WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round 7


For anyone just discovering us, 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 Monday, May 13th (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 our 2nd bout of the week, we have OpheliasPansies on one side of the ring representing the Science Fiction/Romance genre.

 Nyx couldn’t feel her fingers or toes. Her consciousness waned as someone carried her down the corridor of a ship. It looked like the Thanatos, but the blur of the tan panels as they sped by could’ve been any other ship.

She moaned, and a deep voice hushed her. Her black jumpsuit was soaked and white parka frost-covered. She shivered, iced to the bone.

A door slid open, and the person cradling her set her on a soft bed.

Fingers unzipped the parka, unbuttoned the front on her uniform, and peeled the wet fabric from her body. The white tank underneath clung in frozen folds. Nothing was going to heat her back up.

Her eyes fluttered as the hulking figure of Malcam sat her up and pulled off her underclothes, then wrapped her in a dry blanket. He laid her down and piled her wet hair on a towel, melting the icicles at the ends. Maybe it was time to cut it again, her head spun through the drowse of cold.

A weight settled next to her, hot. Arms circled her, pulled her close, and her uneven breath slowed, heartbeat steadying. A hand rubbed hard against her arm.

She didn’t understand why Malcam was so insistent. He was her enemy.

She tried to turn, but the blanket wrapping her was tight, and her limbs cold-numbed. Something had happened. She wouldn’t die because of the nano-bots in her blood. Couldn’t die. But she was in danger of losing consciousness, maybe forever.

She fought to open her eyes.

Malcam’s voice whispered, panicked. “Come on. Don’t go to sleep.”

She muttered, tongue thick.

“That’s it. Stay awake. Stay with me. Don’t leave me.”

Nyx flexed her fingers, tiny motions, painfully, one-by-one. She hadn’t lost any to frostbite.

“That’s it. Move. Just a little.” His voice frantic.

He pressed his fiery feet against her tingling toes. The pain of the temperature difference seared through her legs. She pushed her toes, hardened by the cold, straight. She curled them. They wouldn’t move.

Malcam wrapped his legs and twined his feet with hers, pouring heat from his body.

Nyx’s cold-fogged mind dimmed. Her nano-bots wouldn’t allow damaged tissue to be a part of her system. Frostbite could be battled, but she could still lose her toes, her feet. The nano-bots would cut off resources to that part of her system if deemed irreparable. They would concentrate on what could be fixed. So, she had to move her toes to prove to the system they were viable.

She gripped Malcam’s hand. He clutched hers back. She squeezed her toes down as hard as she could, pain ripping through her legs. Her toes clenched, gently scratching the tops of his feet.

Nyx rolled her head towards Malcam, their faces close, lips nearly touching, his breath on her face. She blinked, engulfed in his bright blue gaze.

He wrapped a hand to her forehead.

He was dangerous. He shouldn’t be helping her. She shuddered. She’d owe him now.
#############################################################################


On the far side of the ring, we have Daisy who is representing the Speculative genre.

I couldn’t remember anything before Room 23.

I was unemployed and my apartment was the best place no money could buy. I slept in a bed as soft as a dropped burrito. Butlers scooped pellets into my bowl, and I made bigger pellets in my corner bathroom. At least I lived next to my brothers. I thought I’d get to forever.

Dr. Willis named us all Jeremiah. We looked the same from snout to tail. Jeremiah One was a hot mess. Jeremiah Two was feisty but stuck up. Jeremiah Three was adventurous. Jeremiah Four was restless. Jeremiah Five was all heart. He’d push his nose to the plastic wall. It meant, “I love you.”

I understood doctors, but they only understood me when I bit them. I tried to tell them that I didn’t like stabbers or pinchers, but doctors aren’t smart. Biting is the universal language. Jeremiah One was fluent, so the doctors arrested him and took him away.

The doctors knew we missed our brother, so they gave us matching back tattoos.

I said, “Give me a skull with a snake coming out of its eye,” all they heard was, “oink.”

The tattoo involved stabbing me millions of times, so I informed the doctors that I did not want a tattoo any more. I told them by biting.

I still had four brothers left. A few weeks after our tats, two of my brothers shuffled out of Room 23 on blue leashes. They weren’t like Jeremiah One. They didn’t bite. Jeremiah Three and Four were the best little porkers I’d ever seen. Before they left, they were quiet. They threw up and laid still most of the time, but they still got arrested.

Later, Jeremiah Two left. He had blue ears and was asleep when he got wrapped in blue blankets. He rode out on the Magic Table. None of them came back.

Then, Jeremiah Five started throwing up. I tried to warn him about the doctors, but he wasn’t the crispiest bacon in the pan.  

The next day, he was too tired to stand. He slept with his eyes open. Dr. Willis came in to feed us, but she noticed and ran into his apartment. She left my door cracked.

