Writing Prompt from Old Emails

Creative Writing Prompt | Flash Fiction | Short Story | Set the Scene | Writing | RachelPoli.com

I love writing prompts.  They help kickstart my muse (sometimes).   I sure would like to see my books in a library (sigh).  Maybe some day.


In The Library

I was perusing my favorite genre one day, poring over the titles, looking at the covers.  Maybe I would discover a new author.  Hmmm.  I had already read several books by John Grisham, James Scott Bell, Iris Johansen, and Mary Higgins Clark.

Oh, there’s an author I haven’t read before.  The cover had a lot of blue in it (my favorite color) and it had an intriguing title:  “Silent Night.”  Okay, I know this is summer; but maybe it will get me to thinking about what to get for gifts this Christmas ahead of time, not waiting until the last minute.  I love mystery/suspense/thriller but, as a Christian, I don’t want to read intimate love scenes, God’s name in vain, or vulgarity.  For me, those things detract from the story.  They are unnecessary.  I read the blurb on the back.  Yes, I am definitely going to read this book.

Maybe next year it will be my book on the library shelf.  It could happen.

Prompt was copied from:  Time To Write The Scene

Frienemies Chapter 46 excerpt

While Fawn and Nana talked about furnishings for the new house Angel sat in the office section of the barn at the Browning residence. She was not alone.

The oak chair in which she sat creaked as she sat hunched over her father’s ledgers. The entry that caught her attention was for an account labeled “Jackson Holdings.” The beginning balance figure was astounding. How was it that a poor farmer in a hovel of a house could have such a large sum of money? Was Fawn holding out on her? Either Fawn was very good at keeping things close, or she was not as naive as Angel had always believed, or, and this was probably the truth: the poor ninny had no idea how well off she really was. All the better for Angel. She turned the ledger toward her companion.

Her companion stroked his neatly trimmed beard. “Interesting,” was his only response.

“This explains a few things,” Angel considered. “This is why my father is always giving the Jacksons nice things. It’s their money, not his. I have misconstrued everything. Oh, well. It doesn’t change my plans. Is everything ready?”

Her companion leaned his chair back against a wooden supporting beam. He re-positioned the toothpick in his mouth and spoke around it.

“Just a few loose ends to tie up to avoid complications. Some of that is being done as we speak. Once that’s done, we are set to move. Just don’t try to double cross me. You think you hold all the cards, but I’ve got an ace up my sleeve.”

Angel didn’t blink. She reached across the table, grabbed his wrist, and said, “You think you do. You may think I’m a wild, crazy, brazen harlot, but there’s more to me than that. It is you who had better think twice about stabbing me in the back.” Her next words were spoken through clenched jaws: “I’m not fragile and I don’t break.”


A nicer-than-average brougham pulled up in the yard of the Gardner’s house. The driver looked around and noticed the well-kept yard, vegetable garden, and white wrought iron table and chairs. A hand-carved oak plank hung from a tulip tree by two long lengths of rope. He nodded his head in appreciation. But what really caught his eye was Fawn Jackson playing ring-around-the-rosey with two young girls. They were far enough away, and making enough noise they probably had not heard the plodding of the horses nor the wheels of the carriage. He remained where he sat for some moments, considering the report he would take back to Pipestem.

At length he dismounted the conveyance and approached the front door of the neat two-story farm house. His hand was poised to knock when the door was hastily opened from the inside, Jason Gardner nearly running into him.

Jason took a quick step back as he asked, “May I help you?” It took mere seconds for him to notice the sheen of the sleek black slicker, obviously well cared for. The man’s hat sat perfectly atop a thatch of dark brown hair, neatly trimmed in front while long enough to just touch the shirt collar in the back. The back hair curled slightly below the visitor’s ears.

“Begging your pardon, sir. My name is Justin Forbes. I was told that Miss Fawn Jackson is temporarily housed here.” He removed his hat and held it in his two hands in front of him.

“May I ask the nature of your business with Miss Jackson?” Jason wasn’t about to divulge any information without a good reason.

