WIP Wednesday

WIP-Chapter 4

This has been a tough week writing-wise, but when Tuesday morning came around, I wrote, instead of tending to the mass of grading that should’ve been done and returned days ago. I found I couldn’t let the writing go, a good thing, and the 52–week challenge is a big reason for my butt-in-chair, get something written accomplishment. (Not to say they were good words, but at least they were words. Revision will take place at a later date.)

Synopsis-thus far

This chapter flips back to 1806, six years after Joshua and his then-pregnant wife arrive in the backwater village of Buck’s Eye. Joshua, a Revolutionary War veteran, plans to settle on the land grant he’s received as payment for his service.

Snippet-Chapter Four

(This is still fairly rough and needs more work. The goal with the challenge is to get this book done.)

“Have you seen my girls?” he asked a few people on the fringes of the crowd. When they shook their heads, he dropped to the ground and pulled on his boots. As he stood, a dog shambled up to the crowd, from the path that led to the Sweet Water river.

The girls had been after him to get them a puppy; the shopkeeper’s mutt had given birth and he was giving away the puppies to anyone who would take them. Joshua had refused, not wanting another responsibility in his life when he struggled to meet the ones he had.

Joshua slapped his leg. “Come here, boy,” he said. A bit of red tangled in the dog’s matted fur had caught his eye. He worked it free and his legs began to shake as he held it up.

“What is it?” Joshua heard someone ask. His tight throat held his words captive.

“It’s a ribbon,” one of the women said, coming forward to take it from Joshua. He held it tight, refusing to give it to her. “It belongs to Mary,” she said. Mary was well-known in the village for her love of red, and several of the women had parted with their own scraps, forgoing the color red in their rugs and quilts, to make the motherless girl with a drunk for a father, happy. “But it was tangled in the dog’s fur.”

“The dog that just came up from the river,” said a man. “Speech needs to wait.”

Joshua, jolted into sobriety, struck out for the river, gripping the ribbon. “Mary!”

WIP Wednesday Chapter 3

WIP-Chapter 3

It was hard motivating myself to sit at my desk and write another chapter this morning (I’m several chapters ahead of the snippets I post. I wrote chapter 4 this morning and maybe I will get some of chapter 5 done today too. Bonus!). I reserve Tuesday mornings, and possibly afternoons, for my writing. I teach writing classes at a local university and by the time I’m done talking in class and/or reading student work, I’ve got nothing left for my own work. So Tuesday mornings are sacred and all mine.


This chapter shifts back to 1975 and Terri’ s point of view. Terri is a widow and must move back, with her daughter, to Terri’s childhood home, a move she loathes to make, but must.

Chapter 3 Snippet

I laughed. “No. I lived in a house. We just can’t see it from here.” I climbed back into the car, wincing as I bumped my ankle. I drove a bit farther, stopping just before the road dips and begins to slip down into a small valley.

Below was the land that had been in my family for generations. A land grant as payment for fighting in the Revolutionary War, the farm had remained in family hands through the generations, tied to the land in ways many in Buck’s Eye were tied to their property — through family that never really seemed to leave.

“It looks like our other house,” Chelsea said, and in many ways it similar to the one we’d left — white farmhouse with wraparound porch, a barn not far from the house, a small shed. This farm had some differences — a small fishing pond where I and my grandfather spent hours with fishing line dangling into the water, not too concerned with whether or not we caught anything. When he passed, he was buried in the small family plot set back into a stand of birch trees a short distance from the house.

The faint slam of a door reached us up on the knoll and a small figure stepped out of the shadows of the porch, shading her eyes as she looked up the road. One oak tree stood beside the steps; not two. The missing tree reminded me things had changed while I was gone. My grandmother’s beds of irises, daylilies and morning glories were covered in grass. The farm pond’s bank was bare — only four grey, splintered posts remained of Grandpa’s small fishing dock.

“There’s Grandma D,” Chelsea said.

“Yes, it is.”
“She has horses!” Chelsea said, clapping her hands. “Look Charlotte!” She snatched the small rag doll off the seat. “Horses!”

“Where?” I asked. I didn’t see any horses; never had, even though the phantom herd I’d heard my mother talk about was an intricate part of my childhood.

Novel Ideas from Work in Progress

Novel Ideas

Below is an excerpt from my current novel, a scene which may or may not survive editing cuts. It involves a young widow, the protagonist in the novel.

Novel Synopsis:

Relationships forever change when a young widow’s daughter begins interacting with the dead.

Novel Excerpt:


Under an old oak tree sat a group of men. They were drinking beer, and their loud laughter drew disproving stares from the adults inside the tent. I walked closer and noticed they were gambling—one man was throwing dice, while a second man entertained another group by switching around small cups, his hands were a blur, until he was done shuffling the cups. It wasn’t until I tripped and bumped up against one of them I realized no one could see me, even though I understood what was going on around. I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you showed up without any clothes on—I could see everything and everyone, no one could see me, but it was still an uncomfortable feeling.

“Which one boys? Under which cup resides the ball? I hope you were paying close attention,” the carnie called. He sat back and waited, while the group tried to determine where he had hidden the ball. Two little girls slipped away from their father’s side, and skipped away from the men, down the hill and toward the river. The father, concentrating on the cups, clutching an almost empty bottle in his hand, didn’t see them go. My gaze traveled between the girls as they wandered closer to the trees lining the riverbank, and the man as he drained his bottle and found another one in the a tattered rucksack at his feet. I wanted to grab him by the arm and point out the direction his daughters went, but she remained rooted to the spot and mute.

