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Visions of Words

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionAs writers settled in for their sleep, visions of words danced in their heads. This is what could be, what is and what was, the words scrawled in time said. Without vision the people perish; yet some have perished to become a vision. Writers explored visions best remembered, the visions of characters and visions for the future.

All the stories collected here are based on the December 24, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vision. May these visions entertain and inspire you as we all step into the New Year and its blank page ready for your story to unfold!

Retreat on Elmira Pond by Charli Mills

An osprey dropped to the pond and retrieved a trout. Blue heron gronked on his log. A group of writers watched from a deck overlooking the pond. They were journaling morning pages, delving deeper into their writer’s truth, observing and capturing what it revealed. A few nibbled on fresh peaches from a nearby orchard. A rooster crowed and someone pointed to the goats on the sod-roof of the B&B. They gathered under the apple tree for a discussion of yesterday’s writing with the author and retreat host who was smiling in her gauchos, turquoise boots and broad buckaroo hat.

###

The Monastery of St Gall, in Glastonbury? by Tally Pendragon

The towers either side of the church rose high in Vanda’s path, blossom on half-grown trees planted last year already beginning to fall from young green boughs in pretty pink clouds. As she did her rounds of the buildings, from the infirmary to the many and various experimental archaeology workshops, via brewery, winery and cheese shop, hospitality and education suites, livestock barns, funny little round hen houses, kitchens and refectory, she smiled. They’d really done it, rebuilt the monastery that should never have been built – with a little help from an excellent plan. Whatever would they do next?

###

What Direction? by Irene Waters

“Economics, economics. That’s all we ever talk about in this country. Well let me tell you. It’s not working.”

“We inherited a bad state of affairs.”

“More economics.”

“If we could get the budget to show a surplus the people would be happy.”

“You reckon. I don’t. We’re sliding in the polls and you know why? It ain’t economics. It’s human rights, women’s rights, how we treat the lower paid and our youth’s education. It’s everything other than economics. What we need is a debate to see what direction this country wants to go. What we need is vision.”

###

The Vigilante by Pete

Will held a silver pistol in his hand, weighing his Christmas bonus against the $450 price tag. Watching the riots on the news, he and his friends said the same thing: it was only going to get worse. He had to be vigilant.

Will’s next stop was the police station. They were all in agreement. He put down his $450.

The first annual Pineridge Police Basketball tournament took place downtown. Will sat unnoticed in the crammed bleachers, feeling the warmth of body and spirit as he watched officers instruct the young basketball players.

It was a bonus well spent.

###

The Winning Shot? by Roger Shipp

This was no different than every other time.

“Develop a routine. It will help you in the rough spots.” I could hear Coach in my mind.

I had a routine. Three dribbles. A firm two-handed grasp. Lift my arms. Align the elbow. Stroke and release.

Behind the backboard it was bedlam. Stomping, Screaming. Even three metallic whirly-jigs.

I had seen them the last time I was here.

I knew the score. Overtime was inevitable- unless I made this shot.

“Just visualize. Visualize.”

So I shut my eyes. Three dribbles. Grasp. Align. Push. Stroke.

Suddenly, there was incredible silence.

###

The Power of “No” by Norah Colvin

It was grey.

For as long as anyone could remember.

They moved about, comfortable in the familiar, avoiding the unknown.

Shadowy shapes beyond incited fear: a threat to all they knew?

Lives lacked definition, blending to sameness, conforming to rules.

“But why?” The tiny voice shattered the stillness.

All eyes turned. Bodies stiffened.

Whose was this unruly child?

“Shhh!” the hapless parents failed to hide their offensive produce.

“Why?”

Again! No one moved.

“Because!” was the parents’ definitive reply.

They breathed. “Because!” they confirmed in unison.

Defiantly the child pressed the dust-covered switch and flooded the world with light.

###

Sarah’s Vision by Charli Mills

Christmas Eve and Sarah watched fat snowflakes fall and wood-smoke billow from the stone chimney. It was cold in the solitude of the barn, but she had to escape the oppressive bustle of Mary’s kitchen and excited children. She found a black cat hunkered down in the loose hay. Black with white chest and boots. Mr. Boots, her escort to the Christmas ball. The horses nickered and transformed into gay and welcoming guests who asked after her health and happiness. Best of all, Mr. Boots was a bachelor with no wife or children. Sarah smiled and accepted the vision.

###

New Year’s Resolutions by Sarah Unsicker

Cecilia wiped her hands on her apron and answered the phone.

“Hi, how are things?” Cecilia asked.

“They’re falling apart here. I’m supposed to babysit for Chelsea and my house is already a mess. And she’s a messy kid. I have to get this house cleaned once and for all. That is gonna be my New Year’s Resolution.”

“Do you need help?” Cecilia and Gloria were polar opposites with organization.

Gloria sighed. “Would you mind?”

“Be there in fifteen minutes.” The cookie dough would keep in the fridge.

