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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Cage Bout #4

Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results HERE.

Here'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 Tues, Jan 18th (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 -


Chapter One


Come along. If you follow me, we might catch him before he shuts the shop.  Stay close to me.  These streets are dark and narrow, and slither through the city like a snake.  A child could easily get lost here.  Hurry now.  Down this alleyway – past the Captain’s Cavern pub and - yes, we’re just in time.  Look, he’s closing the shutters.  Quietly now.  Don’t let him see us.  Slip into this doorway and peep out carefully.

Ah, you’ve seen him, I can tell.  Quite a sight, isn’t he?  His name’s Fraser.  Fraser Crannog - of the Clan Crannog as he always reminds people.  You won’t forget that, will you?

F R A S E R   C R A N N O G. 

He doesn’t like it if you get his name wrong, and it’s always ‘Mr Crannog’ at first. I know, he’s a wild looking man.  If we were a little closer, you’d be able to see his thick, grey caterpillar eyebrows, his radish-red nose, his hair all wild and spiky.  But, most of all, you’d see his eyes: sharp, shiny and icy blue.  The sort of eyes that seek out your secrets.  Your - very - deepest - secrets.  Can you see the shop window?  Look at those old lamps, antique toys, ancient books, pieces of furniture – all so thick with dust you could write your name in them.  Finn does sometimes. Who’s Finn? Oh, you’ll find out soon enough. 

Crannog’s Curios – ah, you spotted the sign and yes, you’re right, it is an antique shop – officially.  But Fraser sells more than that.  Much, much more.  But we must go.  He’s locked the door – he’s on his way home.  Stay quiet. Quiet.  He’s passing, so close we could reach out and touch him – can you smell the stale tobacco?  That’s from his pipe. He smokes it all the time. He’s walking down the alley now to the main street, his footsteps echoing.  He’ll disappear in a moment, into the swirling mist that chokes Edinburgh tonight.  Now, let me take you to meet Finn.


Here we are, on the other side of the city.  Look at those gloomy old flats.  Finn Silvers is up there in his tiny bedroom. It smells musty and damp. Can you see him, looking out from the top floor window, a blanket round his shoulders? He’s wishing – wishing that he could fly like the birds that are roosting in the tops of the trees.  If he could, he’d fly back to London, back to the time when his Mum was alive.  His old life, where his Dad hadn’t married Sylvia.  It will be tea-time soon.  His Mum used to bake and cook lovely meals with roast potatoes and gravy; Sylvia gives him Spam and cabbage.  Finn’s always hungry now. Come, I’ll take you up.  Hold tight.

“Finn!  Come here this instant.”  Ah, there’s Sylvia - that lemon-faced, bony woman in the frilly apron.  Don’t be scared, she can’t see you.


Contestant number two is Battlestar Bear

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.


And finally, number three is MIM

Driving Me Crazy

“Get off in Sandnes,” she says. 

The website for the Statens Vegvesen, the Norwegian DPS, calls her a “test sensor.” I call her—this khaki-uniformed woman who holds my vehicular fate in her hands—the Ice Queen. Queenie, for short.

The ten minutes since I pulled out of the Stavanger motor vehicle bureau have been chilly, and nothing’s wrong with the sedan’s heat. Yep, it’s Queenie, who has a pruny face, glacial eyes, and the social skills of a Yeti.

I have fifty more minutes to melt Queenie with my red-hot driving skills and snag that Norwegian driver’s license. Since my family and I arrived from Houston five months ago, I’ve avoided the road test, terrified I’ll muff it. Crazy to think, but a few slips behind the wheel could cost me $4,000 and 20 hours at driving school. I’m 46, not 16, and have much better plans for my money and time.

So, here I am piloting Queenie smoothly, steadily, and moderately southeast on the motorway when she tells me to exit. Sandnes has four exits, so Queenie needs to cough up more info. “This Sandnes exit?” I ask, gesturing toward a blue highway sign. 

Then I reconsider. Waving one hand around during a driving test—could look reckless. I casually slide it back to the two o’clock position. 

“Do you mean the sentrum exit?” I ask. 


Not that rabbit warren! Crap.

Downtown Sandnes is the cutest for shopping, strolling on the brick-paved pedestrian mall lined with boutiques. For driving, though, it's a tangled mass of crisscrossing streets and snack-sized roundabouts lined with cyclists, pedestrians, runners, and baby carriages, all waiting to leap into the crosswalks and bring oncoming cars to a halt. I’ve learned two things: stop for crosswalks, and crosswalks are everywhere.

All the ex-pats have PTSD from this Sandnes driving hell. “I was white-knuckling the steering wheel and going about 10 miles an hour,” said Debbie, the triathlete from Denver.

Jana told me, “I was trying to turn left, but the green arrow wouldn't come. Sweat was just streaming down my back, you know? And the test guy kept trying to talk to me.” She’s from Houston, like me. She failed the test, like I’m about to.

“Turn at the next right,” says Queenie.

“By the apotek?” I ask. 

She huffs, brushing something (probably) fake off her jacket sleeve. “Is that the next right?”

Maybe? As I’ve learned recently, the “next right” could be the drugstore. Also, it could be a dead-end alley the width of a Gremlin. Reversing in such a situation really wakes you up in the morning.

Nonetheless, I turn right because Queenie says to. 

Around the corner, it’s suddenly silent, and we are not moving. Through my front windshield, I see a red-faced old man shaking his fist at me. He’s in the crosswalk, and so is my car. 

Queenie’s cut the engine, and my Norwegian driving dreams are dead.


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. Good morning, writers!

    Trewalney: As I read your piece this morning, I realized that it makes me feel cozy. Like I'm a child, sick in bed, and a beloved adult is telling me a story to distract me from my fever and aching body. I love this piece and have not solid critiques.

