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WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #12

Although the voting in the bouts this year has exceeded previous years, I'm still confident we can (or should) do better.  Please help me by using your social media outlets to raise awareness of our contest. Our writers deserve our best efforts!

WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, May 19th (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

A few more 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 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.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –

Our first contestant in the ring is YNaLIas representing the Paranormal Mystery genre.

“Careful with those, Opal,” Detective Grant said as I stared at the bags he’d handed me. Two contained jewelry. The third held a lock of lilac hair that roiled my stomach. “The jewelry needs to be back first thing tomorrow, and you don’t want them to find your DNA on it.” 

I dumped the hair into a glass bowl and followed it with the ring and necklace.

“You sure that’s hers? It looks like a man’s ring,” John said, voicing my own concerns. Huge, onyx, and ostentatious, there was no way it belonged to a Jane Doe.

Grant nodded. “It was in her jacket lining. Removed it myself.”

Satisfied, I reached for the two men’s hands and instructed them to do the same. John’s palm was cool to the touch. Grant’s was slick with sweat. What was he hiding? I searched John’s expression for any enlightenment, but came up empty. If the detective had another agenda, John was unaware. Reluctantly, the men took each other’s hand.

I checked the room once again to ensure everything was in order. The candles were lit, sage was smoking in an incense burner behind of me, and the Ouija board was within my grasp. Not that I’d need it with John here. He could see but couldn’t summon. I began my chant.

 “Spirit from beyond, honor our call.
  Show us what we seek, before we fall.
  Spirit from beyond, please tell your tale.
  Show us what you need, to break from the veil.”

A few chants later, the air thickened, and the bowl shook, the jewelry clanging against its sides. A gossamer rose above the bowl where it hovered peacefully until John’s scoff jolted it into the air. My concentration broke as the spirit spun around the table.

“You summoned your girlfriend?” John said, his line of sight on Detective Grant.

The wide-eyed cop stared at the bowl still quivering on the table.

His girlfriend? What the hell?

The detective gulped. “It was the perfect opportunity to see how she’s doing. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

Before I could scream at him, the candles blew out, the gossamer providing the only light. It stopped again in front of Grant then blended into the darkness.

The bowl banged against the table and something brushed the side of my arm, severing my grip on the detective. A loud crash and a scream from the detective brought my other hand up to my heart. Taunting voices filled the air, while mine stuck in my throat. Footsteps padded over the carpet.

John turned on the lights.  My bookcase was overturned, books and crystals scattered, but my attention focused on the detective. On his back and with “You’re next” etched into his face, Grant was barely breathing.

The room darkened, and the voices began anew.

“Five more lives to set us free,
  to give us life for eternity.
  Five more lives to make us whole,
  to supply and feed us with their souls.”


On the other side of the ring, we have Ms. Sunnydale who is representing the Dystopian Retelling genre.

It took me five years to forget the ocean. The memory didn’t leave all at once. Rather, it leaked from my mind little by little like a seeping wound: first the sound of waves, then the smell of salt, the keening of seagulls, and so on.

Mercifully, other pleasures went quicker. In two years, I couldn’t recall the taste of fast food, or the lyrics to that pop song. In three, I’d forgotten the good scald of a shower and the shudder of a bus engine beneath me. Like society, like peace, memory is a fleeting thing.

I wish I could forget him as easily. But the memory of him in the nursery window is still there, infecting my brain like a persistent poison.

Jossana.” The way he had said my name was a song. A prayer. I heard more hope in it than a hymn, even if it had been spoken by a sinner. And not just any sinner. A Reb. The Steadfaster elders say their name like an obscenity, if they say it at all. As though not speaking the name will make the Reb’s offenses less real. As though we could forget the heathens who usurped our government, plundered our food, set fire to our cities. Under the Rebs, violence had spread like a plague—hot rashes of anger and oozing grudges infecting anyone with a bone to pick.

But the boy in the window hadn’t come for violence that night. He came only for a song. As irony would have it, it was Amazing Grace. My brother Tannen had asked me to sing it while I tucked him in, because he still believed in the magic and goodness in its words. And me? I had outgrown magic and knew better than to trust goodness, so I sang it hoping it would make me a better sister than I was a Steadfaster.

A good Steadfaster would have called out when she saw the boy, yelled for the elders in the other room. But it had been my fault. I had popped the plywood from the window that night to let the breeze in. And instead of feeling threatened when my eyes snapped around the boy’s silhouette, I had felt the immoral tug of excitement.

But neither had the boy come armed, as far as I could tell. Rather, he wielded a smile that dug out two shallow dimples in his cheeks, and eyes that cupped warm candlelight.

