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WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Playoff Bout #2

Reminder - Cage Bouts 5 & 6 are still taking your votes. Please make your next stop the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard if you've not voted yet.

Before we get to the next Playoff Bout, I want to take a minute to address an issue that I've become aware of - suspicious voting. Whenever a bout experiences a noticeable increase in voting activity, usually involving voters who only participate in that one bout and leave no critique, I get concerned. The rules and spirit of this contest is clear - THIS IS NOT A POPULARITY CONTEST! Encouraging family, friends, writing group members, or anyone else to vote for a particular contestant – or nudge them towards a specific bout – is wrong and if it can be proven, the offending contestant will be disqualified.  After all, a victory gained by those tactics is a hollow one!  Yes, you can let everyone know about the contest and ask them to help support our contestants/writers – but encourage them to visit ALL the bouts, not a specific one. It disappoints me that I have to bring this up once again.

Let's move on. It's time to see how our next two playoff contestants match up with ALL NEW MATERIAL.

There will be three bouts this week (Mon-Wed-Fri) and everyone should pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline is being used again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs because in addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that had garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.

We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Monday, June 15th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with yet another NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but 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.

Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material -  Wanda Lust

 James suddenly coughed, spat out the donut and dropped lifelessly to the floor.

“James!” I cried. “What have I done?”

 No, this couldn’t be happening. I grabbed James’s shoulders and shook him, but nothing happened. I slapped him and felt for a pulse, nothing. I tried mouth to mouth, but it didn’t work. I turned to Harris in desperation and screamed, “Please, help me!” But he was frozen in his tracks, either unable, or unwilling to help.

Only one thing could be done. I pulled my wand from my garter, circled it in the air and called, “Help me, Aunt Agatha—I need a fix!”

Aggie was the fixer in the family. A moment later, a witch appeared with a satisfactory poof. “What’s up, dearie?”

I was in tears. “It’s James,” I said, pointing. “My love spell backfired and I killed him.”

Aggie knelt to feel James’s forehead. “Nay, he’s bewitched. What have you done, lass?”

“A love potion,” I said, motioning toward Harris, “Split between the men.”

Aggie glanced at Harris. “He’s just gobsmacked, but this one’s a worry.” She picked up James’s hand to read it and sighed. “There’s more’n one spell here. Old magic, a family charm and a love potion badly cast. Evil!” Aggie said, dropping James’s hand and dusting hers off. “Hattie’s had a hand in this.”

“Harriet Jamison!” I gasped, thinking of the coincidence. Shunned by the other witches, if Hattie was involved, this was bad. “But why would she bother?”

“If there’s enough gold, she’ll do anyone’s bidding. Naught break her spells, but I can spool yours backwards to fix it. Stand back, child, and give me room,” Aggie said, raising her wand.

The room faded and James stood. Bits of donut flew about, until Aggie caught them with her wand and recast it anew. The knife James used to split the donut, flicked a speck of jelly onto it, and clattered back into the drawer. 

I watched myself un-make the coffee, un-takeoff my coat and un-meet Harris. I backed down the hall, into the ladies room and dropped the donuts onto the counter. While I un-touched up my makeup, Aggie swept the donuts off the counter, into the trash.

“It’s tricky to spool, lass. Take it too far and you’ll get deviations. Too little, a mess,” Aggie said. Then poof, she was gone.

I walked back to the office and found Harris. “Can I help you?”

He seemed puzzled. “Have we met? You look familiar.”

“We’ve never met,” I said, with a stirring of panic.

He grinned. “It’s time we did then. How about dinner tonight?”

Harris’s overfriendliness worried me. Was something wrong? Then Mary Clark confirmed my fears by bursting into the room. “What a coincidence,” she said. “I was thinking of donuts and found these in the ladies—”

Mary froze when she saw Harris. Her tongue darted out to lick a speck of jelly off her lips. Then she stammered, “Uh … room.”

I grabbed the donuts and ran.