“By the way, what’s your New Year’s Resolution?”

“To lose weight.”

###

The Job Interview by Larry LaForge

“Young man, where do you envision yourself in ten years?”

The brash new college graduate saw his opportunity to impress. “Sir, I expect to be in your job within ten years.”

After a cold stare, the interviewer smiled. “That would impress me were it not for the utter lack of substance in your record.” He pointed out the mediocre grades and absence of evidence indicating initiative, creativity, leadership or work ethic. “Perhaps someday you might learn the difference between true vision and false bravado.”

The interviewer stood, pointing toward the door. “Good day young man.”

“Good day Mr. Trump.”

*****
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

Vision Across a Crowded Room by Pat Cummings

Crowded room, tangled with people and conversations; she sees him at the far side, gesturing with a sandwich as he talks.

Him! Love of her life, man at her side through all the long years. The one who matters most to her, who answered all her youthful dreams. He who loves her despite graying hair and increasing waist, with all her faults.

She smiles and turns back to the party tray, builds her own sandwich. The host taps her shoulder. “Gwen, I don’t believe you’ve met Robert…”

She turns. It is Him. “I am so pleased to meet you!”

###

Visions by Sarah Brentyn

He stood breathless in his tux staring at her figure moving toward him—her white gown almost glowing.

She was a vision.

He knew that as he scanned the slick road. Chunks of metal and shattered taillights littering the pavement. He knew but he tried talking to her anyway, asking if she could hear him. She nodded and started crying. “I’m sorry,” he choked, “I’m sorry, love. It’s my fault.”

She spoke but no sound reached him. “You,” she mouthed. “You are the vision.” She pointed to a body on the ground. It was a man in a tux.

###

The Rockery by Geoff Le Pard

Paul approached Mary, standing by the rockery. He said, ‘All clear. We can sell your dad’s house at last.’

Something in her stance made him hesitate. He noticed the strewn rocks. ‘What happened?’

‘I thought I’d have one last look at the garden.’ She stifled a sob.

Paul squeezed her shoulder.

‘… I saw him. Just there.’ She pointed at the earth.

‘Your Dad?’

‘I know it wasn’t really him. But then I saw these rocks had fallen. I went to put them back and…’

Paul looked where she pointed. Small bones poked out of the ground. ‘Bloody hell.’

###

Arctic Vision by Anne Goodwin

It was days since he’d felt his feet and the midnight glare had left him all but blinded, but still he trudged on. His stomach gurgled incessantly yet meat, when they could catch any, only made them retch. When the cabin boy took his final step they hadn’t the strength to pierce the ice for a Christian burial, but at least he hadn’t ended up on their plates, like the dogs.

On the far horizon sat a ship in full sail. Was it a vision of salvation or a cruel conspiracy of sun and ice, the prelude to death?

###

What’s in your imagination?

Vision 2015

New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome.

In Search of Synopsis Advice

MOD Mock Up Cover

MOD Mock Up Cover

Calling all writers who have crafted query letters, book blurbs and synopses.

As I prepare to ship off my first manuscript, I’m trying my hand at distilling what the novel is about. I’ve read numerous posts that have been useful, own more craft-books on writing than the local library and I’ve even read a few.

I’m asking for feedback on my first attempt at a synopsis, and requesting any tips you’ve learned through experience. Thank you in advanced for any and all advice!

Synopsis for Miracle of Ducks by Charli Mills (152 words):

Archeologist Dr. Danni Gordon hides in her research to avoid the tourist bustle of Bayfield, Wisconsin. 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 swills coffee at the local cafe.

Although past his Ranger prime, Ike answers a personal call of duty and leaves for Iraq. Danni suddenly becomes a soldier’s wife in charge of Ike’s exuberant hunting dogs, which leads to trouble with neighbors and the law. Chaos also brings new friends, including an unlikely pup. He socializes Danni and becomes a celebrity to local schoolchildren as Bubbie the Archaeology Dog.

Just when Danni begins to connect with her community and anticipate Ike’s homecoming, she receives devastating news from Iraq. In a hopeless situation, Danni is about to experience the biggest miracle of her life.

 

###

Peace on Earth

The bells are ringing in my heart. Can you hear them? No matter your faith, my faith is in my Lord and Savior, and from my heart to yours I wish you peace. I wish you love. Hear the bells this Christmas Day.

Then rang the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men!

http://youtu.be/M7670CXvPX0

December 24: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionThe snow delivery arrived. Not that I ordered it, but it seems appropriate to have a white Christmas. Today is Christmas Eve and I’m lazing by the roaring fire in the wood stove, having brought in enough wood to forgo that chore a few days. I’m waiting for the clock to tick past noon so I can justify making a simmering pot of mulled wine.

This time of year is good for reflection.

