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Messages - Baron

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1
        Punder the Sea

   The tiny penny fish flit cautiously through weeds, aware that the hypnotic dance of the sunlight from the waves above could easily conceal a stealthy predator.  Then again, if he were to be eaten en route he would at least miss his odious appointment.  Summoning the courage to temp fate, the penny fish darted out from the weeds and raced through the grandiose marble columns of the First Bank of Atlantis.  Unfortunately, he made it.

   “Mr. Blobfish will see you now,” the bug-eyed secretary fish called to him.  The penny fish sighed and entered his banker's ornate office.

   “Mr. Penny,” the Blobfish scowled at him in greeting.  “How's the family?”

   “Mostly eaten, I'm afraid.”

   “Good, good,” the Blobfish replied absently, clearly glad that the formal niceties were now over.  “Now, let's get down to business.  The Bank is concerned that you are having something of a cash flow crisis.”

   “Not true, sir!” the penny fish piped up, trying to head off the inevitable fee-laden rate-hike that Mr. Blobfish was notorious for.

   “Hmmmmm....” the blobfish frowned, his jowls quivering slightly as the syllable drew out.  “It says here your mortgage is underwater.”

   “Well, yes, that much I concede, but-”

   “And you're still in school.”

   “Yes.  Obviously.  I mean, after all, I am a-”

   “Investments are mostly illiquid....”

   “Now I can explain that-”

   “And your credit rating is plumbing new depths.”

   “Uh.... Is it?”

   “Mr. Penny,” the blobfish gurgled sourly, “surely I needn't remind you that the Bank is built on minimizing risk.”  He eyed the penny fish disdainfully.  “The Bank must insist on a rate-hike commensurate with your abysmal risk-profile.”

   “Wait!” the little penny fish interrupted.  “You gotta give me a chance!  You're bleeding me dry here!”

   “Humph,” the blobfish humphed.  “Are you telling me you would prefer to take your business elsewhere?”

   “Uh.... no.  I'm not saying that.”

   “I hear the loan sharks on the upper east side specialize in dealing with minnows like you.”

   “Ha ha.  No, what I meant was-”

   “Or perhaps you think a customer of your net worth would fair better at the Grand Banks?”

   “That's not what I-”

   “Mr. Penny,” the blobfish grimaced, “Your assets are tanking and you are on the hook for a titanic sum.  You are in desperate need of liquidity.  Under the circumstances, I can't imagine you getting a better deal anywhere else.  Sign here.”

   The penny fish moved his mouth wordlessly.

   “Well?  I'm a very busy financier, and there are many other fish in the sea.”

   “It's just that...” the penny fish began slowly, working up his nerve.  “It's just that, well, I've been planning to start up my own business.”

   “What?”  The blobfish's eyes bulged in disbelief.

   “Uh, that's right.  I'm going into the hydroponics business.”

   “Hydroponics!  I'm not investing in the tech bubble.”

   “No, wait.  Hear me out.  My angle is to diversify into the cephalopod market.  I've already inked a contract for an octopus's garden in the shade.”

   “I've got a sinking feeling about this enterprise....”

   “And look at the macroeconomic picture!  The labour market is buoyant and stocks are rebounding.  The tide raises all ships!  Now is the time to channel investments into sectors about to face a sea-change.”

   “I can not fathom why I am even considering this....”

   “Remember Bait-coin?  You can turn drops into gallons when all those frothy revenues start pouring in.  After our flagship product makes a big splash, we'll be swimming in the money!”

   “All right, all right!  I'll take the plunge!  Where do I sign?  How much do you need?!”

   In an ocean this big, there's a sucker born every minute. :=
   

2
My plan was to keep quiet and then post something a few minutes before the time expired, so as to win by default :~(

That was my plan all along as well! 8-)  Great minds think alike, I suppose. (roll)

4
Oh man, I was so tired when I read that the "dozing" just didn't register as an adjective, even after I went back and reread it to make sure.  Sorry Sinitrena! (roll)

5
BEST CHARACTER - Ferrungis by WHAM.  He's like an overworked middle-aged dad, once all powerful but now ground down by taxes, inflation, and the general indignities of growing ever more feeble.  Not exactly charismatic, but he sure played to my demographic. ;)

