Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » 2014 » June

Monthly Archives: June 2014

June 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionWalking through the horse pasture in spring, I search for broken glass and know that old footpaths exist beneath the soles of my Keens. I can’t see them for all the new shoots of green grass, but the ground has a way of giving hints to history’s mysteries.

Even here on the slope above Elmira Pond, I can see spotty formations of moss. The pond is actually the remnant of a tamarack peat bog, itself leftover from the retreating forces of glacier activity 50,000 years ago. While not as impressive as glacier-carved lakes and mountain gorges, peat bogs hold old records. Scientists have found ancient pollens preserved in peat from similar bogs.

From this pasture, I can watch the migrations of mergansers, ringed-neck ducks, buffleheads, great blue herons and osprey. Who else has stood where I now stand and watched those same patterns of migratory birds? Watched an osprey fold its wings and drop from the sky to grasp a fish in talons?

According to the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, this beautiful valley dissected north and south by an international highway and railway has always been home to the Kootenai people. I stand upon ground made in covenant with those who stood before me:

” I have created you Kootenai People to look after this beautiful land, to honor and guard and celebrate my Creation here, in this place. As long as you do that, this land will meet all your needs…”

~Kootenai Covenant with the Creator

Yet other boots have trampled by this pond: men stricken with gold fever followed the old Indian trail into the gold fields of British Columbia during the 1864 Wild Horse gold rush. Today, this length of Hwy. 95 is called the Wild Horse Trail.

Iron horses came next. Two railways laid parallel tracks of wood and steel. A small depot in between the two tracks delivered shingles and other locally harvested lumber products to the passing trains. By 1901, railroad workers established a small town. Most were Italian immigrants and they named their new American home, Elmira.

Ranchers also pushed cattle 17 miles from Sandpoint to Elmira, grazing their stock in this valley that settles between the Cabinet Mountains to the east and the Selkirk Mountains to the west. Ranchers must have used the pond for watering livestock and townsfolk mined peat from its edges to use as cooking and heating fuel. Did any pause to look at how pink the sky can get at sunset? Did they uphold the covenant to celebrate creation in this place?

Evidently some celebrated more than others. According to records from the Boundary County Historical Society, Two Gun Hart, the infamous “prohibition cowboy,” busted moonshiners on the very property I call home. Now the broken glass makes sense.

Broken GlassThe horse pasture glass is from blue Mason jars, brown whiskey bottles and pottery crocks. Just the sort of containers used by moonshiners who would bottle their wares at the still and bury it at their point of distribution. This was the point of some rowdy celebrations. I hope somebody at least remembered to toast the ducks on the pond.

Every place has stories buried in the dirt or weathering before our eyes. Every person has a past and ancestors who passed down the relay baton to the next generation. Knowing that I have a strength called “context,” I look back to understand the present. Unraveling history’s mysteries is a passion and often the inspiration of stories.

Lately, I’ve been using flash fiction to explore the story of Cobb McCandless, Sarah Shull and Bill Hickok. They are real people. Cobb was the brother of my fourth-great grandmother, Julia McCandless. He left North Carolina in the “company of a woman.” It doesn’t take much digging into old records to know that Sarah was the woman. It is legend that “Wild Bill” Hickok killed the notorious ring-leader, Cobb McCandless and won the affections of Sarah Shull.

wild_bill_hickok_comic_bookActually, that legend is rubbish. It’s a false tale spread by the killer whom dime-store novels made into a wild west hero. Modern historian Mark Dugan has looked at primary documents and presents a different scenario. Trying to understand what was going on in the lives of these three people, I’m using flash to explore who they are and what their human motives might have been.

Over the generations, Cobb McCandless has been an easy target as the frontier bad guy and Sarah a silent enigma. Hickok got all the glory especially after he took a bullet in the back, gambling cards in Deadwood. There’s an African saying that goes like this:

“Until the lion has his own historian, the hunter will always be the hero.”

As writers, we have opportunities to be the historian to unsung heroes. We can give voice to the voiceless. We can imagine people who came before us and faded away, leaving only hints that they had existed. Our own families may have unsolved mysteries. We might use the perspective of a character to reflect upon an old object, a forgotten war, hidden love letters or describe a setting then and now.

June 25, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far. Is it an historic account? A character’s reflection upon finding her grandmother’s hidden love poems? A modern family contemplating the ruins of an old structure? An archaeological dig? A classroom discussion of the History Channel? Dig into the past and record what you find. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, July 1 to be included in the compilation.

Depreciation Over Time by Charli Mills

Evening fireflies flickered as Sarah padded the worn path to her dugout. Ever since Cobb sold the east ranch to the Pony Express, the station manager and his sour-breath wife lived in the cabin that was hers. She worked as kitchen hand behind the yellow calico curtains she had sewn and hung.

From accountant to cook slave. From cabin to hole in the prairie sod. From mistress to forgotten woman.

At the dugout, Sarah lit a dish of tallow. She sat down on the bed quilt, and pulled out the old poem, reading “Oh mother dear, restrain thy tear…”

###

Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

Getting Stronger Now

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionWorking out like Rocky Balboa in the gym is the pinnacle of an underdog getting stronger and achieving a goal. Rocky’s theme song makes us want to do jumping jacks. But for what purpose? Not all stories of getting stronger are about the physical body.

