WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #15



Today we reveal the final two contestants who'll be stepping into the WRiTE CLUB ring and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all 30 contestants. Win or lose, it was an achievement simply making it this far! But what about the other 102 writers who took the risk and submitted their work? I know you're disappointed, but there is some good news.

For the first time in this contest's history, we are able to offer writers who didn't make it to the ring some feedback. A dozen of our slushpile readers have generously volunteered to critique your submission (one per writer), provided you meet two criteria. The first, you must send an email to WRITECLUB2019@GMAIL.COM to formally request the critique. The second condition, you must have voted (before the deadline) in at least five of the bouts. This 2nd condition may seem harsh, but I have a hard time offering feedback to anyone who is unwilling to support their fellow writers by registering a simple vote. Once we receive your email and verify participation by voting, your submission will be looked at by all 12 slushpile readers and those critiques will be emailed back to you. Because I'm not sure how many of you will take part in this, it's impossible for me to say how long it will take to get this input back to you. Stay tuned for more information.

Recap
WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by a free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

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 I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Thursday, May 23rd (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. 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).

A few more 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 cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!
4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –




Our first contestant in the ring is Terrance East representing the Sci-Fi genre.



"I can't feel my fingers."  I blinked against the bright light as my arms disappeared.
"Perfectly normal. Didn't you watch the induction hologram?"
"Of course, but I didn't think that things would just disappear." The room smelled of electricity and ozone. What had begun as a gentle hum now pulsed and throbbed.
"Your feet and lower legs should be going about now."
They did. I blinked again. A holocam hovered a little too close, and I blew a quick breath to shoo it away. I didn't appreciate that it was my last.
"Systems transference in three, two, one..."
The world went blindingly white. The transference room shimmered back into focus. The smell and sound were gone. Replaced by an overwhelming sense of the expanse of everything.
 "Wow."
"Impressive isn't it."
"It's... amazing. So much... nothing."
"You're no longer constrained by your physical body."
"This is incredible." I began to move and the room vanished as I went. I floated past the robotic operating table and the botnurse, then paused at the door.
"We don't encourage that."
"What?"
"98.724 percent of all Transferals stop to look back at their Organic. 76.387 percent have an adverse reaction."
"I'll risk it." I turned and looked back. The body on the table was pale, lifeless, and wrinkled. I knew it from a lifetime of mirrors. The head, my head, was encased inside the glowing circular opening of the transferal unit. The final vestige of humans as life forms.
Now, with transferal to The Cloud, I too would be immortal. Unlimited. At least my mind or my consciousness. Or my soul. I had wondered about that.
A yellow tint colored my world. The botnurse moved quickly to the glowing unit. It flickered..
"Level one. Adverse reaction."
"What's going on!? What's happening!?" I'm not proud to say I panicked. Totally freaked out and then -
The yellow tinted world twisted into charcoal gray.
"Mr. Templeton? Concentrate on the pinpoint of light in the center of your field of vision."
"There's nothing there!" The edges of the world were black and folding in.
"Find the light. Move towards it."
"There's no light!"

...

"...empleton? Mr. Templeton? Can you hear me? Mr. Templeton?"
"Yes?"
"Do you have functionality?"
"What the hell was that?"
"0.047 percent of Transferals suffer an initial boot issue. Yours was a full boot rejection. We restored from your system backup and you should be just fine."
"Should be?"
"There's a 99.994 percent acceptance rate."
"So that's 6 out of every --"
"It's not relevant, Mr. Templeton. You are free to go."
"That's it? Just go?" My consciousness spun around slowly. It was a different room. No table, no body, just the big picture window from our kitchen back in Texas.
"We've programmed a familiar environment with reference cues and the sensation of physicality. It will help you adjust. You may go."
With that, the walls dissolved and infinity stretched out beyond the vision of my backyard.#############################################################################


On the other side of the ring, our final preliminary round contestant is Sydney Slayer who is representing the Fantasy genre.



I was born on a mountaintop in ancient Koyu, a place where dragons wind around the stony spires and winter red trees and breathe out the misty smoke that drifts through our sky like clouds.

