The winners of Tory’s 300 Word New Year’s Eve Writing Contest have been chosen. We asked writers to submit their best excerpt from an unpublished work up to 300 words, and now it’s time to read the winning entries and hand out prizes!
A Couple Things
WB and I had quite a difficult time narrowing 172 entries down to three winners and four honorable mentions. If your entry wasn’t chosen, it doesn’t mean we didn’t love it. There were many entries vying for the top positions, but we had to make a choice. The good news is we’ll be hosting more contests in 2021, so subscribe to the blog and we’ll see you at the next one!
Also, the First Place winner has already been notified and has graciously chosen to donate his cash prize to put towards a manuscript critique for another writer, so I’ve added more prizes. Here is what you get now if you win:
First Place–10,000 word developmental edit, $100 cash (donated)
Second Place–10,000 word manuscript critique, $20 cash
Third Place–10,000 word manuscript critique, $20 cash
Honorable Mention–5,000 word manuscript critique
All prize winners will be contacted within the next 48 hours.
For writers: Today is the final day to book a manuscript critique at the end-of-the-year 20% off rate or a $60 query package. Go here to learn more and get in touch.
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Here are the winning entries!
These entries are published as submitted, with no editorial changes. Any formatting (i.e. italicized words) was stripped from the entry in the submission process.
First Place, Dave Deickman
Heavy was the sand in the sky, particles cooked and vitreous under the hard glare of the misanthropic sun. Ruinous was its ultraviolet light, raw. Gazes of bleach. A furnace with an everlasting caress. Clouds of dust and salt roiling in the upper atmosphere, alive with heat lightning. Raining grit, giving the abrasive teeth to the ruthless wind.
The winds carved these devastated lands now. The gales the master. Their fangs and ferocity shaping the impermanent dunes relentlessly with each passing hurricane.
The world is quiet when Old King Sol gazes upon the vast reaching deserts, quiet except for the wind, which is said to be the voices of the dead. A whisper from beyond. A song of extinction, the final tune struck drummed by the impact of an asteroid.
Under this bleaching light, ghosts appear in the mirages hanging pools of water for those desperate enough to fall into their traps, ifrits dance at the crests of great dunes, and salvagers dig in the sand.
John Woodbine could see the porcelain fortress of the mighty Sigma-Tek Corporation looming in the distance, below the terraced slopes of Sahara Revival Outpost and the lush waters of the Mediterranean; the last body of water left on Earth. He saw those big black banners sunbleached nearly the same color as the white sigmas waving in the wind of the owners of this destitute rock, this prison planet they called a profit farm.
Woodbine leaned against the railing of his crawler with a piece of leather to protect him from the barbwire wrapped thrice over the hot joints, paying not attention to the shantytown on these outskirts of the city and those suffering and begging, crestfallen, downtrodden, and already resigning themselves to die.
Second Place, Shereen Cook
Thick gray clouds wrapped themselves around the city like a funeral shroud, the air damp with drizzle. Anais tilted her head back and let the rain wet her cheeks. A funeral for a city that was dying. How appropriate. She straightened and adjusted the purple and gold scarf on her head, in a vain effort to protect her curls from the weather. Gods, she hated this place.
Stone buildings—slate and marble—lined the street, becoming more ostentatious as she walked toward the center of the city, the gleaming hub where the castle of the Montae stood. From this distance, Anais could see the tips of the castle’s white spires rising above shops and houses, cutting through the gray skyline. Making this trek through the city reminded her of the map of Orea that hung in her father’s study, a work of art in gold-rubbed vellum. Oreste, the capital city, was a wagon wheel nestled between a swath of green forest stretching west and the white-tipped mountains to the east. Streets ran like spokes to the city’s center.
And just like a wagon wheel, though the center may shine with gold, the outer rim was crusted with filth. That was where Anais belonged, among the poor, among the vana chara. Not here, where the wealthy choked on their prosperity. Here, where her very existence was suspect.
