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WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #15

Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

This is the final first-round bout of WRiTE CLUB. Congratulations to each of the thirty contestants who were given the opportunity to step into the ring, and for those of you who submitted but didn't get the chance to compete - please give it a try next year. The voting was SO CLOSE amongst the slushpile readers that you could have been just one vote away. For those of you who might be disappointed about not being selected this year, PLEASE continue to come by and read/vote for your fellow submitters. They really need your support/input - plus you can still win a prize.

Also - if your favorite piece of writing didn't win their bout, make sure you return for SAVE WEEK!

Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Thursday, May 10th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) 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 result in 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!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –

In the far corner, we have Emese Silver representing the Paranormal genre.

I should have felt safe. My pistol was within reach and ready to fire, but I couldn’t shake my apprehension. They would find me, and soon.

“Snap out of it, Cara. You’re being paranoid,” I whispered.  “No one’s getting in here unless you allow it.” I looked at the stack of bullet-ridden targets on my desk. Dad would be proud of each shot. Straight through the bull’s-eye, no matter their position on the paper. With McCloud’s 500-pound bark as an alarm and my aim, intruders would not be problematic for long.

I inhaled deeply and rose from the recliner. McCloud scrambled to his feet. He pointed his nose at the door. Though he was gentle and good-natured, I could count on him to tear any threat to shreds.

No growl came. His interest in the door had resulted from my sudden movement. I relaxed.

“It’s okay, McCloud. Just going to wash dishes.”

The mountain of white fur settled onto the floor. A moan escaped as he stretched out beside the chair. I headed to the kitchen, half-expecting him to follow, but he had little incentive. Dinnertime, and we’d be racing.

My shoulders sank at the dishes peaking out of the sink. I stared at the mess and considered letting him lick the plates clean. Gross.

McCloud moseyed in at the sound of a spoon clinking against a plate. The food fell into the sink, and his eyes said it all. Traitor.

I gave him a pat then dropped a partially eaten rib into his dish. As I wiped spicy barbecue sauce from my fingers, he snatched the bone and I had second thoughts. The treat would inevitably elicit regrets with a 2:00 AM-scratch at the door — not that waking from a dead sleep strayed from my recent routine. At least his intestinal distress wouldn’t involve the usual kicking and screaming I endured each night. I pushed the memories out of my head and carried on with my cleaning while McCloud pawed at the rib.

As I rearranged pots in the cupboard to make room for the one atop the counter, the temperature plummeted. Someone—or something—was watching me, and it meant me no good.  A puff of frigid air prickled the back of my neck. The pot clanged onto the floor, and I whipped around. In a single action, McCloud released the bone, sprang to his feet, pointed to the space between the refrigerator and table, and snarled his warning.

“I know you’re there.” My arms folded in front of me as though they could prevent my heart from jumping out of my chest. I took a calming breath and regained my composure. “Reveal yourself or leave.”

And in the near corner, we have Charlie St. James representing the Women's Fiction genre.

The cake was surprisingly heavy. The first thought through my mind wasn't that I was launching a chocolate cake at my ex's car. It was that my mother would cringe I wasn't using the proper utensils. I had reached into the box, fingers wide, and grabbed a lump the size of my broken heart. 
"Just throw it!" Cyn yelled. 
The other girls giggled from the back of the car.
Confectionary sabotage hadn't started out as the goal for the evening. Instead it had been to bake a cake from scratch and eat it all with the girls from the Ex’s Bake Club. In one sitting. Because I was an adult and raging against the destruction of my perceived existence on this planet. As were all the other lovely ladies who were currently cheering me on like a demented pep squad.
But like with all other things Cyn got involved with, the night hadn't gone as first planned, and now, I was trespassing at my old apartment complex with an artillery of baked goods.
Fuck you, Greg Haddock.
For ruining the life I had planned since I was fourteen. For leaving me homeless and directionless. For setting me adrift in a sea of singleness, rage, and calorie guilt.
I threw the wad of chocolate cake as hard as I could against the back window of his Honda. The Honda I'd put the down payment on, but he insisted be in his name to build credit. The Honda I'd driven across the country from Stanford to Northwestern while he flew business class on his parent’s dime because he couldn’t be exhausted for orientation. The four-door we'd picked out thinking about our future children. 
I went back for a second helping and sunk my fingers into the still warm cake. The cake I'd baked to prove he was wrong. I could bake. I could have a job and keep a household running with freshly baked goods. And no tiny prick was going to tell me I couldn't. The round of chocolate fury skidded across the top of the car and rolled slowly down the front window like a muddy snowball, leaving fudge in its wake. 
Araceli jumped out of the car and dug her fingers in too. She launched the handful at the driver’s side window. "That's for dumping my friend, cabron."
I threw my head back and cackled.
Bridget walked up beside me and took a handful of cake. “This is for leaving her without a place to sleep.” She tossed it like a delicate snowball, and it made an amazing splat against the passenger window and slid down in gooey perfection.
And for the first time in a very long time, I took a deep calm breath.
Apparently, a little chocolate cake could ease a broken heart. That and friends. But mostly chocolate.

