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WRiTE CLUB 2020 - The Finals

This journey began for 30 writers seven weeks ago and now as it draws to a close we should take a moment and reflect on all of the wonderful writing we've seen. To reach this point in WRiTE CLUB - having your work read and judged by a conglomerate of industry professionals - is no easy task. But then again, it's not supposed to be. Writing is a gift, perfected with hard work, and this contest plays only a small part in drawing that gift out into the light. A hearty WELL DONE to each of the contestants that made it into the ring this year.

The readers/voters have spoken and decided that A. Lynne Smithee and Scottish will face off for the opportunity to be crowned the 2020 WRiTE CLUB Champion. The winner of this final bout (along with the two finalist real identities) will be announced this coming Saturday (6/27).  Both of our finalists have had their 1,000-word samples forwarded to our celebrity judges and those samples are also displayed below. Along with their words, a WRiTE CLUB follower (Nikolai Wisekal - who works as a narrator for audiobooks) has volunteered to turn their submissions into audio files for those of you who might prefer to listen to the samples.

Although the votes/comments will not carry any weight towards deciding a winner, everyone is welcome to leave a vote/critique in the comments. Comments in this round do not count towards the gift card giveaway.

We will also announce the two winners of our random voter giveaways next Saturday as well.

For one last time this year...this guy says it best.

A. Lynne Smithee

Falling Off


What are you going to do next?

It was the question that drove my life. My subscribers peppered me with different variations as the drones buzzed around me like giant fireflies, streaming my life on YouTube twenty-four hours a day.

“Stay tuned,” I told the audience behind the lens. “We’re just getting warmed up.”

I never had the next stunts planned. All I knew was I had to top the last one. After laying in traffic, drinking horse piss, and tattooing a stylized extended middle finger on my forehead, I was at a loss. Something always came to me, though.

My YouTube channel started like thousands of others, me prattling on and playing video games. When I topped a hundred thousand followers, I got sponsors. “People identify with you.” That was true, but it wouldn’t keep them watching. I had to do something special, so I went full access. Twenty-four hours livestream.

Simple pranks got lots of views: streaking through restaurants, punking my family, baiting people into fights. A hundred thousand people subscribed to my channel in one month. Then I started to fall off.

“It’s normal,” a sponsor said. “Everyone has to fall off eventually.”

No twenty-four hour live-streamer had lasted more than four months. They said they’d gotten tired of it, or the attention had been too much, but I knew that was bullshit. They’d fallen off, and they couldn’t stand it.

I couldn’t let that happen. The drones had become my mouthpiece to the world, the commenters on my channel my friends. They were more real to me than anyone in real life.

So I invented the Friday Finale. I promised everyone watching something spectacular to close out the week. The sponsors loved it. The views skyrocketed.

By Thursday I had no idea what I’d do. It came to me at Union Square. There had to be five hundred people there, ice skating and drinking cocoa. It was perfect.

A quick trip to Walgreens and I was ready. I covered myself in fake blood, screamed, and ran onto the rink. I fell, sliding and smearing gore across the ice. When the ambulance appeared, I ran. Ten million views. A hundred thousand new subscribers.

What are you going to do next?

They were desperate to know. I’d drop fake hints and watch my numbers climb, and all I had to do was sit in my apartment and get high. As long as they had Friday Finale, there was no falling off.

I picked up so many new followers the first month of livestreaming, I made twenty grand a week on the ad revenue alone. I hired an assistant to manage my social media and my YouTube content.

Topping myself got tougher every week. I had to get creative. Sometimes I had to break the law. That didn’t bother me. I learned I had a wayward moral compass and a high pain tolerance. Both worked in my favor.

When I got the tattoo I lost most of my sponsors. Only Red Bull had the balls to hang in. Still, people would stop me on the street, pull up their shirts to reveal a mirror-image of the digit on my forehead. None were bold enough to put it anywhere you’d see it, but they had jobs to keep, families to go home to. The stream was my job; the watchers were my family.

Six months in, I’d stuck myself with sewing needles, swallowed broken glass, and torn out two fingernails with pliers. Walking the line between injury and the hospital was tricky. They didn’t allow drones in. Neither did jail, but I’d spent a few nights for joyriding a patrol car, and that hadn’t cost me any subscribers. They waited for me like the drones, hovering patiently until I returned. I lost Red Bull, though. No matter. I’d known it was just a matter of time before those wings were clipped.

The next month my assistant called, told me there’d been a little slippage in the numbers. That’s the word he used, slippage. Not falling off, just a slight dip, like a blip in the stock market or a car salesman’s slump. The words hit me in my core.

