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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Playoff Bout #2

We are back with Playoff bout #2 with ALL NEW MATERIAL from our contestants.

Again, pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used this week again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs. 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 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 Wednesday, Jan 26th (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 - 

Lady Warbleon

House of Whispers

Partie Deux


They lied. The house was far bigger than the advert let on.

Au pair sought. Light housework for modest provincial manor east of Mont Saint Michel.

The only thing modest about the Château du Chuchote was the woman standing under its portico as I collected my luggage from the coach, her frame dwarfed by the thick balustrades and towering columns. I was early and the weather fair, but there was something urgent in the way she shuffled from foot to foot as I approached, going so far as to press her hand to my back to coax me inside.

“Pleasant travels, I assume?” She shut the massive doors behind us, silencing the chittering of birds. “The agency is grateful you could come so quickly. The family’s last au pair left rather suddenly. Please.”

The please was another encouragement to follow her. I had stopped to stare at the chandelier in the foyer, which dripped with hundreds of glittering crystals. This was not the house’s only luxury. We passed a library with floor-to-ceiling stacks, an orangerie bursting with peach trees, archways carved in milky marble. I had worked for wealthy families before, but this grandeur bordered on obscene. Perhaps the last au pair had found the upkeep overwhelming.

“When do I meet the Monsieur Gabin?” I asked the agency woman as we passed through an enfilade of sitting rooms.

“Soon,” she said.

“And the children?”

The woman stopped so suddenly that I nearly crashed into her. The air around us was heavily fragranced with peony, and I thought it was her perfume until I noticed a cluster of fresh-cut flowers laid on the table beside us.

She had been looking at the flowers but then glanced back at me. “The Château du Chuchote has no children.”   

“But I—”

“This makes for an easier job, no?”

I couldn’t argue with this logic, so I shouldered my luggage and followed down the corridor.

“The guest quarters.” She placed a hand on the door, then seemed to think better of it. “You should have everything you need. Take care.”

She was already backing away from me in the direction we had come. I realized then it wasn’t urgency I sensed in her mannerisms. It was fear. She didn’t want to be here.

Alone and unsettled, I pushed open the door to my guestroom and stifled a scream. Someone was staring back at me.

A doll sat on the bed, doe eyes bright and lifelike in her tiny porcelain face.  I walked over and lifted it gently in my hands. It wore a white dress patterned with red roses. A strange vestige for a house with no children.

I was eager to dispose of it, but then I noticed parchment curled in its palm. I tugged it loose and unrolled it. On it was a single word written in French. It took me a moment to translate it, and then everything in me went cold.

S'enfuir, it said. Run. 


Our second contestant is StoryWeaver

“Can I have the paper?”  Harriett knew her brother only cared for one section, he didn’t have the right to hog the rest. 

“Here.”  He passed the stack of crumbled sheets over his pancakes without looking up. 

Rolling her eyes, Harriet rooted through for the news headlines.  Robert had been temporarily staying with her for almost a year now, and she was finally adjusted to the assault on her privacy.  It no longer annoyed her to find him sitting at her table, her newspaper disassembled and her mail inspected.  If only he perused the help wanted ads as thoughtfully as the baseball scores. 

She watched him turn the final page of the sports section.  “Don’t you care about anything else?” 

Robert huffed before answering.  “You mean like your precious environment?”

Harriett knew better than to rise to his bait.  She was proud of her activism and he couldn’t take that away from her.  Hours of magic lessons, anonymous phone calls to authorities.  She still remembered how proud she had been the first time she had seen her work reported in the paper.  After that, she’d stopped having to call and provide a warning. 

He deserved a dig about his laziness, though.  “Something to benefit your future children wouldn’t hurt.”

“If your real concern is betterment for all, then you’ll enjoy today’s cover story.  One of you save the world types just got five people killed when an overpass collapsed.”

“What?”  Harriett struggled to keep the panic out of her voice.  No deaths.  That was the oath she took.

