April 1: 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.

April 2, 2015

April 1It was like a bad April Fool’s Day joke. Every living thing was brown. I knew the drought in California was severe, but how could this be?

I had landed at LAX at 10 in the morning. I left behind a greening ranch and a vibrant pond singing at nights with chorus frogs. So far, all I could see of LA was hazy blue sky and concrete parking platforms. I waited for my Super Shuttle and slid across the back seat when it came.

It was a full load. Three more passengers packed into the backseat and it became the clichéd sardine can. At least no one smelled fishy. I leaned into the long horizontal van window, ready to see the sights. I had no idea where I was going or what this city looked like.

The first tall palms that lined the airport road were dry and brown. More brown palms and then an appalling hedge of brittle brown leaves. Somehow it supported the occasional red flower. Dread came over me and I felt as though I were driving through an apocalypse.

Yet the famous LA freeways were choked with cars, the ever present sign of human life. Everywhere I looked all the vegetation was brown. Would they have to cut down the big gnarled trees with brown leaves? Would a strong wind topple the palms? With the return of water, would these plants revive?

It bothered me that so many people drove past the brown trees, plants and hedges as if life as usual would take precedence, never mind the land is dead or dying. It reminded me of the scorching summer that refused to end in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Crops died, trees turned brittle and a hot wind blew.

Then I shifted my perspective. Unable to take the brown landscape I looked straight ahead. Wait I see green. Looking out the driver’s windshield three rows of bench seats before mine, I could see the dusky green of trees. I saw hedges green with brilliant fuchsia flowers. Palms towered with some bedraggled dead under-leaves but the fronds were green.

Turning out my side window I realized this was some tint I had never experienced before. Evidently purple tinted windows block green in the color spectrum. Who knew? Not a buckaroo from Idaho, that’s for certain. This created an optical illusion of brown dead vegetation. Relief flooded through me! The world had not turned brown after all.

LA BinderCon was one amazing moment after the other, once I came to grips with nature in LA. First, the Hub’s brother and wife were “in town.” They live in northern Nevada so what were the chances? We were able to grab a quick breakfast together.

Here’s a an overview of highlights and action-points:

  1. Talk to the person sitting next t you on the airplane. He just might be a t.v. producer willing to give you his agent’s phone number.
  2. Be willing to walk into a crowed hall, knowing absolutely no one because eventually you’ll make new friends. I now have a circle of t.v. writer friends who tell the best stories and taught me how to pitch.
  3. Literary writers don’t know how to pitch. That’s because we write synopses, which can vary in length and scope depending upon the recipient. When we pitch face-to-face we can read others’ reactions. From this, I fine-tuned what was most compelling about my novel.
  4. T.v. writers pitch all the time. They are fast with ideas and in touch with what sells. They are also collaborative, working together on shows in the writer’s room. We can learn from t.v. writers how to hone our ideas and work with others on projects.
  5. Don’t mind living in LA? Want to make money from writing? T.v. writers average $4-6K a week.
  6. Women writers showed up. Our voices are growing, but we need to quicken the pace. And we need to submit to publications. Women are being published, but way more men are submitting their writing.
  7. Community is the pipeline. Get engaged, get involved. Someone knows what you need to learn; someone needs what you know. Be authentic. Build authentic relationships. Get trusted feedback. Create a respected sounding board.
  8. You will hear 8,000 no’s. You only need one yes.
  9. How to write an inclusive audience that reflects the beauty and complexities of this world. Tell complex stories. Share your own story of being “other.”
  10. Personal essays are still viable ( I nearly cheered out loud). This is what I used to write before print media tanked. I’ve learned where the markets shifted and what is valued. This is one way to build credibility. Have your manuscript ready.
  11. Two legalities to know when writing memoir: disclosure of facts about others and defamation.
  12. How thought leaders rise. We connect with our value to the world. Writing and having a public voice comes from having an awareness of your value.
  13. Reporting on sexual violence is a big crisis in this country. A news anchor from Canada says it is a global problem.
  14. Don’t be afraid to pitch your region to a large NYC foundation. They might take you up on it.
  15. Lead with your brand (who you are), tell your story and be prepared to answer questions of credibility. The publisher I met with wanted to know if I researched the military. I said I married my research.
  16. Get an agent. This was told to me directly by the publisher.
  17. When pitching to an agent not exactly a perfect match, explain why you are pitching to her (I liked that she was an entrepreneur). She is giving my first 50 pages to a colleague to read. Take a chance, but make a connection.
  18. The best chance for a publisher to pick up a Carrot Ranch anthology is to find a regional press. Sounds odd for a global mix of writers, but that was direct advice from a publisher. Okay!
  19. Stay long, learn hard and go home full of strategies for what to do next.
  20. Beverly Hills has cobblestone and gilded alley-ways.

The biggest click that happened in my brain has to do with building the writer’s platform. Starting this week, I’m going to do a series of posts on that because I now understand the missing gaps I had, and I think it is a timely subject for this community. Whether you recognize it or not, you’ve been discussing platform issues. I think I can help clarify vital points to help other writers decide how to apply their platform building efforts in more effective ways.