“Watch out. Bite her!” I screamed through the plastic wall.

Dr. Willis tightened a blue leash around my brother’s neck. He didn’t move. My door was open. I could try to run out and knock her down. I could save him. Instead, I hid under my cushion.

A butler helped slide Jeremiah Five onto the Magic Table. Dr. Willis pulled on the table until it grew tall. She folded a blue blanket over him. His eyes were still open, but he wouldn’t look at me. I peeked out a little further.

“Don’t leave! You’re too handsome to go.”

He looked like me until his ears turned blue.

She wheeled him away.

“I’ll miss you, and I love you,” I said, but all that came out was, “oink.
 ##############################################################################


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 on tomorrow for another exciting 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!


80 comments

  1. I really enjoyed both entries today and the uniqueness of each. That said, my vote goes to OpheliasPansies.

    OP’s story really drew me in with the enemy helping Nyx and her concern that she now owed him. I was also intrigued by how the nano-bots work. I was left wanting to know what happened before and after this excerpt.

    I like Daisy using a pig as her MC and am very curious about what’s going on with these poor animals. However, the narrative felt distant and failed to pull me in. Perhaps deepening the POV and showing instead of telling would help. But, overall, an intriguing read.

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  2. Two more terrific entries!! Loved both of these, but in the end my vote is for Daisy. Smooth writing, amazing voice, and the strong sense of the fear coming off the helpless animals (at least I'm guessing they're animals!) really drew me in. OpheliasPansies entry is beautifully written and compelling, but there was some repetition and awkward word choices that pulled me out of the story.

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  3. Two more great entries today~ OpheliasPansies-- the premise is great- the ending really sets up a great conflict- enemy helping enemy, and what does that mean for Nyx? What will she have to give up in order to pay for this man saving her life? Do they fall in love? Does she end up killing him for a bigger purpose? The possibilities are endless! The writing still felt a little distant to me. I think maybe getting into Nyx's head more would really pull out the tension more.

    Daisy- love the MC and the uniqueness of being inside the pig's brain. I am curious as to what's going on, and I think this excerpt could be expanded a great deal in order to provide some more insight into that. I felt like there was a little bit of a disconnect, as Jeremiah (not sure which one is MC) seems flippant and terrified at the same time. I think it could be tightened up some-- start with flippant and change to the terrified as we realize that his brothers are not coming back?

    Tough vote today, but my vote is for... Daisy

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  4. Ophelia: a lot of these 500 words are spent on cold. You might remove some of the temperature descriptions and flesh out the characters. The MC is very passive here by necessity, but she’s still having thoughts. There’s room to explain things a bit and get your reader invested in the characters. I’m intrigued by the nanobots and want to know what happens next, but I don’t know yet why this story is unique.

    Daisy: how did you make me want to weep over a pig?? This is a clever piece that toys with so many emotions in such a short space. You really nailed the unusual POV here.

    I vote for Daisy this round. Fantastic job!

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  5. Voting for OpheliasPansies for the tension, unique style, and compelling situation.

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  6. Voting for OpheliasPansies for tension, conflict, plot, stakes, and character, as well as starting in action.

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  7. I am voting with Daisy for originality. OpheliasPansies is interesting and I could read more, but there are unnecessary words that make the story sound passive.

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  8. I vote for OpheliasPansies - loved the descriptions and prose. I can tell the writer as a well rounded view of the world and characters. Definitely want to read more!

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  9. OpheliasPansies gets my vote today. You drew me in to your MC's plight, and I sense a nice enemeies-to-lovers romance in the works.
    Thank you both for sharing your work with us!

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  10. Good morning, Contestants. Congrats on making it in!

    Ophelia
    What worked:
    You nail the enemies-to-lovers trope.
    The ending left me curious to know what happens next.
    There are some great descriptions in here.

    What didn't:
    My first question was: how does she know she's in the corridor of a ship if she's just this side of consciousness.

    There were a couple of sentences that could have used re-wording. For example: "Her black jumpsuit was soaked and white parka frost-covered." I had to read it twice to grasp it because I assumed the "and" after "soaked" was going continue describing the jumpsuit--such as, "her black jumpsuit was soaked and clung to her skin." Something like "her black jumpsuit was soaked. Her white parka, frost-covered" would have cleared up that confusion.

    He wraps her in a blanket and she can't move, but then he wraps his arms and entwines his feet with hers. I'm confused about how she's situated. From the first descriptions, I got that she was basically swaddled, but from the second, it sounds like he just climbs in bed next to her, which would have allowed her to turn around.

    You mention a couple of times that her consciousness is waning or that her brain is dimming, yet she seems fairly alert, to be able to tell she's on a ship, command her toes to move, etc.

