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October 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

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October 28I keep a hammer in my kitchen drawer, among more common utensils like spatulas, tongs and a lemon zester. It might look misplaced, as if I hung a platter on the wall and stuck the hammer in the nearest drawer. Yet, it’s not. It serves a purpose in my kitchen — pounding peppercorns or nuts. Before I lost my apples, I made my favorite apple crisp recipe that calls for candied-ginger and macadamia nuts, well-pounded.

Tools are vital to any trade. Think of a writer and you’d likely think of pen and papers as trade tools. True, I love notebooks and writing pens of a certain ball size and blue ink, although my laptop is the workhorse. On my desk is an array tool-books — The Elements of Style, Webster’s New World College Dictionary, The Associated Press Stylebook, Writer’s Market, Mission-Based Marketing, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business, The Publicity Handbook, Strengths Finder, The Craft of Revision, Revision & Self-Editing, 8½ Steps to Writing Faster Better, and a tower of historical books.

I’m as proud of my tool-books as the Hub is of his tool-chest full of aviation wrenches and other chrome. Tools are an investment in one’s craft.

This time of year, writers have before them one of the biggest and most gracious tools ever offered in the form of an event — National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. It’s a nonprofit that believes your story matters:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Many are preparing for this event, and others are eagerly waiting for the start. Grumblings ripple through the writing community with some curmudgeons thinking that “real” writers don’t NaNo. It’s a tool. It’s a choice. It’s like me using a hammer to crack nuts. You might use something different, but that separation of choice doesn’t make one tool superior to the other.

What makes NaNoWriMo an effective writing tool is in how you use it and why. Know your strategy before you decide or are persuaded by the opinions of fans or foes.

I’ll tell you straight up; I’m a fan. I love NaNoWriMo as a drafting tool. Here’s why it works for me:

  1. It’s the right fit for writing a first draft (strategy: finish that novel).
  2. It’s a process that focuses on creation (strategy: turn off the internal editor; turn on the story possibilities).
  3. It has an accountable deadline (strategy: stop procrastination).
  4. It doesn’t matter what the quality of the draft is (strategy: write that “shitty” first draft).
  5. It generates 50,000 +/- words (strategy: generate material to develop and revise).

As a drafting tool, NaNoWriMo can help you develop that story idea, build strong daily writing management skills and get new material in the pipeline. November has worked out for me and even had me thinking that I could do this every year to generate new material. Except…

My priority at this time is to revise my draft of Rock Creek by December 15. If I generate new material, I won’t meet my deadline. I could use the NaNoWriMo framework, but I’d be defeating the organization’s purpose to craft a new story. And revision is a different process than drafting.

What I’ve decided to do is rooted in a trio of inspiration. Last year, Anne Goodwin set course on a non-NaNo project and came up with a fast-draft. She set her own word count goal, which is exactly what one should do when considering any writing tool. Recently, Geoff Le Pard posted his thoughts on how best to use NaNoWriMo this year and dithered over several project ideas which led him to a brilliant NaNothology project. Writers who have participated in NaNoWriMo with encouragement to others on the blogosphere, along with faithful readers and cheerleaders who have waved me on in the past, I can’t help but feel buoyed by your enthusiasm. Check out Ula Humienik’s Ultimate NaNoWriMo Toolkit.

Recognizing that I can adjust the tool, come up with a creative concept to fit my situation and tap into the shared energy of writers and readers, I’m debuting my new tool: NaNoReViSo. Like NaNoWriMo, I’ll begin November 1, but continue up until December 15 when I send off my revised manuscript to beta readers, including my editor (who will assess the manuscript), a few specialized historians and readers of the genre. I’ll also take off a week, November 22-28. And, revision is a different beast from drafting, thus is more than word count, although some days will be dedicated to rewrites. Here’s how I’m seeing NaNoReViSo as my revision tool:

  • 35 days
  • 3 hours a day dedicated to revision
  • 2 hours a day dedicated to reading or reviewing research
  • Compare the story to the historical timeline
  • Complete the hero’s journey arc
  • Figure out what to cut, what to add
  • Post progress on Mondays

My goal is to revise this draft well enough to secure the interested publisher. That draft will follow beta reader feedback. Although I’ve fictionalized the story, I’m presenting a never-before considered theory. It’s plausible, but has a few holes. For now, imagination will have to be the putty. Who can truly prove a 150-year old murder?