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

Next week is SAVE WEEK.


  1. These were both so good and well-written to boot. For me, it came down to personal preference.
    I think the edge for snappy dialogue and fine writing goes to Charlie, but I like the promise of interesting things to come in Silver's paranormal. I'm not nearly as fond of women's fiction, although I do love the line "grabbed a lump the size of my broken heart." My final vote goes to Emese Silver.

  2. This is another pair of great entries. Emise Silver comes at us with solid writing and an interesting premise. Charlie St. James comes at us with great character interaction and an engaging voice. The engaging voice is what wins my vote for Charlie St. James today.

  3. Good match. My vote has got to go to Emese Silver this morning even though paranormal can easily run aground into trite-ville.

    Both are about equally written, but what got me about Silver's piece was the interaction between Cara and McCloud. I like the dog already.

    However, I think we can all relate to wanting to get back at an ex and Charlie St. James has a cute and unique take on it. Not being a fan of chocolate cake, I think it would make an excellent tool for vandalism. But, it's a little too Ex-Wive's Club for me and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Let's get this jerk where it counts, empty his bank account, max out his credit cards, or send threatening text messages to the new girlfriend. Give us something with serious consequences so the MC faces more than a trespassing charge.

  4. Charlie - I'm relieved this made it in; I've been keeping my fingers crossed. Strong voice, a WF trope situation, but you're giving it your own unique twist. Concise, tight, specific word choices. Nice job.

    Emese - Good job setting me in a specific place, situation, and introducing two very engaging characters. However, the contradictions throughout this piece worked against you. A target shot through the bulls-eye every time wouldn't be "bullet-riddled." An intruder couldn't get in without Cara allowing it, and one does. Intruders wouldn't be problematic, but apparently they are. And in a single action, McLeod does four separate actions. With a few tweaks, you can resolve these examples to create the tension the story requires, but as is, they're creating confusion. You've got something to work with, but I don't feel it's *quite* there yet.

    Today's vote to Charlie St. James.

  5. Congrats to the final two! I wanted to read more of "Emese Silver" and I enjoyed "Charlie St. James" from beginning to end.

    Today, my final vote goes to Charlie St. James.

  6. Both well written, but Charlie gets my vote simply for charm!

  7. Emese Silver
    Nicely written, rising tension although possibly too much non-action between the opening and the threat appearing. I think some of the lengthier sentences could do with being less convoluted, as they tripped me up. I wasn't entirely sure I understood what the threat was, and was the dog her 'seeing dog'? If so, nice idea. Good descriptions, but too much has decreased the tension. I didn't really feel the fear.

    Charlie St. James
    Good voice, tons of backstory but I didn't care because of how she expressed it. Nice visuals. Liked the slight humour. Great little specific examples of why her ex was an idiot, made me dislike him too. I would have liked to see a hook into the next scene, or an idea of the stakes.

    Overall: Charlie St. James

  8. Paranormal is not my preferred genre but Emese Silver does a nice job of creating suspense and leaving me on the edge of my seat.