My channel’s comments were crammed with suggestions. Swallow a live snake. Jump off a tall building. Light your hair on fire. They were the kind of things I used to laugh at. I wasn’t laughing anymore.

The idea came to me in the shower, a eureka moment that had me singing into the drone’s camera lens. I reached out to my fans for help. They were glad to oblige.

A little internet research told me what I needed to know: the lung capacity of the average twenty-three-year-old, how much oxygen in a cubic yard of air.

The graveyard was just outside the city. Two tall men with stylized middle-finger tattoos dug the hole.

The coffin was big enough to allow three GoPros with night vision. It was lined with red velvet, and as I climbed in I wished I’d worn white. It would play out better onscreen.

It was too dark, too quiet. I missed the buzzing of the drones. It would have been like a lullaby to calm the thundering in my chest.

It didn’t take long for the air to go stale. I coughed. I hammered at the lid of the box. I kicked.

The fear that took me was unlike anything I’d experienced. Branding myself with an iron, driving into a brick wall, nothing compared to this. I screamed until I ran out of air. I blacked out, and all the while the cameras rolled, catching my terror from three sides.

When they pulled me from the coffin they had to resuscitate. I threw up and shook with shock.  I lay back, gulping lungsful of night air. Then I checked YouTube. A million live viewers, and comments scrolling by faster than I could read them.

That was amazing. What are you going to do next?



Blue Fire

“Hi everyone. I’m Lorrie.

I was told this is the largest gathering so far. In the Southwest, anyway. We have a lot of speakers, so I’m going to jump right in.

The reason we are here, The Mysterious Heka. He tells an ordinary story about himself. His real name is Richard Gamal. Born and raised in New Orleans.

Ever since I was ten, I wanted to be magic.’ Not a magician, but magic. That’s how he starts his book. I see most of us have a copy. According to his memoir, he went to every magic show he could find in the States, then traveled Europe and the Middle East picking the brains of what he called real sorcerers. The ones you’ll never see in Vegas, that’s for sure. He found the Biblical, turn a staff into a snake, kind of sorcery that traumatizes kids and gives old folks heart attacks, and I can testify to that. I saw his act three years ago.

Girl’s night out, drinks and a show. My girlfriend Trish scored two free tickets on a radio giveaway. Caller number seven.

A magic show, The Mysterious Heka.

The venue was a black box theater at the college, seating about a seventy-five people in the world’s most uncomfortable folding chairs. No one wanted to sit, so we mingled, asking each other who this guy was. No one knew.

The stage was a raised platform. Lighting and sound equipment was positioned overhead along rails.

Just as we were finishing our beers, colored lights flashed and music blasted through the speakers. The first familiar licks got cheers and whistles, and people danced in the aisles to Sweet Home Alabama. Trish was one of them ‘cause that’s who she was, but I was inhibited, so I just watched.  

Then came a funky mixture of synthesizers and organ music—Andre Previn—music from Rollerball. Most people in the room probably didn’t recognize it. Maybe it was the alcohol, or that rhythm thumping against my primitive brain—I started dancing.   

 A swarthy guy with a captivating smile and an Ankh tattooed on one cheek started dancing with me. He put one hand in the small of my back and it was hot right through my shirt, and I became a different version of myself. My inhibitions were gone, and I got lost in the moment. Then the music ended and the room went dark for maybe two seconds. Poof, my dancing partner had disappeared. Story of my life.  

Trish and I took our seats. Second row, centerstage. I remember her saying how this guy better be good, because we will be able to see every move. We were that close. He walked out smiling. The swarthy guy with the Ankh, which gave me chills.

There was applause, and he put a finger to his lips to quiet us. Then he blew on it and a blue flame appeared on the tip and he acted surprised—making faces, waving his hand comically to put the flame out. Everyone laughed.  

Then, with a graceful flick of his wrist, the flame fell to the floor like a yoyo on a string, bursting into a ball of blue fire. He stomped on it with one foot to put it out, hopping up and down, making funny noises, and we laughed.  

He stumbled and his other foot went into the fire, as if by accident and again, he clowned around pretending to be afraid. We laughed and applauded, having never seen anything like that before.

But the mood changed. The trick appeared to go wrong and he panicked as the fire grew and his shoes started burning. There was an unsure titter from the audience, then silence. A layer of smoke was building over our heads. I could hardly breathe. My body became heavy, dead weight, like the gravity of the Earth had tripled.

