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WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Playoff Bout #2

There will soon be only six writers left and you know what that means? It's playoff time in WRiTE CLUB!

Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a new opponent, each brandishing a new 500 word writing samples. The bouts will be posted on Mon - Wed - Fri, with the voting remaining open as long as possible.  The voting for Playoff Round #1 closes at noon Monday,  May28th.

Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand-alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.

It is customary to leave a brief critique for all the pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

How do you choose a winner? What criteria should be used? The method by which you determine who to vote for is entirely up to you.  Which one resonates with you the most? Which one makes you want to read more? Which one demonstrates a total command of the English language and how it can be used to elicit emotion or paint a mental picture you can't stop staring at. There is no hard and fast way rules for determining a winner -- and that's exactly what the publishing world is like. But today you get to decide.

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few 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 result in 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!

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, the winner also wins free admission to the 2019 DFW Writers Conference.

Your voting has an added significance because not only will the three winners move onto to the next round, the submission that does not win their bout but tally's the most votes among the losers will move forward as a wildcard selection.

Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.

Please give a warm welcome back to MarlaWriter who is representing the YA Contemporary genre.

“Soph. You all right? Soph! Answer me.”
            I swallow hard and turn to tell her dog, Nana, to get the meds, but she’s already on the way. I knock again. Sophie knows she’s not supposed to lock it. I run my fumbling fingers along the trim above the door feeling for the key. My shaky hand knocks it to the ground and the hallway is too dark to see a skinny gold rod in a tan carpet. I lunge for the light.
            Nana is back, med bag dropped at my feet. The whole time I’m calling out to Sophie, hoping she can hear me and not be too scared. I try to explain what I’m doing as calmly as I can, but I’m shaking so bad, it takes all my focus to put the key in the tiny hole.
            Damn her for locking the stupid door.
            I finally get the handle to turn. I want to swing the door open, but I don’t know where she’ll be and I can’t risk hurting her further. Nana paws at the carpet, whining. I open the door as fast as I dare. The dog whisks past me and takes her position lying across Sophie’s lap.
            I see her feet first. Her calves twist together, jerking like she’s trying to do backward crunches. She’s lying in a yellow puddle.
            Her right arm is drawn all the way up under her chin and her left is whacking the hell out of the shower door. Red streaks run from her knuckles down the glass and her wrist. Her head is twisted all the way to the right, and a thick pool of blood shimmies every time she jerks her head, hitting the toilet. White foam oozes from her mouth.
It’s not foam, I tell myself. It’s spit and it’s draining, so I know she won’t choke. And that’s good because there’s no way to turn her on her side without hurting her more.
            “Cait. Call 9-1-1. Now.” I pick up the old Toy Story lunch box we use for her emergency meds and fumble with the zipper. My hands are shaking so bad, I can’t get it open. I close my eyes and force a deep breath, steadying my nerves. Dropping the bag, I crawl to Sophie and clutch her hand. “I’m here, Soph.” I pull a towel off the hook and bunch it in between her head and the toilet.
            “Oh shit.” Cait is behind me, staring into the bathroom. I cover Sophie with another towel so she can’t be seen like this.
            “I need to call my mom.” My voice floats above me, disconnected.
            “I’ll do it.” Her voice is strong and steady, and that makes me look up. Cait is sliding her index finger up my phone over and over.
            “She’s under ICE, for emergencies. But they’re at a movie.”
            “Got it.” She turns to open the door.
            “Be okay, Soph. Please.” I choke on the last word.

Her opponent is none other than Wingsong, representing the Adult Steampunk genre.