Our second playoff contestant is Miss_Sunflower

Keyne’s heartbeat thundered in his ears. He followed a steward through corridors and down staircases, until they reached a room far below the arena. The steward opened the door and the stale air within made him itch to whistle up a breeze. He swallowed hard and went inside, throwing himself into the hammock in the corner. Swinging got the air moving a bit. His awareness was still heightened from the exam and he felt the winds begin to gather for the next caller above. He was staring at the ceiling when the water singer walked in. 

“Wait here please,” the steward escorting her started to push the door closed. The singer jumped to stop him, her dark wet braid flinging droplets of water in an arch. 

“What happened,” she asked. “Before?” The steward paused, his face carefully blank. “Please? Tell me.”

“There was a waterspout in the Academy courtyard. From your clouds.” The door clicked shut. 

Keyne’s sense of the rising storm above cut off. “So that’s what Sounding means.” 

The singer whirled to face him. “Pardon?” Her dark eyes locked on his. It took all of his practice to control his own breathing. 

“Lyranch called these the Sounding rooms. They block the flows.” He couldn’t hold back a grin. “That was amazing up there. I’ve never matched a singer so well.” He sat up, grounding his feet, stopping the hammock. “You added harmonics to the classic. How?”

She avoided the question, sitting on the stool before a dusty looking glass. “What was your name again?” There was a careful manner in the way she spoke, as if the magic still thrummed for her too.  

“Keyne.” He fidgeted, pulling at his rain-damp tunic where it clung. “And yours?”

“Zaraina. I’ve never seen you before.”  She absent-mindedly hummed a few notes. The rainwater that had soaked their uniforms gathered into a silver stream in the air and flowed into a pitcher on the counter. 

Keyne’s eyes widened. He ran a hand through his now dry hair. She hadn’t even blinked. “You wouldn’t have,” he said, patting his trousers. Not a hint of damp remained. He shook his head in wonder.

“Suppose not,” she bit her lip. “Do you think we called the waterspout?” Her expression was guarded.

“I know we did. I felt it. How did you harmonize with me and yourself at the same time?” He wished he could bring the hammock closer to her. The curl of hair he’d tugged from behind her ear with a breeze in the arena now coiled against her copper cheek. 

“When I don’t hold myself to the page,” Zaraina said, “My voice layers into the music. Sometimes.” 

“I’ve not had that happen with other water singers, the page-bound fools.” 

She snorted. “I’ve trapped us both here for another season. No ship’s captain is gonna want a wild pair in their Storm Chorale.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Master Lyranch rumbled unexpectedly from the now open doorway. “I’ve matched you with one. Mine.”


Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detraction's.

We’ll be back on Friday with our final playoff 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!


  1. I love how you both continued your stories. Thank you!

    Wanda Lust - Nice twist, James already under a spell. The use of magic in this scene is at it should be, not quite predictable. You grab us (reader) by the hand and lead us neatly through and more deeply into the magical quagmire. Delicious. I want more!

    Miss_Sunflower - This next segment is missing the lyricism from the first installment, but I think it's a good call. I can only take so much beautiful language, like eating too many helpings of a sweet dessert, then I want to sink into the meat of the story. Nicely done. One part tripped me up and I had to re-read several times before I got it. The distance between "... I've never seen you before." and "You wouldn't have." had me wondering what he meant. I was too focused on how she called the water and dried the two of them. His response stopped me, made me go, Huh? Until I finally figured it out. Otherwise, I enjoyed the story and want to know where this journey will take them.

    Such a tough decision, but because this segment so thoroughly pulled me in ...

    My Vote: Wanda Lust

  2. Wanda Lust - Yay! So glad you continued. I still want to read more.
    Miss_Sunflower - I'm glad you continued, too, but some of the descriptions tripped me up.
    My vote goes to Wanda Lust.

  3. While I enjoyed the continuation of both stories, I would’ve liked to see something new from the writers. As I read each piece, I tried to look at it as a new story, as though I hadn’t seen the previous entries, and I’m not sure how well either stands on its own in that light. That being said, I’m going to vote for who I think the stronger writer is in this round.

    My vote: Miss Sunflower

  4. Wanda: Aggie’s dialect is a little much. The ending confuses me. Did Mary find doughnuts in... the restroom? Ew! The MC is very passive, letting others do all her work. So many similar names are very heavy-handed, even when the characters acknowledge all the “coincidences.” I like that there’s a little more going on now than the MC’s desperation to get a man.