BEST WRITING - I'm going with WHAM, with Sinitrena as a very close second.  Both painted terrific pictures in my mind, but some editing lapses in Sinitrena's work broke the spell.  Tickling a dozing?  Er.... :)

BEST STORY - Now this category must be Sinitrena.  That... was... EPIC!  Before I started reading I was a little apprehensive of the length, but on finishing it I'm thinking it's actually too short.  You've got material here for at least five chapters in a larger novel.  I'm with Wiggy on this one: flesh it out as a novel and try to get it published.  I'll even offer my editing services for a discounted fee.... ;-D

BEST ATMOSPHERE - Again Sinitrena, for creating a complex world of magic and misery.  I should note that I liked WHAM's grungy world as well, but I think Sinitrena's spoke more to my soul.

BEST DRAGON - Eeeee....  I think in terms of character it must be Ferrungis by WHAM.  Sinitrena's dragons didn't relate enough at our human level (until the end) to really get to know them.  Durinde's dragon did a cute little cameo, but I never really felt like I knew... er, them.  And Wiggy's ladies seem, uh... a little less than magical. (roll)

Overall another good outing, folks!

6
The Rumpus Room / Re: I'm back. What did I miss?
« on: 28 Aug 2018, 02:50 »
You're never drinking alone in Canada, eh? ;-D

7
If you keep extending the deadline, I'll keep procrastinating! ;-D  As it stands now I'm already planning to retire further west so that I can eke out a few more hours before the comps officially close. (roll)

Quest for Concord

   “Decay, destruction, ruin, and woe,” Carla Fae pronounced as she surveyed the devastation of the ruined city.  Great skeletons of steel stood sentinel over the tumbled concrete and rust that made the whole terrain a treacherous web of danger.

   “That's catchy,” Debbie Lee replied as she spat dust through the gap of her missing front teeth.  “You gonna put that in your dairy book?”

   Carla Fae shook her head.  “I think it's Shakespeare.  And it's a diary, not a dairy.”

   Debbie Lee took a big swig of brown water.  It might have been clear once, before she added a dram of whiskey to kill off the bacteria.  But chances were it was brown from the start.  “One forgotten word's as good as another,” she said.

   There was a long moment of silence as the two women listened to the distant bleating of a motorcycle echoing through the desolation.

   “There are still those of us who believe that there is much knowledge to be gleaned from the Olden Days,” Carla Fae said at last.

   Debbie Lee waved her hand over the ruined landscape.  “Yeah, looks like them folk had it all figured out.”

   “Maybe older Olden Days,” Carla Fae conceded.  “Before the Tyranny of Science, people believed in powerful beings that could raze the Earth and remake it again.”

   Debbie Lee spat again.  “I'm not interested in you running your mouth on about Gord.”

   “It's god, not Gord.  And I'm not talking about some invisible man in the sky.  I'm talking about the dragons.”

   Debbie Lee rolled her eyes skyward but said nothing.

   “Think about it,” Carla Fae continued.  “The metal-faced wizard visits in the night.  The king meets with his council and summons all his knights for a quest.  The knights all charge off on their bikes into this nest of shrapnel and debris.  There's something important going on here, and I think it has to do with dragons.”

   “Why dragons?” Debbie Lee asked skeptically.  “Why not something real, like sky spiders or zombie coyotes?”

   “Because of the mark,” Carla Fae said simply.  She remade the complicated design in the dust.  Debbie Lee recognized the stick-boy kicking the ball next to the number five, above an A and an E, both with too many cross lines.  The men had all painted it on to their shields before roaring off into the purple haze of dawn.  “It means dragon in old take-out speak.”

   “So what?  The knights couldn't find shit if it was dangling from the ends of their noses.  Remember that Grail fiasco?”

   Carla Fae shook her head.  “We both know the men folk are all just quish junkies and paste heads.  That's why we have to do this.”

   Debbie Lee looked sideways at her bookish friend.  “You said we were raiding an abandoned hooch mart!”

   “That was just to get you out of the brooding hall.  I tell you, Dee-El, there's something to the legends, and the metal-faced wizard sure thought he was on to something this time.  What do you say, old pal?  Care to show the boys how questing should really be done?”