    Daisy
    What worked:
    I loved the POV of something not human.
    I found my self rooting for the sweet little pig.

    What didn't work:
    It wasn't immediately clear to me that these were actual pigs instead of rats or guinea pigs.

    I get that the pig is meant to be cheeky, but his knowledge seemed out of place. How does he know he's in room 23? How does he know what "unemployed" "butler" and "burrito" mean?

    "Crispiest bacon in the pan" while funny, made me cringe. Do pigs even know what bacon is, and if so, would they joke about it so flippantly? This is totally subjective, but that phrase simply didn't work for me.

    Congratulations to both of you again. My vote goes to Daisy.

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  11. Congratulations to you both but my vote goes to OpheliasPansies. It's not technical but I just connected with it more, I found myself rooting for the character in her fight to survive. Daisy's work was emotive but I didn't get pulled into the character as immediately as I did for Ophelia.

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  12. Daisy's original voice charmed me from first read. Poor little porkers. Not sure about the "crispest bacon" line. I think a bit of polish will really get us in the head of this pig and tidy up some minor typos.

    Ophelia hooked me with the hint of inter-species(?) sexual tension, or at least a very complicated relationship, but I struggled a bit to figure out the characters' motions... she's swaddled so tightly she can't even move, but the pair then intertwine fingers and toes; sentences like "...pushed her toes, hardened by the cold, straight. She curled them. They wouldn’t move...." just confused me. She's also thinking quite coherently for someone so close to unconsciousness.

    Today's vote to Daisy.

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  13. I believe with some tweaking Ophelia'sPansies could make a great story with its unique world and conflict. OP gets my vote. I agree with the suggestions in the comments.
    The second story started out about an apartment and no money etc. I figured it was about a young woman in trouble. But the world turned upside down when I realized it was about killing pigs. The story didn't work for me. (And Jeremiah was a bull frog!) LOL

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  14. Stakes well established for the characters in both stories. My vote, though, goes for OP since I was in the world of the story from start to finish.

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  15. Two great entries! Ophelia's Pansies had me at nano-bots and her enemy being her savior.

    However, Daisy had me cringing in fear for the poor wee pigs, and in the end my heart was weeping for the cruelty they were enduring.

    My vote goes to Daisy.

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  16. This one goes to Daisy. The story is briefly confusing as you are not sure what the MC is, but that is by design and the reveal of the pig was well done.The use of a pig as MC was different, especially since it is told in the first person. And while this could be part of a bigger tale, it works as a short story in its current form.

    OpheliasPansies was nicely done, but it seemed like a lot of 500 words was used to tell us Nyx is cold, suffering hypothermia, and possible frostbitten. A little less of that and more focus on other parts of story would have been better use of the 500 word limit. Also, Nyx is described as being barely conscious, but she seems rather alert and aware. The submission seems to want to have it both ways.

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  17. My vote goes to OpheliasPansies. While I think the narrative could've gone deeper, the concept and character situation was truly engaging.
    Daisy's was interesting but hard to relate to for me.

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  18. Congrats to the two entrants today!

    OpheliasPansies: Excellent description regarding a distinct sense of place and the cold. I could feel it throughout. But as one who has fought to maintain consciousness, this character has way too much clarity of thought regarding her surroundings and other details. Also, some movement descriptions didn't make sense: talking about her toes, "She curled them. They wouldn't move." But the biggest problem I had was the lack of emotion. I have no sense if this person is terrified, freaking out inside, or whatever. Description is good *if* you bring deep emotion into it and relate the two. Without the emotion, I couldn't connect at all.

    Daisy: Clever and cute. A bit confusing at first with the reference to unemployment. Once I figured out what was what, I could sink into the scene and enjoyed the rather macabre tone dressed up in innocence. The writing could be tightened and polished, but the story was fresh, something I haven't read before.

    My vote: Daisy.

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  19. OpheliasPansies
    What worked:
    I feel the fear and tension of the piece clearly. I've been given enough clues about the setting and characters to be curious for more.
    This feels like a solid scene from a solid romance set in space. That seems like a pretty good foundation.
    What didn't:
    The positioning is a little confusing, as she appears to be both wrapped so tightly in a blanket that she can't move and pressed skin to skin against Malcam.

    Daisy
    What worked:
    I love the unique perspective of this piece. Stories about science gone wrong always interest me, and I can sense some real creativity behind this one.
    What didn't:
    I am also curious to read more of this story, but a big part of that is feeling lost in the plot. It's clear that there is a Very Bad Thing happening to these piggies, but it's too vague for me to really connect with it.
    I can see how the you tried to use words that relate back to pigs in your figurative language, but it misses the mark for me. I think because so much of it is about how delicious pigs are, and I'm not sure a sentient pig would see the humor in being murdered for its tasty flesh.

