and the lives it had helped begin and end. That didnt change the dark corners it would show the right tenants and the questionable plans it had for their future.

And the brick house knew that gangly, twelve-year-old Conley Hoss was the perfect candidate.

Chapter One: The Night Visitor

Conley had been staring at the ceiling for about half the night, wondering who hed hang out with on summer break. He was deciding whether a dent in the plaster resembled an alligator or an amoeba when he noticed the draft. The window had definitely been shut when his dad hugged him at bedtime, the old air conditioner humming and rattling outside. Now a warm summer breeze was flowing over his top bunk, making his forehead sticky.

Weird that the window was open. And why did the warm air smell so strong, like...the zoo?

Conley sat up in bed and leaned toward the window. A faint sound came from outside, something hard scratching against the houses brick wall. Scritch, scritch, scritch. The sound got closer. So did the smell.

Dont be a baby, Conley told himself. He climbed down his bunk beds ladder and stood motionless. Scritch, scrit-. The sound stopped. Probably one of his moms apple trees, blowing in the wind. He glanced at the bottom bunk. Empty. Strange, Wyatt was missing He took two steps and looked at the second bunk. The sheets were rumpled but they were empty too. Weirder and weirder. Where were his brothers?

Conley frowned and slid over to the window. When he leaned forward and looked out, a hot updraft washed over his face, wrinkling his nose. Ugh, gross. Then he placed the smell. It was the dry, fishy smell of the zoos reptile house.


And in the other corner, representing the Adult Magical Realism genre with 484 words, let me introduce to you……….Petrichor.

We drift to Montpelier on the last of the winter’s wind. It is April. Time for crocuses to be born joyous amid the green grass and forsythias to spread their golden arms wide, laughing at us who cannot bear the cold wind that bites our noses and stings our eyes. But there are no flowers here. The grass is sparse and the shrubs dormant.

Before I can stop her, Analise removes her coat and gives it to a girl with bruised eyes who sits hunched over and shivering at the train depot.

“Anali!” my daughter scolds her. “Gramma stitched that coat for you. Must you be so careless with it? You have no other.”

What Claire says is true. I made that coat myself. Late hours that stretched autumn into moonlight, every stitch of the compass on its back embroidered and blessed, and Analise had only that coat to ward off the chill.

“She needs it so much more than I do,” Analise answers. This girl, my granddaughter, her heart warms her from the inside. “Besides, I think we will settle here,” she says. “I like it already.”

There is not much to like here yet. We only just arrived at this station and have not seen the town. Still, we promised to let Analise choose our destination this time. She wore the compass and was sure of our direction. Now here we are, and she has decided to stay.

Claire and Analise shoulder their bags and share the weight of mine between them. I am old and it is enough that I carry my own weight down the cobbled streets. Analise points to a sign posted on a grimy window. The tailor shop is for rent, and the apartment above it, too. Inside, a thick layer of dust pads the floors and all the surfaces need scrubbing, the walls a fresh coat of paint.

“You can use whatever is here,” the rental agent says. “The apartment is furnished.”

“And the sewing machines in the shop?” Claire asks. “Can we use them?”

“Yes, of course. Whatever is here is yours. The price includes everything. The previous owners have no use for it now,” the rental agent says.

“Dead?” Analise asks. She has never cared for subtlety.

“Yes,” the rental agent says. Her whisper is barely an answer.

“But not gone,” Analise says and I wonder if she can sense ghosts here. My own eyes have grown too dim to see them. Or, maybe I don’t want to see them. Surely, they are a reminder of what is yet to come soon, too soon.

“They were your parents,” Analise says, “and you still think of them.” I do think of them, my own parents, and I wonder if I could have changed anything by stitching health into his nightshirt, long life into her apron. But Analise is speaking to the rental agent, not me. 


Enjoying the words of two talented writers is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of Bout #8.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  The voting for this round will remain open until noon Sunday.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing -- it’s the audience that gets clobbered!


