Coffee for WriMos: Day Eight

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

November 10, 2014

Look for anchors.

Yesterday’s break fed my diva and the keys are tapping out words beneath my fingers once again. While taking my break, I watched a movie last night, The Inside Man. I didn’t write yesterday, but I still thought about my story and I took a hint from the movie: anchors can tie together seemingly unrelated scenes.

The Inside Man is brilliant on many levels: it’s a Spike Lee movie; it stars Denzel Washington and Clive Owen; it has memorable characters and plot twists; and it has original music composed by  A. R. Rahman. It also employs the use of chewing gum as an anchor.

Not what you would expect of a sophisticated and gritty movie about cops, robbers and the seedy underbelly of the Fortune 500. Here’s how it works–the timeline for the movie is not chronological although most of it occurs in real-time. However, you have to decide which real-time story is indeed the one unfolding.

Chewing gum connects the two timelines and is one of the twist revelations.

When you are drafting, you may be unconsciously thinking of anchors. Maybe your anchor means something symbolic, or maybe your anchor simply relates to a certain character. Let your anchors emerge out of your subconscious as you write and assess meaning or strategy to them later during the revision.

NaNoWriMo is for writing. Let your subconscious be your guide.

Word Count: 2,105

Thought for Day Seven:

“Writing is a lot like making soup. My subconscious cooks the idea, but I have to sit down at the computer to pour it out.” ~Robin Wells

Excerpt from Rock Creek:

Wilstach ordered for them, soup and ham sandwiches. He nattered on about people he knew in New York and about his times as a business manager and press agent. He collected similes, he said.


“Red as coal. Red as a cherry. Red as any rose.”

Memories swirled like blue mountain fog caught against a ridge. Memories of dreams long lost. Memories of Cob bending toward her alone in the semi-dark of her father’s store, his breath so close she could smell a whiff of whiskey along with the pinetar soap he used. His large hands firm on her waist. My love is like a red, red rose.

“Oh, yes. Robert Burns.” Wilstach smiled and took a hearty bite of sandwich that had arrived.

Sarah missed its arrival as well as her own and didn’t realize she had said the words out loud. It was dangerous dredging up old memories. She responded by eating just as heartily, though she failed to keep up.

“More coffee, Mrs. De Vald?” After the waitress cleared their plates, Wilstach opened up his notebook and uncapped his pen.

Sarah shook her head. She’d have to mind her answers and not blurt out anything unnecessary.

“Your maiden name is Sarah Shull?”


“I can understand the spelling of Shell was a mistake or phonetic. All right, Mrs. De Vald. These question will help me solve the McCanles mystery once and for all.”

Sarah gripped the tablecloth now that her napkin was gone. Remember, she told herself, Mrs. Swanson is dead. No one knows.

“Was money owed by Wellman the cause of the tragedy?”

Sarah could hear Cob raging in the back of her mind. His money. He needed his money. It was the Pike’s Peak Express that owed him money. Wolfe and Hagenstien did, too. Cob lost his means for making money on his toll bridge and his road ranches but the parties who bought them never paid up. Until later. Not when Cob needed it. Horace Wellman was the station manager. He didn’t actually owe any money. “No.”

Wilstach nodded, scribbling with his pen. Then he paused. “In your opinion, and from what you were told at the time, did Wild Bill kill McCanles in self-defense?”

Wild Bill. Had he really gone wild? Was it the war? She’d seen the horrors of war etched on the faces of old men and embittered in the eyes of old women, horrors passed down to children and grandchildren as if it were a family birthmark. She’d heard that Hickok signed up for the Union Army as a scout. He knew trails and was the quiet sort who could pass through unnoticed. She couldn’t picture him wild. Dangerous, yes, but always in control. Not wild in temper like Cob. Still, she couldn’t imagine anyone calling Cob wild, either. Self defense? Cob never killed anyone. But neither had Hickok. “Certainly. Yes.”

“What makes you think this is true?”

Wilstach stared so intently at her she wondered if he knew she was lying. So she followed it with the truth. “Because on the morning of the tragedy I heard McCanles say that he was going to clean up on the people at the Station.” He meant to evict them. He never would have killed anybody.

“You say McCanles stole horses?”

Did she? Wilstach asked her about horses in his letters, but she never replied. She had to pay attention. No slip ups. Mind each line of numbers in the ledger. Be accurate, if not truthful in accounting.

“Yes, he stole horses.” Cob would be speechless to hear her say such a thing. She felt guilty. Cob had stole her heart, stole Mary’s but never horses. He was a righteous rogue. She closed her eyes momentarily. Wilstach continued to write, oblivious to her guilt.

“Were those horses for the use of the Confederate cavalry?”

For the war? Sarah had no idea how Cob would get the horses all the way to the Confederate cavalry. The morning Pony Express  rider had already passed through. There were maybe four, five horses in the corral. He must certainly know she was lying. “Yes.”

Wilstach smiled with satisfaction and bent his head to write some more. “And they sent you away on the stage the next day. Just not to the Black Hills.”

It wasn’t a question so Sarah didn’t answer. He continued to write.


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  1. Annecdotist

    Looks as if you had a really productive day. I like the idea of the gum linking the different story threads – at the moment I’ve got yellow jelly babies linking mine!

    • Charli Mills

      Yellow jelly babies! That’s great, Anne and keep up the momentum!

  2. Norah

    This is a really interesting episode in your story. Sarah’s answers reveal a lot about her character.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Norah. This was always one of the intriguing points of the story–Wilstach’s interview of Sarah Shull. Why did she lie? She later confessed to her caretakers (she was almost 99 before she died) that she was there…what was she hiding? It’s been a point of debate as much as was Cob armed that day. Instead of “reading” between the lines, I’m writing! 🙂

      • Norah

        Wonderful! I’m doing the reading and enjoying! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you for reading (and enjoying it is like icing on the cake)! 😀

      • Norah

        Indeed it is! Lapping up the sweetness! 🙂

  3. TanGental

    I agree with Norah; fascinating scene. I feel like I’ve been given a Christmas quiz where I only get the pressie if I can answer all the parts and so far I cannot begin to piece the whole together from the fragments.

    • Charli Mills

      I hope I can actually take a known incident and yet still make the reader feel that way until the end…thanks!

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Spike Lee and chewing gum. Interesting. In a truly weird way. But I’m loving the bit about anchors in your writing.

    Interesting excerpt–I like this one a lot. Like, Geoff, I’m looking forward to piecing this together.

    • Charli Mills

      Spike Lee is masterful. I love quirky simple things like that in storytelling. I’m looking forward to piecing it together, too!

  5. Let's CUT the Crap!

    You’re wracking up the word count and the story keeps getting more interesting. <3 What IS Sarah hiding? Hmm.

    • Charli Mills

      She hid it so long I almost feel guilty for revealing it…eventually! 🙂

      • Let's CUT the Crap!

        It’s going to have to come out, I’m sure…

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