And a question, What’s your name, girl?

To which I answered, Jossana.

When he echoed it, the word had taken flight off his lips like an enchanted, winged thing, more beautiful than it had the right to be. I wonder if it might have floated off that night, taking part of me with it so I would never be quite whole again.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t remember the ocean, but I remember every shade of blue and green in his eyes.

Memory is an enduring, excruciating thing.

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.

Before we sign off I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.

The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this, follow these steps:

Go to Blogger dashboard.
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)

Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants. If you missed the first two bouts because of one of these issues, remember the bouts remain LIVE for a week so you can still go back and let your choice be known.

We’ll be back tomorrow for another preliminary 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 Ms. Sunnydale. The imagery is just exquisite, and it left me wanting to read more.

  2. Both were good, but I like the elements of Sunnydale's better. And yes, great imagery with the words.

  3. Man, two more incredible entries!!!!! This for me is one of the hardest bouts yet--I loved YNa's strong writing, the masterful build of suspense and the touches of humor and menace in the passage. Ms. Sunnydale's writing is absolutely gorgeous, with amazing imagery and tantalizing hints of what's to come. My vote in this bout goes to YNa because it left me wanting more, but this was an incredibly close bout!

  4. Ms. Sunnydale gets my vote today. The first story was somewhat confusing, and there are some errors in the writing that distracted me. Sunnydale captured me with the imagery.

  5. So sorry, today I really don't get these pieces. Nice descriptions but totally confusing.
    I got the idea in the dystopian piece, but not really interesting, although some nice references to memories.
    First piece, I have no idea... who are all these people?
    My vote goes for Sunnydale, but not with much enthusiasm. Sorry.

  6. Excellent tales again!

    YNaLIas: I have some confusions about who these people are, their relationships, and their goals in this scene. I started out thinking the detective brought the items from a murder case girl to try and find a killer. I don't know who John is or what his connection is to the narrator. Then she's the detective's girlfriend? How did John know that from the gossamer that appeared? Does that mean the detective's girlfriend was murdered? I jumped from there to the thought that the detective killed her, but then why would he have risked calling her back up? What does "You're Next" mean when the detective has just been attacked? Story questions are good, they're what drives the reader to keep turning pages, but in this piece the balance was too heavy on questions, too light on answers for my personal taste.

    Ms. Sunnydale: The elegant imagery built a strong sense of nostalgia and longing that really worked for me. I have unanswered questions: How did she know at a glance this boy was a Reb? How long ago was this encounter? Was it from before, when there were hot showers and buses? It seems like it was a world different from our own, with windows covered by plywood, but still different from the dystopian world in which she lives now. Still, I would definitely read more.

    My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale for the vivid world and the evocative language.

  7. My vote goes to YNaLIas today because I was more immersed in it. Both pieces left nagging questions, addressed by reviewers above, but the writing was well done overall.

  8. Ynallas: this is good writing and a strong start. You’ve set a clear scene and I’m intrigued by Opal and Grant, though John seems extraneous here. The tension shatters when the detective summons his girlfriend (who we never actually see). It completely changes the tone of the piece. You might rearrange the sentence with Grant lying on his back so the final words of the paragraph are “you’re next.” I’m confused by the ending. I think spirits are being summoned, but how could they knock over the bookcase? Or does a living person happen to break in at the exact moment the summoning occurs?

    Sunnydale: great voice, evocative opening. Nice job sprinkling in just a few proper nouns to give us a sense of place. Good use of figurative language, strong but not overdone. The ending leaves me unsure what’s going on. It seemed like the boy in the window was the opening to the MC’s story, but she’s actually just remembering something that happened long ago. Where’s the action? What’s the current situation that’s going to suck me into this story? We’ve seen this idea before. What makes Jossana’s story unique?

    I vote for Sunnydale for painting a more complete picture here. Congrats to both!

  9. Both are really strong pieces today! YNaLIas, I was instantly immersed in your story and world and wanted to read more. Sunnydale, I thought the beginning of your piece was great - the whole bit about the memory and how long it takes to forget was really well done. In the end, though, I think there was a little too much extraneous info that took me out of the story. My vote today goes to YNaLIas.

  10. Good job for both. I found the beginnings of both pieces stronger than the endings. I like the setups in both pieces.
    My vote goes to Sunnydale

  11. Every new bout is a new challenge to vote. I enjoyed both today. YNaLIas was a good mix of humor and suspense. Sunnydale's was mournful. I was a little confused with both, yet this is probably just a result of the word limitations and both being segments of a whole.

    My vote goes to Sunnydale. My need to read more was stronger.