“Mr. Wiley, the minister of our town, sent me with a message for the young lady. I have not read the letter, but was given to understand that the people of the town are ready to accept Miss Jackson as their teacher.”

Nana took one step at a time as she came down the stairs. “I heard voices and Fawn’s name,” she said.

Ellen rose from her seat as did the visitor. “Indeed you did, Nana. This gentleman is Mr. Forbes. He has come with a letter for Fawn. She. . .”

Jason and Fawn came in at that moment. They both stopped in front of Mr. Forbes. Melanie and Sarah Beth were told to stay outside and play. Mr. Forbes handed Fawn the letter. “I am supposed to wait for a reply,” he said.

Fawn opened the letter as Nana, Jason, and Ellen gathered around her. She read in silence, then handed the letter to Nana. “What should I do?”

Nana sat in the rocker behind her. She read slowly while it seemed the other family members held their breaths. A heavy sigh escaped her lips as she handed the letter to Ellen. “What do you think?” she asked her closest friend.

Ellen read the letter and looked at the young man who had brought it. “Excuse us for just a few moments, please. We need to discuss this.”

The two women and Jason exited to the kitchen and sat at the table, the letter face up on that piece of furniture. Nana spoke first.

“Fawn, you need a job. We got ta have money for food and rent. I know ya want to stay here. I know yer worried about leavin’ me. But this would be good for ya, too.”

“But Nana,” Fawn started.

Ellen looked between the two and saw Nana’s set jaw. “Nana, you are most welcome to stay here. . .”

Joel’s Trouble; Jason’s Worry

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Joel sat at the bar drinking his sarsaparilla and watching the men at the poker table. Toby, the undertaker, sat next to him.

“Ain’t seen you around much lately.” Toby sipped his beer.

“Nope. Been busy visiting a young lady.”

“Yep. I heered ‘bout that. It’s that copper-headed girl that thinks she’s Injun, right?” He elbowed Joel in the rib.

“Don’t know anything about that, but if you’re referring to the young woman that lives up in the holler near the Bluestone River, that’d be her.”

“Whatcha want with a white girl that ain’t right in the head?”

Joel came off his stool and pulled Toby off of his. “I’ll hear no more of that talk from you or anyone else.” He looked around the room and was met with laughter.

“You’re crazy.” Toby paid his tab and left.

Joel walked to the poker area and stood between the tables. “I’ll brook no slander against the lady. Anybody here got a problem with that?”

Most of the men ignored him, everyone but Kyle Gordon. Kyle stood at six feet, three inches tall, wore bib overalls, a plaid shirt, two weeks of beard growth, and a dusty slouch hat. If he had stood up Joel would have had to strain his neck to look up at the man.

Kyle looked at Joel, nodded toward him, then looked at his cards. He had three aces and two kings, a full house. He studied his opponents briefly. Two of the others had folded. Only T.J. and David were still in the game besides him. T.J. was good at bluffing; David wasn’t. David had raised T.J.’s bet by ten dollars. Kyle called the bet and finished out the hand before he acknowledged Joel.

“Way I hear it,” Kyle began, took a drink of whatever he had on the table, and resumed, “she’s just a decoy. Way I hear it, the senator’s girl is the one you’re really after. So why are you so fired up about that Jackson girl?”

Joel’s eyes narrowed. “Who have you been talking to?”

“Don’t matter who I been talkin’ to. Fact is you’re lyin’ to one of ‘em.” Kyle turned back to the table. David was dealing.

Joel pointed his finger at Kyle’s face. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t I?” Kyle took another swallow of his drink. “You come home a few nights ago strapped to your horse’s back. Saw someone carry you into the roomin’ house, then put your horse in the barn out back.”

Joel backed up two steps, thought better of it, and stepped right next to Kyle’s chair. His face had turned crimson, then paled to ash gray. “What else have you heard?” His voice was barely a whisper.

Kyle turned directly toward Joel. “I hear lots of things. Then I ponder on ‘em and decide if they’re any of my business. So far I ain’t heard nothin’ that affects me, but if I do, you’ll be the first to know.”

