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WRiTE CLUB 2014 - A Champion Crowned

The celebrity judges have spoken.  The winner of the 2014 version of WRiTE CLUB is:

Lord Codpiece

And now the moment many of who have been waiting for, the unveiling of just who our champion really is.  It is a pleasure to introduce to you Dan Koboldt…aka Lord Codpiece.  Dan writes in the fantasy & science fiction genres of speculative fiction. He is currently seeking publication for THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL, an adult science fiction novel about a Vegas stage magician who takes high-tech illusions of magic into a medieval world that has the real thing. He is also the host of #SFFpit, a twice-yearly Twitter pitching party for authors of sci-fi/fantasy who are seeking representation or publication. Dan's blog is located HERE.

Our runner up...Cocktail none other than AJ Vanderhorst.  AJ used to blog, where he became so famous that book publicists sent him Christmas presents. That site, with its cute ’90s homemade vibe, ran its course and was laid to rest. But with his new blog, hopefully there's a come-back in the making while he tries to leverage himself back into writing. Call me crazy, but based on his accomplishment here I think he's well on his way.

Here is some of the things our celebrity judges had to say about both writers work.

Margaret Bail:
I liked Lord Codpiece's--um--piece? best, so he has my vote. I don't really have any critique of it other than maybe to add a bit more specific description to make the reader feel like they're there. For instance, lines like "he wasn't as drunk as he seemed..." -- how does the narrator judge that? Was the guy staggering and slurring before but is steady and alert now?  Also, "the audience grew restless..."  How? Did the narrator hear someone shout "get on with it"? or how was the restlessness manifested?  Otherwise, the voice stood out, the character seemed quirky, jaunty, and clever, and I wanted to read more.

Critique of Cocktail Lion's piece: I don't read or rep MG, so I was already at a disadvantage. Therefore, all my critique this is very subjective. First off, I didn't connect with the character and wasn't able to sink into the sample at all.  His voice felt kind of flat. I also felt like there were too many logical problems. For instance, the line "the sound got closer, so did the smell." How does he know it got closer if he can't see it? The sound got louder and the smell got stronger, but how can he tell they got closer? Another nitpicky editorial thing--in the line "Now he was just making excuses to get back in bed, but it was too late for that" -- too late for making excuses? or too late for getting back into bed?  Also, I was confused by the monster. He says it's a lizard, which I didn't actually catch the first read-through because there are so many snake references, so I thought it was snake. Then it crouched and had claws, and acted like a cobra, so I had to reread and that's when I discovered it was a lizard. That's probably just my lazy reading, but all the mixed reptile descriptions were confusing. Anyway, these problems pulled me out of the story itself and made me start examining the writing.

Brittany Booker:
Both entries are really great. I've actually been debating for a while now. But ... I think Cocktail Lion stood out the most for me.

Cocktail Lion drew me in quickly and the pace kept me interested. I think the voice was spot on for MG which is something I admire in an author. Overall, the voice and pace of the novel is what put it in first place for me. My one piece of advice is that, even though he's basically alone, I would add some dialogue. But great job!

Lord Codpiece was entertaining. I felt the dialogue was spot on, and the imagery of the novel was very nice. The only thing I would suggest is something in that first paragraph that would grab the reader's attention quicker because the rest is great! Wonderful job!

Les Edgerton:
Cocktail Lion is my choice for first place between the two submissions. Lots of good things going on here, including a good grasp of story progression and originality in much of the description, i.e., “…his fingers knotted the sheets.” Nice! At the same time, metaphors comparing a cobra to a reptile don’t qualify as metaphor—a cobra is a reptile… The ending is a bit predictable but did manage to avoid melodramatics. It also shows a nice feel for developing tension. This should appeal to the target audience.

Lord Codpiece has some good things going on here. I have to confess I’m not a fan of O. Henryish, Twilight Zoneish endings like this, but the writing itself is very good and the writer understands story structure well.

Katie Grimm:
I'm casting my vote for Lord Codpiece.

Lord Codpiece Critique: The first 500 words here are doing exactly what they're supposed to - I already have a sense of the character's personality (AND I already like him), and I want to turn the page to find out what other schemes he has going.  The tone and voice are light, fun, and in line with the character and the scene - it's nice to get this consistency and synergy early on, and we end on a joke and a bit of a cliffhanger, which is perfect way to start. I will say I had a harder time imagining the setting (not to mention the time period and which queen we're dealing with).  I'm not sure if it will bog down the narrative to set the scene a little bit more, but consider fleshing it out here where you can (and I assume/hope you give us a bit more context in the next pages). Best of luck with the project and thanks for the look!