    I find both of these entries intriguing and I would keep reading either of them, which is generally a good sign. My vote is going to OpheliasPansies, though, because it feels a little more polished.

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  20. Interesting stories today! My vote goes to OpheliasPansies – your story had a nice flow and the last line made me want to read more.

    Daisy – you pulled me in with your descriptions but the ending felt flat. I wanted more action…more biting:)

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  21. Voting for Daisy, who managed to be ambiguous without being confusing. Which is what I think the other piece was trying to do, so it made an interesting matchup.

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  22. OpheliasPansies wrote a compelling story, with a lot of information packed into 500 words. Captured my interest, and I wanted more. Just damn good writing.

    Daisy's story was a bit too convoluted. Bouncing back and forth between things that human's relate to, and what pigs might relate to. It became confusing.

    My vote goes to OpheliasPansies.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. Deleted due to monster typo.

      My vote goes to Daisy - I liked the way you use the entire length to unroll the story, dropping hints and tidbits that make up the whole of the narrative.

      OP- great scene, feels like good character work, but there's so much before and after around the piece that I didn't get a sense of the stakes or why the two are enemies. Mortal enemies? Combatants in service to a larger war? Frenemies? I just needed a little more.

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  24. My vote goes to OpheliasPansies.makes me wonder and want to know more, couldn't relate to the second.

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  25. Both were really good. Tough call. I'll go with Daisy for the humor and the twist of the narrator being a pig in an experiment. Chilling.

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  26. For this round, I am going to vote for Ophelia'sPansies. I agree with many of the other reviews. I think she is too alert for someone who is so close to unconscious. There is so much focus on being cold when I would like more of an explanation on how she got that way and who Malcolm is. And there were a few sentences that were clunky and confusing. However, these issues could be cleared up pretty easily and ultimately, I got the sense of an intriguing story.

    Daisy had some really good writing. It was clear and concise. But it just did not pull me in, probably more for personal taste reasons than anything inherently wrong with the writing.

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  27. Daisy gets my vote here.

    I enjoyed Ophelia's entry, but some of the word choices led to unclear storytelling.

    Daisy's piece felt like a Pixar short: quick to stab me in the heart, but in all the right ways.

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  28. Congrats on making it into the Top 30.

    For me, these felt very much on a par with most of the other entries we've seen so far, and the vote between them is a difficult one.

    As mentioned by most people commenting, both pieces have inconsistencies that perhaps if they had been caught, and addressed, would have pushed one more clearly ahead of the other.

    OpheliasPansies is not a genre I would normally choose to read, but it had some interesting ideas. I agree with another commenter who mentioned that too much time was spent describing the cold - in a larger body of work this amount of description would work, but when you are writing so concisely, every single word must count, and do double-time where possible.

    Perhaps using some of the word count on the characters would have helped make this stand out more.

    Despite this not being a genre I choose to read, and the other issues mentioned, the piece does have the premise of an underlying story and I can imagine reading this in a larger body of work.

    Daisy's entry, is one of the more unusual entries I've read so far (not sure it is Speculative Fiction though). I have read quite a few books where the POV is that of an animal, and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    For me here the biggest problem I had reading was that it is very confusing. If the writer has perhaps started by introducing the pig right from the start, I think that would have helped clarify things in a reader's mind. The narrative seems to be trying to switch between giving the reader the impression we're reading about a human, to telling us we are reading about a pig.

    I was confused too about the pigs (btw, I adore pigs!) being carried out on tables.

    While I think the idea was good, for me the story got a bit lost. I think maybe the writer was going for an element of surprise with the POV being that of a pig, by trying to suggest we were reading about a human first, but then giving the story a bit of a twist by saying it is a pig. Sadly for me, it just caused a lot of confusion.

    It is a bit of a coin toss between these, both have good underlying ideas, but I felt neither really outshone the other.

    As a vote is needed, I will vote for OpheliasPanasies, as I think with some editing, this has more potential as a story I would want to continue reading.

    Well done again in getting into the ring, and I hope the little Pig goes on to tell another tale.

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  29. Full marks to both contestants for reaching the bout stage.
    OpheliasPansies representing the Science Fiction/Romance genre.
    This opening hooked me. The little details/clues keep coming, carrying me in - in fact throughout the piece. After the rush to get Nyx inside, I sense the romance coming in the carefully crafted sentences. Then, 'He was her enemy.'. Intrigued - and focused on the clever drip-feed of information, I had to read on. Perhaps, the explanation about 'nano-bots' could be tightened - and more fear built in. Going deeper can work. The ending sets up an interesting follow-up, but I was expecting something else. However, OpheliasPansies ignites something.

