NaNoWriMo: The Rebellion Begins

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 1, 2017

The Rodeo has ended, although writers have until 11:59 pm EST November 6 to complete TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction Contest #8. All other flash fiction writing contests have closed and now the hard work of the judges begins. You can check in at each contest you entered to see when winners are announced at Carrot Ranch and across other platforms.

Our regular weekly 99-word flash fiction challenges resume November 2. If you discovered the joy of writing flash fiction, I hope you join us weekly. Our Rough Writers will be publishing an anthology soon, pending final printer proofs. And we begin a second anthology in January.

Good thing we all have our creative juices flowing!

The creativity leaders and participants demonstrated throughout the Flash Fiction Rodeo was invigorating! Which brings us to another kind of challenge: November means NaNoWriMo. Just what is National Novel Writing Month? Organizers describe it as:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

If you are not familiar with the process, it’s easy to sign up and explore. Go to How It Works. If you are on the site and a participant this year, tell me how I can connect with you on NaNoWriMo’s website. You’ll find me listed as “Charli Mills.” Whether or not you have a novel in the works, now is a good time to put your creative energy to use. Keep writing!

This year, I’m a self-declared NaNo Rebel, which is why I’m calling the 2017 event a rebellion. According to the rules, I’m a rule-breaker. And that’s cool (I even get a badge with sun-glasses that makes my NaNoWriMo dashboard look hip). As a NaNo Rebel, “You believe rules are meant to be broken. On November 1, you’ll start writing anything but a brand new novel.”

That’s exactly what I’m doing this November — I’m not working on anything brand new. It’s time for me to arrange all the new material I wrote for Miracle of Ducks this past year, relocating the setting from Wisconsin to Idaho, and giving my protagonist new hardships. My two goals are to revise at least 2,000 words a day and to take four hours once a week to focus on editing sections. Overall, I want to have a complete final draft for beta readers by December 30.

Using Canva, a layout design program, I whipped up a mock cover and posted my synopsis, which in all honesty needs the TUFF application! But that’s what I’ll be doing all month: using flash fiction as a tool to revise and sharpen my synopses. Here’s a taste of Take 10 on Miracle of Ducks, my Rebel NaNoWriMo project:


Archeologist Dr. Danni Gordon hides in her research to avoid the tourist bustle of Sandpoint, Idaho. Despite their differences, Danni has a comfortable marriage to Ike Gordon, former U.S. Army Ranger. She believes in science; he believes in miracles. She likes solitude; he’s loud.  She wears high heels to cook at home; he gossips over coffee at the Elmira Store.

Although past his Ranger prime, Ike returns from the funeral of a fallen friend ready to re-enlist. While she’s in the mud of a public archeology dig, Danni becomes a reluctant soldier’s wife when Ike leaves for Iraq. She’s left in charge of Ike’s exuberant trio of hunting dogs, which leads to trouble with neighbors and the law. To make matters worse, Ike asks his best friend Homeland Security Officer, Michael Robineaux, to look after his wife. Michael hates archeologists.

Chaos also brings new beginnings, including an unlikely pup born in Danni’s kitchen. He becomes a celebrity to local schoolchildren as Bubbie the Archaeology Dog. It’s a new path in Danni’s life to come out of the research basement and get to know the townspeople she has avoided. She even musters the courage to go to the Sandpoint 4th of July Parade where she loses Bubbie and learns something of his nature. Bubbie might be what the Kootenai call a changeling.

Just when Danni begins to connect with her community and anticipate Ike’s homecoming, she receives devastating news from Iraq. Ike is missing. The bank is also threatening to foreclose. Faced with despair that reminds her of why she doesn’t get attached to people and why she’s never liked dogs, Danni undergoes a life transformation. What she thinks she has lost comes back to her in unexpected ways.

In a hopeless situation, Danni is about to experience the biggest miracle of her life. It’s the miracle of ducks that Ike always believed, but this time Danni must believe it, too.


Danni sloshed her peach spirits margarita the night they set off the M-80s.