Cocktail Lion Critique: The first 500 words here do a good job of establishing a scene and Conley and his brothers as characters with distinct personalities, but I'm not sure who the protagonist is going to be because it seems that Conley is eaten (or at least captured) by the lizard at the end since he's "too slow" like his brothers. This gives me a little bit of pause as the reader because I'd rather stick with Conley. Going back to the beginning, it seems he's been awake for a while since he's looking at dents in the ceiling as if he's trying to fall back asleep. However, if the big lizard really ate all of his brothers, wouldn't he have heard them if he was awake or been awoken by their screams? At least he should awake suddenly and notice he's covered in sweat from the open window.  Also watch for consistency in voice and perhaps give us less of Conley's inner monologue. If you're going to use 3rd person limited perspective (which it is except for the omniscient line he was "too slow" at the end) instead of 1st person, there's a way to give us access to Conley's thoughts without giving the exact lines of internal dialogue sprinkled in - I always warn against it because too many of these thoughts make the narrative clunky and often leads to too much telling rather than showing. Best of luck with the project and thanks for the look!

Candace Havens:
This was actually really difficult. I liked them both for different reasons. It seems wrong to pick one over the other but I'm going with Lord Codpiece. It was funny, which always wins over scary with me.

But they were both well written and tight. I just like the unexpected turn of events of Lord Codpiece.

Mark Hough:
My vote is for Lord Codpiece.

Lord Codpiece,

Congratulations on getting to the final round! I found your entry entertaining and light...almost too light. 

While the scene did move along at a good pace, I wish a little more of the MC's voice was found in the narrator.  The benefit of writing first person is that the MC is also the Narrator--a great advantage if the MC is an interesting character but a trial if the MC doesn't have a distinct storyteller's way of thinking and seeing the world. I felt the MC here was just a little thin--like an actor without enough costume to be completely engaging and believable.

That said, I've no doubt you'll be able to remedy this as your submission already shows a natural understanding of flow and pacing.

Cocktail Lion,

Congratulations at getting to the final of Write Club!

Your entry puzzled me a bit. It seemed to tip toe at the edge of a thriller-esque without fully committing to the genre. I felt there were times where the tension was building only to be released by a  teasing thought of the MC.  I also had a hard time placing the MC's age--sometimes it felt 14 while other times it seemed to have the distracted mind of an 8-year-old.

I'd also look at each sentence here and see how many are doing "double duty".  To really wordsmith a passage you've got to make sure a sentence gets more across than just info or just the plot moving along.  How many sentences are also getting across the unique voice of the MC...or the subtle details of the setting...or infusing the passage with a subconscious feeling of dread? There are sooo many ways to get the same info across while giving the reader secondary info or feelings.

Lydia Kang:
My choice is the one by Lord Codpiece.

The MG by Cocktail Lion was definitely entertaining and had the great element of suspense, but at times the voice seemed a little to old for MG. MG voice is notoriously hard to nail down! At one point, I was pulled out of the story by "The sound got closer. So did the smell." Smells don't get closer, they grow stronger. ;)  So it was issues like these that showed this one needed a few more rounds of revision. But the idea was fun and exciting and I think it has so much potential!

The sample by Lord Codpiece has a nice consistent voice; great world-building even within such a short piece of writing; great suspense, energy, and flow. The language was spot on and well-crafted. Descriptions such as "He was a grim-faced man of middling years, his beard tinged with grey" were tidy, yet full of information and allowed the reader to paint a picture with an economy of words. Also, the idea of fake pox spots? I love that! So this one got my vote!

Jonathan Maberry:
My favorite of the two is the one by Cocktail Lion. No title for the work was provided.

The opening was interesting enough to make me want to read on.

That opening also suggested a quirkiness to the protagonist.

It’s a nice piece of flash fiction with a satisfying (if painful) ending.

Overall it shows promise, and I’d encourage this writer to take a swing at a longer piece.

One thing, however: even though I liked the opening line, the sentence borders of having too much to say. Consider breaking it into short fragmented sentences. This creates narrative ‘beats’ that can sell both the quirkiness of the character and the progression of the story.

Sarah Negovetich:
Wow, this was a really hard pick. I felt both pieces were classic examples of their genre and did a great job pulling me in as a reader right from the start. Both pieces also did a fantastic job of creating an emotion packed setting.

In the end, I have to give the win to Lord Codpiece. Both were great so I had to get nitpicky to choose a winner. I felt that the voice in Cocktail Lion's piece felt a bit forced at times. Nothing major, but these pieces were so evenly matched I had to get down into the nitty gritty!

Congrats to both authors on a job well done!

Tiana Smith:
My vote goes to Lord Codpiece. I also read the previous entries - not sure if we were supposed to or not (if not, oops?), but overall Lord Codpiece's writing samples grabbed my attention more and kept me interested. The subject matter, the voice and pacing of Lord Codpiece's writing was spot on in all of the samples. I liked Cocktail Lion's last entry, but my interest wasn't as high for the other entries.