    Sunflower: in the last piece, Zaraina was panicked. Now Keyne is excited. In a brand-new installment of the piece, I still have very little idea what’s happening or why it matters. What does any of this actually mean? What are the goals and stakes? These seem like pieces of a manuscript that you haven’t reworked to stand alone effectively.

    I’m more interested in Sunflower’s concept, so they get my vote today.

  5. My Vote: Wanda Lust

    I was both excited and disappointed to see that the authors continued the stories. It is hard to judge b/c at this point it was story idea vs. writing. While the second piece is written a little tighter, I just preferred the story of the spell gone wrong and the donuts. The other piece just doesn't grab me the way Wanda's piece does.

    Wanda, watch those !, there were so many I developed a twitch. Let the character's actions infer the yelling, otherwise, it might come off as simple, lazy writing.

  6. Interesting that both writers chose to continue their stories for this round. I kind of wish they hadn't, because while I enjoyed seeing where the stories went, it would have been nice to see something new from them both.

    Sunflower, after the beauty and lyricism of your first piece, this feels a little mundane and flat, so my vote is for Wanda Lust because I just enjoyed the story more.

  7. Aha! The plot thickens for both of these stories.

    Wanda Lust -- I enjoyed this continuation of your story better than part one, to be honest, but I still can't get into this novice witch premise. If I had a recommendation, it would be to focus on the dialogue and deepen the characterizations through that means.

    Miss Sunflower -- Your writing is really good, and this piece takes the reader quickly into the culture you've created, and I like the two main characters. I know I probably held the first piece in mind as I was reading this, but even so, I am enjoying this and would like to read more.

    My vote is for Miss Sunflower for the quality of the writing and the imaginative premise.

  8. I've loved both of these writers since their first bouts. How to choose? Miss_Sunflower's impressive world and lyrical writing or Wanda Lust's sprightly magical romance? Don't hate me, Sunflower, but my vote this time goes to Wanda Lust, mainly because it's a story I'd like to read more of.

  9. Wanda Lust: The piece is well-written, but the more I considered it and the closer I read, there were a few things that bothered me. First of all, I wasn't sure if "gobsmacked" meant Harris's silence and inaction were a result of normal, everyday shock or if he was under a spell, so I didn't know if Harris was aware of what was going on or if he was blissfully unaware of the magic happening in front of his face. I also felt like bringing in the older witch to fix the problem let the protagonist off the hook too easily, and your ending made this scene, at heart, a repeat of your previous entry. Both can be boiled down to a misdirected love spell. I was eager to see what came after your last entry, but with this entry, I'm left feeling a little cheated.

    Miss Sunflower: There are aspects of the world building that aren't thoroughly fleshed out, but I don't expect them to be fully fleshed out in 500 word samples, and there's enough that I can piece together your culture and magic system and feel sufficiently grounded. Your characters are distinct, well-rounded, and most importantly, likable. I would definitely keep reading, and I'd hope for a dual POV so I could get inside both their heads.

    Miss Sunflower has my vote.

  10. My vote is for Miss Sunflower.

    Wanda Lust - The story is still strong, but the writing in this section seems rushed and squeezed to fit everything into the 500 word limit. The very first sentence put me off - "dropped lifelessly" - the adverb doesn't need to be there and it would make a stronger statement with just "dropped to the floor." The introduction of Aggie weakened the main character, the reader doesn't get to see her struggle to solve the challenge because it's taken out of her hands. I missed the rest room in the first part of the story - when I realized she'd taken the doughnuts into the bathroom it grossed me out so much I had trouble finishing the piece. The description of the spooling was a nice touch, it brought the spell to life with some good visuals (except for the ladies room bit). There's a great story here - my advice would be to start a little slower and spread it out. Introduce Aggie in the beginning, leave a little mystery as to why James is unconscious, a puzzle that the main character will need to solve later. Don't give all the answers right off the bat, make the reader want to turn the page to find out what happens next.