‘Do not look at the workbench,’ I thought, shifting from foot to foot, my skirts rustling, bustle creaking. Everything sounded loud in my tiny shop.  ‘You managed to cover it in time. Everything is fine.’
“Please elaborate, Miss Engelthorpe.” The mechanical agent’s tinny voice interrupted my obsession.
The Time Bureau badge bolted to its chest caught the gaslight.  “You stated that the tourists were from the future. Please elaborate, Miss Englethorpe.”
“Mrs.” I had a wife. Once. My fingers itched to touch the lock of her hair in my pendant. ‘The work is hidden. Do not look.’
The mechanical was designed to show neither impatience nor censure. “Please elaborate, Mrs. Engelthorpe.”
Tourists. Right. “They did not know a shilling from two-and-six. I could see them calculating the change. And they laughed at the telegraph box.”
I waved a hand over to the wall, where the box hung among the cuckoo clocks. It had only been installed last month, after the time tourists had increased to three a week. I had painted the dull cabinet a cheerful blue, but left the label, “Time Bureau Public Call Box,” alone. Future tourists always laughed at my telegraph box.
The mechanical’s human partner spoke up from behind me, “Did they buy anything in particular, Miss Engelthorpe?”
I turned. “They bought a watch, Agent Jones.”  The workbench was just in view. “And please, it is Mrs. Engelthorpe.”
‘One glance. Just to make sure.’ I forced my eyes to stay on the time agent.
Agent Jones was a tall man, with long, elegant fingers and quick eyes. His clothes did not suit the way he moved, bespoke wrapped in ready-to-wear. He walked along the back wall toward my workbench, looking at the freestanding grandfather clocks. They had been Jenny’s favorite to build, with the intricate clockwork and imagination required. He was almost at the bench.
‘Do not look.’ But my eyes were sliding away.
“Was their interest in the watches or the widowed watchmaker, madame?” Jones smiled engagingly, turning to rest right up against my workbench.
I froze. His hand rested a hair’s breadth away from the cover, fingers tapping on the cloth itself. Somehow I kept my eyes on his face. Please let him blame my nervousness on his smile, not his hand.
“I do not take your meaning, sir.”
“Madam, your wares are beautiful, but unremarkable. Your shop, while charming, lies not in London proper. And yet, the tourists flock here from the future. I theorize you, Madam, are the attraction.”
I had to check. Yet, even as my gaze shifted, Agent Jones whipped the cover away. A watch lay spread over the surface. Every piece had symbols etched in gold, tiny and perfect, the work of months. It was an exact match to the one carried by every time agent, the only way to travel in time. Everything I needed. I could not breathe.

Jones’s voice was deadly soft. “Ah. You do know that chronomachina are forbidden, do you not, Mrs. Engelthorpe?”

Enjoying a pair of talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each if you haven't already done so.

Please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUBDFW.

Remember, this is WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!


  1. The blood flies through the air in the ring once again.

    MarlaWriter does a great job carrying on her earlier YA offering. Some of the perspective is a bit off-putting ("I see her feet first. Her claves etc." -- well, obviously the character sees the feet first, because the calves are the first thing they show us. First person present perspective lets you get rid of a lot of that stuff), but that's a bit nitpicky. The execution is solid.

    Wingsong's execution isn't quite as solid, with slightly confusing back-and-forth between '' quoted internal monologue and "" quoted external dialogue, sometimes with the same line. Italics might have made the internal speech easier to discern with an active effort -- or maybe just make it more descriptive (for example -- The work was hidden. I knew I shouldn't look. -- or something along those lines, instead of ‘The work is hidden. Do not look.’).

    That being said, at the end of the two new offerings, Wingsong's is the one that has captivated me most, and that I would carry on reading most eagerly. One point to Wingsong!

  2. My vote is for MarlaWriter. I find that it flows really well and I was gripped to find out what happens. Even the little details down to the Toy Story lunchbox makes all of this feel so real.

  3. I really enjoyed the continuation of MarlaWriter's story, but due to the limited format and the time between submissions, I had a hard time holding onto the characters. A simple couple of words would explain things like who Cait was, but I ended up a little lost with who was who.

    Wingsong's new submission really intrigued me, and I enjoyed the subtle hints at a greater story, like the references to a wife. Was she trying to save them. Did she just want to travel in time herself?

    For giving me more questions to answer, my vote goes to Wingsong!

    JoAnne Turner

  4. I was far more intrigued by Wingsong. Even with this small slice of a story, I connected with it. I vote for Wingsong.

  5. Wingsong for me. I liked all the mystery and tension. I want to read more, please.

  6. Having a daughter with a disability, I had immediately connected to MarlaWriter's earlier entry and loved the continuation here. It flowed smoothly as my heart went out to her brother. I want to delve more deeply into this family dynamic from a sibling's POV.

