WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round 10


Today is the end of week #2 for WRiTE CLUB and with one more week of preliminary matches remaining, twenty of our thirty writers have been revealed. Ten more to go. Will you be one of them? Or if you didn't submit and just enjoying reading the amazing writing on display, will your new favorite piece pop up next week? Keep following along and find out! 

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 16th (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 –




For the last bout of the week, we have Cora Williams on one side of the ring representing the Fantasy genre.


Lightning split the sky, the thunder so loud it shook the house. Fear knotted in her throat as Ivy stepped to the front window, where green curtains billowed in the wind through broken glass.  The flare of lightning sculpted gruesome shadows onto the walls. She pushed the curtains aside and looked out. A wall of water swept toward her full of uprooted trees and shattered farmhouses. The dam had burst.

Water and debris roared past, missing her house just a step from the door. She trembled, clinging to the windowsill to remain upright. When she thought the worst was over, two small bodies bobbed to the surface of the dark water and, defying all logic, stopped before her. They turned. Ivy screamed at the unseeing eyes of her children.

She blinked to awareness as her husband shook her shoulder, “Ivy, love, come back!” Her hands gripped the edge of the counter, knuckles white. The apple she’d been slicing lie forgotten on the board. With a cry of anguish, she threw herself into his arms. “Again?” Hayden asked.

“The children,” she gasped, her eyes still misted with visions and unshed tears.

“They’re sleeping, safe in their beds.” He murmured, stroking her hair.

“Why?” she moaned. “Why would the gods have given me such wondrous visions of fire and grace when they were younger only to threaten to take them with such horrors now? The gods cannot be finished with them. The fire hasn’t even sparked in them yet.”

“I don’t know,” he said, “But we’ll stop this, as we have the others.”

“Nothing I’ve ever seen has been so terrible.” Her voice was small and fearful.

“Then we will take extra care with them.”

“How can we fight the gods?”

“All we can do is try, together.” His arms tightened around her.

“I’ll just check on them,” Ivy said. She pushed away from him.

In the next room, tucked into their bed, lay two small children. A boy and a girl, cheeks pink with sleep, red curls tousled on pillows. Ivy sat carefully on the edge of the bed. She still trembled, but smiled at the children, safe and sleeping.

As she reached to stroke their curls, something glinted beside their heads. Dread crept icy fingers into her heart. Any peace she’d gained fled as she picked up two crystals, each etched with a name. Shaking, she brought the crystals back to where Hayden waited.

“It’s done,” she said. “Their names are written.” Grief made her cold. Slowly he took them from her. After a glance down,  he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He went to a small trunk beside the hearth and undid the latch. Inside, other crystals, other names, caught the firelight and held it. He placed the two crystals on top and latched the box closed again. Then opened his arms to his wife. She fell into them, weeping. Hayden stared into the heart of the fire. Let the water come. Fire would meet it. 
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On the far side of the ring, we have Sunshine&Rainbows who is also representing the Fantasy genre.


The fate of Santi’s world balanced on a feather’s edge… and the back of his thieving chicken.

Hundreds of shoppers made a dull roar like a heavy rain on a tin roof. The aroma of cinnamon fry bread permeated the air, broken intermittently by the scent of mule dung and perspiration.

Frango, Santi’s best pickpocket, flapped his wings and then strutted into the browsing crowds at the souk, hunting for shiny baubles small enough to carry back to their hideout. Exactly the way Santi had explained.

The more Frango brought back, the larger his pile of feed at the end of the day. The bird brain wasn’t the smartest fowl around, but Frango understood that.

Sweat beaded on Santi’s upper lip, and his stomach growled. For most of Santi’s barnyard cohorts, feed was currency, but Santi needed a good payday.

Frango darted between people, ducked beneath goods tables, and challenged the fat tabby that the grocer employed to keep the rats at bay. Though, Santi had never seen the feline with anything rodent-like in his mouth.

A monk exited the convent to ring the hourly bells, the deep tones vibrating loud enough to silence the mob. A cart rumbled by, blocking Santi’s view of his feathered partner. He tipped up on his toes and peered over, catching the eye of a well-dressed woman on the other side of the street.

Santi turned and dropped back into the shadow of a stoop. He had to look out for his little friend, but, in their line of work, undue attention never helped.

Down the way, a man yelped, drawing Santi’s gaze.

The thick-shouldered, sour-faced man muttered words Santi couldn’t make out and rubbed at his bottom, a line of a dozen gold hoops quivered in his ear and gold chains circled his neck, his nose a little too high in the air.

Something must have gotten him, and it wasn’t the first time Frango had pecked the mayor’s ass.

