Coffee for Wrimos: Day Nine

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 11, 2014

WriMos, hang on to that swagger.

Write boldly. Connect to your characters, connect to your story. Be bold. Write with a swagger as if your tapping fingers have become Rock Hudson or Marilyn Monroe.

And don’t let anyone deflate your bold reams, your bold plans, your bold story.

Maybe it’s my own sensitivities right now, but I’ve noticed incoming darts aimed at emerging writers in the form of discouraging words. I get it–it’s a hard path to take. But don’t kick me because you feel better about your own writing career by showing me you have a superior boot. It’s too easy to discourage others.

Let’s learn from the Brits. They have sense of humor (you need to be getting your daily dose of NaNo Num-Nums over at TanGental). And they have writers who say that yes, it’s a hard road, but here’s how you walk it. Thank you Anne Goodwin for sharing this post on making a living from writing books. It has practical tactics that apply across the pond.

So back to swaggering. Be bold in writing this month. There’s a million things to dissuade you from doing this, a million posts that sneer at emerging authors. You have a purpose behind your writing. You have a reason why you set out on this path. Maybe you even have a plan. Stick to the path boldly, step by step.

Today’s cup of coffee is infused with cheer. You got this, WriMo! Write on no matter what anyone says about you doing it! Write on boldly!

Word Count: 1757

Thought for Day Nine:

“In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail.”
~ Kirk Douglas

Excerpt From Rock Creek: (We’ve jumped back in time to 1857.)

Shivering, Sarah reached out for her mama. A soft snuffling sound brought her to her senses and she realized that she was the mama now and her baby needed her. “Hush, hush, little Martha Allice.” It was so cold in here. Outside the small foggy window, she could see it was snowing again. And the fire went out. Again.

“Mama’s going to get that fire.” Sarah sneezed and her entire head felt as swollen as a pig’s bladder. She wrapped an extra blanket around the babe like bunting and bent down at the hearth to stack kindling and wood. Snow fluttered down the rock chimney. Opening her firebox, she blew on the coals to set the kindling to a flame. She heard voices outside.

“Miss Shull? It’s James McCanles. May I come in?”

James? What was he doing here? She was still in yesterday’s dress, plain gray linen since her father forbade her to take anything colorful or fine when he banished her to this cabin at the top of a meander fed by a small spring.

Grabbing the thin gray quilt of linsey-woolsey, Sarah wrapped it around her head and body like a huge shawl. “I’m not prepared for visitors.” The baby coughed. It sounded worse than it did yesterday.

“Miss Shull, I have medicine and food, from the McCanles women.”

From the McCanles women? What would they send to her if not poisoned ash-cakes or killing bitters? The baby coughed again and the embers died out. “Oh, no. Why won’t that fire light?” Stepping to the door she cautiously opened it.

“May I come in?” James looked like an older, gaunter version of Cob with white hair and dark eyes.

“Um, yes, please, come in.”

“My God, it’s as cold as Washington’s marble tomb in here.” He looked at the fireplace and her failed attempt smoldering. The baby coughed, again.

Sarah walked over to the crate that served as a cradle and picked up Martha Alice, rocking her and patting her back. “There, there.”

Quietly, James coaxed a fire and soon the cabin with its thin walls were warm against the winter chills. He unpacked a dish of stewed apples, linen wrapped buttermilk biscuits, molasses and a root stew with chunks of ham. Sarah nearly drooled across the top of Martha’s head. James set the stew pot in the hearth coals. “You need a few item, I see.”

Sarah didn’t see much at all—a hearth, a crate and a straw pallet on the floor. She roasted critters on a spit across the heart and she had a sack of dried beans and a sack of turnips that she roasted in the fire. James left her with an herbal ointment he said to rub on the babe’s feet and chest. He gave her a tonic for her health and a big chunk of lye soap made with so much lavender that it looked purple and smelled like spicy summer.

James returned every day for a week to check on Sarah and her baby. Each time he came he brought more food from the McCanles women and wood and tools. The first item he built was a table, followed by chairs and a cupboard that he mounted near the hearth. She needed it for the items sent by the women—cooking spoons, a set of old flatware and several tin plates. They sent tins filled with dried sassafras tea, cooking herbs which smelled like dried spring ramps and a bottle of molasses. Soon she had linen towels and an oil lamp. At the end of two weeks James and his son Leroy packed in pieces of an item that James toiled all afternoon to build. Leroy bounced Martha on his knee. He looked more like his mother, Celia, but had the dark brown McCanles eyes. So did Martha. When James was finished, Martha had a beautiful hickory cradle that silently rocked.

