Newsletter Signup


WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round 9

Today at noon we will complete selecting winners from our first week of bouts and although the voting has been much stronger than previous years (averaging 97 votes per bout), it has fallen off during this second week and it will take ALL OF OUR concerted efforts to keep people interested in voting. So after you vote today, please take to social media and keep spreading the word. Pretty Please.

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 Wednesday, May 15th (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 Thursday bout, we have The Bulging Ballpoint on one side of the ring representing the Suspense/Domestic Drama genre.

Shiny and new, she's lost her shoe,
Ruby red, the girl is dead.

Grace found the shoe on one of her treasure hunts.

Once a week, she scoured her neighborhood for discarded objects she could recycle into artwork. This morning she’d taken a detour through Whispering Woods, an aspen filled copse. She’d rummaged through undergrowth and freshly shed leaves, with the deftness of someone working in a sorting office.

It was the color that caught her eye. The shoe looked like a floating cherry in a sea of butter-colored leaves. Given its size, she guessed it belonged to a child of about three. Same age as Molly. Picking it up, as if it were the child itself, Grace cradled it.

Caressing the shoe, she’d envisioned the little foot that had lost it, plump still with baby fat. She imagined a defiant toddler, tottering and plodding. Just like Molly.

Five years had passed without her daughter. How she’d survived even one day, was incomprehensible, but she had. Her life had moved on. Different, but on. She’d been cautioned during therapy about the high rate of divorce between couples who’d lost a child, but engulfed in her own hell, she’d neither listened nor cared  -  the words as meaningless as her existence.

Instead of fleeing though, her husband, Sam, had stood fast, cocooning her in unconditional love. Her broken jigsaw of a heart had fused, piece by piece, into a new whole.

His work as a pediatric surgeon, had saved him, he’d said.

Still holding the shoe, Grace considered leaving it, in case the mother returned. Deciding that was unlikely, she’d dropped it gently into her goodie bag, telepathically promising the unknown child’s mother that she’d treasure it by recycling it into art.

An idea for repurposing the shoe flashed through her mind. A signal, Grace thought, from the child’s mother: her sign of approval. She’d hurried home, eager to begin sketching her idea.

Grace’s phone buzzed while she was unlocking the front door.

“Late tonight sweetie. Emergency surgery. x ”

She sighed reading Sam’s text, knowing its implications. Poor Sam. Poor parents. Poor child.

Switching on the TV, Grace emptied her haul onto the kitchen table, ready to begin her cataloging process. Amidst the muted tones of sticks and stones, her prized shoe glowed. A precious ruby amongst nature’s debris.  

BREAKING NEWS: Police are asking for the public’s help in finding three year old Hanna James, who went missing last night near Whispering Woods. Hanna was wearing a blue dress, red coat and red leather shoes…

A girl’s face flooded the screen.

Molly! It’s Molly. But Molly is dead.

The room becomes a kaleidoscope of Mollys  -  Molly bubbling with life; stagnant with death  -  her distorted face spinning and swirling, exhuming sorrow; appointing blame.

Hurtling herself outside for air, Grace sprints to the trash can and throws-up, spraying its contents.

It’s there she sees it. Splattered beneath her vomited breakfast, the toe of a little red shoe.

On the far side of the ring, we have Thirty representing the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.

Any idiot could see they were a questing party. Rolf the Village Drunkard spotted it right off, and an idiot would have a long, hard row to plow to be stupider than Rolf.
“That’s a questing party, that is, sure as I’m standing here,” he said, leaning against the bar. “A ranger, an elf, and a dwarf, traveling together—what else could they be doing?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Rosie said, wiping tankards. “Selling brooms?”
“Don’t be daft,” her fellow barmaid, Kitty, said. “He’s right.” She had stopped dead in the middle of pulling a pint to stare at the newcomers. “That elf maiden is a lovely thing, though, ain’t she? Look at them cheekbones.”
“Aye, might as well,” Rolf agreed, taking the half-full tankard from her. “She’s got no tits to speak of.”
“That’ll do from you,” Rosie said, snatching it from him. As the daughter of the innkeeper, she felt obliged to set a better tone. “And Kit, stop staring. You’d think you’d never seen an elf before.”
“Service!” the dwarf shouted, banging his fist on the table. “Is anyone alive?”
“I’ll go,” Kitty said, grabbing for a tray.
“I think you won’t,” Rosie said, grabbing it out of her reach. “And lace your bodice before you catch a chill.” The other girl made a sour face, but she obeyed. In the absence of the innkeeper and his wife, Rosie was understood to be in charge. “I’ll be back.”
“Service!” the dwarf was repeating, banging harder. “Oh hello,” he said, seeing her. “You’ll do nicely.” Between his bushy eyebrows and a beard that could have blanketed a churchyard full of orphans, his face was nearly covered. But his eyes were brilliant blue and twinkling with mischief.
“What can I get you?” Rosie said, putting on her best smile. The ranger and the elf had withdrawn to the corner near the fire.
“Ah, lass, the mind reels,” the dwarf said. “What have you got?”
“The usual fare,” Rosie said. “Ale, mead, and wine if you’re desperate or need to clean your boots. Bread, cheese, bacon, yesterday’s mutton, hot sausages if I can wake the cook. Fish stew won’t be on until dinner.”
“There’s a mercy, anyhow,” the dwarf muttered.
“My mammy makes that stew, and it’s delicious!” she said, giving him a stern look.
“You’re a fighty one, aren’t you?” he said, laughing. “What if I was to tell you I’m a prince of my people with wealth untold?”
She had been a barmaid in a tavern on the king’s broadest highway for most of her life. She’d heard this tale before. “I’d say your disguise is spot on.”
“And if I was to offer you a sack full of rubies almost as pretty as you are?” he persisted. “Could I buy a kiss?”
“For a sack full of rubies?” Dwarves were known to be miners, after all. “Aye, I’d kiss you for that.” She hadn’t brushed her teeth yet that morning anyway.