Third Place, Sonja Hutchinson
The only thing more useless than a single sock is a ninth princess. Guess which one I am? Hint: I don’t have the option of eventually being paired with a mate. I’d welcome the time-honored tradition of being foisted off on some minor noble near the Wastes to cement a treaty or improve relations with a hostile neighbor. Nope. Not for a Ninth. My future consisted of a one-way trip to the coast to be tossed off the Ridge as a sacrifice to Maelstrom, the god of the sea, may he rot from a mold infestation in his nether regions.
Fate had only a few hours to save me. Tomorrow was my twentieth birthday.
I wasn’t taking chances. Rounding my bed, I threw open the shutters and knelt before the bronze statues of the triple moon goddess, Sirini. One deity, three identical forms, hands outstretched in blessing. As the youngest of a set of triplets, I found beauty in the symmetry of worshipping the only goddess in the pantheon who manifest in threes. I lit an incense stick, placed it in a ceramic dish in front of the figures, and bowed my head. “Please show mercy. Save your humble servant.” I sighed. “Knock Maelstrom off his high rock and prove you’re greater than he.” That’d be a satisfying kick in his sharp, arrogant teeth.
Honorable Mention, Tenshi K.
“Tears are for frightened children.” she told the offending toy. “I am no longer a child.”
She wrapped herself up in the cold, familiar cloak of her shadows devouring what she’d fed them and sat the toy cat on the left arm of her chair.
“You are nothing but fabricated joy. An illusion for weak-minded people like Hallow to fawn over and children to pretend with. You are nothing but a sewn-together stack of textiles and converted plastics. You’re no different than a milk bottle or a couch cushion, except that your shape is more pleasing and they made you soft. Like them. Like humans. Make-believe for a race of young children.”
The cat did not reply or move, or even stay sitting on the end of the armchair and it slumped over onto Carnival’s hand.
She adjusted it back onto its paws, sitting it upright and feeling with her hands which way the eyes and muzzle faced before settling back into her chair.
“You are absolutely expendable. No use at all except to lie to the very young or the very stupid.”
She grew quiet and stared at the shapeless smudge in the darkness of the living room.
“Your name will be Umbra. You belong to me now.”
She picked up the toy and tucked it behind the hilt of Ivory, strapped at her waist and hidden beneath the folds of her shirt. The cat’s soft fur soothed the leather burn the holsters of her daggers caused against her side and she spared the toy one last thought before she leaned back in her chair, settled her hands across her lap and closed her eyes. She did not sleep, but she could still wonder at things and so she did.
Honorable Mention, Alexander Rivera
Roger walked down 23rd street with his blunderbuss resting on his shoulder. Thick clouds obscured the pale white light of the crescent moon, leaving the orange hue of the dimly lit street lamps to guide his way. “Maggots. Maggots everywhere,” he said. One of them, the size of his foot, wriggled towards him. He raised his foot and quickly brought it down on the unsuspecting bug. It squealed like a dying pig with a satisfying crunch beneath Roger’s leather boot. He stepped back, wiping the sole of his boot on the pavement, and watched the rancid, bubbling pus now oozing onto the street.
“Roger,” someone called from behind him.
“Oy,” he said, turning around to see that it was Kate—the newest hunter who joined their ranks. She held a sawed-off shotgun in both hands as she stumbled towards him, desperately trying to avoid the pools of green pus Roger left behind in his wake.
“Laura found the mother,” she said.
Roger’s eyes widened. “The mother?”
“She’s observing it right now. She told me to come find you before she engages.”
“Great, lead the way.”
She turned and walked back down the street but stopped after taking only a few steps. A thick fog rolled towards them. Roger grabbed her arm and pulled her closer to him. “Don’t go in there,” he said. “That accursed fog will rob you of your memories if you stay in there too long.”
She freed her arm from Roger and looked at him with a furrowed brow, as if to say she already knew that. That’s when he remembered what happened to her brother. He started to apologize, but she spoke first, “The mother is on 16th street. Do you know a different way to get there?”
“I do, but it won’t be easy.”