Before the first explosion echoed up the river canyon, bouncing off steep forested walls of metamorphosed sandstone, Ike rose from his sportsman’s chair. Unlike Danni, who had jerked the drink in her hand, Ike never physically startled. Like a counterbalance, he set down his full margarita and stood poised for the battle to come. This was why he disliked lighting a bonfire. He relied on his night vision and Danni’s desire for charcoaled marshmallows could never persuade Ike to go night blind for one evening.

When the AR-15s blasted a volley into the darkness, Ike ordered Danni to the tent before he dashed down the rutted dirt road, favoring his wounded knee. She complied only to wipe off her hand and restore the splash of peach spirits over the top of her iced limeade, tequila and triple sec. It was the best part of the drink and she wasn’t going to let the idiots on the far end of USDA Forest Service primitive campground rob her of the only peace she had.

By the time she returned to her unlit campfire ring of river rocks, Danni could hear Ike’s voice boom from the campsite to their right. She settled in to her oversized canvas sportsman’s chair and listened to mention of guns by make and model, some laughter and the cadence of men swapping stories. She smiled and looked up at the constellations in the black sky. Mars shone bright and orange just over the horizon of treetops. Jupiter shone as bright and maybe later Ike would get out one of his rifle scopes to show her its moons. For now, at least she wouldn’t have to be the one to explain to Ike that the war down the road was only fireworks.

Startling, annoying and illegal if you read the “no fireworks” sign posted at the campground entrance, but Ike reacted to the blasts like they were acts of war. To him roman candles were M-80s and firecrackers were M-16A1s, although the past few years he’d taken to calling them AR-15s, the citizen version of the multi-purpose firearm. Danni knew all the names of weapons she’d never held, and had a good idea that they sounded like fireworks. Gun powder and freedom were common denominators. Just like the t-shirt she saw earlier at the fly shop in Enaville, “It’s the land of the free because of the brave.”

It was the 4th of July weekend on the North Fork of the Coeur D’Alene River and the land of the free celebrated with sounds of war and the brave who served ducked or dashed. Ike ran toward danger. If sounds startled Danni, Ike assessed them for battle. No battles, then the sounds were harmless, never mind it might be the snort of a bull moose or the grunt of a grizzly. Animals didn’t pack weapons or lob grenades, therefore they posed no threat. Danni had more caution than that and kept an ear tuned to the wilderness. However, with all the raucous noise humans could muster, most wildlife would turn and tuck tail the opposite direction. She wanted to take her margarita and run away from the humans, too.

“Before they light those things off, they ought to shout ‘fire in the hole.’” Ike walked up to Danni and sat in his chair next to her.

“What does that even mean?”

“It’s an old blasting term, but the Army took it.”

“Interesting.” Danni loved Ike’s knowledge of how things connected to history. Not only did he know modern weapons of war, he knew how each piece evolved and what improvements were made to gun actions, barrels or ballistics. He was a history buff when it came to weapons and planes. She was an historical archaeologist. A match made in the archives of heaven.

Whereas Danni liked solitude, Ike craved people. He’d talk to anyone, like the camp neighbors. “Josh says he thought it was a .22 they were shooting but I explained the rapid fire was too quick.”

“Josh?” Danni slurped an ice cube into her mouth, her drink now gone.

“Dan’s dad. He came up today to set up the second trailer and brought their rafts.”

“Oh. That camp next door is growing like a mushroom. I knew it would get crazy up here with 4th of July and all, but I’m surprised how people camp tighter than they live in those suburbs or apartment complexes.”

“It’s a miracle you came.”

Danni could feel Ike’s grin even if she couldn’t see it. “It’s not a miracle, Ike. It’s simply a chance to transcribe a rare document and unfortunately, they’ll only let me have access these two weeks.” Danni and Ike had set up camp several days before the summer revelers headed to the river. She wondered how many even knew or cared about its rich mining history.

By the next day, Danni wondered how many cared about the wilderness at all. People acted like children with grown up toys.

Danni’s camp was deliberate. She used the same style of canvas wall tent many of the miners had used before they erected log cabins or frame buildings. Ike had built her a portable desk, similar to ones surveyors packed with them. She had a wooden chest that opened up to reveal her research books, papers and pens. Each morning, she’d set coffee to boil over the campfire; daytime was okay for fire by Ike’s standards and he liked the Dutch oven scramble she’d make, too. While potatoes and mushrooms were simmering in butter, coffee coming to a boil, Danni shook out their bedding and swept. She set up her desk outside to supervise cooking and watch for hummingbirds.

