Entry Nickname: Southern Gothic Secrets
Word count: 68K
Genre: YA Historical/Southern Gothic
Many consider Nanih Waiya, a mound in Winston County, Mississippi, the origin place of the Choctaw. Sixteen-year-old Jimmer Stark knows. She hears Choctaw spirits, the tiak o’khata.
In early summer of 1920, Jimmer dreams of studying nursing, but her father steals her school savings. Smoot, a judge's son with aviation dreams, asks Jimmer to join him in a pretend engagement so they can swindle his parents out of money to fund their dreams. Jimmer refuses his offer, encouraged by the tiak o'khata.
When a White Knight (KKK) member, Tommy Dean, seeks to court Jimmer and then she watches a young cousin die in childbirth, Jimmer decides to take Smoot's offer. Her grandmother begs her to break it off. Their family's hidden heritage of black, white and Choctaw, along with this high-profile engagement, puts them in peril from the Knights if this secret is uncovered.
As the summer continues, Tommy Dean learns that Jimmer's sister is involved with a visiting Chicagoan, a black man. Tommy Dean promises to keep this secret from the Knights if Jimmer will end her engagement and marry him. Jimmer gives in, but Tommy Dean breaks his word.
Jimmer returns to Smoot for help and learns a new secret, Tommy Dean's half-brother is her sister's lover. When she needs help the most, the tiak o'khata stops guiding her as if her ancestors are holding their breath to see what she will do. Will Jimmer turn to blackmail or even murder to save her sister?
First 250 words:
Jimmer lifted her shotgun. Pinkish-white petals fluttered downward in the apple orchard like confetti tossed at a wedding.
A fox squirrel scampered along an apple branch. Carefully, she sighted it and squeezed the trigger. The blast of the shot was followed by a thump.
"Fetch, Little Bit."
Her coonhound raced through the tangled underbrush.
"A gal who can hunt like that will catch a fine husband." The thread of pride in Pa's voice was unmistakable. He spat a stream of tobacco juice into the dirt.
Jimmer ignored his praise. Pa'd spent her college money, her hard-earned ten dollars, without a word. He'd swiped it from the jar under her bed and gone to the harness races. Now it was gone. Words piled up against her teeth, wanting to break out, but she clenched her jaw shut. Only careful words would keep Pa under control. He hadn't been himself for so long, and she wondered if he ever would be.
"Still mad about that money?" Pa gave her shoulder a rough shake. "Hell, college isn't for you, gal. Focus on your hope chest like your sister Eddie Lee. You ain't ugly. Who knows what beau you'll land?"
She fixed her eyes on the combed over bald spot on Pa's head. He was a little man. She'd passed him in height at twelve years old and now, at sixteen, towered over him.
"I'm not Eddie Lee."
"Not by half. Now, run that squirrel home for your grandmother to stew.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: The Heathens of Muskox Hollow
Entry Nickname: Tittyknope & Troubles
Word count: 80k
Genre: YA Historical
Genre: YA Historical
Åsta Hedstrom’s two favorite things are acting in Erlend Fournier’s theater, and her best friend—the one-armed heathen, Gunnar Fuglestad. But when Åsta’s jealous betrothed misunderstands her closeness with Gunnar, he stabs her friend in the back, paralyzing his legs and destroying the future Gunnar and Erlend were secretly planning together. Now homeless and feeling responsible for the disaster, Åsta devotes herself to helping the paralyzed boy and his lover in any way she can. She goes to work for Gunnar’s brother and takes up an unlikely profession for a young lady at the turn of the century—employment as a blacksmith’s apprentice.
Åsta finds joy in her unconventional work—especially when she gets to try her hand at training a filly for the village’s annual Christmas Race—but she soon discovers the dangerous lengths some townsfolk will go to keep the godless Fuglestads from continuing their legendary winning streak. Åsta’s best friend, meanwhile, has given up. Convinced he’s ruined Erlend’s life, Gunnar decides the only place he belongs is far away—in a home for cripples. Åsta needs to help keep her friend in Muskox Hollow, find a way for the Fuglestads to win the race, save the life of a baby pig, all the while fighting to be true to herself in a society that believes she and her companions are wicked.
His arm was gone—everything below the elbow. Yes, it was all bundled up in calico bandages, but my mind couldn’t help but picture what it all looked like underneath—bone severed, and then what? A perfect nightmare. Was it sticking out of the meat all white and shiny? Or was there a layer of skin sewn over the blunt end? Would it heal with fleshy padding or would he forever have to be careful about keeping his arm-bone from poking into people.
My face felt hot. I had to sit down.
Above Gunnar Fuglestad’s stump there were freckles and the short sleeves of his undershirt—thin and tight across his chest. He was asleep, his head tilted off to the side, his ginger lashes heavy and still. A scab stretched across his forehead shaped like a falcon in flight, another partially healed-over across one cheekbone. He hadn’t likely been bathed since the accident and oil made a sheen over his pale brow, cording his blood-red hair. Still, he smelled like cinnamon and rain.
A wickedly wonderful thing: watching a handsome young heathen sleep. There were things I hadn’t noticed before: the precocious orange stubble on his jaw—unusually coarse for a boy who’d only just turned seventeen—and the hardness that stayed on his face, even while he slept.
We had a show to do, though, and how would he play Benedick with a missing arm?
The clomps of Erlend’s approaching boots echoed into the bedchamber. When I turned, he stood in the doorway with the script pages.