With hammer in one hand and a rope in the other, I’ll also be wrangling that anthology project. I’m welcoming a few more writers to the Congress and putting together a project plan based on Rough Writer feedback. I will make an announcement through email once I’ve completed a private group list and heard back from all new invitees. Our project and new inductees will be announced here once all is set.

One tool a historian uses is a body of documents that pertain to an event or a person. Many historians also use first-hand accounts. The former is often incomplete and the latter incorrect. Such is the case with every history book written on the subject of the Rock Creek affair. Some call it a massacre, others a gunfight. Even preeminent historian, Joseph Rosa, relies on accounts that might not be more than opinion or myth. Yet he has been the most thorough researcher of documentation that pertains to Wild Bill Hickok’s role in the shooting at Rock Creek. He points out that the failings of earlier historians has to do with their attempt to appeal to their audiences and acknowledges that many of their accounts are more fiction than fact. I’d like my book to be fiction that is rooted in fact.

Thus at times I feel I need a weed-trimmer to wade through the historical accounts to discern the facts. Documents are dry and sometimes puzzling, but they present interesting considerations. For example, Nebraska State Historical Society has the original document calling for the arrest of those who killed Cobb. It reads:

Territory of Nebraska
County of Gage

The Complainant and informant, Leroy McCanles of the County of Johnson, Territory afforesaid Made before T. M. Coulter Esquire one of the Justices of the Peace in and for Gage County, on the 13th day of July 1861, who being duly sworn on his own oath says that the crime of Murder has been Committed in the County of Jones and that Dutch Bill, Dock and Wellman (thier other names not known) committed the same

Subscribed and
Sworn to before me (signature of) _ L. McCanles
This 13th day of July 1861
T. M. Coulter
Justice of the Peace

In my own family oral tradition, my Grandfather Sonny told me that Wild Bill Hickok shot our kin. He said his grandmother told him that Cobb teased Hickok for the shape of his nose and lip, calling him “Duck Bill.” I read this document and realize several points: Leroy (Cobb’s brother) filed the complaint in Beatrice (Gage County) on July 13 which validates the shooting timeline; a charge of Murder was sought; and Leroy only knew the men’s nicknames. It’s possible that Leory said “Duck Bill” and the Justice of the Peace thought he said “Dutch Bill” because it was common to distinguish men by their heritage (more so than a joke). It’s possible that our family story is true.

It’s the possibilities that gets my imagination revved. I write and turn to different tools as I go.

October 28, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include a tool in a story. How can it enhance the character, tension or meaning? It can also be a story about a tool or a character’s obsession for tools. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by November 3, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Future Prince by Charli Mills

Hickok scooped hay with the pitchfork, favoring his stiff shoulder. Sarah watched from the loft, wondering if he knew she and Cobb were above with Miss Boots and her litter. Cobb set aside a closed-eyed kitten and jumped from the rafters into the hay-pile.

Hickok wobbled, dropping the pitchfork.

“Hey, Duck Bill. Never gonna get those horses fed at that rate.” Cobb pretended to tackle Hickok, and then retrieved the pitchfork to finish the chore with speed and strength.

“One day, my arm’s going to heal.”

“Sure it will, Duck Bill. Then you’ll be prince of the pony dung.”

***

Author’s Note: Another name for Hickok in later years, and the title of Wilstach’s book was, Prince of Pistoleers.