   *   *   *   *   *

   The purple glow of dawn receded into the dull green glow of their third day in the ruins.  Debbie Lee rolled off the rusty springs that had provided her with a surprisingly comfortable night's sleep.  She  horked her morning loogie and wondered idly if she'd be lucky enough to find another pigeon to juice today.  Carla Fae was carefully reading some graffiti prophecies by roach-glow in the deeper recessions of the underpass.

   “What's that smell?” Debbie Lee asked as she approached, suddenly noticing an enticing waft.

   “What?  Oh, I couldn't sleep, so I rustled up some roadkill bacon.”

   “Nice!”

   Debbie Lee tucked happily into her breakfast while Carla Fae continued to study the wall.

   “Well?” Debbie Lee asked, licking the last of the grease from her fingers and picking the hair from between her teeth.

   “The text is damaged,” Carla Fae said absently, gesturing at the pock-marked wall.  “But, I think it's indicating the presence of a dragon temple in a pavilion on a floating mountain.”

   Debbie Lee knew most of her letters, but struggled to make any kind of sense out their infinite combinations.  “It looks like the scribblings of a booze-mummed toddler.”

   “Look here,” Carla Fae pointed.  “It's stylized, but if you squint you can see the dragon symbol.”

   Debbie Lee squinted real hard, but... wait.  Now that it was pointed out to her, it did look an awful lot like the dragon symbol they'd been chasing.  “Well, I'll be a floating brain-squid's mother.  I do see it!”

   “I'm just struggling with the floating mountain bit,” Carla Fae confided absently, deep in thought.

   Debbie Lee scrunched up her eyes and let her own mind-gears spin.  She was well aware that she was more the muscle in their partnership, but she did enjoy firing the odd neuron now and then.  “Maybe we can see the mountain from up high on one of these steel towers?” she thought aloud.

   Carla Fae shook her head.  “No, they're too precarious.  If we don't fall off, we're as likely to die in a collapse.  And there's not a lot of cover up there if it starts raining sky spiders.”

   “Good point,” Debbie Lee agreed.  She picked her ass to help get her thinking juices flowing.  “What if we went to the edge of the dust bowl?  It's nice and open there-?”

   Carla Fae snapped her fingers.  “Debbie Lee, you are a nerd-lord!  In ancient times the dust bowl was flooded by a great brine puddle.  The floating mountain was probably a hill that stuck up out of the brine, appearing to float!”

   Debbie Lee was getting excited, too.  “So all we have to do is find a hill in the dust bowl with a monument on top!  Well, that and cross the dust-bowl without being attacked by zombie yotes or sky spiders....”

   Carla Fae frowned briefly, then brightened.  “I think it's time we jacked a hog.”

   Debbie Lee smiled back.  Jacking was one of her strong points.

   *   *   *   *   * 

   The two friends climbed the great stairs in front of the monument.  Behind them stretched the parched barrens of the old brine bottom, and behind that loomed the stark skyline of the rusty ruins.  To the west a cloud of sky spiders seethed menacingly in a growing wind that was beginning to churn up the dust.

   Debbie Lee spat an impressive fourteen-footer downwind.  “Storms brewin',” she said.

   Carla Fae was entranced by the carved stone decoration of the ancients that towered above them.  “Storms are but a symptom,” she replied absently.  “They spawn from a far greater evil unleashed by the hubris of the ancients.”

   “Er....?” Debbie Lee responded.

   Carla Fae shook her head and smiled.  “Perhaps the dragons can help us?”

   “I reckon we're about to find out.”

   Together they climbed the remaining steps and passed over a great serpentine seal carved into the floor stones.  Even Debbie Lee could decipher the unmistakable pattern of the dragon's mark.  The building itself seemed to moan, and then the floor vibrated perceptibly.

   “So... what exactly is a dragon?” Debbie Lee asked with an affected calmness.

   “Heh, how silly of me not to share.  I've read a lot of conflicting accounts, but there are some basic similarities.  They are powerful armoured beasts, capable of flight and making fire out of thin air.”

   “Huh,” Debbie Lee sniffed.  “Kinda like men, then.”

   Carla Fae furrowed her brow pensively.  “Some accounts mention great wisdom,” she said at length.

   “Ah,” was all Debbie Lee replied.

   “...But others stress the qualities of greed and gluttony.”

   Debbie Lee arched an eyebrow, but said nothing.  A sudden clap of thunder made them both jump.