    Daisy who is representing the Speculative genre.
    The opening felt like a standard hook but it worked - as did the next para. Some of the phrases made me smile: 'a bed as soft as a dropped burrito'. Others made me realise that 'I' was some kind of animal/creature - not a human.
    I liked the POV of a pig, even if it was anthropomorphic - sometimes too human, as in using bacon for that cliche. Some of the thoughts were clever takes on our reality - arrested. But the ending went as far as 'I' did - nowhere. Promises, promises. And animal experimentation is more horrific to me.

    It's hard to choose a winner as both entertained. However, I'm voting for the one piecee that made me want more - OpheliasPansies earns my vote.

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  30. I really like the premise of Daisy's entry and while it paints a vivid picture, the ending didn't land enough for me. While OpheliasPansies was obviously part of a larger piece, I feel like I got a more complete picture and understood everything in the small sample given. My vote goes for OpheliasPansies.

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  31. These are both really well written and interesting. I went back and forth about who to vote for, but ultimately I'm going to go with OpheliasPansies. At the beginning of that piece I wasn't that interested, but soon the writing drew me in and I was anxious to see what would happen next. I was disappointed when it ended. The opposite happened with Daisy - I was super interested in the story and I think it's a great premise, but the writing could be tightened just a little. But both are excellent entries. Congrats to both writers for making the top 30!

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  32. I enjoyed both pieces today. For OP, I expected the hero to have more panic in the beginning. Maybe rushing/running down the hallway. I didn't get a sense of panic until I was told he was in a panic. Also alot of references to cold. Either way I enjoyed and would keep ready so good job.

    Daisy. Totally didn't get the pig talking about unemployment and money. The rest I could buy (see look what i did :D ). I really enjoyed this and want to know what happens to Jeremiah X.

    My vote goes for Daisy.

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  33. Ophelia gets my vote today. I want to know what happened to get them in this situation, so it's a great hook fit a sci-fi romance.

    Daisy, I liked your too smart pig and I was so sad for his brothers! The vote just came down to what I prefer to read this time around.

    -tara.roquemore@gmail.com

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  34. Loved OpheliasPansies piece - my vote goes to her. The SpecFic piece didn't do it for me. I could see the porcine having thoughts, but got hung up on it understanding (or identifying) a 'Room 23.'

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  35. I loved OpheliasPansies piece as it caters very much to my love of YA sci fi & fantasy. Not to mention there's CLEARLY going to be an enemies to lovers trope going on here and I AM HERE FOR IT. (It's my very favorite trope. It never gets old. This is a hill I will die on.) Writing-wise, the piece worked well as it wove together the storyline, the precariousness of Nyx's situation, and the fact that she's not supposed to trust the only person who is helping her. Really liked!

    I had trouble with Daisy's entry. I give definite points for originality as I've never seen anything like it, but I found while it had a sense of urgency throughout, it lacked what I needed to feel empathy for the characters. (And I'm a HUGE animal lover.) Tackling an animal's point of view is exceptionally difficult and I commend Daisy for taking the chance. I don't feel it worked well in this piece. (I do recommend reading The Art of Racing in the Rain if you want a really amazing book told from a dog's POV.)

    My vote goes to Ophelia'sPansies. Would love to read more!

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  36. My vote is for OpheliaPansies.

    In OP's post, I became invested in the character. Why was her "enemy" so afraid of losing her and how did she end up with frost bite. It had tension.

    Daisy's piece was an interesting concept, but I started off with no setting or bearings. Room 23 could have been a hotel. Then the reveal that the protagonist was an animal, but what kind of animal wasn't confirmed until almost halfway through.

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  37. This one was easy - after a lot of agonizing. I write my share of romance, but don’t care for reading it, so I hesitated on turning away from OpheliaPansies. It was written well, and I love the sci-fi element.

    Eventually, I realized my problem wasn’t a lack of interest in what happens to Nyx, it was my deep concern over the fate of the pig in Daisies story.

    My vote goes to Daisies for making me tear up. I hope the pig will be well and not end up as somebody’s side of bacon.

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  38. I'm going to have to go with Daisy on this one. At first I thought they were puppies, but it was soon clear that they were piglets. I loved the idea that they were pretty much clueless as to what was really happening, but the MC was determined to at least try and save them.

    OP's story was well done, but focused a bit too much on the cold, leaving me a bit confused about the scene.

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  39. Ophelia's Pansies - On a technical level, the writing was solid, and I liked the sci-fi elements and found them not to be overwhelming the story with worldbuilding. Could have used more figurative language, though. All I spotted was the cold to the bone and head spinning, and those are both cliches.
    Daisy - The writing is also good, and the perspective and material were fresh and original. In the beginning I felt like we were supposed to be surprised the protagonist was a pig, but it was a little less vague than I would have liked. Also, the soft as a burrito didn't work for me from that protagonist. When do pigs get burritos? For that matter, when do they get jobs and apartments? I feel like trying to pull this off was ambitious, but it didn't resonate with me. My vote is for Ophelia's Pansies.

