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WRiTE CLUB 2013 - The Final Battle

And then there were two.  

Muleshoe vs Philangelus

Before turning this over to our celebrity judges to determine who will be the last WRiTER standing this year, I want to pause and thank all of the WRiTERs who were brave enough to submit their work. Such courage does not go unnoticed and should be recognized as well!

Before I reveal the new 500 word submissions that were submitted for this final round, let's take a moment to refresh our memories of just who those judges are.

Kendare Blake – is the author of the highly acclaimed Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares teen horror series.  She is an import from South Korea who was raised in the United States by Caucasian parents. She received a Bachelor's degree in Business from Ithaca College and a Master's degree in Writing from Middlesex University in London. She brakes for animals, the largest of which was a deer, which sadly didn't make it, and the smallest of which was a mouse, which did, but it took forever. Amongst her likes are Greek Mythology, rare red meat and veganism. She also enjoys girls who can think with the boys like Ayn Rand, and boys who scare the morality into people, like Bret Easton Ellis. Her first novel, Sleepwalk Society is a college story which she says falls into that no man's land they call, "New Adult". She has a new novel, Antigoddess (Goddess War #1), slated to be released this fall.

Katie Grimm  Katie joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007, where in addition to maintaining her own client list she also acts as business manager.  She focuses on vivid literary fiction, transportive historical fiction, up-market women’s fiction, cohesive short story collections, and lurid mysteries & thrillers with exotic or historical settings.  In young adult, she is actively seeking both contemporary and fantastical high-concepts with a touch of romance.  In middle grade, she looks for heart and humor with a strange or creepy twist.  Most importantly, she is hooked by fiction with emotional resonance and longevity, and in her opinion, this requires an authentic voice, relatable characters, and a twisting plot that keeps her intrigued.  For non-fiction, she is looking for narrative non-fiction about history, popular science, off-beat topics, and counter-culture.  She is also a member of SCBWI.

Alice Speilburg -- Alice formed Speilburg Literary Agency in December 2012. She launched her publishing career in 2008 at John Wiley & Sons, where she worked primarily on narrative non-fiction and consumer health books. From there she transitioned to the agency side, working at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency on a broad spectrum of fiction and non-fiction, before branching out on her own. The agency is currently building its client list and is interested in character-driven novels in historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, and literary genres. She will take a look at anything middle-grade, YA, or adult. Also of interest are non-fiction authors with established platforms who are writing books on relationships, women’s issues, music and the arts, health, cooking, travel or history. 

Diane Dalton -- Diane has been a freelance editor since 1999. She has been the managing editor and acquisitions editor at Rhemalda Publishing since 2012. She has edited and critiqued novels, letters, web pages, and press releases for various authors and companies.

Diane has worked with small presses evaluating unsolicited manuscripts for potential publication. She has also coached authors in composition and editing.

Diane's expertise is in developmental editing, coordinating and editing projects from proposal through final manuscript, incorporating input from authors and reviewers. She also is an expert in stylistic editing, being able to clarify the author's meaning/intent, eliminating jargon and polishing language. She is proficient in web-based research and has experience using The Chicago Manual of Style.

Alex J. CavanaughAlex is a science fiction writer on a journey of discovery...and blogger extraordinaire!  Online he is known as Captain Ninja Alex! He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He minored in music and plays several instruments, including guitar. Alex is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games, and those passions are reflected on his blog. He is the founder of the Insecure Writer's Support Group and co-host of the A to Z Challenge. His first book, CassaStar, was released October 19, 2010, and is an Amazon Best Seller. The sequel, CassaFire, was released on February 28, 2012. His third book in the series, CassaStorm, is scheduled for release later this year.

Tiana Smith – Tiana was the first ever WRiTE CLUB champion back in 2011! She grew up in Montana where she learned how to build a fire better than her husband, though she’s never ridden a horse. She graduated with an English degree with a creative writing focus from Westminster College and writes YA/MG books.  Tiana is currently querying her YA Fantasy novel – Dungeon Duty.  She also likes to design blogs, so if you're interested in getting one of her premade designs, please visit her shop @ The Blog Decorator.

Mark Hough – Mark was last years the 2012 WRiTE CLUB champion. Mark and his wife Faith live and work in Southern Connecticut, a short drive away from the music centers of New York City and Yale School of Music in New Haven. Mark is not only a talented writer, but he has been making violins, violas and cellos for 13 years, since he completing his 3-year apprenticeship with Lawrence Wilke in 1998. He is a member of the Violin Society of America, which has awarded Mark's violins two Certificates of Merit for workmanship.

Our judges have their work cut out for them, because these are two OUTSTANDING pieces of work.  

First, from the writer who has seemingly be destined for a spot in this round from the start... Muleshoe.

Look, I'm not saying it was the brightest thing I ever did.  But it's me telling the story, so lie still and let me get on with it.

