July 27: 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.

July 28, 2016

OfficeSomewhere over the rainbow where blue birds fly is a home office waiting for me. If I click my ruby slippers and chant, “There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…” I might wake up to find I only bumped my head like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz. But there is no Emerald City and my office is no longer mine. “Take my desk,” I said, fist to the sky as if flying monkeys threatened. “You can’t take my writing!”

A writer needs space, nonetheless.

When I left Elmira Pond, I packed up my spacious desk and research room. I sorted over 25 years of freelancing articles saved as boxes of magazines, books and workshop presentations. I tossed duplicates and downsized to a single portfolio box. All my marketing materials I also condensed. I have at least four plastic tubs of historical documents, old photos, genealogy, old books and research along with about ten boxes of modern history books. What fills my head leaves a footprint of paper large enough to be called a library.

Yet it is the space to do the act, to set pen to paper and tap the keys which I need as a writer. As much as I’d love to be hip and write my stories, articles, posts and books from a coffee shop, I look silly in a beret and I desire space to myself to recharge my batteries. I’ve tried libraries and notebooks by campfires. I’ve even tried writing in my car (not while driving, mind you). I miss my home, but it is the loss of office space that pains me most.

After a weekend of chasing more desert geology, I lost my camera card between car and camp trailer. With an aggravated sciatic nerve, I lost my cool, too. I needed an office! A place where I could unpack my research and drafts, a place to write letters and scenes, a place to store important items like flash drives, colored pens and sim cards. I needed a comfortable chair that fit ergonomically and I needed (okay, wanted) color coordination that somehow offset the hunting camouflage curtains of my trailer. I wanted my things to surround me, cheer me and function as I wrote.

The first order of business was to find a desk of sorts. I had to convince Todd to rip out the built in cushioned chairs from 1985, and see the possibility of the space as office space. He had serious doubts. We looked at thrift stores and found a possible hardtop frame with canvas drawers. Todd jotted down the dimensions and we returned to camp with a measuring tape. “Too tall,” he determined. Frustrated, I wrote out the dimensions he said would be ideal, then I looked at the existing camp table. And measured it.

The challenge the table presented was one of legs. It had none. The table perched upon a metal pole and swiveled in odd directions, mostly to block anyone (or any dog) from spreading out on the bench seat. Between the two chairs and that table top, the back end of the trailer was crowded. Todd checked my measurements and said he could screw the tabletop to a square counter in the corner and to a two by four he could mount on the opposite closet wall. While he did that, I went searching for a chair.

Staples is an office supply store with everything from paper clips to sleek cherry wood desks. I don’t know if other writers suffer from this affliction, but I love office supplies. I had a small budget and needed a chair. Yet out of all the fancy therma-pads and mesh-back seats, the best fitting chair for me was a black padded folding chair. It was the right height so my feet were flat on the floor; it didn’t tip my hips forward or backward; it supported my back; and it was comfortable enough. Best of all, its cost allowed me to splurge on a few color coordinated items of turquoise, orange, red, white and black. I found folders at .17 cents and several items like scissors and a tape dispenser on clearance. I even found a cheap pen holder of metal birds.

Wandering about the store allowed me to imagine what my office space could look like. That led to thinking about my W storyboard that’s locked away in storage. To learn how I use the storyboard you can read about it here. How could I replicate that important development tool in miniature to fit the camp trailer space? I found a black mat with a white chalk pen. It was small yet big enough to sport a W. Next I looked for Post-It Notes to map the five key scenes of the Hero’s Journey and selected ones that looked like dog paws. That’s when I had a flash of inspiration — I could map my scenes in code.


Each draft of my novels, I write in Scrivener. I write scene by scene and often out of order. The idea it to develop the bones of my story initially, then go back and flesh it out. Writing in scenes allows me to be flexible with their order. The W let’s me ponder different scenarios before I commit to building chapters in order. For my mini W, I bought small red tabs to denote the scene by way of a code so I know where it is in Scrivener. That program allows me to easily rearrange scenes on my cork-board feature.

By the time I returned, I was bursting to get my space set up. Todd had succeeded in opening up the back end of the trailer and created a desktop. I used two of my research 0725161349(1)plastic tubs to complete the same L-shape I had once had at home and the position felt familiar and comforting. I unpacked and arranged my space, hanging my treasured sun-catcher, which reminds me of the goodness and camaraderie among global writers, bloggers and authors. Facing out the back windows makes me feel less claustrophobic, and in the afternoon the sun-catcher casts rainbows across my office space.