  12. Both of these pieces were entertaining. The first was spooky, which is always fun. The twist with the chanting voices revealing a sinister purpose was a good way to end the piece. I liked the story, but I liked the competing story better. Ms Sunnydale delivered a story with excellent sensory imagery. For me, it was the best imagery of all the stories to this point. Good prose, and compelling story. The one suggestion would be to eliminate the last line. "Memory is an enduring, excruciating thing." That point had already been made with the imagery.

    Well done.

  13. My vote goes to Sunnydale. The imagery, the question drew me in. The tease of the story depth did, too. At first, Reb meant something different to me (like a Rabbi instead of a Rebel), and it made me wonder what was going on. It hinted at a romance.

    YNaLIas didn't connect me to the characters involved in the scene as well. I didn't feel the depth of what the main character felt, and I wanted more of the surrounding to be in the story.

    My vote goes to Sunnydale.

  14. YNaLIas: I was excited to see a Paranormal Mystery entry, as paranormal (especially ghosts) is a favorite genre. The story began well and pulled me in. When we learned Grant had summoned his girlfriend, everything fell apart for me. One expectation was created in the opening: I assumed they wanted information from a murder victim. Then we got the detective's girlfriend and mass confusion. I had difficulty finding cohesiveness of a story from beginning to end.

    Ms. Sunnydale: To be honest, I wasn't sure what a "retelling" would be, but I quickly learned. Then I wondered how someone could pull me in and make me care, but you pulled it off brilliantly. The language is beautiful and evocative. The story flow confused me a bit, but made more sense on re-read. I settled in and felt as if I were there. I love how you expressed the beauty in this brief encounter amid the background setting of horror. One thing: "...the memory of him in the nursery window..." made me believe the character was looking at a baby and now the baby is lost/gone. To learn otherwise quickly is a bit jarring. It also pulled me out of the story as I tried to figure out what was going on. To avoid confusion, you may want to first establish the character is in the nursery with her brother and looking *out* the window. Otherwise, well done.

    My vote: Ms. Sunnydale

  15. The first was a little confusing and when I hit Ouija board, that kind of turned me off.

    Ms. Sunnydale's was so poignant. I vote for hers.

  16. todays stories were both good in their own ways. the second was very visual, good prose but not a compelling story, the first had a few technical problems written about above, but this was the essence of story telling, very compelling, i want to know what was going on. i have to voute for the underdog, story over prose wins,
    My vote goes to YNaLIas today

  17. My vote goes to YNaLIas. Actually, I didn't like the writing as well as Sunnydale's (me & lush prose)! But YNaLIas was a story -- action, characters in action. And humor. Another plus for me. Sunnydale -- loved the writing but -- nothing happens. This may not be the opening of your manuscript, but this reader hasn't seen more, and I need something to see a character doing something (besides ruminating) when she first appears on my radar. Whatever happens, save this sample -- it could easily be tweaked!

  18. YNaLIas- This was an intriguing entry. There was something missing from this submission. I can’t put my finger on what exactly. It might be the story has light-hearted elements interspersed with more serious ones and the transition between them makes it unclear as to the tone of the story. And I’m still unclear as to whether the cop’s girlfriend is dead and he wanted to see how she was doing in the afterlife or she is something else.

    Ms. Sunnydale- This is a world building entry. We get to know the conditions of this post-apocalypse world and there are 2 factions. But, there wasn’t much to this submission. It is part of a bigger story, but there is very little I learned in these 500 words and nothing that held my attention. There is also an odd transition towards the end when discussing the Character with No Name was unarmed. It feels as if there was a rewrite and this was overlooked.

    YNasLas gets my vote for this contest. It seems more put together.

  19. My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale. Your story had a good flow and I liked the ending, although I wanted to know a little more about the boy’s intentions.

    YNaLIas – I love the paranormal genre so I enjoyed your story and I liked the chants:) But it was hard to believe that John didn’t see through Grant from the start, and that threw me off.

  20. YNaLlas - I was a bit confused by what was going on. There were a lot of questions but nothing really to ground me so I really did not know where the story was beginning, much less where it was going.

    Ms. Sunnydale - I love dystopian stories and this one had some very lyrical imagery. It was lovely and interesting and I had a sense of Romeo and Juliet.

    This bout, my vote is for Ms. Sunnydale.