What an amazing trip and conference. New friends, new ideas, new connections and new hope for my career. Thank you to this community for support and encouragement. Professionals in the industry were interested in what we are doing at Carrot Ranch to build community. And thank you to all who kept the flow going last week!

Because I was hanging out with t.v. writers, I’m leaning toward the dramatic this week. It is also April 1 and the symbolic month of honoring the earth. If we don’t nurture the earth, drastic consequences can unfold. Connecting that back to my frightening optical illusion, we will write 99-word earth epics this week.

April 1, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the day the earth turned brown. How did it happen? What else might be going on? It can be dramatic or even humorous. It can be the greater globe or a localized occurrence. It can be an aftermath or a revival. Follow where the prompt leads you.

Respond by April 6, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

When it Happened by Charli Mills

It felt like a shadow, creeping up my back. At first I thought it was a thunderhead, scudding across the midday sun. I knelt in freshly turned soil to finger a trench for stony beet seeds. When the crows flew overhead in silence, I finally looked up.

Like some grand dust storm from Arizona, a mass of brown clouds roiled like sediment, churning the sky. A volcano? No wind. No dust. A brown haze descended. It wilted green grass and shriveled clover. Water ran like mud. Electricity dimmed and batteries frothed. My beets never saw the light of day.


Just a bit of trivia: the disaster movie, Dantes Peak, was filmed in this area. If you’ve seen the movie, the picture is one I took of the lake where the water turns to acid in a dramatic scene. My area does look like a profusion of volcanic peaks!

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  1. susanzutautas

    I’m so glad that you learned so much from your trip and that you’ll be sharing with us what you’ve learned.
    Dantes Peak was a great movie. Love the picture that you took. I will try and come up with a flash this week, missed last week 🙁 …. Your flash is great by the way.
    Welcome home Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Susan! Dantes Peak is one of my favorite movies and I was giddy to find the Mirror Lake cabin so close to my home. That cabin (the cranky mother-in-law who refused to leave) was built just for the movie! Now it’s a general store. Thanks! Good to be home and back on the ranch!

  2. Sherri

    Oh Charli, I almost burst into tears as you described all those brown palm trees and hedges. I know of the terrible drought there from friends, but your description made it even worse than I feard. Then I read your explanation of the purple-tinted windows in the shuttle.. phew! So I shared your hugh relief as I travelled along that road with you through your wonderful words!
    The sight of those Palm trees along that airport road coming out of LAX is one I’ve seen so many times, always bringing with it a stab of mixed emotion upon my return ‘home’ from ‘home’.
    Wonderful flash (and prompt),an ominous brown haze if ever there was one, far worse than any LA smog 😉 Will have to tie this in with a conclusion to Ken and Muriel’s story…hmmmm.
    As for all the fantastic tips you’ve shared already, I’m positively drooling over it all ( sorry about that) but seriously, this is wonderful! Soaking it all up, thanks so much for this and more to come! Amazing what you achieved in those few days and the relationships you’ve made. I was in the wrong job when I lived in LA! TV writer, wow! Maybe we could pitch a Rough Writer’s version of ‘Friends’… 😉
    So many great points you make here, particularly about networking with anyone and everyone, even when you don’t know it! My son’s ex-girlfriend’s father’s partner – ! – happened to work in publishing. I had no idea the first and only time we ever met at son’s place for lunch a couple of years ago. She had just retired and told me that it is absolutely vital to have an agent. Seems she was right!
    I chatted once to a young woman on a train up to London and somehow I made mention of my blog. She was all ears when I expected her to be so bored. She took my website details as her brother has Asperger’s and she was really interested in some of my articles. My Asperger’s & Animals post is still my most read post to date. You just never know do you?

    • Charli Mills

      That’s right! You’d know that LAX palm-lined road well. Sorry to give you a start, but that’s how I felt…followed by feeling a tad foolish for not thinking it could be the tint. I’ve just never seen that kind of tint before! And, yes! Talk to anyone & everyone about what you are doing and writing. You never know who you are sitting next to! And so good that you track and know which articles are most read on your blog.

      • Sherri

        There are so many other points you’ve shared here, I could go on all day!

    • Ula

      I like the idea of a Rough Writer’s version of ‘Friends’. Can you imagine all our characters in one story?

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! 🙂 That would fun!

      • Sherri

        Haha…yes Ula, quite a show that would make 🙂

  3. lucciagray

    Useful action points. I’m looking forward to your posts on author platforms. Great flash. Chilling.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, good! I’m thinking this is useful information for all writers, or at least parts. Thanks! I channeled that creepy feeling I got in the van before realizing it was the weird tint. Another benefit of writing flash — a writer can express a phenomenon without having to scientifically explain it! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, wow! You wrote a series of haiku! That’s fabulous! I would struggle with having to live underground. I’ve never even liked basements!

    • Pat Cummings

      What will happen next?

      I almost thought you had written those words to close the last haiku… then I realized I had read them into the ellipsis!

