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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Cage Bout #2

Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HEREHere's how WRiTE CLUB cage bouts work. Instead of two writers competing against one another, now it's THREE AT ONCE. But there's a twist. All of the winners have been given the opportunity to absorb the feedback offered during their preliminary round and submit an edited version of their original submission. As a writer, utilizing feedback can be a tricky proposition - because frankly - not all feedback is equal. This is our chance to see how the contestants used that feedback (if at all).

The readers/voters are to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.

Remember, one of the real values of this contest is FEEDBACK. So, please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Sun, Jan 16th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a BRAND 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.

Here are the contestants for this first cage bout (in random order) are -

Lady Warbleon

House of Whispers


The house had outgrown them.

No, I have not misspoken: truly, the Château du Chuchote was bigger than when the family first arrived. Like a quiet cancer, it swelled and spread—stairwells unrolling from drywall, corridors sprouting from halls, porticos appearing where they hadn’t been the day before.

The youngest of them was the first to notice, one fog-softened afternoon in August. “We’ve a courtyard now, Mother,” she announced over tea.

“Of course, Nicolette.” The mother did not spare a glance from her cup or a care for the courtyard. Like all the house’s additions, it was easy enough to trivialize with reason or diagnose as imagination. It has always been that way, the adults would say, even as the foundation groaned beneath them.

Nicolette spent her day exploring the cour d’honneur all the same, delighted to find it trimmed with fieldstone and ripe roses. She tucked her dolls among the buds and armed their porcelain palms with thorns. For a perilous moment, she considered hiding herself in the roses, too, deep in the brambled shadows.

But she knew it would not matter. He would find her anyway.

Nicolette took a nascent hallway back to the nursery, so narrow she had to turn sideways to pass. There were tiny white flowers metastasizing down its length, and when she touched one, it rained petals at her feet as though this were the nave of a chapel and she the bride. It was both sad and beautiful, she thought, not unlike the house itself.

She did not tell the mother about the hallway. Or about the door that had begun to etch itself into the nursery wall. She knew it was not her imagination, because she would watch the door’s light inch closer each night—to the toy chest, to the chair, to the foot of the bed. She would watch the light whenever the yelling swelled below her, and the rumble of his voice grew closer.

The next morning, she ate peaches and regarded the new window in the parlor. She skipped through the rambling enfilades and sunk her dolls to the bottom of the new fountain. And that night, she found the new door in the nursery had cracked open, the light beyond it coaxing and warm. While other children might have been afraid, Nicolette knew there were bigger things to fear. Like the sound of his footsteps thundering down the hallway, her name a curse in his mouth.

When he arrived in the nursery that night, he did not find Nicolette. He found only a melting lantern, only an empty wall, only a new porcelain doll left in her stead.

The house had outgrown them, you see. It’s said the Château du Chuchote had once been home to many daughters. Now, the grounds are quiet, save for the occasional creak of a beam settling into place. It has always been that way, the adults would say.

But if you listened, the house would say different.


Contestant number two is WritingwithBourbon

Dull kerosene lamplight framed the dead firing squad. Alexei and his family stared at the shadowborn crows plucking the eyes out of the Bolsheviks.

“Thank God,” Alexei whispered. He wiped away the splattered blood on his hands and face, searching for cuts and bruises. “Thank God. The blood’s not mine.”

“We must go.” His father took the lead. Every crow turned to watch. “Go!” He hissed. Alexei’s four sisters obeyed, but were forced back to the wall by beating black wings. His mother clutched him to her chest and rushed back. Alexei winced as they hit the wall, aching pain in his skull. He bit through his tongue. Warm, bitter blood filled his mouth. He braced at what came next.

“No!” Wild eyed, his mother swatted crows away before falling to her knees. She ran her hands over him head to toe. They came away clean. “Does anything hurt?” Her eyes were looking for lies.

Alexei swallowed and leaned in to whisper.


Her eyes closed, whispering fervent prayers. He silently cursed the doctor who’d infected her with fear of his illness.

Howling winter winds blew out of the basement’s shadows. Alexei’s family huddled, pushing him between his four sisters, leaving his mother and father to stand alone. 

“Leaving before giving thanks. Romanovs never fail to disappoint,” the raspy voice cackled. The crows added their cawing chorus. Alexei covered his ears.

“Show yourself and we will thank you!” His father shouted over the din.

Stone tapped against concrete. Alexei pushed his sisters aside to watch the darkness. Old stories echoed in his memories as gnarled hands holding a pestle thrust into the light.