In a flash of iridescent feathers, Frango bolted around the corner toward home, and Santi grinned. He couldn’t make out what Frango had in his beak, but it could mean food for an evening or food for a week… or more, if they were lucky.

Being able to communicate with animals hadn’t been the curse that Santi initially expected. Thanksgiving might be in order.

He set a leisurely pace toward the hovel they shared near the cemetery. The local authorities hadn’t yet figured out the band of creature misfits, so the slip-away would be easy. He winked at the row of grandmothers that sat in the shade cast by the eaves of the shrine, waiting on the nuns to come out and bestow the alms of the Matriarch.

Curses filled the air, and women gasped at the language. Santi crouched and pretended to re-lace his leather boots so he could keep an eye on the mayor.


“I’ll butcher that chicken,” the mayor bellowed, “if it’s the last thing I do.”
 ##############################################################################


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 next week for the final five first-round bouts. 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!


75 comments

  1. Another set of good stories. I'm not generally a Fantasy reader, but both these stories peaked my interest, making me want more. I liked the setting and description of the second story, it was easy to imagine the marketplace, but it did leave me with some confusion at the end. I am not sure about the the connection between the shiny objects and the MC. How did gathering them help the situation?
    What did the MC do with them?

    In Williams' story, I was reminded of something else I read at the beginning. I'm not sure where I read it, but the storm scene in the opening was familiar. That quickly changed, however, and I found myself drawn into the story. My vote goes to Cora Williams.

    The first story,

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    1. Oops - Ignore the beginning of the last paragraph -- not sure how that was left in the comment. I meant to delete it. (The first story. . . )

      Delete
  2. Two great entries again today, and one tough choice.

    Cora Williams: Your story is full of heart and heartbreak. I love the premise of this gift the mother's been given, but I'd like more clarity as to how her gift works. "Visions of fire and grace" is a bit murky for how this plays into their lives. You've given the reader just enough (I know, only 500 words). But it's just enough to confuse me. And watch the cliches. Your last line is killer, though. I want to turn the page and find out what happens next. Excellent.

    Sunshine&Rainbows: On the surface, this feels like a cute farce due to the humorous style. Kudos for strong establishment of setting (I want some cinnamon fry bread!) and clearly illustrating the realities of Santi's life. I can't imagine depending on one chicken for my everyday survival. You've managed to find the whimsical in a dark and dire situation. The story flows well, too, and never tripped me up.

    My vote: Sunshine&Rainbows

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  3. And another two amazing entries!!! I'm not a huge fantasy reader, but Cora Williams's piece drew me in immediately with the beautiful writing, stark imagery and the feeling of dread when she discovers the two crystals. Sunshine and Rainbow's piece was equally compelling--strong worldbuilding, fluid writing and a nice touch of humor! My vote is for Cora Williams in this bout, mainly because the author created a very tense and moving situation in a short excerpt, and I was left wanting more!

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  4. I'll admit when I first realized CORA's story started with a vision/dream, I groaned, but as I finished the piece I realized it worked. It simply worked. The end created strong tension and the desire to continue reading. Generally, I don't read Fantasy, but I would continue reading this one.

    Rainbows holds their own quite well. The story has a Disney/Aladdin feel with a twist (animal communication). Unfortunately, it didn't quite draw me in to want to continue reading although not for a lack of quality writing. It's really a case of "it's not you, it's me."

    My vote for CORA

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  5. I vote for Sunshine&Rainbows. The story was fairly self-contained, with great descriptions of setting and an integral plot. The ending left me wanting to read more. Cora's piece had too many holes for me. I didn't see the point of the vision at the beginning - it didn't seem to relate to the rest of the story. The tale seemed internally inconsistent, with Hayden saying they would '...stop this...' as they had 'the others,' but the trunk full of crystals implied they had not stopped the others. And the whole fire-meeting-the-water thing was never explained.

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  6. Cora drew me in right away. The anguish of the mother, the relief, and the dread once again. A tiny roller coaster of emotion that I loved to ride.

    Sunshine took me in to their world and I was able to observe all that was happening in the marketplace. In the end, I wanted to feel a bit more connected to the characters.

    My vote goes to Cora.

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  7. Cora: opening with a dream is risky. I was getting caught up in the flooding and the fear and then... the MC is actually just slicing an apple. Also, I struggled with the logic that a dam bursts but the water stops just short of her house (though it made more sense when I learned it was a dream). I wish I knew more about Ivy’s personality. This idea is intriguing, and I’d keep reading, but there’s not much about the character here.

