March 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

March 5, 2015

March 4

Photo from Rods.com

Turquoise is the color where father sky meets mother earth. Not the powdery blue tone of baby-boy clothes, but the Mediterranean blue of Greek heroes. A color almost unnatural. It’s the bright blue stone of the American southwest mounted on silver belt buckles and conchos.

Native American Indians consider it a protective stone and a gift of goodness. The stone heals the spirit and calms mind. In the Old Testament, it is one of the precious stones mounted upon the breastplate of the priests. In Revelations, the Holy City of new heaven and earth is described with the brilliance of precious stones. Some say heaven is paved with gold; I say it’s paved with turquoise.

No wonder I want a pair of turquoise boots.

In an earlier post, when writing about visions for success, I added the boots. Turquoise boots. Since then they’ve become symbolic to me. After all, that is the power of a vision — to be able to see a piece of your dream. When I launched my personal funding campaign to get to LA for BinderCon to which I won a scholarship, I used the photo of Justin Boots from Rod’s western catalog.

Surprisingly, turquoise, for all it’s power to promote calm, galvanized my intent to get to LA.

One of my patrons is also my Fairy God-Mother. She and her family have believed in my books from the time that they were mere seeds in my imagination. Over the years, they’ve encouraged me, read rough drafts, covered the cost of printing drafts for beta-readers, helped me to get to LA, and, sponsored my new shoes.

A gift of goodness must be turquoise. Boots are not practical for walking, but Keens are. I once had a long-term relationship with a pair of Keens and if you want to read about it sometime, I’ll direct you to my Tale of Two Keens. My new Keens, both the left and the right, are turquoise and the stand-in for my boots. I’m going to step out with calm certitude to LA, to the Speed Pitch with an agent, the Speed Pitch with a publisher and the VIP event with literary professionals.

Bootsy Approves of Turquoise

Bootsy Approves of Turquoise

It seems that compassion has infiltrated our writing and lifted stories at Carrot Ranch to a new height. Writers felt good and got int the flow of the river that merges. We welcome new writers to our literary community. The idea is that we are all building our writer’s platforms, writing or revising books, and seeking publication. Why not do those things in the company of peers? Like cowboys on the range, we meet at the campfire, share a tin cup of coffee and swap stories.

At Carrot Ranch we craft weekly flash fiction. The regulars are called the Rough Writers and all who join us in the literary pursuits of writing, reading and discussing are our Friends. Writing flash fiction can improve craft, as author Luccia Gray explains in her post. We are sorting out our first collaboration and if I get a slot in the Speed Pitch with the publisher I want, I will pitch our themed short story anthology. Each story here is a gem; but collectively they are as dynamic as a king’s treasure.

On Monday’s I participate in the Twitter meme known as #MondayBlogs. It’s had a positive impact on growing my social media and spreading coverage of the stories we write here as well as my own posts. On days that I might have client deadlines, I at least post the Carrot Ranch challenge and previous compilation. On days that I focus on the hashtag, I post each individual blogger who has responded with a story and the blog posts of the Rough Writers. I do much reading that day, which I enjoy.

Paula Nancarrow, blogger and story-teller, is conducting a survey on blog hash days until March 8. The information will inform the greater blogging community so I encourage you to participate.

Another current survey is with Rough Writer, blogger and soon to be debut author, Anne Goodwin. Anne writes some of the best modern fiction book reviews on the Internet. They are so thought-provoking and comprehensive of style as well as story that I feel as though I’m gaining important insights into what is publishing in modern literature. Her survey is a question of character credibility.

We welcome new writers to the ranch! Everyone is as free as a range-rider to come and go. Although you might get roped into the allure of flash fiction and the friendliness of the ranch. If that happens, you can achieve Rough Writer status easily. So, onto our colorful prompt for the week.

March 4, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) color your story turquoise. Color evokes emotion; turquoise blue evokes trust and strength. How can you play with that idea? How can color define a character or add to a plot? Saturate your story or add a drop. Follow the vein of turquoise to see where it leads your imagination.

Respond by March 10, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Whatever Became of El Dorado? by Charli Mills

Lamina’s Navajo grandfather clicked his tongue, speaking to the Campfire Girls squatted in a semicircle at his feet. This was her classroom, her troop. The girls were earning a story-telling badge.

“Coyote, the great trickster, led the Spaniards to El Dorado.”

Maisie wiggled her raised hand. Lamina nodded and the girl gushed. “And the streets were paved with gold!” The other girls chattered in agreement.

“Not gold; turquoise.”

“Did they bring any back?”

“No. They were never again seen.” Grandfather stopped and left the end unspoken. What if the Holy City of Revelations already came and Conquistadors destroyed it?