“Here.  You can watch the live coverage on TV.”

She forced herself to turn, to school her face into a mask of disinterested concern. 

The screen brightened to life, filled with images of carnage.  One car teetered on the edge of the void where the roadway had crumbled.  Crews attempted to secure it to tow trucks located well away from the disintegrating structure, hoping to prevent it from joining the two mangled cars below.  One gas tank had ruptured, turning the ground beneath it into toxic mud. 

Harriett hoped the red running on the remaining support was her spray paint.

The images burned in Harriett’s mind even as they faded into the face of a commentator and guest.  A special news bulletin interrupted the interview, the official death toll was now six individuals.  A motorist had suffered a heart attack after witnessing the collapse and calling 9-1-1. 

“I can’t watch anymore.”  Harriett turned away, but she could still hear the coverage as the mayor began a press conference. 

“This is a terrible tragedy that could have been prevented.  For too long, we have looked the other way when the vandal known as ‘Preservationist’ tagged a structure.  Starting today, my office has instructed every law enforcement official to use all available resources to track down this individual.” 

“I have to go.”  Harriett grabbed her coat and headed to the overpass.  She needed to know what had gone wrong.  


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.

We’ll be back tomorrow 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. Great job to both writers for making it this far. My vote today is going to go to Lady Warbledon.

    Storyweaver - I like that this furthered Harriet's story and gave us a little bit of versatility in showing your ability to work with other characters - I particularly liked Robert, his character actually came through stronger for me than Harriet's did. While I didn't like the edited ending in your last piece, I do like how it foreshadowed this outcome and provided us with the dramatic irony of knowing exactly what went wrong. That said, I just didn't connect with Harriet enough, her emotions didn't seem to come through strongly enough for the situation she's in.

    Lady Warbledon - Again, your writing is incredible, and this piece was really strong. I did have to read it multiple times to understand it fully, which sometimes can mean that it's not clear enough, but in this case, I think it's because there's so much packed into these five hundred words. The only complaint that I might have is in the first two sentences, which were a little unclear to me (maybe because I didn't know what an "au pair" was, so that drew my attention away from the rest).

  2. My vote is for Lady Warbledon.

    Lady Warbledon: Beautiful writing. You did a great job of convey emotions indirectly--the fear of the agency woman and the dawning understanding of the new au pair, realizing the situation wasn't at all as advertised.

    Storyweaver: I liked the change in style in this, as you move from the magic of Harriet's graffiti to the everyday life with her brother. The writing is a bit awkward at times, more functional than artistic. The emotions seem to be described to the reader, not felt by the reader.

  3. Congrats to both of you for making it this far, I was glad to see both of you expanding on your original pieces in this new selections. I know that can be a risky choice, but I think you both pulled it off successfuly.

    Storyweaver, Your story took a very dramatic turn, I think it was a great choice. Your first piece showed us this environmental warrior and gave a beautiful picture of a world that could be changed with art, and this piece shows us how quickly things can go horribly wrong. I liked the versatility in your style, contrasting flowery language in your first piece where Harriett is in her artistic element, to a more straightforward 'everyday life' style as she deals with her lazy brother.

    Lady Warbleon, your piece was very consistent with the voice and style of your original, this piece feels like a build up to learning more about the house and the things that have transpired there, but the pacing was well done.

    My vote goes to Storyweaver.

  4. So disappointed that the two entries are continuations of the earlier work.
    Lady Warbleon is still one of the best writers in the competition, but this piece wasn't as strong as the first and the opening line does nothing to grab the reader. It goes on to kill 200 words describing the house and only in the last 100 gives us something to chew on. Would have loved to see something different from this author.
    Storyweaver changed genres and still went with part 2. It doesn't even feel like the same writer, and the use of the 500 words was questionable at best. The long opening about the newspaper ate up all the real estate, and then they just watch it on TV.
    For the writing alone, vote goes to Lady Warbleon.