Joel could feel the blood pounding in his head, his heart hammering in his chest. Obviously he had not been as careful and discreet as he had thought. How close were things to unraveling? How could he protect himself from whatever was coming?


Jason rode his paint gelding first to the Jackson place, thinking Fawn may have gone back to her barn, a place of familiarity. He dismounted, dropped the reins so Nomad could graze, and opened the barn door. It was dark inside. There was no smell of manure or fresh hay so she obviously had not been there in a while. Midnight Sun came from behind the barn where he had been grazing. He nickered as he approached Nomad and rubbed noses with him.

Jason came out of the barn and rubbed Sun’s neck. He was dirty and had leaves and twigs stuck in his mane. So, if Sun was home, where was Fawn? And why was the halter still hanging from Sun’s neck? It wasn’t like Fawn to leave her horse unattended. His pulse quickened. His heart disquieted.

He walked to the creek to see if there were any fresh hoof prints or footprints. There were none. He scratched his head, perplexed. Where could she be?

The house was nearly finished. All that was needed was the inside walls, doors, windows, and furnishings. Jason smiled as he considered how all of the neighbors were working hard on making new furniture. A couple of the men were even buying paint to make the place homey and appealing once it was done. He and his father were making the kitchen table and chairs.

He reeled his thoughts back to finding Fawn. Where could she be? He prayed. “Lord, You know where she is. Please help me find her,and please let her be okay. Most of all, please show her that You are the answer she’s been looking for all of her life. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

He mucked out Sun’s stall, removed the horse’s halter and hung it on its peg. Then he went back outside and swung his leg up and over the saddle and turned his horse toward the river. “Lord, I’m depending on you to guide me.”

Frienemies: Chapter Thirty-Nine

“This has got to stop,” Nana shouted. “She can’t keep running off like this.”

Ellen hugged her friend. “I know you’re worried, but she probably just needs some peace and quiet. Fawn isn’t used to all of this commotion. Give her some time.”

Nana wasn’t convinced. “Maybe, but Ellen, this is the second time she’s taken off and disappeared, not tellin’ anybody where she was goin’. I’ve a mind to take her over my knee; I don’t care how old she is.”

“Come on outside to the garden with me,” Ellen said. “You can sit on the bench and tell me where the weeds are. It will do you some good to get outside in the sunshine. We can pray out there where no one but the birds and squirrels will hear us. God knows exactly where Fawn is. She’ll be alright.” Her voice was gentle as her lips parted in a half smile. Then she took Nana’s left elbow and helped her toward the back door. Nana held her cane in her right hand.

Nana’s expression warred between anger and worry. I know worry is a sin, Lord. I know I can trust You, but I don’t know what you’re gonna haveta do to get Fawn’s attention. I don’t wanna see her hurt anymore. Her chest heaved a heavy sigh as pain stabbed her back in her effort to straighten her spine. She quickly remembered her arthritis and gave up standing straight.


Joel awakened disoriented with his head splitting and his eyes aching. Where was he? He tried to sit up by using his left elbow to prop him up. He seemed to be in his own bed. As soon as he was halfway to being in an upright position his stomach lurched and he fell back into a prone position. He rolled over toward the side of the bed and retched. When his stomach was emptied he wiped his mouth with the blanket, laid back, and covered his head with his pillow to block out the light.

Two hours later he awoke again, thirsty and anxious. He tried to recall the events of the previous day. How did he get home? The last thing he remembered was arguing with Angel in the barn when someone hit him from behind. If he didn’t know how he got home then he obviously didn’t know how he got in bed either. What day was it? Was he supposed to be at work or was it a weekend? His head pounded with each unanswered question. He needed to find Angel. She surely knew what had happened. He sat up slowly and put his feet on the floor while he continued to sit on the bed. Pushing himself gently to a standing position with his hands, he found his feet would not support him. He slumped back onto the bed.