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  41. Ok my vote goes to OpheliasPan. The relationship between the characters, the subtle tech and how it worked, and while the scene conveyed compassion and intimacy the distrust and fear also gave it intrigue. I wanted to know more.

    For Daisy it honestly felt like a rabbit hole trip. In some ways that made it interesting and honestly could not have predicted where it was going. That being said I was a little confused by the setting, it seemed like a lab environment, and the pigs have up to if not equal to human intelligence. Each of them have personalities. They seem to be getting sick, but is that because of the lab the environment. A lot of questions are unanswered or uncertain but I'd keep reading.

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  42. My vote goes to Daisy. Mainly for originality and a killer first line. OP's was engaging and descriptive. But something was missing for me. Some descriptions bordered on tell-y. For instance, I'd rather feel the heavy wet fabric clinging to her than to be told her jumpsuit was soaked. A deeper POV could have pulled me in more. And although the cold came across well, I wanted other sensory details. Maybe sound? The thud of footsteps in the hall. The whoosh of doors sliding open. The squeak of the zipper? That said, the last line was chilling! (although I think the underlying vibe I was getting is that he secretly cares for her)

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  43. Voting for Daisy! Probably helped by recent news of human genes added to animal brains (or memories of Flowers for Algernon), but the combo of cute little animals and some gruesome fate (other than sausage) awaiting them got me! That said, both were well-written and suspenseful. And yeah, Ophelia has nailed that bad boy who's really the hottie! (If only we hadn't seen this so many times. . . )

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  44. OpheliaPansies wrote a compelling little story that hinted at a fascinating world and dynamic between characters. Daisy was bold and told a tale through an unconventional POV, and I'd say it was a job well done. My vote goes to OpheliaPansies, in part because I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories. Both were great, though!

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  45. To be honest neither story really pulled me in today. Not to say they aren't well-written because they're both great in that regard with only minor quibbles, I just didn't really connect with either.

    Of the two, Daisy is a narrow winner.

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  46. My vote goes to Ophelia Pansies.
    Daisy's story is compelling and disconcerting. Very otherworldly in perspective, and leaving me with a vague feeling of discomfort. All of that was well done. I felt like things were left a little unfinished, but otherwise a powerful story.
    Ophelia has some strong characters. I have a lot of questions about the world, the setting, their roles in each other's lives, the time, the nanobots, the future, the past, etc.
    Wonderful pieces, thank you for sharing.

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  47. Two fantastic entries today. By the slimmest of margins my vote goes to OP for fantastic show don't tell narrative. While I do love me some bacon, the dad jokes felt a bit forced and I didn't feel for the MC as much as I loved the idea of the nano-bots and how they control the body.

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  48. Two drastically different stories!

    OpheliasPansies: This was an interesting scene between Nyx and Malcam and I am slightly curious about why they're adversaries. I do wish there was a little bit more here especially with regard to the world the scene is set in because I do see potential in this piece.

    Daisy: This piece makes me feel uncomfortable and that's why I like it. The line "a bed as soft as a dropped burrito" made me chuckle. In 500 words, I felt the writer shared a complete story but I still wanted to read more and learn more about the characters in the piece.

    My vote this bout goes to Daisy.

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  49. This is the closest round so far for me. I've gone back and forth several times -- I can find reasons for either entry to win, but they also each have some elements that make me hesitate, too.

    OpheliasPansies gives a scene that moves well with clear stakes and drama. The writing flows smoothly enough to pull me into the story. There are some interesting elements with the nano-bots and I'm curious to know what she was doing that led to her frozen state.

    But I also find the scene a little contrived -- clearly it's constructed merely to get the "enemy" Malcam into a close, intimate position with Nyx. I find the hints of high technology incongruent with the need for Malcam to have to revive Nyx with his own body heat. It's also a little inconsistent with exactly how incapacitated Nyx is -- just as her "cold-fogged mind dimmed," the narrative wades into an infodump as she thinks about the nanobots and then she instantly revives enough for her and Malcam to engage in some "gripping," "clutch(ing)," "squeezing," "clench(ing)," and "scratching" as they lay together. It also gets a little overdone for my taste with lines like, "engulfed in his bright blue gaze", and I'm not quite sure what, "wrapped a hand to her forehead" means -- he wrapped the blanket around her forehead? He opened his hand and placed it flat across her forehead?

    Daisy gives an interesting and compelling concept with a scene using the unique POV MC of Jeremiah the pig. There's a touching undercurrent of emotion in the telling, and it resonates deeper as these lab animals are led away one-by-one. There's also a good use of voice that has elements of humor and naivety.