In fact, not a single flash fiction in this compilation addresses physical fitness. A greater theme might be seen in the power of the mind to overcome fear or circumstances. And creative interpretation opens the door to ideas of getting stronger, such as that of an odor.

June 18, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about getting stronger.

Resolve by Geoff Le Pard

‘Let’s put them on the grave, Mum.’

Mary held the bunch tight, unable to move. That aroma; it couldn’t be her father’s aftershave. She sniffed the flowers; not them. ‘Can you smell anything?’

Penny nodded. ‘Grandpa. It’s getting stronger.’

‘But how…?’

‘Because he’s here, Mum.’ The girl took the flowers from her mother.

Mary straightened up. He hadn’t left her. He’d always be here, if she needed advice. Thank heavens, she had let Penny bring her.

‘Thanks, Dad,’ she whispered.

‘Come on, Mum.’

Behind a cloud, Peter watched Milton spear another can with his horn. He loved Old Spice.

###

Steps! by Ruchira Khanna

Rebecca is lying with water trickling down her eyes as she hears her infant’s cry from the other room. His tone makes her heart ache as he is hungry, but her body refuses to get up.

Her mind and body are battling an agony and her tears are a proof that a mother wants to be near her little one.

Days are rolling by, and she continues to pop in the pills with the hope. Her tenacity and perseverance have finally led her to lift her ailing body and take slow and steady steps to see that precious smile.

###

Getting Stronger by Irene A Waters

The barrow slowed and stopped. Now was his chance. He could hear his mother calling so mustering his reserves to escape and with all the strength he gathered he gave a king kick to the groin “Take that you bastard.” The unicorn suddenly appeared by his side as the darkness turned to light.

His mother entered the room in response to the shouting.

“I thought I was going to die” Jack said

“Luckily we have two lives – our awake life and the life we have in our dreams.” She hugged him tight.

###

Ready to Ride by Charli Mills

Hickok stood holding the reins of an unsaddled roan. He watched what looked like a barn-fly bobbing on the prairie horizon until it waxed into a frothing mount and rider. Hickok flexed his gloveless hands. If the Pony ever paid him he’d buy a beaded pair with fringed gauntlets. His roan nickered at the approaching relay, anticipating the mail saddle that would soon pass to his back. Every morning when Sarah gathered eggs by the corral, Hickok galloped the roan through several maneuvers. Today he’d get the chance to show her he was more than a pretty stock tender.

###

The Warning by Sherri Matthews

It didn’t take long for the rumours to spread like wildfire around the office.

“Did you hear the news?” gushed Christie as she ran over to Jan’s desk. “Mr. Chapman is leaving! He got the sack!”

Jan stopped typing and kept her gaze steady as she looked up at her. “Really? That’s a shocker!”

Christie dashed off to spread the news, leaving Jan stunned in thought. No more Mr. Chapman, no more grabbing behind closed doors. She had warned him enough times but he hadn’t believed her.

Turning back to her keyboard, Jan smiled broadly as she began typing.

###

Getting Stronger by Anne Goodwin

The governor granted his permission, but nothing more. No budget. No staff. When she saw the wasteland he’d assigned her, she almost gave up. Brambles thick as trees. Boulders too heavy for a sole woman to lift.

The prisoners skulked in their cells, smoking. The screws laughed when they unlocked the door to let her out. Laughed when they let her in again, exhausted, caked in mud. Laughed when the slugs gobbled up her seedlings. Yet she and her plants were growing stronger. She smiled. Once she’d harvested the cannabis, there’d be a waiting list for the gardening class.

###

A Ladder Away by Amber Prince

He glanced up at the towering line of steps and gulped. His dad always climbed it with ease and now stood atop of their roof probably doing amazing things. Billy wasn’t sure what was done up there because he had never made it to the top. He never made it past the fifth step without fear gripping his body and having to climb back down with sweat slicked palms.

Today he wore gloves. Billy took a deep breath heeding his dad’s advice, “Never look down.” One step. Two… seven… finally victory was his as he patted his dad’s shoulder.

###

Compelled by Pete

I used to cry myself to sleep at night, only to be haunted still by Old Father Martin’s dull eyes in my dreams. But one morning in class it changed, and when he gripped the yardstick I stood stock-still, my lips curling into a smile.

“Miss Baldwin?”

I didn’t even blink. And I felt my resolve strengthening when Old Father Martin yanked me to his desk. His calloused hands tore at my wrist as he spoke in that disgusting, spit-clucking way, cursing and trembling with each whack of the stick. And with each whack I laughed a little harder…

###

Progress by Norah Colvin

Day one

Timid. Needed help getting things out of bag to put in drawer. Sat towards back of group. Drew knees up under chin. Hunched over. Sucked thumb. Twisted long tangled hair under nose. Rocked.

Day twenty-six

Responded in roll call! Sat with ‘friend’. Legs crossed. Back straight. Smiled – briefly. Someone looked! Screamed, “Stop looking at me!” Dissolved in tears. Again. Retreated under desk. Again.

