WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Preliminary Bout #12


Although the voting in the bouts this year has been anemic, I'm still confident we can (or should) do better.  Please help me by using your social media outlets to raise awareness of our contest. Our writers deserve our best efforts!

Recap
WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by 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 25th (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 print. Let's do this!


Our first contestant in the ring is CaroleBaskinKilledHerHusband representing the YA Dark Fantasy genre.



Myths aren’t make-believe. They’re riddles wrapped so normal people can’t see them. I wasn’t allowed to be normal. I wanted to be.

 

Thanks, Dad.

 

He told me and Addie stories about a fountain of healing. Myth labeled it the Fountain of Youth. Dad insisted it didn’t turn back time; it stopped time.

 

Once I found the fountain, I could stop cancer eating Addie’s insides. One problem, I didn’t know where it was. No one did. That’s why I stood in front of Waverly’s Pawn Emporium.

 

Three-inch steel bars covered its four bullet-proof windows. Two spasmodic blinking streetlights flanked the building. They never entirely turned off, but never fully turned on either.

 

The city condemned the building ten years ago. Three years later, the city simply stopped caring. The two-story structure acted as a gateway to a forgotten part of town, the Unmentionable, that’s what people called the city’s guts beyond the Emporium.

 

Waverly’s purveyors dealt not only in myth but also in borrowed goods. Without question. I hoped to sell enough morally gray acquired items to cover her medical bills.

 

Sewage smelling mist reached ankle height in front of the Emporium. It crept higher the deeper one traveled into the Unmentionable until only flickering silhouettes and disembodied sounds taunted a person.

 

“That door doesn’t open,” a female voice advised from the shadows.

 

Her footsteps faded deeper into the void, inviting me to follow. I heard girls made good money in the darkness, but, then they stopped being girls.

 

I wrapped my hand around the Emporium’s wrought iron door handle and leaned into the door, but it didn’t budge.

 

Her scream bounced off the walls of the Unmentionable. Not the good kind. They would recruit her replacement soon. Metal scraped along the cobblestone alleyway. I couldn’t get enough oxygen through my nose, so I mouth-breathed. Fast. Ragged. On the verge of hyperventilating.

 

I waved to the security camera. “Got quality stuff,” I huffed.

 

“Twenty steps for the answer you seek.” A jagged voice, more rust than human. A mythical man, older than this town and conjured by guilt, who wielded a blade of ancient metal complete with a handle forged from human femurs. He had traded half his humanity for longevity — a splintered soul. “We can help you and her. Sweet innocence should never suffer.”

 

 

His help would cost my soul., and Addie’s.

 

“I don’t need your help!” I said.

 

“Tsk. Tsk. Lies sour the sweetness.” 

 

I pounded on the door. “Mr. Waverly, open the door!”

 

The mythical man tapped rhythmically on the road. “Start with one step.”

 

Tap.

 

“Leave or else!”

 

“Or else what?” he asked.

 

Tap.

 

“I have a gun.”

 

I didn’t.

 

Tap.

 

“I called the police.”

 

I didn’t.

 

Tap.

 

“Come. I beg,” he said. “They send me so many lambs, but never a wolf.”

 

 Tap. Tap.

 

A loud buzz and the door’s latch clicked open. Waverly’s admitted me. I rushed across the threshold and slammed the door closed.

 

“I won’t sell my soul,” I sighed. “Not yet.”

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


On the other side of the ring, we have Battlestar Bear who is representing the Adult Fantasy genre.



Chapter 1

 Crack! 

 

The wooden staff landed across the warrior’s back with sickening force. It knocked the wind out of her as she fell, sprawled out on the ground. Her fingers curled in the dirt as she prayed.

 

“Goddess take me. I won’t fight you this time.”

            \

Her face was streaked with dirt and blood, and though she appeared youthful, her skin was crossed with fine, silvery scars barely visible in the evening light. A dark-brown tattoo swirled an intricate pattern on her left temple, one fine line curling just under her eye.

 

Three men circled her, weapons in hand. The big, burly one twirled his staff as he laughed to himself.

 

“The notorious, immortal Amarynn,” he sneered. “You don’t look so deadly to me.”

 

Amarynn pressed her forehead into the dirt and let loose a half-hearted chuckle. “I never do.”

 

The little one with the broadsword leaned in close to her and whispered, “You’re nothing but a girl!”

