Monday, August 1, 2016


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Melissa Guthrie. OHIO, 1863 is Young Adult Historical Fiction.


Hewitt Town, Ohio
July 4th, 1863

Henry Clemmons opened his eyes just as acid bubbled up from his stomach. He bolted upright, grabbed a pail from beside the bed, and retched into it. The room spun. Henry sprawled back into the mattress. He rolled into a ball and moaned.

“Ah,” a voice said. Calm. Gentle. “You’re awake.”

On the other side of a doorway stood Lincoln Hewitt. Link, as Henry knew him, was bent over a long board made of poplar wood, dressed in the same dark pants Henry saw him in the night before. His feet were bare, stained black. His dark hair, the color of ink, was brown with sawdust. A cigarette burned between the first fingers of his right hand, the scent of tobacco heavy in the air.

“Did you sleep at all?” Henry asked. He climbed from the bed and looked down, his nakedness a stark reminder of the night before, gin in his mind and clothing lost piece by piece. He found his drawers tossed over a trunk at the end of the bed and pulled them on. He looked back to find Link watching him, a small smile on his lips which he moistened with the tip of his tongue.

Link’s eyes were his most notable feature. Never before had Henry met a person, male or female, with eyes like his. Link eyes were the color of sky after a snowstorm, cold and gray. An ash fell from the cigarette and landed dangerously close to his toes. Fire burned in Link’s eyes, sometimes bright as dawn and sometimes smoldering like embers, always burning.

“The Welk baby died last night,” Link straightened and took a drink from the tin mug that seemed permanently affixed to the middle finger of his right hand. Dark circles ringed his eyes. His shoulders were loose and slouching. He wiped sweat from his brow with the back of his arm and looked around the shop as if he were surprised to see slants of daylight coloring the workshop’s dark corners. “Pull yourself together and eat something for breakfast. The Widow up the way brought biscuits and I found some berries.”

Henry cleared his throat and attempted to moisten the inside of his mouth, as if just the thought of the widow’s dry, crumbling biscuits, produced in mass quantities, was enough to make swallowing a chore. Link brought the old woman meat and provisions from town and she repaid his efforts with biscuits best suited as doorstops. “There’s goats milk as well, if you are so inclined. Should you add the milk to the biscuit, perhaps it will be more palatable.”

“You really want me to eat, don’t you?” Henry asked.

“Can’t have you wasting away.”

“What’s the catch?”


I think you have some great details in here - the permanently attached mug, the biscuits suited as doorstops, etc. I'd like to see those details blended into the scene to show a clearer picture of what's going on.

Link is bent over a piece of poplar wood. He has sawdust in his hair and stained feet. I'm not sure why though. What is he doing with the wood? Is he busying himself to avoid looking at Henry or something else?

Henry got drunk and lost his clothes the night before. How? Did he and Link spend the night together or was it something else? Based on the way he describes Link, I think it's the first, but I'm not sure.

Henry wakes up in a bed. Is it his bed or Link's? Or someone else's? Is it a nice house in the city or a wooden cabin in a rural area?

You have a great start here. I think if you use your details to focus in on the action, everything will become much clearer. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of OHIO, 1863. You can find Melissa on Twitter as @MelissWritesNow.


Liza said...

I do think this story has potential. As I said over at Marcie's and Dianne's, we just have to get to the defining situation faster. Nice writing Melissa.

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