Day fifty-two

Initiated conversation!! Hair combed!! Nose not running!! Brought toy for show and tell. Responded with one- or two-word answers. Small, dirty, pink unicorn. B laughed. Erupted, but went to desk, not under!

###

The Speech by Larry LaForge

Edward’s knees wobbled as he stood facing his classmates – and his lifelong fear. His throat was dry; his heart pounded.

He swallowed hard, feeling sick to his stomach. All his preparation seemed for naught.

Edward anticipated ridicule and harsh judgment if he excused himself yet again.

Nearing panic, a strange and wonderful calmness suddenly enveloped him, as though a great burden had been lifted.

This was the moment Edward finally accepted himself.

The words he prepared came out, although his presentation was well below the class standard. Edward realized that didn’t matter.

He knew he’d never again be speechless.

(A 100-word version of the above story is posted at LarryLaForge100Words on Flash Fiction Magazine:
http://flashfictionmagazine.com/larrylaforge100words/2014/06/23/the-speech/.)

###

Quiet Pride by Paula Moyer

Jean could hardly believe it. Her B.A. had almost finished itself in four years. No muss, no fuss – a change of major and a divorce notwithstanding. Commencement and a diploma capped it off.

Her M.A., though – 15 years, four changes of programs, and life in between – including remarriage and two children. For reasons that would puzzle her later, she did not plan to attend this degree’s ceremony.

After all the effort – exams, classes, graduation reading, “starred” papers. The last paper – finally turned in.

With her one-year-old snoozing in the backpack, Jean strolled through the art exhibit. Graduation day, indeed.

###

Teetering On the Rocks by Sarah Brentyn

He heard the clinking. It was a sound he knew well. His stomach tightened, heart raced. Consciously taking a deep breath, another, he walked into the kitchen where his wife was mixing a martini.

She held it out to him and winked. “It’s strong.” He cringed. “I can make a rum and coke. Or a gin and tonic,” she offered.

“That’s okay.” Shaking, he reached for the glass. The mouth-watering alcohol smell reached his nose. He flashed back to the bar two weeks ago. The family barbeque in June. Last night.

Walking to the sink, he dumped the glass.

###

Strong Mind by Kalpana Solsi

She picked up the book and read, ’there’s more power in the mind than in the body’.

She began her hand exercises proceeding to the leg exercises and finally concluding with the breathing exercises taught by her yoga teacher.

Maryann touched the metal body and a chill went down her spine.

Nurse Peggy entered the room and gasped.

MaryAnn was six feet away from her bed and on her feet standing upright albeit the aid of the walker.

MaryAnn had ‘travelled’ this distance after a month’s stay in the hospital after the accident.

###

New challenge posted every Wednesday on Carrot Ranch Communications.  All writers welcome!

Writing a Novel Scene by Scene

Tips for WritersWhat I’m going to say will either sound like writing blaspheme, or will set you free.

Also, I’m going to give you a disclaimer: the process I’m sharing works for me. I don’t expect it to work for everyone. Some of you may be kindred spirits; some of you exact opposites. Wherever you stand, take a stand for your own writing. Try a different way or analyze it; you can improvise, accept or discard.

Stop outlining.

Okay, I said it.  Stop outlining your novel before you write it. And yes, I know that there are outliners and pantsers, but I have always been an outliner. What I’ve found is that you need both skills, but at different times in the process. When I was 13, I outlined my first novel. I’m not going to tell you how many novel journals I’ve outlined since, including two independent projects in college.

However, it was also in college that a professor taught me to write in scenes. I’ve never looked at movies the same way because movies are constructed that way. It’s easier to see the construction in a movie than in a novel, so I’ve studied movie scenes ever since. It’s also how I began to recognize the hero’s journey.

But I didn’t know how to bring it together–outlining, scenes and journey–until  I took Mary Carroll Moore’s workshop on book development. That is where I learned to map the hero’s journey to a storyboard. It also provided me with a big “a-ha” moment regarding scenes.

When I took Moore’s class, I was proud of the fact that I had 99 pages including my outline. She was unimpressed. She explained that in order to work the storyboard, you needed material to break down into scenes. So, she had me break down all my pages into scenes.

You see, we tend to write linear and put all the back-story in the front of the book, as if needing to explain what is happening. Outlining is also linear and these processes tend to shut down the creative possibilities.

My professor who taught me to write in scenes also told me to let my characters talk. Whenever I let a character have dialog, I feel like I’m channeling somebody else. I’m not crazy, it’s just that dialog allows me to tap into that creativity stifled by my years of rigid outlining.

And the characters always take the story in a different direction than I intended.

I was beginning to understand what it means when writers advise other writers to “just write.” So stop outlining and write. You might be surprised at what happens. I actually finished two novels in less than one year. Granted, one novel took me four years to get to 99 pages. The next novel, I cranked out 400 pages in less than 30 days with no outline.

I’m going to give you three scenarios for writing a novel scene by scene using the storyboard. The first is based on my introduction to the storyboard. The second reflects how I tossed outlining to the wind. The third is a compromise if not outlining unsettles you. You can improvise, use your own colors and change up the process.

