TWA #45 – X Marks the Spot – JUDGEMENT!


X MarksBy its very nature, treasure is hard fought and hard won. Like TWA gold, you have to work for it, trek far and wide, and sometimes you need a shovel.

This week is all about finding that treasure. What valuable trinkets did our authors dig up? What ends of the earth are they willing to go to find it? Check out our stories below for the answer.

Danny Brophy leads us to treasure with “The Book of the Memory.”

Simonas Juodis tries to make off with some votes in “Smuggler’s Moon.”

Rich Alix is our first judge. He is a patron of The Human Echoes Podcast, and an all-around awesome guy. He is the voice of the common man in this contest, and here are his thoughts:

Treasure hunting holds a special place in my heart. Growing up, I loved stories about pirates and buried loot, lost civilizations, or places lost and found again. The Indiana Jones movies remain some of my favorites. Sadly, the closest I ever came was a metal detector I got for my 12th birthday. Let’s see if our authors do any better.


“Smuggler’s Moon” by Simonas Juodis –  This story almost reads as Firefly fan fiction, or something set in the Star Wars universe. There is a bit of an over-the-top feel to this also, almost a touch of film noir.


I liked the beginning of this story. The idea of hiding from some giant, powerful government or corporation is one that is used fairly often because we all like to root for the underdog. That is done well here even without knowing too much about Jane.


I enjoyed the action scenes with the ship flying and trying to escape the Syndicate. There is tension here and it’s well written.


There are a few issues here though. I am totally lost with the transponder codes plot point. I’m not sure who has them and who wants them or why. Some of the dialogue is a little clunky but after reading this author’s bio, this might be a language thing. Nothing horrible, just could be smoother. I am also not sure what went down at the end, Is he hiding from the feds and getting drunk? Did he set someone else up for it? I don’t know.


Good entry, needs a little work I think though.


“The Book of the Memory” by Danny Brophy – The epic fantasy flavor was so heavy in the beginning of this story I knew something was up almost right away. I was thinking maybe this was going to turn into a parody of some sort and then the Great Mother speaks and everything became clear. At first I thought that maybe the secret should have been kept a little longer with more of the smaller hints first, but now I’m not sure I could have handled all that verbosity much longer without knowing.


I really enjoyed the little peeks behind the curtain, as it were, provided by Mitch not wanting to play, the Great Mother’s calls, and the names like White Fence. Those little winks to the reader make it even more enjoyable.


There’s not much else to say, I think the ending was well done with Loria not wanting to give up the fantasy even as she is being confronted by her mother. The friendship between Morgana and Loria was well done, they seemed to be the best of friends sharing another adventure at play.


I am hard pressed to find fault with any of this, any things I would like to see different are not ways it could be better.


This was a fantastic, imaginative entry. Thank you.


This weeks winner was pretty clear to me, one story fulfilled the prompt in a creative and unique way while providing a complete polished story. That was “The Book of the Memory” by Danny Brophy.


Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our second judge this week. Donald strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big on impact. Find out more about haiku fiction here. He welcomes comments at his blog or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).


Ah, treasure. From the myths of Isis and Osiris through the adventures of Allan Quatermain to the present-day Indiana Jones, treasure hunts have had a powerful hold on the human imagination. Treasure hunting gives protagonists a clear goal against which we as readers can judge their successes and failures. So of course why not turn the Arena into a treasure hunt this week!


We the readers are as always the ones who benefit. So let’s dig into the treasures our writers have unearthed for us this round. As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on both stories before moving on to my vote.


“Smuggler’s Moon” by Simonas Juodis This story gives me a very strong Firefly vibe, especially in the name of the main character and in the politics of the story world (at least so far as I understand it). There’s a lot going on in the background of the story, and I’m not sure that I understood the half of it. I’m not even sure that I really know what treasure Jane and Drew are looking for.


Yet the story moves forward with such energy and excitement, I found myself drawn into the story world in spite of the fact that I’m not sure what’s going on. I love the in media res start. I love the energy that’s kept up throughout. I just wish I understood more of what was going on. I don’t feel that I was able to connect on as deep of a level with the characters as I should have done because I never fully understood what was at stake in their actions. Understanding would have taken my enjoyment of the story elements I did get to the next level.


“The Book of the Memory” by Danny Brophy – Very shortly into my reading of this story, I had the following reaction: “This attempt at high fantasy prose sound more like an adolescent effort at a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.” I’ll admit that I had to force myself to read on.


I should have had more faith in Mr. Brophy.


I discovered that that was precisely the desired effect and was treated to a very sensitively drawn story about childhood and friendship and the power of imagination. I feel like the book almost could have been named The Book of the McGuffin, because the book isn’t the real treasure. The real treasure, I think, is the whole realm Loria creates simply by choosing to live there rather than what we consider day-to-day reality.


I maybe wish I had more of a sense as to why Loria chooses to live in Lombard rather than the “real” world. How does her fantasy enable her to stay here? But as it stands, this is a delightful story.


Two very different stories this week, though I think both stories are about finding the freedom to live one’s life as one chooses. In the end, I will always vote for the story that has connected most emotionally with me as a reader, and for me this week that story was:


“The Book of the Memory,” by Danny Brophy.


Congratulations Danny Brophy! You have won X Marks the Spot!

We’d like to thank our Lithuanian friend Simonas Juodis for his story. It was a great effort.

Let’s see if our audience agrees with the verdict:

Indeed they do. Danny has won on all three cards, a rare occurrence in The Writer’s Arena.

The arena will be taking two weeks off for a short summer break. Worry not, we will be back in the saddle very soon! You can also expect more mid and off-week content to come. Keep an eye out for us!

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  1. This has been a blast. Thanks for reading! Certainly the biggest audience I’ve had to date.

    The comments are also very appreciated. Now the failings of the story are rather clear. Yet, I’m happy–and a little surprised–that despite them, you seemed to rather enjoy it. By the end of me writing, it became clear that the story’s ambition would become a problem. There’s definitely a lot of story there and I’d love to do annotations if anyone’s interested.

    Terrible, terrible squashing aside I’m rather happy with how it came out. For all my fearless chatter, the real goal was merely to provide enough of a challenge for Mr. Brophy, who delivered a very heartwarming story this week. Dirty you had to bring children into this, though 🙂

    Special thanks to the men and women of the Writers Arena. That was a pretty big risk to put trust in an unpublished writer from the middle of nowhere, who can sort of string a grammatical sentence. You’re all ballers for doing so.

    • As I said in my comments, this was a very readable story…I just wasn’t sure what was going on. Haha…hopefully that makes sense. You can, most certainly, “string together a grammatical sentence.” You have an enjoyable terse prose. Just maybe reduce the number of plot points you try to get across in a given word count.

      Also, giving writers like you an audience is why we built the arena. Hope to see you around more and thank you so much for participating. 🙂

    • I want to second Joseph’s comments. A lot of great energy here, I just felt like I was missing something.

      Certainly better than any story I could write in Lithuanian! (Once upon a time I almost had the Our Father and Hail Mary memorized — that’s about the extent of my Lithuanian…)

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