   “They are extremely long-lived,” Carla Fae continued in a quavering voice.  “And they have impeccable memories.  They will remember the Olden Days, and the many eras before that.  They will remember what brought the desolation upon the Earth.  In their great wisdom, they might even know how to-”

   They both froze in place as a fell shadow swooped over them, but in the merest blink it had vanished as suddenly as it had come.

   “Uh....  So what do we do when we meet a dragon?” Debbie Lee asked.

   Carla Fae opened her mouth to respond when suddenly a much louder clap of thunder crashed through the interior of the monument.  The ground lurched sideways and they both lost their footing.     

   Debbie Lee was the first back up on her feet.  “See-Fay!” she hissed, straining her senses to detect the direction of the attack.  “What do we do now?”

   But Carla Fae just lay on the ground, the most peaceful look glazed over her face.

   “Oh shit,” Debbie Lee muttered to herself.  Then there was another clap of thunder.  Almost instinctively she leapt, the sideways lurch of the ground this time sliding her unconscious friend to rest against the statue of an ugly serpent, but she herself landed safely on the ground once it had steadied once more.

   “Impressive...” a booming voice echoed.

   Debbie Lee squinted through the gloom in all directions, but she could not detect the source of the voice.  “Er.... Thanks,” was all she could manage.

   Two glowing eyes appeared against the blackness of the high ceiling, and they slowly grew until a monstrously huge face of a bearded lizard resolved out of the gloom.  “Hmmmm....  Brave and skilled, and yet also well mannered?” it rumbled.  “What is become of men at the end of days?”

   Debbie Lee did not quite know what to make of the giant talking beast.  Her bladder had already made up its mind and had completely surrendered, but something inside her mind screamed at her not to follow suit.  So, despite shaking inside worse than the floor had just moments ago, Debbie Lee drew herself up her full height and replied: “the men are a bunch of cunt-faced idiots!”

   Great.  A quest to the death to find salvation for the world, and that's what comes spilling out of her word hole?  Inwardly she kicked herself, but was careful to keep her eyes locked on the dragon's.

   To her great surprise, the beast reared its head in laughter.  The building shook, and she couldn't help glancing at her unconscious friend to make sure that no further misfortune had befallen her.

   “Too true,” the dragon boomed.   Then a guileful expression crossed its face.  “I suppose you know better?”

   Debbie Lee considered this.  She figured it was mostly true, but in her experience it had never paid to play up one's smarts.  Better to be underestimated and surprise, rather than come across as arrogant and disappoint.  “Me, I don't know nothing.”

   The dragon blinked, then lowered its head again, thankfully to a less threatening distance.  “Humble as well...  Tell me, are there any noble qualities that you do not possess?”

   “Er... I'm ok with no bull.”

   At this the dragon laughed once more.  “Tell me, my straight-talking fellow, what is it that you are trying to achieve in your quest?”

   “Uh.....” Debbie Lee stalled.  “Well, see the thing is, my friend was kind of in charge of most of the figuring on this trip.  I think....  I think she wanted to know how we could go about fixin' up this shit hole.  Or something like that.”

   The dragon stared at her for many long moments.  “Quite,” was all he said.  In a flash he struck with his tail, shattering the statue looming over Carla Fae's body, sending debris flying back away from her, but leaving a shiny orb floating in the air just above.  On the backswing the dragon caught the orb with his tail and brought it with impossible speed up to Debbie Lee's face.  “There is something you will want to see, then.”

   Debbie Lee stepped back despite herself.  “Uh, no.  I'm afraid I'm not very smart when it comes to figurin' and such.”

   The dragon's head lurched forward so that it was eye to eye with her.  “That is precisely why it must you,” he rumbled, and then his tail slowly brought the glowing orb back between them. 

   The orb seemed to open into the yawning chasm of history, and suddenly the nature of the world was perfectly clear to her.
   


8
My experience of white wine is that it's bad for the head.  Really, really bad for the head.... (roll)

My entry is about two-thirds done.  I'm pretty confident I can flesh out the rest this evening.