This is what my grandmother taught me, her hands weaving spells in the air and pulling on the dragon mist to paint pictures in my mind.

She taught me other things too, how to eat the petals of the blossoms that drop from the twisting shoyu tree; the flowers that show us the future. The petals are soft and fat, the size of a baby’s palm, pearlescent white with a blush of pink and, at its heart, the reddest of reds.

They look juicy and full of water and the first time I eat it I am afraid, afraid all that water will rush like a dark river down my throat and I will drown, drown while dreaming of the future.

But as succulent as the petal looks, it is not. It’s as light as air; it tastes like the memory of candy, sweetened with icy melon and fiery hawkfruit, or like nothing at all. It tastes like everything and emptiness all at once, for Grandmother says that is the future - not my future, of course, I am nothing in the vastness of the universe. What we taste is the future of all things.

What did I see, that first time I ate a shoyu petal, you ask? Why, I saw you. Sitting in a tea shop, eating a cookie shaped like a shoyu petal, laughing and pulling the pictogram off your tongue, the pictogram that comes when the cookie is gone, and your lovely eyes try to see me as you puzzle out the dragon-wrapped mountain on the candy disc and then with one bite it is gone. You eat it and nothing is left.

I ask my grandmother about this vision; she paints the air and tells me, in the future there are not so many shoyu trees, so people do what they can.

And then she teaches me to weave the long soft gortse hairs, and the coarse ones too, into braided yarn, and then the yarn becomes a blanket and the blanket stays with me at night when I try to find her in my sleep, the dragon-mist softening my dreams.

I search for her, the girl of the shoyu vision; the future girl who drinks tea and laughs so freely. I cannot find her in the dragon mist again.

She is not there.

The other girls rustle and wake, disturbed by my tossing and turning.

Settle down, Ryu, they say. Their jewel-like eyes light the darkness in our small stone room.
Go to sleep, Ryu, they whisper as one.
We are as one in all things, but not in this.
They want to sleep; they want to follow, but I do not.
I want to break things; I want to dance in the sky.

I want to lead.
##############################################################################


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

We’ll be back next week with SAVE WEEK.  Did one of your favorite pieces lose their bout? Then you'll want to make sure you come back next week when everyone will be giving the opportunity to possibly SAVE three contestants from elimination. Don't miss it!

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #14




Recap
WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by a free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

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 I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, May 22nd (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. 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).

A few more 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 cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!
4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –




Our first contestant in the ring today is Organized Confusion representing the Flash Fiction genre.


“Water.”
Erin spoke without opening her eyes. Her voice rasped and hissed through her dry throat, but Dean could still hear a touch of the old imperiousness underneath.
“Always bossing me around, aren't you, big sister?” he said as he held the straw against her cracked lips. She gave a faint smile and swallowed, rough and slow, before opening her eyes to look at him.
Even the dim light of the curtained room made her squint. Her blue eyes glittered feverishly in contrast to the dark circles around them. On her scalp—too sensitive now for the touch of a razor—short, frizzy hairs wafted in patches.
“I wouldn't have to boss you around if you'd get your shit together on your own.” Erin whispered her old refrain, repeated so many times since they were children. She squeezed his hand to counter the harshness of her words.
Dean kept her hand in his as they sat together. Outside the rumble and hiss of a school bus released a cluster of laughing, fighting children. He thought of his own children settling down to homework and nightly routine.
“You should go home,” she said for the third time in as many hours. “You have a job. A family. They need you.”
“Sure. I'll head out. Right after you make yourself a meal and vacuum this dump. If I see you do those things, I'll get right out of your hair.”
Dean remembered Erin saying this same thing to him when she'd stayed at his place during one of his lowest points, as an angry, depressed college student, drowning his emotions in alcohol. She'd been there for three weeks—cooking, cleaning, driving him to meetings. She'd saved his life with her persistence, and he knew it.
Apparently she remembered saying those words, too, because she smiled again. “Don't be a smart ass to your dying sister,” she scolded. “It's rude.”
“So was pouring out all my booze, but that didn't stop you.”
“That shit was killing you.” She wasn't wrong, so he didn't argue. The urge to throw something itched in his bones.
“You should go home,” she said again, so softly he almost didn't hear her. Her eyes fluttered closed.
Dean blinked to neutralize the tears that threatened. He set the glass on the bedside table and picked up his guitar. Plucking a slow, meandering tune—softly, to accommodate her sensitive ears—he watched her chest rise and fall in shallow breaths.

