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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Preliminary Bout #12

The bouts continue - with just four more remaining. As a reminder, the voting for each bout remains open for an entire week, so if you missed one or two you can always go back and catch up.

Here's a reminder of what is happening. WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by Wild Lark Books) is a tournament-style contest that will run for nine weeks (which includes a week break for the holidays). It provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a free publication package (along with other prizes). Here’s the kicker—it’s all done anonymously. Writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names. The chosen (decided by a group of twelve slush pile readers) are paired off to go head-to-head in daily “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.

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, the voters can win a $50 Wild Lark Books gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed into a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize.

How this works—two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples are waiting in the ring below. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) should read both entries and then vote by leaving a comment for the one that resonates with you the most. We also ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest—FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

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 Mon, Jan 3rd (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. What is okay, in fact, encouraged, is to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough of the fine print…here we go!

On one side of the ring stands ch3ru representing the Sci-Fi genre.

“So, we should probably talk,” Leah says by way of greeting.

 She sits down with a tray-sized plate heaped with what looks like one of everything on the human-consumable menu, plus a few slices of bright orange fruit from some distant alien world. She starts cutting small, orderly squares from one section of her plate, elegant manners strangely at odds with the pile of carbohydrate-rich layers liberally soaked in with a sticky caramelized sugar syrup.

 “Um,” Sol begins intelligently. We should talk. A particularly charged human expression, and that is where Sol's knowledge ends. Why are emotions so complicated? Every time Sol thinks they've found a baseline, some new variable appears and changes the whole equation.

Something like Leah.

“Why don’t I start?” Leah says, after swallowing a bite of fruit. “I won’t lie—last night was pretty mind-blowing. That's probably an understatement, but it’s the only word I can think of right now. Also, I like someone who can beat me at cards, and doesn’t run out of things to say.”

“I’ve been told I have a tendency to ramble, actually,” Sol admits, feeling unbalanced. They run a quick diagnostic on their internal gyroscope, but the scan comes up normal. This isn’t how they expected the conversation to go.

“I didn’t mind. You’re passionate about your work, and you know I like the sound of your voice. But anyway.” Leah sets down her utensils and pushes the tray aside to lean forward, mirroring Sol’s posture. “I wouldn’t mind seeing you again, getting to know you better. Maybe see if this has somewhere to go, y’know? But this isn’t a one-way street. If last night is all you want, that’s fine with me too. No hard feelings, and we can still be friends."

Sol is listening, but… Her mouth. It glistens faintly from where the piece of fruit slid across her lips. Sol recalls the taste of lips, of her skin; the sight of her mismatched fingers on white keys; the sound of her laughter; neon lights painting her skin bright colors in the night; the way she patiently taught them the rules to one game after another; the ease of trading anecdotes, stellar cartography for musical studies, a childhood in the colonies for the solitary existence of android mission directives.

And neither of them ever seemed to get bored. All this and more, collected into a newly-formed partition set aside in Sol's memory banks just for her.

Sol reaches out to take her hand. Warm flesh and blood in cool, malleable plasteel. She’s smiling softly, as if she already knows what they're about to say. Perhaps she does, through that uncanny and unquantifiable method of human intuition.

"I think I like the sound of that. Seeing if this has somewhere to go," Sol says, and is glad to see Leah's smile widen. Her grip on their hand shifts she can lean in, and Sol follow's her lead, optics deactivating.

Her lips are just as sweet and soft as Sol remembers.


On the far side of the ring, we have Battlestar Bear who represents the Fantasy genre.

He didn't have a destination in mind, but when Jael found himself on the catwalk of one of the three watchtower spires, he finally slowed himself to stand and look out across the great river that wound down from the Dark Mountains to the north. The sun was low across the foothills to the west, casting a warm glow across the cool stone railing.

Jael gripped the edge and leaned forward. The wind was wild at this height and he closed his eyes to listen to it as it whipped and whistled around his head. Autumn was fast approaching and there was a tang of wood smoke and leaves in the air. He breathed in deeply and reached for his power. It responded like an eager child, ready to come out and play.

He stood back from the rail and lifted his hands in front of him. Regealth had been trying to teach him how to meter the amount of magic he called forth.  "Little sips and tastes," the old mage had explained. Now, Jael raised his hands and called two wisps of blue electricity. The magic wound through his fingers, the tendrils of energy pulsing and crackling as they snaked over the backs of his hands.