“What can a former Czar offer me?” Eyes, bluer than Siberian ice, gleamed at the light’s edge. When they passed over him, liquid warmth rushed down Alexei’s leg.

“We can pay-” One moment his father was standing tall, and the next he was on his knees gasping for air. One rush of wind and Alexei stared open-mouthed into the fishhook grin of Baba Yaga. The child eater of legend tightened her grip on his father’s throat.

“Keep your bloodstained gold. I want Russia’s future.” Her eyes found Alexei again. His mother spat pious damnations on the witch.

“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Baba Yaga spat back. “Your lives are owed to me. I claim his.” She swung the pestle’s stone tip into his mother’s gut. She doubled over, heaving. Alexei tore away from his sisters and grabbed the wrist killing his father.

“Please, let him live. I’ll go with you.”

The fishhook grin never changed, but her eyes softened. She leaned in close to his father’s red face.

“Your son is braver than you.” She shoved his father back into his mother. His family huddled and fussed over each other. Everything in Alexei wanted to run back to them. Baba Yaga’s boney fingers wrapped around his shoulder.

“Come, princeling. Together, we will mold a nation of magic the world has never seen.”  

And finally, number three is Almach Nightmare

A Tender Moment

Julia was sitting at the base of one of my favorite hiking trails. She loves hiking, and that day she’d worked up a light sweat that gave her skin a little shine. The setting sun cast her in amber; her lopsided smile and flowing hair glowed in that one perfect moment of light.    

When she was in Rome, she tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain wishing for love but told her family that she only did it because it was tradition. That vacation was the first and last time she ever left her hometown. She still calls herself a world traveler though, and dreams of visiting other countries.

Her eyes have a little green mixed in the light brown. When she wears mascara and a little eyeliner they seem to sparkle with an ethereal glow. It’s as if she could look into my eyes and see every thought laid out like pages from her favorite glamor magazines.

She likes to dress casually—jeans and colorful blouses—but she’s not afraid to show off her knowledge of fashion when the occasion calls for it. Long flowing dresses, slit high to the hip, low slung necklines showing almost too much skin. The look says classy and sexy at once.

I imagine she’d be the talk of the night if we ever showed up at one of my work parties dressed like that. Her arm around mine as we made small talk with my colleagues. Steve and Carlos giving me the silent bro nod of approval. Dancing and sipping chardonnay ‘til the early hours before walking home hand in hand, her high heeled shoes slung over my shoulder.

When we get home, she’d look into my eyes and without saying a word know how much I appreciated her in my life. We’d kiss and make love and when the first light of the sunrise comes through my bedroom window her eyes would still be on mine, those little green specks glittering in the sun like tiny emeralds.

Later that day she’d convince me to do a quick hike up Little Turtle trail to help exorcise the demon spirits we consumed the night before. While we hike, we’d talk over plans for our vacation next October. She’ll push for Spain and I’ll argue Thailand. By the time we get home we’ll have decided on Cyprus.

The thought of the sundown casting her in that same amber glow as we looked out over the Mediterranean is everything. Her hand in mine as we talked about how great the food is and how welcoming the locals are. I’d lean over and kiss that lopsided smile of hers and she would kiss me back. Before she notices, I’m on one knee, proposing with my grandmother’s ring.

Julia loves cats. She has three of them.

I’m allergic to cats. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Swipe left.

Monique has the cutest little dimples when she smiles and damn her body is…


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 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 (shown on the sidebar). 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 another cage 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. My vote goes to Lady Warbledon.

    WritingwithBourbon, I think some of your edits took away from the strong voice in the start of this piece and left the writing feeling a little stilted to me.

    Almach Nightmare, I didn't see any real change in yours, which felt a little disappointing to me, because I think some of the feedback on your piece in the first round was really great and could have made your piece stronger.

  2. My vote goes to Lady Warbledon - I feel really similar vibes to famous short stories like the Veldt and hope to see if you can keep up the quality in future bouts

  3. I'm voting for Lady Warbleon today.

  4. Lady Warbleon gets my vote. Great concise piece with a lot of feel to it.

  5. Ah, sorry peeps - Lady Warbleon was always going to get my vote. I'm just full of envy for the weirdness.

    Almach: a fun piece, beautifully written, fabulous idea, no criticisms at all.

    Bourbon: a little Purple for my taste, but lots of fabulous descriptions.

  6. Congratulations to all three writers! I missed these stories the first time around but took a hop back to take a look.