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.
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)

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

We’ll be back tomorrow for our last bout of the week. 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!


  1. Wow, could I possibly be the first to comment? Amazing.

    Two terrific entries again. Kudos to you both.

    Bulging Ballpoint: The emotional turmoil of the grieving parent came through in this piece. Focusing it all on the little red shoe was a useful device. A few things confused me, though. I wondered at the end whether the missing girl on the news could have actually been Molly, and had to go back and double-check the timelines to be sure it wasn't. I assume the visions of Molly she had then were reflections of her psychological reaction to the news story, but I don't know where the shoe in the trash came from. The husband, who sounds so saintly, texts to say he'll be home late, which raised flags (is he REALLY in surgery?) that were never resolved here in this short piece. These things, plus a slew of superfluous commas, distracted me from the focus on Grace's grief.

    Thirty: I'm a diehard gamer with many a D&D campaign under my belt, so this piece was right up my alley. I enjoyed the byplay and the dialogue and the unabashed joy in the genre. I would have enjoyed seeing one or two of the classic tropes be twisted somehow, so it's not quite so on the nose. Also, I didn't get the sense of an actual story yet; no story questions to be answered or conflicts set up. It's really difficult to do that in just 500 words, but without that the sense of purpose was missing.

    My vote goes to Thirty, which is at least partly my personal enjoyment of gaming, but also because it gave me the sense of a rollicking story just out of reach.

  2. Both are good and yes, the D&D player in me liked the second one a lot, especially the last line. I think overall the first one was more powerful though.

  3. Oh, man, you've got to stop doing this to me! Choosing between these two amazing entries is going to be almost impossible :(. I absolutely loved both of them!!! Bulging Ballpoint's writing--stark, harrowing, emotionally charged--pulled me in right away. I desperately want to know what happens next! Thirty's entry isn't in a genre I usually read, but this was so much fun--crisp, fluid writing, wonderful voices, and a really intriguing setup. For me this is the toughest choice yet, but in the end my vote goes to Thirty because the passage came together a bit more cohesively for me. With that said, both of these are fantastic--kudos to the authors!

  4. Bulging: Loved this entry. Loved the imagery, the grief of the mother, the suspicion of the husband at the end!(Or could it be her?) I'd definitely read further to find out!

    Thirty: Great! Natural dialogue. Just not enough story to hook me and make me want to read further.

    My vote goes to Bulging on this one.

  5. Congrats to both entries for making it into the bouts!

    Bulging Ballpoint: There's a great story in here--a mother's grief, her efforts to overcome with such a *loving* husband, and the final line of horrific discovery. But the storytelling itself, coupled with other problems, kept me confused and at such a distance that I couldn't settle in and enjoy it as I hoped. Issues: unnecessary commas, incorrect verb tenses that led to confusion of where we were in time, and overload of backstory. Many sentences also begin with participial phrases, so varying sentence structure would help, too, to hold reader interest. I don't mean to be so picky, because your story is fabulous. There are just too many barriers for me, as it's written. With changes and a high polish, you'd have a winner.

    Thirty: Engaging from the first sentence and entertaining throughout. I enjoyed the banter between the characters and quickly got a sense of setting and who's who. Then I came to the end and wondered, Huh. Where's the story? It feels like an intro. But the important point for me is, I want to know more. You've hooked me and I'll turn the page to see what'll happen next because the writing is solid.

    My vote: Thirty

  6. This is the hardest vote for me so far. Both excellent pieces. Bulging Ballpoint — I was a bit confused at first because I thought the protagonist was a child going on a treasure hunt at first, and I was a little confused over the ending. However, after a second read-through, I really loved your story and the emotion throughout as well as the atmosphere you created.

    Thirty — I loved the scene you wrote—it was fun and lighthearted and overall enjoyable. I don’t have much the way in critique, just one piece of advice. After someone speaks you have a tag + beat (he said, laughing). Whenever possible, cut one or the other, it just tightens your writing.

    My vote goes to Thirty by the slimmest of margins.

  7. Bulging: I’m hooked by this piece! You’ve done a great job building backstory, character and scene in these few short paragraphs. There are a few extra commas here, and the tense bounces between past/present. The plot relies on coincidence - Grace just happens to find the shoe in the woods, and does her husband really abduct a child and then leave her shoe right on top of the trash?? I want to know a bit about the idea Grace has for using the shoe.