Last week I wrote about perfectionism and how, for me,  it ties to a sense of failure. As I reflect on my goals this year, I can list one failure after another. I failed to get novel number one published. I failed to do anything with novel number two and I failed to complete novel draft number three. I failed to earn the minimum income I agreed to make if I were to stay at home and write full-time. I even failed to plant a garden.

But I also wrote of generosity last week. And it starts at home with this writer. I don’t mean the kind of mollifying generosity, like “it’s okay to fail” I mean the empowering kind. The kind of generosity that gives space to ask (and answer) the question, “what did you learn from these experiences?”

What I learned is far more valuable than any failure to reach goals. After all, goals are merely tools of measurement and orientation. They get us focused and pointed to our north star, but they are not the destination nor the journey.

Lessons learned:

  1. I can’t write a novel a year. Not yet. Maybe, not ever.
  2. Multiple projects take more time, not less.
  3. Historical novels take lots of research. Lots of research. Lots.
  4. Writers can make money. Maybe it wasn’t enough, but 100% was from writing.
  5. Gardens need a sabbath year.

Reflection sparks resolution. No longer am I moping over perceived failures, now I’m getting ideas for what to do next. It’s like walking a long road and arriving short of my destination. I can keep going, knowing I’m closer or I can try this side road I wouldn’t have known existed if I hadn’t come this far. Choices. And ones that empower my journey.

Like the modern GPS, I’m recalculating:

  1. Novel number one is so close. I have several choices: press on with recommended changes; shoot the moon and send out to agents and publishers; consider independent publishing; ask for more feedback. There is no wrong choice.
  2. Novel number two can live in the desk drawer. Now I understand why other writers have manuscripts lingering in drawers. Now I feel like a real writer, Mastro Geppetto. It’s not abandonment; it’s aging in an oak barrel, awaiting a better time.
  3. Novel number three (WIP) excites me the most because all the intangibles I learned from drafting number one and number two. I can apply what I learned from previous works. It also excites me because it’s historical fiction and I can openly admit it is my true love. It requires lots of research and that makes me giddy. Research and writing.
  4. Money. I want my writing life to be sustainable. The conundrum is finding balance between paid gigs and producing a product. Producing a product requires quality to sell said product. Thus finding writing work during lean production times is an ongoing quest. I have updates in the works for Carrot Ranch, ideas for short-term projects and plans to localize freelancing efforts.
  5. I’m planting a garden and setting up an outdoor desk-slash-bird-viewing-station. It’s the beginning of putting down roots for my dream of having a writer’s retreat in the remote Pacific Northwest.

Recalculations help redefine goals. Why set goals? Because if you have dreams, goals become a way to navigate to them. Your vision is like the north star, guiding you along the way. My vision is big and includes much more than successfully publishing novels. It includes creating literary spaces both physically and digitally–places to learn grow, create and recalculate. Collaboration is part of the vision.

Carrot Ranch fosters a literary space to practice craft, communicate ideas and read stimulating writing. Rough Writers are regulars or founding contributors, and Friends are our readers and commenters. We have many friends who pop in once in a while when inspired and others who faithfully read. Together we create a community that honors what literature is about–progressing the imagination to describe, define or experience life. Literature thrives in an open environment.

Join the dream. An open invitation to the Congress of Rough Writers & Friends:

  1. Help develop a Carrot Ranch Anthology (expanded shorts based on flash fiction, for example). It can be a fun way to explore collaboration and indie avenues from crowd-sourcing to publishing.
  2. Help develop a Christmas project for next year (what trouble can we write Rudolph into with his visits around the globe).
  3. Research a possible text or workshop based on how flash fiction can build skills and that college classes or writing groups can use.

These are just a few ideas. To be collaborative, the idea becomes one of the collective, not just a collection of ideas from one. I hope this has reached you in such a way that you reflect on your year and turn any perceived failings into a potential fortunes for what it has to teach you. Embrace your love for the craft and stand firm in the clouds of your own vision. Create goals to take you farther than you’ve already come on this path.

May visions of sugarplums and writing success dance in your head tonight. But don’t rely on Santa to deliver; set goals to gather what it is you need on your journey.

December 24, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vision. You can write your own personal vision and “fictionalize” it in the sense that you write it as if it already has come to pass or is unfolding right now. Or you can write the vision of a character. Dream big. dream bold.

Respond by December 30 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.

***

A special gift to those of you who might be missing Sarah Shull. She and Mr. Boots make an appearance. And a second vision of what I’d love to manifest on Elmira Pond–a writer’s retreat.

Sarah’s Vision by Charli Mills

Christmas Eve and Sarah watched fat snowflakes fall and wood-smoke billow from the stone chimney. It was cold in the solitude of the barn, but she had to escape the oppressive bustle of Mary’s kitchen and excited children. She found a black cat hunkered down in the loose hay. Black with white chest and boots. Mr. Boots, her escort to the Christmas ball. The horses nickered and transformed into gay and welcoming guests who asked after her health and happiness. Best of all, Mr. Boots was a bachelor with no wife or children. Sarah smiled and accepted the vision.