“Give us a guess there, Joshua,” the man in charge of the cups said. “Where do you think the ball is?”

Joshua’s finger wavered as he lifted a hand and pointed to the cup on the left. “There,” he said. He took a long swig from the bottle when the cup came up empty, and then placed a wad of money on the table.

“One more round,” he said. “I can get it all back with one more round.”

The carnie looked at his pocket watch. “No time,” he said. “Need to close up shop for awhile.” He patted his rotund stomach. “Need to grab me a bit to eat before I starve.” Laughter as he picked up his cups and ball and packed them into a small case. “I’ll be back later, gentlemen, if you wish to visit me again.”

I watched Joshua drained his bottle. He turned once again to the tub, but stopped.

“Where’s Becky?” he asked, more to himself as the men were moving off.

“Becky?” he called. He stood, wavered.

“Becky!” he called louder. “Liza!”

“They’re around, Joshua. Probably visiting some of the other tents,” one man said. “Not fit for little girls to be back here, anyway.”

“I know what’s fit and what’s not for my daughters,” Joshua said, shuffling forward. “Becky! Liza!”

The voice, anger edged with fear, woke me up . It was still dark, and Chelsea slept, mouth open and damp hair stuck to her face. The room was hot; the windows were open, but the curtains remained slack against the sills. I clicked on the window fan,  eased my way out of bed, and out to the front porch, just like I used to do when I was a little girl and couldn’t sleep because of the heat. I carried a light blanket to ward off any mosquitoes.

A breeze moved across the porch and brought with it the smell and cooler air of rain. Lightening flickered again, but still no sound of thunder. I shoved off the floor, putting the swing back in motion. Even this little bit of generated breeze felt good on my face. I retrieved a small pillow from the nearest and lay on the damp cushion. Even though the swing was not nearly as comfortable as the bed, outside it was far cooler and made up for any discomfort. I slipped my leg out from under the blanket and pushed off again. I pulled up my foot, covered it with the blanket, and closed my eyes, hoping the swing would ease me off to sleep, and being outdoors would keep dreams at bay.


My face is wet, but I can’t lift my arms to wipe it dry; they are caught on something and I can’t lift them above my waist. I now realize water keeps washing over my face; and coughing only draws more in. Papa had told me to stay away from the river, but it was so hot, and the water was so cool on my toes. All I wanted was to cool off a bit, like I did when Mama was alive. I tried to be careful and not get my dress wet or dirty, but my feet had slipped out from underneath me on the bank and I feel in. The water is strong and it pulled me down the river, under the bridge we take into town, past the schoolhouse, and almost to town. I can’t keep my head up, but my dress is heavy and my shoes full of water. I tried to grab a log, but the river was greedy and wouldn’t let me go. It kept pulling me along and pushing me under, taking me away from Liza and Papa.  I heard him call my name when I first got near the river—“Becky!”—but I  wanted to put my toes in before going back. It was so hot. And then I’d fallen into the river.

My shoes are gone. My dress is all tangled up around my neck because I tried to get it off. I’m tired.

The river can have me now, to do with as it wanted. The river always won when it decided to take—Papa’s crops, the barn, my pony and my best friend Emily late last spring. I see Emily now, standing on the opposite bank, holding out her hand and smiling. Someone else was there, someone familiar. Becky shook the water from her eyes and smiled. “Mama.”


I’m cold and wet—as was her blanket and the porch. Thunder shook the house, and the simultaneous lightening blinded me for a moment. I shoved away the sodden blanket, and slapped my arms against my chest as I walked to the door.

“Becky” was whispered on the wind, and then drowned out in the next rumble of thunder. I pushed open the front door and secured it against the storm. I dripped onto the floor and shook, both from cold and from what I’d heard. A plaintive cry on the wind; a man calling for his long-lost daughter.

–excerpt from WIP (work in progress)
Cheryl Russell



Reader before Writer

Reader first

I was a reader long before I started writing, and I still consider myself a reader who writes. In other words:

Reading is my super power.

While trying to figure out how to integrate my love of reading, my joy in writing, and the journey they are both taking me on, I came across  “Why I Decided to Start a Blog on My Author Website” by Kristen Kieffer (she also runs the She’s Novel website.) Her post was an aha! moment for me–someone else had the same issues I did, but she hit on a solution that I am excited about.

Steal Like an Artist


is great advice (and also a fantastic book by Austin Kleon), and that is what I am planning on doing–tweaking Kristen’s idea to fit me. (and this blog). I want to focus on three topics:

Book Talk-where I write about what I’ve been reading.

Novel Ideas-snippets on my fiction

Write On-the how and what of my writing

This Means What, Now?

Good question. Hopefully, more posts, but I make no promises. I tend to make plans, get excited because they sound good, and then fall off because I can’t maintain the pace that seemed so doable in my mind. All of this sounds great now, but once the semester starts back up and I’m in the midst of lesson plans and grading papers and essays? Who knows.

If you’re curious to see how this all pans out, then add your email above.