  5. Lady Warbleon, your story pulled me into both a setting and an atmosphere, so you get my vote today.

    Storyweaver, Though I think the scene itself could be sharpened, I am enjoying the plot of this story and definitely would read more.

  6. Lady Warbledon has my vote.

    Lady Warbledon: Yesterday, I stressed that this is the point where we need to see a writer's versatility. For some writers, what worked well in the first entry falls flat in the second because we've seen it already, and we're left wishing they'd wowed us with some writing ability we hadn't yet seen from them. In your case, the things you did well in the first submission--the elegant style, the sense of dark magic and foreboding mystery, even the brave, innocent protagonist--are done just as adeptly in the second submission, and the introduction of a 1st person narrator with her own voice gives the story a fresh perspective and new intrigue. Both of your submissions are engaging and beautifully written. I'll understand if you decide to branch out in the next round, should you make it through, but take it as high praise when I say that, regardless of the final outcome of this contest, the Chateau du Chuchote will stick with me for years to come.

    Storyweaver: I have to agree with several of the critiques you've already gotten. Robert was the stronger, clearer character in this scene, I didn't connect with Harriet, it feels like you're telling us a lot of information rather than showing it to us or letting it come out naturally, the newspaper was a redundant waste of words if she was going to see the wreckage on the television anyway... I think the change in style may have been too dramatic. It's good to show versatility, but within a story, the reader expects some consistency, even if a scene calls for a different tone, even if a character shows a different side of herself in a different environment. Harriet lost much of the power and poetry she had in your first entry, to the point that it was hard to recognize her as the same character. You have a wonderful concept. I just think it needs a little more development. If you don't make it through, I sincerely hope you'll keep sharpening your craft and working on this story.

  7. I loved both of these stories from the first round and am delighted to see the next installation. Both of you are skilled story tellers and the works you have created are rich and satisfying.
    Lady Warbleon, I love the line that the house has no children, how the woman won't touch the door and the creepy doll. My only critique is that s'enfuir is the unconjugated verb, to flee. It should be Enfuyez-vous! Which is the command you intended. Great job and you have my vote!
    Storyweaver- Had you been up against anyone else you would have had my vote! This idea is fresh and I love the magical realism! I would definitely read this book and hope you continue the story.

  8. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that neither author wrote something new here. Yes, I wanted to read more, but not here. I wanted to see what else the writer could do. Sigh.

    My vote goes to Lady Warbleon. The writing is still tight, and the voice spot on, but not as engaging as the original piece. Likely because it has already been seen. It is no longer fresh, and original.

    I do hope to see different pieces from all the Playoff winners in the next round.

  9. Lady Warbleon better call Sam & Dean Winchester. (That's a compliment.)
    That being said, I'm not sure where this is going. Is she going to laugh at the doll and say, "no sh💩t. I just got hired to care for kids and there aren't any. Pretty obvious something bad is coming."
    Is she going to drop the doll and just run?
    Is she going to start looking for cameras to see if she's being punked?
    Or is she just gonna get killed and have to look after ghost kids forever?
    I don't have enough of a feel for the main character, don't feel connected enough to her, to even have a hint of her reaction. Maybe with more than 500 words?

    "Harriett hoped the red running on the remaining support was her spray paint."
    Why does she hope this? Did she hope to be guilty of the crime? Just really want to see her paint on tv, even among the carnage?
    I enjoyed the rest of this. Your theme of "even doing good has consequences" is apparent. (Not just the magic, but also taking in her brother.)
    You get my vote.

    1. Ohhh.... instead of blood... spray paint instead of blood.
      Yeah, that took me a minute. Sorry.

  10. I vote for Lady Warbleon. I was not prepared for the scary/mysterious turn it took, but I like it! I think StoryWeavers story is good, but needed some editing. I had to reread things a couple of times to make sure I understood the story.

  11. I vote for Lady Warbleon. Your writing is absolutely gorgeous, but I do hope we'll see something different in the next round. StoryWeaver, yours was good as well, but just not as polished.

