Winner Takes All

Winner Takes All

6 chapters / 3633 words

Approximately 18 minutes to read


History is written by the winners, but it utterly demolishes the winners who lose.

Talisa was born a Delennian peasant under the rule of the foreign Qihrin. Her fate was to kneel in rice paddies, marry, bear children, and die forgotten. Instead, she becomes a commander with armies under her sway. A President who rouses an oppressed sleeping nation. A queen who deals with freedom in one hand and fear in the other. That is, until she’s defeated, killed and branded the traitor queen by the Qihrin.

Eight years later, her childhood friend Ylen just wants a quiet life sheltering her son. Her hopes are dashed when the Qihrin prince takes her son hostage. He promises to return him if she writes propaganda against Talisa for them. He is lying.

Under the guise of investigating Talisa’s life, Ylen searches for information to blackmail the Qihrin royalty. But she uncovers a connection between the traitor queen and her husband, one that incriminates him as well as the Qihrin. With her son held hostage, Ylen has to make her choice quickly: condemn her husband and gamble both their lives, or protect herself and let her son die.

Cover image credit goes to Martin Vlach on Flickr and Tumblr. The opinions of my characters do not represent my opinions.


Newest me

almost 4 years ago Sally Balboa said:

You have a wonderful vocabulary in this piece without it being forced. I thought you had the perfect writing style for this piece, it was a bit, uppity but considering what the subject matter was, I'd say that it's justified. I adore the ending to this by the way, even though it made me sad that her son would be sent away, I still thought it a wonderful ending.


almost 4 years ago E.F. Thomas said:

You had me at the first paragraph. I LOVED the way it was written, how you described everything. The concept is also really, really interesting. I really don't have any critiques, to be honest. Just a very impressed reader. Great job!


almost 4 years ago E.F. Thomas said:

You had me at the first paragraph. I LOVED the way it was written, how you described everything. The concept is also really, really interesting. I really don't have any critiques, to be honest. Just a very impressed reader. Great job!


almost 4 years ago Christina Im said:

Ooh, interesting developments! The way you're using records to tell a story here is really very clever, and I can't wait to hear the backstory behind Ylen's knowledge of Talisa.




almost 3 years ago Christina Im said:

Hey Alyssa! So I'm officially the most awful beta of ever for not looking at this for A MONTH and I hope you can forgive me. Here we go, from "Talisa, the day before":

- The first two paragraphs are absolutely beautiful and your writing is so gorgeous I might cry with feels and jealousy. *flails everywhere*

- That said, I think the transition from Talisa's bleak thoughts to the present, where Junrai is delivering his report, is pretty jarring, so you may want to work on smoothing that out.

- You do a really good job of portraying Talisa in utter defeat—she's given up, and she's walking the edge between sardonic and strategic. That comes through really nicely. But the rest of her character seems a little slippery right now. It could just be that I need to give it some time for her to really sink in, but just a note.

- Ooooh, Junrai is intriguing. The very idea of an obsequious sadist makes for a very interesting character dynamic, and I'm glad you introduced it into this scene—it certainly heightens the intensity.

- Okay, so a little further in, the writing is starting to get a little murky. Your lines and the way you handle them are all still amazing, but the style lacks a sort of... crispness, and I'm concerned that it might get in the way of your otherwise elegant, sophisticated imagery. I think the problem might be that you string together a lot of disparate metaphors in a short space of time, so we get hit with a slightly overwhelming amount of figurative language that doesn't immediately connect with the language around it. But this is definitely a fixable issue, and so it shouldn't worry you too much.

- I just had an extremely weird thought that still pleases me a lot. Your world feels like this awesome (like, literally INSPIRING AWE) blend of European and Asian elements, and it's not unlike the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Slightly random, I know, but I was thinking that maybe looking into that show might help you in terms of worldbuilding.)

- (You can tell it's a little too late at night for me to be doing this properly.)

- Talisa navigating thorny conversations with the Qihrin is everything I hoped it would be and more. A+ dialogue.

