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WRiTE CLUB 2014 - The Finals

Here we are.  Two writers...but only one crown. Who will make an impression on the judges and be left standing?

Let me start off by congratulating not only Lord Codpiece and Cocktail Lion for surviving fourteen weeks of grueling competition and landing here in the final round, but every single writer who was brave enough to submit an entry to my contest deserves a tip of the hat as well.  This is the part of WRiTE CLUB where...if you so desire...the masks come off.  I encourage everybody (except our finalist) to use the comments below to let us see who the person behind the pen name is.  I know there are a lot of fans who really want to find out more about you and your writing story.

I've already emailed our two finalist new 500 word writing sample to our panel of judges (forgot who they were? check out the list HERE) and I'll post the results, along with any critiques they provide, next Monday (Sept. 29th).  But that doesn't mean you don't get a say.  I've also posted their pieces below so you can have one final chance to vote.  If by some remarkable chance our judges come up with a split decision, your votes in the comments below will decide the tie-breaker.

I will be back on the Wednesday (Oct. ) after announcing the winner to post some takeaways from this season's WRiTE CLUB, and I'll also be asking for recommendations for what you'd like to see be different for next year. Make sure you stop by for that.

And now...for one last time this year....

In this corner, welcome to the ring our first finalist.....Lord Codpiece. Here are links to his/her original entry, his 2nd submission, and the edited 2nd.

I never fight a duel unless there’s profit involved, but the palace guards brooked no argument. They escorted me right to the torchlit green outside her majesty’s ballroom. Little Lord Peyton waited there, with a smirk on his pudgy face. Guests had crowded onto the balcony to watch. They lined the rail in their peacock finery, still unaware that I’d purloined most of their coins and jewelry.

The guard-captain took me aside. He was a grim-faced man of middling years, his beard tinged with grey. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” he said.

“That makes two of us,” I said.

He handed me a sword, a rapier with a sweeping hilt. The balance felt right. The smooth leather handle spoke of use.

“Yours?” I asked.

“I’ll be needing it back, after,” he said.

“Of course. Thank you, captain.”

He grunted. “Don’t thank me yet.”

He stalked to the middle of the green. I followed, wincing at the soft metallic clinks from my pockets.

Lord Peyton’s son looked like a brawler. It said something about a man when he brought his own sword to the queen’s gala. He wasn’t as drunk as he’d seemed when he challenged me, either. Now he conferred with his father, while the audience grew restless. Soon enough, someone would notice an empty purse or a missing necklace. I had to move this along.

“Are you ready, m’lord?” I asked. “Or did you need a kiss from mother, too?”

He snarled, and came for me.

The guard-captain stepped between us. “Her majesty wishes the duel to end at first blood. I’ll have your word on it.”

“Agreed,” I said.

“Fine,” said young Peyton. His eyes promised murder.

He lunged for me the moment the other men stepped aside.

I parried. The impact nearly shook a diamond pendant out of my sleeve-pocket. “Thanks for the warning, m’lord,” I said.

He attacked again, thrusting for the heart. I dodged aside. Parry. Riposte. He left me several openings; I could have skewered him like a mutton roast. But if I did, I’d face even more scrutiny.

We scuffled again, locked blades. He threw a shoulder into me.

I stumbled back, clutching my chest. “You got me!”

He stopped his advance. “What?”

“You’ve drawn my blood, sir.”

“I did not!”

I lifted my shirt’s collar and peeked beneath. “Yes, indeed. Masterfully done, m’lord.” I bowed. “Victory is yours.”

“Let me see it!” He marched over and ripped my shirt open.

Then he stared, while the color drained from his face. Dozens of sickly-red pustules covered my torso, glistening in the torchlight.

“Blood plague!” he rasped. He turned and ran.

Everyone else fled, too. The balcony crowd surged away from the rail. Men shouted, women screamed as they trampled one another to get back inside.

I re-buttoned my shirt. A couple of the pustules came loose; I’d have to find better glue. I collected Peyton’s fine sword from where he’d dropped it, and slipped out into the night.

And in the far corner our other finalist, let me re-introduce.... Cocktail Lion. Here are links to his/her original entry, his 2nd entry, and the edited 2nd entry.

Conley was deciding whether a dent in the ceiling resembled an alligator or an amoeba when he noticed the draft. The window had definitely been shut when his dad hugged him goodnight, air conditioner humming and rattling outside. Now a warm summer breeze flowed over his top bunk, making his forehead sticky.

Someone had opened a window. And what smelled so strong, like the zoo?

Conley sat up. Outside, something hard scratched the side of the house, and his fingers knotted the sheets.

Scritch, scritch, scritch. The sound got closer. So did the smell. Conley ran his hands through his messy brown hair. A week of exploration had barely put a dent in the brick houses secrets, but hed be ok with less mystery and intrigue after sunset. Not that he had a choice.