    Thirty: this is really nice writing. The dialogue is fluid and natural and the scene is very well built. Nice job! However, the piece doesn’t deliver on its premise of a questing party. Nothing happens except bar talk. I want to keep reading, but I also hoped to see some action here. We’ve seen many dwarf and elf stories. What makes this one unique? Appearance-based humor is worn pretty thin, and I hope the women have unique roles later on in the story!

    Though both pieces are well done, I vote for Bulging for making my heart jump and wish there was more story here!

  8. Bulging Ballpoint: The story is interesting and much is revealed in a short passage. Great job with showing the grief and the mystery with limited words. Overall, this has potential, but I can't get over all the extra commas peppered throughout the piece. Some basic editing would help this piece immensely.

    Thirty: I love that the characters shine in this short piece. Not much happens in this scene, so it's not a full story yet, but the humor, description, and flow of the work is good.

    My vote goes to Thirty.

  9. Two well done pieces again. There are certainly talented writers out there! The first story caught my attention early on, showing the grief the woman is going through and how she is apparently breaking out of it and moving on, then the shoe in the trash brings it all back. It needs editing, of course.

    The second one is a great intro to something, but I'm not sure what just yet. Not enough sense of story for me.

    My vote goes to Bulging.

  10. Both these pieces are excellent, almost impossible to chose between them. With an admitted genre bias, I have to go with Thirty.

  11. Congratulations, contestants!

    Bulging Ballpoint
    What works:
    Somehow, in 500 words, you painted a vibrant and heartbreaking picture.

    Some of your imagery is breathtaking "a floating cherry in a sea of butter-colored leaves." Wow!

    I adore that her husband was her rock after Molly's death.

    Even though it's fairly unbelievable that Hanna's second shoe was just thrown in the garbage by either Sam or Grace (in a dissociative state), it was a great twist. Stories don't always have to be believable.

    What doesn't
    I was unsure how long Grace was out. She went to the woods after breakfast, but her husband called her to say he had to work late. It's a small detail, but I did wonder if she went into a fugue state and lost time, or if she just ran a bunch of errands.

    The switch from past to present is jarring.

    What works:
    Great flow to dialogue

    You've conveyed that Rolf, Rosie, and Kitty know each other well and are comfortable together

    I love some of your descriptons: "bushy eyebrows and a beard that could have blanketed a churchyard full of orphans" was my favorite.

    What didn't:
    Though handled deftly, there are a lot of characters to keep up with in such a short piece. I had to re-read in a few areas to make sure I understood who was who.

    Entertaining as it is, nothing really happens. It's a delightful snippet, but it's not a story.

    My vote goes to Bulging Ballpoint today.

  12. Great competition.

    The Bulging Ballpoint’s entry starts a little slow but accelerates quickly. The biggest issue is the sudden switching of tenses at the end. It’s very jarring an pulled me right out of the story. I actually went back and reread the story to make sure what tense it was supposed to be. And because of that, the effect of the reveal is lessened.

    Yes, the commas are a bit excessive, but that going forward a good idea would be to read your piece out loud. That will let you know which commas are necessary and which are superfluous.

    I liked Thirty’s piece of fantasy. The humor was good. There is a good feel for who the characters are. But the whole things just feels a little… derivative. I’ve read this type of introduction to satires and parodies of traditional fantasy works a number of times. There’s nothing that really separates it from other, similar stories.

    It’s close, but Ballpoint gets my vote for this match.

  13. Bulging Ballpark, there is some good writing here. The line about the mother's broken heart "...had fused, piece by piece, into a new whole..." that was excellent. Tense change distracted me. The red shoe in the trash casts suspicions on Grace, for me, and I liked that for the end.

    Thirty- Well done, but not as interesting for me, and I did not like the last line. It was a negative in what had been a positive, entertaining story. Something flirty and fun would have been better.

    My vote goes to Bulging Ballpoint.

  14. I'd vote for either of these before most of the other entries. My vote is for Thirty for such voicey dialogue.

  15. 2 great pieces today. Congrats contestants!
    Bulging-- such a heartbreaking piece. I can see this being evolved into a much larger piece as I have so many questions-- like the shoe in the trash can. Is her husband really the bad guy? If he stood by her after her daughter's disappearance, was he likely the cause? So many dark and dreary paths this could take. There are some grammatical errors and errant commas, but the piece is pretty strong they didn't bother me too much. Right up my ally!

    Thirty- great dialogue, punchy and believable. It's not my general genre, so that may garner my enthusiasm some. The piece is very tight and well done overall. I just didn't feel much of an underlying story there. Perhaps if it was a longer piece I would be able to get into it more. Great job.

    My vote is for Bulging.

  16. My vote today goes for Bulging - because I was able to get into the character's head quickly and for the great twist at the end.

  17. The Bulging Ballpoint opens with sad scene that’s not unfamiliar, but provides enough about Grace to make me keep reading. I’m wondering if Bulging Ballpoint had to cut some words for the competition, because the ending was confusing. Something was missing.

    As I read the piece by Thirty, I thought I was getting a piece of fan fiction and knew where the story was going. However, Rosie developed into an interesting character I wanted to know more about. I want to see what she’s up to.