  21. YNaLIas: I never got a handle on what was going on here. Like another person up-thread, my first thought was that this was a murder victim/psychic situation. I still think it might have been, but I'm just not certain. I'm also not sure who conjured the girlfriend. John can see but can't conjure, but John asked Grant if *he* conjured his (Grant's) girlfriend. If Grant can conjure, why does Opal need to be there at all? Did Grant conjure his dead girlfriend, or was he spying on a living girlfriend? How does anyone know it is a girlfriend, living or dead, from just gossamer? The reader never gets a chance to see the specter. I liked your chants, but I also feel like they took up precious words at the detriment of much-needed clarification. When the loud crash happened, I had a hard time believing a whole bookcase had been overturned because there was no emotional or physiological reaction from Opal. This would have been a great time to give her some depth. Did her heart rate increase at the bang? Did her throat go dry, did she get angry knowing that some kind of damage would be revealed when the lights came on? I feel like this must be an excerpt. If so, I would be interested in seeing where it goes, but I'd need a lot more depth and context to keep me turning pages.

    Ms. Sunnydale: I had to read this one twice to understand it. The prose is like a meandering walk through the woods--familiar and comforting, yet a little disorienting at the same time. The dystopian vibe comes through loud and clear, but I had to ponder why you would call it a retelling. For some reason, that's the piece that didn't click with me. Once I put together it was Peter Pan, the story pieced itself together and delighted me.

    My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale for taking me someplace I didn't expect to go and introducing me to someone I didn't expect to meet.

  22. YNaLIas - spooky! I want to read more. No idea who the characters are, and I want to know them before I read much further. The two detectives feel like the same person, but I know I’m only getting a glimpse of them.

    Ms. Sunnydale - Intriguing: What happened to the world, to the characters? What is going on right now? How has Jossana survived? Love the purposeful contradiction in the end. Feel like it’s setting the stage for the story.

    As much as I liked both of these stories and want to read more, it’s Ms. Sunnydales twist on memories that peaks my interest.

  23. My vote today is for YNaLIas. I would continue reading and thought the set up was spooky. The lighthearted tone I detected threw me off and didn't really mesh with the true feeling of the story at the end, but it has a lot of potential in my opinion.
    Sunnydale, I might continue reading...It seems like you have a good premise and your writing is quite evocative.

  24. More contestants to congratulate and cheer on.
    YNaLIas representing the Paranormal Mystery genre.
    Opal as I's identity had me re-reading to see it wasn't "Careful with those opals," - then I chuckled at the writer's deceit. Wrong reaction? Plenty of other detail to focus on - we have a mystery to solve. Clues emerge mixed with red herrings. The confusion of the participants filled the room. Now to resolve this. The writer amps up the tension and pulls off a scary double twist. Clever weaving. I might tweak some phrases but there's power there. And the cliffhanger chant leaves room for much more.

    Ms. Sunnydale who is representing the Dystopian Retelling genre.
    Good first line, hooking me in. Then building a strong image - but I dislike "and so on." A lazy way to finish a great opening. Shame as next para builds on the sense of loss - and the next. Lots of clever details slipped in, not just to paint the world lost but also the new grimmer one. It feels a touch alternative reality. The mix of thought, action, reaction, dialogue, description works - although keep polishing this gem, losing phrases like "and so on". The story builds to a sad but beautiful ending - tragic and full circle. I love how the writer echoed that first line in style. A complete tale that could be a snippet to build on, but my mind can induge with this glimpse alone.

    I like both these pieces, but the craft of Ms. Sunnydale earns my vote.

  25. Voting for Ms. Sunnydale. I felt more oriented and it read very smoothly.

  26. This one is SOOOO difficult. But I go for YNaLIas, ...just...

  27. First piece is full of stuff happening NOW and the second is full of stuff happening THEN, so my vote is for YNaLIas.

  28. My vote to Ms. Sunnydale.
    I would read more of both of these.
    And they both left a lot of unanswered questions.
    But I think Sunnydale drew me into the world more solidly.

  29. I'll admit I wasn't as blown away by these entries. Retellings don't do much for me, especially one done as often as Peter Pan. The author clearly has talent, but it would have very well been describing a painting. It felt akin to an info dump for me.

    I enjoyed the subtle humor and twist ending from YNaLIas although the story was a bit confusing. That being said, it was enough to get my vote this round.

  30. YNaLlas told a good tale with a horrifying ending. Very well done.

    Ms. Sunndale's story haunted me with the imagery, and I'm impressed with the amount of world building done in such a short space of time.

    My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale.

  31. I knew I was voting for Ms. Sunnydale by the end of that killer first line. Love the imagery here.

  32. Both interesting. I'm not really sure what's going on, exactly, in the second. I can venture some guesses though.
    So I'm voting for NaLIas because I could understand it more, visualize it better. Another 500 words from both could maybe sway me. It's a tough call.