I can’t even get myself a drink of water was his last thought before drifting back to a troubled sleep. His dreams were filled with vague scenes of fire, property destruction, and being pulled in opposite directions by faceless people. He awakened some time later to find himself tangled in his sheet with his head at the foot of the bed and his feet at the top.

The thunderous rapping at the door sobered his mind somewhat. He fumbled to put on his pants while mumbling for the caller to wait a minute. Yelling was out of the question. It would have produced a whopping headache.

He opened the door to a retreating back. “May I help you?” he croaked.

His employer turned and came back. “Been drinking have you?”

Joel’s right hand attempted to comb his hair as he spoke. “No, sir.”

“Looks like it to me. If it’s not the drink then what is it?” He was a short man with thin brown hair, a graying mustache, and a paunch that mocked his otherwise reedy frame.

“I got attacked from behind while at a meeting. Got knocked out and somehow ended up here and in bed. What day is it?”

“Two days since you last graced the office with your presence. You were not scheduled for any meetings since then. What have you been up to?”

Joel realized they were still standing at the door. He opened it and waved his employer into the room. He motioned to a chair against the wall while he himself sat back on the bed in his boardinghouse room. With his head held in his hands, elbows on his knees he tried to think of a reply.

“It was an unscheduled meeting, sir. A lady in distress wished to speak with me privately. Apparently it turned out to be an ambush.”

His employer tapped his left foot on the floor. He was not a man who liked to raise his voice. It mattered not. His tone was full of ice, his words like shards of broken glass. “This is your last chance, young man. You either come to work as scheduled or you seek other employment. If you do not show up tomorrow, do not come back at all. You will not get a recommendation from me. Good day.”

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Fawn still sat by the river with Arctic Sun drinking from the water’s edge. Memories assaulted her spirit. When she was ten years old the year was 1868. She, her mother, and Nana visited the graves of their fallen men. The journey had been arduous. The roads were nothing but mud tracks from the early morning rain. Wagon wheels slipped and spun causing the horse to strain forward and sometimes misstep. Along the way they still passed broken muskets, canons, canteens, and pieces of uniforms from both sides of the conflict. Tears could not be contained as grief gripped their hearts.

Burned out cabins and clapboard houses dotted the countryside. Some of them had blood stains on the doors and house exteriors. There were blood spatters still on the ground in some places, a constant reminder of the war that divided families and pitted brother against father, neighbor against neighbor.

Image result for free civil war photos

See the source image

She did not understand why the war had been fought. Why could people not just let each other live as they pleased? She asked her mother.

Lottie was distraught herself and wrapped in her own thoughts and grief. She looked at her ten-year-old daughter and saw a weak and frightened little girl, a Shawnee who should be more mature than to ask such a question. “What a stupid question. Our decisions all affect each other. You need to learn this. Like when you wear your Shawnee clothes to a white school. Then you come home crying because they were mean to you. What did you expect? You as much as told them you wanted nothing to do with them.” Lottie turned her head away from her daughter and looked at the passing countryside.

Silence reigned for several minutes as Fawn sat and wept in silence.

But Lottie heard her sniffling. “Stop that right now. You have nothing to cry about. Save your crying for the families who have lost everything in this crazy war.” She again turned to watch the countryside.

Fawn stole glances at Nana who sat on her right in the wagon. She had remained silent but Fawn noticed Nana’s soft expression as she patted Fawn’s hand. Nana usually managed to make Fawn feel better but not this time. What was wrong with the question she had asked. Was she supposed to understand war? She had just returned last week from spending two years with her white cousins in Harper’s Ferry. The gory details of the hanging of Frederick Douglas still made her feel ill. Her cousins had laughed and mocked her about her squeamishness.

Fawn’s habit was to retreat to her Shawnee heritage whenever she felt nervous, frightened or upset. It always seemed to make things worse but she couldn’t seem to help it.

As she sat on the rock ruminating, it occurred to her that maybe she didn’t respect her heritage enough. It wasn’t enough to dress in the clothing, which had all been destroyed in the recent fire; she needed to live Shawnee. That had to be why her prayers weren’t being answered, why her ancestors were not answering her or helping her. They felt she was not sincere in her devotion to them. She would prove them wrong.