    Sunshine: you’ve set the scene really nicely. I almost feel like I’m walking around in this place. Where is Santi in relation to his chicken? Frango is darting all over the place but is almost always in Santi’s line of sight. I’m confused that the authorities don’t know about the animals, but two seconds later the mayor is threatening to kill the chicken.

    I vote for Sunshine by a slim margin. Although I’m more intrigued by the premise of Cora’s piece, I got to know more about Santi and his goals in the short piece. Congratulations to both!

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  8. Two more good submissions. They are also a reminder of how vast the fantasy genre can be. Based on these submissions, I’d venture to say they have about as much in common as chalk and cheese.

    Cora Williams’ tale was a little slow in the beginning. The description of the flood fell a little flat. It is a little hard to envision a flood so powerful to uproot trees passes by the house with a foot to spare without anything happening to the building. Even if it is a dream, it was difficult to imagine. But after that, the story picked up steam, setting the stage for what the submission (and the larger) story is about.

    Sunshine&Rainbows gives us a tale with a bit of an ‘Arabian Nights’ feel, though instead of a thieving monkey, we get a thieving chicken. Points for that. This submission definitely sets up the atmosphere & world of the story but doesn’t do much to explain what the story is being told. There are a couple of slight grammatical/punctuation errors and the sudden shift from following the story from Santi’s vantage point to the mayor’s was a bit jarring.

    It’s very tough. (How tough? I started writing this around 10:30 a.m. and it is now about 11:15. It has taken me this long to make a choice.”

    As for who my vote goes to… it’s. Sunshine&Rainbow.

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  9. Both great pieces today with excellent writing and fantastic imagery. My vote goes to Sunshine today.

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  10. Cora's piece has a vivid emotional undercurrent. As part of a larger work, I'm sure it's very effective. But in the end I had too many questions to be as emotionally invested as I wanted. Sunshine's entry has a lovely feeling of sensory immersion. I connected with the character who came across charming and sharp-witted. And the concept of communicating with animals, though nothing new, felt fresh here. Sunshine wins my vote today.

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  11. Congratulations, writers!

    Cora:
    Your piece was atmospheric and heartbreaking, but also a touch confusing. At first, I thought this was going to be a spin on the ghost story La Llorona, but I quickly realized it wasn't. As gorgeously as the piece is written, I'm still not sure what's going on. The kids will die, I get that, but there's a whole trunk filled with crystals with names on them. Are these all Ivy's children? How many kids did she have? We know she blacks out--is Ivy planting the crystals and then killing her own children? There are so many questions. If this is part of a longer piece, I would definitely keep reading.

    Sunshine: Your piece grounded me in place right away. One small quibble, to the best of my knowledge, a monk would come out of a monastery, not a convent. I was also confused how the officials didn't know about the chicken (and other animals) but the mayor vows to get it if it's the last thing he does. I also feel like this is part of a bigger story and the piece was pared down to fit word count. It feels like the last line was tacked on at the end to give the piece a sense of completion, but that last line doesn't work for me.

    Both had things I loved and things I really didn't care for, but my vote goes to Cora today. Even though I was a bit confused, the story felt fresh and I would definitely keep reading.

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  12. My vote goes to Cora. Both pieces drew me in and left me wanting more, but I think their piece had more of an emotional connection for me.

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  13. Both very good pieces (as usual!) but my vote today goes to Sunshine.

    I loved the atmospheric and descriptive beginning of Cora's story but got confused around what was happening with the children. I feel this could be a beautiful piece if expanded and given more room to breathe.

    For Sunshine's, I laughed from the first line--a thieving chicken, how fun! It was a simple caper but I was incredibly invested and anxious to make sure Frango got away safely. This worked well as a short piece--but I would also love to see more adventures of Santi and his barnyard crew.

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  14. I liked the first story. Good imagery, and a compelling look at the characters and their situation.
    The second story was not as interesting to me, although it was well written for the most part. My vote goes to Cora Williams.

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  15. My vote: Sunshine&Rainbows loved the playfulness. it brought up so many possibilities.
    the first story was well written, but i did't find it compelling.

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  16. My vote easily goes to Sunshine&Rainbows today. You had me at the first dang line. Theiving chickens have always been on my #MSWL.
    Cora I liked your entry but there wasn't enough explained to keep me interested. It just seemed too vague. It was well written and at first I was very sucked in.

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  17. I really enjoyed both entries today. I thought Cora's was really well done and jumped right into the stakes, raising them as the story progressed.

    Unfortunately I didn't feel the same level of stakes with Sunshine&Rainbows. Though I did enjoy the visual and the writing style, the work itself just didn't go anywhere for me.

    My vote is for Cora Williams.