    Charlie St. James' story has been done many times before. Nothing new to see here and quite sad to me.

    My vote goes for Emese Silver

  9. For the final fight of this first round of competition, sports fans, it's spirits versus confectionary, spooks versus cooks, when Emese Silver and Charlie St. James meet in the ring to duke it out.

    The bell rings, and these ladies have at it. Silver starts strong, creating tension and fear from the first words. St. James soon picks up the pace and matches her, swing for cake-filled swing.

    It's a dog eat dog world in the ring, and spending so much time in the except watching a dog eat and walk around an appartment doesn't do Silver any favours in terms of stakes and tension, despite excellent writing and very relatable visuals for any dog owner.

    St. James, on the other hand, shows us you can have your cake and tell your ex to eat it, too. Am I still talking about cake? Who knows? But despite a few sentence structure repetitions ("The so-and-so I so-and-soed."), St. James pulls off an entertaining execution with multiple characters woven very credibly in and out, with real stakes and history shining through the setting.

    The ref pulls them apart, and to close out the first round of fighting, it's one point to Charlie St. James!

  10. Wow the final two writers! So happy for you both and hope seeing your stories made your heart leap with joy!!

    You made it to the top 30, proof you are both great writers!

    I have to be honest my vote for this round is driven purely by the story plot. Every woman has had at least 1 experience that made her want to throw something at her ex-boyfriend’s car 🚘 so for that reason only my vote is for Charlie St. James! Can’t stress enough how I LOVED this story!

  11. I vote for Emese Silver. Overall, I thought this piece was better written.

    A fine effort by Charlie St. James, but I disliked all the non-sentences, some without subjects, some without verbs, some without either.

  12. I love the voice of Charlie St. James so that gets my vote!

  13. For the final bout, two excellent entries. Well done.

    Emese Silver: I love paranormal. Adore it. Though well written, I was disappointed at the lack of tension through much of the piece. Cara should have been more on edge and the reader should have felt the fear.

    Charlie St. James: I also love women's fiction. Again, well written and nice characterization throughout. But this ex is a jerk on a grand scale. And she's throwing *cake*? At the car? Although cute, it falls a bit short for me in the revenge department.

    So, whom to choose? Because I like my paranormal with some immediate shivers and a higher creep factor, my vote goes to Charlie St. James.

  14. Emese Silver gets my vote in the final preliminary round.

  15. As usual, two very strong entrants are pitted against each other, making this hard to decide. There was good tension in Emese Silver's paranormal story, though it sagged a bit while she did dishes, and it wasn't always consistent. Cara says nothing can get in if she doesn't allow it, but obviously something can, and does. Charlie St. James had a good, snarky voice expressing feelings we can all sympathize with, but throwing cake on someone's car is a futile gesture; it just rinses off with a hose, and you don't get to eat the cake. I was looking for something a bit fresher in the "I hate my ex" genre. Taken together, I vote for Emese Silver.

  16. Congrats to everyone! I can see voting was tough and the competition was fierce. My vote goes to Charlie St. James

  17. My vote is for the paranormal piece.

    I think both entries were technically good, so it has to come down to gut and personal preference. Kudos to both writers for submitting!

    I enjoyed the suspense more than the anger and chocolate cake. Additionally there were some word choices in the women's fiction piece that seemed awkward in a "look at me and my thesaurus" kind of way that yanked me out of the story and made me stop and think about the prose. The paranormal piece made me want more story. The other just made me want chocolate cake.

  18. My vote is for Charlie St. James.

    I thought Emese Silver's had a lot of tension but it didn't draw me in like Charlie St. James's. I really liked the opening of Charlie's. I'm not sure about using the word "cackled". It makes me think more of a witch. But other than that I was really drawn into the story.

    -Jennifer Kinzler

  19. My vote is for Charlie St. James - GIRL POWER!

    Ermese Silver - DON'T give cooked bones to a dog! I'm guessing 500lb dog is an exaggeration. Good image of paper targets & change in room temp with spirit arrival.