    Battlestar Bear: I'm still distracted by all the dialogue tags. "breathed, began, murmured." I know this is a personal preference, but I definitely prefer a plain old "said" if I must use a tag because I like context, the dialogue itself, and actions to clue me into how words are spoken.

    Driving Me Crazy: Your revisions definitely gave me a clearer sense of who the driver is, but I almost feel that it wasn't quite enough and it came a bit too late. I still envisioned a teen behind the wheel, and my best guess until they mentioned the names of the other ex-pats, was that it was likely a teen boy. Mainly because I can't imagine a woman or girl thinking of an adult woman as "Queenie" or Ice Queen. BUT I love that I know know WHY the driver must pass their test, even I still can't really picture them fully.

    Trelwaney gets my vote today.

  2. My vote today goes to MIM.

    Trelawney - I don't have any further critiques from last round.

    Battlestar Bear - I didn't really notice the dialogue tags in the first round, but now that someone has brought attention to them, I agree, they're a bit distracting. I still think Isabela's name needs to be introduced sooner.

    MIM - no further critiques for you, I think your addition of details about the narrator really helped this piece, and I love the change to the ending, it really strengthened the whole piece.

  3. voting for Trelawney--I love the voice of this, a lot.

  4. MIM, the revisions you made really clarified this scene for me, especially the stakes and the ending.

    Battlestar Bear, as before, the world you created captures the imagination.

    Trelawney, the voice, again, is fantastic. For that reason, Trelawney gets my vote today.

  5. Trelawney has my vote.

    Trelawney: This remains a magical, voicey piece. Well done.

    Battlestar Bear: If revisions were made, they didn't alter my overall impression. The writing is solid with some nice turns of phrase, but pitted against Trelawney, I wanted something more to pique my interest.

    MIM: Your writing is clean and the revisions cleared up some of the questions I had in the prior round, but the story simply doesn't interest me. Sorry!

  6. Beautiful writing, Trelawney. You get my vote.

    The other two pieces were very good, but Trelawney's had more depth to the story and wonderful atmosphere.

  7. How do I get an ID on this site?! I have been searching for instructions to vote, but it isn't anywhere!

    Trelawney's piece is evocative and intriguing and well paced. Clearly the best.

  8. MIM gets my vote. The revisions made things a lot clearer, and I love the humor of this! (So envy anyone who can write good humor.)

  9. My vote is for Trelawny, I would have liked to understand more how these people were connected, but I'm sure that you have a bigger picture that will be revealed later. I liked the unusual voice you chose for the pice, like a story teller.

  10. Congratulations to all three writers!

    I didn’t catch Trelawny’s story earlier. What an interesting voice - how things are described to avoid info dumps while providing info on the world. The jump between locations was a bit odd, felt like part of something bigger. I was a little thrown thinking it was an older era, and the reference to spam brought it to the more modern day.

    Battlestar Bear and MIM both brought great revisions to your stories. Having Isabel say My Lord gives an interesting twist to their relationship. The plot of the story for MIM was more smooth this time around.

    My vote is for Trelawny.

    (I apologize if this suddenly appears in triplicate - Blogger seems to be possessed tonight)

  11. Vote goes to Trelawney. Loved it the first time, still love it. Great revisions to MIM's piece. And a kudos to the admin team for changing up the bout order. Makes for a better competition.

  12. My vote this round is for Trelawny. Congrats all on making it to this round, - MIM your revisions made your piece much cleared.

  13. Three great stories. I thought choosing would be easy this time, but turns out, not so much....

    Beautifully written. You take us on an enjoyable journey. Between Finn’s sad life and Master Crannog’s menacing manner, we’re all set up for the complications that will no doubt come. It feels Dickens-esque, so Spam seems like an anachronism. If it’s not modern day, something like boiled cabbage might work better.

    Battlestar Bear
    Few revisions that I could see. While it’s skillfully written, I have the same problems with it as before: no stakes and very little tension. Because of that, I found it kind of boring, despite the polished writing. I really needed a hint or two of what the main conflict will be.

    Yours has improved the most. You set up the stakes that were missing in the first version and the ending is more satisfying. I really enjoyed reading this. Great work!

    I really enjoyed MIM’s story, but because of the engaging, atmospheric voice, my vote goes to Trelawney.

  14. Three strong pieces here!

    Trelawney - I still love the whimsy and worldbuilding in this piece. My biggest challenge is that Fraser Crannog's intentions are so ambiguous. Did we just meet the villain or Finn's hero? I don't mind some mystery, but I want to know how I'm expected to feel about the character, even if you end up subverting that later. Obviously, that's just a personal opinion.

    Battlestar Bear - Beautiful writing, consistent with the fantasy genre. I do feel like this could have benefited from edits, particularly a sooner intro for Isabela, but I'm giving everyone some grace on that while the world is on fire.

    MIM - GREAT edits here. I don't read widely in contemporary humor, but this was clever and very well executed. You get my vote this round!

  15. Trelawney gets my vote. I love the world you created, especially because it seems multilayered. I'm still worried, though, about the spam being anachronistic.
    Battlestar Bear--very nice writing.
    MIM, good edits.
    Thanks so all!

  16. Trelawney feels like a picture book that is missing the pictures. But it's an okay read.
    Battlestar Bear has me wishing I knew the ages of the characters, but it seems like a decent opening to something that could be good. So you get my vote.
    MIM- is there an award for most improved in playoffs? I'd give you that. I'm not deeply invested in the MC getting the license, but knowing it'd cost money for failing does help the story. This is a much better 500 words than before.

  17. Trelawney isn't my cup of tea.
    Battlestar Bear feels like something I'd normally read.
    MIM has my vote.




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