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  18. I was intrigued by Cora's story and would love to read more. Sunshine's story also drew me in, but with an air of playfulness. Hard choice today, but I vote for Cora with a definite vote for Sunshine in the Save Round!

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  19. My vote is for Sunshine's story. Love the setting, the humo and the odd situation of the dependence of Santi on a not too bright chicken for food. Cora's story went too fast for me even given the benefit of a doubt that it must be only 500 words.

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  20. Both entries were very strong! I vote for Sunshine today but congrats to both authors!

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  21. Well done again today, two very strong entries and evenly matched, which is sad as they have out-written the majority of the early entries, yet one will go out.

    MY VOTE today goes to SUNSHINE&RAINBOWS

    IMO it seems unfair that recent days entries will fail to go through whereas early weak entries will go forward.
    Yes there is a save vote, but I believe it would be fairer if that was for all pieces, not one per week.
    Congratulations on the writing in a genre that I do not read, however I can clearly see these passages are both well written, though not complete stories.

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  22. My vote is for Sunshine&Rainbows.

    Cora Williams: The story and suspense are great in this piece, but I thought the writing style would benefit from some polishing. I wanted to like this but the writing fell flat for me. I wasn't drawn into the story. The best way I have to explain this is that I felt like it was 2-dimensional and should have been 3-dimensional. Some parts tended towards the cliched. Maybe work on descriptive phrases that aren't overused? I would like to see more character development. I do think this has the mark of a good story with hints of magic, the gods, the chest of crystals, the visions, the supportive husband. There is so much packed into this short piece.

    Sunshine&Rainbows: This was fun and had a nice flow with good variety. The idea of using the ability to communicate with animals in order to form a band of criminal chickens is novel and entertaining. I appreciate that this piece shows, rather than tells, about the main character and the situation. This piece could read better with a little attention to sentence structure, such as fewer compound sentences, fragments, and ellispses.

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  23. So hard to choose! Great writing and interesting concepts in both stories. My vote goes to Cora Williams because I love a good “protect the children at all costs” tale. Definitely want to see where the story goes.

    Sunshine&Rainbows – I enjoyed reading this and imagining the scene play out. But I did have to re-read a couple of sentences to figure out what was going on – maybe with a higher word count you can expand the story to make it flow smoothly.

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  24. Cora Williams - Interesting story, good premise, with some solid description. The story could be tightened up a bit with some easy edits. First, I'd drop the initial sentence from the first paragraph. -- Lightning split the sky, the thunder so loud it shook the house. -- This is too "it was a dark and stormy night" but it's followed with -- Fear knotted in her throat as Ivy stepped to the front window, where green curtains billowed in the wind through broken glass. -- That's a great sentence, and I've never seen a story start with it before. Also, the dialog felt stilted, and it could have been shored up by dropping words. -- “They’re sleeping, safe in their beds.” -- sounds like a line from the Night Before Christmas. Either, they're safe in bed, or They're sleeping, saves words and sounds more plausible. Otherwise, I thought this was a very good entry.

    Sunshine&Rainbows - The writing starts off strong, and the premise of a pickpocketing chicken is great. The ending is flat, however, and the 500 words could have been used to greater efficiency. There are whole sentences, or sentence fragments -- Exactly the way Santi had explained. -- That should have been cut to provide for more story. Another -- The bird brain wasn’t the smartest fowl around, but Frango understood that. -- Feels like it was supposed to be clever but ended up cliche, and doesn't need to be in there at all. Anyone who uses the 500 words to tell a complete story needs to be conscious of what contributes to the story. If 50 or 60 words could have been left on the cutting room floor, it would have gone a long way to having an effective ending, which this story lacks. Really liked the image -- Hundreds of shoppers made a dull roar like a heavy rain on a tin roof. -- Went well to setting the scene, and I would have liked to see more of that.
    Overall, both strong entries, but my vote has to go to Cora Williams.

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  25. Cora Williams--I would have been more invested given a little more clarity on her gift and the implications that this has happened before. The word count limitation is tough, I know. Still, I have a few too many questions at the end of the piece.

    Sunshine&Rainbows brought a little humor to story essentially about poverty. Also the I like that senses other than sight were used to set the scene. However, I have no idea what these people look like, what type of dress they where, etc. Again, I'm left not knowing enough about the world to get a solid idea of the protagonists life.

    In the end, my vote goes to Sunshine&Rainbows.