    My vote goes to Thirty, as Rosie was developed quickly into someone interesting while Grace felt a little flat.

  18. Ballpoint: I don’t the rhyme at the beginning is needed or adds anything. I think the gradual reveal about Grace's daughter sets the tone better.

    Overall great prose and engaging scene. But I’m not sure why the tense changes at the end. And, beyond that, the end confused me as I no longer knew what was real and the shoe in the trash made no sense to me. It wasn’t until I read another comment about the husband’s phone call being suspicious that I began to think the end meant to implicate him in multiple child murders, including their daughter.

    If that is the intent, it’s a shocking good twist. But, I think it needs more set up and a clearer conclusion to work. And one little thing that stood out: I think it should be, “Picking it up, as if it were the child herself, Grace cradled it.”

    Thirty: Also very well written. In fact, I can hardly find any fault with this at all. One tiny nitpick, starting off with Rolf threw me off a little as Rosie seems to be the POV. I loved the phrase “beard that could have blanketed a churchyard of orphans.” The dialogue is crisp and witty. I’m not sure where it’s going, but the proficiency of the prose earns my trust and makes me want to keep reading.

    My vote goes to Thirty today.

  19. The imagery in Ballpoint is spot on and I think has great potential. I think a re-write may be a good option as I had to read a couple of times to understand what was going on. Did I notice present and past tense mixed together?
    Thirty was well written and easy to follow although there were a couple of cliches that can be made original.

    Good job to both. Voting for Thirty

  20. My vote goes to Bulging Ballpoint. I like the shoe metaphor, the mom who transmutes her grief into art, and the horrifying final twist. Thirty's piece was a well-written & freshly-humorous update on the quest genre, but Ballpoint's gripped my heart.

  21. Ballpoint: excellent imagery. The second shoe...where is the loving hubby really?

    Great banter in Thirty, but not much story.

    Vote goes to Ballpoint

  22. My vote goes to Thirty – your story was funny and I was totally drawn into the scene. Not usually a fan of Fantasy but I wanted to keep reading. Good job!

    Bulging Ballpoint – your writing is beautiful. I like how you describe things, like “aspen filled copse” and “broken jigsaw of a heart.” However, the ending confused me – I feel like I’m missing something big with the shoe in the trash can but I have no idea what it is.

  23. My vote is for Thirty, well played dialog. it felt comfortable right away. want to read the book it go to.
    bulging, nice prose there was a tense change that threw me. i did like the twist at the end.

  24. My vote goes to Thirty, who won me over with lines like " Rolf the Village Drunkard spotted it right off, and an idiot would have a long, hard row to plow to be stupider than Rolf." Funny and interesting.
    Ballpoint - it was really good and kept me intrigued but there was a little too much tell and not enough show. It's hard in 500 words and I can see that this piece is part of something bigger. For sure I felt sick right along with the MC, so good job!

  25. Bulging Ballpoint was poignant, but Thirty made me laugh. My vote goes to Thirty.

  26. This is a tough one. The Bulging Ballpoint had me hooked immediately and kept me drawn in all the way until the end when the sudden tense shift threw me off track. I had to read the last few lines a few times before I finally got it, though I'm not still sure I did.

    As for Thirty I found the story humorous, but it didn't really go anywhere for me, though it did create a great visual. But in the end I found my attention drifting more than it did with the first entry.

    My vote goes to The Bulging Ballpoint.

  27. Both entries today were interesting and pulled me into the stories. I think Ballpoint has a good premise with a lot of promise, but the writing was a little clunky for me. It really is a great start, so I hope you'll develop it more.

    My vote goes to Thirty today. I was pulled into the world and would want to read on.

  28. The Bulging Ballpoint - Talk about a plot twist!! I had an aching feeling there was nothing good to come of a missing red shoe. Maybe she'd be better off if their lost child resulted in divorce after all... Main critique would be excessive comma use.

    Thirty - This is a hard round indeed. Thirty's prose was cleaner in terms of punctuation and grammar, but while the story was fun, it didn't suck me in. That said, I would still absolutely read a book about a bar on a questing road.

    All said and done, I'm going to give my vote to The Bulging Ballpoint!

  29. Outstanding, by far you have pitched the two best entries against each other.

    I liked very much the Hobbit-like entry by Thirty. It is well written with clever humour at the end, but really just a conversation in a fantasy bar. Maybee 500 words limits so many characters doing much else. However, this is still a heck of a good piece.

    WOW! Bulging Ballpen, you made me shiver and chilled me to the bone, with your harrowingly brilliant story in just 500 words, so much happens and I was left with goosebumps. Very clever indeed. Any minor errors are totally forgiven as this little story will play over again and again in my mind, the twist surrounding the husband maybe killing both little girls, the mothers wretched grief, everything horrifically possible, told in a skillful blend of emotions, descriptions (EXCEPTIONAL BTW) and action, things said and things suggested... such a treat I am totally blown away.

    Well done to you both.

    MY VOTE clearly goes to the spine chilling entry of BULGING BALLPOINT.

    ps I hope whichever goes through, that the other is saved by the later save vote as honestly these two BOTH far out-write previous entries IMO

  30. The Bulging Ballpoint
    What worked:
    The emotional struggle of the MC is very apparent and relatable. The tone was dark and sad with just the right hint of creepiness lurking in the shadows.
    The story flowed well, pulling me along quickly. I was engrossed in the story and very invested in where it was going UNTIL ...