Sarah recovered from her sickness quickly—James reminded her to continue to drink her tonic—but Martha Allice was slow to give up her cough. Sarah continued to rub ointment on her feet and chest. Now the babe had several linen gowns and warm quilts for her cradle. The last item James furnished was a stick bed for Sarah and fresh ticking for her mattress. He gave her folded linen sheets and the most beautiful blue diamond quilt of linsey-woolsey. It was a masterpiece and Sarah recognized it as something a Greene woman would make. Maybe one of Cob’s sisters who had married a Greene crafted this at a loom.

Despite the lingering winter chill, Sarah had a home that she had only dreamed possible. It wasn’t very big, but it didn’t need to be. It was filled with comfortable furnishing, warm quilts and food. Soon spring would come and Sarah could forage—ramps and mushrooms, blueberries and persimmons. Then she could give back to those who so kindly provided. She couldn’t wait to teach Martha about the hills and hollows, to show her where the lilies bloomed and the creeks to pooled invitingly in the summer sun. She might even go swimming Cherokee style, like that time with Cob.

No, she had to curb her thoughts about him. He had a wife and a wonderful family, at least his father was wonderful. It was good for Martha to have a grandfather. It pained her that her own parents stayed away. She knew her mother would want to visit, but Philip would never allow it. Only her brother Simon ever risked sneaking up the back trail to see her. If they knew that James visited frequently, no one said anything. Finally, Sarah felt she could survive this.





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  1. Annecdotist

    Glad you found Emma Darwin’s post useful and that you’re not being discouraged – far from it by the looks of yesterday’s output.
    I haven’t experienced those snipers myself, seems like encouragement all the way, but can be disheartening to repeatedly come across suggestions we are wasting our time (we have quite enough internal voices of our own telling us that without anyone else adding to it).

    • Charli Mills

      Her post was helpful because she actually offers tips and direction. Not sure why the increase in negative posts in the US. Plugging away!

  2. Norah

    Lovely Charli. I agree with Anne. I’m really enjoying seeing where this story is taking you. Bullies feel envy and fear.
    The characters in your story are developing nicely. I particularly like reading of James’s generosity in this piece; and Sarah’s vulnerability contrasts nicely with the strength (of or and detachment) in other later parts of her life.

    • Charli Mills

      I think it is a fear factor. Seems that I read something a while back about a fear that there’s only X amount of success to go around, so people feel the need to increase their chances by discouraging others. I believe in the unlimited model. 😉

      Thank you for seeing Jame’s generosity. The McCanles family reached out to Sarah when her family shunned her. An interesting dynamic.

      • Norah

        I like the unlimited model too! If their work is good they should have no fear!
        It certainly is an interesting situation with Sarah and the McCanles family. Maybe they felt a sense of responsibility, but not all families would.

      • Charli Mills

        I think the McCanles family did feel that sense of responsibility, but some historians have turned it into a negative–that Cob bullied his family into accepting his mistress. That doesn’t fit, though…And thanks for upholding the unlimited model!

  3. Let's CUT the Crap!

    I like Sarah and worry about her…

    • Charli Mills

      Sarah was noted to be dreamy and reserved, yet was also an accountant. She’s resilient, though.

      • Let's CUT the Crap!

        I love it when women are resilient.

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Huh. “I’ve noticed incoming darts aimed at emerging writers in the form of discouraging words.” I’ve been reading bits here and there, too–blogs, articles, essays, comments. Is this a thing now? Or has this been going on and I missed it? There will always be someone acting this way but I feel like I’ve read much more of this crap recently.

    Love the excerpt, yet again. Great job.

    • Charli Mills

      It seems like a thing this year and I started to notice it when NaNoWriMo was ramping up. It’s definitely crap. 🙂


  5. Jeanne Lombardo

    Your post hit home today Charli. Been feeling discouraged myself, but largely aiming those disparaging darts at myself. Great that you deflected them by writing about them! Loved this section today! The sensory details, the poignancy of the kindnesses showered on Sarah in the midst of her wintry loneliness, the astutely observed period details…and “swollen as a pig’s bladder” is just about the best description of a stuffy head that I have ever come across. I love your writing. And your courage!

    • Charli Mills

      Those darts can be internal as well as external. Time to put up the shield! 🙂 It seems when I feel my lowest about writing some sort of breakthrough happens. So I’ve learned to push through the tough moments. Glad this scene is coming across. On the flip side I wrote about how uncaring her own family was and how she had to return to that cabin at the end of her life when the forest was devastated and the McCanleses all gone. Thanks!

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