 

She couldn’t see the third man, but she could feel him behind her. He was the dark one with a pair of daggers and she was counting on him to hit his mark. She lay still and resisted the urge to defend herself. He stood over her for a moment, then grunted and brought his daggers down forcefully. She inhaled deeply as the blades penetrated her sides, carrying with them the thick poison paste she spread over her skin earlier. The mage had been specific about the concoction––she could not inflict it upon herself. While she hated to go down like this, it wouldn’t matter soon. The warrior smiled as she felt the blinding pain and the spreading fire of nightshade in her blood. She silently thanked Nyra, the Goddess of Night for hearing her plea.

 

Her limbs weakened as the nightshade paste crept through her body, creeping up to lick at her heart. But then she felt the familiar chill of immortal magic take hold and fight back the poisonous assault.

 

“No, no, no,” she banged her forehead against the ground. Muscle and flesh began to repair itself delivering searing pain and numbing cold. It wasn’t working! It had taken three long months of searching to acquire the nightshade and she had done everything the witch of a mage had told her. It should have worked. She should be dying.

 

As her strength flooded back, anger and frustration exploded. Her eyes began to glaze over with the familiar rage of battle. She flipped over onto her back. In the space of a breath, she had whipped out her throwing knives and placed them squarely in the chests of two of her assailants. Only the big lout with the staff remained standing. She deftly jumped to her feet, drawing her sword.

 

“Do I look deadly now?” she growled with a sneer as her sword met his belly in one, swift movement. His eyes widened and he said nothing as he fell to the ground.

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


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.

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

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



56 comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Whoo-hoo! Congratulations, writers!

    CaroleBKHH: I had to read this twice to understand what was going on, but I'm still left with questions and am not quite sure I grasp everything the way I should.

    If you're going to mention that she's not "normal", you need to show us how she's abnormal. Is it just because she sells stolen goods? Selling stolen stuff is pretty normal in some places, as it seems it would be in this city. Is it because she shares some sort of non-human trait with with father? Why sarcastically thank him, otherwise?

    Since this is a YA story, I assume the narrator is around 16 or 17. In order to set the scene, you have your narrator describing things she either wouldn't know or wouldn't care about, like how many years ago the store closed (she would have been 6 or 7) and how many years after that the city stopped caring about what goes on there.

    You could cut the scene with the prostitute because it doesn't add much. I love the idea of her kind of beckoning from the darkness, but the narrator is so ambivalent about her death that there's really no point in having her die. The prostitute's screams don't frighten the girl or make her want to run or even question whether she wanted to be in front of the Emporium to begin with, so it just felt like a gratuitous death.

    Without direction or dialogue tags, the dialogue is hard to keep track of. She's waving at the camera and then a voice directs her to walk twenty steps. At first I thought it was Mr. Waverly talking through an intercom and I couldn't understand why she would refuse his offer when she came to his shop to begin with. On my second read, I understood it was some sort of mythical creature who was trying to lure her away from the door and into the shadows.

    Small note: It should be "sweet innocents should never suffer" not "innocence."

    I adore a lot of your descriptions. You did a wonderful job of painting a gritty and dangerous city.


    Battlestar Bear: I love the concept of an immortal warrior being sick of living.

    "Crack" isn't a sound I'd associate with a staff hitting a back, unless you specify that the staff breaks in half.

    I'm not sure describing all three of her attackers and what their weapons are is necessary. Since she's lying on her stomach, describing them was disorienting and slowed the story down. Instead, I would have loved sensory descriptions. The smell of her blood mixed with earth, the sound of shuffling boots on gravel. Lying on her stomach, she'd rely on senses other than sight, which would help the reader envision the scene.

    For some reason, I loved the line "you're nothing but a girl." Small note, though: the guy whispers it but the comment ends in an exclamation point. A period would be much more sinister.

    Watch instances of passive-voice. "Muscle and flesh began to repair itself delivering searing pain and numbing cold" can be reworked. Something like "Numbing cold throbbed through searing pain as her muscle and flesh repaired itself."

    "she growled with a sneer" pulled me right out of the scene as I tried to imaging picture her growling and sneering at the same time. Maybe pick one or the other, but both is too much.

    Both of these stories have interesting concepts and I'd definitely continue reading each of them. My vote today goes to Battlestar Bear because the scene was easier to follow.

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  4. CaroleBaskin: So many excellent lines in your story, but too many times I was just confused about what was happening. The descriptions are beautiful, putting me in the scene, filling my senses. Yet I never felt totally grounded. What was myth? Or real? How was the narrator not "normal?" What kept the narrator out of the Emporium, then why was she(he?) finally admitted? It's probably just me not picking up on what I should have, but so much felt too enigmatic and not solid enough to grasp and comprehend, ultimately flinging me out of the story.