    Miss Sunflower - Wonderful dialogue in this piece, great way to get in an explanation without a lot of exposition. I like the point of view shift, too and I'm glad you didn't shift back to Zaraina within this short piece. The description of Zaraina humming and drawing the water out of their clothes was a neat piece of writing. You gave the reader a hint of her power through the other character's reaction. You left us with a hook, to make the reader turn the page and see where the next chapter leads. Great job! Good luck with the contest, no matter what happens please finish this story, you've got a great concept here.

  11. Wanda Lust -- Continuing from where you left off was risky, because it doesn't show range in your writing abilities. That said, this was a good entry, with lots of fun energy. The exclamation points are unnecessary. The JH HJ names are good with the two men, but the adversary witch being named Harriet Jamison was a little much. Also, word count limits cramped your ability to describe the witch and the reverse-action scenes. The biggest speedbump for me was Mary getting the donuts out of the trash. Yuck!

    Miss Sunflower -- Writing is strong and easy to follow. The strength of the original entry was the combination of fantasy and music, and that's gone from this second installment. Having to back up to explain what happened cost a lot of words. Also, the heavy use of speech tags and action in dialog ate up the rest of your 500.

    In the comments, everyone tells you they want to see what happens next, and sometimes that's better left to the imagination. Personal preference, but I would have liked to see original ideas from both writers.
    Vote is for Wanda Lust

  12. Wanda Lust.. I had hoped for something different, but your continuation was interesting. a little confused with all the same names, but that was the point.

    Miss Sunflower.. the story didn't flow as well as the first. lost some of the magic.

    I vote for Wanda Lust

  13. Ooh! How fun that both of you chose to pick up where you left off.

    Wanda Lust
    Okay, you already know this setup isn't for me. That being said, I LOVE the twist of Mary unintentionally dosing herself at the end. This steers the work more toward Comedy of Errors, which is super fun! The intent and focus of one person forcing a love potion upon another person for their own goals and that consuming the novel is very uncomfortable for me. However, if this turns into just magical mayhem everywhere, then it shifts the story from "these two MUST be together!" to "shenanigans! Everything is absurd," which I can get behind. It dilutes the obsessive self-interest and can introduce the new goal of "Uhhh... I just want to fix everything and prevent this ship from sinking as more an more holes appear!" That's a way more innocent motivation. So I personally am really stoked if that's the route this novel takes (just one magical induced calamity after another).

    I, too, was really disgusted by the donuts in the bathroom. WHO DOES THAT? Who brings food into a bathroom??? That's just sick-wrong! ;)

    I'm not keen on Harris just conveniently being stunned in the corner. It reduces the purpose of even having him there and is a missed opportunity for Jane to interact with him (and possibly overreact to him). If Harris freaks out, then Jane intentionally stuns him and realizes she's just made everything even worse, that amps up the humor and flows into the story. So you get Harris removed from witnessing Agatha's power without it just being, "Well, how nice that this donut just happened to stun him so we don't have to worry about him seeing this. Even though the effect of the donut on James was totally different."

    Watch repetitiveness in paragraph three. There's "nothing" and "happened" twice, which makes it choppy.

    Uh... Why does she have a garter? That seems random to just always wear (unless she is that deranged stalker-y and keeps it on envisioning her wedding to James). I would also imagine the wand would constantly poke her throughout the day as she sat for desk work if that's how she stores it. In a long pocket, up a sleeve, or even hidden in plain sight on a necklace may work better. Or, what if she just has it in a pocket dimension? Handy and magical. Or, maybe storing wands in pocket dimensions can lead to issues, so this decision may bite Jane later on if she can't access it. Then Agatha can give her an exasperated, "Why, child?"

    With Agatha's ability to so easily fix things, why didn't Jane just go to her to start? Agatha doesn't seem disturbed by her wanting to use a love potion, just that there was already another bewitching in place. So why wouldn't Jane just be, "Yo, Aggie! Do me a solid?" She's obviously way more competent. If Agatha scolded her for doing something so messed up, or, at the least, scolded her for trying something so advanced on her own, that might better explain why Jane didn't go to her first.

    I find the mention of Agatha as "the fixer" super intriguing! Are there other common magical roles?