    But there also some inconsistencies in the story that keep it from having a deeper impact. Jeremiah knows what being unemployed is, what an apartment is, what a butler is, and knows about tattoos with skulls and snakes, but also uses phrases like "magic table," "stabbers," and "pinchers" to describe things around him. I also found the use of "arrested" odd -- they're already in cages, so they're already under 'arrest.' The premise makes word choices especially important -- exactly what does Jeremiah know and why? Why would he use slang phrases like "tats" and "hot mess" (which is a phrase that tells the reader nothing -- other than Jeremiah One was warmer than a mess that's at ambient temperature, I guess)?

    I really like Daisy's concept and premise, and I think with some consistency and tightening up of Jeremiah's voice, this could be a fantastic piece. But after a lot of deliberation, I think Ophelia gets my vote. There are some things I didn't quite connect with, but overall, I find it a little tighter and smoother written.

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  50. What a great variety we find this year! Congratulations to both of you for getting this far.

    OpheliasPansies‘s piece had a great start - I was invested in her survival. And I’m really curious about the technology that’s keeping her alive. Unfortunately, the forced shortness of the piece didn’t give us time to see her recover, so we’re left dangling in a slowly thawing world.

    Daisy’s piece was definitely out of the box - at first I was thinking oh fluffy kittens and then I realized our MC was a pig. It’s seems a great setup for something more that it didn’t quite reach in the word limit here.

    My vote is for Daisy for the challenging task they set themselves.

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  51. Ophelia's Pansies: What I found lovely about this piece was the whole "enemy saving my life" situation. The "bright blue gaze" was a bit cliched (I've done it, too, so no judgment), but the last few paragraphs were nice--I appreciated the undertones of attraction in a situation where you know nothing's going to happen. The writing could use a little polish to even out Nyx's point of view (Google: Deep POV) and to smooth what's already there. For example, "Her black jumpsuit was soaked and white parka frost-covered," "the blanket wrapping her was tight, and her limbs cold-numbed," share the exact same "Noun was Adjective, and Noun Adjective" construction. There are a couple other places where the adjective follows the noun. While this is grammatically acceptable, so many instances in so short a space makes me wonder if that construction might be a crutch the writer unconsciously relies on to add eloquence. Work on varying your sentence structure and remember that simple, straightforward lines are as eloquent as more complex sentences.

    Daisy: I'm not really sure what's going on here. It seems like a lab experiment gone bad, but I can't tell if this is a really smart pig or a human turned into a pig. The narrator has a lot of human knowledge (apartments, money, burritos, etc.) but that knowledge isn't consistent (Magic table), so I'm just... confused.

    Congrats to both writers for making it into the ring. Today's vote goes to Ophelia's Pansies.

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  52. I enjoyed both entries. I was quite concerned for Nyx and for Jeremiah. My vote goes to Ophelia’s Pansies.

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  53. Congrats on making it to a bout!
    OpheliasPansies' piece was enjoyable. More heavy on the romance than usually appeals to me, but a nice blend of sci fi and more traditional story elements.
    I'm voting for Daisy because of the POV and the original depiction of cross-species communication! The only thing that didn't ring true for me was "the crispiest bacon in the pan"--seemed outside the narrator's probable knowledge. Loved the ways the narrator tries to communicate with his "brothers" and the researchers.

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  54. Another pair of great entries.

    Ophelia Pansies: Interesting setup that triggers lots of great story questions. Some things had me confused. She's wrapped in a blanket so tight she can't move, but does move her arms and her feet. She curled her toes, but they didn't move. Her hair, her clothes, are wet but also frozen. Starting in the middle of the action is great, but I would have liked a hint about what came before. How did she get so frozen but still wind up on a spaceship? Overall, I felt more removed from events, and didn't get invested in Nyx.

    Daisy: I loved the unusual POV, and I really cared about what was happening to the Jeremiahs. I wondered whether they were getting a treatment that gave them greater intelligence and self-awareness, or whether this was meant to portray the ordinary thinking processes of pigs and something else (drug? disease? treatment?) was killing them. Some of the narrator's thoughts didn't make sense for a pig in a laboratory setting. How does he know about money, burritos, or butlers? Or tattoos of skulls with snakes coming out of their eyes?

    My vote goes to Daisy. I haven't cared so much about a pig since Babe.

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  55. Another tough round. I enjoyed both pieces. I felt the cold to my bone in OP's and my heart strings were pulled in Daisy's. Both deserve the vote. I do have to choose one so I am going with......

    Daisy who made every word count.

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  56. I'm voting for OpheliasPansies for building tension. Daisy's was really well done, but once the premise became clear, the rest of the story felt predictable.

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  57. Daisy: ‘I slept in a bed as soft as a dropped burrito.‘ I got really hung up on this line... actually, I got hung up on the entire first paragraph! I’d start with, ‘Dr. Willis named us all Jeremiah.’

