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Coffee for WriMos: Day 20

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Relax. Breathe. You’ve got this!

I don’t know about you, but I need a massage. I type one-handed so my right shoulder is starting to burn with marathon writing sprees. I’ve surpassed 33,000 words so I feel like I deserve something relaxing.

Without losing momentum I turned to something horsey since horses have a role in my novel. So I’m sharing a relaxing horse moment with you:

While you write, be sure to take breathing breaks. Stand up, swing your arms overhead, hands to the sky. Breath deep, pushing out your belly so your lungs can fill. Hold…1…2…3…4…5…exhale, swing arms down. Do this four more times and your brain will feel revived, your body oxygenated.

Thought for Day 20:

“You have to relax, write what you write. It sounds easy but it’s really, really hard. One of the things it took me longest to learn was to trust the writing process.” ~Diane Setterfield

Word Count: 1,766

Excerpt From Rock Creek:

Allen stood as tall as Cob and had white streaks starting at his temples. He nodded. “More sensible plan than that of digging holes for elusive metals. Come on up to the house.” He spoke softly to the man with the pitchfork before motioning to Cob and Sarah to follow him.

Sarah stared at the great white columns that held up the front of the house. It reminded her of an illustration she had seen of Washington’s Great White House in the nation’s capitol. She suddenly felt grimy so close to such gleaming whiteness.

Inside Sarah saw polished and gilded furniture, colorful carpets, crystal hurricane lamps mounted on painted walls among portraits and grand scenes of hunting and horses. A negro dressed in finer clothes than Sarah had seen on a person greeted Allen who again, spoke softly. The man walked swiftly away. Sarah had never seen a negro before, though she once heard of bounty hunters passing through Watauga in search of an escapee.

“We’ll prepare you rooms for the night. Separate rooms.” Allen leveled a stare at Sarah that said he knew she wasn’t Mrs. McCanles. She flushed.

“Sarah’s my accountant. She’s going to help me get my business started.” How Cob managed to look as innocent as a newborn babe, she had no idea.

Allen raised one eyebrow and directed his gray-eyed stare at her. “Accountant? And what ledger system do you prefer, Miss Sarah?”

“Nothing complicated. A simple cost management system will do.”

Allen smiled. “Really? And where did you learn accounting?”

“My father. His grandfather was German and taught him a ledger method from that country which differs slightly from what British companies follow. I maintained the cost management of his store.”

“Ah, Father. We have guests from Appalachia passing through. Family. Celia’s boy, David.”

Moses Alexander was once tall, but now his shoulders and back stooped and he walked stiffly, the way Sarah felt some mornings when she woke up cold and aching from the thin ticking of her mattress. His hair was white as the pillars of the porch and his eyes were glazed yet still gray. “Celia,” he said, nodding but not sure he could recall.

“David’s daughter, Father.”

“David’s daughter. The one who married that school teacher from North Carolina?”

Allen cast a sideways glance at Cob. “The very one.”

“Ah, such a pity. Such pretty girls and they both ran off to the highlands.”

“Watauga, Father.”

“Damned highlanders, stealing pretty girls. Louisa? Is Louisa well?”

Cob stood with the bundles at his boots and Sarah fancied he looked every bit of a Robbie Burns hero with his thick black hair and keen brown eyes beneath his broad-brimmed hat set askew and linen scarf wrapped about his neck. “Aunt Louisa is quite well. Her son James Wood will be joining my brother and me out west in our business venture.”

“Business, eh? And who is this mountain filly? Not your wife, I suppose.” He turned his glassy gray eyes on Sarah.

“Miss Sarah is David’s accountant.”

“Accountant! Is that what they’re called these days? Well, not bad for an accountant.” Sarah didn’t like the way Moses was summing her up.

The negro returned and Allen announced that they would be shown to their rooms and that dinner would be served in an hour. The door to Sarah’s room was across the hall from Cob’s. He winked at her before he went in and said, “Don’t worry. Alexander blood is thick. Endure what you must tonight, but tomorrow we’ll be leaving on fine Kentucky horse flesh or my mother will will whip up Grandfather Alexander into a furry that will rain down on Uncle Moses’s head like hail.”

Sarah smiled, but worried about what it was she might have to endure. When she walked into her room, she realized that it was as large as her entire cabin. The bed was so tall that it had steps and was draped in thick tapestry with mauve blossoms on burgundy, swirled with white vines and green leaves as dark as pine needles. The walls were striped with gold and cream with burgundy curtains at the windows that rose taller than her. Paintings of horses on green grass and one of a magnolia tree hung in gilded frames on the walls. Two rose-colored chairs sat facing a crackling fire in a marble fireplace. What heaven did she just walk into?

A woman’s voice chuckled from behind her. “Your bumpkin eyes don’t know where to set do they, girl?”

Sarah turned around to face a woman no taller than she with a massive bosom and a plain dress with a crisp white apron. Her black hair coiled in tight curls beneath a red headscarf and her skin was golden-brown. Her eyes were a light gray. “Hello. Are you one of the Alexanders? I’m Sarah.”