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  26. My vote goes to Sunshine&Rainbows. Yes, I'm a sucker for stories with animal characters, and the rooster sidekick is both original and realistically chicken-like. Cora Williams -- opening with a vision isn't quite the same as opening with a dream, but this reader still felt duped. Don't delete the vision, though, the description is nice & can probably be used elsewhere, once we know what the MC's normal is. to learn that

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  27. Another tough one, but my vote for this bout goes to Sunshine. The thieving chicken got me. Humorous little story with a promise for more but also self-contained wins for me almost every time. There are a couple places where the prose could use some cleaning up for clarity and even to punch up the imagery or humor, but that is nitpicky.

    Cora did a great job with the imagery and the drama. But I felt the dialog was a bit stilted, and the bit about crystals confused me. Has she had and lost that many of her own children? What's happening and what does it have to do with fire and water? I was intrigued, but ultimately, there were too many unanswered questions for me.

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  28. Oh nooooo! Two in the Fantasy genre. I'm going to have trouble with this one because I enjoyed both of these so very much. Cora Williams's story really captured me from the start and I really liked the way we're pulled into the character's emotions from the start. Plus, I'm enthralled. I want to know what powers she has and how she's planning on saving her children and what the crystals have to do with their fate. It's captured me in a way that would definitely keep me reading.

    Sunshine & Rainbows really did a fantastic job, too. I loved the way Santi works with animals. That was really cute and it was unique to use a chicken. A feathered thief is so comical that it's really delightful. I didn't feel as much emotion from this piece, although the voice is very good and very deep YA.

    This was a difficult choice for me, but ultimately, I think I have to go with Cora Williams.

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  29. Another bout between two deserving submissions. Both were enjoyable to read, with unique and interesting situations. Once again, I can find reasons to vote for both.

    Cora's piece has a lot of emotion, high stakes, and a compelling premise. There are plenty of story questions raised and it makes me curious enough to want to read more. The crystals etched with names are a nice touch, and it makes me wonder how they got etched and placed on the bed, and why Ivy and Hayden keep them.

    However, I do think opening with a vision/dream is a bit trite, and coupling it with weather only adds a cliched, "it was a dark and stormy night" element. Still, at least the flood itself and the drama and sense of impending danger raised in the vision remain central to the ensuing scene. I also find the dialogue somewhat stilted -- the use of "gasped," "murmured", and "moaned" tags in rapid succession doesn't help. But the dialogue does aid in explaining what's happening in the story, so that's good.

    All-in-all, I found Cora's piece entertaining and I would keep reading.

    After Cora's stormy, flood-filled vision, what's more appropriate than sunshine & rainbows? Sunshine gives a fun and exotic scene of a chicken-picken' pickpocket and his handler Santi. The setting is intriguing and presented very well (and I learned a new word thanks to Sunshine and Google -- "souk"). Santi is a captivating MC, and the story is very entertaining, with some amusing elements of humor. I like the descriptive writing, and the pacing feels good -- there's forward motion to the story without feeling rushed, and important story elements are sprinkled in without bogging down in backstory.

    There are a few things I might point out, like I hesitated at, "The bird brain wasn't the smartest fowl around, but Frango understood that." I love a good pun (although some might say that's an oxymoron), but this came off as trying too hard. And ending with "Frango understood that" implies that Frango understood that he was not the smartest fowl around, since that's the antecedent, but I bet the writer meant Frango understood "more loot = more feed." I also think the flow of the mayor's reactions seemed odd -- a yelp that Santi hears, then rubbing and muttering Santi can't hear, then curses filling the air (I assume from the mayor), and finally a bellowing threat at the chicken which is already long gone. I would tighten up that gap between Frango's peck-and-snatch and the mayor's angry reaction.

    Another round where I enjoyed both, and it's a tight race, but I'm going with Sunshine, who's cleaner writing wins it by a nose. Or a beak...

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    1. After posting my comments, I read the others and I had to laugh: at least two other "stilted dialogue" comments and another "dark and stormy night" one. :)

      As I said earlier this week -- my intent is not to pile on or harp on anything, so i hope our writers know that. But I will also say that if multiple readers provide the same feedback, it's something the writers might want to consider.

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  30. Two very different pieces today. Congrats to both of you!

    Cora Williams: I'm intrigued by the world you've created--the gods, the visions, the crystals, the fire and ice--but something didn't quite work for me in this piece. If this were a longer piece and you'd established Hayden and Ivy as distinct individuals and as a unified couple, this scene might work, but without already knowing Hayden and Ivy and the unique ways they relate to one another and their world, they felt a bit generic here. I do think there are some interesting things going on, and my heart hurts at the thought of what all those crystals represent. I'm cheering for Hayden and Ivy, even though I don't know what they're up against, and I hope you'll keep working on this story!

