Coffee for WriMos: Day 19

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 20, 2014

Is your spark already smoldering?

If you sign up for NaNoWriMo, then you know all about the Pep Talks from authors that are emailed to your dashboard. I’ve been waiting for this one from Brian Sanderson since I first found out that he was slated for a Pep Talk.

My eldest and her husband have read out loud to each other since they first met. Over the holidays and visits I’ve heard snippets of their books and got interested in reading Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series, Wheel of Time.

Jordan has become my favorite author for his classic story-telling abilities and unfathomable number of characters. However, he died before completing his series. He did leave behind his notes and unfinished work with the intention of passing them on to another writer. His widow selected Brian Sanderson.

Can you imagine being selected to fill n for an author whose work you admire? Beyond that, Sanderson has created his own amazing series and characters with several Best Sellers. Yet in his Pep Talk he spoke about his darkest moment, having been unable to sell any of his first 12 novels and being rejected by 13 MFA programs.

During that dark time, one of his manuscripts was sitting unread on an editor’s desk. The following year, when the editor did read it, he called Sanderson with a breakthrough book deal. He encourages writers not to give up. That we love the process, tell our stories and find victory in the completion.

Thought for Day 19:

“You could be writing the book that changes your life. You could have already submitted it, or self-published it. The spark could be starting a fire for you as well. You don’t know, and you can’t know. That is the thrill of being an artist, of working for yourself, and of telling the stories you want to tell.” ~Brian Sanderson

Word Count: 1,567

Excerpt From Rock Creek:

“Truthfully, it grows fainter as it passes us by. Comet Donati,” said James.

“That’s a pretty name.” The cider was sweet and warm as Sarah drank.

“It’s named after the Italian astronomer who first sighted it last summer.”

“Is it an omen?”

James leaned against the oak tree and looked skyward. “Omens are for old ladies.”

“What do the old ladies say? It’s not as if any speak to me.”

“They say that such terrible lights burn for killed kings and slain heroes. They say a bloodbath is coming.”

Sarah shuddered. “And what do you say?”

James raised his upturned hand to the comet. “Thou speaks thy Maker’s praise.”

A clomping of hooves sounded from the snow-covered road. Cob was walking Captain and leading another horse.

“Evening, Da, Sarah. Are you ready, lass?” Cob swung down from Captain and stood eye-to-eye with his father.

“Might I dissuade you son?”

“You may not. What it done, is done and now I must flee. Leroy will follow with his family and mine in the spring.” He grabbed Sarah’s bundle and began to tie it to the saddle of the second horse. Sarah wondered if she would have to walk.

“I cannot imagine a more beautiful place than Watauga, this lovely vale. I brought my children here to make a home. And now my children leave. My grandchildren, too.”

“Da, come out with Leroy. Get out of here before the war.”

“Bah! These traitors who talk of succession are just blustering. A new President. We have a Constitutional Unionist on the ticket…”

“Enough of politics.The west is were we can prosper.”

“Yes, and I hear that Mormons can have many wives.” James looked pointedly at Sarah.

“Leave her be, Da. Mary knows I’m getting her out of this place so she can have a fresh start, too.”

“Do not be leading your family to a cruel fate, David Colbert.”

The two men grasped arms until James pulled Cob to him. “May angles guard over your journey. Your mother and I shall weep in our old age, not seeing the single smokestack of any of our offspring.”

“Come with Leroy, Da. At least go to Tennessee. It’s safer at Duggers Ferry and you’ll have two daughters to spoil you in old dotage.”

“Ach, I’m not leaving my native land. How could I stray from the Watauga River? Who would fish her silver ribbons the way I do?”

“Then mind yourself angling and take care of mother. Fare thee well, Da.”

To Sarah’s surprise, Cob reached for her and slung her up into the saddle as easily as he had tossed her bundle. He swung up behind her and seated her sideways on his lap. He nudged Captain and the horse responded with a spirited trot.

Sarah heard James call, “Farewell.” His voice sounded choked with tears, yet she couldn’t deny her joy at leaving this place. She would be a free woman.

It was hard not to fidget and the night grew even colder. Sarah watched the comet as they rode up the mountains, cresting the ridge and breaking through drifts of snow. Occasionally they would pass a cabin or farm, a coon dog barking in the distance, but no other signs of life.

“Where are we going, exactly,” asked Sarah. West seemed like a grand place, but she had no idea where west or how long it would take.

“We’ll catch the train at Johnson’s Tank.” His voice rumbled in the cold silence of the mountains.

Johnson’s Tank was a start. Sarah had never seen a train and now she would get to ride on one. Somehow she failed to summon the earlier excitement and she glanced at the comet, hoping it meant nothing at all. Yet, it had to mean something. It was no coincidence that it appeared in her darkest hour of despair or that it was still present the night she escaped the damnation of her family’s punishment. It had to be a sign for good. Her lucky star.

Sarah must have dozed off because she awoke, startled to see the light of dawn shining from behind them. They had ridden out of the the mountains and the land before them was rolling with woods and fields.