Scenario #1: Incomplete Manuscript with Outline

  1. Buy a stack of yellow sticky notes, a black pen and a red pen.
  2. Break down your manuscript into scenes. A chapter is made up of many scenes, so make sure you are breaking down into small chunks.
  3. Use a pen to line across the page to indicate a scene-break.
  4. Summarize each scene concisely (such as, “Mindy robs the candy store,” or “Detective Bard books Mindy downtown”).
  5. Write each scene that you have written in black on a yellow sticky note.
  6. Refer to your outline and write down each scene that you don’t have in red (next week, we’ll talk more about finding gaps).
  7. Pick out your most crucial five scenes. These are your anchors that express the hero’s journey. In “Miracle of Ducks” I opened with my character’s husband leaving for Iraq which sets her up–reluctantly–for the hero’s journey.
  8. Map out your novel according to the “W” and write the “red” scenes that you don’t have yet.

11-New System for Tagging Scenes

Scenario #2: Use NaNoWriMo to Write Your Novel

  1. Sign up for National Novel Writing Month at nanowrimo.org.
  2. Commit to 1,667 words a day for 30 days in November.
  3. Write. Just write. You will be so surprised! I wrote an entire novel, scene by scene by just writing each day in November and I had no idea what I was going to write beyond my opening scene.
  4. If that makes you freeze, but you want to break the “outline the whole book first” habit, just start with a single scene the first day. Place the scene on your “W” and think of a couple more possibilities without outlining every chapter. Give yourself the creative freedom to jump around.
  5. Write scenes as if they were islands. During revision (in a few Mondays from now) we’ll explore using the storyboard to revise. Set yourself free from your inner critic and write. Don’t worry about gaps. That comes later.

15-Writing Scenes for NaNoWriMo

Scenario #3: Use the Storyboard to Map the Five Anchors of a Hero’s Journey

  1. If you can’t breath unless you have some sort of outline, try outlining just the five anchors of the hero’s journey: the call, the test, the cave, the transformation, the return.
  2. Write a scene for each of those.
  3. Next, write the scenes that connect each anchor to the other.

12-First Leg of the W

Be a writer and write. Give yourself material before you start committing to structure. Structure is the first step of editing, and editing is not writing. Allow yourself to make big mistakes; to not know if your scene is plausible or accurate. That’s research and research is also a part of editing, not writing. Allow yourself to make little mistakes. If you are constantly scanning and going back and correcting punctuation or spelling, you are editing, not writing.

The importance of thinking in scenes is that you are creating a movie of sorts in the reader’s head. You will later link scenes to tell the story in such a way that is engaging. Don’t tell everything. Decide what to withhold, how to pace, when to reveal your character’s motives–but that all comes with revision. Write like the wind; revise slow and bright like a long summer day.

Use your board to track or map your progress as you write scene by scene, and next week we’ll discuss how to use it to find gaps.

How would you use the “W” storyboard to write a novel?

 

Smoking and Writing

Recipes From the RanchSmoking cigarettes or pipes are no longer vogue for writers. And, there was a time in history when writers didn’t smoke: take Homer for instance, who lived pre-tabacco. Of course, he was probably cranking pages with chisel and rock and couldn’t hold a pipe properly.

But there was also a time when writers smoked as prolifically as they typed. Some informal thoughts link smoking to creativity; others to boredom in between re-writes; and others claim it calms ADHD. You’ll find nothing formal here, just an observation from me and one by Mark Twain. Mr. Twain, first:

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

For a short spell during summer, the year I hung out with my cousin T., we roped, rode horses and chewed tobacco. We even rode our horses to the country gas station and bought  a can of Skoal despite being only 12 and 10-years-old. My first romantic kiss was with a cowboy who tipped back his hat and shared his lip full of chaw with me.

I never mastered spitting and I never did see that cowboy again. Probably a good thing. And no one ever offered me a cigarette. So I never smoked. I never had to learn what it was to quit a thousand times.

Yet, there are smokers in my life whom I love. I refuse to lecture or give them gruesome tales of their future demise. I grew up in a shame-based family and I’m not about to dose it on others. They go to movies–they see the advertisements and the curl on the lip of the passerby when they light up in their designated areas.

What I learned from the smokers in my life is that smokers readily share stories and camaraderie. I once traveled cross-country from Minnesoto to NYC and back by train with a smoker. Our conductor smoked too, so she promised to knock on our room when we were stopping long enough to light up. I went too, despite hands in pockets. I just listened.

So one day, I decided to smoke, too. I went to designated smoking areas and lit up. It’s nice to smoke–you get a break, time to chill and unwind. Non-smokers never get that, always uptight and working on the clock. Smoking lets you light something on fire and watch slowly as it chars. It’s like meditation.

Of course, I don’t smoke cigarettes. I’ve got too much of a sweet tooth for tobac so bitter. I smoke marshmallows. Seriously, I do. I’ve always favored S’Mores, so when I took up the habit Jiffy Puff became my brand of choice.