    Wingsong's voice was incredible and I could feel the MC's dismay, but unfortunately, I was confused from the beginning and had to re-read several times to get my bearings. It may have been the use of single quotes and not understanding what was internal thought or actual dialogue. By the time I figured it out, it left me frustrated.

    My vote: MarlaWriter

  7. My vote goes to Wingsong! I loved how you managed the steampunk genre and your characters are lively and strong. Even if we only spent a few words with them, I was sold on your protagonist.

  8. Oh, this is a tough one. Both of these are examples of solid writing. MarlaWriter drew me in with a tense scene that kept me on the edge of my seat. Wingsong offered wonderful prose and a situation that had me want to keep reading. I wanted to dive into that world and snoop around in it for awhile. In the end, my vote goes to Wingsong.

  9. My vote goes to MarlaWriter. The writing was clean, the scene vivid.

    Wingsong creates a curious situation, but the writing pulled me out of the scene a few times. The single quotes were really distracting. As another mentioned, those internal thoughts could have been integrated into the narrative for greater clarity. I think the clincher, for me, was the telegraph box, a cheerful blue with Public Call Box... I think I've seen this item before, in a time-traveling scenario, no less. Maybe it was intended as a joke, like Mrs. Englethorphe is humoring the Dr. Who fans who travel through her shop. I love the Doctor myself, but for me, this box hit the wrong chord.

    1. FYI - this vote will not count as anonymous votes are not allowed. Please post again with your name and email address.

  10. My vote goes to MarlaWriter for the sheer emotional grip! Having said that, Wingsong's premise was intriguing and might have won my heart if paired with a story in a similar genre.

  11. I do think both offered stronger pieces in the early round, but, by the slimmest of margins, I'm staying with MarlaWriter here for my vote. I can picture this one better and that gets the win.

  12. I think both entrants had stronger pieces a round ago, but maybe there wasn't time for a final edit this round. So it goes. Congrats on surviving this far, both of you.

    Marla, one point of confusion I had was the meds. If I understand right (two reads, sorry), it was a bag when the dog brought it over and it became a lunch box further on. That might have been a fun scene to watch a dog carry a lunch box. But maybe I'm confused, as I will confess there was a lot of chaos in the scene. Most of it was handled deftly as I think I followed the placement of the body.

    Wingsong, I also had to read yours a second time to grasp a couple things. It annoyed me that the agent corrected himself to Mrs. and then went back to Miss again and then corrected himself yet again. If there was symbolism in that, I've missed it. But the larger annoyance was the single-quote internal monologue where italics would have helped. Seemed too much of it besides, so it's not only the single quotes that you might consider editing to make the overall piece better.

    I'll cast my vote for MarlaWriter this round.

  13. This continuation of MarlaWriter's story continued to grip me.
    I was more confused in Wingsong's piece(why is she nervous? what is she trying to hide? what exactly is this box?) than I'd like to be and had to re-read several times before I felt like I finally understood(still not 100% sure though).

    Vote goes to MarlaWriter

  14. Boy, both of these were emotionally gripping and they both need a lot of clean-up. I don't mean to be harsh, but making things clearer will make both of these stories so much better. They both have so much going for them that it's a shame for the stories to get lost for lack of clarity.

    With MarlaWriter, there are too many uses of "shaking" and it wasn't clear at all to me where Sophie was in the bathroom, why she locked the door from inside, or especially why no one heard her making all that noise she's got to be making with the banging. And I was pretty sure that Mom had been making lunches in the last round but now it's Cait who gets called to help. If there are other people around, why is Sophie only the responsibility of the MC? All that is said in the interest of making it better because it's truly heart-wrenching emotionally and just needs to be clarified and tightened up. And, naturally, I've got to know what happens next both to Sophie and the MC.