###

Retreat on Elmira Pond by Charli Mills

An osprey dropped to the pond and retrieved a trout. Blue heron gronked on his log. A group of writers watched from a deck overlooking the pond. They were journaling morning pages, delving deeper into their writer’s truth, observing and capturing what it revealed. A few nibbled on fresh peaches from a nearby orchard. A rooster crowed and someone pointed to the goats on the sod-roof of the B&B. They gathered under the apple tree for a discussion of yesterday’s writing with the author and retreat host who was smiling in her gauchos, turquoise boots and broad buckaroo hat.

###

Merry Christmas

Flashes Like Diamonds

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionKeepsakes, clams and star-stuff are among the rare gems that writers discovered this week. Like the gemologist eying cut and luster, writers of flash fiction polish their stories down to a minimalist quality that shines. Each writer at Carrot Ranch is in turn part of a vast treasure, practicing literature with generosity.

Each story this week is based on the December 17, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about rare gems.

Rare Gems by Sarah Unsicker

Bucket and shovel in hand, my boots carry me two miles to the beach. The sky is still dark; stars are fading, and the water reflects pink. “Pink in the morning, sailor take warning,” is not only a saying, and I know a storm is brewing.

The wind blusters as I squat down. I return the first to the ground; the second is good. I pick my last as the tide reaches my boots. I walk home against the wind, the Eastern sky fully pink now. As I open the front door, the torrent arrives.

“Mom, clams again?”

###

Return to Origin by Pat Cummings

Star-stuff, deep within the mantle, immeasurable pressures keep it liquid. One crystal among billions, it rises.

One crystal among millions, it breaks through almost to the surface. Others re-submerge, re-liquify, but this one endures millenia of weathering.

A lucky pick breaks the surface. Kimberlite is eagerly sought, but one crystal in thousands is pure, gem. This one survives the gleaning to arrive in a lab.

One crystal in hundreds has the right composition for the electronics. This one joins its brothers to be ground. Afterward, only one meets specifications for a satellite heat-sink.

Installed, it rises to orbit, star-stuff.

###

Rare Gem by Rebecca Patajac

A deep purple crystal warmed her hand. She searched, heart fluttering. A sea of people washing by, lives busy, unaware.

Eyes darting from face to face, she glanced from necklaces to clutched hands. She glimpsed an unfamiliar man, impressive with his suit and greying hair. Confused, he stared down at his palm.

She approached, dodging through the crowd. Her crystal growing warmer.

His eyes lifted and met hers. They locked.
She froze.

So you are the one? A deep voice rumbled in her mind, a soft smile sparkling in his eyes.

Smiling, she held her soul-stone to her heart.

###

Merlin’s Choice by Tally Pendragon

Tor Anda, the very centre of of this green and pleasant land. The boy whose mother called him Little Hawk kneeled and placed his long-fingered hands dead centre into the shallow dip at the topmost point of the Tor. That was where the magic flowed, the Ent had said. He had also said, “You must learn to be like the leaf and blow in the wind”. The little people said it was a choice, that the magic could only connect if the choice were made. The boy chose.

Standing there today Merlin knew the power of that choice.

###

Imperfect But Beautiful by Paula Moyer

Rare Gem by PMJean looked at the ad and felt the tug of a vision. A needlepoint. She had not put needle to canvas in over 30 years. But she could just see it, framed, a gift for someone who had passed a milestone. She ordered the kit and began.

She ran out of yarn. Sigh – who does that skimpy Continental stitch anyway?

She ordered more. Even so, she ran out of red. Again. Substituted pink and orange in a corner with geometric shapes.

When she brought it home from the framers, she could no longer where the substitution was. Good enough.

###

Perfect Five by Sarah Unsicker

 

I stared at the first homework problem.

2
+ 3

I counted two on one hand, three on the other.  That didn’t work, I couldn’t count with the fingers I had out.  I got raisins for a snack.  I made a pile with two, and a pile with three, and counted.  I wrote

five1That wasn’t right.  I took out my eraser, worn from use, and erased it.  I tried again.

five2Another erase.  One more try:

five3

Still doesn’t look right.  The eraser tore the paper.

Tomorrow I will turn in homework with jumbled numbers and tape holding it together, my cheeks bright red.

###

Uncut Gem by Norah Colvin

She examined the new arrival, assessing the possible effects of integration into the existing collective. Would the group be enhanced or would this newcomer disrupt the established harmony?

From every angle the edges were rough and uneven. The years of obvious neglect obscured the potential from any but a trained eye.

Fortunately her eyes were keen. A bit of encouragement here, a little adjustment there, an opportunity to sparkle and display unique and positive attributes.

She smiled. Experience had shown what could be achieved with a little polish and care.

“Welcome to our class, Marnie,” she said.