He watched it, his eyes narrowing as he tried to gather it in his palms. The magic fought him and he grimaced, applying more focus. Some of the strands started to pool together, but others broke off and continued their strange game of chase around his fingers.

"Sky magic is always so temperamental," a lilting voice said from behind him.

Jael dropped his hands and the blue energy dissipated into the air like tiny lightning bolts. He turned to see a very young woman peek around the curve of the spire. She grinned.

"Ah," he breathed out, "you found me."

"Aye, my lord," she said, coming closer.

Jael held his hands back up in front of him.

"I don't know why it won't do what I wish," he murmured.

The young woman smiled again. She held one hand up, a crackling sphere of green energy sitting neatly in her palm.

"Sky magic is hardest because it is all around us," she began. The sphere flattened out and began to form a swirling disc.

"It is like a horse."

She drew her fingers together and pulled down, calling the disc to form a cyclone. The wind began to whip around them faster, as if reacting to her magic.

"You must stay in control so it will do as you ask."

Jael watched in wonder as she used her other hand to twirl above the spinning cyclone. Fine tendrils of energy spun out like glass, shimmering in the late afternoon sun. Then, with one swift move, she pulled her hands apart and the magic scattered like a fine mist that settled over them both and flickered away.

"Show off," Jael smirked.

"Regealth won't let me play like this when we study," Isabela chuckled.


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.

Finally, in order to keep this contest going AND GROWING, I'm asking folks to donate to the cause on my Ko-fi account. Let me assure you, 100% of the donations will go towards the contest prizes for this year and next!

We’ll be back tomorrow with bout #13. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encouraging them to come vote.

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


  1. Congratulations to both writers for making it into the ring!

    ch3ru: This is an interesting concept, and you've done a decent job portraying the android's point of view, especially as they sort out this unexpected relationship. However, the writing could use a little more polish. There were a few typos ("soaked in with..." and "Her grip on their hand shifts she can lean in" stood out to me).

    Battlestar Bear: This was an absolute joy to read. Rich setting, beautiful imagery, and just enough information for the reader to grasp who the characters are and how they relate to one another. A character channelling magic runs the risk of being cliched, what with all the power running through everyone's fingertips and all, but your imagery made it feel fresh and magical. My only suggestions would be to cut the "very" in "very young woman" because it isn't necessary and to keep "It is like a horse" with the previous paragraph, but those are small things. Plotwise, there isn't a whole lot happening in this scene, but the writing leaves me wanting more.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear.

  2. My vote goes to ch3ru.

    ch3ru: The characters here are engaging and seem fun and fresh. Please edit a bit more; there are a few little errors that should be easily fixed. Also, Leah says Sol "doesn't run out of things to say," yet Sol clearly struggles to engage in this conversation. That was a bit of a disconnect for me. I found this piece to be cute and engaging, with a new twist thrown in and with characters who are not totally flat and two dimensional.

    Battlestar Bear: That first sentence is too long. I started out a bit confused as a reader. I would suggest paying more attention to first sentences, using these to draw in readers. This one could easily be re-worked into several short sentences to be more readable; also, perhaps adding a bit about why Jael was rushing around without a destination would help set the mood and establish the character. While overall the writing and flow of the piece is good, the content wasn't fresh to me (apprentices struggling to channel magic and feeling held back by their mentors). I also thought it would be a kindness to the read to put Isabela's name sooner in the piece, as Jael clearly knows her and there's no reason to keep her identity a mystery to the reader.

  3. My vote goes to Battlestar Bear today. I'm not a fan of fantasy, especially the kind of fantasy in which magic plays a big role, but this piece drew me in. Great atmosphere and I like that magic isn't easy for these practitioners. Something this powerful shouldn't be simple to learn.

    Ch3ru, I liked the android POV, but a few things kept throwing me off, especially when Sol mentions how she tasted. Can androids taste? He didn't seem to know what the food was, so that felt like a misstep, as did his observation that he never runs out of things to say when he was clearly struggling with the conversation.

  4. My vote is for ch3ru. Though there were a few errors, I enjoyed the descriptive language and imagery.

    Battlestar Bear- this story was difficult to read; as such, I had a hard time following what was going on. Great idea overall, but execution could be better.