  1. I think Petrichor has it, if only by virtue of the tantalising ending.

  2. I think Cocktail Lion would have done better to leave out the introduction and expand further on the main story. That said, he gets my vote as the main story grabbed right away.

  3. One of the things I love about WRiTE Club is the wide variety of writing. Each entry is unique and it's always interesting to see how the luck of the draw pairs them up. Today, two radically different pieces of writing are matched up, and yet I am struck at the combination of similarity and uniqueness in their stories.

    Both entries involve the supernatural; both are introductions to what appear to be larger stories; both feature characters as tenants in "special" places; and both show young children interacting with those places.

    Half of Cocktail Lion's words are spent in the anthropomorphism of an old brick house. But for me, all the telling of how the house is ingenious and dangerous and "kind of a jerk" with "questionable plans", does little for the story, I'm afraid. I'm left with nothing more than a creepy house saying that Conley Hoss is the "perfect candidate" for something or other. Personally, I've never been a fan of introductions or prologues, and I'd advise cutting this one too – just start the story at the beginning. But the first chapter does flow much better and generates interest as to what happened to the brothers, why the window is open, and why it smells like the zoo.

    Petrichor's piece has a much more lyrical flow, Here, the introduction to the supernatural elements are inserted smoothly and revealed as a natural part of the unfolding story. The descriptions are much richer than Cocktail's, but this piece is intended for adults, and Cocktail's simpler wording does work for the intended younger audience. I do find that Petrichor's first-person POV brings me much closer to the story, and my curiosity is aroused as to the magical stitching and what special abilities Analise may possess.

    All, in all, both these entries work well, and I would keep reading both – so well done to both writers! But I also find myself drawn a little closer to Petrichor's, and so that is where my vote will go.

  4. My vote is for Pretrichor.

    Congratulations to both of you for making it into the top 32.

    I liked the two segments from Cocktail Lion, but they seemed disconnected. One was a scary house, and the other a scary reptile. Perhaps there could be a few lines to connect the two, if that is the author's intent.

    Pretrichor's story is interesting and I would like to read more. The warm heart and forwardness of Analise is refreshing. Adventure is definitely on its way, in the form of interacting with the ghosts and helping people through their sewing. The dialog keeps the story moving forward, and the short paragraphs increase readability. Great job!

  5. Both are really interesting and have strong writing. This is a difficult one. I like the idea of having a grandmother as a POV character. I'm also drawn to the promise of action in the first one. Both have so much personality.

    I'm voting for Cocktail Lion because MG is my thing.

  6. Oh wow, two amazing pieces today. I'd probably vote for each if they were in separate rounds, but being together...I vote for Cocktail Lion. Of these two stellar samples. this one captured my imagination a tad bit more---and the line about the house being a jerk made me LOL.

  7. My vote is for PETRICHOR!

    Petrichor was one of my votes to put through so i'm glad to see it made it.

    I liked Cocktail Lion, and i can see the potential and am really drawn in by the mystery, but it felt like it took a bit too long to get there. Also, by starting the story with the house, the mystery loses a lot of it's oomph, i feel. I'd rather discover with Conley that the house is dangerous, than be told up front. It takes away a lot of the mystery and the sense of discovery, especially for a MG.

  8. Cocktail Lion this week. I had a couple of spots in the story that I stuck on, but for the most part the atmosphere and novelty held my interest better.

  9. Petrichor! The imagery, the mystery is all there and I want to read more!

  10. Both of these re really good, but I think I'm going to have to go with Petrichor this time. I found the introduction to the house in Cocktail Lion's piece interesting, but there was a disconnect between it and the main part of the story.

    So Petrichor it is!

  11. Hmmm. Hmmmm.

    I like the short snippet from Cocktail Lion, but I love the idea that they make magic through their sewing. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that the sewing was vibrant enough to hold me over the Cocktail Lion.