###

Taking Stock by Geoff Le Pard

Mary let the last rays of the year’s sun warm her face. Paul held her hand. ‘Bit of an annus horribilis,’ he said.

She nodded.

‘New year’s resolutions?’

‘Find this twin sister I’m meant to have.’

‘She’s probably dead. They’d have kept you together, surely?’

‘Now maybe. Not back then.’

‘Bury the hatchet with Rupert?’

Her loathsome half-brother. ‘Maybe.’

Paul held out a box. ‘I know it’s early but twenty years married means platinum.’

She held up the ring, smiling. ‘Grandma’s?’

‘Yes. The band was so worn I had the stones reset.’

Mary kissed her husband. ‘My diamond geezer.’

###

Rare Gems by Irene Waters

“Dad stop. You can’t dig a mine under the house.” Janie grabbed the pneumatic drill from Peter and pointed him towards the house.

When her father was out of earshot she said, “You have to put him in a home. The house’ll fall down if he continues. He’s demented”

“Once a mining engineer always a mining engineer. He says he’s looking for rare gems.”

“No Mum. He needs a nursing home.”

“You’re right Janie. I’ll do it today.”

“Demented you think.” Talking to himself, Peter patted his back pocket. His escape route lay snuggly in the plastic bag he’d just excavated.

###

My Magic Compass by Pete

I have this old compass. It’s dull and dented and the needle is stuck. On the back is a crinkled print of Indian Head Mountain, a fading sunset behind clouds hardly distinguishable from the peeling edges of the sticker.

To a collector it’s worthless, a trinket from a gift shop that found its way into my grandfather’s pocket. And yet, it works beautifully.

It navigates my own faded memory, back to when the needle aligned and the picture was clear. It points to those fuzzy moments etched in the wrinkles of my childhood. It’s magic, that compass, pure magic.

###

The Fishing Boat by Larry LaForge

Ed whooped; Edna screamed. They both knew what the $10,000 lottery winnings meant.

Ed had lusted after a 16-foot bass boat, modest by most standards but a yacht to him. “When you win the lottery, dear,” Edna repeated annually at the boat show.

With winnings in hand, Ed checked his trailer hitch and headed to Bass Boat World.

Hours later, Edna noticed Ed’s truck was back with nothing in tow.

Something on the table caught her eye. She opened the card.

“One rare gem deserves another.”

A small box contained the diamond ring Ed couldn’t afford 43 years ago.

*****
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

Rare Gems Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

“Call this Christmas?”

After a tough year, I’d wanted to make it special. It wasn’t my fault our husky sled ride was cancelled and the aurora borealis refused to show. We had each other.

“I’m off to the bar.”

I woke with a start, Pete snoring beside me. Grabbing my gown against the chill, I peeked through a gap in the curtains. The sky was a ballet of green and purple suspended above a stage of snow.

Next morning, he had a headache. I had the memory of a gem of a performance, choreographed for an audience of one.

###

Rare Gems Flash Fiction by Georgia Bell

She’d found the picture the other day. Rummaging through the box that held keepsakes she mostly forgot were important. She’d studied it for a moment and then tucked it into the pocket of her jeans.

But later, when the kids were in bed and her husband was watching the game, she poured herself a glass of wine and held it gently between her fingers.

His smile.

The way her hair had curled gently around her ears.

His hand resting on her elbow.

The look in her eyes. Excitement. Anticipation.

She exhaled and carefully tore it up into tiny pieces.

###

The Climb by Charli Mills

The first ascent was roughest. Splintered rocks rusty with lichen sliced through Hank’s gloves a dozen times. He worried about cutting his nylon ropes on crags fractured by falling boulders, ice heaves and thaw cycles. His pack hindered him, but Hank needed the essentials—dehydrated protein, shelter, dry layers. The higher he climbed, the thinner the air, the harder to breathe. Across the vast chasm of ruined mountains, Hank regarded the battle smoke. One side blasted anti-aircraft cannons; the other lobbed homemade bombs. He was searching for Afghan black tourmaline reputed to absorb the world’s adversity. On he climbed.

###

A parting shot of my own hunk of black tourmaline absorbing all the negative calories of Christmas fudge and peppermint bark:

DSC_0003

December 17 Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionTiny drops splatter against my face, and I’m not sure if it’s snow or rain. I look across the pasture and see a smattering of white flakes. Nothing accumulates. Perhaps on the mountain ridge the snow is sticking, but the clouds are so low, gray and dense I can’t see the ridge. It’s mid-day and the light is fogged. Blue skies do not exist in northern Idaho when the sun rolls across the southern horizon like one headlight off in the distance.

Each snap of twig cracks loudly in the silence and gloves protect my hands from the jagged edges of the branches. Dried moss falls gently into yellowed grass. It’s all flammable so I gather what I can. I’m dismantling the massive pine limbs, twig by twig. Three crashed to the ground from fifty feet above in a windstorm last spring. Dead and dry, these branches give the gift of kindling.