###


77 Comments

  1. noelleg44 says:

    Good luck and fun writing to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. pursuitofanewadventure says:

    I use a hammer for my garlic lol

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Norah says:

    Great post, Charli; and I love the way you have adapted NaNoWriMo for your own purposes and come up with a new tool: NaNoReViSo. I wish you success with the achievement of your goals and getting your manuscript off to the interested publisher, with a positive result.
    It is sad that your hammer won’t have it’s usual purpose this season, but perhaps it’s another distraction that you really didn’t need at this time.
    The piece from the Nebraska Historical Society is interesting and your interpretation of the confusion of Dutch Bill and Duck Bill is entirely plausible, and possibly probable considering the story passed down through the generations of your family. What a lot of research has gone into this book of yours and I think your novel will definitely be a work of fiction based solidly on a bed of fact.
    Your flash fiction is great too. Bullying was just as prevalent then as it is now, or should I be saying that the other way round? We would hope that successive generations would learn and improve.
    I’ll be looking forward to your progress reports on Mondays with interest.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Norah! I really do like NaNoWriMo but I’m in need of ReViSion! We’ll see how it goes — Mondays will give me time for reflection and that accountability component I like about NaNoWriMo. Isn’t that document interesting? There are several other documents, including one that orders Cobb’s son to appear before the Justice. The McCanles family has maintained that the boy was not allowed to give testimony, yet here is a document demanding he does. Curious! That Cobb could hold a kitten one moment and push around an injured man the next is his brand of bully, yet he could be a good man, too.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Norah says:

        I guess as you said in the review of Geoff’s book there is no one only bad or only good but mixtures of both in differing proportions, and what is enacted will depend on the situation and the personal response to it.
        This discrepancy between the family story and the documentation re the boy’s testimony is interesting in view of the fact that we were willing to support the family story re Duck Bill. It seems to support many previous conversations we have had about selecting the information that fits our world view. No doubt that is so for historical recounts as well. It is a fascinating story you have decided to tell. I’m looking forward to reading the finished product.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        That’ s so true, about how we select or express according to our own world view. You can actually see the views of historians change over time. While I’d like to think we are more balanced today, each generation, culture and individual is still biased by experience and level of awareness.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Sherri says:

    I’ve never done NaNoWriMo as I’ve not (yet!) set out to write a novel, but am desperate to work through my edits on my memoir, so along with your announcement, you’ve given me the perfect soloution: NaNoReViSo! Mind if I tag along and join you in the 3 hours a day? I need that acountability to keep disciplined and get the job done. Thank you so much for this, I feel like the clouds have lifted. I very much look forward to reading your Monday posts with your updates too…this is a brilliant plan of yours Charli 🙂
    It’s truly fascinating the more you learn about the history of Cobb and ‘Wild Bill’ Hickoc. I still can’t get over the fact that that someone so well known from Westerns (staple diet in my black & white TV years) shares personal family history with you, someone I would never have met but for blogging. But I had no idea until I started reading about your ‘Rock Creek’ findings of the background to ‘Duck Bill’ then ‘Dutch Bill’ and then to ‘Wild Bill’. Never heard of ‘Prince of Pistoleers’ either. Utterly intriguing, all of it. I love the way you build the tension as Cobb teases and Hickoc seeths in your flash. Great post Charli…and wishing you nothing but the best for your revisions come November 1st. I’ll be back with my flash on Tuesday hopefully 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      You are so very welcome to tag along! ❤ I figured "hours" is the better summation for revision. You have to read, cut, connect, rewrite, look up, etc. Unlike NaNoWriMo which is blissful drafting. I'm trying to finf my bliss in revision, too! 😀 The accountability can keep one motivated and disciplined. I lok forward to reading your updates, too and once again I feel blessed to be in sync with your own process. It's like having a writing buddy on a similar deadline! Prince of the Pistoleers is not highly regarded, but its author is actually one of my characters — Frank Jenners Wilstach. He hounded Sarah Shull into an interview when she was in her 80s. According to Hickok biographer, Joseph Rosa, "she may well have fobbed Wilstach off…" Like Rosa, I don't believe what Sarah told Wilstach, but I believe he did finally succeed in interviewing her. It's a strong motivation for showing how deeply she wanted to protect the truth despite how conflicted she was over it. Ultimately, she knew no one saw her as anything more than that "erring mountain girl" no matter how hard she tried to rise above it. And the one friend she had, the one who accepted her and encouraged her, well…that's why she kept the secret. Kick off Sunday with a bang, Sherri! You've got this!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love first lines. You know this. And I can’t thank you enough for the one in this post. It’s going in my collection. I might even steal it for a flash.