Ike laughed every time Danni packed her cast iron shepherd’s hook and bottle feeder for camping trips. He claimed he only needed a rucksack. In addition to coffee and breakfast, Danni made hummingbird syrup – one part sugar to one part water, boil until sugar melts and cool. She enjoyed her office in nature and although she refused to break US Forest Service rules, like feeding chipmunks or deer, Danni loved putting out nectar for hummers. In Idaho, she could watch at least four varieties and her favorite was the gold and red calliope.

The first hoard of river rafters showed up as she was serving Ike breakfast. They pulled right in to Danni and Ike’s campsite and unloaded ten round river rafts and several inflatable kayaks. “Sorry,” one man said every time he walked past, kicking up dust as Ike and Danni ate. The rest of the people just looked straight ahead.

To the final apology, Ike said, “You know, there’s wide open public access two miles up river at the bridge.” The man nodded and mumbled.

If Danni thought dealing with 4th of July revelers was crazy, she was in for a rude awakening with her next contract job: a public archeology dig of a suspected British trading post from the early 1750s. Some people thought of hell as hot and sulfuric; Danni thought of it as populated by people. It would be the first time she thought of a dig as hell.



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  1. C. Jai Ferry

    You say you want a revolution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change the world
    You tell me that it’s evolution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change the world…

    [I know—rebel, not revolutionary, but I think you’re still revolutionary even if not a revolutionary]

    ps. this comment brought to you by Toumusha Kapheene and Knott A. Knuff-Sliip.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! This comment brightens my night like daylight! And it has begun. I will be hiring my Nebraska Editor by the end of February should words align like stars.

      • C. Jai Ferry

        I’m trying to teach the coyotes some Beatles tunes. You know, just to shake things up a bit. Then I will send them your way to serenade you as you align all the words.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s what I’m missing — coyotes!

  2. kim blades, writer

    Brilliant synopsis and exerpt. I might enter the NaNoWriMo, and take up your rebel idea, edit past incomplete works and try and get one novel out of the many I’ve begun.

    • Charli Mills

      That’d be a great idea for reworking what you already have! Thanks for reading my synopsis and excerpt, too!

  3. Ritu

    Good luck Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu!

  4. Annecdotist

    Good luck with this, Charli, although I had to smile at the concept of registering as a rebel!
    Your synopsis reads really well and I’m looking forward to reading this novel. As I am hoping to have a version of my own WIP ready for critical readers around the same time, perhaps we could do a swap?

    • Charli Mills

      There was something deeply satisfying about registering as a rebel, Anne. Thank you for reading my synopsis. I finally have one I feel I can share, though it will need much finer grit to polish. I’d be honored to swap for that critical read. Before the fine grit, I want to make sure I have the right shape. Good luck with your own rebellion!

  5. floridaborne

    I’ve prepurchased my winners shirt and I’m PRIMED!

    I like the idea of printing the synopsis and book cover. My cover isn’t nearly as professional as yours. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Woohoo! Way to start out strong, Joelle! My cover was courtesy of a combination of designs from Canva. I’m not that capable. 😀 And when the time comes, I’ll work with my designer who is the bomb. Good luck!

    • Charli Mills

      Connect with me on NaNoWrimo! We can be buddies!

  6. julespaige

    I really am impressed by those folks who can do the long haul – a whole book. Not just lots of small pieces as in poetry. I enjoy my small flashes in the pan…
    The TUFF piece I wrote was by far the longest (not in a serial) piece that I’ve penned (I might have had to do some in college, but that was a looong time ago). I’m a rebel… but I’m not engaging in NaNoWriMo.

    Good Luck to all who do.

    • C. Jai Ferry

      Do you participate in NaPoWriMo in April (national poetry writing month)? Write a poem a day for the entire month.

      • julespaige

        I have been writing poetry at least one (sometimes more) every day for years (longer than I’ve had blogs…). Kind of like daily observations. Other poems to prompts. I have a daily blog, a longer verse blog and a fiction blog to try and keep myself
        organized. Key word… try.