What is it about common work? Washing dishes or gathering kindling, feeding a barn cat or collecting eggs? It’s just chores, monotonous and unending if you cook or tend critters. Yet, outside in this spitting snow, snapping apart limbs as if I were re-making a Lego star-ship, I feel whole and grounded. I feel connected.

We all want to feel connected, to feel that our voice matters in the constant chatter of social media, to feel as if we have something to say, something to hear, something to learn. Outside, I’m a part of the great expanse, I’m one with the snow, I’m taking what was given and I’m going to light a fire and give warmth to my home. I want to write fully connected.

Perfection.

It’s a word that jars my senses. Perfection once ruled my life, yet never have I been a perfectionist. It was my father. He sought perfection as a shield to protect the family from the shame of what it was. Incest and perfection are cruelly melded in my mind. I escaped the one only to be dogged by the other. Perfection was harder to shake.

Maybe it was because my father tried so hard to polish the family image and it was done so out of fear, that perfectionism gives me hives. Right along my jawline. I panic, thinking I’ve failed. What have I failed? Well, nothing, really, it’s just that perfectionism was a measure of failure and failure was unacceptable.

Like the time the principal approached my father at a volunteer fire department meeting. Seems that some parents had complained to him about their daughter getting bullied at school. He told my father to go home and talk to me. In my father’s eyes, I failed so tremendously because I broke the image of a perfect family. I brought attention to the family. Never put the family in the spotlight. Never fail at anything.

Thus I was grounded for over a month. Yelled at, lectured and berated. Never once did it occur to my father that I was being bullied, too. Not that it really would have mattered to him. It was the breaking of that almighty image he wanted us to have publicly that mattered. His ideas of perfectionism ran from how I acted to how I looked.

Was it the isolation that taught me to connect with falling snow and internalize my thinking, deepen my capacity for imagination? Or was it the humbling that made it difficult for me to ever belittle another human being? As an adult, I recognize what a fearful man my father was. So fearful that he demanded perfection at any cost.

Trying to achieve it never worked out, but did teach me the value of high standards. Tempered with the grace I learned about excellence, which is never perfect but often simple and elegant. Like the bare-bones writing of flash fiction prose. I also learned to connect with people and honor who they are, especially those willing to be vulnerable in their search and definition of self. Bullies, deniers and critical perfectionists, I avoid. Long ago, I learned that a generous life is more fulfilling than a perfect one.

Writers are, for the most part, a self-aware lot. We write to discover who we are and what we have to say. We read and learn from others and redefine ourselves and our thoughts every time we write. To connect with writers is amazing. It mutually fires our creativity. In response, we are generous to one another.

Yet, I see my father’s shadow in the writing world, too. Perfectionists so embittered by what they think is failure, they lash out. Bullies on Good Reads, trolls beneath blog bridges, authors kicking other authors. Writing coach, Daphne Gray-Grant, got me thinking about perfectionism and generosity in a recent post. She states that we can fight perfectionism with generosity. I agree. It’s been a life-long lesson for me. Yet when I shared with her the generosity of the writers who gather at Carrot Ranch, she said it was a “rare group.”

Well, you are indeed rare gems! Your generous reading, writing and thoughtful comments are appreciated by me and your fellows. We can create connections through our writing and we can encourage each other in a past-time or career that challenges us to break through perfection to embrace art. To see it, to feel it, to create it. To write feeling fully alive and actualized.

If you battle perfectionism in your writing, strangle it with a cord of Christmas lights and be generous to yourself as you navigate the often bumpy writer’s road. Perfection is often boring, anyhow. Sure, your commas go where they should, and all your words are spelled correctly, but does your writing crackle with energy that comes from who you are? Do your best. Be real. Learn. And try again. It’s art; be messy.

Rare gems, it is! Let’s see what discoveries this prompt leads us too.

December 17, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about rare gems. It can be treasure, rough or twinkling, an object, place or person. Go on an adventure, let you imagination fly and kick perfectionism to the curb. You are in pursuit of something greater!

Respond by December 23 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.

***

The Climb by Charli Mills

The first ascent was roughest. Splintered rocks rusty with lichen sliced through Hank’s gloves a dozen times. He worried about cutting his nylon ropes on crags fractured by falling boulders, ice heaves and thaw cycles. His pack hindered him, but Hank needed the essentials—dehydrated protein, shelter, dry layers. The higher he climbed, the thinner the air, the harder to breathe. Across the vast chasm of ruined mountains, Hank regarded the battle smoke. One side blasted anti-aircraft cannons; the other lobbed homemade bombs. He was searching for Afghan black tourmaline reputed to absorb the world’s adversity. On he climbed.

###

Angels Among Us

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionYou don’t need to believe in angels to hope, but sometimes they can get you through terrifying moments like math tests and car accidents. Other times, they quit. Angels among us can be kind-spirited people, birds bearing unexpected gifts or the effigy of warrior power.