Dont be a baby, Conley told himself. Enough babies in the family already.

He eased himself down his bunks ladder and crouched, motionless. He was a secret agent, unseen, unheard, unaahh! He jumped as the scritch, scritch sound started and stopped.

Probably one of his moms apple trees, blowing in the wind.

Now he was just making excuses to get back in bed, but it was too late for that. No sleep for him until he closed the windowthe creepy scritch-scritching window. Conley rubbed his freckled nose. Oh man. Wyatt was a little punk, but he would love this. Maybe he should accidentally wake up Wyatt

He glanced at the bunk below his, but Wyatt was missing. Conley scanned the double-decker beds on the opposite wall. Rumpled sheets, both those bunks empty too. Maybe Wyatt Super Eight Hoss was trying to scare his big brother; it wouldnt be the first time. But his little brothers were never this coordinated in their trickery.

Conley frowned and slid to the window.

Pretend youre a spy, darkness is your friend. And this is just a drilla spooky missing-brothers drill. He took a deep breath and leaned out. Hot air washed over his face and he wrinkled his nose. Ugh, gross. He finally placed the smell. It was the dry, fishy smell of the zoos reptile house.

Two eyes snapped open under the window, yellow-green headlights with vertical pupils. Conley yelled and threw himself back as a ten-foot lizard slithered through and crouched in his bedroom.

Oh wow, much bigger than a crocodile, more snakily-shaped.

Black claws sunk into the hardwood floor. Jet-black scales coated the beast, lines of crimson running down its back and belly. Its mouth curved in a menacing smile. Conley froze, hand on the door knob. How could he distract it?

Quick as a cobra, the reptile arched its long neck toward him.

Oh no. Secret agents dont get trapped like this. Wheres my backup?

The smiling jaws paused a foot from his face…then the smile became very, very toothy. Conley turned to run. But like his brothers, he was too slow.

Has anybody forgotten the WRiTE CLUB motto?  It’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


  1. Tough call, as I liked both of these writers throughout the competition.
    I'm going with Lord Codpiece. The clever, humorous twist nailed it.

  2. Congrats to both authors, two of my favorites. I have to give the nod to lord codpiece

  3. I enjoy reading Lord Codpiece's entries. They're full of action and clever. As I said before, LC's writing reminds me of Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers. Quite a compliment! But note, there is a profound difference. Dumas' witty and capable MCs are motivated to fight for an ideal and display great loyalty along with their finesse. They sometimes lose battles and have their hearts broken. They are singular in their personalities and personal struggles. Here, LC submitted three entries, presumably cuttings of the same longer story. By now I would expect a certain amount of character development, some hint of an emotional arc. However, MC seems to act alone, be loyal to no one other than himself, and never lose. To me, he seems to act and believe he is better than everyone around him. Perhaps because this protagonist is indeed thus blessed, as I am not, I am hard pressed as a reader to find an emotional connection to him because he displays no vulnerabilities. And boy, LC's prose is so flawless that I really really really want to connect to the MC. But, I don't, and it pains me. Perhaps if this rogue had some urgent reason for stealing the jewels rather than compulsion? Is his father ailing and in danger of losing his home? Has his mother run up gambling debts and now faces pauper's prison? Is his love interest so wealthy that he must present himself eligible? Were these particular jewels once part of his family's estate? In sum, although I find LC's prose light and fun and well-written, I also find it lacks the character development that, for me, is essential.

    Cocktail Lion, is this a re-written first entry? I like it better. There are still some places to smooth out - for example, here I think there might be a sentence missing explaining some of the house's secrets Conley uncovered: "A week of exploration had barely put a dent in the brick house’s secrets, but he’d be ok (spelling: okay) with less mystery and intrigue after sunset. Not that he had a choice." (what does this last sentence mean?) Also, when the giant lizard enters Conley's room CL might consider slowing down the action and Conley's fear-based reactions to draw out the tension. And, unfortunately there's a POV slip in the last sentence. Three strikes, right? But wait, CL is still not out. So, okay, the writing is not as smooth as LC's entry. But, the characterization is, IMO, better here. I totally get Conley when he rubs his freckled nose and comments that his brother is a little punk but would love this scary stuff. Conley is a real kid with real emotions and real relationships. Only 500 words in, and already I'm invested in his character.

    Stories with mechanical errors usually earn a flight path across my room into the trash bin. Both of these entries are well-written with only minor errors.
    The stories must entertain, inform, and inspire me. Both of these do.
    I want to connect with characters who struggle and sometimes fail, but ultimately persevere to meet their challenges and be transformed in some way. Asking too much for 500 words? Probably.
    I want the writer to be fearless, to dig deep into their characters' psyches and reveal their vulnerabilities so I, as a reader, feel it's safe to reveal my own. I feel like one of these writers accomplishes this.
    And whoa, if a writer stretches themselves by writing in multiple genres? Yeah, that's gutsy.
    Because I feel one of these writers is more aligned with my ideals, my vote today-- swings to Cocktail Lion.