    What didn't:
    I got lost when the MC turned on the TV. I could no longer differentiate between what was real and what was in the MC's head. If pressed, I would guess that the husband was up to no good, since you left a few breadcrumbs in that direction ("... had saved him, he’d said."), but I am not at all confident in that guess.

    What worked:
    I already like several of the characters of this story very much. You've done a nice job giving them unique voices.
    The overall tone of the story was entertaining and humorous. The dialogue feels natural to me.

    What didn't:
    Nothing much happens. This doesn't bother me much, though, as it's clearly an introductory scene.

    My vote is for Thirty. Although I normally go for horror over fantasy, Thirty's writing has won me over.

  31. The first one - I'm not even a parent and yet I felt the pain.

  32. We had two great entries today. Ballpoint had a great premise, but like several others said, the writing had some grammatical/polish issues that got in the way of me really sinking into the story.

    Thirty's entry was really fun and it took me back to the epic fantasy that I read as a kid. Those were the stories that really got me hooked on reading. But Thirty's entry wasn't really a story, nothing really happened and I have no real clue what I am in.

    It was a really close call but today my vote goes to Thirty, because it was so fun and was really nostalgic for me.

  33. My vote goes to Bulging today. Both pieces were excellent... I had difficulty choosing.

  34. Bulging Ballpoint: At first read, I didn't quite get this piece because perhaps there was too much information crammed into 500 words. After a second read, I was enlightened and thought it's such a subtle and powerful piece. One of my favourite lines in the piece was "The shoe looked like a floating cherry in a sea of butter-colored leaves".

    Thirty: This was a funny piece with lots of information conveyed through interesting dialogue. However, I kept waiting for it to develop further but it didn't. The last line was hilarious :)

    My vote this bout goes to Bulging Ballpoint.

  35. And two more brave contestants have struggled through to the ring so congratulations to them.
    The Bulging Ballpoint representing the Suspense/Domestic Drama genre.
    Riveting and almost creepy, this tale unfolded by drips - and threw up questions. But questions that can be developed into a full investigation. My immediate criticism was the change in tenses from past to present. Or is that intentional? Will a re-read tell me why? A flash forward?

    Thirty representing the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.
    Opening pulled me up with the repeated words and yet made me read on. Maybe this is a fantasy skit, I thought as I downed my mead. Stock tropsing party in a bar. Get ready for a twist. Rubies for a kiss? What did I miss? Maybe I don't read enough fantasy or play too much.

    The Bulging Ballpoint wins by a ruby red shoe or two.

  36. Bulging Ballpoint: You've done a great job depicting some of the intricacies of grief, what it can do, and how people cope. I especially loved, "The room becomes a kaleidoscope of Mollys - Molly bubbling with life; stagnant with death - her distorted face spinning and swirling, exhuming sorrow; appointing blame."

    That said, the first half of your entry feels a little distant, as if Grace is removed from her grief (which could work if Grace is in denial or has reached the point where she thinks she's through it without realizing that grief can surprise a person) and the reader is removed from Grace (which is more problematic). I'd love to be more immersed in Grace as a character.

    Plotwise, the shoe in the trashcan threw me a bit. I don't think Grace is responsible, but if the husband abducted Hanna, why would he throw her shoe in his own trashcan? It would be too coincidental for a random person to have discarded it there.

    On a technical note, watch your verb tense (switched halfway through) and your use of commas. (His work as a pediatric surgeon, had saved him, he’d said.)

    Thirty: This was rollicking 500 words. I immediately felt immersed in the scene and enjoyed listening to the various characters. Not much happens, but I'd stick around to read more. My one suggestion is to revise

    “Service!” the dwarf was repeating


    “Service!” the dwarf repeated

    Good job to both writers. Today's vote goes to Thirty.

  37. The Bulging Ballpoint -- The wording of the ending threw me off a bit. I think "sprinted, threw-up, saw" would work better for you. Which contents were sprayed- the trash can's or her stomach's? Other than that, you did excellent work setting the stage for a mystery-suspense.

    Thirty -- Ohh, you've entered my favorite genre. Of course it starts in a tavern! I don't think this type of fantasy story can exist without at least one tavern scene. And you've made it funny. I vote for the beard of the dwarf! Which, in this case, means you.

  38. Beautiful excerpts, both. I felt the emotion of the protagonist and loved the nostalgic detail. For me, some of the rich description was at the expense of the plot (I do this often!). I wasn't quite clear what to make of the news report and the shoe in the trashcan. Was Grace hallucinating? Having a flashback? Was she responsible for Hanna and blacked it out? I'm intrigued but need a little bit more clarity to hook me.

    Thirty's plot is still developing as well, but it's so character driven that I'm already sucked in. I love the authentic voice, quick pace, and fun character dynamic, and the subtle description did a good job to orient me in this fantasy world. I wanted to read on, so my vote goes to Thirty for this one.

  39. Wow -- another round where I'm torn between two entries, and either one could have taken some of the earlier bouts hands down.

