Lizzy Harden moves to Rivers, Georgia with her adoptive father in their new/might-be-haunted bed and breakfast. When Lizzy quickly becomes victim of bullying, her only chance is to get help from her long since dead ancestors who also happen to be witches.1
Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction
L.P. Adams (United States)
I’ll start with my parents’ love story.
They met in college at some sort of Chain Yourself to a Tree Club meeting and fell in love. An endless journey of saving people followed. My parents were freaking Jedi’s, turning stone after stone, making one hell of footprint.
Somewhere along the line, my parents became a part of FEMA and in 2005 they found me. Amidst the floating crap Hurricane Katerina brought; they found me.
It was the three of us scaling the globe. My parents danced at the weddings of tribal leaders in India and literally dug up the ground to make way for huts in Guyana. Our lives were beautiful.
When I was fifteen, we found ourselves living in a remote village near Yemen when my mother went missing. After a month, she finally returned home. Apparently, Jesus had saved her. Really, it was the missionaries.
I believe they brainwashed her. My parents had never been particularly religious but as time went on, the changes in my mom became more prominent. Most importantly, she wanted return to the states to be closer to her newfound faith.
As soon as we hit American soil again, my mom was not my mom anymore. She wore a long grey skirt most places and a white button up. She had turned orthodox on us—full with bun! That meant no movies or music or walking around naked. The last one I was fine with but the first two were totally bunk.
My parents fought more and, finally, my dad called for a divorce. I knew it was hard on him to leave us but I told him that he had to continue on. So, he kissed the top of my head and left with the papers signed.
Over the next year, he saved the world and I stayed behind with my mom in Michigan because they both agreed it was time I had some “normal schooling.” If they had given any thought as to my level of social skills, they would have never done that to me. I didn’t know how to be a sixteen year old, especially not in Hancock, Michigan where I was the only black person within twenty miles.
But I’d survived worse and was willing to make sacrifices for my parents’ happiness.
Then, everything changed when Kile showed up. They were both counselors at a Pray Away the Gay camp and five months later, he was living with us. The thing was that Kile had definitely visited the camp somewhere in his childhood. The man was as queer as a three dollar bill and I considered myself extremely tolerant.
Technically speaking, Kile and I got along. We liked to watch the same reality TV shows when my mom was gone and he was always there if I wanted modern fashion advice. On the same token, he was gay and married to my mom.
“I think I want to live with dad,” I told my mom one evening.
She pulled her shiny blonde hair impossibly tighter into her bun and looked at me through the mirror.
“I don’t know about that, honey.” She began, her eyes wandering.
She was taking my asking to live with my dad as if I were asking to borrow the car. My parents never were attentive to me but I liked it that way. It gave me a sort of independence especially given the environment in which I was raised. On the same breath, my new mom wasn’t none-attentive so much as she was out of reach.
“You see,” I began, “I was thinking since you have Kile and dad still has no one, it’d be nice....”
“Are you sure?” She turned to face me, still unbothered. “When Paul and I were together, he was like a child.”
“Well, I’m kind of like a child.”
“I’ll have to pray on it.”
I sighed evenly and paced her room, attempting to come up with a good excuse.
“I only ask because dad’s moving to Georgia and I was wondering about my roots. You both are my parents and I wouldn’t have it any other way but a girl has to know where she came from. That’s how people come down with identity crisis’.” She nodded absentmindedly. “Like Cynthia?”
That caught her attention. “Cynthia?”
Cynthia belonged to the same church as my mom, that is, until they found out she was having an affair with another woman. The scandal was enough to entertain me for months. My mom, however, blamed the fact that Cynthia never knew her dad as the reason for her homosexuality.
“You aren’t having any thoughts of a sexual nature about women, are you?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, mom. I watched Ellen once and I gotta tell ya; the woman really resonated with me.”
That’s when she called Kile in for counsel.
“Yes, Sugar?” He said, popping in wearing only a towel.
“Lizzy wants to go live with Paul.”
“Whatever for?” He was asking me.
“She thinks she might be a lesbian.”
“I didn’t say that.” But they didn’t hear me.
“Oh! I know a great camp!” Kile suggested.
I nearly laughed. Of course he knew a camp! Hey, maybe we could get some kind of legacy discount?
“I don’t want to go to a camp—I just want to live with my dad. No one asked me about anything in the divorce—it would be nice to get just one thing.”
I pulled that card. Yep. No shame.
“Lindy, I think it might be good for her,” Kile said after a moment.
I smiled. “Thanks, Kile.”
“You’re welcome, Lizzy.”
I called my dad right away and set up the whole thing. My dad came and picked me up from Michigan for a road trip to Georgia. It was just like old times. We slept in the bed of his truck and the stars watched us at night.
As we drove through Rivers, I looked around trying to find a semblance of home. Somewhere nearby some eighteen odd years ago, my parents were preparing to have a child—or maybe just my mom.
Whatever my parents were or had been was unknown to me. It was as if I’d appeared out of nowhere because the hospitals had no record of me. I wasn’t even sure of my own birthday. It didn’t matter to me so much as it made me curious. Who had my family been and had they wanted me? Was the opportunity to raise me whisked away from them by Katerina? I’d probably never know.
“So, don’t keep me in suspense,” I began, smiling at him—my real dad. “What is the big surprise?”
“I kind of bought something.”
“You “kind of” or you did, dad? Use your words.”
He smiled over at me. “I totally bought a big something.”
“No, I got us a place to stay…and there might be a few others staying with us from time to time.”
“A bed and breakfast!”
My eyes widened. “You bought us a corny little house to run and fill with corny little people?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Cause you said that.”
“Things change, Lizzy.” He tightened his grip on the steering wheel and I knew he still hadn’t gotten over the divorce.
“Is that why you bought a B&B?”
“That was over a year ago.” I only stared at him. “It is a bit of a fixer upper and some handy work will do my mind some good. Besides, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Rivers.”
I’d moved for my dad but when I got thee I wasn’t all too sure about my choices. I was going from homeschooled and unknown address, to a small town in the North, to a small town in the South and I didn’t know how I felt about it.
“Small towns, small minds,” my mom used to say.
“Are you worried?” My dad asked.
“Me? Lizzy? Worried? Never.”
That’s when we pulled up to my new address. Fixer upper was a bit of an understatement but I was more than down. The place looked haunted with a couple hundred years under its belt and when I stepped out of the car, I felt…I don’t know. Connected. Drawn in. A part of it.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine my ancestors working on the fields surrounding me. Struggling and paving the way. There was something else there, too. Something unforeseen. Something magical.
Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1
Attention to mechanics
- The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
- Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
- The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
- Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
- Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
- The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
- Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
- The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The first page should introduce some intrigue, something that causes the reader to turn the page. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
- When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
- The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
- Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
- A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
- The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line and hook
- Great books, nowadays, start with a powerful opening and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?