    Sunshine & Rainbows: This is a charming little piece with a vibrant setting and a delightful protagonist. I love a good fantasy scamp, and a sidekick chicken just sweetens the deal! As others have stated, the writing could use a little polish. I agree with the reader who said the end sort of fell flat. The last three paragraphs would have been a good place to show Santi interacting with his chicken, at home among his band of misfit thieves... something a little more personal to make the reader fall even more in love with the character.

    Both of these leave me curious to know more, but Sunshine & Rainbows gets my vote.

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  31. End of week two and two more in the ring - well done, brave writers for surviving this far.
    Cora Williams representing the Fantasy genre.
    Swept along by the opening and into that first sidestep-twist. Well written despite one odd tense error. Unsure about the ending, but it leaves potential for more.

    Sunshine&Rainbows who is also representing the Fantasy genre.
    The images created a strong opening with senses twitched. Amusing and different. The last line is funny but the piece promised more. The set-up - the band of creature thieves - suggests further escapades. As long as the mayor doesn't eat Frango.

    My vote goes to Cora Williams for her ominous tale as I want to read more.

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  32. Two fantasy genres in the ring! How will I choose???

    Cora Williams: This piece is mysterious and a little creepy. Though there were a lot of details, the flow of the story didn't get bogged down in them. I wished the author had included a little bit more information about what is coming, what's the flood about and also the significance of the crystals.

    Sunshine&Rainbows: It took me a beat to realise that Frango was a chicken, I have no idea why. An entire 500-word piece about the exploits of a thieving chicken and its owner is pretty hilarious. The ending of the piece felt a little flat to me though.

    For this round, my vote goes to Cora Williams.

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  33. I voted based on whose story I wanted to read more of - whose world struck me as most interesting. While the adventure and light-hearted world of "Sunshine & Rainbows" is cute and whimsical, I was drawn into the dark, dangerous world of Cora Williams. I want to know more about a world where people's lives or souls are trapped in crystals. I want to know if the end foreshadows hope or is the beginning of despair. I want to read on, to know the characters, to see the world expanded.

    My vote is for Cora Williams.

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  34. Both very good entries. I was moved by the worry and anguish of the parents in Cora Williams’ story. I wanted to read more. I enjoyed the thieving chicken who pecked the mayor in Sunshine & Rainbows’ story. That entry seemed fairly complete in itself. My vote goes to Sunshine & Rainbows.

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  35. Two entries in the same genre both totally different. So that should have made choosing one easier surely but it's not easy to choose. I certainly liked both and read them first without forming an opinion and then re-read to see if either or both made more sense - they both did. Sunshine & Rainbows was more light-hearted.

    My first thought and liking and therefore my vote this time is for Cora Williams.

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  36. My vote goes to Sunshine&Rainbows. It felt like the start to a story I'd enjoy reading more of. Cora Williams' story was a bit harder to understand. Because we don't know the characters or the world yet, the mother's emotions came across as melodramatic. Evoking emotions is *hard* in such a small sample.

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  37. Two strong fantasy entries today. The Cora's story chilled me with the descriptions and setup. I wonder where the story will go from there. The entry from Sunshine&Rainbows was fun and amused me a great deal.

    My vote goes to Cora Williams.

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  38. My vote goes for Cora though both were great stories.

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  39. Sunshine&Rainbows for me. I found Cora's too full of cliches for my liking.

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  40. Loved them both but loved sunshine's more. I could totally see the scene as I read it.

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  41. I like the second. More vivid. Fun read.
    The first was also good.
    But 🐔 gets my vote.

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  42. Sunshine & Rainbows gets my vote.

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  43. Fantasy is my jam, and both of these are terrific examples.

    Cora Williams: Excellent depiction of the anguish of parents afraid for their children. It's really hard to find the right balance in just 500 words, but for me there was too much description of the vision of the flood and not enough explanation of what's going on. Where do the crystals come from? Why does Hayden say they've stopped the others, when the trunk is filled with crystals? What does Ivy mean when she says the fire hasn't sparked in them yet? What does Hayden mean at the end about meeting water with fire? If this was the opening of a longer work I might read more to try to figure out what's going on here, but in this snippet I can't find enough to grab onto.

    Sunshine & Rainbows: The scene at the market is vivid, pulling me in. I love the idea of the thieving chicken, and of the ability to talk with animals being applied in this way. From the reference to a "band of creature misfits," I'm assuming there are other animals in Santi's little Fagin band. I'd like to know more about the others. I did have a problem with the word "Thanksgiving," which immediately had this American reader picturing Frango plucked and roasted. Probably not what was intended.

    My vote goes for Sunshine & Rainbows.