Smoking & DrinkingIn the first months of quitting my career to write along the south shore of Lake Superior, I posted this photo which I entitled, ‘Smoking and Drinking.” The drink of choice at the time was San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water.

It’s true that such vices are gateways. I now drink Presecco when I can afford it, but I’ve been known to drink Brut champagne when I can’t. I’m hooked on the bubbles. For a while I was smoking the huge marshmallows, but I cut back to the originals.

Now truly I set out to post something worthwhile tonight. But after having a rough day I sat out on the porch to smoke and it reminded me that Australians have been deprived of S’Mores.

Therefore, in enlightenment of my friends down under, this Recipe From the Ranch involves smoking marshmallows. Of course, you don’t have to go full out flames and charcoal. You can daintily toast your marshmallow inches from the flame and let it slowly brown.

That’s what the Hub does, but then again, the Hub gets his smoke fix from a cherrywood pipe.

You can also microwave a marshmallow for 10 to 15 seconds, but that just seems weird. Kind of like, lighting up a Marlborough in the nuker.

The following recipe is courtesy of Hershey’s. Stateside they must sell a ton of bars during the camping season. No child in America goes camping or out to the backyard fire pit without the plea for “some more” marshmallows and chocolate.

Hershey’s S’Mores in Three Acts

1. Top two graham cracker squares each with one chocolate bar half.

SMores (2)

2. Light up two marshmallows on a long metal skewer until the flame dies out and marshmallows are crusty black. Or toast alongside the fire until barely brown.

SMores (3)

3. Carefully slide one marshmallow onto each chocolate-top graham cracker square and top with a second cracker.

SMores (4)

Enjoy your weekend! And remember this clever warning from Brooke Shields:

“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.”

 

June 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionMists and guests swirl around schedules and deadlines, creating a cowboy two-step kind of dance at the ranch. A Congress has been declared, and new plans unfold. Thus work at the ranch continues.

Beginning July 10, Carrot Ranch will raise a barn–in the form of a new page on this site–dedicated to the recently declared Congress of Carrot Ranch Rough Writers. From an idea born in the wild west–to wrangle weekly flash fiction from 99 words each week–a global lot has galloped in with saddlebags full of writing vim and vinegar.

Think of the upcoming page as a dandified “blogs I follow” with special attention given to the unique contributions of each Rough Writer to Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction. Each writer will be introduced in sequential Thursday posts with insights to their writing process, influences and goals.

Why do this? Well, I had hoped to create a “literary community” out of practicing flash fiction. Writing is like riding a horse–we ride/write alone. We imprint our ideas, imaginings, perspectives and sense of identity upon the page and our readers reflect back their own. Yet, often we don’t get to experience full literature (reading, writing, discoursing) because we are alone in what we do.

Therefore, a literary community writes, reads and has discussions. It’s a group dynamic. Writers can trot through once in a full moon or saddle up weekly. It’s not the frequency; it’s the contribution. The Rough Writers have each exhibited the talent to write; the courtesy to read; and the intelligence to reflect, comment and discuss. This is how literature connects us.

Flash fiction–as a weekly practice–does make one a better writer. I remember saddling up my horse in spring after a winter of not riding. I felt floppy in the saddle and sore after the first few rides. By the end of summer, my legs were strong, my reflexes quick and my sense of joy in riding was maximized.

Practicing the craft of fiction regularly results in a stronger, quicker and joyful writer.

So, onto the prompt. Last week we explored exhaustion, everything from birth to dying (and beyond); from the practical to the fantastical, which included the return of a few favorite unicorns. This week, we are going to look at the result of hard work. It’s the Rocky Balboa story of getting stronger:

June 18, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about getting stronger. What hard work or practice has paid off? Has the character, setting or story changed as a result? As you continue to write, may your writing get stronger. May your words fly! Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, June 24 to be included in the compilation.

Ready to Ride by Charli Mills

Hickok stood holding the reins of an unsaddled roan. He watched what looked like a barn-fly bobbing on the prairie horizon until it waxed into a frothing mount and rider. Hickok flexed his gloveless hands. If the Pony ever paid him he’d buy a beaded pair with fringed gauntlets. His roan nickered at the approaching relay, anticipating the mail saddle that would soon pass to his back. Every morning when Sarah gathered eggs by the corral, Hickok galloped the roan through several maneuvers. Today he’d get the chance to show her he was more than a pretty stock tender.

###

Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

 

Darling, I’m Exhausted!

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionWaves of weariness break us down like a beach, robbing us of of our mental, physical, spiritual and emotional sand.

The following selection of flash fiction rises up to the challenge of showing exhaustion.

Writers crafted everything from the first push of birth to the final days in front of the telly; from job dissatisfaction to grieving a recent passing. Even unicorns get exhausted.

June 11, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about exhaustion. Who is tired and why.

Why They Call It Labor by Paula Moyer

Push. Again. Oh, not done yet?

Jean had pushed for two hours. No baby’s head emerging yet. Her body was coated in a patina of sweat.

Lynn, the nurse-midwife, had suggested pushing on the toilet, and it seemed like a good idea. But nothing.

“Let’s go back to the bed and think this through,” Lynn said.