9
I have time... hopefully I'll find enough ideas this weekend to flesh it out. ;)

10
The Rumpus Room / Re: I'm back. What did I miss?
« on: 23 Aug 2018, 01:35 »
Drink all day and rock all night, the law come to get you if you don't walk right.... ;-D
Ready for that "pillow fight", Stu? :=
Baron: Take it to PMs or get a room  :cool:

Can't a guy hum the Grateful Dead in public anymore?  Sheesh. (roll)

11
The Rumpus Room / Re: I'm back. What did I miss?
« on: 21 Aug 2018, 02:17 »
Drink all day and rock all night, the law come to get you if you don't walk right.... ;-D

Ready for that "pillow fight", Stu? :=

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The Rumpus Room / Re: I'm back. What did I miss?
« on: 20 Aug 2018, 04:05 »
Ponch, welcome back! ;-D

Now has anyone seen Stupot lately...?

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@ Mandle:  Sorry for not being more clear.  Let's look at this in more detail:

...I was chasing bounces on down the sloping road past the point I am able to follow it beyond, and yet, somehow, I do follow it.

Yeah, so I did understand it, after a second reading.  So it is understandable.  I think it's just needlessly complex, which I found initially confusing.  He's chasing the ball down the sloping road, that much is obvious.  But then past the point I am able to follow it beyond.  Would a kid really think that?  Kids think they can do anything, so it's not a matter of being able.  A kid would probably think in terms of being allowed.  And you've swapped subjects and objects mid-sentence:  The ball I was chasing is the subject, but then I am able to follow it makes the ball the object.  And the beyond bit....  That's just extra complexity and most un-kid-like.  I would just say past the point I am able to follow it.  And then you contradict the complicated fact that he is not able to pass beyond the point by stating that he manages to anyway.  What?!  I think breaking the whole idea into simpler sentences, each with a distinct function and more kid-like vocabulary would have made the scenario set-up cleaner and stronger.  Something like:
 
Quote
The ball I was chasing bounces on down the sloping road.  It passes the point I am not allowed past.  Yet somehow... I do follow it.

Still 26 words. ;-D

Anyway, I guess it's more of a stylistic preference, but that's my two cents.

14
Alrighty then.  After careful tabulation of the results I see a two-way tie for first and a three-way tie for second, even with extra votes and points factored in.  I therefore enact my right as contest administrant to bust this tie up, old school style! :=

So the contenders for first place are Mandle and Frodo with six votes each, including their bonus point for voting.  Mandle's work got five separate votes for best overall, but I refuse to allow myself to be swayed by popular opinion. :P  Frodo's piece had a much stronger character element, and several mentions for great word choice.  I thought Mandle's was the cleverer story, but for me it loses the lustre of perfection due to the awkward sentence that starts it.

...I was chasing bounces on down the sloping road past the point I am able to follow it beyond, and yet, somehow, I do follow it.

To be honest, it was because of this sentence that I had to read the work twice to really feel that I understood it.  I know as a writer you are really painted into a corner here with few words to set up a whole scenario, but I feel that Mandle tried to economise a bit too much here and lost some of us readers.  On the flip side, the concept was brilliant and the execution, besides the first sentence, was inspired.  The last sentence was simply haunting!

Frodo's story had great emotional intensity, and I liked how she dripped out the character development so that you only really understood the depth of the love felt by "him" for "it" by the end.  The one draw back for me, however, was the last sentence.

Now his death is on my hands! 

It just kills the pathos I was feeling for this clearly grief-struck character.  She's already recognized that his death is because of her.  Repeating this detail in the most important slot of a very short story seems to imply an egocentricism that I didn't detect through the rest of the piece.  It seems to cheapen her feelings of guilt.  But otherwise fantastic story!

So...  Eeny meeny miny oh heck let's just say Frodo wins!  For your trouble you receive the golden "to the point" trophy of succinct awesomeness!     

So let's sort out this mess at second.  Mandle's in for sure at 6 votes, but KyriakosCH, Stupot, and CaptainD all had 5 votes and I feel obliged to vote for one of them to break the tie (I'm counting Stupot's runner up vote for CaptainD if anyone's having a hard time following my math). 

I liked the puzzle concept of KyriakosCH's work, but I had a hard time following the logic.  Sure, it's possible that an unhindered rook could move 7 spaces sideways, or seven spaces front or back.  But it can't move to 14 unique places from each of those spaces as a second move, due to the fact that other pieces must mathematically block its progress (certainly your own king and the second rook, but also the implied bishops and perhaps other pieces).  This for me makes the connection between the clue and the rook less certain, somewhat spoiling the puzzle for me.  The sense of indecision and hopelessness at the end also detract from the story's potential power as a clever riddle to be solved.