That’s when he started screaming. The hem of his slacks caught fire and flames crawled upward, out of control. He continued to scream, convulsing as the fire took his legs. Heat radiated from the stage, causing us to put up our hands, shielding our faces. The stench of burning flesh was nauseating. I could taste it in my mouth. The smoke thickened.

Heka sobbed as his skin blackened and crisped, and we sobbed with him, holding onto each other’s hands, watching the blue fire crawl up his torso, licking his neck.  

Trish was freaking out, asking me if it was a trick, and I didn’t know. My primitive brain spoke to me, telling me this was the real deal, and we had to get the hell out of there. Everyone begged him to stop. People were passing out. We were calling for help. One man began cursing at him, calling the show an abomination.

There were shouts to the light and sound crew above us. Call 911, the Fire Department. Get fire extinguishers before the stage burns, and it spreads, and we all die. But no one up there moved or spoke.

Fully engulfed, his face gone, his hair on fire, Heka was a blue torch. He was all messed up but still standing on his feet. I wondered how that was possible.  

Mercifully, he winked out of sight. How, I have no idea. I had my eyes on him, then he was just gone. The fire died, shrinking down to a flame that morphed into a delicate bubble. It floated upwards over our heads, above the smoke, then burst, taking all light with it.

When the lights returned, Heka was centerstage again. Alive and well. The fire was out, the smoke was gone, but the smell of burnt flesh still hung in the air. He had a blue glow around him, and he radiated heat. He smiled at us, and opened his arms, and we were his.  

There was no applause from the audience this time. Just reverence and fear.”


I'll definitely miss being at the DFW Conference this year, but maybe I'll have an opportunity to say hello in the future!


  1. I want to thank you and your wife D.L. for hosting the contest. Although I didn't win, I made it into the rounds and it was a marvelous opportunity to receive feedback for my writing. Which was priceless.

    And I also want to thank all of the people who commentated on my story, whether you voted for me or not.

    I'll be back next year.

  2. Congratulations A. Lynne Smithee & Scottish! What great stories you've submitted!! Good luck to you both. I have never been a part of anything like this before and have really enjoyed reading everyone's stories. There is a lot of great talent out there. Thanks again.

  3. As another of the "thirty", I'd like to echo your comments, Jan R.

    A huge thank you to D.L. for hosting again this year, and to all who took the time to comment on my work with constructive feedback.

    I'd like to also give special thanks to E Aemelius, whomever you are. The time you invested in your thoughtful, helpful and unbiased feedback is greatly appreciated by this writer.

    I hope all the writers in this contest continue to write; there was some exceptional talent on display this year, let's keep at it :)

  4. Congrats to the finalists! You did not make the judges job easy. :)

  5. Hearty CONGRATULATIONS to both of you.

    To everyone who made it into the contest this year: Congratulations to you, as well! Your stories have been a welcome distraction, and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to read your stories.

  6. Congratulations to the finalists! Very deserved! Thank you all writers for the chance to read your stories.

  7. Congratulations first off to the finalists. Well done, you two!

    Endless thank-yous to DL and his wife for the many hours they spend hosting this contest. None of us would be here without y'all and I'm extremely grateful.

    Lastly, also as one of "the thirty," I greatly appreciated ALL the feedback. I heartily agree with Always Writing about E Aemelius. The time and detail you put into your critiques amazed me every day. What a gem you are!

  8. Thanks DL and Katherine for your hard work to put this contest together! I wasn’t a “thirty” this year, but I wanted to share that last year I made it to the Cage Bouts. I didn’t get to send in a continuation of my piece, but the comments I received helped me expand it and it was published last February in an online Literary Journal! Thanks for the confidence to make it happen!

  9. Scottish would be my vote of these two. Wtg to both of you!

  10. Thank you DL and Katherine. I know a lot of hard work goes into the competition. Being able to share this with my mother was a great experience. I appreciate all the comments and feedback, and look forward to being a slush pile reader next year. DFWCON has been great to me and my family, so as for the entry to next year's conference, I want to see that it goes to someone who otherwise might not be able to attend. I look forward to seeing everyone next year.

  11. Catherine Link (Scottish) Congratulations to Daniel. As a mom, I feel like I won, even though I came in second. This was such an opportunity to stretch and grow my skills. To everyone who liked my stories, thank you. To everyone who gave critiques, thank you. And to DL and Katherine, thank you for all you do for the writing community.

  12. Thank you so much DL and Katherine! Thank you also to the slush pile readers and other contestants for reading and giving feedback. It has been an awesome learning experience. Stay safe everyone.




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