###

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82 Comments

  1. Norah

    I do so admire those turquoise boots! But until they are yours, may your turquoise Keens support your journey.
    I very much enjoyed reading this post, as I always do. You exude the calmness and strength that the turquoise promises.
    I wish you well with your speed dating and am humbled that you are doing it for the Congress of Rough Writers, when you have so much of yourself to promote.
    I love your turquoise challenge and already know where it is taking me, or Marnie rather. I had thought to add it in the previous flash but 99 words was not enough. Now it can have its own!
    Your flash is, of course, a great piece of writing and I like the way you tied it to your thoughts presented in your post.
    How dreadful it would be if the Holy City has already been destroyed. Sometimes it certainly seems that way, or at least we seem to be hell-bent on destroying it! With thoughts like this I’m pleased I’m a meliorist, hopeful that the collective “we” can pull ourselves and our world out of our seeming determination to self-destruct.
    Thank you for making the world a better place with your compassion and generosity.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah! Well, when I saw a publisher in the line up that is looking for book-length novels and collections of short stories, it seemed serendipitous. How wonderful that turquoise suits Marnies next installment. Yes, I’m glad that you are a melorist, too and I do believe in the collective “we.” Thank you fr your meloristic stance and encouragement. 🙂

      • Norah

        It is very exciting, Charli. I look forward to hearing all about your pitching. 🙂
        Would you believe that when I wrote Marnie’s story bit, I almost forgot the turquoise!

      • Charli Mills

        Actually that an interesting phenomenon! Prompts can make us think of something, yet doesn’t actually include the prompt. 🙂

  2. Sacha Black

    Hey Charli – told you I would be on time this time!! I filled out Paula’s survey 🙂 all in the name of support 😀

    A Special Little Fishy McGold by Sacha Black

    The turquoise running through her eyes worried me most. It was alive, dangerous even.

    “You ok, Nance?” I asked biting my nail.

    Her lips pressed and eyes narrowed as she grasped at something in her handbag. She started shaking.

    “It was an accident, you know that, right?”

    I reached out to pat her on the arm, but she yanked it away.

    “He wasn’t just ‘a’ fish, Jake. He was special.”

    A vein in her head pulsed.

    “That’s not a gun is it?” I laughed nervously.

    She pulled out a bag with another goldfish in it and her shoulders relaxed.

    • Charli Mills

      The desperation builds tension and the color extends the idea of pulsing veins, a woman on the verge. What she whips out of her purse made me laugh! Stand back…it’s a goldfish! 🙂 Thanks for joining us! And, wow, so quickly!

      • Sacha Black

        Thanks Charli 🙂 really appreciate the comments. And of course I had been meaning to participate for a while 🙂 will try and keep up weekly as long as my muse is with me :p

      • Charli Mills

        Keep that muse in the saddle! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I’ll add it to your story! Thanks!

    • rogershipp

      Loved the ending. Yes, I also have ‘murdered’ a pet fish before.

      • Sacha Black

        Thank you 🙂 for reading and liking it…. As for fish murdering…hehe no comment ????

  3. Sherri

    Haha! Great photo…boots and ‘boots’ 😀 So excited for you Charli, not long now! I agree totally about Anne’s reviews, and I voted! She had me thinking every which way too. I’ve heard of the mondayblogs meme. I’m still not on Twitter though…maybe I should? I’m worried about taking on more social media though. Wonderfully colourful and evocative flash Charli. Oh for that Lost City of Gold…or should we say Turquoise? My first thoughts are of Greek mythology and then of all those shops selling turquoise jewellery handmade by the Navajo’s in California. So now I will have a think. Thanks for another great prompt Charli 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha…yes, boots & boots! Thanks for voting. I could see an author defending any of the three choices and readers choosing on such a premise. I suppose, the idea is for the author to match up t what is wanted or expected from his or her readership. I suppose one would start with genre, then perhaps stick with topic and finally fan base. It’s good to be discussing. As to Twitter, maybe I’ll do a post and ask for input. It is one of the top platforms but you don’t want to get spread thin. I’m always looking for ways to be effective and efficient! Can’t wait to see what direction turquoise takes you!

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    I LOVE turquoise. The color and the stone. It’s also my son’s favorite color. When he was 2 and 3, it was funny when people asked what his favorite color was (expecting blue or red) and he said “turquoise”. You know I love those boots, too but, also, your sandals are so cool. I really want a pair (I’ve had Tevas for years and need some new ones). I already looked them up. Your Tale of Two Keens story is awesome.