    Battlestar Bear: You had me from the first word. What kept this piece from devolving into a worn Wonder Woman trope was your opening of a great warrior wanting to die, praying for it. That she doesn't and is angry makes me want to dive deep into her backstory. How did she get to this point? What's happened for her to desire death over the powers she possesses? The premise is profound. Your execution, fabulous. I want to read more. Now.

    My Vote: Battlestar Bear

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  5. CaroleBaskinKilledHerHusband - I like the short sentences and paragraphs. It makes for a quicker read and makes the writing look tighter. There's still a lot of waste in this piece, though. Stuff like -- I heard girls made good money in the darkness, but, then they stopped being girls. -- and -- Not the good kind. They would recruit her replacement soon. -- That don't add anything and cost you momentum and words that could bolster your main story. And the exclamation points! To date, there are more exclamation points than similes or metaphors in Write Club. Biggest problem with the story is the ending. You've put your character in a position where it's time to make a moral choice, or a sacrifice, and you do neither.

    Battlestar Bear - Starting with a fight scene can be risky, but you get into it fast. The fact that the protagonist is trying to find her death is interesting, and it not working is good. Also, no figurative language in this piece, and another sprinkling of exclamation points. It's more direct and accomplishes its intended goal, though.

    Vote is for Battlestar Bear.

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  6. Wow! Both are such very powerful stories. One sister willing to do almost anything for her sister. The other desperate to die (but why?)

    My vote... Um. I VOTE CAROLEBASKIN.

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  7. For me, the YA Dark Fantasy is tighter, and the imagery is great! My vote is for CaroleBaskinKilledHerHusband!

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  8. Congratulations on both making it through. It's another tough battle and I'd be happy to continue either story.

    With the slightest of margins, I VOTE CAROLEBASKIN for the imagery, but a hat tip to Battlestar for a cool. Both names will be on the short list for a Save.

    email: retrowallst@gmail.com

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  9. I'm going to go with CaroleBaskinKilledHerHusband. Just a better story and better written. Their was a little more substance to follow. Its just the better of two storys.

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  10. Congratulations, authors!
    Carole's piece had a nice feel, and I liked some of the ideas. The fantastical atmosphere felt vivid enough, but I had a problem with the overall consistency of the voice. I couldn't figure out the age of the main character. At the beginning, it felt younger, but some the comment "I heard girls made good money in the darkness, but, then they stopped being girls" didn't seem like something a teenager would say.
    Also, I got lost in some parts. I think the POV was not clear. Sometimes it sounded like an omniscient narrator, and then like a 3rd person POV. I believe the material shows great potential but needs to be worked on.

    Battlestar Bear, I really liked your writing. It was strong and engaging. I was curious to know why she did want to get killed and would've loved some hint about this.

    My vote goes to Battlestar.

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  11. well done getting into the last week.
    Both pieces are confusing for me, in places. Both are strong in places. My own opinion is I prefer the layout of these pieces, looks more professional, only a few other entries in the competition formatted well.
    I vote for CaroleBaskin as I liked the last lines better.

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  12. I vote for CAROLEBASKIN... I appreciate the suspense...the give/take of what the human spirit can/wont sacrifice. BATTLESTAR BEAR is very well written, but if asked which story I must read the next page, its CAROLEBASKIN

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  13. Nice pieces, both. Carol Baskin,

    Amazing line:
    I heard girls made good money in the darkness, but, then they stopped being girls.

    Would have liked to have seen a followup thought for the narrator after it as it relates to her plight to get money. Need some exposition because I first thought the intercom was beckoning her 20 steps.

    Bear,

    Would like to see more sadness in her thoughts rather than anger that her plan didn't work. Tired of killing people, yet here she goes again.

    I give the nod to Baskin.

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  14. I love/vote for carolebaskinkilledherhusband!
    Anxious to read the whole tale. xo

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  15. Carole—Great atmosphere in your piece! I would’ve loved to see more about what happened when you MC got in instead of before they got in, but that’s just personal preference.

    Battlestar—I love the thought of an immortal who’s desperately trying to die and gets pissed when it doesn’t work so she takes everyone out. I really want to know more about her.

    My vote: Battlestar Bear

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    1. Got inside, not in instead. Thanks autocorrect.

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  16. Congratulations writers on making it through, you are both winners for that.

