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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Preliminary Bout #8

We're back with yet another preliminary bout. Remember, 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 Tue, Dec 21st (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 Iradessa representing the Fantasy genre.

The king sat at his desk, weariness threatening to drag him into sleep. But he couldn’t sleep, not yet. There were letters to answer. Problems to address. Double agents to recruit. He rubbed a hand across his forehead before unrolling the newest scroll in his stack of unread mail.

He had barely broken the seal when he heard it: a tiny little cough.

The king sighed and set the scroll aside. “How long have you been there?”

There was a pause, and then the form of a man in his mid-thirties flickered into existence by the door. He leaned against the mantle, arms crossed. Bright violet eyes peered out of a heavily scarred face. “I’m surprised you didn’t abandon your plan,” he remarked. “Dores is a wild card; nothing about him is certain.”

“His success—or failure—is a raindrop in a heavy thunderstorm, Ace,” the king replied.

Ace crossed the room and lowered himself into one of the chairs across from the king. His golden hair glinted strangely, almost unnaturally, in the dim torchlight. “Our enemy is close to achieving his goals.”

“We are close to achieving ours also. Have you Seen anything about the outcome?”

Ace frowned, opening his mouth as if to speak and then closing it again. He lifted the scroll off the top of the pile, the one with the broken seal. He unrolled it, his eyes skimming over it so briefly that there was no way he could have read it before he returned it to the top of the pile. “It’s all muddled,” he finally said. “I’ve tried focusing upon many different events and people. But none of them elicit a clear view.”

The king waved for Ace to continue.

The man sighed and stood, pacing back and forth. “I see…beasts of old,” he said after a moment. “Power bounces back and forth, but there’s no finality, no conclusion. The only clear thing is the opening of the sixth Vault. But I’ve been unable to identify if it is our enemy who opens it, or us.”

“Anything else?”

A pregnant pause filled the room.


“No,” the other man finally said, but something about the way he said it made the king believe he wasn’t telling the truth. Yet there was no use pushing him. Time and again, he’d learned that Ace revealed only what he wanted to share, what he believed would be useful. If there was something else he was holding back, it wasn’t relevant, at least not yet.

“Very well,” the king said after a moment passed. “Thank you.”

Ace left through the door instead of whatever way he’d magically come, and the king watched him go with narrowed eyes. The man had been useful, far more useful than he could ever have imagined when he’d been approached decades earlier. But now the end was nearing. Would Ace stand with him when they’d defeated their shared enemy? Or would he become a new enemy?


On the far side of the ring, we have Wheelock's Latin who represents the Realistic Fiction genre.

Hitting Home

Gary slid the key into the lock, making sure the rest didn’t rattle against the door.  Even though he pulled the door toward him, the hasp scraped before it gave.  Gary winced.  Taking a breath, he cracked the door.  Inside the darkened apartment, he relocked the door and hung the chain that Ellen had left undone.  As he let out his breath, the kitchen switch clicked behind him and light stretched into the hallway.  It was 3:30 a.m.

Always lie to your wife and to the cops – to everyone else you tell the truth.  That was Gary’s motto.  He smelled his armpits and hands and blew a quick breath into his palm and inhaled.  A little boozy but he had washed Gloria’s smell from him.  He had told Gloria it felt as if he’d wiped his nose with his marriage license yet again but the feeling would passed.  He certainly wasn’t going to make any rash promises to himself or God always to be a good boy and never stumble again.  Gloria laughed at this and tried to diddle him into shape for a second go, but he couldn’t outrun the whiskey.  Sorry, kid.

“Where have you been, mister?”  Ellen sat at the table in her blue robe, her hair a mess but her eyes dry.  Gary picked up the mug in front of her, swirled its remnants, and took a sip.  A fruity tea but no booze.

“Up with a sick friend.”  The lie that said it was none of her business.

“In a pig’s eye,” she said.  “Which whore this time?”

“Like I’d have to pay for it, sharp looking guy like me,” he said, chuckling with his back to her.  
“Get real.”  He rummaged a couple of tortillas from the fridge to soak up the booze.  He had married Ellen fourteen years before on a pregnancy scare, and he’d been faithful for the first four.  Since the twins, though, he wound up with someone every couple months.