    Lady Warbledon - I like how you imply the abuse fe the father figure, but never say it outright. It even infused how she had her dolls armed with thorns, showing how she always feels she needs to protect herself. I think I would have liked to know that she was happy on the other side of the door.

    WritingwithBourbon - I appreciate the edits to the piece, the extra lines about his disease help to ground the story in the reality of the Romanov family. I think the presence of the crows in the basement threw me off, wondering how they got there. If there’s a relation to Baba Yaga, I might throw that in there for people who are not familiar.

    Almach Nightmare - I found myself smiling at the end of the piece, realizing the assumptions we make during online dating, and how we both idolize and demonize our matches at the same time. Your pen name threw me off, as I was expecting something dark to happen.

    My vote goes to WritingWithBourbon.

  7. Lady Warbledon gets my vote. The other stories were good, but this was one of the better stories in the competition.

  8. Vote goes to Almach Nightmare.
    Seeing as it looks like we're going right down the line and we're pitting winners of consecutive days against each other, with the save round as the last cage match--which I've already complained about so I won't here--this is the toughest matchup of the competition. WritingWithBourbon's entry was strong, and Lady Warbleon has the best voice this year. I would have loved to see all three go further in the competition, which I why I wish the save round was after the cage bouts, but alas...

  9. Oh, my. This is a difficult round.

    Lady Warbledon: I still love this piece, but for some reason it really glared out at me that Nicolette's mother is always referred to as "the mother". This would make sense if the house were the narrator, but the house is referred to as "the house". I can't explain exactly what I don't like about calling her mother "the mother" but it just felt off.

    WritingWithBourbon: I can see how much effort you put into revising this entire piece, and I have to admit I'm impressed with how well you cleaned up your action scenes. I also appreciate the clear reminder of the condition Alexei lives with.

    Almach Nightmare: This one still doesn't feel like a story to me. I "learn" so much about Julia, but I don't know who that narrator is or why I should care about Julia as much as they do. By the time I get to the end, I definitely understand, but it gives me a case of the creeps. The narrator comes off more as a stalker than a person who's daydreaming while scrolling through a dating app.

    WritingWithBourbon gets my vote.

  10. Lady Warbledon has my vote.

    Going off my gut reaction to these resubmitted entries compared to the impressions the originals left, I'm not sure the revisions helped Writing With Bourbon, and I couldn't tell a difference in Almach Nightmare.

  11. Congratulations writers! Three of my favorite pieces! I wish I could vote for all three. Since I can't, I will vote for my favorite of the entire competition: Lady Warbleon. Break a leg, can't wait to see what you create next.

  12. My vote is for Lady Warbledon.

  13. Voting for Lady Warbleon. I'm intrigued by the house!

  14. Lady Warbleon gets my vote, but all three are very smooth and appealing to read in different ways.
    As far as revisions, I mostly noticed them with WritingwithBourbon, and they really worked. The piece seemed more concentrated, clear, and focused. Great job.
    I think the pacing with Almach Nightmare might be picked up.
    Great job to all, and congratulations on excellent writing!

  15. Loved all three of these the first time around.

    Lady Warbleon – You’ve accomplished quite a feat, telling a complete, compelling story in 500 words. So many beautiful descriptions and great tension. Very polished.

    WritingWithBourbon – I see how you tried to smooth things out and make it clearer, but I’m still having trouble following the descriptions. For instance, I can’t tell whose life she’s talking about when she says ”I claim his.” One action doesn’t seem to logically follow the next. I still love the concept and a lot of the descriptions are vivid. It has an enormous amount of potential.

    Almach Nightmare – It’s a cute story, smoothly written and well-told. Love the twist at the end.

    Because I love the atmospheric feel and I think it’s the strongest story of the three, my vote goes to Lady Warbleon.

  16. A tough choice but WritingWithBourbon gets my vote for pure story!

  17. My vote goes to Lady Warbleon, for intriguing premise.
    Congrats to all three of you - Writing with Bourbon, your piece was giving me Grisha Trilogy vibes, and Almach Nightmare, your story definitely took me by surprise.

  18. Lady Warbleon -- I shouldn't have just watched Enchanto (🎶we don't talk about Bruno no no no🎶). This story feels like a dark version of that now. Vote to you.

    WritingwithBourbon -- I liked this, but I also feel like an outsider who should know a bunch of lore before reading it to understand better what's happening.

    Almach Nightmare -- Ah, a dreamer with a dating app. Cool story.

  19. Almach Nightmare has a story I feel would sell the best of these and gets my vote.

  20. My vote this round goes to Lady Warbleon




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