    I'd find it very hilarious if at the end of all of this, Harriet's involvement WAS pure coincidence, in that she actually didn't intentionally do anything. It'd be a wonderful, absurd play off of the idea that there are no coincidences.

    The name and idea of spooling is quite clever! I don't think it was immediately apparent that time was working backwards, though. This line: "Bits of donut flew about, until Aggie caught them with her wand and recast it anew" in particular could be amended to make it clear that the digested bits of donut are coming back out of the men's mouths. The "un-make" motif is very understandable and nice touch!

    I am confused as to how Mary got the donuts when we explicitly see Agatha sweep them into the trash. Totally lost there.

  14. Miss_Sunflower
    Love the shift to a new perspective! And, as someone else pointed out, there's a distinct difference in tone and level of lyricism. I think that was quite clever and expertly done, emphasizing these are two different people with very different attitudes and backgrounds.

    Love the way Keyne's character is defined by his connection to the air. This line in particular, "the stale air within made him itch to whistle up a breeze," is a great way to enforce that wind calling isn't just a talent of his, it's part of his identity. The magic being so visceral is a real strength of this piece.

    “Wait here[,] please.”

    "...her dark wet braid flinging droplets of water..." This borders on unwieldy with all the adjectives together. I'm not sure if we need "wet" since the braid flings droplets of water. So maybe drop that.

    Keyne’s sense of the rising storm above cut off. “So that’s what Sounding means.”
    Might break these on their own lines. I was confused as to how Keyne's dialog flowed from that observation. Since previous lines have disconnected actions intermixed with dialog, I think that's why I didn't catch up on Keyne's sensation here being especially significant and tied to what he says next. So putting that on it's own line may bring more pause and focus to that.

    Wonderful character and world detail to have Zaraina magic the water out of their clothes and hair!

    I think there's a bit too much repetition on Zaraina's abilities here. She's asked twice about the harmonics, then she goes into the layering explanation. I know Zaraina's being a bit aloof at first and this shows Keyne as persistent, but it makes the overall dialog feel stilted and harder to follow as it relies on us remembering what a previous question was, or being confused by seeing the same question again. Tighten the space between when Keyne first asks and Zaraina answers.

    It may just be because I'm a music newb, but I also don't follow the layering answer. Don't all singers do that? I dunno, that with the constant overemphasis of how amazing the harmonics are comes off sounding to my ear like music theory isn't necessarily something the author is familiar with and just googled to get an idea of some general music concepts to throw in there. Could be wrong there. But as a music illiterate, it sounded like what I'd put in to try and sound like I knew what I was talking about.

    I think it's a symptom of the word limit, but Lyranch's reintroduction is too abrupt and jarring. I do love how this ends, though! Very interesting! Though for this statement to have more of an "oomph!" I need to better understand Lyranch as a character first.

    Both talented writers here, for sure! While I dig the new potential direction of Wanda Lust's piece, my vote goes to Miss_Sunflower for showcasing how she/he can expertly put us in another character's head.

  15. Wanda Lust: interesting descriptions. a little confusing as to who is who. but fun.

    Miss Sunflower: kinda tell not show, and I found the telling a bit confusing. might have gone better if you just left it to our imaginations.

    I vote for Wanda Lust

  16. Voting this round for Miss Sunflower. For me, they provided the more accomplished piece for writing.

  17. I've been sitting on my decision for two days now and have re-read both entries multiple times. This is a tough round for me because I voted for each of you in your original bouts.

    WandaLust: I had a hard time getting into this second story. It was certainly a bold move to pick up right where the last on ended, but it's a move that just didn't work for me. It took me a moment to get up to speed, and like others have said, "dropped lifelessly" was distracting. I kept trying to compare this story only to itself, but I couldn't help but compare it to the first installment, where Jane is clearly smart and in control, if not just a bit lovesick. In this entry, Jane comes off as immature and incompetent. How much time passes between James falling to the ground and Jane running a full medical diagnostic on him before calling for help?

    The phrase "I need a fix" tripped me up for just a moment. I get that Auntie Aggie is a fixer, but "I need a fix" just made me think Jane needed a stiff drink or some pills. Something like "Please, Aunt Agatha, help me fix this" would have cleared so much up and given Jane a bit of personality.