“Maybe I ought to do some stepping out of my own,” she taunted.  “Show you what you’ve been missing.”

“The girls wrecked your body, kiddo.  Good luck with that.”

“There’s an ass for every chair,” she said, her voice a whisper.

He leaned back against the sink and nodded.  He body wasn’t what it had been, but she still had something.  He only ran that line to keep her options shut down.

“Go ahead,” he said, calling her bluff.

“I’ve done it before, smart man,” she said, twisting her wedding ring.  “Grab a couple of cold ones, and I’ll tell you all you want to know.”

He opened two bottles, placed one before her, and sat across the table.  As she began to talk, her eyes wide and defiant, he lifted his beer to drink, but his throat was too dry to swallow.


Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

Before we sign off, I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.

The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this, follow these steps:

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

Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants.

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 #9. 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. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Today's were pretty evenly matched, and I'm choosing Wheelock's Latin because I prefer the genre. Fantasy is not my favorite, though Iradessa created an interesting world and conflict.

    Wheelock, I really liked the phrase about wiping your nose with your marriage license. Both characters are world weary, hardened, sarcastic, and relatively unsympathetic. That's OK with me. I'm intrigued to see where they go. They've created quite a mess for themselves.

    Iradessa, I was reminded of Rasputin and the tsar. Your use of "Seen" with the capital s was clever and made me pause to think about the unique world you were creating. I also liked the mixing of ancient and contemporary with the king working his way through a pile of scrolls--an ancient inbox of work correspondence.

    Thanks to both!

  3. Wheelock's Latin is my preference. 🗳
    It could use a bit more to ground it in a time, place, and make it pop-- but there's only 500 words to play with.

    Iradessa didn't move me enough, especially for a fantasy. I just felt a bit lost.

  4. Both of these stories are solid pieces. I'm casting my vote for Iradessa, because as I read it, the thought that ran through my head was "Wow. This feels like an actual book and one I'd love to read." Wheelock, I loved yours too and against another story, you probably would've gotten my vote.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Iradessa- Great first paragraph. Nice description of Ace. I also really liked the raindrop in a thunderstorm. The actual story line didn't do it for me. You jump from Dores to the enemy to visions of beasts and vaults. Hard to follow, I'm not sure what's going on and I'm not invested. If the king thinks Ace might also be an enemy not sure he would allow him such familiarity as to read his mail (I liked the scrolls too, btw.)

    Wheelock's Latin- The typos in such a short piece had me wonder if you bothered to proofread the piece before submitting. Never the less, the characterization and dialog are strong and you have a complete
    story here.
    My vote goes to Wheelock's Latin

  7. My vote votes to Iradessa.

    Iradessa: There is a lot of world-building in this short piece. I would like to see more character building, more voice, maybe a bit more sense of the tensions and distrust between the two men. I also found that the writing could use some polishing to keep it fresh and less cliched feeling.

    Wheelock's Latin: There are too many typos and errors in writing. These could be easily fixed but the inattention to proof-reading kept me from voting for this piece. Overall, the characters are interesting and there are some good images and phrases. I just can't overlook the obvious errors.

  8. Wow, two really great pieces today! My vote goes to Iradessa.

    Wheelock's Latin - really great building of character and scene; I do think it could use a good proofread though!

    Iradessa - great world-building, this has a distinctly 'prologue' feel to it. I agree with Amy that the tensions and distrust between the two men could definitely be enhanced to improve the piece.

  9. Ahhh--this is the hardest vote for me.

    I'm going to go with Wheelock's Latin. I don't have any critique's other than what's already been noted. Though, I did genuinely enjoy both stories and hope to see either one in save week so I can essentially vote for both. :)

  10. Congratulations, Contestants!

    This piece is solidly written. I expected Ace to be a youngish child from the line "tiny little cough." Also, you'd have been fine with either tiny or little. Using both is redundant. My primary critique of this piece is that I never quite understood what was going on or why I should be rooting for the King over the enemy. I don't know if the king is actually a horrible ruler who terrorizes his subjects or if he's just and kind, so it was hard for me to really connect with the story. Overall, this piece definitely felt like fantasy and the descriptions you painted are quite clear.