“You awake?”


“Good. I have to stop.” Cob reined in Captain. “Slide down,” he told her.

Sarah did and hopped to the ground that was wet with dew and free of snow. Cob dismounted and handed her the reins. He stepped a few paces and with his back to her, she heard him urinating. Her face grew flush and she realized she needed to do the same, but how could she?

“Do you have to go?”

“No.” She stood uncomfortably aware that she had to go even more now that she had denied it.

“Just go.” He took the reins from her.


“Pick a clump of grass and sprinkle it with dew. How about that clump there?” Cob pointed to a small bent row of grass in front of Captain.

Sarah looked each direction and finally walked around to the other side of the horses. Lifting her skirts and spreading her knickers she squatted with her back to the horses feeling somewhat shielded. Her stream sounded like a roaring river in her ears. Rearranging her underclothes and skirts, she turned around to see Cob leaning against Captain staring at her with a big boyish grin. “I knew you had to go.”

“Do not watch me!” Sarah turned away, feeling the flush rise from her neck to her scalp.

“It’s natural.” He chuckled.

“For men, perhaps.” She turned back around and glared.

“Oh? And women politely pass on pissing? What happens when you have to…”

“That’s enough!”

“Time to mount up, my damsel in distress.” Cob bowed as if he were a gallant.



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  1. TLPoague

    I’m hooked! I can’t wait till your novel is finished. I would love to add it to my collection.
    That would be such an honor to have an author you admire to help you achieve your dreams. I’m happy for you and looking forward to reading more.

    • Charli Mills

      You keep writing and sparking those characters you have! We’ll exchange books one day! Thank you!

  2. Annecdotist

    Not an author I know, Charli, but my goodness I’m not sure if I’d have kept going through 12 rejected novels! But that’s what they always say, it’s perseverance that gets results, although I do think it’s worth considering what might be lost in the effort to get there

    • Charli Mills

      It was interesting how his manuscript sat for nearly two years before even getting read. He didn’t say how many of those 12 are now published.

  3. Sarah Brentyn

    Love that they read to each other. <3

    Great quote from Sanderson. So, so true. We must listen to that advice.

    Rogue, indeed. I love that Sarah is so excited about being a free woman before she asks where, exactly, they're going.

    • Charli Mills

      They’ve read a crazy number of words to one another. They even looked up words counts of all the books. I love that they are that nerdy. 🙂 Sanderson was breaking into what used to be considered a tough genre (might still be) because rarely did publishers think of fantasy as literature (yet, explain Tolkien and Lewis).

      I got a potty scene worked out! 🙂 Yes, Sarah likes the idea of freedom, but doesn’t consider the details.

  4. Let's CUT the Crap!

    Finally, someone needs to go potty. 😀
    I’m hooked too. Can’t wait till your novel is finished.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I won’t promise anymore potty scenes but at least we had one for relief! 😀

      • Let's CUT the Crap!

        Ha ha. It’s a normal function and I like that you addressed it. After all, that’s the sort of thing I would wonder about when someone’s on a horse or in a car, traveling all night and / or day. 😀 😀

      • Charli Mills

        I was reading how pioneer women would encircle one another when they had to go, so being a lone woman was to be vulnerable. I found a great resource study on how the Mormons dealt with “privacy for purposes of elimination” while traveling west!

  5. Sherri

    Loving your story Charli. Keep going girl, you are amazing and I mean that. And I really needed to read your thought for the day today, all of this post in fact. Exactly what I needed, thank you… 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      I have an incredible spark story. I didn’t get the chance to know my mother’s family well as my father kept us isolated from them. As an adult, I let my maternal grandparents know that I had achieved some honors in college because they were the only family I had, though I didn’t know them well. Did they ever surprise me! They drove over a 1,000 miles to attend my honors convocation. That was 1996 and when I first heard my grandfather Sonny tell me about what happened at Rock Creek. He thought it was exciting that Wild Bill Hickok shot our relative. I also learned that Sonny was a writer (among many other things) and had finished his first manuscript. Since I was going to college for writing he met with one of my professors to see if the three of us could collaborate on his novel. Unfortunately, he passed away before we completed it. In his will, he left me his writing and his collection of Ivan Doig books (we shared a love of historical fiction). When I got his boxes I found a second novel he was working on which I knew about because we had discussed it. Fast forward through life and not having enough time to finish all these novel projects I had in the works, I decided to finish one book which I have done. Jumping into the story of Hickok had never really been an intention for a novel, but the story grabbed a hold of me through flash fiction. I dove into the research Sonny had shared, contacted family historians and old west historians and it unfurled from there. Just last night I received a package from Sonny’s niece who has all the family history and she included some stories I hadn’t read and a pile of notes from Sonny. It seems that he got the spark to write about Cob McCanles, too and here were his notes for a book and they are eerily similar to mine! I think this Rock Creek spark started with my grandfather and has been smoldering a long time!

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