    This is a hard round to vote on as neither are genre's I would choose to read. There seemed to be way too much spacing between the paragraphs/ dialogue in CBKHH entry, so much so that it caused me to loose track of what I was reading, and made the storyline more challenging to keep up with. There are some good descriptive sentences, but due to the large gaps in the text, especially in the dialogue, where there are only a couple of words on a line and I had to scroll to get through it all, I did not feel engaged in the story at all.

    Bear's story again seemed to have a lot of space between paragraphs but because the paragraphs were longer it didn't seem as jarring as the first entry. I didn't get quite as lost in Bear's story, and I feel their writing is tighter. The overall premise is more unique, at least I think so. Your opening sentence could be strengthened though, especially as it looks as though this is the start of a novel. "Crack" as an opening does not feel very strong at all and would not grab me as a reader if I opened this up as a book to consider reading. That may sound harsh, but first sentences are so important, so I would suggest working on that to engage readers from the very first word.

    Really difficult to pick who to vote forward, as neither eclipses the other (both have strengths and weaknesses), but as I understood the second story more, and didn't get quite so lost, my vote this round is for Battlestar Bear.

    Good luck to you both.

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    1. I don't think that point about the first sentence is at all harsh, and it's really great feedback! Personally, I don't think that caught me as strongly as it did you, but I just wanted to say +10 for some really excellent insight. That's wonderful item for any writer to focus on. Thanks for sharing it!

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  17. Battlestar gets my vote on this round. I liked the premise -- a female immortal warrior, tired of living, intentionally seeking her own end, but prevented from causing her own death ... although, could it be that by assiduously seeking out the mage and concocting/applying the poison to herself, her gods interpret her actions as self-inflicted death? I don't know the answer, but I'd read more to find out. I've seen in earlier comments some good suggestions for tightening this entry even more, but overall I thought it was well-written.

    CaroleBaskin's entry improved on the second read, actually, but it suffers from what I believe is unintentional misdirection, which makes it hard to follow. Also, if it wasn't labeled YA, I'm not sure I'd have assumed that from the characterization of the narrator, who seemed overly mature/cynical for what I have to believe is a teen? Instead of giving the narrator agency over the choice, at the end it comes down to luck and timing, it seems. The imagery, mood and setting is well-done, and that makes me want the author to hone this one, perhaps incorporating some of the suggestions I've seen in these comments.

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  18. CBKHH: The story was confusing, and I did not like the format. The beginning was good, but then it morphed into a completely different story; it lacked continuity.

    Battlestar Bear: I enjoyed the story. Original, interesting, and the action is well written.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear.

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  19. My vote goes to CBKHH. I loved the ending line and would have kept reading if there was more.

    BB: I have a severe annoyance with beginning with onomatopoeia. Just, don't do it unless your writing for MG.

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  20. My vote goes to Battlestar Bear today. Really like the idea of an immortal trying to die and overall the piece flowed better than the other one today. CBKHH, I found the amount of space between lines distracting and it made the story hard to follow. The lack of dialogue tags, compounded this and I was ready to give up on even trying to figure out what was happening before I made it to the end.

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  21. My vote: Battlestar Bear

    Battlestar Bear's piece felt cohesive and I wanted to keep reading.

    I wasn't feeling CarolBaskinKHH's piece, but I'm digging the pen name. That "you know what" totally killed her husband.

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  22. Carole Baskin Killed Her Husband: I don't know if it was the paragraph breaks or the writing, but the flow of the piece felt choppy in a very distracting way. There are some beautiful, eerie descriptions ("Two spasmodic blinking streetlights flanked the building. They never entirely turned off, but never fully turned on either."), but there were other places where you didn't quite hit the target ("I hoped to sell enough morally gray acquired items to cover her medical bills" might have been better as "...items acquired through morally gray means..." and naming Addie since she was last named several paragraphs prior). Also "Sewage smelling mist" made me wonder if the mist was smelling sewage, even though I know you meant to convey "Sewage scented mist...") I also noted a run-on sentence ("The two-story structure acted as a gateway to a forgotten part of town, the Unmentionable, that’s what people called the city’s guts beyond the Emporium.") and some fragments that were more distracting than enhancing. (I'm not anti-fragment as a rule, but they have to be used well.) And then there was the double punctuation of "... my soul., and Addie’s...." This is a tough one. I like this piece and believe it has a LOT of potential, but it's not as polished as it could be and as it needs to be to win WRITECLUB. If you make it through this round, I suggest keeping an eye on clarity and proofreading multiple times before submitting your next piece.

    Battlestar Bear: The POV feels a little off to me. In the beginning, it's like we're looking down on "the warrior," but later we're allowed into her thoughts. I'd like a little more consistency... or a smoother transition from outside her head to inside, if that makes sense. On the whole, the piece is clean and easy to follow, and the idea of an immortal warrior trying to die intrigues me.