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  44. Cora Williams-- This seems like some interesting lore being slowly revealed. Perhaps with one more paragraph, I'd have a better understanding. It seemed like just a mother with premonitions, and then it didn't. Mostly because of the crystals. I can see how it could get more interesting.

    Sunshine&Rainbows-- My favorite line was followed by the only one I didn't really understand. "Being able to communicate with animals hadn’t been the curse that Santi initially expected. Thanksgiving might be in order." But it might be that Thanksgiving has a different meaning for me than for the author. Either way, the story engaged me. It was easy to picture. It gets my vote.

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  45. Congratulations to two more writers entering the ring.

    Cora Williams’s piece has a lot of emotional wallop packed into 500 words! Fear, hope, despair followed in short succession, ending with a final question: why does the crystal create such despair? Why do they have so many? And mainly, why can’t you have more words to tell me more?

    Sunshine&Rainbow’s piece had a really strong premise - the idea of a whole outfit of animal marauders led by a human with telepathic powers is cool. The storytelling pulled me out a bit, with back and forth in present and in his head thoughts that it made it a little difficult to follow, and edged it out by the smallest margin when both choices were so strong.

    My vote goes to CoraWilliams for a fantasy story told from the parents perspective- which is a welcome new addition to the fantasy genre.

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  46. Sunshine gets my vote today. While they were both good, it felt more visceral to me.

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  47. Hey, great job to both on reaching a bout!

    Cora Williams gets my vote, mostly for the image of the dead children turned face-up in the floodwater (flooding is so easy to relate to in Texas). Ghastly and memorable.

    Sunshine&Rainbows—so many new things to keep track of. Not my genre, and it suggests a wonderful world that could be fleshed out in a larger work. For me, it was too much to absorb a whole new world in the word count.

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  48. Two interesting stories. Cora gets my vote.

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  49. In this round, my vote goes to Cora simply because I get a better sense of where the story is going. Rainbow's entry was well written and engaging but I, although I felt like it was part of a bigger piece, I just didn't get a sense of what that piece was about.

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  50. I vote for Cora! Don’t normally go for fantasy in general, but this really worked.

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  51. I vote for Sunshine & Rainbows. A fun, engaging story hiding a darker truth. Loved Cora's also though!

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  52. Cora Williams
    What worked:
    So much emotion! You've used evocative language that brings this mother's terror and dread to life.
    That last line. *Mwah! I love it.
    What didn't:
    I'm not sure I have enough information to truly be invested. There are hints ... the fire vs water, the crystals with names etched in, etc ... but I'm almost hooked but not completely.
    I could be wrong, but I believe that your "lie" should be a "lay"? It sounds wrong to me as is.

    Sunshine&Rainbows
    What worked:
    You've also used exceptional word choice to establish your setting. I love how you included smell in your description. Too often that is ignored.
    I love the sassy chicken, even though I've only seen him from afar.
    What didn't:
    I know it's not the meaning you intended, but using the word thanksgiving (especially at the beginning of a sentence where it gets capitalized) in a story with a large bird as a protagonist seems ... insensitive? (I know it was a chicken, not a turkey, but I can't help but make the association. Haha!)

    My vote goes to CoraWilliams because I can't stop wondering about those crystals ... so maybe I'm more hooked than I previously thought!

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  53. Voting for Sunshine&Rainbows. I felt more drawn in.

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  54. Voting Sunshine&Rainbows for voice and originality.

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  55. Sunshine: The unique premise of a pick-pocket rooster made me smile. I'm well-grounded in the scene and know a good bit about your MC right away. Thank you! No invisible, anonymous "I." The description of the market is clear, and concise. Nice pacing, well-balanced. I get that the mayor suspects the chicken, and maybe Santi himself, of being up to something but can't quite prove it yet. I'm curious about the "well dressed woman" across the street, and wonder if she'll have a role to play. Confused about the convent/monk/nuns/shrine - a lot of words about these "extras." The words might better have been spent on Santi's goals, fears, etc. (The reference to "thanksgiving" was a minor speed-bump.)

    Cora - This entry read quite fragmented to me. I didn't understand the vision sequence that left her screaming at her children. Then just when we realize this isn't reality, we're dropped into an overheard conversation with her husband. The two of them are in familiar territory, but I'm lost. “...we’ll stop this,(this what?) as we have the others (The other whats?).” “Then we will take extra care with them.” (them who? - the children? the crystals?) It's very emotional, and very vague. I could care more if I knew/understood more. Likewise,the ending paragraphs' references to fire, names on crystals, "it" being done, etc. is too vague for me to have a handle on the significance. The chest of other crystals (each representing another lost child?) brings the whole "we'll stop this as we have the others" line into question. The narrative feels a bit overwrought and forced.