    My best to both of you. You are tops! ~ petrichor

    1. Great review and also -- I loved your work, and I think I voted for you every time. :)

    2. Loved your stuff too! i was writer22

    3. Thank you, Stratoraptor! I confess, I scrolled down to see your insightful comments each time. And then, I clicked through to find you. :)
      And Kim, zombies!!! So good. So fun.
      Thank you both. Your encouragement means the world to me.

  4. I agree with petrichor's comments on many points. At first read-through, I'm dazzled by LC's quick, witty writing. I feel led into the duel and can picture the scene. But when I re-read the entry I was left feeling unattached to the main character. I didn't particularly want him to win for any other reason than his sharp wit and found more clarity in the villains than the hero. The lack of depth & shading in character development left me feeling disconnected to the main character.

    CL's entry drew me in from the start with the main character deciphering alligator vs. amoeba cracks in his ceiling. The simple acts of sneaking down a bunk bed ladder, trying to rustle up some courage via pretending to be a secret agent, and shutting a mysteriously open window drew me into Conley's character, weaknesses and strength. A boy facing an immediate fear, flaws and all, became more of a hero to cheer on than a confident swashbuckler and jewel thief. I cast my vote for Cocktail Lion. Congratulations, finalists!

  5. Both are great, fun pieces. But Cocktail Lion's made my stomach clench a little at the end with the creepy reptile, and I was intrigued to read on. So, my vote goes there!

    BTW, I was Huntress! Thanks everybody for the awesome feedback, which has greatly improved the opening of my novel.

    1. I voted for you, too! Well, at least I did in the first round until I knew it was you, and then I felt like I had to pass on voting to be fair and impartial, LOL! ;)

    2. Great writing, Huntress! Excellent world-building.
      ~ petrichor

  6. I'm a sucker for a clever anti-hero. Really hard to do well. I'd keep reading--if only to watch him get what's coming to him. And the writing has been gorgeous throughout the competition--clean copy, consistent voice, authentic narrative and dialogue, and fantastic pace. Or maybe I just have a thing for vigilantes... Either way...
    Lord Codpiece FTW!

    1. Me encanta que se incluye detalles hispanos en su historia. <--- feeble attempt at remembering college Spanish. Best of luck to you, Dannie. You were a worthy opponent.
      ~ petrichor

  7. Hm, we're still voting? I thought the judges would be involved now. I love the voice of Lord Codpiece, and the humor, but there is only so many times a narrator can reference stolen goods hidden in pockets and wonder why no one has ever searched him. I am sure, however, that this is a minor point in the overall story.

    Coctail Lion will get my vote here, as I feel there is more potential in the story.

    1. We're not exactly voting. When the judges vote and IF this round results in a tie, the comments here are used to break the tie. If these comments ALSO end in a tie, maybe DL will flip a coin?

  8. First off -- CONGRATULATIONS to the finalists! It was a long, hard, battle-fought trek to make it to the final two and I salute you both for your accomplishments!

    Clearly -- both writers are very capable. I find this a really tough choice. Both stories are interesting, character-driven, and entertaining. Both have smooth writing and solid mechanics. If I had to nitpick, there are two minor things that struck me. In Lord Codpiece's entry, I'm definitely beginning to wonder about the hidden jewelry -- it really seems like it would have been discovered or dropped or something by now. It's just a minor story item that catches me. In Cocktail Lion's, the very last line seems like a POV slip -- how could Conley know the reptile got his brothers or that they were too slow? It seems like the author speaking instead of Conley Again -- just a minor thing that catches me.

    So just minor things, and both writers deserve the win. Even from the standpoint of, "which story would I personally like to read more?" it's very close -- I would like to read both stories.

    But since I have to pick one, I'll give the smallest of edges to Lord Codpiece. I just feel slightly more connected to the MC than I do to Conley, probably only because it feels more like adult fiction rather than MG or YA, and that's what I read.

  9. Congrats to the finalists. Both entries are excellent, but for me, Cocktail Lion's is the story I'd keep reading first. So my vote goes to Cocktail Lion.

  10. This has been quite the ride. If there were a tie to emerge from the judging, I'd back Cocktail Lion.

  11. Both f these pieces are very good. I'm all about the showing as opposed to telling and I think Lord Codpiece has demonstrated that wonderfully in every entry. Therefore that's where my vote would land.

    Fortunately, for me I really don't have to choose here and would like to congratulate not only these two writers, but also everyone who went out on a limb, and submitted a piece for this years Write Club.

  12. I read through them and had that moment of panic when I wasn't sure I could pick a winner. Then I saw we don't have to vote in this round! Congratulations on making it to the finals, you two should both be very proud of yourselves. Well done, and excellent WRiTE CLuB everyone!