  33. Congratulations to both authors for making it into the top tier!

    YNaLlas’s piece had a great start setting up the location and the people in the room. But as soon as she looked to John to gauge Grant’s reaction, I was confused - it took me several readings to understand she wanted to see if he had insights, because I kept saying but he had dry hands. I think there’s a great premise that needed just a few more words to pull it all together.

    Ms. Sunnydale’s story had a great description of losing memory, with a good pull into the plot with the boy they couldn’t forget. It was a little confusing where she saw him, but I was intrigued by the idea of the Steadfast, and it was a good way to make me feel pulled into the world.

    My vote is for Ms. Sunnydale for a glimpse into a different future.

  34. I couldn't follow ynalias. My vote goes to Sunnyvale for nearly poetic telling of the story.

  35. Well I've been gone from voting for far too long! I'm going to have to say Ms. Sunnydale wins this round for me. She had me hooked from the first paragraph, and did an amazing job incorporating all 5 senses into her writing.

    Great job, and best of luck on future tiers to both of you!

  36. YNaLIas - I like the premise and the writing is solid minus a few errors. Could have used a closer proofread. My two biggest problems are the terminology, calling a ghost or spirit a gossamer, feels like misuse of the word and might work in a larger piece, but came off weird in just 500 when spirit would have done fine. The second, and much bigger, problem for me was the chants. Twice with the chants, at a cost of 59 of your words. That's over ten percent of your total lost to lines that make the whole story seem less serious. I wish there had been a better way to pull of the seance.

    Ms. Sunnydale - I've been waiting the whole competition for this. Finally a story that uses a little figurative language and asks the reader to come along on a journey with the writer, to see things the way the author sees them. Very good use of the language and a killer first line.
    A couple lines didn't work for me -- like a persistent poison -- the alliteration is clumsy when read aloud, and like the above story, your terminology. I don't care that it's dystopian, I could have done without the Rebs and the Steadfasters. Plain old words work better for me, and Rebs rolls off the tongue like a German limerick. I also would have dropped the last line. You spent 500 words telling me as much, don't spell it out for me. Still, my favorite entry of the contest so far. That's why Ms. Sunnydale gets my vote.

  37. YNaLlas, okay first of all very creepy. Loved the warning at the end by the spirits. This piece has potential but it needs some tightening up. I know you lost some of your space to those chants and I am not aure they worked in your favor since you had to cut descriptions or details for them. I'm sure as a longer entry they work great but here they might have hendered you.

    Ms. Sunnydale, wow! Coming in clutch with the dystopian Peter Pan vibe. Your first line was a great attention grabber and the pace of the writing pulled me through the entry quickly.

    Ms. Sunnydale grabs my vote today!

  38. Oh, this one is tough. I think my vote ultimately must go to Sunnydale. The prose was beautiful, and I could feel the emotion, although it was light on actual plot and got a little confusing at moments. The writing was so lush though that it gets my vote.

    YNalias did a lovely job, but I got confused with the action, and I wasn't sure who John was. The tension was great though.

  39. I vote for Sunny. YN's piece dropped me in the action and it didn't quite work for me. I didn't feel grounded enough to connect to the characters. Sunny's piece was lovely. I'm a sucker for dystopian and would read more of this in a heartbeat. I really connected with the idea that some memories are so delicate and easily swept away, while others are enduring and excruciating. I loved this line: "Rather, he wielded a smile that dug out two shallow dimples in his cheeks, and eyes that cupped warm candlelight." Beautiful!

  40. YNaLIas -- This was probably already mentioned, but "burner behind of me" has a typo. It might need a bit more polish, or the story might be worded using a different dialect than to which I am accustomed. It is certainly a paranormal mystery. I'm just not sure the overall point, purpose, or plot.

    Ms. Sunnydale - Dystopian Retelling, interesting. I do find a retelling is easier to appreciate if one knows what the original story is. (Peter Pan maybe? The coming in via the nursery window and being a boy.) I'm more inclined to want to read more of this story, so it gets my vote.

  41. YNaLIas: This piece started in the middle of the action and I wanted to know why the detective summoned his girlfriend, along with many other unanswered questions. So, I was left hanging and curious at the same time.

    Ms. Sunnydale: Both the first and last lines for me, were attention grabbers, and I felt there was a thread of sadness and solemnity throughout the piece that really spoke to me.

    My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale

  42. Well done to the two of you!
    YNaLIas: My favorite part was the detective summoning his girlfriend. What a dork. I found some parts hard to picture.
    Ms. Sunnydale: Beautiful descriptions, an interesting world.
    My vote: Ms. Sunnydale. Well done!

  43. Ms Sunnydale gets my vote today. I found myself totally immersed in the writing. I loved the vividness of the scene... I could see it on my mind!