    • TanGental

      Wow, Susan, how imaginative is that and it is so spot on; I’m inspired to go off and try my own…

  4. Annecdotist

    Thanks for sharing these useful points from your conference and I look forward to reading about how you are going to apply your new knowledge and enthusiasm. I’m really impressed at how you’ve condensed so much into those 20 pithy points. Love the one about how you married your research! I don’t actually write about medical issues but they do cut across quite a lot of general stuff, so I’m heartily grateful to be married to a nurse.
    Those brown leaves had me confused, saddened and then laughing out loud – you have such a nack in sharing your story in a way that keeps the reader interested. Who knows what will all come up with in response to your latest prompt? I loved your flash – I’ve planted beetroot seeds today, no darkening skies as yet fortunately!

    • Charli Mills

      I think that’s the element of “write what you know” but we also take wing and write what we are curious about or want to understand, too. But certainly, our relationships, experiences and knowledge give us concrete details. Thank you for going into the story with me. And yay! You planted beets! Do you like to eat the greens, too?

      • Annecdotist

        I do indeed! Although sow different seeds for beetroot and spinach beet.
        BTW, I’m very excited to be reading now a novel that spans the English county where I grew up and an Idaho reservation. Loving all these connections!

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, I did not know about “spinach beet”! I just lop off the greens and we eat those, too. My goal this year is to pull up a crop of baby beets and pickle them. The Hub loves roasted beets so much that I never seem to have enough to pickle. 🙂 Can’t wait to read that novel review!

    • TanGental

      I have to step in and add that roasted beets are fab and it as taken me decades to realise. My childhood provided me with an enduring disgust of cold beetroot in vinegar so to find out what a versatile veg it was at 40 something left a bit of a hole. We are trying yellow and striped beets this year… And I too laughed out loud at the realisation of why the word had turned brown!

      • Charli Mills

        I grow a striped and rubies! I’d like to get a golden beet going, too. Oh man, splash a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with tarragon and roast in the oven…pure goodness! But I do like the vinegared beets, too. I’m going to try roasting them in my smoker this summer. I wrapped bacon around asparagus spears and smoked them for about 20 minutes and they were to die for! Of course, if I keep eating bacon with my veggies…And as for my inexperience with the tinted windows, I felt like I just fell off the beet truck upon arrival to LA!

      • TanGental

        Not sure why this makes me remember, but I had the most extraordinary eggs recently -poached in an oven set at 60 degrees C for hours. Simply divine!

      • Annecdotist

        Likewise hate them in vinegar, but lovely roasted or simply boiled – or in a soup like borscht

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve not had borscht!

      • TanGental

        now that is great if done well – I’ve had some dreadful soup and some fantastic

  5. Elizabeth G. Marro

    Hey, Charli – you do get used the brown after a while. What I find is that coming upon the blue of the ocean, the dusty green of the palms, or the sudden blooms that find their way into the light after a drenching rain all mean that much more. And the sunsets — those make up for a lot.

    Loved your list of take-aways from BinderCon and will keep it handy. It was a great conference. I love that you spent time with TV writers. I’m about to contact the organizers to find if any of the videos of sessions we couldn’t attend are available online. Do you happen to know?

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you at the ranch! Once I got over the illusion created by the tinted windows, I enjoyed the palms and profusion of flowers. Missed seeing the ocean accept upon take-off! The Sierras are dry bones, especially compared to the saturation of the Pacific Northwest. I thought of your essay and how an orange plopped to the ground as a gift. We can find ourselves connected to nature anywhere, can’t we?

      Glad the take-aways are useful. It seems that each session was video-recorded, but I’m not sure to what purpose. Leigh or Lux could tell you. I think it would be brilliant to offer the sessions online. I’d even re-watch ones I sat in on. Oh, I learned lots from the t.v. writers! But that grind is not for me!

      • Elizabeth G. Marro

        Leigh responded and told me that as soon as the videos of each panel were edited, they’d be made available online to all attendees. I’m glad about that. There are several I hated to miss. Deciding was difficult.

      • Charli Mills

        Good to know! Thank you! I know what you mean — I actually went to ones I didn’t plan on going to and then missed others because of pitching. At lunch, someone mentioned how good the personal essays session was when it was presented in NYC and I’m so glad I went to it.

  6. Sarah

    What an image of such a brown world! I am glad it was caused by the tinted bus windows, you gave me a scare!

    Thanks so much for sharing what you learned in LA. It sounds like it was a successful conference, and I am so happy for you.

    The image of the day turned brown made me think how precious water is, and how we waste it. That got gathered up in my flash: https://fictionaslife.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/dry-seasons-eve/

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you felt scared because what disconcerted me most was how everyone was driving around as if the world weren’t brown. Sometimes I feel it’s true, that people where environmental blinders. But relieved at the illusion. Water is so precious and at the guest house I was running the water to brush my teeth, and was overwhelmed by how wasteful that is.

  7. Sarah Brentyn

    Wow. Read everything but am digesting. So glad you had a wonderful time and the conference was so fruitful (weird with the brown-world prompt). Very interested to hear more and see what you do with this new info. Welcome home and great flash, as always!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s how I feel — still digesting it all! I’ll sort through it here, though, sharing more ideas to digest. The other thought I had with the tint is that is how the world looks to people who are colorblind (who can’t see green). Disturbing, but I suppose you wouldn’t know otherwise. I hope green doesn’t become a color of the past! Thanks!