Stupot's creepy horror story worked for me as either a time-warp-inevitability or a cyclical-serial-murder-place.  Bringing the camera as almost an afterthought really made the rest of the story work.  The real-life plausibility of it adds to the power of the story.

CaptainD's story had a degree of emotional intensity that was lacking in the other second place finalists, but the cliché ending just killed it for me.  C'mon!  We all know it's hard: toss me a bone to chew over as I contemplate their predicament. ;)

So I guess I'm voting for Stupot, bringing him up to tie Mandle with six votes.  So to the two of you I present the coveted silver trophy of brevity.  

Which means KyriakosCH and CaptainD share the bronze trophy of shortness!  

Congratulations to all the winners!

Some quick thoughts on the other entries:

Mandle II: Buzz...  Er, actually I don't actually have any thoughts on this one.  Great gag entry, though! :P

Mandle III: The Other Dolphin...   So I got that he was a serial killer being executed and that he was in his happy place for the final moment.  The ending was powerful, being his final thought in this life.  But... did he think he was a dolphin?? (roll)

SilverSpook: Feetshot Hilarious, despite the lamentable state of online interactions between youth these days that it portrays.  But... it seemed like aLpHaBruh was banned for being outed as a gayish incel hypocrite instead of for his abusive language toward the implausibly tolerant internet female?  I'm not sure if that's social commentary on the hopelessness of achieving civil interactions on a chat stream or if you're challenging the relevance of modding at all.  Anyway, the confused message seems to have cost you votes this time.

Sinitrena: Bear Your own comments show that you own the cliché.  But, what if it was the bear dreaming of being a sweaty human all along...? ;)

WHAM: Brevity  Not enough love for this entry. :undecided:  It was an awesome attempt to portray the confusion of battle in an action-packed 144 words.  If only your contest adminstrant had the foresight to invoke a Most Intense category....  Maybe Stupot's time warp murder SD card could help us out with that.  What could possibly go wrong? ;-D

Wiggy I: Is the Glass Half Full, or Half Empty? I appreciated the philosophical perspectives, but not quite a story.  Was the trailing off into drunken utilitarianism just a comment on the absurdity of over-thinking something?  In the end I think it was a bit too esoteric for garnering votes from the masses.

Wiggy II: Climate Change - The Real Cause This struck a chord with a couple people.  It certainly conveys a powerful message, but I think the reasoning is a bit simplistic (Malthus's followers are still waiting for the "inevitable" population crash 200 years on....).  Consider this: if you are one of the seven billion mouths that need feeding then you're part of the problem.  Given that humanity has yet to "solve" its overpopulation problem, but that solving it is certainly the desired solution (the alternative being the problem solving us), it stands to reason that the best shot humanity has is bringing fresher minds to the problem through a massive all-out around-the-clock propagation effort! :=

So that's it for me as contest administrator.  I've spent all my power at the height of my glory, like some kind of salmon way up the creek.(roll)  We turn now to Frodo to take us into the next round.  I look forward to seeing you all back, with friends in tow, for the next exciting instalment of....

The Fortnightly Writing Competition!!!!

15
So that's a wrap folks.  Get your scorecards out 'cause voting might get a bit complicated this time! :P ;-D :undecided: :~( :=

Let's start off with our entrants, in alphabetical order:

CaptainD: Okay, it's been forever since I entered one of these so here goes...
Frodo: Curse of the Moon
KyriakosCH: 196
Mandle I: The Ball
Mandle II: Buzz...
Mandle III: The Other Dolphin...
SilverSpook: Feetshot
Sinitrena: Bear
Stupot: Something Dark
WHAM: Brevity
Wiggy I: Is the Glass Half Full, or Half Empty?
Wiggy II: Climate Change - The Real Cause

That's twelve entries.  That's almost exactly 123 words, depending on how you count.  Whoa..... (roll)

So voting.  Read this carefully so there won't be any confusion later on.  Votes are to be cast for entries, not for authors.  As this runs somewhat against our usual conventions in this competition I will accept votes for authors as implying that you are voting for their least popular work, unless you specifically specify which work of the author's you are voting for (e.g. Mandle III).