    I'm sure in the whole story, it's explained why everyone is named with either H.J. or J.H, but in this short piece, it was just too much to keep up with. We have James Harris, Harris James, Hattie Jamison, and then Jane (though I know her surname is Swanson). I get that the premise of the story is a mix up over the name James Harris, but I strongly suggest you change Hattie's and Jane's names.

    My main critique for this story is that Jane doesn't *do* anything. She just panics and calls for help, and then runs away. In the context of a larger story, this may work fine, but for a 500 word piece, it just makes her seem like a silly little girl.

    Miss Sunflower: Your first piece was so lyrical and beautifully written. I read that first piece multiple times, not because I needed to in order to understand, but because I loved it. This piece is well-written, but it lost some of it magic. I love that we're in Keyne's head for this piece, though. You did an outstanding job of writing from a different POV than the first piece.

    I don't know why Keyne's eyes widened when Zaraina pulled the water from his clothes and her hair. He saw what she was capable of in the last story, and I assume since they're taking some sort of exam or test, he's well aware of the talents people like Zaraina have.

    You are both good writers and I'd love to see you flex your writing muscles. I hope whoever moves forward will bring a brand new piece to the table.

    My vote today goes to Miss. Sunflower.

  18. My vote goes to Miss_Sunflower.

    Wanda Lust: I was disappointed to see only a Part 2 this far into the competition. I'd hoped to see a deeper demonstration of your writing skills.

    So, the premise expands perhaps to 'A junior witch's love-plans are derailed by a love-competitor.' This has great possibilities, but I really don't like the whole 'drugging a person into submission' approach, which is essentially what this is. What kind of person chooses this path? It would be such a chaotic society if all witches were doing this, anyway, that I can't imagine they'd permit it. I did like the unspooling, but again, this would be chaotic if widely used. I could imagine an excellent story of a morally-flexible young witch trying repeatedly to achieve love via magic, and being knocked back each time.

    Structurally, this feels rather bitty, inefficient, with rather overwrought language in places. I do admire your inventiveness, but it feels rather on-the-fly, not woven. I think if you went back to outline-level and reworked it from there you could halve the length and make it tighter, stronger.

    Miss_Sunflower: I was disappointed to see only a Part 2 this far into the competition.

    I have to admit, I have absolutely no idea what this story is about or where it might go. Something about singing and spouts and an exam. I feel nothing for either character, because I don't know anything about them or their challenges, flaws, desires. On re-reading, I'm guessing that the duo will possess some unexpected and unwanted power that's a problem for the authorities. That's a very interesting premise, with all kinds of possibilities, but it's taking so long to get there.

    As your prose shows more skill, you get my vote.

  19. WandaLust - a fairly well written entry that reminds me a lot of Bewitched. I was hoping to read a new story this bout, but understand when so many readers say they want to read what happens next, why you continued with this.

    It's not a genre I would choose to read, but I can appreciate the writing nonetheless.

    The line, "I need a fix," sends the wrong message I think, so would definitely rework that. I think too, introducing Aggie to clean up the MC's magic mess is a bit of a cop out. Would have preferred to see her fix, and learn, from her own mistakes.

    Mary suddenly appearing with the donuts, of course sets the scene for another round of the same. Finding the donuts in the bathroom and then her clearly eating one (she is seen licking jelly off her lips), made me cringe.

    Miss Sunflower - again a well written entry, but again not a genre I enjoy reading.

    As with Wanda Lust, I would have liked to see a different story, but as mentioned, when so many reviewers say they want to know more, I can understand the desire to continue.

    Your premise to me feels unique, though having admitted I don't read fantasy, I don't know if that is an accurate assumption. Some of the story feels very vague to me, and even after reading several times, I have to confess I am not entirely sure what is happening.

    Voting this round for Miss Sunflower, although I am confused by your story (sorry), it feels more original and of the two entries, I think the writing itself is a little stronger.