  8. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    Here’s Ruth’s response to this prompt. I’ll be back sometime over the weekend to comment, and even later with my response.
    Best wishes. 🙂

    Treasured Memories by Ruth Irwin

    It was as if she was looking through a thick dark fog. The images were hauntingly familiar, but somehow strangely different. Amongst others, the elegant Eiffel Tower; the snaking Great Wall of China; Tower of London with its secrets of wealth and horror; the proud Statue of Liberty; the traditional Fijian Bure. The whole world was awash with a brown that sofened the edges and threatened to erase the images from view.

    Despite her early morning coffee washing over the printed memories nothing would ever blur the treasured images in her mind of her adventures in far off lands.

    • Charli Mills

      Brilliant interpretation — spilled coffee!

      • Pete

        I agree, this one is brilliant. So creative!

      • susanzutautas

        I too agree, Wow!

      • Sarah Brentyn


    • rogershipp

      Loved the contrast that the washed coffee allowed.

    • rllafg

      This is awesome!

    • TanGental

      I’m with everyone else; what a good take; and so true.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      What a great twist at the end Ruth. Here I was thinking apocalypse and it was just spilled coffee. Mind you if I spilt my first cup of the day it could be an apocalypse. I love the line “nothing would ever blur the treasured images in her mind…..

    • ruthelizabethirwin

      Thanks everyone for your lovely comments!

  9. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Apart from the brown world scare it sounds like it was a fabulous time where you soaked up heaps of information. Looking forward to your posts on author platform.
    You succeeded in the dramatic with your flash and I loved your last line “My beets never saw the light of day.”
    Will return with my offering.

    • Ruth Irwin

      Hi Charli, I’m more of a beach girl than country girl – rather than being lassooed I’m in, hook, line and sinker – is that allowed?Flash Fiction is loads of fun. I’m glad my sister Norah told my about it and you!!

      • Charli Mills

        Absolutely! The ranch can hook beachcombers, too! You can wrangle words or net them. 🙂 I’m so glad you find flash fiction fun and you are really good at it! I enjoy Norah’s company and contributions here and am delighted to meet her sister! Welcome!!!

    • Charli Mills

      I felt sad for my beets. Glad it was fiction, but it does make me ponder how we treat our environment. While there are so many consequential scenarios, life is amazingly persistent.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        But for how long and in what state. It really is time we took a little more care. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, yes, Irene, it is! Though I marvel at the flower that pushes up through a crack in the concrete, I agree we need to take measures against damaging our environment continually.

  10. Pete

    Great info Charlie, although a lot to take in. Great flash as always, too!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Pete! Yes, lots to digest and I’m planning (yes, a panster can plan) how to break down the primary information into manageable chunks.

  11. Pete

    I was about to go all dystopian on this one but I reeled it in and may have written the most boring flash CarrotRanch history…sigh…

    It was time. After all the waiting and hoping and false starts we’d broken through, both on the calendar and the grasshopper thermometer outside the window.

    Stabbing in with the shovel, I unearthed moist, brown soil, like that of a brownie just out of the oven. I stirred the fragments, the once vibrant yellow banana peels, dimpled corn cobs along with red tomatoes, leaves, egg shells, and even some soda that I’d snuck in before my diet.

    Thick earthworms wiggled as I stirred nature’s crockpot, where the fertile brown earth would soon bolster the wonderful green stalks of life.

    • rogershipp

      The makings of a great home for nightcrawlers. I liked the line “like a brownie out of the oven”. A nice snapshot in time.

    • Charli Mills

      You know, every moment has a witness. Writers have much to draw upon. I can’t say that the big moments matter more than the little ones. A good writer can take small moments and make them feel as expansive as a dystopian shock. And you are a good writer. This is expansive writing — from shovel in the sod to worms in compost soup, you’ve conveyed the circle of life and that from brown comes green. Beautiful!

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Ha! 😀 “I was about to go all dystopian on this one but I reeled it in…” Same with mine. I do like your flash, though. Beautiful description.

    • TanGental

      Ah my favourite pastime, making compost. Perfect description of the satisfaction. Though where do those little wire red worms come from (do you have little wire worms in compost anywhere but the UK?)

  12. rogershipp


    “Do you want to walk outside, Dad?”

    “Why bother?”

    “You need the exercise.”

    “I can get that walking the halls. Besides, more people to talk to here.”

    “I know that. But wouldn’t you like the fresh wind in your face… see the mountains… hear the birds?”

    “When blue jays aren’t blue, they’re just mean vicious bullies. Mountains without sunsets have little meaning.”

    “Are all the colors gone, Dad?”

    “The sky is still a nice shade of blue…. But who wants to see a brown sunrise? Oh, ignore me. I am blessed. My love for you will never turn brown.”

    ** Monochromacy can be an acquired eye malady of the aging. The cones in the eyes weaken and eventually the ability to see all colors except browns and shades of blues is vanquished.


    • Charli Mills

      After what I saw through that tint, I would struggle with such a malady, I think. It felt so rich to step out into the full spectrum, and I understand the character’s feeling of life being diminished. Yet, in his last statement, he knows the experience of love goes beyond color. A powerful flash, Roger!