  5. Ch3ru was interesting but lacked a certain depth that I was craving given how exciting the premise was. It was also riddled with grammatical errors and an overuse of adjectives in my opinion. I think it has good bones but it needs work.

    Battlestar Bear's dialogue was wonderful, it seemed very natural and appropriate to the time period I assume the setting is in. I believe that this piece only skims the surface of a much deeper and compelling story. My hope is to see more of this author.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear.

  6. Battlestar bear gets my vote. Your story reminded me of at least a half dozen fantasy books I've enjoyed. In under 500 words, you have created the basis for a magical world and set two characters in it.

    ch3ru you did a great job. I cannot deny how well you were able to create your world. You had a bad beat. I wish both of you could go forward. Battlestar bear just pulled me into the story better.

  7. This was a TOUGH bout. Both of these pieces had a lot of strengths.

    Ch3ru, this piece felt unique, and I loved the personalities of both Leah and Sol. Some of Sol's observations are so abstract that they drag down the pacing a bit (the description of Leah's food as an example). But I thought it was brilliant how Sol sifts through the memories as though they are sorting through a digital file. It was a smart touch.

    Battlestar, this felt familiar as far as elemental fantasy goes, but the descriptions and dialogue were fresh and engaging. The formatting of Isabela's dialogue should probably be tweaked so the lines "It's like a horse" and "You must stay in control" fall on either side of the action. This would also make the attribution clearer. And, as mentioned, Isabela's name can come much sooner in the piece.

    Ch3ru by a hair for me, but Battlestar would be a great save contender!

  8. ch3ru -- I prefer to be shown unbalanced than told the feeling of unbalanced is being experienced. Leah's mouth reminds Sol of a childhood in the colonies for the solitary existence of android mission directives? That strikes me as odd, but all righty then. I liked it otherwise.

    Battlestar Bear -- This reminds me of "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. I love that, so you get my vote for reminding me of one of my favorite authors.

  9. "We should talk"
    Yes, we should. 🤣 Just saw a pin on a humor board about turning that line back on someone.
    Anywho. 🤖❤👩‍🚀 Loving the romance in the scifi. #vote

    The fantasy one was good too. Just didn't strike me as much.

  10. Ch3ru- Your descriptions are crisp and I can see the scene before me. The concept is interesting and I enjoyed the writing. The only thing I had a hard time with was the us of "they" in Sol's thoughts. Sol says "I" when talking, so why "they?"

    Battlestar Bear- I loved the first two paragraphs and felt it was well written. It didn't feel like a complete story, more like a scene in a larger piece.

    My vote goes to Ch3ru

  11. Ch3ru's submission is an interesting read, but needs some polishing to be effective. The general focus is intriguing, but the writing style leaves you distracted by disconnected or irrelevant details. It also comes across as setting up yet another of the "android love interest" stories so often seen in this genre, further diminishing its attraction for me.

    Battlestar Bear's submission, however, opens a door and effectively draws you into a compelling story. It whets your appetite, conjures up visions of magic and romance, and offers real rewards for continuing. In short, it's simply an example of more polished and effective storytelling!

    My vote is for Battlestar Bear.

  12. Sorry I'm a day late, but congrats to both of you!

    I have to admit I had reservations about using they/them pronouns for an android. I worried it would come off as dehumanizing or othering those who actually do use they/them pronouns, but I was happy to see that fear laid to rest. You pulled it off well. My main critique is that Sol seems to have a lot of deep un-android like thoughts. I imagine that's the whole point of the piece, but it was a bit dizzying to keep up with thoughts about how emotionally charged humans are and then thoughts about soft moist lips and color painted skin. Sol is the star of this story and I wish you had taken some of Leah's monologue away and given the words to describe Sol's fear/anxiety/confusion/whatever about being an android and discovering they are actually capable of pleasure and romantic feelings.

    Battlestar Bear:
    As others have said, your dialogue is solid, but your tags wore on me. He murmured, she began, he breathed, he smirked, Isabela chuckled. Technically, those are all correct, but it didn't quite work for me. I found myself pausing to picture what the sound of speaking and breathing out sounds like. Or trying to imagine how a smirk would sound. In a lot of these instances, you could have easily removed the dialogue tag or replaced it with an action tag and saved yourself some words.