Anyway, what I was saying was, it wasn't anyplace special: just a shoddy old ranch-house skirted around with some raggedy little peach trees that probably wouldn't fruit if you paid 'em.  I was just saying to old Pete that it probably had been a mistake to turn down that road.  Then we heard that almighty roar – you know the one.  Like if an avalanche could moo.

Now, I expect you're thinking the same as I was: "James, how in blazes do you get a giant all the way out in Quintanilla County?"

I'm getting to that part.

He came tearing out from behind the house: a whole half-ton of hairy brown desert ape, all mangy and rangy and crusted over with yellow quartz tumors.  Then he reared up at the sight of us, eight feet tall and surprised, that was what – like he was expecting somebody different. 

Well, there was plenty of that to go around.  Pete's ears went flat, and we agreed between us that it was high time to excuse ourselves.

That was when we heard the lady's scream.

Or maybe it was more of a shout.  I couldn't make out the shape of what she said, but I saw her plain enough – running out from behind the house, wearing an apron the color of a fresh marmalade smear – and the giant did too.  He turned and barreled right for her.

That was when I allotted on trespassing.  I kicked old Pete up to a gallop, and we jumped that fence good enough to leave six-inch skids in the dirt.  And I tell you what: when your hind-end is half up out of the saddle and the marmalade girl is waving her arms and hollering and you already know you are a worthless shot with the pistol you're pulling, your only notion is to run your horse up alongside that wild-minded woollybooger, draw your bead, and fire.

Well, it was the messiest clean miss I ever made.  The girl shrieked, the giant ducked, and old Pete – why, he chucked me ass over ears and tore off toot-de-sweet, as the hellbenders say.

Me and the dirt meditated on that for a bit.

"Merciful heavens, are you all right?"

I sat myself up by breathless busted inches, anxious to assure her that I was –

 but she wasn't talking to me.  No, she was fussing over him, who'd huddled up there like some huge rancid haystack.  Patting his arm.  Soothing him in the tone you'd use for a child with a strawberry knee.

Did you ever notice that little moment, when your foot's missed the step but the rest of you still don't know it?

"What on God's earth is WRONG with you, mister?"

Plenty and more every minute, I could have said.  But mostly I was just delighted she'd called me mister.

And our other contestant, similarly on a collision course with her opponent from the beginning, Philangelus.

Back in the waiting room, I call, "Mr. Davis? I have your vehicle."

The moment he's within arm's reach, I smell alcohol.

I force a smile. "Were you able to find lunch?"

Back in college we'd have called it a malted barley salad.

The man says, "Sure did. Thanks, Miss."

I stand corrected: that's no barley salad. It smells stronger than beer.

"Oh! Look at that." I try to sound breezy. "Sorry, but I'll need you to wait while I check out something we found."

The man says, "What is it?"

I fight nausea. "A potential problem between the front seat and the steering wheel that could cause an accident."

As proof that he's drunk, he accepts this.

I return to the Dodge. Maybe I can keep him sitting long enough to sober up. But Max already made me look over the thing for even the smallest billable fix. The CV boots, the axle, the rotors: they're fine, all disgustingly fine.  Other than it being a Dodge, there are no problems.

Max stalks over. "What's going on?"

"I can't give him the keys. He's drunk."

Max glowers. "What the hell do you care?"

I grimace. "I think we should care about people dying."

"I'm not getting involved." Max folds his arms. "Give him back his car."

"I'm going to find some other problem and fix it while he waits."

Max turns away. "Get the guy out of my shop. Park it on the street so it's not our problem, and then get back inside. I'm ticketing him out right now."

I call after Max, "We'd be liable."

"Not if you didn't notice anything."

I'm wedging the car into the narrowest space in the heretofore known universe, two inches longer than the car itself. It may actually be two inches shorter. No drunk guy will be able to pull out without hitting the cars in front and behind, and better to hit a parked car than a moving one. I hate this, but it's the best I can do. It's not my job to keep drunks off the road.

That's when I realize: It's not my job to keep drunks off the road.

They say you shouldn't use the phone while driving. Despite that, I find in the 911 dispatcher a very interested listener who wants to know exactly where I am, the license plate, the make and model, and the driver's name. All of which, hey!, are right here on the intake form.

I take a long time parking.

Max waits at the desk, hand extended.  I present the keys to the Deathmobile, and he encourages the customer to have a nice day. I issue directions to the spot fifty feet down the street. I have to do it three times. As the customer wanders away, Max says, "Good girl. Never get involved. Here, take an oil change."

By the time I have the car in the bay, Max is bellowing again, and this time, it means my job.

Although your vote does not count towards the final decision, everyone (and I mean Linky List restrictions this time) is welcome to offer an opinion in the comment section below.

The results will be posted next Monday, October 21st.  Good luck to both contestants!


  1. Glad I don't have to choose. I like these both.

  2. A great panel of judges. For me, Muleshoe gets my vote. I loved the voice.

  3. Woo! I can't believe we've reach the end! (I would vote for Muleshoe as well)

  4. If I were voting, it would be Muleshoe. The writing has been elegant all the way through this contest. This piece was another home run!