      • rogershipp

        Thank You

    • susanzutautas

      The last line made my heart melt. Great Flash!

      • rogershipp


    • lucciagray

      Lovely flash 🙂 feeling is more important than seeing.

      • rogershipp

        Most definitely

    • Sarah Brentyn

      What a unique take on the prompt! Great flash.

      • rogershipp


    • TanGental

      Unique take Roger and I’d never heard of that condition. At least that want the problem for Charli!

  13. Norah

    Charli, I’m back to comment on this one and you’ve already posted another – it will have to wait for a comment till later. 🙁
    I really enjoyed this post. Purple tinted windows making the world seem brown! One would wonder the need. Sometimes sunglasses can make the world appear a different colour too, but we are generally not fooled by it. Occasionally I will lift them to check the colour of the sky, to see if it is really that dark, or clouds so ominous, but the brain generally translates, seeing what I expect to see.
    I’m very excited about what you learned at the conference, and especially that you are so willing to share your learning with us. You are very generous. Television writing sounds lucrative, but it’s probably just as difficult to break into that market as it is into any other. I am looking forward to learning every bit I can, and I’m sure your next post on platform will have a lot of interest. I hope we’re at the right station!
    Your flash is very brown. I’m disappointed your beets won’t see the light of day, never mind all the other terrible events. Your description is very eerie.
    I’m not sure how I’ll go with this one. I haven’t received the inspiration (am i waiting for it to descend like the brown in your flash? – maybe!) Everything I think of just doesn’t work for me – yet. I still have a few days to mull it over and will see how I go. It’s good to get a prompt that requires a little more thought occasionally! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      My car has window tints but it’s just a shadow that reduces the sun’s glare and I’ve worn safety glasses at the rifle range that makes the world rosy or yellow. This was my first experience of brown! And it was disconcerting and worked on my imagination because of the drought so I believed at first what I was seeing.

      Television might actually be easier to break into because it is thriving so well and have funding. But it is competitive and can be intense bursts of work followed by looking for another gig. Good to see an industry hiring so many writers, though, and paying them well. I’ve seen freelancing diminish and trying to get business clients is harder because many are going to bid sites like 99designs (except for freelance writers). But markets are shifting, meaning the need is still there and writers can learn how to build a platform that steps above the noise of many. It takes diligence and it can be done.

      Let’s see if the inspiration descends like a haze or washes over you like spilled coffee! 🙂

      • Norah

        I understand how knowing about the drought, combined with the brown tint (which seems very unusual) would lead you to believe the earth was parched.
        It’s interesting to think of television being easier to break into and, as you say, good to know there is a market there for writers.
        it sounds like you are not in favour of 99designs. This is my first experience with it and I would be very interested to hear your views.
        I look forward to seeing (helping) you lift your platform above the noise of many. Maybe I can learn something too. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Sites like 99designs can be beneficial in the way that you are using it. A person can afford to bid out design and get art for something that would normally be cost prohibitive. Designers know what to expect and many do it for pleasure, to build up their reputation or to make extra coffee money.

        What concerns me is that the popularity of this model for purchasing written content. It has decreased market value for freelancer writers. However, the major search engines are developing new algorithms that reward quality writing. This will return value to the seasoned freelancers. I think we need a balance. It’s good that artists can make their work affordable to other artists or non-profits, but it’s unfair when businesses profit from design or written content without paying the creator a fair portion.

        And yes, Norah, a dynamic community uplifts each others’ platforms above the noise! Thank you! And I hope it’s mutually beneficial. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Even when we have eyes to see, we don’t get it. A sharp flash that portrays the attitude that most likely led to the breaking news.

    • Pat Cummings

      Like the reaction I have when a young observer’s emotional response to beautiful scenery is to immediately turn away from it to get a selfie!

    • georgiabellbooks

      I like the compilation of news anchor stories you are writing, Sarah. They feel symbolic sometimes, as if they might represent those that are both corrupt and misguided.

    • TanGental

      Great the way the priorities are so twisted; you can imagine the world ending and yet some people will still be looting…

  14. Sacha Black

    Sorry its taken so long to participate this week. rough week. I decided this prompt fitted perfectly with my ‘symptoms’ piece – the end of the world one, so I carried on the story. which will be published here: http://wp.me/p2tAaK-wl on Tuesday. I am very excited for your series too, but put my comment on that post instead 😀

    The Cure by Sacha Black

    “What do you mean you saw a rainbow, Tyler?”

    “Before you were born, and before the world became this slush of vintage browns and antique beiges, there used to be colour in the world. The Earth was flecked with colour and shaded with meaning.”

    The girl just stared at me, brows deeply furrowed.


    “I’ll show you if you promise to keep it secret?”

    She nodded.

    I led her to the back of the house and into the greenhouse.

    “You see that? The tiny budding shoot? It’s the first of its kind for five years. I’ve found the cure.”

    • susanzutautas

      There is hope, and I got excited when I read your flash!