        I don’t partake in NaPoWriMo…officially. Oh, I see they started in 2003, then more tied to Academy of American Poets in 2009. I’ve been writing daily much longer than that…

        I’ve looked for and attempted local groups a few times. But without much success. I’ve found an outlet in blogging.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s great, Jules! I’m so impressed with how you’ve pushed yourself this whole Rodeo and so much of what you wrote showed the results of that commitment. The long haul for me is getting through all the process. I’d love to simply crank out a draft every November but it’s been revision that has confounded me. TUFF was the result of flashing with all of you here while also working the long haul. I began to see ways to use creativity in the revision and move it all forward. I’m hopeful! Thank you!

  7. Judy E Martin

    I like your rebellious streak, Chatli. I am sure it is much more fun too! Good luck with NaNoWriMo! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Rebellion feels like a gallop on a spirited horse! If it leads somewhere…then it will be good! Thanks, Judy.

      • Judy E Martin

        I reckon you will stay on that horse and enjoy the ride!!

      • Charli Mills

        I’ll do my best!

  8. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    I am also a rebel. I’m working on the revision and layout process for the first book in my kids’ series. Hope to see you over there!

    • Charli Mills

      Howdy Rebel! What’s your handle in NaNoWriMo world? I’ll look you up.

  9. bestmermaid

    Oh nice, I like your synopsis and excerpt from the story you’re working on. It sounds really interesting and I’m curious as to how Danni is going to handle him being gone again. When I started reading your excerpt I was surprised by how calm Danni was. I legit thought they were under attack from how he was behaving but as more details were revealed, I understood more. I liked how you slowly sprinkled in the truth. Very nice ^_^

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your reading! I had hoped it would appear as if they were under attack, and yet Danni seems unphased. My intent with this scene, is to express what combat veterans (and their spouses) experience with the hypervigilence to maintain a safe perimeter at all times. They leave the war, but the war doesn’t leave them They respond differently. Media portrays vets as triggered by fireworks, and people think it means they are afraid. It’s more like they are triggered into action, responding to sounds of war. Ike comes to realize it’s just fireworks; Danni knew all along it was fireworks, and yet this is a familiar scenario played out. Thank you! I’m glad it resonated with you!

  10. Sherri Matthews

    Rebels rule…you’ve got this Charli, so proud! Love your synopsis and excerpt and the cover too. This is real, it’s happening and you’re doing it! I’m riding along with you, though my head will be in a box or two for a while… 😉 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sherri! I’m giving it my best shot. I have much to sew together as if I ripped up a quilt and want to resew a different pattern. I know you are riding alongside, but first…to the boxes!

  11. Norah

    Sorry, Charli. I thought I’d commented. Obviously read, but not commented. It’s been a busy week. You’re going to have such a busy but exciting month. Tidying up the ranch after the contests and tidying up your draft. What a wonderful goal and I’m certain you will achieve it. It won’t be a miracle, though. It will be the result of hard work, grit and persistence. They may mean similar things but the synergy of the combination is explosive, but not like the triggering fireworks. These will trigger a celebration of success. The draft of your cover is lovely, except I can’t see the ducks. Did they fly off to Antarctica and become penguins. (Twitter joke. :)) I really enjoyed the synopsis. You have lead us to this through many of your flash excerpts. Thanks for including us in the ride.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! They were likely penguins, Norah! There is a subtle Native American idea in the book regarding changelings. Seems you’ve picked up on that. Thanks for witnessing the journey and joining in with the fireworks. And you’ll let me know if I inadvertently leave piles of dust in my tidying up efforts, right? 🙂

      • Norah

        Perhaps I’m more perceptive than I realised! 🙂 I’m not much good at housework, particularly dusting, but I’ll help you keep those pages clean and dust-free for sure. 🙂

  12. robbiesinspiration

    Brilliant Charli, I love this idea. I wasn’t participating anyhow as November is a mad month for me but I am definitely not starting anything new. I need to finish the five books that I currently have in progress first. An interesting synopsis and excerpt. I really like the idea of a miracle.

    • Charli Mills

      November can be such a crazy month, but there are NaNo Camps and other options throughout the year. I really like the organization. I’m sure you will keep at those 5 books and start more! Thank you for your feedback. The idea of a miracle is challenged throughout the book, and in the end the reader is left to decide.


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