She wandered the woods along the water looking for wild onions and other plants she could use as dyes. She would paint her face and pray. She would fast and seek the wisdom of her elders. She would sacrifice her own comforts, forsake her friends if necessary, if that would bring her the peace she craved.

Image result for shawnee images

Image result for shawnee images

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Frienemies: Chapter Thirty-Seven

Fawn took Arctic Sun out for a ride. It had been three days, or had it been longer? She had lost track of time. They both needed exercise. Melanie and Sarah Beth had wanted to join her but she really needed to be alone. Two weeks crowded in a house with five other people plus her grandmother while waiting for their house to get finished. Sure they were friends, and they were kind, but the close proximity put her in a position to hear conversations that were none of her business. She felt like an interloper and an eavesdropper. She was a burden, an intruder upon the lives of her friends. The thoughts crowded her mind, pushing against each other, then seemed to race around each other. She leaned forward, clinging to Sun’s neck as he galloped, his mane and forelock flying in the wind.

The late morning air was crisp. The scents of pine, lavender, and wild hyacinths wafted on the breeze. Sun slowed to a canter, then a trot, and finally a walk. Now and again he would stop and munch on the grass and bushes that lined the path between the Gardner place and Pine Trail Road. They rode down Pine Trail Road and turned down River Trail Road toward the Bluestone River.

Once on the River Trail they stopped and Fawn dismounted. She had ridden bareback with not so much as a halter. Now she walked beside him, patting his neck and combing his mane as she talked to him.

“You’re lucky, Sun. Your routine doesn’t change much and you don’t have to feel like you are a burden to other people.”

The horse nickered and bobbed his head.

“You don’t have turmoil around you. No one treats you like a charity case. You are accepted for who and what you are.”

He munched more shrubbery. Nothing seemed to daunt him or give him any cause for concern. Envy filled Fawn.

“I know the Gardners don’t think of us a burden. Neither does Mr. Browning, but that doesn’t change the way I feel. Now we’re getting a new house built that we cannot pay for. And I contribute zero to this world.” She hugged Sun’s neck and jumped back on. With no one around to see her skirts fly up in the air as she straddled his back, there were no opinions to worry about. They took the rest of the trail to the river where Sun could get a fresh drink of water and Fawn could find a rock to sit on and muse.



Bluestone River, Mercer County, WV

Photo by Thomas E. Dye


Angel sat on a bale of hay in the barn. Joel stood across from her,his blood pressure rising.

“I don’t know what you expect. I’ve done all of your dirty work and nothing is going right. You have the deed, which you already knew about. I am done. I will not forge a legal document. You are not worth my career.”

Her chocolate eyes bored into his blue ones. She leaned back with a beckoning look and reached out her hand. “I told you, Joel. I own you. I know things and I can ruin your career. There is nothing you can do about it.”

He reached out to strike her but drew his arm back. She would relish it. The vixen thrived on conflict and being in control. Yet she was not willing to risk her own pretty neck.

“It is true, you can ruin my career, but not without Daddy Dear finding out what you have been up to. You are as much at risk as I am. If I go down, you go down.” He snapped a twig he had picked up. He wished it was her neck.

Angel smiled as the door opened and Hank came in. “You silly boy. Did you think you were only working for me?”

Joel didn’t get a chance to see who hit him from behind before he was knocked to the ground, dragged out of the barn and tied across his horse. The animal’s reins were loose enough to let him move his head. With a thump on the rear Joel was on his way home.

Dear Reader, tell me what you think. What can make this section better? 

Book Review

Force of Habit by James Scott Bell

Force of Habit

This is a novelette or short story consisting of about eight chapters. The story is about a street-tough actress-turned-nun who considers it her calling to injure people who are about to do serious harm to themselves or others. Her methods are less than stellar in the eyes of the diocese and she often finds herself being reprimanded. Yet the nun has a kind heart and much compassion for children.