      • Sacha Black

        aww thanks so much 🙂

    • Pat Cummings

      Your flash made me recall an intensely evocative science fiction story, “All Summer In a Day” by Ray Bradbury ( http://goo.gl/FrDm8D ),

      • Sacha Black

        Wow, what a compliment thank you so much. Made my day. ????

    • lucciagray

      Loved it 🙂 “There used to be color” to “I’ve found the cure.” Very effective and hopeful.

      • Sacha Black

        Aww shucks thanks so much 🙂

    • TanGental

      Exactly, hope springs. Great stuff.

    • Charli Mills

      I like this hopeful take, that we can still make amends and overcome the browns. Great descriptors, too — vintage and antique. I’ll pick up the link on Tuesday and thanks for your insights on the platform series!

      • Sacha Black

        Thanks Charli 🙂 I am now wishing I didn’t use the word colour twice though, missed it in my edit! sigh.

      • Charli Mills

        It works! 🙂

  15. rllafg

    Lawn Care by Larry LaForge

    “I got this,” Ed said confidently.

    Edna was apprehensive. “But, Ed, it’s our front yard. Let’s get a lawn professional.”

    “That’s just throwing money away,” Ed replied. “Fertilize. Water. Cut. That’s all you have to do. It’s not rocket science. Trust me.”

    Edna relented, and Ed took on the project with his usual gusto—and impatience.

    He gave it a triple dose of fertilizer, watered twice per day, and kept it cut super low to prevent any weed growth.

    The blazing summer sun did the rest.

    Finally, Edna had seen enough. “Ed, isn’t a lawn supposed to be green?”

    The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine: http://flashfictionmagazine.com/larrylaforge100words/2015/04/04/lawn-care/

    • ruchira

      LOL…Edna is right!!

    • lucciagray

      Impatience will get you nowhere! Great flash.

    • Sacha Black

      Pahaha this one made me giggle. Brilliantly foreshadowed and perfectly ended. ????

    • TanGental

      At least u can be guaranteed to bring a smile to our faces, Larry. I fear I’m a little to like Ed though in terns of brown patches the dog puts us all to shame.

    • Charli Mills

      This is the plight of the suburban gardener — fertilize, grow, mow and repeat all the while keeping it green!

  16. Pat Cummings

    Larry LaForge and I are on the same line this week (just at opposite ends): Going Brown is my flash at http://goo.gl/QB8tjC

    • TanGental

      Yes, there is always a way, so long as we keep trying – cheerful and uplifting Phew, at last.

    • Charli Mills

      I think Ed needs the contact information for those drought resistant puya, but not sure what Edna will think of turquoise plants! Interesting post, too Pat. You’ve seen some varied vegetation. I hope the drought in California ends without a season of flooding.

  17. georgiabellbooks

    You had me at The Wheel of Time, Charli. Robert Jordan’s series was one of my first forays into fantasy and I could easily call up the scorched brown landscape of the never ending summer Jordan described. How relieved you must have been to know it was just a filter and not some terrible disaster that the rest of the world wasn’t privy to.

    Here’s mine this week. And submitted on a Saturday. This is some kind of record for me.
    She’d been sweating out here for hours. Turning over dirt. Moving it from one place to another. She accepted the canteen gratefully when it came her way, barely remembering the time she would have refused to drink from the same container as a stranger.

    “Thanks,” she said and wiped her hand across her mouth, likely just smearing the filth on her face into streaks.

    The young girl who worked beside her looked down, but she saw the smile that turned up the corners of her lips.

    Taking a chance, she leaned in. “Come see me later. I have news.”

    • ruchira

      aha! innocence enveloped with a thirst after working for hours. Loved it 🙂

    • TanGental

      hope and innocence; will they win out over cynicism? Hope so!

    • Charli Mills

      It was a Robert Jordan moment and I almost expected to Foresaken to attack from behind a dead palm…almost. 🙂

      Interesting how circumstances can change attitudes. Thirst is a deep driver. The smile and the news seem hopeful in a dreary setting. It almost hints at escape. And Saturday! Yay! I might have to mention WOT more often…:-)

  18. guidaman

    My submission comes from my last visit to my home town of Fresno. Even tho I left Fresno behind 20 years ago your home town never quit leaves you. I’m sad for my peeps in Calif.
    Phil Guida

    Dateline Fresno County……
    The hills are usually brown in this valley, but not until June when the temperatures begin reaching triple digits. This is only April and our world seems to have been choked dry.
    The ground is parched, the lakes of my younger years are merely ponds, and the rivers resemble creeks. Our once oasis is rapidly retreating back to its origins.
    No rain, no snowpack, and soon, no farmers.
    The air has a peculiar scent, one that I’m unfamiliar with.
    Maybe it’s the slow dying of the land taking place or it could be the stinking denial of climate change.

    • ruchira

      Fresno Alas! the drought is killing us 🙁 Good take, guidaman!

    • TanGental

      Denial or deliberate it still kills; a truth in 99 words. So sad.