  12. Although cocktail lion had a stronger intro, overall I preferred petrichor

  13. This is a tough one as both have merits as well as drawbacks. I'm always interested in the idea of objects like houses having personalities, so was grabbed by that, although the repetition of brick house was a bit grating. Like others I'm not sure the prologue is totally necessary but I want to know where his brothers are. Petrichor's piece had some lovely writing and also had a hook point at the end that I want to know more about, but Cocktail Lion just edges it for me

  14. Cocktail Lion gets my vote. But lose the Introduction. It's not needed.

  15. Both of these are excellent. I'm not a huge fan of prologues but I'm intrigued by Cocktail Lion's. But Petrichor drew me in more with the spunky character of Analise, the compass, and the sewing magic. I want to read on in both stories, but I'm giving my vote to Petrichor.

  16. Both stories are interesting, but there was something lacking in both.

    Cocktail Lion's prologue seems to be out of place for his piece. First off, the writing between the prologue and the first chapter feel like two different styles of writing. The prologue is short and really only describes the house and it feels off putting in the language. Chapter 1 was a lot better than the Prologue and I would tell the writer to dump the prologue and find a way to incorporate that information into the story.

    Petrichor tries to give descriptive details in the story, but it feels they are trying too hard. Some of the sentences seem to be trying to be lyrical, but then tries to use fancy words at the same time. A few times has long running sentence that could probably be divided up into two or 3 sentences. I think there is promise for the writer.

    I vote for Cocktail Lion's work. Despite the unnecessary prologue, I feel that the rest was the better of the two.

  17. I love them both. But I'm certain I'd buy Cocktail Lion, so my vote is there.

  18. Congrats to both!

    Cocktail Lion is my pick. Incredible voice for Middle Grade. For me, Petrichor doesn't fit the contemporary story with a magical twist that I associate with magical realism. The voice felt forced and the writing wasn't nearly as smooth.

  19. My vote is Petrichor this time. Though Cocktail Lion was strong for it's appeal to an MG audience, I liked the smooth flow of Petrichor's prose.

  20. Tough one! I enjoyed both of these. My vote is going to Cocktail Lion for the fun, strong voice. A couple comments:

    Cocktail Lion: I've always seen 'prologue' instead of 'introduction' at the beginning of novels, but that said, tons of agents hate seeing a prologue. So if you are querying this in the future, maybe consider calling that chapter one. It's really short, but the almost irrational hate of prologues many agents claim to have makes me nervous... why do anything that could make them stop reading, you know?

    Petrichor, very nice job, not much I can think to suggest. The only thing, and it may just be me, was the transition between them arriving at the station, seeing the for rent sign, and then the agent suddenly speaking. It seemed rushed, but maybe it was a stylistic thing. I'm really intrigued by this stitching symbols to obtain certain attributes. Very cool.

    Nice job and good luck to you both!

  21. Another bout, and two outstanding entries! Congrats to Cocktail Lion and Petrichor for making the cut.

    Cocktail Lion gives us a piece with a very unique opening POV, that of a building. I enjoyed the quiet grin about it being safe to dwell in, though I had trouble getting close to a personified house. The second part gives us a character and some mystery, but I was bothered a little bit by all of the self questions.

    Petrichor's entry starts out a little slow. I'm a bit put off by present tense (a personal preference), but the piece gets stronger and stronger as I read it. I like that the MC is the grandmother (maybe it's MG/YA fatigue), and I'm intrigued by the girl's ability that might even run in the family. This one certainly left me wanting more.

    My vote goes to Petrichor.