Writers explored the different ways angels could manifest in a story with the December 10, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features an angel.

First, a special angelic offering from one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, who has released a new book (if you hear a sound, that’s me squealing with delight). She posted a taste of Blue Horses on her Facebook status. Ms. Oliver did not participate in the challenge, but her poem seemed appropriate to share, as it’s brief and fits the prompt:

Angels

I’ll just leave you with this.
I don’t care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It’s
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.

~ Mary Oliver

***

Angelic Protection by Paula Moyer

Two hours behind schedule. Jean stewed about it all day. Her husband had puttered. The long drive up I-35, the last leg of their vacation, waited for them.

Just into Minnesota, the flashing lights of a dozen patrol cars pulled her out of her stew. She stared at the accident scene, car-become-accordion. No ambulance – no survivors?

Jean switched her gaze back to the interstate. Oh, no – two men on the road? Oh. Yes Oblivious. Then she blinked. Shadows.

The next morning, she googled, and found it: wrong-way head-on crash. Right there.

Two hours before.

Not shadows.

Not men.

Angels.

###

Archangel by Larry LaForge

The surly government agent meant business. “You can’t perform angelic acts without a license, ma’am.”

“Since when?” the serene woman with heavenly blue eyes asked.

“Look, lady, just pay the fee. The government doesn’t care if you’re bogus or legit. We just need you to register and pay up.”

“But I work for a higher power.”

“There’s no higher power than the government, ma’am.”

After a few moments, the angel decided to end the standoff. She could have made the agent disappear, but instead removed herself gracefully, evaporating before his eyes.

“You still have to register,” the agent yelled.

*****
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

I Quit by Sarah Brentyn

She hadn’t planned to show herself.

His lungs were filling with water—she panicked, materializing and assuring him she would always protect him.