    • Charli Mills

      I didn’t know that Fresno was your hometown, Phil! I was born in Hollister and grew up in Markleeville. I have family in Fresno. It was disheartening to fly over the Sierras and only see rings of snow around high mountain lakes. My father-in-law is almost 80 and lives in Fallon, NV. He said in his lifetime, he’s never seen the rivers and reservoirs so low. Yet, as you mention, California is farm territory. You capture this scene aptly. Killer last line!

  19. ruchira

    Charli, Loved that you shared your valuable pointers with us…xoxo

    I am sure you must have awed those publishers, agents et. al with your lovely presence cause even if we have not met, your virtual presence makes me aww of you 🙂

    Loved your take to the 99 words flash fiction. Although was chuckling at the episode of you observing the landscape of LA via that glass 🙂


    • TanGental

      A tincture of hope, Ruchira; it’s really interesting how these takes look at the individual holding out despite monumental destruction all around. Human spirit is a resilient thing.

    • Charli Mills

      Aww, thanks, Ruchira! They were interested in Carrot Ranch and the community here. I’m grateful that you all make it so vibrant…moreso than brown! Relieved it was just a tint, but flying over California was sobering. The drought is so evident statewide. I almost felt guilty as I could tell when the plane got to the Pacific Northwest and everything turned lush. If I had a share mechanism, I’d share moisture with you!

      What a vivid flash and an interesting twist — the smell of peace.

    • TanGental

      I love the way she hangs onto her roses, a desperate gesture to maintain some of the old realities; beautiful but futile.

    • Charli Mills

      Holding on for hope or denying the inevitable are alike sometimes.

  20. lucciagray

    Here’s my take on a world turned brown.
    I’ve read so many great dystopian and ecological versions of the prompt that I couldn’t bring myself to even attempt it.
    I’m in a romantic and sentimental mood, after a wonderful family holiday, so I’m afraid it’s a bit mushy…


    I used to think blue was the most beautiful colour in the world.
    When Tim’s intense blue eyes first looked into mine, I soon realised I wanted to gaze at them forever, and he always said my clear blue eyes were like pools he wanted to sink into eternally.
    I assumed our son would have blue eyes, so I was surprised when they were brown; a soft, honey brown. Tim says our son will be tall, dark, and handsome, like his father. Now every time I look into our toddler’s eyes, I remember the day my world turned brown.

    • TanGental

      That’s a lovely twist on the prompt, taking the positives perfectly. As a metaphor for how the planet regenerates despite us, it’s just spot on.

      • lucciagray

        Thank you, Geoff. I’m so inspired by my grandchildren 🙂 I feel I have a foot in the future although I’ll never be there…

    • Charli Mills

      It always makes for a more interesting read when the stories are varied! I can understand that a happy holiday with family would leave you in a romantic and sentimental mood. Like stories, families are interesting with their variations, too! Sweet take on the prompt…and I like what you said to Geoff, about grandchildren leaving you with a foot in the future.

      • Charli Mills

        Glad to hear that you are home safely from your journey! Sounds like an uplifting time spent with your family!

    • TanGental

      I think the glib way the speakers react is so characteristic of many reactions to climate change; beautifully composed flash

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Geoff. In Australia our government doesn’t believe that climate change exists. What hope do we have.

      • TanGental


    • Charli Mills

      That’s one way to paint the town! Er, the world…:-) It has that apathetic feel that many express when the environment is suppressed. Well done to show that.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Charli. We are certainly being apathetic in Australia regarding the environment.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a big controversy in the States, too. Denial and apathy can be surprisingly powerful. Our government is so split on every major topic, that all I can think about is “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” To the doubters (of climate change), why not take measures to lessen our impact on the environment? Even if we are wrong, we still did something for the greater good of our world.

    • Charli Mills

      Gloomy turn of events for Mary. The suspense continues even if her hopes are flagging.

    • TanGental

      not sure why I posted twice??!

      • Charli Mills

        Because you’re thorough! 🙂

      • TanGental

        thanks but more likely incompetence

  21. Norah

    Hi Charli, Here’s mine. I hope it works, finally. Thanks for the challenge. 🙂 http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-qC

    • Charli Mills

      Your muddy flash works well to illustrate the teaching points in your post. I was fascinated by your review and videos sharing Willingham’s cognitive science in regards to how we learn. Good stuff!

      • Norah

        Thanks Charli, They were but snippets of his work. I think I’ll have to read some more of his books too. He makes a lot of sense, even if it does challenge some common beliefs.

      • Charli Mills

        I find that when I’m challenged, I often make a break-thru in my thinking.

      • Norah

        It is good to have opportunities for our thoughts to fly beyond their usual confines. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Yes! 💡

      • Norah

        That’s a cute icon! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad writers like the corral! I certainly like the stories that pass through these fences each week. 🙂

      Oh, yes! Definitely a novel in my queue (it’s on pre-order). Spokane would be the closest airport to Nez Perce, though it is south and I’m north. HWY 95 directly connects Elmira to Nez Perce. Can’t wait to read the connections the author makes between the frontiers of Idaho and Cumbria.

      Your flash, though brown, seems invigorated by your reading of broad landscapes.