James Scott Bell is a master story-teller whose characters are quirky and humorous. I have read three of his novels and have enjoyed all of them. His characters are like neighbors in an apartment building or RV park: they seem like people you really know, people you like sometimes, laugh at sometimes, and other times want to leave alone.

He knows how to weave a tale, make you laugh, and sigh with relief that the events in his books are not part of your life.

Force of Habit by [Bell, James Scott]

Character Snippets: Fawn Jackson

Introcucing the characters in my WIP Frienemies.

First up is my protagonist, Fawn Jackson. As the story opens she is seventeen years old in the year 1873. Her father was caucasian; her mother was Shawnee. Her brother, Gray Eagle, looked Shawnee but chose to follow his father’s culture as far as lifestyle and religion, but his room was decorated with Shawnee blankets, pottery, and emblems. Gray and his father were killed during the Civil War.

Fawn looked like her father with the red hair of his Irish ancestors, the freckles, and inherited the combined temperament of both of her parents. She is a mixture of insecurity and determination, stubborness, resentment, and good manners. She clings to the Shawnee religion, wanting to identify with a mother she never felt connected to.

Nana, her father’s mother, lives with her. Nana is severely arthritic at the age of sixty-five. As with Fawn, she has suffered the loss of her son, her grandson, and most recently, her daughter-in-law.

Fawn and Nana live in Lerona, West Virginia, in a hollow (pronouced holler by West Virginians), which means a rift or seam between two mountain peaks. All of the property in the hollow is owned by Senator Jeb Browning. The land was cheap after the Civil War and the newly elected senator bought up the property to keep developers from taking over. He grew up there and wants it preserved.

There are minerals in those mountains: coal, natural gas, and the possibility of other ores and minerals. The mineral rights all belong to the residents of the hollow.

As the story opens Fawn is attending a finishing school in Richmond, Virginia. The tuition was paid by the senator per an agreement he made with Fawn’s father as he lay dying on the battlefield. Fawn knows nothing of this arrangement and she feels like a charity case–and hates it. Senator Browning promised Fawn’s father, in a signed document which is in his files in his office on his ranch, that Fawn, her mother, and Nana would be taken care of. Fawn’s father had given the senator a piece of paper authorizing him access to the family coffers, which are in a bank in town.

While she is at school Fawn receives a telegram that she is urgently needed at home. Her mother has been in an accident.

What do you think you would do if you were suddenly thrust into the position of having to find work to care for an ailing grandmother, take care of the gardening, the household chores, and try to find out what reall happened to your mother–all at the age of 17?


For some reason, today has been one for nostalgia. We have been traveling across South Dakota, and are parked on the rim of The Badlands for a few days. We had been in this area back in 2001 (before 9/11), enjoying the countryside and the scenery. But I digress.

While we were traveling some childhood memories came back: probably because of the billboard signs for Wall Drug Store. The billboards mention so many amenities, it reminded me of the Village Green Pharmacy in Aston, Pennsylvania. We had a lunch counter, a small general store, the pharmacy, and a soda fountain.

Some of the neighborhood kids and I would to there and order a soft drink called a “Rickie.” It was a blend of natural fruit juice, carbonated water, a frosted glass, and a straw with a cherry on top. We loved it. Then the bars came out with an alcoholic beverage by the same name and the pharmacy changed it to something that escapes my memory now. Alas, my recall has moved away. I think this pharmacy at some point changed its name to Gramarcy Press, or maybe I’m remembering something else. Who knows?

One day I walked from my house on Crystal Road to Village Green to visit my friend, Sharon Thompson. I think Linda Pappi and Patricia Zebley lived in that area too. Anyway, I found my way there, but I got lost going home. It took hours for me to find my way back. I nearly panicked but I made it. My mom was mad because I was late, but when I explained why I was late she got over it. I never went to Sharon’s house again. Staying in the Old and New Ridges was much easier.

If you’re from Aston (or if you just like the post) give me a shout. I have lots of great memories and remember most everyone I went through Green Ridge Elementary, Brookhaven Jr. High, and our sixth graders at Sun Valley with.

Maybe I’ll share Girl Scout memories next time.