  44. Ms Sunnydale gets my vote. Her descriptions were so vivid.

  45. YNaLIas
    What worked:
    You brought the creepy with the chants and the obvious fact that Grant was up to something suspicious
    I am intrigued. Your piece left me with questions that would keep me reading.
    What didn't:
    Grant's response to their rightful shock at being used to summon someone other than who they expected felt weak. This was an opportunity for you to show me something about who he was and what was going on, but instead you used almost 20 words to essentially shrug Grant's shoulders.

    Ms. Sunnydale
    What worked:
    I really enjoyed your descriptions of memory leaking away, showing us what was important to the MC.
    The phrase "immoral tug of excitement" tells us quite a bit about the MC's life in a very short phrase. Nice.
    What didn't:
    I don't feel grounded in this piece. I have some vague hints about the world the MC lives in, but not so many that I feel I can truly empathize with all the feelings that have been shared.
    I definitely got the dystopian vibe (which is a huge hook for me) but I'm not at all sure what's being retold yet. Is it Romeo & Juliet? Peter Pan? Something else? I just don't know what direction this story is going to take.

    1. Oops! Forgot the most important part!
      My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale because I'm a sucker for dystopian stories.

  46. The beautiful imagery has my vote going to Ms. Sunnydale. I want to read this book!

  47. My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale. I enjoyed the descriptions, and the emotional flow of the story had me reading to the end. I enjoyed the mystery and the ending from YNaLIas although the story was a bit confusing.

  48. These were two very well-done entries, but I really enjoyed the flow of the story by Ms. Sunnydale. It's difficult to stir emotion in such a short sample, but it was done so well here that I have to commend the author.

    YNaLIas's entry seemed to be looking more for shock value than actually telling a story. (But maybe that's what a Parnanormal Mystery Thriller is supposed to do...really, it makes sense.) I actually recall YNaLIas's other entry from the slush round and thought it was the stronger sample of the two that author submitted. Unfortunately, I can't judge on that!

    So my vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale for a poignant entry that leaves me thinking and wondering about the characters and their situation. For a 500-word sample, the pacing is perfect and the emotion strong. Good voice. I'd definitely read this story in full.

  49. Both stories had me on edge. My vote is for Ms. Sunnydale. I want to read more.

  50. I found this round to be another difficult one to decide -- both writers are clearly capable, and once again I offer congratulations to them and to DL and WriteClub for attracting such competent contenders!

    However -- and I concede this is mainly personal taste -- I didn't quite connect with either piece as strongly as I have other entries, in spite of their merits.

    YNaLIas gives a summoning under false pretenses, with bad results for the Detective who evidently wanted to connect with a dead girlfriend just "to see how she's doing." The scene is constructed well, with plenty of action and smooth pacing. There are several interesting story questions raised, especially those from the ending rhyme about "five more lives needed to set 'us' free." But ironically, while I like the sense of mystery, I also find the number of questions raised more confusing than compelling -- mainly because I don't have a clear sense of what's really happening in the scene:

    -- Why does Detective Grant go through the effort of duping Opal as to who he wants to summon? It seems like that's what Opal does anyway -- wouldn't she be willing to do it for him if he was straight-forward? Or is he just trying to avoid having to pay for the session? And wouldn't it be obvious once the girlfriend appears, anyway? And why "just to see how she's doing?" That doesn't seem like strong enough motivation.

    -- What's John's purpose? He can see but not summon -- is he a conduit of some sort that Opal needs? Or is he the means of communication once the spirit is summoned, since he replaces the Ouija Board letters? He's the first to recognize that the spirit is (maybe?) Grant's girlfriend, but then Opal also seems to have no difficulty in hearing the rhyme at the end from the spirit voices, so again -- what exactly does John add?

    -- Following up from that, what spirit actually appears? Is it really the girlfriend or some other malevolent spirit (or group of spirits, since there are "Voices"). John initially scoffs, realizing it's the girlfriend, but then there's all this other ruckus and footsteps and unclear activity, and then the voices at the end.

    -- What does "you're next" threat mean? Grant is still alive, so he doesn't seem to tie into the "five lives" needed, since he still has his. Is it supposed to be a warning to Grant? Why? Or is it a threat to Opal that she also might get knocked down and have writing etched onto her face?

    -- Why does Opal's stomach roil at the glimpse of a dead person's hair in the bag? It seems like she'd be pretty familiar with the dead in her line of work, so why is she so queasy about a mere lock of hair? Is it the lilac color? Lilac-violet is a pretty bold hair-color choice, but still...

    I could go on, but I'm really not trying to be obnoxious about this -- I'm just pointing out that while the scene is entertaining, it does leave a lot of unanswered questions in my mind, and I don't think all of them are intended story questions meant to pull me into the plot.