    -The Baron

  13. Both of these writers deserve to win. Both of them. As a member of this round's peanut-gallery, I'm gonna give the smallest, teeniest, most miniscule edge to Cocktail Lion because I want to know an itty-bitty bit more about Conley and his brothers than I do about LC's MC.

    A huge congrats to all the writers who competed in this contest, and a huge "THANKS!" to the Hammonses for running it. It's the best writing contest on the internet.

  14. Lord Codpiece, you have my vote...every time. Thanks for the lovely words.

    My entry didn't even make it to the rounds, but I've enjoyed every single bout. Thanks, DL and all of you writers!

  15. Congratulations to everyone!
    Voting for Lord Codpiece!

  16. Fantastic contest. It's been great to read so many wonderful stories.
    Lord Codpiece- when I read your very first entry, I thought to myself "Wow, this writer is AMAZING! I'd hate to have to battle against this." Two seconds later I scrolled down and found out.... sure enough, I was your competition. If I was going down, I'm glad it was at least to you. My best wishes in your future endeavors.

    Cocktail Lion- Excellent work. I'm glad to see you here at the end. It looks like you've got a loyal fan base. I'm sure you'll do well.

    My vote goes to my pirate competitor- Lord Codpiece.

    Much love and best wishes- "Little Darlin" (a nickname I picked up from the song Here Comes the Sun)

  17. SO GLAD I don't have to vote as these two are my favorites. Congrats to both!!

    ~Karmann Ghia (Sorry about my tense issues! It was actually my 2nd entry and I rushed through it.)

  18. My vote goes to Lord Codpiece. I love the wit.

    This is palsofpen (who blogger sometimes turned into a letter number combo for some unknown reason). I only dabble in writing, and as such did not enter this contest. I do hang out with some serious author friends though, and I love to read. It was fun voting. I look forward to seeing what is cooked up next year!

    1. I was wondering if you voted in these rounds, DL. Thanks so much for hosting. This was fun. And, bonus, my craft improved from week to week. Looking forward to the big reveal of our two finalists!

  19. Two excellent pieces, but I would have to vote for Lord Codpiece because I love that humorous voice. Good luck to both you. You're awesome writers.

    Write Club is so much fun, I'm sad it's over. I've so enjoyed the opportunity to read everyone's work and to see everyone's reactions, cheering when I agree, jeering when I don't.

    Thanks to DL for being our hard-working fight promoter. Looking forward to doing it all again next year.

    ~Octavia Worldsend

    1. OMGoodness - I loved your entry! Great world-building and a strong heroine. The world, and your heroine kind of reminded me of The Fifth Element movie and a female Bruce Willis. :)
      ~ petrichor

    2. Thanks Melissa! I loved your entries as well--your voice and your imagination. Tattoos that come to life! And your wonderful characters. Congrats on making it so far in the contest. It was well deserved.

      I like the comparison to Fifth Element, although that world is little quirkier than what I envisioned. But then again, with everybody doing dystopian these days, a quirkier world would make it stand out.


  20. *eeeeartcht!* Just screaching in for the final, final (though not really a) vote. My only suggestion for improving WRiTE Club would be to find a way to get me 5 extra hours in each and every day...though I'm sure I'd find a way to fill those up too. ANYWHO...

    It was a pleasure to read both of these pieces. I'm not surprised these authors made it to the end as their Round 1 entries were very memorable and enjoyable. So...what if my vote ends up making the votes here a tie and then it's a double tie? So you see, even though I've already been a huge WC slacker, I think it would be best to abstain from voting, Awesome job to both WRiTErs! And thanks to all of the other WRiTErs too for giving me fun things to read in Round 1.

  21. My vote would have to go to Lord Codpiece in this final. While I think that Petrichor's analysis was excellent, I'm willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that if one read the entire story from the beginning, the narrator's motivations would be clear and make the reader want to root for him. This excerpt made me laugh out loud, and although, as I've mentioned before, I don't know that I would read this story myself -- I like my fantasy lush and literary like LOTR and Earthsea -- all of Lord Codpiece's entries have been very consistent and given me the impression that this manuscript is close to being ready to publish. I also think that both the story and the style say 'film script' all over -- which could be either a compliment or a criticism, depending on how you look at it!

    As I also said earlier, Cocktail Lion's style is actually more to my own taste, and I might read a MG book like this -- especially since it has big lizards! (Bit of a personal bias there, since one of my own books has big lizards in it...!) ;) But although the author deserves extra credit for taking the readers' feedback and doing some good revisions here, there are still a few little rough edges, and I think Lord Codpiece's work has just shown a bit more experience and polish.

    Congratulations to both writers -- and thanks to all of the contestants for participating, and to DL for hosting this contest! :)




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