Cocktail Lion - The pacing of this was excellent. I loved how the fun middle grade voice came through, and how the reader gradually realizes that something much more sinister is going on. A few grammatical things stood out to me, but overall, it's pretty polished and well-written.

Lord Codpiece - I love the dialogue. The witty retorts instantly made me like your main character. The voice really makes this piece stand out. I love the setting and premise behind this scene.

Thanks to both of you (and everyone else who entered WRiTE CLUB) for submitting your writing samples. It's very brave of you to put your work out there, and it was a tough decision!

"Tex" Thompson:
Needless to say, there's plenty to like about both pieces.  I love the voice in Cocktail Lion's sample: it's tough to do suspense without losing that essential preteen mindset, but lines like "Don't be a baby" / "Enough babies in the family already" accomplish that masterfully.  For me, the biggest challenge with this piece was just suspension of disbelief: the ending raises a lot of logistical questions (did it really eat the other three boys, and if so, how would it have room for a fourth, and if not, what did it do with them instead, and would it really have come in to the room to take the three of them, then gone out again, then come back in for Conley, and who opened the window in the first place?)  This makes it a harder sell as a standalone piece - but as skillful as the writing is, I have no doubt that the story as a whole answers every one of those questions.

With that said, my vote has to go to Lord Codpiece (now there's a sentence I've been waiting a lifetime to write!)  Even in this tiny 500-word canvas, I'm completely sold on the narrator's character: it's clear that he's a master-class scoundrel, and the writing style complements that perfectly.  The conflict is wonderfully executed: even though the duel itself is of no consequence to the narrator, his anxiety to get out before his pick pocketing is found out, and the danger of discovery if one of his trinkets falls out or makes a noise adds great tension through the whole scene.  Big props for economy of style, too: just one mention of "glue" is enough for us to understand the trick at the end, without overselling the punch line.  It's clear that this writer has great command of both the macro-level story elements and the micro-level language skills needed to present them effectively, and I couldn't be more impressed.

And there you have it.  Congratulations to both of our finalist, and a virtual high-five to Dan for becoming the fourth member of an elite club - WRiTE CLUB champ.

I want to thank all 167 contestants who submitted their work for scrutiny this year, everyone who blogged, Tweeted, updated their Facebook status, or did whatever they could to spread the word about WRiTE CLUB so we could provide the exposure to these writers they so richly deserve, and finally I want to thank my wife Kim -- without who's support this contest would be impossible.

I'll be back Wednesday with a final few words and a 2014 wrap up.  See you then. 


  1. Congratulations, Dan! Hope you find a publisher for that manuscript. Congratulations to all of the writers brave enough to tackle Write Club this year.

  2. A huge CONGRATULATIONS to both Dan and AJ! This year's WRiTE CLUB was terrific. And much gratitude to DL and Kim Hammons (or as I like to call them: The Hammonses) for putting this thing on. WRiTE CLUB is just the BEST! (So great to get to use CAPS and bullets!!!)

  3. CONGRATS to the winner of Write Club!

  4. Thanks, DL, for an entertaining contest that spanned the genres and had me hopping to keep up. And, congrats to Lord Codpiece, AKA Dan, and Cocktail Lion, AKA AJ! Way to go!

  5. Congratulations, Dan and AJ. It was fun!
    'Writer 22'

  6. Lord Codpiece tips his hat to a worthy opponent in Cocktail Lion. Well done!

  7. And my MC, Conley, runs a hand through his messy hair in acknowledgment. Thank you, sir, and great work!

  8. Congrats to Dan and AJ. Great job both of you and well deserved. I love Write Club!

  9. Congrats to Dan and AJ!

    I want to apologize for being absent throughout so much of the got crazier than usual this year!

  10. Hi Don - congratulations on running another great competition .. and now for the winners - that's excellent news for Dan and AJ .. looks like they will be winners along the publication path too ... cheers Hilary

  11. Congratulations, Dan & AJ! Nice battle.
    ~ petrichor

  12. Congratulations, both of you! It was a tough contest.

  13. Congratulations to everyone who entered, and to Dan and AJ for making it to the final round. I enjoyed reading all the pieces!

  14. Much congratulations. A well deserved win. I tip my hat to you.

  15. Congratulations to Dan for the win! Your work was excellent and I definitely enjoyed it.

    And also, as one runner-up to another, "Congratulations!" also to AJ for a hard-fought competition!

    I wish you both tremendous success with your writing!

    And -- "Thank You" once again to Don (and Kim!) for all the work and effort it takes to host this contest! For the fourth year now, I have thoroughly enjoyed WRiTE Club!

  16. Congrats to both of you!! And a BIG thanks to Don and Kim for putting this on every year!

  17. Congratulations Dan! And thanks so much DL and Kim for working so hard to put this on for us.




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