And all feels right in the world again. A writer’s space is like sacred ground. It’s a place to dream, imagine and process. A place to chase plot lines and converse with characters. A place to play with words, coax ideas and experiment in creativity. An office is a place to 0725161349awrite.

July 27, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an office story. It can be a setting, a place for intrigue or humor. How might an office differ from other spaces? You can compare and contrast, or create an unusual type of office. If you want, describe your ideal office space, or create a character who designs offices. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 2, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


A New Beginning for Sarah Shull by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

Sarah carefully unpacked her inks and quills. She checked each nib for wear and placed them in a clean Mason jar. She unpacked her ledger and opened the blank pages. Cobb bought the leather and canvas book for her in Missouri. Hers. Her desk, though crude, was space for the work she loved – calculating accounts and inventories. Sarah’s father taught her when she showed interest and aptitude. She had been the accountant for Shulls Mill and Store several years before…before her infatuation with Sheriff McCanles.

That was behind her now. She opened the ledger to a clean new page.


Officing with Critters by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

“Don’t forget to water the chukar, Danni.” Ike called, as he entered the house.

“I’m setting the birds free.” Danni didn’t even look up from her scattered documents.

Ike walked to the dining room Danni had claimed for her office long ago. Since they never entertained, it was her space.

“Babe. The eagles will eat them.”

“Which is a natural process.” Danni looked up at Ike. “Living in a wire cage in a man cave is not.”

“It’s my office and I need those birds to train my staff.”

Danni clenched her teeth. Ike’s office was a dog circus.


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  1. ellenbest24

    I am pleased you made your space the ‘ L’ of familiarity.???? The office short story was intriguing I think it was the Eagles. Nice work nice space????.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s amazing how such familiarity can make a positive difference. Thank you!

      • ellenbest24

        My finger stay firmly crossed, wishing you luck Charli.????

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you! This experience is shifting much in my life and definitely enriching my WIP, Miracle of Ducks. It’s hard, but I feel like I’m building up my stamina to see this through.

  2. Annecdotist

    I loved reading this, Charli. I think it must have taken some courage and resolve to decide it was worth putting the time, money and energy into creating a temporary office in your caravan, but oh so important for your peace of mind. You’re taking care of yourself and your work and making a statement that both are worth it.
    I enjoyed both these flashes but particularly the one from Rock Creek – I could see Sarah laying out her work tools and fascinating how, despite the computer age, we still find comfort in pen and paper.
    PS. We also have Staples over here selling not just furniture and stationery but giant cans of instant coffee etc – I suppose another form of office supplies.

    • Charli Mills

      I decided it was worth my sanity to have comfortable office space even if temporary. The fix was not costly at all with repurposing the existing table into a desktop. It makes a huge difference in my focus and productivity. And yes, there yet exist a quiet comfort in pen and paper…and coffee! Another caravan triumph is that I discovered an outlet for my coffee pot which I brought with me. It was in a weird place where I didn’t notice it until I had my desk set up. My first office day I brewed coffee and was content.

  3. julespaige

    Glad to hear there is a bit of sanity creeping into your space, Charli.

    Organization, so far isn’t my strongest suit. But on my short list was to make my patio usable again instead of just being storage. And I’ve finally gotten the OK to get rid of work manuals that aren’t worth anything…about 9 boxes full. That alone is about 9 square feet of floor space.

    I’ll try to work on the prompt later today or tomorrow.

    Hugs, Jules

    • Charli Mills

      Let the sanity continue to creep! Sounds like you have a reclamation project going one, foot by foot. It does feel good to open up space and make it functional. Hugs to you , too!

  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I’m so glad you now have an office. It looks perfect for your space and hopefully you can get down and working. How creative you have been with your tiny space also inventing a size appropriate story board. Love it. Hopefully will be back with an office story.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Mine for this week. https://irenewaters19.com/2016/07/31/office-know-how-99-word-flash-fiction/
      I enjoyed both your flashes this week Charli. I can relate to Sarah and her work space. I love office stuff too. I can also relate to the office being like a dog’s circus. Mine spread whilst I was doing my thesis from the office into a bedroom and then onto the dining room table. Roger was pleased to get two areas back when I submitted.