- Hmm. Talisa's opinion of Junrai seems to shift from moment to moment—just a little while before, she was regarding him as a cruel man she only kept because of his Delennian heritage and knowledge, and now she's thinking of him as "valiant" and "loyal". I'm not sure if you meant to do this, but it does certainly pique my interest.

- I wonder what the nature of their relationship is? How much does Junrai really mean to Talisa? Is he a lover or a servant or something in between? Or is he just another dog? (Basically I'm hoping we see him again. But I'm thinking we might not.)

- But I'm loving loving LOVING the tension and stakes in this scene. Everything is intense and it's so, so great to read. (The foregone conclusion is actually not detracting from the stakes at all at this point. I think it's actually making me root for Talisa even more, if that makes sense.)


- I love how you're introducing the flaws in Talisa's ideals and how truly desperate she is. I think you've created a truly magnificent character here, and I can't wait to see what you do with her. (Also I kind of love her a lot? Yeah.)

- The end of this chapter is just devastating and just agh.

- Seriously, just don't talk to me about this.

- Anyway I adore where you're going with this and I hope this was somewhat helpful! You wrecked my feelings, but that's... you know... that's *hiccup/sob* fine.


almost 3 years ago ambi said:

Chapter One

The first line is absolute gold - a great hook. The 'eight years ago' bit is necessary, I think, since it provides context to the chapter title.

"...if not for Eamon's Qihrin blood." - I feel like mentioning Eamon's name here is a little problematic, since if not for Eamon's dialogue tag a few paragraphs later, we wouldn't know he was Ylen's husband. What I'm trying to say is, here, we don't know who Eamon is. Also - maybe it's just me - I feel like it's a little awkward to mention his name when it's stated that both of them are thinking the same thing.

Also, your prose. How do you do this. It's so smooth and beautiful and agh it's just such a pleasure to read. It somewhat reminds me of The Night Circus - but maybe that's only because that's the last book I read. Reading Winner Takes All is like cutting up butter with a hot knife (and if you've ever done that, well - you know how fun it is!).

I feel like you understand completely how to portray something that's probably normal as almost, well, wrong. I love how you described the palace, the fact that it glittered like broken glass, that it cast a pale glare, that the sky was dark. This way your readers know Ylen doesn't like the place without you stating it outright.

I absolutely LOVE the paragraph that starts with "She is fine." Holy moly.

"...but the lines are drawn clearly enough." - does that mean the Qihrin and Delennians have clear physical differences, or is it only in the context of social class?

I agree that Ciaran's entrance is a little abrupt. Also, it's not clear if Ylen is in her room when "the door creaks open behind her". "I'm sure it will be most enlightening." - replace "it" with "the play", even though it's obvious that she's avoiding the renaming topic. It just makes for easier reading.

"The truth stirs a cold, still fear in Ylen..." - I'm surprised she only feels fear here; if I were her I would feel quite a bit of annoyance as well. But perhaps she is so cautious she has practised suppressing her anger well, and maybe that would be worth mentioning in the story.

"state-of-the-art cameras" - until this sentence, I thought this was a dystopia/fantasy novel. It's kind of exciting to see technology incorporated, too, and it's all right not to have a clear genre in mind yet. The reason I'm mentioning this is because genres can hold you back, just like in music where it prevents people from experimenting at the cost of "selling out". Don't allow them to do that to you.

I think the shift to the supper scene was abrupt as well, but if they needed to change to formal clothes, some description would be nice. I think everyone enjoys the small details when it comes to novels that aren't set in the current world. What kind of clothes do they wear normally? What is "formal" in Delenno? What does the dining hall look like? Et cetera.

I feel like you ended the chapter on the perfect note. If any of your readers doubted the fact that Ciaran's slick words are indeed a threat, that doubt is now gone.

Ylen's character, I think, comes out beautifully in the first chapter. She's meticulously cautious, slippery, as you put it, and is able to keep herself focused, just as Ciaran was when he wants something from her. (I like how his nose is turned up, by the way.)

The stakes are not high enough yet, but the characters and the back story are interesting enough that I'd definitely read more! (Even if they weren't interesting, I would still read your work, simply for the prose - which, by the way, doesn't bog your story down. If anything, it brings even more life to it.) Well done so far!