    But oh my! After my initial confusion (might be caffeine related)you took my on a visceral journey! Great imagery and pace. Poor little oinkers. 😭

    OpheliasPansies: wow, what a ride. You get my vote! Loved it. 😍 The panic and the tension, I wanna’ read me some more!

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  58. Both were great entries. I was drawn to
    OpheliasPansies because the mystery and tension made me want more... I hope they move on because I want to hear more of this story.

    The second one was good...but not as compelling... I did enjoy the voice of this one.

    My vote goes to OpheliasPansies.

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  59. This was a great round.
    OpheliasPansies, this entry reminds me very much of the Androma saga. I thought the details in this one were compelling and well done.
    Daisy. I had some problems with some of the lines your main character. The premise is great but the dialouge really pulled me out of the story with lines like "bacon in the pan".

    My vote is for OpheliasPansies

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  60. OpheliasPansies - The piece was engaging, and I found myself interested in the characters and why her enemy would be helping. That said, I wish a sentence had been given to hint at what put the MC in this place to begin with, and wondering that pulled me out of the piece.

    Daisy - I mean, listen--it's not hard to make me cry, but you've managed to make me do it in 500 words, at my work desk, about a pig. So yeah.

    Vote goes to Daisy!!

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  61. Both great entries. My vote for this bout is going to Daisy. I loved the second line about being in the best place no money could buy. The awareness of the last pig standing in this experiment was surprisingly touching, especially with his awareness that no one could understand him.

    Ophelia had lovely descriptions, and I was intrigued by what was going on and why, but I needed more. This felt like a great set-up to a story and not enough story.

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  62. My vote goes to OpheliaPansies. It's tough to make me care about a relationship so quickly, but you did it!

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  63. While #2 was fun and unique, the tension and build up in #1 really pulled me in. I would definitely read more.
    #1 gets my vote

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  64. I enjoyed reading Ophelia’s piece. The nano bot technology was really cool and enemies-turned-lovers is a trope I actually find not only tolerable but hot. However, some of the imagery, especially with the feet/toes, was repetitive.

    Daisy’s piece was original, had terrific voice, and had me DEEP in my feelings. I loved the pace and manner in which things were revealed.

    VOTE: DAISY

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  65. OpheliasPansies -- I feel like I'd like this more if it were from a different point of view. Something about the way it's told bother me, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

    Daisy -- From the piggy POV! Crispiest bacon in the pan? I laughed, I felt bad, I wondered what the experiment was... Excellent work! You have my oink...my oink... my vote. ;)

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  66. (Okay, this is just funny. Because in the previous round, I mentioned my writer friend Brian. One of his character's is named Nyx. Granted, his is a talking pegasus. 😆 It's just funny. Anywhooo.)

    Death and kinda making out with the maybe enemy. Cool. ☃️

    🐷🥓 though... I mean, this really made me stop and read it twice. 😍 This would probably get a book and movie deal. So 💰 here's my money and vote.

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  67. I'm completely biased. I LOVE SFR (science fiction romance), so there's that. :D

    My vote is for OpheliasPansies for completely subjective reasons. I love the back/forth between main characters in romance, so I enjoyed the hint of enemies aspect of this.

    I laughed outright over Daisy, and it made me think of Charlotte's Web (Wilbur!). Yet, ultimately, the other entry fluttered my heart.

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  68. My vote goes to OpheliasPansies. Not only do I love sci-fi but it seems like it’s coupled with some steamy romance.

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  69. Daisy all the way. Awesome, quirky style with perfect amount and timing of humor. The sci-fi story didn’t dazzle me enough to get me into the world.

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  70. My vote goes to OpheliasPansies. Great job raising story questions in this short piece!

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  71. Both are good but I am not a big fan of sci-fi and even less of romance. Therefore I vote Daisy. Unique to have a pig as the main character. Trying so hard to talk and oink is all the people hear.

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  72. Wow. Both very good. Daisy was very interesting but I'm going to have to go with OpheliasPansies. You got a lot of concepts in a small amount of space and I'm intrigued to know more. I think it was the "he was her enemy" yet trying to save her (and with a touch of sensuality). I want to know more about what's up with them.

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  73. Ugh! I wish these two stories were not up against one another as I love them both! OpheliasPansies you have a great hook and your story keeps the reader engaged pulling them through until the end. You have some great tension and I love your attention to detail in the dialogue.

    Daisy- WOW. Who wouldn't be snagged with your opening line? The beginning makes the reader do a double take. At first the reader has nothing but questions but you skillfully deliver the answers in small rapid bits leaving the reader fully satisfied at the end. This is an amazing story that has stuck with me! My vote is for Daisy!

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