    Battlestar Bear has my vote, but I'm hoping Carole Baskin can come back in a save round.

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  23. My vote goes to CarolBaskin, simply more my style, I wanted MORE! Both well done, good luck in future battles!!

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  24. My vote goes to CarolBaskin. There was so much about this that baffled me, but face with a choice between this and BattlestarBear's torture porn, Carol won. Plus, if Battlestar's hero had knives, why didn't she use them at the beginning?

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  25. Wow, lots of new names here today! Hope everyone can stick around for the rest of this fun contest 🤔

    Carole: is MC’s (what’s his/her name?) goal here to stop Addie’s cancer, or pay medical bills? How do they know the man wants their soul, and why come here if they won’t give it up? Why insist “I don’t need your help” when they obviously came here for help? The fountain of youth, which the piece purports to be about, is forgotten. I’d expect someone to do more than sigh when they decide not to sell their soul. Such a mild reaction makes the impact fall flat. Nothing happens within this scene, except MC trying to get through a door. I think there’s a good story coming, and I’d probably enjoy the longer piece, but I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to care about here.

    Battlestar: I’ve fortunately never been stabbed in the side, but shouldn’t Amarynn’s reaction be a touch more visceral than lying there praying? Why is this fearsome warrior’s goal basically... suicide? The piece looks rather short. If it is, it would benefit from using up the 500 words to explain what the heck is going on and why the character wants to die. There isn’t enough here to create empathy. I’m curious, but not engaged.

    I vote for Battlestar.

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  26. My vote is for Battlestar Bear!

    For CaroleBaskin there is a lot of good worldbuilding and knowing a character is fighting both that ugliness and the uphill battle against cancer definitely got me to empathize with the character, but there seems to be missing scene transitions, I got grim city layout in my head but couldn't effectively visualize where the character was or if they were above ground or below ground. Part of this was the sewage mention, is there an open manhole cover or some sort of disrepair that is causing the smell directly? I also agree with that the lack of dialogue tags makes it hard to follow sometimes. Also if the building was condemned how would someone effectively own or operate it without raising suspicion? I also agree the death of the prostitute doesn't add anything to the story.

    For Battlestar the scene is believable and the motive on wanting to die is at once tragic and engaging. I like the description of the character she has clearly lived an eventful life. The whole description of the nightshade paste is also great. The hook of this read for me is how the immortality works, why she can't suicide, and why poison out of all the other ways would work? On the other side I saw some of the setup for the coming scene of I am powerful and will kick your ass, especially when her legend and blase attitude of being so close to death. Additionally "witch of a mage" struck me as confusing, witches and mages are both practitioners feels like a stronger insult belongs here.

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  27. My vote is for Battlestar Bear!
    This was a wonderful piece and I enjoyed it so much! I really don't have anything to add. I just loved it.

    Carol... - The brokenness of this piece would not allow me to be drawn in. I never really figured out what was going on. There was some good imagery in places but it just all seemed disconnected for me.

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  28. Great entries today! Wow!

    It's a close race because both pieces pulled me right into the world.

    CarolBaskin left me with too many questions (typical Carol).

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear because I want to keep reading!

    Tara.roquemore@gmail.com

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  29. My vote: CaroleBaskinKilledHerHusband

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  30. I'm voting for Battlestar Bear.

    Carol, after three reads, I still don't know what is going on with the piece.
    Battlestar, I just really enjoyed it and can see myself reading on.

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  31. This one goes to Battlestar Bear. I just had trouble understanding what was happening in CBKHH's piece

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  32. Carole: This has a lot of promise! It definitely reads to me in that distinctive YA voice that a lot of books in the age category have, but it felt fresh. I confess that many of your metaphors, though beautiful, when examined closely don't really seem to communicate anything, so there's a nice flow in places but not much substance.

    I was also a little confused about the bit with the woman who is first presented as a prostitute, but then screams, making it seem like something different is happening? I think we just needed a line about why she's screaming. Alternatively, cutting that whole part or not making it a "twist" that she's not a prostitute would be fine (and arguably less exploitative).

    I liked the Night Market vibe this had, though it felt like a lot was happening very very fast. If this was written to be 500 words, I think it would be better served as an expanded story.

    Battlestar Bear: One of the better-written pieces in the contest so far, though it didn't stand out to me as particularly creative or different from most high and epic fantasy adventure fare. The poison element was fun (as someone who's worked on poisons). If this is a larger piece, which I get the impression it it is, I almost feel like it might be equally at home as a YA (or it could be a crossover novel).