      • Charli Mills

        Tiny space reduces clutter. too! And it is a bit of a dog circus with one on the bench seat behind me and the other on a dog bed at my feet. However, a thesis cannot be contain in small spaces! Congratulations on getting it submitted, Irene! That’s a relief on many fronts, I’m sure, even as Roger gets to reclaim some homefront space. So good to have a flash from you!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Charli. Lets hope we can both get working in your new office space and my newly decluttered one.

      • Charli Mills

        When it’s freshly decluttered, it feels full of possibility! Let’s hope we both get to cluttering soon. 🙂

  5. Norah

    Your office and your storyboard, accompanied by your colour-coded accessories, and even your “Office” sign look welcoming and productive. Having a purposeful space is important to productivity of any kind. We need the right tools to be creative. Space, including mind space, is one of those. How wonderful that Todd was able to re-purpose the table for you, and give you a little window on the world, allowing you to look outside at nature and help you nurture the nature within. Although I know there is still much hurt and anguish, along with pressure of appointments and phone calls, I glimpsed a sense of peace within this post. Having the time and space to write is what contributes most to that, I’m sure.
    I enjoyed both your flash pieces but, like Anne, enjoyed the Rock Creek scene best. I do love the feel of pen in hand as it rushes across the paper in an attempt to capture the words before they escape. Or perhaps I should say I used to. Nowadays, as much as I still love paper and pens, I tend to be a fingertip writer: the brain doesn’t always engage until the fingers are dancing across the keys trying to find the right notes to make beautiful music together – the writer’s choreography.
    I’m pleased you’ve been able to get your W to work in your smaller space. Creativity can bloom anywhere!

    • Charli Mills

      Purposeful space is a good way to put it! It can help organize the mind space needed. I do feel more peaceful with the remodeled space. I hadn’t considered Sarah’s relationship with the tools of her trade so I’m glad this office arrangement got me to thinking about how she’d set up her office. Having been to the rebuilt site at Rock Creek State Park, I can consider how she set up in her plank floor and dark space. I’ll look for a place in the WIP to add those details. Let the creativity bloom!

      • Norah

        How wonderful to have visited the rebuilt site at Rock Creek. In your imagination it would have felt almost like being there with them all. It’s giving me goosebumps thinking about it. All the little pieces of the jigsaw fall together easily when enough of the picture is built. I love watching your creativity bloom! Your posts give us a window from which to view.

      • Charli Mills

        It was like that until I walked into the main cabin that was the ranch house. Immediately I knew they built it wrong! When I spoke to the state park ranger, he said archeologists used the one photo they had and it didn’t show the west side. They ran out of funding for digging to find foundations or post holes. Other than that, it was like walking in their footsteps! I’d love to go back and stay a few weeks.

  6. Sarah Brentyn

    You have a desk! An office space! ?????? That is so awesome. I love it. It looks wonderful.

    I write scene by scene and out of order, too, which is why I’ve been obsessed with the idea of Scrivener lately.

    Anyway, I’m so happy for you. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, and it feels soooo good! Thanks! 😀 And I completely understand your obsession with the idea of Scrivener. It really has nifty tools for organization. When I first wrote Miracle of Ducks, I wrote it in Word. My first complete revision, I broke it down into Scrivener. Then, when I wrote Rock Creek, I had the complete freedom to scene hop. It’s how I write best but was a nightmare to connect in Word to the point I thought I’d have to write differently. I love Scrivener and how I can correlate it to my W board.

  7. denmaniacs4


    He had no doubt that Caldwell had put out the call for a brigade of ruffians.

    The west was littered with them, brigands with the morals of rats, the conscience of the dead.

    The Banker had suggested the town Marshall, Giff Barnaby, might be of some use. “Not much, but he’s an honest man. As much as he can be.”

    Dobbs opened the door to Barnaby’s Office.

    A thin sad-eyed, weedy boy of about fifteen was sitting at an old desk, rough-hewn, wobbly.

    “Marshall in?” Dobbs asked.

    “No, sir.”

    “Know when he’s due?”



    “They killed him, sir.”


    • Charli Mills

      Such an intriguing human frailty you slip in to this flash — an honest man, as much as he can be. Systems and cultures of a place can often challenge an individual’s values. Dobbs is getting in deeper and deeper with each flash!

  8. A. E. Robson

    The Office
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    It’s dark as I quietly gather up my tools. Making my way up the stairs for yet another early morning visit to my temporary office. I pull the door closed behind me. The crunch of gravel under my feet is the only sound.