  20. In Emese Silver I felt the worry and fearful concern in the narrator. However, the self-referential, "My shoulders sank," doesn't seem to be the way a person refers to herself. The style of writing in Charlie St. James is nicely readable but I think with more specifics in the backstory would connect more with the reader. The husband who left caused lots of problems but they are given in such a general way that I couldn't feel her angst. I also felt the author wanted the story to be funny but the humor didn't come through. My vote is for Emese Silver.

  21. This is a close one.

    Emese Silver: you did a great job showing us Cara's world. I was sucked in immediately and I felt the tension all the way through.

    Charlie St. James: By the end I had a complete story and had a good sense of your MC. But nothing stood out to me that really gave it that punch I needed. And I'm being very nit-picky here because these are both great.

    Vote: Emese Silver

  22. Congrats to both writers for great pieces and for making the bouts.

    For Ernese Silver, the premise was good as was much of the execution, but I agree with others that the suspense got stepped on in a few places -- with the contradictory statements about the danger (I think you may have been trying to show the MC trying to convince herself that she had things under control, but you need to make that clearer), a bit too much time on the dog eating and the dish-washing, which could have worked with more tension interwoven. Also agree that she shouldn't give that rib bone to a dog -- it would splinter all to pieces and could hurt the dog. The biggest place you stepped on tension for me was with the feeling of someone being present. Show the MC's fear. Her statement to the intruder was after she regained her composure (she should be terrified), and the statement itself revealed no fear. It was as though she was talking to someone she was reprimanding, an unpaid renter maybe, instead of someone she has great reason to fear. Maybe a clue about who/what she's hiding from would be good, too.

    For Charlie St. James, I thought it was well-written and engaging, but since the stakes of smearing cake on a car are low, I didn't get drawn in that much. If the story continues in that vein, I would run out of interest in it. Yet, there is a lot of potential there to mine. If her ex was that controlling and abusive, the MC would have deep emotion about him. She would cry or shake. Maybe if you added some urgency, something like she can see the ex through his window and any minute he might turn around and see her, maybe he's with a woman inside. Maybe she's pregnant. Maybe she starts out with cake then her rage takes over and she keys his car or smashes out the windows and her friends have to drag her away. In other words, i think you left too much drama on the table and the piece could use more of it.

    Because I was more drawn in to Ernese Silver's piece, it gets my vote for this round. Good job to both of you though. And good luck!

    1. Also, the cake would have worked better if they'd smeared it on the icky ex. Or the interior of the car, or in his briefcase. Just thoughts.

  23. Emese Silver - "couldn’t shake my apprehension" felt too on the nose. Maybe put McCloud scrambling to his feet before this "McCloud’s 500-pound bark" I read it like three times and came to the conclusion that we were dealing with some fortress wall brand(McCloud's) made out of some super thick and heavy bark(like tree). :,D Even with all of this, the tension is palpable and feels very real. Love this line "Dinnertime, and we’d be racing." I'm glad the doggie got a bone.

    Charlie St. James - This first line totally cracked me up "launching a chocolate cake at my ex's car". It was an overall easy read and I was amused, but it didn't grab me as much as the other.

    My vote is Emese Silver

  24. My vote goes to Charlie St. James.
    For Emese Silver, I needed a little more context and world for the story to pay out and build tension for me. What's she afraid of, what's she waiting for, where is she, etc. I like the character building and the interaction between the MC and her dog is awesome.
    Charlie St. James. I really enjoy the characterization and the silliness, the light story. I'd like to see a little more consequences and a little more, where this great character is going to go from here.

  25. Both were interesting but I felt like I knew how the paranormal piece was going to end (and it did)
    Vote - Charlie St. James

  26. Emese Silver just seems ordinary. But a real sense of what’s to come.

    Charlie St James is more my style. Probably another story with a happy ending after a lot of issues to over come.

    Emese Silver gets my vote.

  27. My vote goes to Emese. Great tension and a threat arriving beyond what was anticipated. Good work.

    The St James has a great dark humour and i would totally read on.

    1. FYI - this vote will not count as it is from an unknown source.

  28. Previous unknown comment is mine. I vote for Emese Silver. Great tension and enjoyed realising the threat was something far more sinister than I'd expected.