    Both were solid in completely different ways, but at the same time I wasn't a huge fan of either.

    Vote: Carole. The writing was smoother in Bear's piece, and more professional, but I feel like it could have been any fantasy from the last twenty years.

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  33. My vote is for Battlestar Bear, because of the twist in the middle.

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  34. It's a shame these two had to meet in the first round. Both stronger than some of the previous stories. I enjoyed both but found myself pulled into Carol's story more. One suggestion to Carol. Lose the last line. It's implied and and the reader knows it without spelling it out for them.

    Vote: Carol

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  35. Congratulations to both writers for giving us a couple of intriguing pieces today.

    CaroleBaskin...: I read this entry through twice and still couldn't understand exactly what was happening. Did the narrator expect to find the fountain of healing in the pawn shop? If so, why? If not, how did the one lead to the other? In what way is she not normal, and why does she blame her father for this? Given the cost of medical care for serious illnesses, how could a young teen have enough "morally gray" items to pawn to cover any meaningful fraction of the expenses? This made me assume she was actually going there for some magical items, but that doesn't seem to be correct. The atmosphere and descriptions are wonderfully evocative, but there's not enough substance here for me.

    Battlestar Bear: This one also confused me, but not quite as much. Was Amarynn fighting with the men at the start of the fragment, or did they take her by surprise? Why does sne not want to fight? She apparently is trying to die, but there's no clue here about why, especially since she thinks that she hated to go down like this. These questions are not real problems, though, since it's easy enough to understand this scene as it is, and to hope that the bigger questions will be answered in the rest of the story. Now I want to read the rest of the story!

    I'm voting for Battlestar Bear, because it was less confusing.

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  36. Vote: Battlestar Bear

    Carole's story was disjointed and difficult to follow. The wording and sentence structure is awkward. "Without question" and "Not the good kind" are not even complete sentences. There are other examples of incomplete sentences, but I'll stop there. This sort of writing style makes my brain hiccup.

    It could be the word count restriction, but Bear's story felt a bit rushed. However, I thought it was well written and engaging. I found myself wanting to know what happens next. I like that the thoughts of the character reveal the scenario without overt narrative explaining things directly.

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  37. I liked the premise of both pieces and I'd read on, but my vote is for Battleship Bear.

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  38. I'm voting for Battlestar Bear

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  39. While both are good, I am more compelled to read the piece by CaroleBaskin

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  40. Both pieces need work and were a little on the confusing side (then again, I am not the audience for Fantasy pieces), but I enjoyed the second piece more than the first, so Battlestar Bear gets my vote.



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  41. Both of these had strong elements. CBKHH, the description of the otherworld was vivid and I liked the stakes you established early on with the sister's illness. Had you taken us into a scene with the fountain itself, or something that illustrated what made the protagonist abnormal, it would have made for a stronger piece. Ultimately, I was having a hard time tying the great opening lines to the action that was unfolding. I thought she wanted to find the fountain, but now she's selling goods to pay medical bills. Some of those loose threads might need to be pulled together. (I did love the staccato pace of the tapping at the end! That created some great anticipation.)

    Battlestar, the voice here felt spot-on for commercial fantasy. I like how you dropped small hints about Amarynn's character through the action, like her having to resist the urge to fight back and her inclination to chuckle when the men patronized her. I got a good sense of who she was and what we could expect from her moving forward. While this *type* of scene and characterization feels fairly familiar for this genre, Amarynna's desire to end her life was a unique twist.

    Voting Battlestar Bear for this one!

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  42. CaroleBaskinKilledHerHusband (I swear I'm the only person who hasn't watched Tiger King) -- I liked this piece. Probably because it's similar to another story I like, which is what put you over the top in my mind and gets you my vote.

    Battlestar Bear -- I like this too.

    I'll probably end up voting for one of you in save week.

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  43. ⚔⭐🐻 has my vote.
    These were both good. But "Do I look deadly now?" was such a great line.

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  44. Great storytelling by both authors, and I'd love to read more from each of them, but based on this sample my vote goes to Battlestar Bear.

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  45. Congratulations to both writers for entering the ring!

    CBKHH: Loved that first line - what a wonderful expression. Even liked Dad’s description of the Fountain of Youth. Didn’t quite get the connection to the rest of the story - there’s definitely more here, and I have confidence you’ll bring them together, but maybe for 500 words the hint was too much.