  22. Congrats to the authors of both of these fantastic pieces! Both riveted me with their strong writing. I choose Petrichor as it best held together as a whole. The division of Cocktail Lion into two parts disrupted such a short piece. It might have worked better to pick one of these sections and extend that into one story, given the restriction of 50O words. (The initial passage focusing on the house worked best for me. I actually felt more of a connection with the house than with Conley.) The payoff at the end was also much more for Petrichor. Cocktail Lion hinted tantalizing at the house's secrets, but the reader is left wondering. Both stories contain some beautiful details, but there is also some separation here. While "jazz-blue" is clever, it's unclear and doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the piece. The description in Petrichor rings true (which is key in magic realism: For the magic to work its stuff, it has to be grounded in a believable reality.). Overall, Petrichor put me in mind of Gabriel Garcia Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera (yes, this is the second WRiTE CLUB round in which I've compared an entry to a Nobel Laureate—well done) and Joanne Harris's Chocolat. I especially liked the anthropomorphism of the forsythias and these first few lines, which also mentioned crocuses, make me think of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem, Spring: "You can no longer quiet me with the redness/Of little leaves opening stickily./I know what I know./The sun is hot on my neck as I observe/The spikes of the crocus." If you want more, see I would happily read more of either of these two splendid writers.

  23. Petrichor wins my vote this time, the story pulled me in right away.

  24. Cocktail Lion is my vote...some feedback:

    I enjoyed the intro from Cocktail Lion, though I would agree that it should be weaved within Conley's experience in the house. With the POV the writer chose it think it could be done well and the voice wouldn't lose its grasp. I would buy this off the shelf, the mystery of the house and that its alive intrigues me.

    Pertichor was also a good read, I would say to change the last sentence where Analise refers to the parents being deceased, it threw me a bit as to who she was talking to, or maybe its that I didn't have my caffeine yet today. But after rereading I did realize that she was talking to the realtor and her grandmother was thinking internally about her own parents. A bit confusing, nothing that a new paragraph or but of clarification wont fix. I did like this, I would want to read more.

  25. Both intriguing, well-written pieces, but Petrichor's quiet grace wins my vote.

  26. I had a really hard time choosing this round. SO HARD. I think I have to go with Cocktail Lion though.

  27. I think Cocktail Lion's piece has promise but I found the repeated use of the words "brick house" more distracting than effective and introduction of Conley felt forced. Petrichor's piece drew me in and left me wanting more. My vote goes to Petrichor.

  28. I vote for Petrichor, though I wish it were not in first person. We learn a lot in a short time through an interplay of the grandmother's inner thoughts and what the other characters actually do. I'm left wondering why they move so often and how it is that a child gets to pick where they will stay this time. Although the possibility of ghosts is intriguing, it's a common story element these days. But it's the interplay of the characters, as well as the setting and a strong writing style that make me interested. Perhaps Anilise is a young woman, not a child, but she is the youngest of the group and her wisdom and insight are trusted by the grandmother.

    In Cocktail Lion, I actually liked the concept and attitude in the introduction. The sentence patterns, subject-verb openings in almost all sentences, all about the same length, were monotonous in the intro. Then the style really picked up well when we got to Chapter 1. Lots more variety in the structures, which made the style more enjoyable to read. I liked that the descriptions included a good deal of sound and smell, not just what the character could see.

  29. I love middle grade, and Cocktail Lion introduces an intriguing premise. I choose him!

  30. Congrats to both writers for making it to the top 32! Well done!

    Cocktail Lion's 200 word prologue from the POV of the house was a turn off for me. I think I would have rather had the next 200 words of plot verses the intro -- maybe allude to the house having a mind of it's own later on down the line instead of making it sound like a mastermind of Machiavellian proportions. I vote for Petrichor.

  31. Both are quite interesting.
    Cocktail Lion's prologue threw me a bit. The brickhouse bit would work better if it was shown and not told so much. Instead of a prologue it could have been the beginning paragraph of the story and then Conley could have been introduced at the end of like "and it was in this house where a young boy laid in bed staring at the ceiling." I understand the idea of leading off with the house and its quirkiness. It is meant to hook you in a bit and set the stage.