He'd stay as long as she did.
#############################################################################


On the other side of the ring, we have PBSSpecial who is representing the Women's Fiction genre.



The smell assaulted me first. I rubbed at my nose. Wet animal and kibble.

My sister assaulted me next. “Okay pick one.”

I froze in the entrance. Two glassed enclosures took up the back of the building. Dogs on one side, cats in the other. I turned and stared at my sister.

My face must have communicated my ire, because she rolled her eyes.

“The therapist said a pet would do you some good,” she reminded me.

As if I needed reminding.

“I don’t need a pet to get over Charles ditching me. He never paid attention to me. Or appreciated my keeping his house clean. Or any of the thousand little things I did for him over the last twenty-five years.”

My chest heaved having run an emotional mile. Her exaggerated nod chided me.  My older sister had spent over forty years dictating what was best. She wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. Why should she? She’d always been right.

The dogs in the left enclosure chased each other and played with the volunteers. Too much energy. As I walked towards the cats, a medium sandy-colored dog snared me with her soulful gaze. Her pink collar read Minnie. Her calm abandoned her the moment she realized I watched her, too.

Just the sight of that need, that expectation, made my neck itch and stomach clench. “I’m not the one for you.”

She tilted her head as if trying to make sense of me.

My sister read the placard labeled ‘Minnie’. “Four month old Bullmastiff mix. She’s a beauty. She’ll be big but a great companion.”

She was beautiful. The most beautiful dog I’d ever seen.

“I need a pet that can take care of itself. A cat,” I told her.

“A dog would be better.”

The dog crept closer. Her nose wedged into the corner of the glass enclosure, as close as she could get to me. “No. They’re too needy.”

Inside the cat-quarium, an all-white cat lounged in a bed, licking its paws. The regal bearing and calm demeanor convinced me of my choice.

The worker pointed me to a solitary room and the cat was brought in.

Rex was his name. King.

The cat explored the room without thought of me. Only with the offer of treats did it let me pet him. Once he’d gotten all the treats he wanted, he walked away.

Just like Charles.

My jaw dropped along with my stomach. I’d just chosen my husband again. I backed into the door before I realized I’d stood from the chair. Turning, I fumbled with the door in my haste to leave. The cat hissed at me.

Probably for bothering him.

I stumbled out the door, my eyes immediately going for the sandy dog on the other side of the room. She was right where I left her. Her tail wagged wildly when my eyes landed on her.

I placed both hands on the glass.

“I'll take this one!”
##############################################################################


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

Before we sign off I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.


The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this, follow these steps:

Go to Blogger dashboard.
SETTINGS
USER SETTINGS
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)
Save


Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants. If you missed the first two bouts because of one of these issues, remember the bouts remain LIVE for a week so you can still go back and let your choice be known.

We’ll be back tomorrow for our last preliminary bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #13


I know I probably sound like a broken record (or a corrupted MP3 file for you Millennials), but we closed the book on bout #8 yesterday and although it generated 73 votes - that was almost 60 less than our opening bout. It pains me to watch the erosion of readers as the contest goes on, but the only way I can reverse the trend is through you...the reader. Help me, or rather, help our contestants by taking to social media. Thank you in advance!

Recap
WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by a free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

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 I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, May 21st (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. 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).

A few more 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 cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!
4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –




Our first contestant in the ring today is Cleo representing the Mystery genre.



Emma Sue was five years old that summer. She was small for her age, and kind of sickly, but that didn’t stop Mamm from expecting her to pull her own weight in the fields, just like the rest of us. There were six of us, all girls. I was the oldest at 12. Emma Sue was not the youngest, that was Polly Mae, she was three. We all worked in the fields, picking celery. It was hard work, cutting those tough stalks right at the base. Mamm would not let the younger ones have the sharpest knives because she feared they would cut themselves. It was hard to cut celery with dull knives.