    I like Bulging Ballpoint's creepy tale. There are multiple strong emotional connections in the story, and BB does an excellent job of building a complex character in only 500 words. Grace has depth. and I like the hints of ambiguity in how she is presented -- her imagination is clearly very active, her emotions are fragile, and I wonder how reliable her impressions are. But at the same time -- there are plenty of red flags raised about her loving husband, too. Very nicely done.

    To make some suggestions, I'd say the opening verse is clever and creepy, but it also gives too much away -- the reader knows about the red shoe and a dead girl before the MC even does, so it lessens the impact of finding out with her. There is also kind of a clunky lapse in tense from past to present: "the room becomes...". "Grace sprints". And "throws up" as a verb is not hyphenated. but in past tense it would be "threw up" anyway. Plus. for one more nit to pick here - the use of "its contents" is a little vague. Do you mean the contents of the can get sprayed with vomit, or that the contents of Grace's stomach get sprayed around the can? Strict application of the antecedent of "its" point towards the former, but some are going to read it as meaning the latter.

    But overall, this is a very solid entry that I enjoyed reading.

    Thirty gives an very smooth telling of a familiar fantasy scene. There are six characters referenced in the scene, but Thirty does a very good job of keeping everything clear, and I have a good sense of who everyone is and how they relate to the story. The dialogue is peppy and fun and moves the story forward. Technically, the writing is effective and glitch-free -- I have little to quibble with here.

    But in terms of story, there's little happening other than introducing some characters, and unfortunately there's little originality in the characters either -- at least in what's presented in this scene. We even appear to be starting the story about a quest in a tavern -- it's always a tavern, isn't it? We just need to add a wizard and the "unlikely-hero-who-knows-nothing-of-his-true-birth-but-will-fulfill-his-destiny-by-defeating-the-rising-evil" and the quest will be fully underway.

    But again. while it's familiar, it's done very well, and I enjoyed this entry too,

    I find both entries to be worthy of the win, but since this is WRITE Club, and not STORY Club, I have to go with Thirty -- while I think there's more depth to BB's story, Thirty's writing is a little cleaner.

  40. Ya'll I've been trying to vote all day. I don't have a critique today just because beyond some slight grammar issues there aren't any glaring issues to me. BB was more action and Thirty was more dialouge. Thirty you made me smile and reminded me of my times in Tamriel. BB you made my gut actually wrench while I was reading. By a thin margin, I am going BB. I hope the other gets saved in the redemption week.

  41. Hallucination from grief? I can imagine it. 😔

    But I've been a gamer girl for two decades. So I could really see this story. Or wanted to see it more? Either way, I'm voting for the fantasy. 🧝‍♀️🍻⚒🏹🔱⚄

  42. Will have to go with Thirty today.

  43. BB's story grabbed me and held me. When I got to the end, I was left wanting more.

    30's piece seemed...flat and generic. I'm not a gamer, so maybe I missed something, but there was nothing to draw me into the story.

    My vote goes to Bulging Ballpoint.

  44. Tough call as usual. My vote goes to Bulging--I was instantly grabbed by the beginning couplet, and the writing was very evocative with a great twist at the end. Does need some editing to clean up those extra commas, though.

    I really enjoyed how Thirty's twisted the DnD story by showing the party of questers from the NPC-type characters at the tavern. However, didn't really feel there was any proper end to the piece.

  45. My vote is for Bulging. Intriguing story. Beautiful writing. Really want to know about that red shoe in the trash can. The second story was fun with cool characters, but the story didn't go anywhere.

  46. Bulging Ballpoint - This story was intriguing, and the ending was solid. I've been griping for two weeks that our authors are underusing figurative language, and I was pleased to see some. That being said, some of it didn't work for me. -- with the deftness of someone working in a sorting office -- This to describe the actions of an artist. That seemed way too clinical and off-point. And as to said art, I would prefer the word sculpture, or whatever type of art it is that your protagonist makes. Specificity is key, using the perfect verbs and nouns. Writing from the perspective of an artist, that person would know exactly what to call her art. Also, I felt some words were wasted. -- How she’d survived even one day, was incomprehensible, but she had. Her life had moved on. Different, but on. -- Way too comma heavy and clunky. Could use some trimming. Also some misuse of the semicolon at the end, which always sticks out to me. Trust in periods and commas and sprinkle the semicolon like an expensive seasoning, or if you're unsure how to use it, not at all. Also, the Whispering Wood was way too Game of Thronesy for me. Nitpicking, I know, but GOT is so oversaturated in the public eye right now, I'd avoid any reference or allusion like the plague. -- Her broken jigsaw of a heart had fused, piece by piece, into a new whole. -- This line made for a great depiction of Sam without us ever having to meet him, and a great way to mislead the reader.
    Thirty - I thought the writing was snappy and good, giving us a good idea of the writer. The setup feels fun and playful, three blanks walk into a bar. That gives you a challenge, though, to set us up for something we've never seen before or end with a great punchline. I know it's a challenge in 500 words, but it felt like it was all windup with no punchline. Some good description could easily be spiced up with some editing, and it would have provided more words to play with. Here's an example. -- Between his bushy eyebrows and a beard that could have blanketed a churchyard full of orphans, his face was nearly covered. But his eyes were brilliant blue and twinkling with mischief. -- You've got a pair of great visuals, but if you combine them, you could come up with something far stronger.
    Between bushy eyebrows and a beard big enough to blanket a churchyard full of orphans were eyes a brilliant blue, twinkling with mischief. A savings of 8 words, a few commas, a sentence, and NEARLY, an adverb that adds nothing to any verb. Also, you should trust your readers more. Don't fluff up your speech tags too much. In the same paragraph -- “Service!” the dwarf was repeating, banging harder. “Oh hello,” he said, seeing her. “You’ll do nicely.” --
    You insert two speech tags when one would do. And why not, the dwarf repeated, not the dwarf was repeating? Sounds picky, but these things matter. Stick with verbs that do the work, not depending on to be verbs like was. Overall, the writing was tight and neat, but you could shore it up by trimming some fat, and that would let you get more story in.
    Overall, both writers show promise, but my vote has to go to the Bulging Ballpoint on the strength of a good ending.