    Battlestar Bear: Intriguing concept - why doesn’t she want to be immortal anymore? Why do her enemies constantly underestimate her? Nice pacing for the reveals with showing instead of telling.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear.

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  46. Congratulations to you both! Ok, I had to work really hard and read the first piece CaroleBaskinKilledHerHusband two or three times. It’s smart and descriptive, for instance, these great lines: two spasmodic blinking street lights flanked the building. They never entirely turned off, but never fully turned on either. These lines and others were great writing. I just felt confused though and I got lost a lot and it pulled me out of the story. I had to work too hard.

    Battlestar Bear has my vote. It was fun to read and not confusing. I liked the strong female character as well.

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  47. Congratulations to you both!


    I was drawn into Carole’s story by the MC’s concern for her sister, but I trouble following the action and needed more grounding in the world. I couldn’t always tell what the MC was doing or where disembodied voices were coming from. The MC carried something to sell but you never told us what. I kept waiting for the Fountain of Youth thread to continue and had to reread to understand what was going on. Some nice writing and unexpected, vivid imagery, like: “A jagged voice, more rust than human.” The story creates an atmospheric, eerie setting, but I wasn’t sure what was at stake for the MC. What was she risking by going to the emporium?

    I like the twists and turns in Bear’s story. From life to death to immortality. Just when you think you know what happening, there’s a new twist. The story pulled me in deeper and deeper as it went on and made me want to know what would happen next. Great descriptions and characterization.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear.

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  48. Aw, a fantastical match-up (eh, eeeeeh?).

    CBKHH
    Like the strong first line. Good attention grab. But for me, the second line just doesn't work. Myths are myths because people know about them (so how can people not see them?). And what, exactly, is the riddle of them? That they really happened and people just can't understand how? A riddle IS puzzling in and of itself, so if regular people can't even SEE the riddle, how are they to be puzzled by the truth of them? I feel like this is a line that's trying too hard. Maybe, "Their truths are wrapped in riddles few can guess at."

    So I'm really hoping this protagonist ends up being a guy. The reason is because that intro hints that the narrator may have special abilities (what with the myth reference). If this is the case, I'm personally sick to tears of the trope of female characters shunning their powers so they "fit in." EFF THAT! When I was younger, if you told me I could get superpowers, I'D FREAKING LOVE THAT! I wouldn't for a moment think, "Oh, no! Now I can't fit in like a REGULAR girl!" Boo. You never see stories where guys get powers and they're all, "Now I can't fit in! I mustn't use these powers," yet for females, that happens constantly. But maybe I'm misinterpreting that entirely and the narrator just means their family couldn't be normal because of the father's obsession with the Fountain of Youth. That may work, depending. But I do think too many stories place too much emphasis on young female character arcs being obsessed with fitting in and having to realize they don't need to. It's just sad to me because girls should have more breadth and variety of arcs.

    Very intriguing take on the fountain stopping time! Although, if this is the ultimate goal and Addie already has cancer, isn't that kind of horrifying to freeze her perpetually in a body that isn't fully healthy?

    "I could stop [the] cancer eating Addie’s insides."

    Love the setting of the pawn shop! They are always fascinating backdrops because of the stories inherent in their wares.

    I'd caution you to eliminate some of the "numbers" in your descriptions; e.g. "Three-inch steel bars covered its four bullet-proof windows." This is followed by 2 lights. And shortly afterward 10 years and 3 years, then two-stories. It takes a moment of concentration for readers to visualize numbers. Here, having them back-to-back, robs focus from the actual important part: What this place looks like. I'd ax the "four" in front of the windows, for sure.

    "Two spasmodic blinking streetlights flanked the building. They never entirely turned off, but never fully turned on either." Fantastic description! Good mood setter.

    "...part of town, the Unmentionable, that’s..." Break with a full period after "town."

    "... but also in borrowed goods." Put quotations around "borrowed" instead of italicizing it. I thought we really were discussing borrowed goods and it took me a moment to realized it meant stolen. Quotations makes it more apparent that "borrowed" doesn't really mean borrowed.

    I was also confused by the players and space. I thought the female voice was over an intercom.

    It'd be refreshing, if for once prostitution weren't used as a cheap gimmick to show how depraved a setting is. It's easy and tired (and the pawn shop creepier the more isolated it is). If you're going to do it, what about having a male prostitute? That would be a bit unexpected (and it's not like male prostitution does not and has not existed in the world. Just look at the Greek pederast system).

    I'd cut a lot of the intro to this story and open on the pawn shop and the mythical man. He seems very interesting! Though not really threatening as he is now. He's just tapping. His dialog also comes off as overwritten. But the dangerous idea behind him sparks intrigue.