    1. (Review continued -- broken into two parts due to length)

      The writing of Ms. Sunnydale is lyrical and filled with imagery. This appears to be the start of a retooling of the forbidden-but-doomed love like that between Romeo and Juliet -- timeless material that has endured for centuries. The piece flows well and provides some good insight into the premise of the world that Jossana occupies. We learn some of the dichotomy between the Rebs and the Steadfasters, intertwined with the forbidden-love-at-first-sight romance-from-afar of Jossana and the unnamed boy. Some of the details are exquisite, and the theme of the forgotten joys of her previous life contrasted with the moment-she-can't-forget is compelling and poignant.

      But I also struggle with some things, too:

      -- The whole scene is basically a world-building infodump told in retrospect with no clear purpose other that as a preamble, to give background of Jossana's current situation. There's nothing happening in the "now" of the story that the reader can care about or get involved in.

      -- The point of listing all the things she's forgotten defeats the point -- if can give still list and give details about what she's forgotten, then she hasn't really forgotten, has she? If the POV is supposed to be some higher-level of Josanna's consciousness that somehow still knows what the conscious mind of Jossana has forgotten, then it isn't quite made clear.

      -- I could quibble about some word choices -- "and so on" dilutes the impact of the sentence as much as adding "yada, yada" at the end; "a bone to pick" is an archaic cliche -- but I like so much of the other lyrical phrasing that a few clunkers doesn't hurt too badly.

      -- I think of myself as romantic as the next guy, but I have a hard time accepting that a single glance and a lone voicing of her name is enough for Jossana to make her obsess about him so heavily and for so long. I get the dewy-eyed young girl crush, especially when you add the 'forbidden love' aspect, but has there been so little in Jossana's life since the glance that the crush hasn't faded in the years since? Or am I getting the timeline wrong? With the list of how many years it has taken for her to "forget" all the things she has, I also got the impression that the glance of Reb-Romeo was last seen by Jossana-Juliet many years ago, too.

      I found this a hard vote to cast, but in the end I have to go with Ms. Sunnydale. While I struggle with the premise and some elements of the construction, much of the writing is beautifully captivating.

  51. My vote is for Ms. Sunnydale.

    YNaLIas: I had a hard time figuring out what was going on at first. There are quite a number of characters introduced for such a short piece, making any character development more challenging. The action here is good; much happens in a short time. I am left with the impression that there must be a significant back story.

    Ms. Sunnydale: The writing here is beautiful and lyrical. I do find that that the story itself tends to get lost in the poetry a bit. The "coming for a song" bit left me wondering if she was singing to her brother at the same time or remembering that she sang to him in the past? Overall, though, this was lovely to read. Good job.

  52. YNaLIas: I was confused about the characters, and I'm still not sure what John's role is. Clearly, he has some powers, but I don't know how these three are connected to one another. Also, I'm not sure about the word "gossamer," which means:

    1: a film of cobwebs floating in air in calm clear weather
    2 : something light, delicate, or insubstantial

    If this is part of a larger piece in which you've already established that summoned spirits resemble floating spiderwebs, it works. If not, it sounds like you're trying too hard to use a pretty word for ghost/spirit.

    Ms. Sunnydale: I'm a sucker for symmetry, and the way you start and end with memory got me right in the heart. There's a grace to Jossana's voice--deep and rich and full of poetry. It might be nitpicking, but I would suggest the following revision: "I wish I could forget him as easily. But the memory of THE BOY (replaced "him) in the nursery window REMAINS (instead of "is still there"), infecting my brain like a persistent poison."

    Ms. Sunnydale has my vote.

  53. Ooh, both are so mysterious! I'm not quite sure what's going on yet, but voting for Ms Sunnydale!

  54. My vote goes to YNaLIas, though I found it a difficult choice today. Both entries seemed to suffer from a lack of anchoring, I had a hard time knowing exactly where I was and what was happening.

  55. I had a difficult time with both stories today. They seem to have issues with opposing issues. In Sunny's tale, nothing is happening realtime and it's just a backstory info dump (though beautifully written). In YNaLIas's story, alot is happening but we don't have enough backstory to know the significance. Both left me confused as to what was going on. My vote goes for Sunny simply because the author gave me someone to feel for. I wasn't sure who or what outcome to root for in the first piece. I would however keep reading YNaLIas's story as I'm interested in warning given and how that plays into the story.