  47. Thirty tugs at my D&D heartstrings and love for LOTR. I raise a mug of ale and vote for thee.

  48. The Bulging Ballpoint--The writing could be tighter in the beginning so I get a better description of why the girl looks like Molly.

    Thirty--The scene was a bit funny, but could use more descriptions to better immerse the reader.

    Toughest call so far. My vote goes to the Bulging Ballpoint.

  49. Both are incredible! It's a difficult choice for sure. I would pick the first one. It definitely caught my attention and left me wanting more immediately, though I would definitely read more of the second as well!

  50. Difficult choice today, but I'm going to go with Thirty. I enjoyed the dialog and the humor. The descriptions were appropriately spare as we've all seen LOTR and you left it to the characters to make the commentary. I hoped for a bit more of an ending - her willingness to kiss the dwarf in contrast to her comments on Kitty's behavior. But overall, it really worked.

    Bulging did a great job, but ultimately, I was confused more than tense. I get why she connects her own child to the missing one, but why is the shoe in the trash? If she or her husband were involved, I would have liked a hint to the sinister secret or something regarding why her own child died in a suspicious way that now sheds some mystery to the other shoe.

    Great job to both!

  51. The Bulging Ballpoint had a good emotional pull with this piece, though it felt a bit disjointed at times. I'd like to have seen more of a flow with the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed reading it, though, and I could feel myself holding my breath, waiting to see where it would go, and how it would unfold.

    Thirty didn't have much of an actual story here. I feel like it was 500 words of set-up for a scene without actually telling us much about the characters or why we should care about them. While it's good to know your characters, when you only have 500 words, I need emotion more than characters themselves.

    For this reason, The Bulging Ballpoint has my vote.

  52. my vote goes for The Bulging Ballpoint because out of the two entries, I would want it to be a longer piece so I could find out what happens.

  53. Both entries are very well done. This was a difficult choice for me. I really enjoyed Thirty’s dialogue and scene setting. I am voting for Bulging Ballpoint because it felt more complete and had a devastating twist at the end.

  54. A hard choice today! My vote goes to The Bulging Ballpoint. I think it's a great start, raises lots of questions, and has a killer hook at the end. I did enjoy the beginning of Thirty's story, but the shifting POV left me confused as to who is the main character.

  55. The Bulging Ballpoint told a powerful tale that gripped me all the way through. Thirty's piece was fun and spoke to the geek in me. In the end, my vote goes to The Bulging Ballpoint.

  56. I liked both of these stories so it was hard to choose. Thirty did a great job of plopping us in the story however I felt the first bit was nothing more than finding a way to describe other characters. Also if an idiot could tell it was a questing party yet the reader had to be told it was...kinda calling the reader less than an idiot since we obviously didn't know. On the good, I laughed at the interaction with the bar maid and dwarf. I think the characters shine (after the first bit).

    Bulging Ballpoint did great with imagery however I didn't get why she'd pick up the shoe and leave with it. She gave the impression she felt for the mother which means she thinks the child was lost or taken. Annnnnndddd you just pick up evidence and walk away. Then the news comes on and shows the girl as missing and you are surprised? I didn't get that. You obviously thought something happened to the shoe-wearer while in the woods. Regardless of that I felt the writing itself was better.

    My vote goes for Bulging Ballpoint.

  57. Ball point gets my vote. That poor mother. Thirty was good but sci-fi is not my genre of choice.

  58. Bulging Ballpoint gets my vote! Well done.

  59. Congratulations to both for making it into the top 30!

    Bulging Ballpoint’s piece had great imagery that allowed me to see as the MC was seeing. The twist ending had me more confused than curious - wondering what it was that I had missed.

    Thirty’s piece feels like the fun intro to a great fantasy romp. A lot of setup thrown into such a short section, but it gives you a good idea of some of the players.

    My vote goes to Thirty’s piece for the lighthearted start to something bigger.

  60. Congrats to both of you on making it to a bout! Impressive.

    Very close match, and definitely part of each that spoke to me.

    Going with Bulging Ballpoint because of the unexpected plot twist. And though I would describe it as unexpected, when I read through again, the clues were nicely interwoven. Well played.