    Excellent observations (and decision) on the NaNo this year. I’ll have to come up with one–though I do love Geoff’s Nanthology idea. 🙂

    As always, great flash. I love the tidbit of history after it, too.

    Here’s mine for this week:

    https://sarahbrentynflash.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/the-necessary-tools/

    Liked by 7 people

  7. paulamoyer says:

    Great prompt, Charli! I’m on my way over to the NaNoWriMo website later today to get registered for this year. Here’s my response to the prompt:

    South-Pawed Defiance

    By Paula Moyer

    Frances was nearly 90 years old. Her ouvre: intricately crocheted doilies, afghans, baby jackets and caps. Her left hand and her crochet hooks had done them all.

    Swat! Frances grimaced at the memory. Her teacher “catching” her. There she was, writing with the “wrong” hand. Again. “Hold out your left hand, Frances,” the teacher said, smacked it with a ruler.

    Crochet, though – she did that at home. A hook and a left hand. They couldn’t see her, couldn’t hurt her.

    Her great-granddaughter Jean, also left-handed, called Frances a “crochet artist.” Jean knew – the hook was a tool of resistance.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. […] https://carrotranch.com/2015/10/28/october-28-flash-fiction-challenge/ October 28, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include a tool in a story. How can it enhance the character, tension or meaning? It can also be a story about a tool or a character’s obsession for tools. Go where the prompt leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. julespaige says:

    Future Writer

    “Know full well the full truth that there is value in that light
    of the ink that flows from the dark pen.” – JP/dh (2015)

    If there were no such thing as a keyboard, fountain or ink
    pens, leaded or colored pencils; sticks in dirt, images on
    cave walls would still tell stories. Fingers on the ends of
    hands would have to do. To etch in the sand even if only
    temporary the emotional trials of mankind.

    She sat alone, again. At the edge of the lake. They thought
    she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

    ©JP/dh

    You can find the post here:
    Future Writer

    Liked by 6 people

  10. A. E. Robson says:

    Not always sitting in front of a computer or having a laptop along makes the old school pencil and notebook my favourite writing tools. They go with me everywhere.

    Tools of the Trade
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    It will help with the pain in your fingers. Use the computer. The keyboard will help stretch your hands while writing.

    Nothing but a lot of hooey she thought. The screen just stares back at me with no feeling and my hands sit idle on the keys waiting for inspiration.

    I like my notebook and pencil. They have texture. They give my words a keepsake home. The stories come alive with my penmanship. Bold and exquisite as the tale unfolds across the soft inviting sheets bound together as one.

    Get rid of my pencil and notebook. I think not!

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/tools-of-the-trade

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Pat Cummings says:

    Love the challenge this week, and since I’m plotting my NaNovel this year, I have a planned scene from it to include as my flash this week: Choice of Tools. It’s at http://goo.gl/yPCwfN

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Ula says:

    Charli, I won’t be participating in your challenges for a while, but I am also doing NaNoWriMo as a rebel working on my second draft. Good luck with the revising. I’ll be stopping by to read everyone else’s work.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      If I were writing a second draft, I’d join you as a rebel second drafter, but this is the messy kind of revision. I’m writing, but also solving problems and checking on dates. Today’s conundrum was: James Hickok and James Brinks shot James Woods and James Gordon, according to the complaint of murder filed by James McCanles. How do I names all the James? Thank you and good luck (and I’ll be sending you my post, too)!