    Then with WingSong (who used to be WindSong), I agree with others that the single italics for the MC's thoughts made things very hard to follow and distracted from the otherwise good drama. Also confused by the back and forth between the time agent and the mechanical agent, which seemed an unnecessary complication. I love the idea of the mechanical agent, but maybe make him more different in his speech and the kinds of things he talks about. Still, it was a cool premise with a great setting. And I did love the MC trying to avoid looking at the workbench. Maybe state it one or two fewer times, but I love that it's an obsession impossible for the MC to get past. And now the MC is in big trouble, which makes me want to read more.

    Ultimately I have to go with MarlaWriter for the heart-tugging goodness, the peril of children in an impossibly tough situation. You did a great job of making me care a whole lot.

    Good luck to both of you!

  15. My vote goes to Wingsong.
    MarlaWriter's work was gripping and very emotional.
    Wingsong had lovely setting and character, even if we didn't get to see them very much. I was slightly confused at the use of quotes for thought voices though.

  16. I'm voting for Wing(d?)song so they can take that wonderful piece and get some editing in. My thoughts mirror a lot of those who said it could use adjustments for clarity, but the setting was wonderful.

  17. Vote MarlaWriter- this story keeps getting more intense


  18. M

    Both writers are clearly talented, which makes this a tough choice. Also these are very different pieces, kind of like mixing a Rick Yancy story with a Phillipa Gregory work. This said, I Considered which story pulled me in the most, and had me engaging with the MC. The following explains my mindset a little better:

    Maria Writer's excerpt is more immediate and action packed. I was definitely pulled into the emergency. However, I felt a little lost in the chaos, if that makes sense. The names that were thrown out confused me, and I had to read twice to get the gist of things. The author did a good job showing the MC's anxiety and fear, the voice was great, but the confusion about who was where and who did what, made it tough for me to engage with the MC.

    Wingsong was well written and a tad slower, I loved the MC's voice, but felt a bit lost when the internal monologue kicked in. Overall, between the two, I had my bearings and a better sense of place in this piece, and I liked the voice a little better, so my vote goes to Wingsong.

    Congrats to both authors for making it this far.

  19. My vote goes to Windsong. It was a difficult read for reasons already mentioned but the end left me wanting to read more.

  20. My vote goes to MarlaWriter. It completely engaged me in a way that Windsong didn't quite manage.

  21. I felt like Wingsong was a bit convoluted and hard to follow, although the world building was fascinating and I could tell that this had the potential to be a great story.
    MarlaWriter's submission was easier to follow, and I was immediately invested in Sophie's wellbeing.
    Vote to Marlawriter.

  22. I vote for Marla Writer. Realistic and compelling. Soph has to be okay!!

  23. My vote goes to MarlaWriter. The writing mirrors the emotions of the story, shifting seamlessly and realistically between dialogue & description. MarlaWriter captures an intense human experience here using the narrator's point of view.

    Windsong: There is an intensity to the story here and the writing is's both too little and too much. There is too little character development and understanding of the main character's perspective and too much telling/description. I suspect in a larger piece of work, this snippet would fit well; however, as a stand-alone, it leaves too many questions without using the word limit effectively.

  24. Tough decision again, as usual - these people are good! MarlaWriter shows the stakes clearly, and I'm really concerned about Sophie. In the end, though, my preference for SFF pulls me toward Wingsong. I'm a sucker for time-travel stories, and want to know what's going on here.

  25. I vote for MarlaWriter. Her descriptions just throw me into the episode.

    The other is a little "thick" with information - I can't sort it out.

  26. I vote for Wingsong but that boils down to personal preference of subject matter.

  27. MarlaWriter ... Vivid, in the moment, realistic, emotionally gripping. Bravo. I really want to read more of this story, so you have my vote.

    Wingsong ... (I have only read 1 steampunk book, and thus know little of the genre.) It seems like a good story. Well thought out and well written.

  28. I vote for Wingsong. It was captivating and interesting. Great opening line. I'm sorry, MarlaWriter. "Soph? You allright?" just didn't do it for me--you need a stronger opening and ways of making the story unique.

  29. I vote for Wingsong. Please delete Skygirl (that was me before I read the contest rules closely)

  30. I'm going to go with MarlaWriter on this one. I was a bit confused by what was happening in Windsong's story. Both are well written, but MarlaWriter kept me engaged throughout.




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