  5. Hah. I'd vote for Muleshoe too. :-)

  6. Wow. All I can say is wow. For BOTH of them. This final bout is a terrific match. DL and Kim ... it seems to me this year's WRiTE CLUB has done a fab job of distilling the writing talent down to the two best con-ten-duhs!

  7. Well, glad I don't have to choose. They're both great pieces. But if I was voting, Muleshoe would get my vote. Such gorgeous and unusual descriptions.

  8. I sent you my official vote :) Just wanted to pop in to say thank you Don and Kim - WRiTE CLUB is a lot of work and you have done a tremendous job this year! All the writers who participated were great - thank you to everyone who submitted and put yourself out there!

  9. It has been fun reading the entries and weighing in. Good luck to each of these fine writers. And good luck to the judges.

  10. Glad I don't have to vote! These are very different pieces and enjoyable for different reasons! I would read farther with both. Congrats to both writers - and to all the writers brave enough to participate :)

    Also thanks to DL and to your lovely wife for all the hard work you both put in for this event! Hope you're doing well!

  11. Congrats to you both! I like both and would claim tie. ;)

  12. I may enter next year when you hold this event, I feel I will be more confident with my writing! Sandy

  13. Another great year, Don. You outdid yourself.

    Two great pieces to finish us off. Best of luck to both Muleshoe and Philangelus and a big congratulations for making it to the final round.

  14. Both were very good but I loved the voice in Muleshoe's piece. Good luck to both.

  15. Wow -- like others have said, I'm VERY glad I don't have to choose, because I'd be hard-pressed to do so. Both are excellent with truly engaging voices and characters.

    But, after some consideration, I think it's pretty clear that the ultimate winner of WRiTE Club is... us. :)

    Thanks to the tremendous job that DL and Kim have done, WE are the very fortunate recipients of weeks and weeks of excellent writing, exciting competition, and tantalizing drama as we watch our favorite entries go through round-after-round of great bouts. DL, you have done yet another fabulous job in setting this up, and I want to let you know how much I appreciate it!

    And of course -- thank you also to all the writers who stepped to the edge and took the plunge. I salute each and every one of you for the commitment and creativity it took to submit your work

    And as for the choice between Philangelus and Muleshoe? Well, I REALLY like them both. I love the voice and tone of Muleshoe, and have in every single entry they've submitted. The MC is engaging and unique and the story absolutely pulls me in and makes me eager to read more. Philangelus also has a great entry, another snippet with the captivating female mechanic. In just a few short entries, I have really come to like and care for this MC, and I would absolutely read more of this story, too. The situation is much more mundane than Muleshoe's, and I think that in itself shows the strength of the story. Muleshoe's is intriguing and unique and I'm really wondering about the ape and the marmalade woman and the MC, but I really care for being addressed directly by the MC. It does give it a folksy, sittin'-round-the-fire-and-spinnin'-yarns, kind of feel, but I'd rather just read the story. So while, both are fabulous, I might lean towards Philangelus if I had to choose. But I'm glad I don't, because I'd probably drive myself nuts changing my mind over and over...

    I'll just say "Great job!!!!" to both writers!

    1. Ooops -- typo! I meant I "really DON'T care for being addressed directly by the MC"...

  16. Glad I don't have a say in this contest, because I honestly cannot decide. This has been a really fun 'fight club' since the very beginning. glad to have been a part of it. Excited to see who the final contestant will be, but for me and my opinion anyone who even submitted an entry is a winner. Congrats to everyone of you.

  17. Enjoyed them both immensely. These two writers deserve to battle it out.

  18. Not an easy task for the judges. Good luck to both writers.


  19. Hi Don .. I too enjoyed both ... but I'd go with Philangelus ... but great that everyone has come so far - and well done Don on organising the WriteClub through to the final battle - very good luck to the judges ... some difficult decisions here ...

    Congratulations to one and all - cheers Hilary

  20. Well, Muleshoe, I had to drive from Clovis to Sweetwater yesterday, and I almost forgot to check this site. Thanks for the piece. Philangelus, all I can say is that this piece is the work of a writing angel. Good work.

  21. Muleshoe knocked my socks off!

    Thanks for the astounding effort, DL. You are the rockingest dude evahhhhh!! :-)

  22. Holy cow... I'm away from blog reading for a while and already there are the final two WRiTE Club contenders?!? CONGRATULATIONS to you both. I think it doesn't need to be said that you have a crazy amount of talent to make it all the way here, what with all the fantastic writers who entered this year. Can't wait to see who the judges choose!

  23. Glad I don't have to vote, either, as I really enjoy them both.

    Thanks, DL and Kim, for making blogging fun! I can't imagine the work that went into this project.

  24. Wow! Two awesome pieces!
    Good luck to both participants.

  25. All I want to say is that these are two of my favorite WRiTErs from the competition and I am very, VERY happy that I'm not being asked to cast a vote. Well done---WRiTErs and DL. Was quite the ride.




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