    It was a smooth read once you figured out the POV. I found myself stopping to re-read lines to figure out who was speaking (or thinking). I Immediately pictured a scene in my head of the station. This is something that really keeps me reading when the author can spark the image in my brain so I can watch the story as I read it. A bit confusing at the end though.
    Congrats to both for some pretty good writing.
    My vote...Petrichor.

  32. I found this hard to pick, congrats to you both for making it through to the last 32. I liked the premise of the house's POV in Cocktail Lion and I am naturally drawn toward MG but I too would advise rethinking the prologue/introduction. I thought there was some nice description and flow in Petrichor and I was interested to learn more of the magical sewing.

    My vote will go to Petrichor by the shortest of margins.

  33. I vote for Petrichor simply because it was more polished and drew me in more quickly. In a world where characters are often nubile or a 20 something male action hero or an emotionally damaged middle aged person, I love the fresh perspective of having a grandma's POV. Cocktail Lion had a few grammatical/punctuation errors that bothered me a little and the set up confused me. Unlike some of the feedback here, I like the writing style in the intro better than chapter one. I enjoyed the slightly monotonous, rhythmic pulse in the intro. There's something eerie about it. I think the real issue here is that the style is so different from one another the reader will be thrown off by it. Maybe it makes more sense if we were able to read more, but we're only judging the <500 words here for the contest. Overall, this one was a tough call! Good job to you both.

  34. Really liked cocktail lion's piece, but the second half threw me. If it had just been about the house, it would have been great. Like the others said, the two bits didn't jive together well.

    Really liked petrichor's too. For me it felt ethereal and flowed well.

    Vote is for petrichor's.

  35. Congratulations to both writers for making it to the battle rounds.

    My vote goes to Petrichor.

  36. Congrats to both entrants for making the top 32. I liked each piece, but felt that Petrichor's piece flowed better. My vote goes to Petrichor.

  37. Voting Petrichor here :)

  38. Congrats to both writers! Both of these pieces were right up my alley, and I found myself wanting more from both of them. In the end, my vote goes to Petrichor, but only by a nose. :)

  39. This is too difficult. So different. Each interesting. In the end, I'll go with Cocktail Lion.

  40. I'm voting for Petrichor.

    The voice is effective and there are some lovely moments in this passage. There are just a couple of transitions that don't feel quite right, such as in the ending paragraph, which initially confused me about whose parents were being referred to. I figured it out after rereading it, but it needs to be made clearer -- for one thing, the narrator's thoughts should be in a new paragraph. And I'm not really a fan of present tense -- I've seen too many people do it poorly and make errors by inadvertently changing tense -- but it appears to be handled well enough here. Overall, this entry is pretty polished.

    In Cocktail Lion's entry, I agree that the two parts don't fit together well. But I also thought the tone in the first section was inconsistent -- most of it actually comes across as rather stiff and not quite appropriate for MG, so the 'kind of a jerk' and 'knew its stuff' seemed to come out of nowhere and clash with the rest. The second part sounds much more natural, and the idea of a giant reptile outside (I'm picturing an enormous lizard, or perhaps a dragon!) is lots of fun. I have to say I find that concept far more appealing than the idea of a creepy house.

  41. My vote goes to Petrichor. I liked both entries and they both left me wondering what was going to happen. For me, Petrichor drew me in and flowed better. By the end I was more invested in where the story might be going.

  42. Petrichor. It had more of an ending that got my imagination taking it further. Cocktail Lion's piece wasn't enough of a story for me, though the just of it grabbed me.

  43. I vote for Cocktail Lion. The anthropomorphized house charmed me, and the story was intriguing enough that I want to see more.

  44. I'm late and there is no time for a real critique on each piece. I did think they were both equally good, but I'm casting my vote for Cocktail Lion.

  45. So hard to decide, as usual. Love the tone of each one. But, hmmm... I think I'll go with Petrichor, because of the mysterious human elements rather than the mysterious house elements. Love that word, petrichor!




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