The bed. Eight feet and a universe away from the bathroom. Baby’s head somewhere in her pelvis.

“I’ll need help,” Jean whispered. Her husband, Lynn, and came together.

She walked. The head pressed.

“Oh, God! This hurts!”

He was born forty-five minutes later.

###

Muddy Ride by Kalpana Solsi

She bent down and with her left hand supporting her hip, winced, continued scrubbing each depression of the tyre with the brush to dislodge the caked mud. She poured water over the scrubbed tyres and continued with cleaning the steel body. Her T-shirt and track pant having been soaked in sweat, she wiped the beads of perspiration to her sleeves, climbed the steps to enter her cottage.

She passed by his room, tiptoed and looked admiringly at sleeping David, smiled and kissed the gleaming trophy at his bedside. He was now a big boy and hated to be kissed.

###

Exhaustion by Irene A. Waters

The barrow slows as though it too is overcome with tiredness. Jack battles the urge to sleep. He has to keep awake. He has to be ready for any chance to escape his captor but the soothing rocking motion of the barrow lulls him gently until his eyelids droop and the flicker of his struggle is no more.

“You said twenty-four hours.You promised.” Spent, she sat.
The police officer glanced at his calendar and sighed. Only four days until retirement and so much still to do. Probable runaway. Most of them were. Why now ? Resignedly he gathered the required forms.

###

What a Day! by Ruchira Khanna

Paula is scrubbing the floor as she adjusts her hair behind her ear with the backside of her hand. She picks up the leftover plates, cups from the corners of the room and neatly tucks the decorations away.

Finally, she plops hard on the couch, and admires her room as she crosses her legs and taps them hard.

“Aha! The house is spick and span” she says in a soft tone.

Gets up to change, takes a detour to her kid’s room, which has toys lying on the floor. As she adjusts his blanket she whispers, “Happy Birthday, Leo”

###

The To-Do List by Amber Prince

I stared down at my to-do list, a lock of hair falling across my sweaty forehead. Only half of my list was completed and my muscles already screamed for me to wave the white flag in defeat. But I must go on, there were only 18 hours left until guests arrived.

If I ate dinner while vacuuming and cleaned the bathroom while I showered and dressed in the morning then that might save time. And energy.

Whose great idea was it to throw this party anyway? Oh right, mine.

I stretched my arms and snapped on my rubber gloves.

###

No Rest for the Wicked by Charli Mills

Sarah rubbed the small of her back with her knuckled fists. Slowly she hung her neck forward, then side to side. Glaring at the cauldron of dirty water, suds and shirts, she lifted the paddle to stir again.

“Need a back rub?” Bill Hickok swung a long leg up over the top railing of the horse pen and perched like a blonde crow. Even his buckskin pants and fringed shirt shimmered golden.

“No. Just taking a breather.”

“I hear Mary McCandless is working the spunk out of you. Come on, Sarah, take a break. Even idle hands get rest.”

###

Vampire on the Job by Sarah Brentyn

Cynthia stepped out the door with a smile. She skipped to her car. For once, she wasn’t dreading work.

Slipping on strappy pink sandals, she threw her sneakers on the seat and walked into the office.

“Good morning,” she beamed. “What a beau…”

Then she saw Amber.

Cynthia deflated. “I thought you were out today.”

“Nope!” Amber attacked Cynthia with anecdotes and questions. Another date, another mess. Paperwork problems. Computer issues. A date for tonight. How to work the coffee machine.

Cynthia dragged herself through the door. She plopped down with a pint of ice cream and a beer.

###

Sleep Deprived Flash Fiction by Susan Zutautas

As Joe was driving home in the wee hours of the morning, totally exhausted from working the past three weeks straight without a day of rest, he could not believe what he saw on the side of the road.

Was he hallucinating or was his mind playing tricks? He’d not had much sleep for the past week, and rubbing his eyes to try to get a clearer view wasn’t helping. Slowing his truck down, veering onto the shoulder to get a better look Joe could not believe it. Quickly he grabbed his rifle bringing his truck to a stop.

###

William of Charleston by Larry LaForge

William has had it. His dream job has gone sour. Getting through each day is pure drudgery.

He’s always taken pride in pulling his load at work, but now there’s no joy.

The historical port city has lost its charm. Quaint cobblestone streets, once a thing of beauty to him, are now just another occupational hazard.

Tour guides are more annoying than ever. William cringes when they misinform, but is not in a position to correct their embellished stories.

William fears he’s trapped in this dead end job. You see, he has no formal education.

Few carriage horses do.

(A 100-word version of this story is posted at Flash Fiction Magazine’s site for LarryLaForge100words.)

###

A Unicorn at School by Norah Colvin

‘Miss. Marnie has a toy in her bag.’

‘Uh-uh,’ I responded.

‘You’re not allowed to have toys at school,’ he insisted.

‘Uh-uh.’

Trust him! Always dobbing.

‘Miss,’ he persisted, tugging my sleeve.

‘What is it?’ I sighed, dragging myself out of the confusion of marks and percentages that now seemed more important to telling a child’s story than their own words and actions.