  20. I usually like when the new submissions are Part 2s.

    Wanda Lust- There was something off about this. Maybe it was the MC passivity (other than calling in help) Aunt Aggie, who seems to be Scottish, has the feel of being part Deus Ex Machina and part Aunt Agatha from Bewitched. And since this is taking place in (apparently) the modern world, the idea of a witch working for gold (as opposed to money) seems wrong. (People generally don’t have gold coins lying around). The donuts in the bathroom seems rather …unhygienic. I think if you had done a couple more of editing passes, this would have shined.

    Sunflower- You have a good basic concept. It’s my guess this submission is a piece of a larger manuscript, but this piece didn’t really do much to advance it. I’m not sure where this story is going.

    Although I would probably read Sunflower’s full tale, based on the submissions, I have to cast my vote for Wanda Lust as that piece did a better job of telling the story.

  21. Both submissions continuing the stories in the same bout threw me. I have to say I would have preferred both authors change it up, but that's just me.
    Wanda - I think you had too much story, with too many elements. I felt the best use of the word count would be to further the characters, not introduce new ones. Liked the funny aspects and the piece had voice.

    Miss Sunflower - changing perspectives should have been a good idea, but I didn't get a feel for the boy. I missed the writing style you used in your first piece, and I would have liked more of the magic.
    I vote Wanda Lust

  22. Wanda: Going back and continuing a story is not easy, but you did well. The backward in time action scenes were clever, and I admire your imagination. The one detail that might have gotten away from you was the donuts had been swept into the trash, so how did Mary Clark get them?

    Miss Sunflower, another continued story, which surprised me. I like the first one, but the second seemed to have lost something. Not sure what, but it lacked a bit of the magic of the first. Again, a
    good writer and wonderful imagination.

    Voting for Wanda

  23. W: Yay, witches. Liked the original. Love the sequel!
    MS: Felt slower than the first, but still good.
    Wanda gets my vote!

  24. Both authors chose to continue the story from the previous submission, making it hard to judge them fresh, without basing it on what I read the first time.

    Wanda Lust: I enjoyed the twist in the first passage, but while one coincidence works, here it felt like too many things happening just to make the plot work. I really can't imagine anyone finding donuts in the trash can in a restroom and bringing them out to share, and suddenly Aggie is available to get the protagonist out of trouble, which kills the tension.

    Miss_Sunflower: I missed the lyrical sense of magic building between the two of them in the first piece. It feels more mundane. I'm glad to finally get a sense of what was at stake in the original test, but the explanation is incomplete. Have they never displayed their magical powers before, so that potential employers had no idea until today what they could do? I'm afraid it came across to me as less intriguing, more confusing.

    Both writers are strong, and I could see voting for either, but I have to choose. My vote goes to Miss_Sunflower, because I'm more interested in finding out what comes next.

  25. Wanda Lust, I enjoyed learning more about what happened. I felt that in such a short piece, you introduced/mentioned too many characters, which will probably make sense in the story as a whole, but not so much in a separate piece. There are many loose ends, many leads to follow, which made me feel this bit wasn't self-contained and harder to assess because of that.

    Miss_Sunflower, I also enjoyed learning more about your characters. It's an interesting story, and it piqued my curiosity. However, I must admit that there were bits where I had to stretch my imagination and memory to understand what was going on.

    My vote goes to Miss_Sunflower.

  26. Wanda Lust: loved the magic. you have written a fun story.

    Miss Sunflower. continuing a story is a bit risky, if the first piece was not to memorable you have nothing to draw upon on the second installment. I'm sorry to say this piece did not have enough information to make a good story by itself.

    I vote for Wanda Lust

  27. Yay! So enjoyed getting to read the continuation of both stories!!

    My vote goes to Miss Sunflower. Writing felt more developed and immersive, enjoyed the imagery and how the plot continues to develop and become more layered!

  28. I enjoyed seeing more of these stories. Two great writers.

    Wanda Lust: There’s lot’s of fun characterization and magic in this story. But I was confused most of the way through. I couldn’t keep track of which man was witch. Also, what was Harris was doing for most of the story? The introduction of yet another confusing name, seemed gratuitous. And why was Hattie cursing James anyway? Also, eating donuts she found in the bathroom? Gross.