    With Thirty, I liked the last line and the description of the dwarf. I found the dialogue well rendered. Just had to go with Bulging Ballpoint today.

  61. Bulging Ballpoint gets my vote. I would certainly keep reading if offered.

  62. Oh wow. Bulging Ballpoint for sure. Read it twice. Dark and twisted in the best way.

  63. Good reads from very different genres!

    My vote goes to Thirty. It starts in a place familiar to many fantasy lovers, but has the potential to go in so many directions. Is Rolf a protagonist? Are the questers actually villains? What sort of quest could bring these three together? If questing is a standard profession how does it interact with the laws, customs, and needs of the world? I like how it introduces the world and characters, but doesn't seem set in stone on a set path.

    For Bulging Ballpoint, the scenes were well constructed and the word choice set the mood very well. It was a great read and I did enjoy the surprise that Molly is also the missing girl. It ties in with the emotional buildup you've done very well. However, it also allows me to extrapolate into the plot. This isn't a bad thing, I would still read it, but it does take away from the uncertainty of the plot very early on. It makes the previous mention of emotions, healing, and survival were a house of cards that was very suddenly blown over. Again it's not a bad thing, but it does set the character on a path where most, if not all, of it is undone.

  64. Ballpoint: You've got a hooky premise, and some of your phrases are just swoon-worthy. "...a floating cherry in a sea of butter-colored leaves," "a defiant toddler, tottering and plodding. Just like Molly." "Her broken jigsaw of a heart had fused, piece by piece," "Poor Sam. Poor parents. Poor child." Lovely wordsmithing. But the unnecessary tense shifts, loaded backstory, and numerous comma errors pulled me out of what might be a very gripping tale. I'm not sure what you're hinting at with Molly's face on the news and the second shoe randomly appearing in the trash. The ending just confused me. But your character and premise DO have me wondering where you're taking your readers next.

    Thirty: Three fantasy tropes walk into a bar. This is a very clean entry, voicey, nice balance of exposition and dialogue, deftly described, but it could be the beginning of any high-fantasy tale, straight or parody. There's a fine line between staying true to genre expectations and falling into cliches, and I'm afraid this scene is too perfectly spot-on to reveal your uniqueness. I hoped for something surprising or unexpected and it didn't happen, and nary a glimmer of plot, conflict, or story goal. It's a great snapshot, and had you spent some of your word count on forward momentum instead of bar-banter, you'd have a hand's-down winner. Keep working this, please!

    Today's very conflicted vote to Ballpoint.

  65. My vote is for Bulging Ballpoint, thank you both for sharing!

  66. My vote goes to Bulging Ballpoint for that chilling beginning. It reads like the start of a murder mystery, or crime drama. Very intriguing and horrifying as well! "Loving" husband aka serial killer. Yikes! Pulled me right in.

    Thirty's story was a lot of fun, but I felt a little lost among all the characters. It's exactly what I like to read though so I want more, it just didn't tell me quite enough here. So please keep writing! Loved the humor and obvious friendships at play.

  67. Bulging Ballpoint gets my vote.
    While I'm more likely to read Thirty's story type, I didn't know enough about the characters or conflict to get very invested in this short of a story.
    Whereas Bulging Ballpoint gave me tingles and a lot of questions to be left with.

  68. Ooh, the first one is intriguing! Not sure where the story's going, yet, but voting for Thirty!

  69. I liked both of these. The Bulging Ballpoint, I thought this was great, however, the flip to present tense at the end really threw me out of it. Thirty, I liked yours as well. That last line made me laugh.

    My vote is going to go to Bulging Ballpoint, purely because I found it more intriguing. Great job to both writers.

  70. Thirty: The bar scene made me wonder who the ranger, the elf, and the dwarf were. I was rather interested in the questing party and how they would tie into the serving wench and whatnot. However, I didn't get a sense of urgency from it. I would have liked a bit more excitement in the piece. Also, it felt like a part of a longer piece. Even so, I would love to know if we're in a game or what.

    Bulging: I had a sense of dread through the whole piece. The single shoe that the main character knew where it was. The husband is a surgeon, a pediatric surgeon, and has to work late on the day that the girl has gone missing. When she finds a second shoe in the trashcan, I wanted to know what happened. The suspicion is pretty strong. I loved the choppy way we got snippets of the back story. I want to know what happens, but in a horrified way... That doesn't tickle my fancy today.

    As a reader, though, I would probably be more interested in escaping into Thirty's piece, so Thirty gets my vote.

  71. I'm not usually one who goes for Domestic Dramas, especially not when I'm having to pick between that and fantasy, but I'm going to have to go with The Bulging Ballpoint this time.

    Thirty created a great scene, but between the two, Ballpoint has me more curious about what's going on.

    Great job getting this far! Best of luck on future bouts!

  72. Both of these were great Thirty had great fantasy call backs for me and made me laugh.

    Bulging was however more emotionally gripping and has my vote.

    1. This vote will not be counted as it is anonymous.

  73. Ballpoint gets my vote!
    Great start to this story, well-written, just enough of a tease to keep you bound and wanting more. Great job!




Blog Blitz

Design by: The Blog Decorator