I looked at the little fellow pleading for my attention. They were all so needy; so demanding; but time . . .

‘It’s a unicorn, Miss.’

‘Unicorn! Let’s see!’ I was back. A child in need!

###

Trials of a Unicorn, Part 2 by Anne Goodwin

He was hungry, thirsty and the pain spiked in his knees with every footfall, but he dared not stop. Nor would he look back to the place he’d thought was home. He pressed forward through the alien landscape: the grey rocks shaped like goblins; the pale vegetation that knifed his lips when he bent to eat.

When he saw the shimmering water, he thought his brain was playing tricks with him. But he couldn’t deny the graceful creatures lowering their heads to drink. Would they make space for him among them? Would they shun him and his single horn?

###

The Tears of Gods by Geoff Le Pard

Mary rubbed her back. Packing her father’s belongings took forever.

‘Are you tired, Mum?’

Mary forced a smile. ‘Exhausted.’

‘Dad said you need rest.’

‘Maybe a walk. Later. When the rain stops.’

‘Does it rain in heaven, Mum?’

‘I don’t know.’ Was there heaven? She hoped so.

‘Will Grandpa Peter get wet?’

‘He wouldn’t mind.’

‘Why?’

‘He’d use it to get out of chores and go fishing.’ She glanced up at the hunkering clouds. ‘Eh, Dad?’

Peter looked down and nodded. Too right. ‘Milton. There.’

The dog-cum-unicorn leapt in the water, horn to the fore, and speared the salmon.

###

Time Enough by Lisa Reiter

Looking into the slightly desperate amber eyes, she did her best to swallow some porridge.

“Is it ok, Grandma?”

“It’s delicious, love. I’ve just had enough.”

“Can I get you anything? Are you comfortable?”

“I’m fine” She sighed, “Just pop the telly on before you leave.”

“I thought I might stay with you today.”

“Oh, Alice, there’s really no need. I shan’t get up to much!”

“I know, I just feel.. I’m worried about you. Should I call Dr.Graham?”

“No! Whatever for? There’s nothing wrong.”

At 96, she was just tired, tired of living and she’d had enough.

###

New challenge posted every Wednesday on Carrot Ranch Communications.  All writers welcome!

June 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionToday’s challenge was yesterday’s rain.

What I mean, is that the skies clouded over as if the Pacific Ocean showed up for an unexpected visit and poured on my plans. Yesterday me and the Hub were going fishing, 4-wheeling and picnicking.

Before the rain hit, Hub announces that the Blue Goose (our truck) is dead-dead. Not dead as in we need to jump the battery, but dead as in the battery no longer takes a charge.

That announcement came as I was pulling fried chicken out of the oven to cool for our to-go food. No truck means no 4-wheeling; no 4-wheeling means no driving anywhere but paved roads and who picnics on paved roads?

You see, 20 days out of the month I’m alone on this little ranch with nothing but dogs and ducks for company. I had the expectation of an “outing” and I planned it for Tuesday, in between writing goals. Determined to get out, we drove into the crashing waves of a Pacific Northwest thunderstorm. We escaped the downpour just 30 miles south of British Columbia, finding refuge in an antique store.

It was there that the owner made me realize that versatility is a virtue. You have to look for the gift in being adaptable. If not for the dead-dead truck, the rain and my determination that I was going to get off the ranch, I wouldn’t have met Sue today. It took meeting the antique shop owner to meet Sue who knows about Elmira.

Elmira is the town where I live despite my address posting as Sandpoint (16 miles south). Every spring I dig up clues in my horse pasture that the property we rent has a past. But no one knows about Elmira. So learning about Sue and that she works for the Boundary County Museum was a gift.

Of course, it meant leaving the ranch again today, but we left early, ate huckleberry flapjacks at the Elmira Store (the only remaining business here) and caught up with Sue at the museum in Bonners Ferry. At first she claimed not to know much, saying “Nobody knows about Elmira.”

Sometimes I think people mistake stories for being dramatic or exciting or important. They think they don’t have a story, or a place doesn’t have a story. But I’m a story-digger. Maybe versatility, the ability to turn from one thing to another, is why my mind can follow the bread crumbs forgotten stories leave behind. With Sue’s help, I’m onto a big Elmira story that is just now unfolding from all the clues I’ve collected in the dirt and at the museum.

I can’t wait to write that story, but wait I must. It’s time to turn to my Wednesday post and set aside Elmira musings and rain-fouled plans. I started to write another post before dinner, but decided that it didn’t fit. Part of being versatile is being flexible. I’m stretching it here tonight because I’m trying to accomplish a dual-purpose post.

Evidently my writing versatility has been detected within the greater blogosphere. In fact, a couple of other writers who’ve visited Carrot Ranch find it deserving of a VBA–Versatile Blogger Award.

versatileblogger111So what is a versatile writer? In the words of the organizer, “consider the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page.” Love could be defined in several ways, I’m thinking–positivity of posts, words that build up others, passionate subject matter. Of course, if you want a hug from me, I’ll give you a {hug}.