    For example:

    Ah," he breathed out, "you found me." could turn into:
    "Ah, you found me." Jael smiled at Isabela.


    "Sky magic is hardest because it is all around us," she began. The sphere flattened out and began to form a swirling disc.

    "It is like a horse."


    "Sky magic is hardest because it is all around us." The sphere flattened out and formed a swirling disc in her hand. "It is like a horse."

    You also have some issues with passive voice sneaking in. In the above example, I changed "began to form" to "formed a" because as a reader, I don't need to imagine what the light looks like as it's just starting to form a disc. It pulls me from the story as I imagine what "beginning to form a disc" looks like.

    Both of these pieces are pretty evenly matched for me, and this is a really, really hard decision but I'm giving my vote to ch3ru.

  13. Wow, these are both excellent pieces. I think today my vote goes to Battlestar Bear, but whichever of these doesn't make it through is likely in the running for my save vote next week.

    ch3ru - this was an interesting concept, and a trope I really like - inhuman beings reflecting on the oddities of human customs is something I LOVE to see. I would have loved to see a bit more of that in here. I also think the writing could use a little more polish. One of the dangers of present tense is that it's even easier to slip into telling by using the "they feel" and "they think" devices that leave us at a bit of a distance from the character. I think this piece could be tightened up by really showing us how Sol feels.

    Battlestar Bear - you built a really vivid scene, and I quite enjoyed the descriptions of the magic and the surroundings. However, I did feel like a little bit of the description could be cut out to give us a little bit more story; it just felt like there were these two characters, but there wasn't really much purpose to their conversation or their meeting up. Isabela could have used more description as well; after the intense description of the environment and the magic, it felt like an oversight to only describe her as a young woman. It also seemed odd to me that she wasn't named until the last sentence; obviously Jael knows her, she probably could be named right after she shows up.

  14. *****This is a duplicate because my previous comment/vote cam across as "unknown" - resubmitting for it to count****
    Ch3ru was interesting but lacked a certain depth that I was craving given how exciting the premise was. It was also riddled with grammatical errors and an overuse of adjectives in my opinion. I think it has good bones but it needs work.

    Battlestar Bear's dialogue was wonderful, it seemed very natural and appropriate to the time period I assume the setting is in. I believe that this piece only skims the surface of a much deeper and compelling story. My hope is to see more of this author.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear.
    Tabitha Schonberg -

  15. Both did so well!
    I think I'm going with Battlestar Bear. The writing appealed to me more, although I think the action seems familiar.

    ch3ru, you're attempting something new and fresh, and I admire your imagination. I had a hard time fastening in to the story and truly understanding what was going on. I'd like to see more, though.

    Good work and happy new year/new writing to you both!

  16. ch3ru: one of the better stories but it needed editing.

    Battlestar Bear gets my vote. I enjoyed the first paragraph, and the way it set the scene. The dialogue moved the story along well. Good use of the 500 word format.

  17. A touch match for me but -- Battlestar Bear gets my vote. Maybe not the freshest story idea, but nice execution. ch3ru -- I liked your freshness but I wanted more context, more feeling for what the narrator was, to avoid being baffled.

  18. ch3ru -- The story of an android dealing with emotion is nothing new, but the perspective made it interesting. The writing had some moments, but there are sentences that go on way too long, especially the one with six semicolons. Read it out loud. If you have to breathe, it's too long.

    Battlestar Bear -- The writing was fine, and the scene with the cyclone was fun. That first line is a mouthful, but it doesn't tell us anything. Also, elemental magic is a risk. We've seen endless stories with people with magic in their hands. If you don't bring anything new to it, you should make sure the focus of the story is on the right thing. The Isabela character was the more interesting one, and we don't get her name until the end, and then Regealth is mentioned twice, though it adds nothing to the story. Begin with the good stuff, end with the good stuff, and try to have nothing but the good stuff in between.

    Vote goes to ch3ru.

  19. My vote will be for Battlestar Bear. Most of it comes down to genre. Some of it comes down to my disdain for semicolons.

  20. First, congratulations to both writers for making it this far. Second, my internet crashed when hitting post on my original comment, so apologies if this seems a bit short/disjointed as I am attempting to rewrite it.