    So what’s with the LA trip? I missed something, clearly. Direct me to the post. I haven’t been online much. Anyway, excited about this prompt thought my mind is going in so many directions with the Greek isles to the Native Americans.

    • Charli Mills

      How cool that your son shares a love of turquoise! It must have sounded astonishing coming from a toddler. My kind of toddler! 🙂 My eldest wears Tevas; I’ve just never tried anything else once I fel for Keens. Thanks for reading my Tale of Two Keens! I was so heartbroken to loose that pair.

      Yes, LA! I won a scholarship to attend LABinderCon which is a symposium “to empower women and gender non?conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers.” My novels are commercial fiction at the base and I also have one about climate fiction and Rock Creek is historical. And at the heart are stories about women. I think it’s a good niche for me to build an audience out of women’s fiction (not romance or cute escapades, but strong narrative stories with female leads that even men would want to read). So this conference is really helping me focus on that intention and publishing options. I didn’t have the means to get there, so I did an IndieGoGo campaign on my personal Facebook. Out of that, my Fairy God-Mother bought me new clothes and Keens. I’m truly blessed with those who are helping me achieve my goals. Once there, I get to Speed Pitch with a lit agent and a publisher (who is also looking for collections of short stories). The workshops focus on the business of building a career rather than craft and as a scholarship recipient I get to attend a VIP event with publishing professionals.

      Okay! May the calm and strength of turquoise be with you!

      • Annecdotist

        I read the post about the conference already, but I hadn’t picked up that it was targeted specifically for women and “gender nonconforming writers” – love that notion.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Ack! How did I miss all this?! Email…

  5. Pete

    A Glamorous Man

    Ron parked his truck, hurrying towards the restaurant. Laura had been so adamant about the time. “It’s just another birthday,” he told himself, ignoring that pesky ache in his ankle.

    Only it wasn’t just another birthday, because his picture was plastered all over the glass doors at the entrance. The picture.

    Friends cheered as he bowed past the artifact—a glossy portrait of teenage Ronnie. One hand under a pimply chin, the other resting on Measles, the cat. His faraway gaze set the mood, while his restless mullet gushing over his turquoise turtleneck set the tone.

    “Happy 40th, Ron!”

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, the pesky ache in the ankle, the hint of peskier joint pain to come. 😀 Love the description of the the picture and its dominance. And what a name for a cat!

    • rogershipp

      Loved the vividness of the situation. Great job. I hate those ‘big” days!

  6. paulamoyer

    Love the boots, Charli. Here’s mine:

    New Sister

    By Paula Moyer

    “I didn’t like ‘Midnight Cowboy,’” Ann grinned as she nursed her baby. Her eyes, brilliant turquoise, sought out and met Jean’s. “In fact, I felt like I needed a bath afterward. It’s a brilliant story. Just not a pleasant one.”

    A shift. “Jean what did you think about ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’?”

    Something different about the meeting of their eyes. Ann was her boyfriend’s sister-in-law. She had been a high school English teacher. Now she invited Jean to discuss her freshman composition class.

    Jean had just graduated from high school. In their conversation, Ann welcomed Jean into adulthood.

    • Charli Mills

      This flash is a casual, yet significant, initiation into adulthood. How wonderful to have adults who are tuned in to taking youth to the next step. Interesting how turquoise eyes uphold an initiation built on trust and strength.

    • rogershipp

      It is so hard to make that transition with those you were with ‘as a child’. You showed the problem accurately! Nicely done.

  7. Annecdotist

    I love your Flash. Anything that gets the children curious about their history is to be commended.
    Mine is not yet ready, but I love the idea that we’re doing flash fiction based on your coveted boots – who wouldn’t want them, even if they are hell to walk in?
    And thanks for your generous words about my reviews. It’s your – and others’ – kind cheerleading that keeps it going.

    • Charli Mills

      I was intrigued by the idea of a Native American school teacher (and scout leader) inviting her Grandfather to tell stories which are great gems of oral history. As for walking hell. I had to give it up. 🙂 In LA, I’ll be doing lots of walking! However, those boots will be pretty foot decorations one day. Glad you think they are universally charming!

      Your reviews are helpful, and yes, so is cheerleading. 🙂

  8. rogershipp

    The Girl with the Turquoise Eyes

    “It’s embarrassing,” I confided to Shaman. “The same dream every night.”

    “For three months,” concern was in Shaman’s voice. “It has meaning. Tell me everything.”

    “I am standing as the second, with my father, for the final meeting with foreign tribal dignitaries. She walks in with them. She is walking as the second to her father, their tribal leader. After formal greetings, my eyes meet hers. I can say nothing. I am lost. Frozen. I am falling… uncontrollably falling deeper and deeper into her turquoise eyes. And then she smiles.