    Wheelock's Latin:
    This piece told a full story in 500 words, and I loved that the wife wasn't at all blind to Gary's behavior. My primary critique for this piece is the dialogue seemed stiff. You had some awesome lines in there, but at the same time, there were some things that just didn't feel right to me. The use of kid and kiddo are right there at the top. Perhaps it's meant to show how misogynistic Gary is and how he infantilizes women, but I had a hard time believing he'd think of his lover or his wife of 14 years as "kiddo".

    My vote goes to Wheelock's Latin because it was an original and complete story in 500 words.

    Iradessa, Fantasy isn't typically my cup of tea but I did enjoy the atmosphere of your story and I would have gladly kept reading if the word count limit were higher.

  11. Iradessa gets my vote.

    Both are well written but I want to see where Ace and the king go....I don't have that feeling for the couple telling cheating stories over a beer.

  12. Iradessa: First, the tiny little cough set me up to expect Ace to be a tiny little character. He was not. I especially appreciated the king's dialogue comparing his enemy's success to a "rain drop in a thunderstorm." Ace's dialogue did not advance the plot. The story ended where it started, with little new information, except that the king wondered if Ace might become an enemy. I wondered why that would occur to him. Not enough information.

    Wheelock's Latin: So we have a cheating husband, and a wife revealing her indiscretions. Do we believe her, or is she just trying to hurt him back? Since there is not enough word count to judge her veracity, we have no real way to know. He thinks he's a sharp looking guy (do we trust his judgement) but the wronged wife is sitting at the table in a bathrobe with her hair a mess. This is too stereotype. If she looked gorgeous, it might have helped.

    My vote goes to Iradessa.

  13. My vote goes to Wheelock's Latin. Crackling scene! Loved the line about wiping his mouth with his marriage license. Tells you everything you need to know about the character.

    Idressa, Lovely writing here too, but I felt like the scene could be tightened. Nothing much seemed to advance in the space of these words. I realize this is probably a small part of a longer piece, but every word needs to drive the plot forward.

  14. My vote goes to Iradessa.

    Iradessa: there's a flow to this piece that I liked, the kind where I keep on reading even if I don't intend to. Fantasy isn't usually something I warm to, so I didn't intend to - but this felt quite 'Wolf Hall.' I think I could happily read a full novel of this.

    Wheelock's Latin: ahh, difficult - it's very well-written, but I find bitter-people stories so draining; I had to push myself through it. You have a wicked turn of phrase, and it's a nice, unstated twist at the end.

  15. My vote goes to Wheelock's Latin. Despite the glaring errors, it is a complete story that was fun to read.

    Iradessa-I thought your piece was well written, but I had too many questions that made the story difficult to understand.

  16. Iradessa: I suspect this scene is a novel excerpt. It would work in a novel, but in this 500-word format, it falls flat for me. There isn't a lot to critique in terms of the writing--that's pretty cleanly done--but the stakes are lacking. I don't know these characters well enough to know if they're people I'd want to ally myself with, and so I simply don't care. For all I know, this king is evil, and it would be a good thing if Ace became his enemy. The problem with novel excerpts, assuming this is one, is that WriteClub voters don't have access to the whole novel. When you read a scene in a novel, you have all the necessary background information to connect with the characters and understand the stakes. Also, the author is going to include information readers don't need right away but will need later in the story and details that enhance but aren't necessary. In WriteClub, you have to communicate character and stakes and only details that are necessary for those 500 words. In this case, the line about Dores stands out as a detail that has nothing to do with the tension at the center of these 500 words (though I'm sure it matters in the context of the novel), and you haven't given me any reason to want to be on the king's side or Ace's side or anyone's side, so I'm just... meh. A solid piece, but it doesn't stand alone outside the novel.

    Wheelock's Latin: There's an edginess to these characters that leaves me disliking them both and wanting to stick around to see how ugly it gets in that kitchen. Well done on that count. There are quite a few typos and grammatical errors, though, as well as room for tightening up the writing.