    Miss_Sunflower: Some beautiful writing here. I love the way you describe the wind and water magic. But I was confused by the characters’ emotions. Keyne starts out nervous or excited, but by the time Zaraina arrives, he seems pretty calm and complacent. Not sure what Zaraina’s feeling. I wanted more of a reaction to the fact they conjured a waterspout. What does that mean and what consequences will they face? The descriptions and the conflict would have more resonance if the characters’ feelings were more consistent and clear. Despite that, the story has great potential to be both lyrical and exciting.

    Miss_Sunflower’s story has excellent writing and great potential, so she gets my vote.

  29. I vote for Miss Sunflower...wanda lust, I couldn't get behind all the "un" words. Super unnecessary and repetitive.

  30. Miss_Sunflower gets my vote. It was better writing and a more interesting premise. The story wasn’t perfect, but the idea is a good one.

    Wanda Lust, having characters named James Harris and Harris James was a fun idea. Having another named Harriet Jameson (and calling it a coincidence) is not, it’s contrived and only makes me wonder if you know when to stop a gag. You did great at world building and crafting a fun and interesting situation, but you really lost me with the dialect/accent. Aggie says things like “nay,” “gobsmacked,” and “lass,” but also says something as contemporary as “What’s up?” If you want to give your characters such a unique voice, be consistent with it.

  31. My vote is for Wanda Lust. I still want to see what happens.

  32. While I want to congratulate both writers, I am sitting here in distress because these were two of my favorite writers, and I don’t want to choose between them.

    Miss_Sunflower: I still love the premise of music mixing with magic, and how each of their talents work with different elements. Their little habits of using their magic in everyday - whistling a breeze, drying their hair and clothes - were wonderful little details. Unfortunately, their conversation is a little stiff, and doesn’t quite get us as far as we’d like in such a short piece.

    Wanda Lust: I enjoyed the idea of getting to go back in time - and watch it happen. That was a creative way to fix her immediate problem, though I fear it will only lead to more eventually from the snippets we got - what is this other spell he is under? To get us completely back and set up the new problems, it was a bit rushed for 500 words, so we really didn’t get to see Jane struggle before calling Aunt Aggie.

    While it is really hard to pick and I hope the loser gets the wildcard slot, my vote is for Wanda Lust.

  33. Wanda Lust- Intriguing and hilarious twist. A good magical romcom that now includes a villain. I can see this selling well. You have my vote. Good luck!

    Miss_Sunflower - This is really interesting. I still feel like I'm missing a large puzzle piece that would allow me to love this more.

  34. Wanda Lust: The story idea was good, but the going backwards action didn't work for me.

    Miss Sunflower, I liked the first story better than this continued segment. The first one had a different vibe.

    Hard to choose, but I am going for Wanda L.

  35. Well this is interesting that you are both continuing. I guess you are both writing novels and so bravo to you both for that.
    Whilst Wanda is entertaining, it is now getting a little bit twee and too cliché for me.
    Meanwhile Sunflower, you are still holding my attention with your beautiful writing and originality.
    My vote therefor goes to Miss Sunflower as I haven't lost interest nor think this is similar to so many 'teen' type storytelling that Wanda seems to have gone off onto.

  36. both stories are amazing! Choosing is so hard!
    Wanda has a fun concept, but I've enjoyed the flow of Sunflower's story more.
    My vote goes to Sunflower.

    Lindsey Tidmore

  37. Miss Sunflower's language and prose is absolutely beautiful, and there simply aren't enough stories that use music as a magic system in my opinion. Vote Miss Sunflower.

  38. This is a hard one for me, because I voted for both these stories in their last rounds, they are both fantastic premises. My vote is going to Wanda Lust, though, I like the addition of additional characters. Thanks as always to both writers for sharing your work!

  39. I know I'm too late and my vote won't count, but I'm casting my vote anyway. I'm glad both writers continued their stories to the next bout. This is a hard one since I voted for both previously!! Flip of the coin goes to Miss Sunflower.

  40. 🍩 Wanda Lust has more of what I want. I'd vote for 🌻 too if I could, but I only get one. So Wanda.




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