  12. Congratulations, writers! Loved both of these stories and glad to see more of them.

    Lady Warbleton
    Eerie and chilling and beautiful. Love the lush descriptions and the imagery. Yours was one of my favorites in the contest. The change of POV threw me off at first. Was the au pair the unseen narrator in the first part? I loved my second visit to Chateau du Chuchote.

    The first part of the story was so poetic and mystical, that starting with this normal domestic scene was jarring. I wasn’t sure it was the same story. I longed for the magical tone you established in the first part. Maybe a description of the way she swirls the butter on her toast or the way the light creeps in through the window. The interaction between the brother and sister is fine, but it seemed off topic. Maybe if you’d opened with her remembering what she’d done at the overpass, feeling proud of it.

    My vote goes to: Lady Warbleton.

  13. Lady Warbleton, if this is a typical example of your writing skills, I hope to be able to read your books soon. Wonderful!

    Lady Warbleton gets my vote.

  14. My vote is for Lady Warbleon

    I thought it interesting that both writers had continued on the same story. I have no issue with that at all: the competition is an open one and I accept these entries in that vein. I look forward to seeing how writers take the feedback to rework their next chapter.

    Lady Warbleon: you are again a delight of description. I have some concerns:
    a) I can't tell when this is set in relation to the first chapter. If they are connected, or aren't connected, I need orientation else I'll be gnawing at it.
    b) I can see you're going for suspense, but you're kind of telling people 'be scared here', rather than building up uncertainty. A 'stifled scream', 'everything went cold' - the events don't warrant such a large reaction. If you can get that right, this would be a terrific vehicle for it.
    c) In such a large house, why is she being put into a room that scares the housekeeper? And presumably any cleaners, too - that could be awkward.

    Storyweaver: this is a completely different style from your chapter 1. Although I found chapter 1 to be a little Purple for my taste, I could appreciate the descriptive power. This one has none, and to be honest I'm rather puzzled. In terms of the character - are we supposed to like her? I find her actions disruptive, arrogant. She seems very young: what 'experience' is she relying on to let her know how to time her destructions?

  15. I liked that both authors continued with their stories - kudos to both for getting this far. My vote goes to StoryWeaver. I like the way the story is filling out. It is interesting turn of events bc Harriett is unaware of someone undermining her work and yet she will have to pay the price unless she can find out who it is and what the motive is.

  16. Congratulations to both writers on your new pieces of work.

    Lady Warbleon - this is interesting, as it obviously picks up right where the other left off with the doll left on the bed. Will the house swallow the au pair too to take care of the little girl? I was a little confused that the woman she met was from the agency, I wasn't quite sure where she fit in.

    Storyweaver - there was a lot to unpack in this continuation - it felt a bit rushed to fit everything into this sample, so it lost some of the emotional impact. I do like the direction you’re taking the story and how you are building the entirety of the world around your story.

    My vote goes to StoryWeaver.

  17. Good morning! Congrats to both writers.
    Voting for Lady Warbleon today. Writing is absolutely lovely. Great job creating an atmosphere. Only misstep in the writing was the doll's "doe" eyes. Using an animal comparison didn't work for me. Other than that, it seems that an au pair with no children to take care of would respond with more questions than this one does. Again, though, the mood and writing were skillful and pulled me in.

    StoryWeaver, I'm intrigued where this will go ultimately. Right here the writing felt rushed. You have a few comma splices, and phrasing in general could be tightened and improved. I could tell the difference between your previous 500 words, which showcased your beautiful writing, and this one, which seemed less polished.

  18. My vote is for Story Weaver. I'm intrigued enough that I'd totally read on...

  19. StoryWeaver for my vote. This seems like a book I'd read. It needs a bit of sprucing, but it's good overall.

    Lady Warbleon, I'm missing a connection with the main character. Thoughts, feelings... why this person got that far inside without pause. Maybe the point of view of the other character would be better?




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