  22. Rebecca Patajac

    I’ll leave a quick link to my contribution this week since I didn’t do a pingback this time:
    I hope you enjoy it, that I don’t offend anyone and that everyone had a wonderful Easter break!
    I’ll be saving your 20 tips from the LA conference for later reference, thank you for sharing Charli 🙂
    Take it easy

    • Charli Mills

      No offense for writing a compelling idea, Rebecca. Great flash that tackles the notion that we would stay the same when our world evolves and shows what breaking up elitist powers might look like in the future. Easter was a lovely break with daffodils and sunshine…then Monday morning dawned with a blizzard! Glad the tips can help. It helps me, too. I get to digest through sharing. 🙂

      • Rebecca Patajac

        It’s great to hear that you had a lovely Easter break. Ours was much the same, sunshine and all! Spent time outside around a fire-pit with the family on Sunday, BBQ, toasted marshmellows, little ones running free. It was wonderful weather. Though now, our world has turned dreary and grey with a full week of rain forecast, and only a couple of days of sun before even more rain next week. I love the rain; ducted heater running, patter patter patter, a good book or some writing time, perfect! But I hate having to keep the littlies inside 🙁

        Isn’t that true for all writers? 🙂 We digest our thoughts better when we write them down. At least, I only JUST manage to function without writing, I’m not sure what it’s like for others.

        With the advance of technology, I believe we will eventually lose the traits required to survive in the natural world. The changes that the Earth will undertake will be too harsh for us as a species and we will have to rely on our technology to survive. Though there are just as many positives as there are negatives to that kind of situation; I used to think that if our species couldn’t survive in the natural world, then it shouldn’t hinder the rest of its inhabitants. But I’ve recently learnt we can do them just as much good as we can do for ourselves, and that makes the world seem like a much greater place than the horrible things I used to believe about the human race.

      • Charli Mills

        Sounds lovely — both the time gathered around the fire-pit and the time inside, writing or reading to rain! Yes, I think writers have a need to internalize thoughts, and also to share them. I think best with my fingers. 🙂 Technology will have an interesting impact on how we evolve. It can go so many different ways, but the role of a writer is to imagine the “what ifs…” I think writing about ecological concerns and what-if stories can help people better understand what climate change is and what it could mean. I think literature can break barriers. That’s an important role we have even when we write fiction! It’s a great theme for you to develop in your books, too! 🙂

      • Rebecca Patajac

        The difference between our world developing as it has, through technology, and developing in sync with nature is a massive part of my current WIP actually. There’s a second world that has evolved with a “magic” link with/control over living things. I’m developing the different cultures and belief systems while working out how our “post-apocalyptic” but technologically thriving world fights politically over the doorway to the other world. I still have no idea how it ends but I’m taking it scene by scene and it’s moving along slowly.
        Fiction is an incredible way to create “what ifs.” Making scenarios real inside the reader’s mind makes them more believable no matter how far into the future or past they exist.

      • Charli Mills

        What an exciting WIP! If you let it develop at its pace, it will inform you, as well as you informing the story. Isn’t amazing how our projects can become so dynamic?I look forward to reading it one day!

  23. AJ

    I feel like a five year old because internally I am jumping up and down, I made it! I made it!, for finally getting to do a flash this week. And there are such great stories posted! I am trying to get through them all.

    Your experience had me fooled, with as much water troubles as everyone is having, I really thought LA had turned brown, i had quite a laugh when it was just the tint on the windows.


    By Amber Prince


    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I love that 5 year old feeling! I’m jumping up and down because you got to come play at the ranch! You’ve been a busy writer — I’m enjoying your posts! I had myself fooled, too. Silly window tint.

      • AJ

        Hehe I love getting to play at the ranch!
        Thank you Charli, things have been crazy on the writing front. I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to use you as my next post topic… What you are doing here on the ranch with the prompts and flash fiction.

      • Charli Mills

        That would be fabulous! Thank you! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Go get ’em, Sherri! Thanks for galloping this way and concluding Ken & Muriel. What lives exist beneath their exteriors!

      • Sherri

        Haha…thanks Charli! I feel better now 😀

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, good! 😀

  24. TanGental

    Sorry if this is late but the subject matter is too important not to fire out a sonnet..

    Tilting the future

    We’ve browned off the Earth with careless needs
    Thoughtless beyond our artificial horizons;
    Enlightened by science, scattering seeds
    Of our potential destruction. Denizens
    Of Earth shrug – having a secular faith
    Expecting absolution; they plough on
    While the plough rusts in the field; a wraith
    Of their lush youth melts in the heat. Clarion
    Calls dissipate. Tipping points have passed.
    Narrow minds ‘know’ summer’s oven is a phase,
    Seasons change: solid winter never fails its task.
    Oh history, be their teacher – Time’s backward gaze:
    Recall the dinosaurs; even they all died
    While the rest – the birds and beasts survived.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow! That is a well-shot arrow that hits the target of apathy. The opening line is such a lament; the last a vital warning. Thank you for contributing this sonnet! You always have such amazing ones to pull out of your left ear. I’m honored to have one grace the brown this week. 😀

      • TanGental

        What a terrific expression. I will take more care of L’Oreille Gauche from here on.

  25. TanGental

    Oh how horrid to end up needing to put the water down the drain; such a powerful metaphor.


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