    The shaman softly chuckles. “Yes, my lad. I understand.”

    • Charli Mills

      The youthful innocence of not yet understanding the dream, and the wise, bemused acceptance of the shaman stand out in this flash. All the while, we can imagine those turquoise eyes of the future!

      • rogershipp

        Thanks for your encouragement.

  9. guidaman

    The Billboard by Phil Guida
    The man in the turquoise suit was a site to behold. It wasn’t really a suit but may as well been one. Pretty much decked out from head to toe with the blue green color of the stone.
    To top that, he was huge in body type. It was comical in a way, kind of like having a thumb for a nose or dog ears.
    Now I love turquoise, in fact it is my favorite choice in jewelry. Come to find out that this walking billboard for turquoise was the owner of the largest gemstone shop in New Mexico.

    • Charli Mills

      I can just picture this massive man decked out in turquoise! He’d bring much attention t his profession. Great concept — walking billboard. If you’re large, then live it up! 🙂

    • rogershipp

      Hilarious! It gave me a huge belly laugh- not implying my belly is huge? I enjoyed it!

    • Charli Mills

      I saw you over there! 🙂 That’s okay. Some weeks, depending on the links or comments, finding each story is fun, like an Easter egg hunt! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Those are boots that can’t be missed! I love looking at western boots — so colorful or intricate with designs. Makes me wonder what the origin of western boot art is! Thanks for jumping into the turquiose flow!

  10. Pat Cummings

    My mood turquoise this week is On Your Permanent Record, at http://goo.gl/Paz3ma … and thanks for bringing Dirk and the youngest member of our study group back to mind for me!

    • Charli Mills

      Uh-oh…on the permanent record! Glad this tickled a memory!

    • Charli Mills

      Love the story about Dirk and his family’s tradition to pay for schooling.

  11. rllafg

    The Ring by Larry LaForge

    “Edna, it’s a stupid rock. It doesn’t mean anything.”

    Edna leafed through the photo album to show her husband Ed a picture of her wearing the turquoise ring last year. “It’s definitely faded in color,” she said.

    “So what?”

    “Don’t you see?” Edna pleaded. “Fading turquoise. It means I’m dying.”

    “Get outta here. You’re not dying—going crazy maybe, but not dying.”

    Ed’s crude attempt at humor didn’t sit well.

    Edna calmed herself. “Maybe you’re right. My checkup last week was fine, and I’ve never felt better. It’s probably not me.”

    “Huh?” Ed mumbled, suddenly looking a little worried.

    *****
    The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine. http://flashfictionmagazine.com/larrylaforge100words/2015/03/08/the-ring/

    • Annecdotist

      Nice one, Larry. I also read it as perhaps an indication that their relationship was dying?

      • rllafg

        I hope not. I need to get more stories out of them!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I love Ed and Edna. May that turquoise ring hold its color for a long while! Ed’s a bit worried, though. I bet he’s going to be looking at Edna’s ring often.

    • Charli Mills

      What great colors to pair! Turquoise is my purple. Interesting blog on heroines. I find that the character in your flash is subtly heroic to the girl.

  12. Ula

    Nice boots. I really enjoyed your flash fiction piece.
    Here’s mine: http://wp.me/p1VeFf-hG

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks! I think they’re great boots to aspire to. 🙂 Great flash with so much said in so few words.

  13. lucciagray

    Charlie, thanks for the shout out! I love your turquoise boots! I’ve taken the survey, too.
    Wonderful flash 🙂 Greedy conquistadores trapped in ‘never-never land’! Your flash reminded me of my visit to a Ute Reservation, some years ago, when I bought a turquoise stone necklace as a present for a friend. I know her well, so I was sure she’d like it, unlike the person in my flash!

    Turquoise

    “What’s your mother’s favorite color, Chelsea?”
    He smiled. I rolled my eyes and supposed Tom was trying to bond with that gross question.
    He’s been dating my mother for months, and he still doesn’t know her favorite color? Don’t they ever talk?
    “Turquoise. Get her a necklace, with matching bracelet and earrings.”

    So I bought Alice the necklace, bracelet, earrings and a pair of turquoise sandals too, hoping to gain Chelsea’s approval.
    I realized something was terribly wrong when she opened the presents gasped and giggled.
    “We need to talk about Chelsea,” she sighed and patted my hand lovingly.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Love it! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      I remember when a person could easily buy turquoise jewelry at rodeos and even rest stops. I remember thinking as a kid that the color of the stone looked fake, like plastic. I’d take back that opinion now. I’m glad your friend appreciated your gift! And at least Alice is clued into what is going on.