    Great piece by St James. Love a bit of dark humour and the cake scene was very well written.

  29. I just have a couple minutes, so no in depth critique today, but my vote goes to Emese Silver, primarily as a matter of personal taste. Good job to both!

  30. Voting for Enese Silver, I was immediately drawn into the character and of course, the dog. Thanks to both authors for sharing!

  31. Emese Silver ... Interesting.

    Charlie St. James ... Very funny. I can see how it would do well as a book. You have my vote.

  32. Ermese Silver, I had a couple early issues that pulled me out of your story fast. First, the "bullet-ridden targets" struck me as odd. The targets rode bullets? Like the shots all clipped the bottom of the target? Or, did you mean bullet-riddled? When I see that, I'm not if "peaking" is a mistake later on or a clever use of a made-up word. You'll get lots of credit for one, not for the other. Second, the opening dialog threw me. Might only be me, so if it doesn't throw the rest of the world, move on. But I assume if there's dialog that early, the character is talking to another character. For me, that would have worked better in italics or letting the reader know she's talking to herself or the dog.

    Charlie St. James, that was funny and clever, but not the highest stakes I've seen to wrap a story around. Cake on a car? If I'm the guy, I'm almost like, "okay, thanks." Pour milk tomorrow, please. I'd stick around for a little while because I enjoyed the humor, but if there wasn't more just around the corner, I don't think I'd last.

    Tough call (isn't it always) but I'm going with Charlie St. James for what's to come based on what is already there.

  33. Definitely going for Charlie St. James here. I love the humor mixed with hate mixed with woman-taking-back-her-life.

  34. Congrats to both authors for making it into the bouts. I loved Charlie St. James's voice, it totally pulled me into the story. My vote goes there.

  35. Vote: Charlie St. James

    Emese Silver had a dog companion, but Charlie St. James had a food throwing crazy ex-girlfriend. This really came down to personal taste for me. I know that's not a good critique, but it's the truth.

  36. Another pair of great entries. Congrats for making the top 30! Bravo to you both!

    Emese Silver. Well written but you lost me when Cara went to wash dishes right after we learn that she didn't feel safe. To me it felt like a foolish activity that is akin to putting one's head in the sand at danger. If I'm missing the mark, I think something to explain why she decides to do this instead of something else more proactive for her safety would be very helpful. Love McCloud but I had to read the "500-pound bark" description a few times to figure out it was a dog and not actually a piece of bark.

    Charlie St. James. Also well written. Great characterization, visuals, action, and immediacy. Great use of the senses too. You've managed to incorporate all five! I could see, hear, touch, taste, and smell everything. Especially I could smell the chocolate as it oozed over the car. And I grieved as it oozed over the car because I wanted some of that gooey perfection for myself.

    My vote goes to Charlie St. James.

  37. Vote: Emese Silver
    I thought Charlie St. James had a great voice, and he/she is a good writer, but the situation--going out with friends to vandalize an ex's property--is something I've seen a lot in women's fiction. And it's always glorified, which is troubling. I think a lot of people think of messing up an ex's closet/car/library/office as empowering, as if the woman is finally standing up for herself. But the car can't really fight back, so it feels like the kind of thing you do when you're not ready to actually stand up for yourself in front of the guy. I wince every time I read that kind of chapter. Still, the author's got a talented control of pacing and dialogue, so I can see her being really successful writing.
    Silver's story had a more interesting premise, and I liked the humor mixed with the paranormal.

  38. My vote goes to Emese Silver.
    Nice intro into their voice and personality with a balance of apprehension and I can do this mentality. Some of the descriptions of the dogs behavior came across a little clunky, but otherwise an enjoyable piece.
    Charlie St James: you made me feel for your character. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with her actions. However, you did a wonderful job describing the pain that looking at these everyday items causes in a breakup situation.
    Congratulations to both writers for getting into the top 30!

  39. My vote is for Emese Silver. Charlie St. James: I loved your story, too.

  40. I like the Charlie St. James piece.




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