      Like

  13. Pete says:

    Samaritan

    Shep dug in, emptying a corner of casserole onto his plate. “Who fixed the front steps, Ma?”

    “Oh, so I stumbled on it again today, and this….handyman offered to help. Had his tool belt and all.”

    Shep wiped his mouth. “I told you I’d get to it. How much he charge?”

    “I offered but he refused.”

    Shame hit Shep like heartburn. Rubbing his chest, he released a burp, eyeing the last supper painting on the wall. “So this guy have a name?”

    “You know, he never said.” Then, following her son’s gaze, “but he was much darker than that.”

    Liked by 6 people

  14. Best wishes to all involved in NaNoWriMo!

    Here is my contribution to this week’s challenge:

    http://edandednastories.blogspot.com/2015/11/selfie-stick.html

    Liked by 4 people

  15. jeanne229 says:

    NaNoReviso! Love it. Am deep in a rewrite myself and will come back and do a closer reading of this post. I think it may provide a good template for my own work over the next six weeks or so. While my project involves pilfering from an already completed manuscript and stitching it together in a new way, your pointers here already have my mind spinning. Thanks Charli. Oh, and love the tool prompt too. I am thinking, of course, about chisels and hooks, rods and screws… tools that might sound like they belong in a hardware store but that figure large in my spinal neurosurgeon’s story too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      I shudder to think of such hard tools in the proximity of the spine! My work still needs more blocks because I was uncertain about certain facts. I’m at the point where I need to let go and be okay to add fiction. I told Sherri today that revision at first feels like dough when it’s sticky and gets on everything, but keep kneading it and the dough becomes more cohesive. I’m in sticky kneading mode! Best to you over the next six weeks! Use the flash as a tool if you need a creative break!

      Like

  16. ruchira says:

    I am also looking forward to the nanowrimo to start working on my novel and hope to be able to connect the loose dots 🙂

    I loved your prompt for today and here is my take based on the nanowrimo 😉

    http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2015/11/nanowrimo.html

    Liked by 3 people

  17. paulamoyer says:

    For what it’s worth, I logged 1,709 words on NaNoWriMo today. Feeling good about getting today done.

    Liked by 5 people

  18. […] week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) include a tool in a story. I open this post with a quote by Jackie French I used to close my previous […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I’m a bit earlier than usual with my contribution this week. I will be short of reading time until the end of the week. I look forward to catching up with all the wonderful stories then. http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-B3

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      You are early! But you are welcome at any time. Yes, I understand about the pacing of time, too. I need to sign off and complete my goals. Almost there! And I managed to do MondayBlogs and two client interviews today. It will be quieter tomorrow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Annecdotist says:

    So glad I have contributed to your tool development – sounds a great way of going about it. Similarly, I’m hoping to use the winter months to progress from last year’s fast first draft, but it wasn’t convenient for me to start on 1st November (though I would’ve liked to) but hope to do so soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. […] response to Charli’s 99 word flash fiction where she invites all to […]