      • lucciagray

        It’s a beautiful and inspiring colour and gem as all the flash fiction shows!Thanks fir the prompt!:)

  14. ruchira

    Love the color of the boots, Charli.
    Yes, I am also a fan of something different since it always gives a little extra spunk in one’s confidence 🙂

    I wish you the best as you stride in your keens to LA 🙂

    Loved your take, and sharing mine!

    http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2015/03/happy-holi.html

    • Charli Mills

      That’s so true — it does give extra spunk to one’s confidence! Thanks, Ruchira! And I’m going to think of your story as I stride in LA!

  15. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    I tell a little more of Marnie’s story and fit it into a post for International Women’s Day (belatedly!)
    Thanks for the prompt: http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-pE

    • Charli Mills

      I missed IWD, sidetracked by birds and doing some pro bono work for a local organization. I’m glad to be reading all the posts and excited to see how turquoise continues Marnie’s story. She represents many of the unsung heroes among women.

      • Norah

        Sidetracked by birds! Beautiful blue herons, ducks and geese no doubt! How lovely of you to be doing pro bono work. Such a big heart you have! 🙂
        I am enjoying working on Marnie, but there are still lots of gaps in her life I haven’t sorted out yet. Bring on the prompts! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I’m excited by the work because it’s missions based marketing, which I love to do. In other words, I get to market the “good guys”! And it’s an organization with big hearts, so I’ll fit in, right? And it’s another step toward building community relationships to bring a writing workshop to town.

      • Norah

        That all sounds brilliant, Charli, and so you! I always wanted to be on the goodies’ side when I was a kid! 🙂 (and still do, by the way!)

      • Charli Mills

        I see you on that side, Norah!

      • Charli Mills

        I had an interesting though about the gaps — we sometimes have gaps, especially those who survived trauma. Let Marnie tell you about the gaps. It may not be that you need to fill them, but recognize them. Exciting work you are doing, Norah!

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. More for me to think about. Marnie is telling me a little more each week – just as she would if she were learning to place her trust in me. A little prompting from your direction helps though. Maybe you are takiing the role of the supervisor that Anne talks about when reviewing her series of psychologists! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        What an interesting thought, that developing characters is like building trust in a relationship. Maybe that’s why novels take time to write. Stories are quick, but people can unfold more slowly. Ha! I like that idea! We’ll see what Anne thinks! 😉

      • Norah

        Maybe that’s right about novels. They give the reader (and writer) plenty of time to explore and get to know the characters. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      When you say, “Here we go,” I think, “Hang in there, Mary”!

      • TanGental

        🙂 I know I’m rotten

      • Charli Mills

        Well, I’m even more rotten. Evidently I tried to steal your thunder last night! I discovered that I put my name in place of yours for the byline on your story when I posted it to the Carrot Ranch FB page. I fixed it. Hope it returns your thunder!

      • TanGental

        You’re welcome Charli. The grief I get from the regulars about Mary. It’s like some battered flash refuge should take her in and keep her from my barbed pen.

      • Charli Mills

        We need to set up a safe house for battered characters and a group therapy for the writers who can’t keep their pens in control. 😀 We jest with you! You are good at building tension and twists, and what’s a hero’s journey if not having to have a character walk through fire?

      • TanGental

        Churchill said I believe: ‘if you are going through hell, keep going’

      • Charli Mills

        Keep going, Mary!

      • TanGental

        🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I like what you did — the color gave you a prompt! I’m always fascinated by how our minds unravel the challenge of a prompt. In your case, though, it wove an idea! 🙂

      • Sarah

        Thanks! I tried to think of things that are turquoise, and the color reminded me of a scarf my mom wove that I have now.

      • Charli Mills

        How nice that you still have it!

    • Charli Mills

      Have you ever seen those photographs that are B&W with one splotch of color? Turquoise would look lovely. How fun that a B&W photo led the way for you!

      • Sherri

        I have seen those, yes, and turquoise would be a great colour to splotch on. The ones I’ve seen usually have red. Wouldn’t it be great to have the time to play around with photos like that…one of these days, maybe… 😉

  16. Rebecca Patajac

    Phew! I struggled a lot this week, but I was determined to find inspiration. You had me looking everywhere and paying closer attention to the world around me. It has been a wonderful week of exercising my writing mind!
    Thank you Charli 🙂

    http://loveliterarylife.com/2015/03/11/turquoise/

    • Charli Mills

      Way to be determined, Rebecca! 🙂 I love that you were taking in observations, looking for inspiration. That’s the sign of a great writer!

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