Honorable Mention, May Zullino
My grin widens as our narrow boat glides away from the magistrate’s house, past the closed shops with salted fish strung up to dry in the autumn night. Under ropes threaded eave to eave across the waterway, weighted with decades’ worth of paper sutras, wooden prayer beads, sacred holly branches meant to ward away spirits and bad luck. Between sturdy wooden stilts and under the houses they hold. The crisp air smells of cedar and fresh lacquer, sweet incense from the temple. The village is silent except for a single wailing child. The sound echoes down from one of the dark houses and across the water like a chilling breeze.
Kanchok is not the world. Papa’s told me stories — his own, and more. He’s shown me maps and history scrolls, and even if I can’t remember most of the details, I want to see it all. I take one last, deep breath of my village.
The boat slides past the last house, then the last jutting beam of the last boat shed. My heart swells. Only the wall between me and the open Tonle Kang. It’s low tide. A line of jagged stone peeks above the black mirror of water, just enough for me to see the break in it. A boundary between worlds.
I want to remember this moment. Whether I come back, whether my exile lasts forever, I want this moment, this feeling, to be branded on my soul. Freedom. I want to know the taste of it, the smell. I want my bones to sing with the knowledge of what freedom is. Woman, girl — in this moment it doesn’t matter who I am, who I’m not, only that for the first time in my life I have a chance to find out.
Honorable Mention, Trey Stone
A fleeting shadow. My hand hovers over the doorknob.
Did it really happen?
There was something there. Only briefly, but I know what I saw. Too slow to be a bird, too upright for a dog.
I draw a sharp breath through my nose, hold it, and push on through the door.
Blinding sunlight greets me. It stings my eyes, forcing me to raise a shielding hand. After a few seconds, the warmth purges the tightness from my chest.
There’s no one here.
Must have been something else. Maybe a truck passed by, casting long shadows on my door. Maybe someone had the wrong address.
I pull the mutt outside and close the door, locking it behind me. The heavy clink vibrates through my bones, making my anxiety rush back. We stand there for a while, just staring at the cars together. Toby with a childlike interest I haven’t felt for anything in a long while and me with that fear that creeps in when you’re slightly older. Everything is louder than I remember, rushed and skittering.
The warmth from the sun quickly dissipates. We can’t have been walking for more than five minutes before I have to pull my collar up, wrapping my coat a bit tighter. A coldness creeps into me, finding its way through my many layers, and it’s not because of the temperature.
“Do what you have to do, Toby. I want to go home.”
The key slides into place with a melodic thump, the weight of the lock surrendering as I turn my hand. It fills me with hope when the door gives in, removing the seal that’s kept me from my peace. I step into darkness and I can breathe again.
We’ll try again tomorrow.
But wait! Don’t go just yet. We have Mystery Prizes to give away!
The first Mystery Prizes are two $10 Amazon gift cards. These go to contestants Alice B. Sullivan and Mae Afia.
The second Mystery Prize is a 5,000 word manuscript critique. This goes to contestant David Barron.
More Ways to Win
You can still win something today by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter. If sharing on Facebook, be sure to tag the Tory Hunter Books Facebook page so we’ll see it. If using the Twitter share button at the end of this post, my TH Books Twitter account will automatically be tagged. Or you can simply retweet my post at either of my Twitter accounts.
And one last thing to giveaway . . .
If you’re a fantasy/sci-fi lover, or just someone who wants to read a great book, I have 10 Kindle copies of recently released REFUGE by JJ Blacklocke (Aethon Books). If you’d like to get started on this incredible series before AFTERSHOCK: Book Two in the Tradepoint Saga is released on January 12th, 2021, get in touch using the contact form below and I will send you the free book via Amazon. Plus one lucky reader will be randomly drawn to receive a paperback copy of REFUGE!
Thanks for participating in Tory’s 300 Word New Year’s Eve Writing Contest!
Tory and WB
If you’re in need of a manuscript critique, help with your query letter and submission materials to agents, or a developmental edit, go here to learn more about my services.
If you like zombie fiction, check out our upcoming The Last Zombie Series. If you subscribe to our email list, on January 7th you’ll receive a free copy of the companion story The Last Child, the frightening tale of a thirteen-year-old girl trying to survive in a neighborhood overrun with the undead.
Want a Free Copy of REFUGE?
Enter your name, email address, and a quick message letting me know. I’ll be in touch soon!