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10 October 2011

Tournament of Champions: Week One

*your Tournament hostess this week is Michelle Massaro

Welcome to Clash of the Titles' first annual Tournament Of Champions!! It is my great pleasure to be your hostess for the first week of clashes, games, and prizes. Woot!!

For those who helped us spread the word about this event, we offered a special prize: an exclusive COTT coffee mug. I'm very excited to say that the lucky person to win this Shout-About drawing, and will soon be sipping mochas from her awesome mug, is: Brandi Boddie! Enjoy a pumpkin coffee with extra whip for me this fall. ;)

For you readers, today's game is sponsored by Elaine Cooper, author of The Promise of Deer Run. She is offering a $10 Amazon gift card to the winner.

To play, visit Raquel Byrnes' blog to find the answer to this question: What is the nickname that Summer and Jimmy use for Reyna?

Come back here with the correct answer and submit it in the moderated comments section below, and you'll be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card from Elaine CooperDon't forget to leave your name and contact information along with your answer.

And now, let the Clashing begin!  Below are our first two excerpts. Voting is only open for TWO DAYS, so don't delay.

Excerpt A
Casey lost track of how long she sat there . . . The unfairness of it all slapped her hard, caused anger to well up and overflow. She hated her life, her school, her inability to be like everyone else . . .

Hated her dad’s silences, her mom’s incessant worrying.

Hated not be able to hold Jesse or Daniel, tease them, laugh with them.

Her laughter had died with them and was buried six feet under damp, cold dirt, along with the bodies of her brothers. Cold, rotting flesh, insects gnawing their bones.

Casey shuddered. Great racking sobs shook her chest. She thought of Shakespeare’s play, Cymbeline. The Queen on her deathbed, mourning her dead son. Upon her desperate bed, past the hope of comfort. She wished she could smash something, like her dad did the night after Daniel shot himself. He took one of his sledgehammers and destroyed the car. Just beat it over and over, swinging wildly at the windshield, the fenders, filling the void of night, the void in their lives, with a spray of pain. Glass and metal flying in all directions. Her mom somewhere in the house. Casey standing on the front lawn and watching him, feeling nothing at all. Barely noticing neighbors on the street, whispering.

A door opened nearby. Casey heard laughter and soft talking . . .

Billy composed himself as Casey’s eyes widened and the shock of seeing him there settled over her like dust from atomic fallout . . . She imagined the look in Othello’s eyes as he gazed upon his beloved Desdemona sleeping, his seemingly traitorous wife, whom he would momentarily kill. Ah balmy breath, that dost almost persuade Justice to break her sword! Tortured that such beauty would have to end. Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee, and love thee after.

Oh yes . . .

Billy walked away, down the street to his parked truck. Anger rose and sparked; fury lifted her up and carried her like an errant wave . . .

Her voice seethed and hissed. “How could you?”

Billy dropped his head back, smiled at the sky . . .

She made herself into a rock, a hard piece of iron. She emptied herself of every bit of softness.

There was only this bitter anger, this cheated life, this miserable, unfair existence. This living death.

Casey let go of Billy’s shirt. She didn’t think. Just walked around to the passenger door and got into his cab.

Back in Meredith’s yard, her notebook and backpack lay on the bricks.

Back in that garden, Casey had left other things as well. Her childhood, with all its responsibilities. Her place as a naïve, obedient daughter. Her task as a keeper of her brothers’ memories. She left so much in that garden that all that remained sitting in the front seat of the Ford truck was a shell, a semblance of a living, breathing human being.

She waited until Billy climbed in . . . “Drive,” she said.

Excerpt B
Collin Edwards stood before the funeral assembly.  Heat crawled up his body. He clutched the edges of the podium where he stood and cleared his throat. The gesture was in vain. His throat constricted so much it hurt. Before the altar, just to the right, rested a flag-draped casket.

He looked down, at a piece of paper upon which he had crafted the words to a eulogy. The words had refused to pour forth until just after three in the morning, not that he had slept much recently. Tears built and stung. The white paper, the black scribbling, blurred together into a hideous shade of gray.

“He took the bullet,” Collin began in a voice far removed, yet shockingly calm. “He answered the call to serve and protect, and he took the bullet. He helped a woman in need, a woman threatened, and he took the bullet. He was the oldest in our family, our leader and compass. And he took the bullet. He lived a life meant to enforce the idea that we must do what's right. And he took the bullet. Lance Edwards was my big brother, my benchmark. Our family now bears a tremendous hole. Because he took the bullet.”

Only then did Collin take a conscious breath. Only then did he release his death grip on the podium. He slid the paper into a crumpled clutch and walked quickly to the first pew.

He didn't notice much right away. The only image that immediately clung to his consciousness was that of his mother, her head bowed, her shoulders shaking as she wiped away tears that simply kept coming.

He bit the inside of his cheek. 

The service continued. Despite an odd form of detachment, images became a flood, spinning into place like the ever-shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope. Sunlight split into prisms by vibrant stained glass; the lilies, roses and carnations; the gleaming brass cross suspended above it all.

The cross.

It offered Collin no comfort now. In fact, it felt foreign. Pain overwhelmed him. Pain turned to resentment. Resentment bloomed into fury.

Where are You? He screamed in silence. Where were You? This was Your plan? This was Your purpose for Lance's life? Obviously the answer is yes, so obviously You’re a God of waste and pain. Don't ever speak to me again about being loving and merciful.

A switch in his heart clicked from on to off. Darkness rode in, and he embraced it. To do so was much easier than dealing with the pain, the guilt, and the agony of losing hope.

Collin took stock of Woodland Church in a definitive moment of resolution and life change.

Never again will I return to the home of a supposed Lord and Savior who would allow such a thing. It'll be better for me to stay away. Never again will I darken the door of a church. God, keep away from me, too. I want nothing more to do with You.


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Item Reviewed: Tournament of Champions: Week One Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michelle Massaro