    Liked by 1 person

  22. […] Would you like to take part or read some of the other entries? Here they are. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. […] Would you like to take part or read some of the other entries? Here they are. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Enjoyed your discussion on tools of the trade. Even if not a trade we still have certain tools that we use as I tried to portray in my flash (albeit not too successfully). http://irenewaters19.com/2015/11/03/melbourne-cup-tools-of-the-trade/
    I am looking forward to a year when I have time to participate in the NaNoWriMo. I love what you are doing with NaNoReviso. I have a feeling that will become a regular yearly feature for many as the revision is (for me anyway) the most difficult part of writing.
    You are certainly an impressive woman Charli what with all you are doing in this month alone that you plan on starting work on the anthology project. I am keeping an eye out for an email from you but seem to be having some issues with emails at the moment so if I don’t respond (that is assuming I will be one receiving an email) please let me know.
    Rooting your historical fiction in fact will make it compelling and offer a unique viewpoint I would imagine than the commonly held myth passed as fact. The research though must be gruelling. Interesting about the names. I’m looking forward to reading your book when you have finished.
    Your flash shows so much depth and the interractions between Hickok and Cobb.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, those were tools of the trade — for certain women it’s all about plying the wares. 😉 I waited many years to do NaNoWriMo as November was never a good time. Like with some tools, timing matters. Why is revision so overwhelming? Yes, it can certainly become an annual visitation! Lots going on, but it all has good energy and it’s manageable. I’m going to send a test email to the group next Monday. Yes! You are definitely included! 🙂 I had a name meltdown yesterday because I have to sort out the James dilemma! James McCanles accused James B. Hickock and James Brink of shooting James Woods, James Gordon and Cobb. But it also led to an interesting breakthrough in that I realized I’m allowed to take creative license; it’s fiction no matter how well-rooted.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think the easy part is writing. The hard part is revising and that is painstaking. Good luck with it. I’ll look forward to seeing how you deal with it. Historical fiction is so difficult as the history should be real, just your story fiction. You’ll find people believe historical fiction to be true and the facts should be or you lose the reader from the time they start questioning the veracity of the fact. But I know you know all that and your research has been I know meticulous.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. lucciagray says:

    I think your strategy for NaNoWriMo is great. Adapting it to your needs.I love the way you set aside time to edit as you write, rather than at the end. That would work for me, too. I was going to take part, and although I’ll be writing a great deal this month, I can’t commit myself to so many hours a day, while I stll have to cope with my day job. But I’ll be wishing you all luck 🙂 I’m also ‘sorting myself out’ and planning the month’s work. It’s so important to plan and try to stick to it.
    Here’s my take on this week’s prompt. I don’t use tools very much, except digital ones, so it’s all about electronic tools for homework, with some humour, too!

    Homework

    ‘Can I go out, mum?’

    ‘Not till you finish your Spanish homework.’

    ‘Can’t do it. It’s a six-word flash fiction post on the class blog, about homework. In Spanish!’

    ‘Six words. Sounds simple to me.’

    ‘How’s your Spanish?’

    ‘Rusty. I’ll need Google translator. Let me use your Tablet.’

    ‘No way. All my private conversations keep popping up.’

    ‘It’s supposed to be a tool for homework, not socializing!’

    ‘I can do both.’

    ‘Homework’s due. Tablet’s gone. Detention’s sure.’

    ‘You can’t do that!’

    ‘What about this one: Her only tool, a ballpoint pen’

    ‘You’re joking!’

    ‘Tablet’s repossessed. Use your head instead.’

    *******************************************************************

    Here’s the link to my blog post: http://lucciagray.com/2015/11/02/carrot-ranch-flashfiction-challenge-october-28-tools/

    Liked by 3 people

  26. […] Mills’s gives us the above prompt this week. Often Charli’s prompts open up a  floodgate of memories but a tool is a worrisome […]

    Liked by 1 person

  27. […] Charli Mills over at the Carrot Ranch worked her magic yet again and set up the perfect little challenge to get me started down the path […]

    Liked by 1 person

  28. C. Jai Ferry says:

    I survived day 2 of NaNo (how? I’ll never know), overcame a demon forest that attacked my dog (at least that is what he thought), and posted my response to your challenge waaaaaay before the deadline — all that and it’s a Monday to boot! Of course, I totally forgot to eat anything today, which is probably why I am ready for bed at 7 pm.

    http://www.cjaiferry.com/blog/characters-revolt-nanowrimo/

    Liked by 2 people

  29. […] bloggers who have tips and unique takes on the theme, Charli gives us this for October 28th’s flash fiction […]

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Sherri says:

    Here’s my entry Charli, riding in a cloud of dust and sticky dough…! http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2015/11/03/good-tools-clueless-werewolf/

    Liked by 2 people

  31. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

    Like

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