  56. YNaLlas - It took me a couple of reads of this to fully understand what was going on. Some of the language felt like the writer may have replaced simpler words with something more grand sounding, which actually tripped the flow up somewhat - words like roiled / gossamer / anew.
    The chants were interesting, in that I felt the writer was trying something different, but by the second one, I have to be truthful and say they felt like a little bit of a waste of the word count. The humor added by the girlfriend being summoned didn't really work for me. I think maybe it would have been more interesting to have a different ghost show up that added more drama to the piece.
    The premise is interesting - I have not read a lot of paranormal mystery, so I think perhaps if it was polished a bit more it could be very intriguing.

    Sunnydale - honestly I have not much of a clue what is happening here. While there are a few lines of very lovely writing, most of it is very confusing, even after a couple of rereads. Have absolutely no idea what Rebs and Steadfasters are.
    Probably the part that confused me the most though is the fact that the story opens by saying it took the narrator 5 years to forget the ocean... if the ocean has been forgotten, how does the narrator remember it to tell us it took them 5 years to forget it?
    I have to be truthful too and say I am not a fan of retellings, no matter how beautiful the writing is, as it is basically using someone else's work as a scaffolding, and therefore will never feel (to me) that original.
    I'm having a hard time deciding my vote for this one, as both leave me very confused, but both have elements within them that are good.

    I'll give my vote to YNaLias, simply because of the two it feels the more original of the entries.

  57. Voting for Sunnydale this round.

  58. Ynalias, this one just missed my short list. Your voice caught my ear; the dialogue felt natural and smooth, but sadly the scene didn't really hold together. I think there were just too many mood changes for such a short piece - matter-of-fact, to eerie, to ethereal, to ridiculous, to confusing, to violent. Some of your sentences lack clarity -- for example, "My concentration broke as the spirit spun around the table." Does this mean the spirit took a turn in the air over/around the table, or that she actually spun the table around?

    Sunnydale: Some lovely, lyrical words in this piece. Some of the sentences are just swoony-give-me-goosebumps. It's told beautifully in places, but it's still telling, not showing. The opening lines enumerating all the things she's forgotten, and how long ago, and in what order, strike me as a huge contradiction. The world building isn't clear, and I haven't found the hook that's going to compel me to read on.

    Today's vote to Ynalias for voice alone.

  59. Both very good, and would like to read more. I thought YNaLlas had lots of interesting ideas. I love mystery with supernatural elements. I like the idea of one who can summon a spirit but needs a ouija board to communicate, and a partner who can see the spirit but not summon it. I liked the detective consulting a medium to help solve a case, even though that turned out to be a ruse. I liked the term “gossamer” for a ghostly apparition not clearly manifested. Lots to like here. Not particularly a fan of dystopian stories, but Sunnydale’s writing was lovely. I liked the structure and the mood. I loved the aching description of a missed chance for love, or at least romance. My vote goes to Sunnydale for an elegant piece of writing.

  60. Ms. Sunnydale. Like a wandering song. Loved it!

  61. Once again, both of these pieces are very good! I really enjoyed the paranormal mystery ritual piece, but felt a bit too much was happening and got a bit confused. My vote is for Sunnydale's wonderfully delicate and evocative dystopian piece.

  62. i was a little confused by the detectives, but found Sunnydale's work bringing me into the world. My vote goes to Sunnydale.

  63. I vote for Ms. Sunnydale: That opening line was a HOOK. I love it.

  64. Sunnydale, your writing is gorgeous, but there's not a lot happening in the piece.

    YNaLIas, there's a lot happening, but I can't seem to connect to the characters. And that typo.

    I'm going to vote for YNaLIas because it's something I would keep reading based on the sample.

  65. To be honest, I didn't care for either entries. Both just left me feeling more confused than anything else, and wanting to know what the heck is going on, rather than what happens next. That said, I vote for YNaLIas as I found it the more interesting of the two.

  66. My vote goes for Sunnyvale. Beautiful writing which brought the feels. Yearning for a past time before the Rebs did their damage. Now I want to visit the ocean.

    YNaLIas was good too but I was confused. The detectives did not fit with the seance scene in my opinion.

  67. My vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale for that dystopian flair.


  68. My vote is for Ms. Sunnydale. I'm not the biggest fan of the genre, but I like the writing more. The sentences are more lyrical, and the feelings really come through.

    For YNaLIas, I think there's a potential for a good story there, but I did not think the writing quality was as good. The flow felt off, and it did not feel like it made a lot of sense.

  69. Both pieces this time were solid. YNaLIas's piece was a little confusing at first. It took me a bit to orientate myself with what was going on, but it was well written and flowed well.
    However my vote goes to Ms. Sunnydale. The writing was beautiful. I also enjoyed the part describing how long it took to forget various everyday things. It added a nice element to the dystopia.




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