The woman had a booming laugh that could rival one of Cob’s rumblers. “I belong to the Alexanders, girl. I’m Bessie and I run this household. Let’s get you fixed up. We only have an hour and your dishevelment could frighten the Holy Spirit out of a reverend’s mother.”

In an hour, Bessie had transformed Sarah into a fairybook queen. While she bathed Sarah, coiffed her hair and dressed her in a cast-off from Allen’s youngest daughter who was away at boarding school in Virginia, Bessie informed Sarah of who the Alexanders were and where each one was. She spoke of the trouble with catching the chickens that morning, of the latest filly born and the news about the northern aggressors. Sarah didn’t know how the woman could be so swift with her fingers and so fast with her tongue. She could hardly digest all the information.

By the time Bessie introduced Sarah to the corset, she realized that she would endure much discomfort. How in the world did women where such horrid things? Her ribs ached and breathing felt shallow as if she had a boulder pressing down on her. Next came a hoop and a pile of petticoats, which felt strange as if her legs had a private room. But Sarah forgot all about her discomfort when she saw the dress.

Blue and ivory plaid with narrow pink striping, it was trimmed with edged bows. The neckline swooped from shoulder to shoulder and the sleeves were nothing more than caps like the bell of a lily. “This will show off those pretty blue eyes of your, Miss Sarah.” Bessie slipped the softest shoes onto Sarah’s feet that were ivory with leather soles. “You do look presentable, and just in time.”

Bessie led her downstairs to a formal dining room where the men were each holding crystal glasses with dark amber liquid. They all turned and stared at Sarah and she worried that maybe something was wrong with her dress. Why were they staring at her?

“Well, Miss Sarah, for an accountant of German origins you do clean up nicely.” Allen toasted her with his glass.

“Very nice, Lass, very nice. I see why my grand-nephew needs an accountant.”

Cob’s brown eyes the color of the liquid in his glass had deepened into a smoldering stare. “You look beautiful, Sarah.”

For the rest of her life, she’d never forget that dress. Bessie packed her two simple cotton dresses, one the color of dried tobacco with tiny orange flowers and the other a dark hunter plaid with blue and ivory stripes. And as Cob predicted, they left riding two long-legged bays followed by two pack mules, a mare and a filly. Cob was riding a stallion and as his Uncle Moses said, he was leaving Kentucky with the beginnings of the finest horse ranch Pikes Peak would ever see. Cob struck gold barely out of Tennessee.

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13 Comments

  1. TanGental says:

    This is excellent. The housekeeper, the Alexander men, all beautifully captured but Sarah’s astonishment and delight are special. I’m breathing too which is a good thing!

    Like

    • Charli Mills says:

      I was looking at corsets last night (and hoops, what silly things) and so grateful to let it all hang loose! Ha, ha! I received a package yesterday from a family historian and learned that when going west, the family got help along the route. Made for a fun addition and better than boring beans by a campfire! And it confirmed the horses which is important.

      Like

  2. Sherri says:

    You type one handed? Wow Charli, how do you do that? No wonder you need a massage!! Mind you, I would love a massage about now and that’s with touch typing (had to, being a secretary all my life but now in control of my own destiny…right? 😉 ) Love Hans Zimmerman, this track (Gladiator, right?) and I heard Time on the radio recently, from the movie Inception I think. Just beautiful. Reading this post is like opening an early Christmas pressie – beautiful music, relaxation and breathing exercises (and yes, so important with sitting down so much), your excellent thoughts for the day and of course, your wonderful, unfolding story. And many, many congratulations on your word count! That’s tremendous, so proud of you ❤ And then I take with me today the words 'learning to trust the writing process'. So much to ponder here. Thank you for it all.

    Like

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes, I’m the one-handed writer. It often freaks out people to see me type! I’m quite fast. Despite taking typing classes, I can’t write and type at the same time. But oh, my shoulder is feeling the results. I’m so glad the post worked out like a virtual massage. 🙂 Yes, I love the track from Gladiator and it pairs beautifully with horses. Thanks! Now go slip into your process for the weekend! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Annecdotist says:

    Oh, your poor shoulder! I write mostly by voice, but still some bits of keyboard giving me an ache. Lovely music, thanks.

    Like

  4. It does not sound easy to relax while writing. I need to take more breathing breaks.

    Sarah’s first reaction of feeling grimy compared to the white paint is fantastic. I adore Bessie and the dressing scene.

    Gorgeous music. ❤

    Like

    • Charli Mills says:

      I think I clench most muscles when I write! I tend to live in my head and forget about everything below until so I’m always reminding myself to breathe, stretch and walk (and walking to the kitchen to grab wine or cookies doesn’t count). 😀

      Glad you like the scene! It bubbled out of some research I got in the mail yesterday and is going to inform today’s scene, too! I’m so grateful to all the family and professional historians that are sharing information with me.

      Music like that just fills the soul!

      Like

  5. Shoulder ouch. I had no idea. I have another blogging friend who does one-handed typing as well. My hats off to both of you. ❤

    The small details are delicious. Not many, but enough. 😀

    Like

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