Emma Sue especially hated it and was always sneaking off to play in the rows between the stalks. She had a great imagination and she was always talking about playing with angels in between the celery rows. We figured that was Emma Sue making stuff up so like she always did. Mamm loved angels and she did not fault Emma Sue for wanting to play with them.

“Emma Sue!” Mamm called quietly so the foreman would not hear her and know that Emma Sue was missing again. “Where have you gotten to? You’re way behind in cutting. You come out now, hear me?” Mamm looked around for Emma Sue’s faded blue bonnet poking up above the rows of celery. She could see everyone else bent over in the fields, busily hacking at the base of the plants, but not Emma Sue.

“Now where has that girl gotten herself to?” Mamm muttered as she tried to keep looking while she kept slicing at the celery plants. “She is going to get a whupping for certain when she comes back.”

We all kept working; the foreman was mean, and we didn’t want to feel his whip lashing our backs as we worked under the hot sun. We just wiped the stinging sweat out of our eyes and kept on cutting celery, listening for the lunch whistle.

Emma Sue was still missing when the whistle finally shrilled. Mamm kept calling her name. The only one who hadn’t been bent over in the celery rows was the foreman on top his big horse. Mamm finally got up the courage to ask him if he saw Emma Sue slip away.

“Nah, that girl is slick. She proll’y ran away. Don’t matter much, though, y’all still has to pick the same …Emma Sue or not.” The foreman trotted off toward the shade and a cool drink, leaving Mamm standing alone in the field.

“Mamm!” Polly Mae said, “Pretty!” We all looked out at the field to where she was pointing. A huge pair of white wings beat slowly just above the tops of the celery. Suddenly, they started glowing white gold, so bright we had to look away. When we looked back, they were gone.

Nobody ever saw Emma Sue again. #############################################################################


On the other side of the ring, we have MatchMaker who is representing the Romance genre.



Adulting:
Adulting consisted of paying bills on time, doing the laundry on a Friday night, drinking skinny lattes after work, and telling social media that you just killed it in your Yoga class when in reality you sat on your couch, drank a protein shake in your yoga pants, and winced as you watched Zen girls contort into positions you could only get into while shaving your legs.

Old flings? They had nothing to do with adulting.

That’s what I told myself anyway, as I walked into the the tax office and landed right behind the most dangerous old fling of them all.

He looked good. I mean really good. Better than before, and I never would’ve thought that was possible.

The difference? This old fling wasn’t a boy anymore. He was a man. A man with facial hair and work boots. A man with calloused hands and a deep voice. A man with shoulders and property taxes.

But when he flashed his smile at me, all I could see was that boy. The one with the wild hair. The one with the reputation. The one with that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

And I was that girl again--the one with the contagious laugh, the one with no experience, the one who’d drowned in that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

I needed to get out of this line, go to Office Max, and buy myself a Lisa Frank binder so I could practice signing my name with his.

I was being ridiculous. I was an adult, not a nineteen-year-old, boy-crazy girl. I had my skinny latte to prove it.

I took a sip from the sugar-free, fat-free, caffeine-free, happiness-free coffee and tried to pay attention to the words coming out of his pretty lips.

Crap, he’d asked me a question. What was it? I wondered if, “Sure, I’ll make out with you,” was an appropriate response.

He laughed and repeated the question.

Ah. How was everyone doing from back then? My favorite topic.

See, the people he was referring to were actually adulting. They had careers, wedding plans, babies, husbands.

Me? I had a dog and a roommate.

He shook his head and muttered something about not being ready for all that. I lied and said I totally agreed. Who wanted comfort, stability, and unconditional love anyways? Along with old flings, lies had nothing to do with adulting.

But when he asked me to grab a drink, I decided I’d start adulting tomorrow.

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


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

Before we sign off I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.


The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this, follow these steps:

Go to Blogger dashboard.
SETTINGS
USER SETTINGS
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)
Save


Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants. If you missed the first two bouts because of one of these issues, remember the bouts remain LIVE for a week so you can still go back and let your choice be known.

We’ll be back tomorrow for another preliminary bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


 

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