    The funny thing about this contest is that everything is subjective, and I often find myself questioning my vote... or voting for a piece I didn't expect myself to vote for. Yesterday, I would have voted for Wheelock's Latin on the basis of giving the reader well-defined characters and a whole lot of tension, but today, looking strictly at the quality of the writing, I'm having second thoughts and thinking Iradessa just made a mistake either in not tweaking this sample for the 500-word format or not finding a more emotionally impactful 500-words.

    So, I'm voting for Iradessa, the piece with the cleaner writing, and hoping any future submissions from this author deliver the character and stakes I wanted out of today's entry.

  17. Iradessa -- Cool story. I'm interested in where it goes, so you get my vote.
    Wheelock's Latin -- Reminds me of a scene in Mad Men. Good submission.

    ((My Internet has been so spotty lately. Just trying to get my comments to actually post instead of sit here staring at the spinning loading wheel.))

  18. Iradessa -- The setup is good and the scene feels familiar, but it didn't feel like the best use of the 500 words. You have to take off fast, short flight, then stick the landing. This piece feels like it's all takeoff. There's not much story and then ending on a hypothetical question felt like a mistake.

    Wheelock's Latin -- There are some good lines in here, but the story feels disjointed. The opening paragraph about getting into the apartment drags on forever, then the immediacy of the story is harmed by the mini flashbacks. You have a cheating husband and his none-too-ignorant wife. Keep us there, not in where he just was and how his lover wanted a second go-round, or about how his wife got pregnant and he felt trapped. All that is fine in a book. You've got 500 words to keep us there. Make it immediate. Also, the wife felt like shades of Molly Bloom, which could be a good thing, only she lacked any of Molly's edge.

    Vote goes to Wheelock's Latin.

  19. My votes to Wheelock's Latin. I prefer the genre. Turnabout is fair play.

  20. Iradessa - There have been a few critiques that this didn't feel like complete story. I know that can feel unjust since this is not necessarily a short story competition, but it really comes down to having enough context for readers to hook into. This might require you replace some of the figurative language and obscure references with a few hard facts, like a description of the enemy or a clear idea of what will happen when someone opens the sixth Vault. Royal political intrigue and unreliable allies are totally my jam, so this would seal the deal for me.

    Wheelock's Latin - This piece was rather heartbreaking, and I thought it was fitting that the protagonist got a swig of his own medicine at the end. The biggest issue I had with this piece (aside from the aforementioned typos) were inconsistencies in the characterization. This man has an actual mantra about lying to his wife, and then admits to the truth as soon as she calls him out. And the wife meekly suggests she could get someone else just seconds before boldly spilling the dirty details of her own infidelity. Ultimately, her offering him a beer and a seat killed the stakes for me--they both might be upset, but I didn't get the sense either of them cared enough to do anything.

    I'm voting Iradessa on this one, for craft and plot potential.

  21. My vote goes to Iradessa. Both great pieces though!

  22. Iradessa - a good start to a longer tale, I think. Interesting, and colorful.
    Wheelock's Latin - well, that was also well written, dark and unhappy as it was.

    My vote was for Iradessa.

  23. Congratulations, writers! And thanks a lot for making it so tough to choose.


    Fantasy is my thing, so I responded to this story right away. The “Double agents to recruit” line was just satirical enough to give this piece a bit of an edge and a different point of view.

    I liked the jousting between the two “men.” There were a lot of unexplained details, but I could guess what was going on. Would love to know what Ace is. (Fairy?) Hopefully, we’d find out if the story went on.

    Appreciated his doubts at the end about the future of this opportunistic alliance.


    Love this tense little drama. Gary is a properly hate-able anti-hero. However, I couldn’t follow all of Gary’s reactions. Other than smelling his own armpits, he has no reaction when he realizes that his wife is awake. A whispered expletive maybe? Or a feeling of satisfaction, because he has a secret desire to rub the affair in her face? Since we’re in his head, you could have showed us what he’s thinking, even if he’s only lying to himself.

    He doesn’t seem to care at all what his wife thinks, so why go through the motions of smelling his armpits or bothering to wash-off the smell of his mistress? She knows anyway.

    I like the little twist at the end, that maybe he cares more than he’s letting on.

    Because I think the writing’s smoother and I like fantasy, my vote goes to Iradessa.




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