    Ch3ru - I think you have a really interesting concept with the Android falling in love - but it was a bit confusing that they were an Android until closer to the end. I also felt the description of her food took up a lot of time in the story that didn’t move it forward (though it sounded like it’s something that is or will be part of their relationship, there wasn’t enough space for it here).

    Battlestar Bear - I appreciated the banter between the apprentices, especially since it appears they are friends instead of rivals. You also set up an interesting hint that Isabela may be stronger than the master, which could lead to co flick further on. I think this would be a great opening for a novel where we get to keep reading, maybe needed to be condensed a bit more for such a short sample to give us more of a hint of what was to come.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear

  21. Congratulations, writers! I enjoyed both these stories and hate that I have to choose.

    I really like this exchange between “warm flesh and blood” and “malleable plasteel.” The “they” pronoun confused me at first, but once I figured out what you were going for, it was fine. I liked seeing a human’s activities described from the viewpoint of a machine and connected with Sol’s quest to process the new sensations they’re experiencing. Especially liked: “a newly-formed partition set aside in Sol's memory banks just for her.”

    Battlestar Bear
    This is beautiful writing. The setting is vivid and I enjoyed the imagery of the playful magic snaking and crackling around his hands. My problem with this piece is there is too little tension and conflict. We get lots of description, but little else, and that made it hard for me to care about the characters. Jael and Isabela seem to be competitive, but with so little context, we don’t know what it signifies. Also, when he first sees her, he knows who she is so he should use her name.

    I was drawn into ch3ru’s story and enjoyed the character development so my vote goes to ch3ru.

  22. Congratulations to you both for being selected to compete!

    Ch3ru- I enjoyed the dialogue between Sol and Leah. It held my attention from the start. Use of the "they" pronoun threw me off, though. I'm a big fan of the android perspective and its connection to the human soul and its own self-awareness.

    Battlestar Bear - From the beginning, this piece was extremely easy to read and whisked me away into a fantasy world I can see when I close my eyes - colors and all. I loved the imagery and description of Jael's struggle to control and use his power. I loved the fact that Isabela was younger, but still was able to coach him in the art of magic.

    My vote today is for Battlestar Bear.

    1. My email address is and my name is Rio Sutton.

  23. Vote goes to Ch3ru for being the less.... classic of the two and for impressively telling an almost complete story in that 500 words (which could obviously be expanded, there are things I want to know but don't need to know)

  24. Ch3ru - It's a nice little story, but it's hard to get into the character's minds. You kind of described what they were thinking and feeling, but it doesn't feel like I'm there experiencing it with the characters. Maybe more descriptive adjectives would help. Also, I'm not sure who the intended audience is, but the relationship and conversation feels young. If the intended audience is young teens, then you nailed it. If it is adults, the conversation needs more depth.

    Ch3ru - I wrote your feedback before reading the other entry. I think what makes the conversation different between both pieces is that Battlestar Bear just jumps right in, and almost lets the reader decide the tone with which to read the words. The way that author described the characters first and then starts the conversation allows the conversation to flow more naturally while your piece mixes the character description in with the dialogue. (We also don't have the context for what happened the night before, so you're building that into the dialog as well instead of separating the context to stand-alone)

    Battlestar Bear - You did an awesome job with the details describing the scenery and the feelings. As Jael started to build the magic in his hands I could feel the tension rising. I stopped reading for pleasure and reanalyzed it to figure out what you did to create the feeling and I think's its just good word choice that the connotation of the adjectives you selected, and the sequence of describing the magic build, is what creates that suction for the reader. You also did a great job with the conversation. (Read the bit I wrote above for details on that).

    Overall, Battlestar Bear gets my vote as a result of a great job setting a scene and making the characters relatable in such a short piece of text.

  25. First, I loved both of these entries.

    Ch3ru - Intriguing concept, very delicately handled, and I definitely want to read more of your work. I especially love the detail and subtle use of humour in this piece.

    Battlestar Bear - Your characterization is fantastic. Without much introduction, the characters are clearly who they are; there's tension within and between the two MCs, and it's really fun to read.

    My vote goes to Battlestar Bear.

  26. These are two fine entries. Both are impressive and made me want to read more. However this turns out, you two need to keep writing.

    My vote goes to Ch3ru, though that is by the smallest of margins.




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