Also, by convention when we have five or more entries we allow multiple votes per category for those of us who see merit in multiple entries and just can't make up our minds.  You are under no obligation to cast multiple votes per category, but be aware that each vote carries the same weight regardless of how many votes a given voter casts so, heck, you might as well spread the love around.  Usually we just have two votes per category, but if you write your reasons out I will accept three due to the large number of entries.

Finally, as an experiment to incentivize voting this round you will receive one bonus vote for each of your entries if you bother to show up to vote.  Theoretically this will completely balance out.  Theoretically.... ;)

The categories for voting this round are:

Best Character: the character that most seized your imagination, for good reasons or bad.
Best Word Choice: which story got the most mileage out of each individual word?
Best Overall: which story combined the above categories but also had great atmosphere, entertainment value, heart-string tuggery, etc?

Finally, voting will extend to Friday August 10, 2018, partly because we have a lot of stories to read through, but mostly because I'm off camping and won't be around to close the competition until then.  Good luck to all entrants, and happy reading everyone! ;-D

16
About thirty-six hours to go!  We've got an astonishing 12 entries so far, and something resembling 8 entrants. ;-D  But I think we can beat that with a surge of last minute entries.  Get typing, folks!

17
I'm not so sure.  Consider this (possibly) ficticious voting card:

Best Whatsamajigger: I vote for Mandle II
Best Voice Modulation Through the Use of Fonts: Gotta be Frodo
Best Serifs: A tough one, but I'm going with Mandle's first
Best Contrary Opinion: Easily Frodo by a mile.
Best Use of Dim Sum in a Diversion Very close, but I have to give it to Mandle by a nose hair.

Mandle gets three votes, and Frodo gets only two.  Is it unfair because Mandle had more chances?  Not with the new Baronic Uber GeVoteschaft Mechanism! ;-D  In this scenario Mandle's votes are split three ways between his first, second, and third entry (because the last vote was unspecified, it goes towards his least popular story).  Frodo wins!  The crowd goes wild!  Rhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! :-D :grin: ;-D :cheesy: 8-) := (roll)

But wait, there's more!  The new Baronic Uber GeVoteschaft Mechanism also slices and dices!  It saves hours of food prep time.  And look, no more pesky rinds and leftovers: the Baronic Uber GeVoteschaft Mechanism digests them into a futuristic bio-fuel cum soylent green product!  It simultaneously feeds the starving and prevents overpopulation!  Teapot dictatorships the world over are ordering them by the thousands, so don't delay.  Buy now! :=

18
Where are all the double entries when we set the 3000 word limit, I wonder? ;)

I'm going to allow double and triple entries, but NO QUADRUPLES! I'm not putting up with that bullshit.  >:( ;-D

However, this is slightly going to complicate the voting process.  If voters specify which particular story by that author they are voting for that's fine, but if I get any unspecified votes for an author then that vote will be automatically assigned to that author's less popular story.  Agreed?

Well, it doesn't matter if you agree or not, because this is a dictatorship!   The only way to topple me is to type like you have huntsman spiders grafted on to your wrists instead of hands.  Well, that and not vote splitting. :)

Four more days!

19
Sweet!  Four entries and we're only half-way to the deadline. ;-D 

A few teensy weensy little issues with the format:

@SilverSpook: Nice twisting of the intent of the rules, you extra-word sneaker-inner you!;)  But even according to your own logic and the strictest interpretation of the rules, you still have only 143 words. :P

@Wiggy: This is trickier....  Do I count the word "Now!"?;)  My word count program tells me you have 146 words even without it, probably due to your isolated dashes (and the 145 spaces that they create :P).  Traditionally they wouldn't be counted as words, true, but the spaces Wiggy!  You were the one who hounded me for specific clarification! ;-D

In all seriousness, I think intent to meet the rules is more important than strictly following them, so I'll allow both entries as they stand.  A few quick space-bar or back-space edits would make them conform anyway.  I had even more deep and insightful things to say, but my son tells me it's time to play lego so I'll have to leave it at that.

One more week! 

20
I will count a consecutive series of digits and symbols as one word.  So 2018 and 3.14159265359 would be counted as one word.  Even the words, if hyphenated, would count as only one word (i.e. nineteen-fifteen).  Lets think of it this way: you only get 143 spaces. ;)

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