    Today's vote to Sunshine & Rainbows.

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  56. Both of these stories exemplify what I love about fantasy. The different shapes the worlds can take and the scale of focus for both. I loved both premises! Re-reads were necessary for me to decide.


    My vote goes to Cora Williams, I understand why prophecy is no longer a mainstay in fantasy. However, I also enjoy a well crafted story of fighting it. Also these children have parents, they aren't orphaned by the world and are not at the mercy of the people in it. I hope they are active characters if not the protagonists of the story. I think it's a promising start to a grand story.

    Sunshine & Rainbows I loved how someone on the streets was using his powers to both help his animal friends and make ends meet. It's a medieval street level fantasy that made me laugh. Especially the chicken being the Mayor's nemesis that was a hoot. However, I honestly don't know where the plot was going. Is it going to stay on the streets with Santi and his friends, or is the world at large going to radically change his circumstance. Are the animals influenced by him speaking to them? There are a lot of questions that could lead to many places but I do not have any idea which way it is leading.

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  57. Really interesting concepts here. Cora, this read like a fantasy prologue (of which I'm a fan!) so the foreshadowing felt appropriate and I liked that you dropped obscure references to unravel later. But I did want something a little stronger to root me in the world and its rules. Water bad, fire good? Do Hayden and Ivy have power over the gods ("we’ll stop this, as we have the others")? I need a few more breadcrumbs to orient myself and stay interested.

    Sunshine, I LOVE the fact that we open with this unexpected chicken reference. It's the kind of thing that makes you read on, if only for the sake of curiosity. But you follow it up with some beautiful world-building and I suddenly found myself seeing and smelling and hearing the same things as Santi. I agree that we didn't get much in the way of plot development here, but I like this dynamic you've created with the other ancillary characters and find myself really invested in the fate of that thieving chicken. That's something I never thought I'd type, so you get my vote Sunshine!

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  58. Sunshine&Rainbows gets my vote for today, thank you for sharing!

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  59. I vote for Sunshine&Rainbows, as the details of the story drew me in right away.

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  60. A flip of a coin perhaps?
    No, not quite. My vote to Cora Williams today, for Epic potential.
    Though, I really want to read the rest of both of these stories.
    Thank you!

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  61. I'm a fan of chickens, so I am interested in Sunshine's piece. Fantasy is one of my favorites, and I wonder who that girl is. The last line sort of interrupted the flow, so it feels "tacked on" as an easy conclusion to 500 words.

    In Cora's piece, grief is an awful thing, but I didn't connect with Ivy's. I didn't connect with Ivy enough to feel sorrow at the death of her children.

    Today... I vote for Sunshine.

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  62. Tried to vote on Friday, but my connection was bad. Doesn't look like it took, so here it goes again. Sorry if this is a double.

    This is one of those weeks where I wish I didn’t have to rely on 500 words to chose the better story. Both worlds sound interesting, and I want to read more of each. However, I don’t feel a connection to any of the characters. I don’t doubt that reading a little more would show me who they were and why they are worth following.

    However, since I have to pick one, I vote for Sunshine & Rainbows. Not sure if I like the character, but the set up intrigues me a bit more than Cora Williams.

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  63. Sunshine&Rainbows gets my vote hands down.
    Not only does it remind me of one of my favorite authors, Tamora Pierce, it was just amusing to read. I'm a sucker for the thief character and the "talks to animals" trope, so I'd keep reading this one for sure.

    I do have to confess, if I liked Cora's character's just a little bit more, I might've gone with that one. It was very well written, and I don't mind the "starts with describing weather" on top of a prophecy, but I just couldn't connect to the lead.

    Great job getting this far, and best of luck in the future!

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  64. I'm voting for Sunshine&Rainbows. Honestly, I just loved it.

    Cora, I liked your piece, too, and I'm curious to read on, but I just didn't connect as much.

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  65. My vote is for Cora as I felt this story had more tension to grab and hold the reader until the end. Both were great stories howeverso congrats to both of you on making it this far!

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  66. Sunshine had a great setting but I connected a little more with Cora's story. I was a little unclear with the ending but I felt for the MC. My vote is for Cora.

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  67. Two very different pieces!
    A narrow win for Cora here.
    The opening bit with the flood pulled me in; the second half of that piece wasn't as strong, but the first gripped me hard enough that I have to give it my vote.

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  68. Vote today for Cora Williams, felt there is more of a potential in this submission for a longer story, though some of it was confusing in parts.

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately you are 24 minutes too late for this to count.

      Delete

 

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