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  49. Battlestar Bear
    Love the opening right on action! And I'm a sucker for female warriors. I am a bit confused as to whether or not she's praying out loud.If she isn't maybe put that line in italics without quotes to make it clear this is internal.

    "...she appeared youthful..." How youthful? I really want to know the answer to this because it impacts how I interpret the broadsword guy's "girl" remark. If she literally does look like a child (like 14 or younger), then his remark puts the immortal and wanting to die context in a really interesting light! And I take his remark at face value. If she's not, and she looks more like early twenties, then his remark just comes off as sexist.

    I've come to realize there are 2 approaches to battling -isms in fiction. 1) You can make obviously -ist characters who are villains and have your character(s) overcome them. This is the most traveled ground. Or 2) You can just genuinely BE progressive. A film that I think expresses this less used, but (in my opinion both more meaningful and more powerful) option is the original Night of the Living Dead. For the time it came out, having a black hero was pretty uncommon. And notice, not one single person in the film points out to him that he is black. There are undertones of racism, and the whole "people eating people" plot can be taken as a metaphor of racism, but those characters never call him racist words or say, "You can't be here because you're black." Just having a story that depicts the reality you think there should be makes a greater impact than having characters reflect the current reality. That can often just normalize the unfortunate behavior, rather than challenge society.

    Curious to know the significance of her facial tattoo. Also, are these common in this world? The assailants make no mention of it, so I'm left unsure if this is really special or not.

    “The notorious, immortal Amarynn,” he sneered.
    Dig the name Amarynn! Sounds original. However, the dialog here feels very scripted. If these guys have come to get her and genuinely aren't impressed, I'd expect this to be more of a question, like, "This is the notorious immortal? This is Amarynn?"

    "He was the dark one..." Pet peeve, but I HATE the description of "dark." I have never had a clue what it means. Is he black? Does he hail from India? Or does he just seem menacing? I've seen writers use he was "dark" to mean white, but bad news with black hair. And I've seen "dark" as a euphemism for genuinely darker skin. So as a reader, it's just kind of frustrating throw-away description to me. Does he have a different skin tone from the other 2, or is he just the most deadly/sinister?

    "...crept through her body, creeping up to lick at her heart." Repetitive use of "crept" and "creeping." What about "surging" up to lick at her heart? Also, LOVE the "lick at her heart" bit. Very evocative and fresh.

    “No, no, no,” she banged her forehead against the ground.
    Does she literally do/say this? Shouldn't the dude around her react to this? I'd be weirded out to see this response after just hitting and stabbing her.

    "It wasn’t working!" This line adds nothing and the paragraph flow is stronger without it.

    There's so much description of her coming back to life (which is engaging! But long) that it feels like the assailants just sort of sit there and patiently wait for her to get back up and murder them. As she's lying there, we need some hint of them thinking they've won, or being distracted by something, or making some move to keep the momentum of the action seen up.

    Giving my vote to Battlestar Bear this round! I, too, am intrigued to know why she wants to die. CBKHH has an interesting setting, and seems like there may be good ideas there, but right now, the scene is a bit too scattered.

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  50. Neither genre is my "Go To' read so it's been fun going in without expectations. Two FMC's desperate for something.

    BattlestarBear - I love a good fight scene, and I think someone earlier mentioned this, the stop action to describe the "bad guys" pulled me out of the scene. Those details fit better before this section, maybe as she's accessing their usability to get herself killed. But I love the twist that she wants to die and is pissedoff when her plan fails.

    CaroleBaskin - For a teen seeking a cure for which she may need to sell her soul, I think the level of maturity and insight shown is fitting. The prostitute scene actually worked for me showing how abnormal this world is, in that the MC wasn't shocked. That kind of thing just happens here. If this is part of a book, give the reader more help with dialogue or action tags.

    This is a tough call. My vote goes to CBKHH for the last line. "Not yet." hooked me.

    Good luck!

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  51. My vote goes to Carole Baskin KHH.

    Bit short of time now to write much of a critique, but:

    CBKHH: your line spacing made it almost impossible for me to read, so much so I had to copy it off and condense it. It flowed much more easily then. I liked the slight bizarreness of the narrative and trying to save a sibling's life without resorting to selling your soul is a solid premise, but there are some questions, eg stopping time isn't actually healing; how does an emporium lead to a section of city?

    Battlestar: I like the premise - immortal warrior tries to die, but warrior fantasy isn't something I read.

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