My loving thanks goes to both nominators of the Carrot Ranch VBA–Norah Colvin and Teagan Kearney. Both writers are versatile, as well. They openly share what they are learning: Norah focuses on education; Teagan on writing fiction. You will find quality writing, unique subjects and love-on-the-page at their respective blogs, Norah Colvin and Writing My Novel. Thank you, both, for the nomination!

Rules. Even versatile writers have rules: don’t spit into the wind, keep your coffee away from your laptop, and always kiss your Hub/Wifey/Kid/dog/cat/horse goodnight. VBA has rules, too:

  1. Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  2. Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  3. Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  4. Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  5. Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Number 1: check. Number 2: check. Number 3: check, except I’m going to shake things up. Number 4: check, see warning at Number 3. Number 5:

  1. I live in Elmira, Idaho with my Hub of 26 years and our two German Short-haired Pointers.
  2. I love stories–hearing them and telling them. I’m a story-digger. But I’ve never done story-slam.
  3. When I was 12, the local newspaper published a three-part cliffhanger that I wrote. All 96 residents of my hometown read it.
  4. I started college when my eldest of three children started kindergarten. I finished before she started college.
  5. I sat in a saddle before I could walk and I walked at nine months. My first pony was Barney.
  6. My ancestors were Jacobite Scots, Irish, Welsh, Danish, Basque, German and Portuguese.
  7. I like to fly fish because it guarantees that I will never actually hook a trout.

So, I’m going to pay this award forward a bit differently. After all, I’m versatile and I know the 15 recipients I have in mind are versatile, too. Many on my list have either received previous recognition, declined it or have have no blog. The latter is a bit of a stretch, but I’ll make it work.

And here’s why: Every Wednesday since March 5, 2014 Carrot Ranch has hosted a flash fiction challenge. Honestly, I had no idea if anyone would actually participate. But not just anyone has participated.Willing, creative, thoughtful, intelligent, funny, encouraging, kind, quality and committed writers emerged from all English-speaking corners of the world. The flash fiction they craft is insightful, their comments stimulating and their writing is top-notch.

My 15 recipients add to my own versatility in such positive ways that I want to recognize and thank each one. They make me think, laugh and push deeper into the writing process. My ranch is richer for their work. Yet they are more than flash-writing ranch hands. They are rough writers. Buffalo Bill Cody called the best horse-riders of the west his “Congress of Rough Riders.” I’m calling Carrot Ranch’s best writers in the world, Congress of Carrot Ranch Rough Writers.

Each week I will spotlight one Rough Writer and her or his blog. In preparation, I’m asking each to email me at wordsforpeople@gmail.com answers to the following questions:

  1. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
  2. When did you start your blog? (If you don’t have one, why not?)
  3. What are your blogging goals?
  4. Do you have a writing mentor and if so, how does that person guide you?
  5. What writer do you admire most and why?
  6. What is your primary writing goal and what are you doing to achieve it?
  7. Has writing flash fiction benefited you in any way?

If a Rough Writer has already received a VBA, he or she may add a numerical count (such as 2x) to the award blog button. You’ve already paid it forward, so no need to repeat the recipient rule. If this is your first VBA and you accept the button, do your best to pay it forward when you can. Even if you wish to be an award-free blog (or you don’t have a blog), I’d still like to recognize you as a Rough Writer. Please email me your answers unless you are too terribly shy to be spot-lighted (then let’s talk)!

Honoring the Congress of Carrot Ranch Rough Writers 

Georgia Bell

Sarah Brentyn

Susan Budig

Norah Colvin

Anne Goodwin

Ruchira Khanna

Geoff La Pard

Larry Laforge

Allison Mills

Paula Moyer

Ellen Mulholland

Pete

Amber Prince

Lisa Reiter

Irene A Waters

Because I believe that Rough Writers will find their way to Carrot Ranch, looking for that prompt, I’m going to leave notification to this post. And if you are looking for that prompt…I know, I was off being versatile after being thwarted by the rain…I’m late. But technically, in my hemisphere and time zone, it’s still Wednesday!

If you are new to the prompt, know that this post is not typical, but do know that the Rough Writers listed are worth getting to know. If you’ve dabbled your toes once or twice before at Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction, please jump in! The more you practice flash, the more you’ll notice a shift in your writing and creativity. All writers are welcome.

Exhaustion. It can be mental fatigue, emotional, physical, even spiritual. I’m feeling pooped after my two-day adventure and late-night writing. Even good things can wear a person out. So that’s where we are headed this week.

June 11, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about exhaustion. Who is tired and why. Explore the different types of weariness from the subtle to the overt. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, June 17 to be included in the compilation.

No Rest for the Wicked by Charli Mills

Sarah rubbed the small of her back with her knuckled fists. Slowly she hung her neck forward, then side to side. Glaring at the cauldron of dirty water, suds and shirts, she lifted the paddle to stir again.

“Need a back rub?” Bill Hickok swung a long leg up over the top railing of the horse pen and perched like a blonde crow. Even his buckskin pants and fringed shirt shimmered golden.

“No. Just taking a breather.”

“I hear Mary McCandless is working the spunk out of you. Come on, Sarah, take a break. Even idle hands get rest.”

###

Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.