    The freedom of the outdoors. Displaced from the real world. It’s where I go to find the written words that bob in the darkness. Waiting for the emerging day to push them to the surface and flow across the paper.

    On a hill, overlooking the valley, the sun slowly lights up this office.

    My day begins.


    • Charli Mills

      A terrific office! I often worked beneath the apple tree at Elmira Pond and I know that one day, when I have a home base again, I’ll better appreciate this trailer as a camper to take my office to beautiful places. Love that line, “Freedom of the outdoors” in regards to an office space!

  9. elliotttlyngreen

    Hello Spain

    You are not here to run the show. You are here to pick it up and ignite the thrusts to get us to the next check point. Qin terracotta warriors corona around building structures~~ fractal scarring farm of my mothers lawn. Clean until its all gone. Pick up… Next morning, they post flashes of fiction while im typing addendums. Just a day, a breath. the world moves on. Did you hear what happen in Saigon? Mysteries and magic, what really happen? Their lives into identical scenes, as if bomb went p-tew! ~~while the rest carried like weeps in brickwalls.

    • Charli Mills

      Such poetry in your lines, such creative word choices to take us on a journey both inside and out…in 99 words! Love: fractal scarring and weeps in brickwalls. Ah– they post flashes of fiction all across the media every day. May ours carry more impact! Bring life. Shed light.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        folks im following here and other places give me notifications throughout the day as they post…. thats neat. I see you Even if i cannot read. But yes seeing all this stuff on the media, then we cant do anything. Just stuck doing work. Its frustrating. We are being bled so far so many miles away. So hello Spain, world, heres what is really happening. Idk they really glorify these shootings and bombings and i dont know that which has less impact seems more important. So thank u for writing and flashing my phone with good things i truly will to read everyone if i could ever just ignore what is being forced down

    • Charli Mills

      No apologies necessary! That’s funny! I love how you wrote it in such a way that the actual room is implied and not stated. Clever!

  10. julespaige

    While being ‘self-employed’ might mean zero income…there is something to be said about ‘Home, Sweet Home’.

    Self Empowered

    It was a small room. Not really an office. We counted coins
    from who knows where – Can’t even remember the company
    I worked for. Briefly, I got moved to a little room to check the
    figures of the guy who was going on vacation. That was up
    until the one gal got me blamed for jamming one of the
    machines. And then I got canned.

    There is always ‘that’ office where you are called to for
    ‘corrections’ or to be told that your services are no longer
    required. I only ‘work’ for me now…out of my ‘home’ office.


    Here’s the link:
    Self Empowered

    • Charli Mills

      There’s something to be said about the self-empowerment of self-employment. Ah, but that income side can be a challenge. Not having to face office politics is worthwhile.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you at the ranch, Sarrah!

  11. Pete

    Concealed Carry

    Jerry couldn’t understand why people freaked out, it was his right to carry it. They told him he couldn’t bring it in so he left it in the car. But he couldn’t do that either.

    So Jerry took it home and cursed bureaucracy. He kicked and screamed then sped back to the office. He applied for a concealed carry.

    More hoops to jump through, but he got it. Jerry practiced feverishly, in the mirror and at home, until he had successfully concealed his grudge against the world.

    The next day Jerry holstered his grudge and took off for work.

    • Charli Mills

      Chilling! I once had to deal with a customer like Jerry. Everyone was freaked out and I was left wondering why the marketing manager had to confront him? I love how you manage to focus on his mental state, and use terms without ever mentioning what was holstered. Thought-provoking flash!

      • Pete

        Thanks Charli, i’m glad that came out, I was writing about concealing hate, but once I published it I saw how it didn’t really work out. I got too cute with my metaphors!

      • Charli Mills

        It’s brilliant — hate is what is being holstered and when it is transformed, any object can become a weapon of hate. Your flash shows the initial build up.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m really liking the space and the sciatica is calming down. I’m using the RV park swimming pool to do PT exercises. It’s all in balance, isn’t it? Thank you! Wishing you creativity, too!

  12. Norah

    Hi Charli, Here’s my contribution for this week’s challenge – an office of a different kind. What can I say, I couldn’t help myself! http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-Kx

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, of course! How could we forget that office? It adds another dimension to the office space. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Depth is not needed! Sometimes a simple little tale can free up mind space for bigger ideas. 🙂


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