It was a mistake. He filled the next year with stupid stunts.

~~~

“Check it out,” he shouted, jumping off the bridge. “I’ve got a guardian angel! I can’t die!”

His angel appeared, much clearer than she had the first time.

“You’re looking haggard,” he chuckled and rubbed the back of his head. His hand was wet. Glaring at her, he brought his fingers to his face. Blood. “What the hell?”

“I’m sorry,” she smiled. “Good luck.”

###

A Narrow Escape…by Ruchira Khanna

Weary and overworked Jack opened the door of his apartment, let out a big yawn prior to entering, and then stepped in gently shutting the gate after him.

Walked to his bedroom to change, and was about to lurch towards his bed, when his eyes fell upon the frame that was slightly tilted. He paused, scratched himself while introspecting and after taking a deep breath, walked towards it to straighten it.

Just then, a loud noise made him shriek in fear, turned around to see a beam over his bed. He held the frame tightly and whispered, “Thank you!”

###

Feathers by Ros Nazilli

Her last remark. The final slur on his already destroyed character.

He took himself away. For her sake as much as his own.

He laid on the wet sand, stretched star-shaped, staring up into a black sky.

As he prayed that something would take him, release him from the torment of his unacceptable love for innocence he felt a soft fluttering against his face.

He reached up, feathers from something invisible.

His feet were wet. The tide was in, channelling a moat around him.

The sudden flapping of wings did not scare him. He knew they would come.

###

Lips of an Angel by Georgia Bell

“You’re my angel,” he said, brushing the hair back from her eyes.
Her face hidden, she nodded, but her heart dropped and disappointment loomed.

It always ended the same way.

Months later, she jammed her clothes into the suitcase, scanning the apartment for the last of her belongings. Her eyes rested on the photograph, framed carefully.

His wild hair now tamed. His piercings gone. His eyes, clear and loving as they gazed at her.

She walked out and slammed the door behind her.

She was looking for the one who wouldn’t change to please her.
She liked them bad.

###

Angel Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

The Angel of Death raged through our people, anointing us with yellow stars. Some perished in gas ovens, others by disease and starvation; some survived through happenstance, determination and guile. Even once the purge was over, we were forced from the debris of our homes. Exiled among strangers, the less we remembered, the more we grew content.

Years passed before they came for our stories, armed with notebook and pen. What did these well-fed youths know of suffering? What did they care? Yet when they promised compensation, we opened up our hearts. The Avenging Angel had arrived at last.

###

Angels Fear by Pat Cummings

The theater waited, ready for opening night: cast rehearsed, orchestra warmed up, marquee lit. Some critics had two items already written, a smash review and one for a dismal flop.

Jeremy and Evan paced nervously in the foyer. They had gambled everything investing in the success of this venture. If it failed, the writer, director and leading lady would suffer only loss of reputation. The brothers would be ruined. They would lose the business and their homes. Even Jeremy’s cuff-links were mortgaged. Evan’s wife had threatened to leave.

Doors opened, and the first night audience began to trickle in.

###

Angelic Flash Fiction by Gary Moyer

“Stewart! Turn off your damn light!” I hear. As I open my eyes to mumble my witty response, I see that the thick acrylic window was glowing. “Derek, the window!” I exclaim.

As we both gaze out the window, an overly bright orb positions itself equally as close. Non-material features are apparent on what resemble a head. It gradually departed from us in the way a car passes by someone intoxicated.

Ice crystals form on the outside, making the window opaque. We observe as a trail of blue light fades into the final frontier.

“A comet” I whisper.

###

Naked Angels by Jeanne Lombardo

He was dead; he was alive; he was somewhere with a needle in his arm. Only one thing was sure. Her son wouldn’t be home for Christmas this year.

She reached for the next small box amidst the flurry of crumpled tissue paper and discarded containers. “Naked Angels” the label read. She smiled. Thought of Tom, who had given the Mexican folk figures to her at successive college Christmas parties.

She picked one up: a male angel in a deep lacquered purple-blue; fierce countenance; wings like thunderclouds; thrust-out cock and flaming sword.

“Go find him,” she whispered.

###

Cloud Angel Flash Fiction by Susan Zutautas

We got the call, my sister and I, that dad had died shortly after we’d left the hospital for a few hours. Quickly we drove back to comfort mom and say our last goodbyes.

As we were leaving to drive home that night we looked up into the sky, and there before us was a brightly illuminated angel cloud floating by. A calmness came over both of us as we felt that this was dad saying his last goodbyes to us. He was now finally out of pain and at peace, after so many years of pain and suffering.

###


Gift Exchange by Charli Mills

That first Christmas after Papa died, Mama took a town job, waiting tables. While she was working, Clive and Maggie decorated the spruce next to Papa’s grave near their ranch. They hung shining red balls, silver bells and Papa’s favorite collection of glittering musical instruments. The next morning, they took Mama to the tree. A crow flew past with a harp hanging from his beak. Mama began to cry.

Maggie glared at her brother. “Clive, that crow took Papa’s favorite ornaments!”

“Children, it’s okay. Look what he left.” She pointed to the pile of gold coins on Papa’s headstone.

###

Present Imperfect by Geoff Le Pard

‘Be an angel.’ Mary held out a tray to her daughter.

When Penny left Rupert said, ‘I wasn’t expecting an invite after what happened.’

Mary swallowed; she wanted to say it was only because of Penny.

‘Peace offering.’ He smiled sheepishly.

As Mary opened the parcel he added, ‘Dad’s diary. They were in a box in mum’s attic. I found them a week ago.’

1965. The year she was adopted. Why had Angela – her Dad’s mistress – had his diaries and not her mother? She flicked it open and read her dad’s spindly script. ‘An angel granted our wish today…’

###

Angel’s Light by Sherri Matthews

Gripping the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles turned white, Misty drove into the darkest corner of the car park and switched the engine off.

In the quiet and gripped by a sudden panic, she wondered why she had ever agreed to come on this blind date.

Walking across the dimly lit car park towards the pub’s entrance, a bright light suddenly shot across the sky. Misty looked up at the pub sign, now mysteriously illuminated, as she stopped short: ‘The Angel’.

A strange peace came over her then as she saw him walking towards her, smiling brightly.

###

Angels in the Halflight by Tally Pendragon

The idea was there. I even had half the frame for the story! It would cushion the blows from the other half, a bit. And the concept? Everyone loves Christmas, an Advent Journey makes it perfect, doesn’t it? But such an undertaking … so much work … so much psychology revisited … how on earth can I get through all that?

Would it become lost on the shelf of ideas, or would a miracle give this one life?

I slept. In the halflight that woke me the shimmer of wings and the gentle smile that conferred success shone miraculous in my eyes.

###

Angels by Irene Waters

“Get up Randolf. Time for school.” Phaedra watched her son stir before going downstairs.

“Remind me why we sent Randolf to this school?” Her husband frowned as he looked over their son’s report card.

“We wanted to give him a good start in life. We thought…… Unicorn school would teach him how to properly channel his special powers. We wanted him to be an angel.”

“Instead we’ve paid a fortune for the privilege of seeing him as an angel only if he gets chosen for the part in the Christmas play. They’ve created a unicorn with attitude and gun.

###

Angel Flash Fiction by Pete

Gus sneered at the rookie, who’d questioned his practice of dipping candy canes in hot sauce. His haggard wings fell aimlessly, unused in two decades.

They tipped around him, for it was no secret that Gus loathed Christmas and would not be going tonight or any other. Suddenly the room lit up, like sunshine between drifting clouds.

“Augustine.”

“Look, I’ve told—“

The eyes. From that Christmas Eve so long ago. When he heard the trumpets of death call a little girl home and vowed never to go back. Now she was there, all grown up.

Gus spread his wings.

###

A Cute Angel by Norah Colvin

a-cute-angel