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November 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

november-17Standing at the fire-pit made of stacked Navajo Sandstone, it’s easy to imagine who has sat here beneath the bright stars. I can hear the fire crackle, the rise and fall of conversation, laughter, silent introspection of humanity beneath the universal diamonds of light. It’s smells smokey in my thoughts. In the rosy atmosphere of dusk, I can see the backside of West Temple from this vantage. It’s 8,000 vertical feet of the same Navajo Sandstone that rings the charcoal of a former fire. I’m already at an elevation nearing a mile-high. The city of Denver is at the level of this abandoned fire-pit.

Why am I here? It’s one of those stories about how chasing flying monkeys led to a second Grand Canyon that revealed a hidden plateau and I really just wanted see if I could test my geological knowledge and find petrified wood again. But instead I found a lost city.

Ah! You see the mind I have to live with?

Let me start with the flying monkeys. After writers at Carrot Ranch explored Oz, space and beyond I had to see the place from where the US Air Force launched live monkeys in test ejection seats for newly developed jets (1950s era). Every morning I look upon the point of Hurricane Mesa from my RV, knowing launch tracks and camera towers rust beneath the same sun that warms me while I swill coffee. Finally, I took to pestering my husband who was reluctant to go up another clay road. “It’s not raining,” I say. He loads his camera and our dog, and merrily we drive off.

Off, meaning into the wild red yonder, not off the cliff face we are now climbing with a truck limping from the last adventure up a mesa. The old Air Force road I almost convinced the Hub would be a decent route is proving to be a meandering, broken trail better suited for mules. I was certain it was a designated road on the map and in the books. No stopping now lest we slide off for certain, plunging to a death where I’d have to listen to my husband rant until we hit the ravines and boulders below.

At last the old farm truck lurches to crest the mesa. This is it! The place from where monkeys flew. A huge sign advises we go no further. “But I can’t see the tracks, the towers, what’s left of the base,” I say. My husband agrees with the writer of the rock-hounding book who got me excited for this place. It’s a big no-no to trespass on a fenced former Air Force base no matter the monkey business that took place where stunted cedar trees now grow, obscuring my chance of a view. Reluctantly, I point out the road that leads to petrified wood and agates as mentioned in the book.

I’m sulking as I pick my way through prickly pear cactus toward a wash. There’s rock strewn across the ground and I kneel for a closer look. Every. Piece. Petrified. Wood. Suddenly, I’m thinking, monkeys, what monkeys, there’s treasure everywhere! I stuff so much silicified wood into my pockets my pants hang close to falling off. Bobo trots past, panting, enjoying her romp. I find a raw agate the size of a softball and I’m panting. It’s maroon, streaked with black and caramel. Then I find another of near-opalized chalcedony. It’s smaller, like a golf-ball. I pick up a thumbnail-sized crystal that turns out to be a topaz. A topaz! I found a gem!

Swooning, pants sagging, I leave in the truck giddy with discovery. The Hub brags he found petrified wood. I refrain from saying even three blind mice could in such a littered geological field, and enjoy his rare excitement over rocks. We decide to see how far the road goes, marveling at seeps of water and hidden coulees. The road narrows and climbs again. This time we are topping the highest red layer of sandstone. Once on top of yet another, taller mesa behind the one that launched monkeys the land spreads all the way back toward what locals call the Kolab Terrace. I know we must be near the rim and I ask the Hub to stop.

We find the rim and it is a mini Grand Canyon that overlooks everything hidden by Zion Canyon. This is truly a back-country view seldom seen by tourists. We find RV neighbors who laugh upon recognizing us. They congratulate us on finding this semi-secret place. They sit in chairs perched a mile above the staggered mesas and canyons below. It’s like looking at a quilt in 3D. I’m dizzy, yet can’t resist sitting on the rim like I did once when I was 18 and saw the Grand Canyon which is only 140 miles south. I can almost see it from here.

Our neighbors are gathered to watch the super moon. They tell us the road is better going out toward Kolab. We drive on and stop when a massive golden orb rises behind West Temple in the distance. Wolves howl. Like a topaz for the ears. No one will admit to wolves near Zion, but Mexican gray wolves are suspected of ranging this far north of their country of origin. The only thing more perfect would be a flying monkey.

But that was two days before the Hub suggests we go up the mesa again.

He turns the truck the opposite direction and announces he want to see the mesa at the Coalpits Wash. But that is Zion National Park Wilderness, and access is by foot — no bikes, horses or dogs on that trail. He explains he means the road that goes back that way. Now I know which one, but it’s a driveway, not really a road. Part of the adventure is being proved wrong. The road is neither a driveway nor one leading to Coalpits Wash. It leads to the backside of Zion, to a hidden back-country, to the fire-pit of sandstone. To the lost city. Flying monkeys, what flying monkeys?

We crest another mesa and I recognize the geological level. “Stop!” The Hub is reluctant, wanting to explore more of the road. He stops and I hop out, eyes to the ground. Glass glitters and I see the fire-pit. It’s obviously a campsite full of modern humanity’s detritus. Then I see one, a piece of petrified wood. I was right! This is the level. Now I’m seeing shards of agates. Not the hunks from before, flakes. Flakes? I look around 360 degrees. Could it be? The city begins to unfold in my imagination.

I was 17 years old when the State of California published my archeological report of Alpine County. I won an Outstanding Science and Engineering Award from the Department of the Air Force of the United States of America that same year. Having grown up under the mentorship of “old-timers,” in a place full of layered history and anthropology, possessing a keen imagination, I learned to see lost cities. To me, it’s obvious. My mind flits through a list of factors — water source, flatness, elevation, food source, proximity to game, fire-pits. Old ones. Ancient ones.

This was a large encampment, and those who lived here long before the Mormons ever followed a prophet, centuries before Rock Creek had a station, long before the eras Danni studies in historical archaeology, the lost city prized what I do. Agates from broken pieces of petrified wood. The mineralization creates smooth, slick rock that is glass-like. It fractures like volcanic glass — obsidian — in conchoidal flakes to shape knives, scrapers, spearheads and arrowheads. Mars just upped the treasure hunt on me, though I know to be careful with my enthusiasm.

Chippings are debris, the cast-offs of artifacts. Artifacts are not legal to collect. When I was 18, I donated my personal collection to my county museum. When we packed up from Elmira Pond, in my hope chest I found remnants of that collection, probably pieces I had in dresser drawers or old jewelry tins. I gathered it all, including my long lost Air Force Award, original archaeological recordings and drawings of artifacts, maps, and my published work. It had lingered in the dark recesses of my hope chest, a painful reminder of my past. The time I studied to be an archaeologist. An old dream.

But I can still see. One doesn’t ever lose the sight. I let myself hypothesize and prove. Over there, by the fire pit, I’ll find lots of chippings. That was where there tools were crafted. Yes! More flakes, broken scrapers. Over there, near the scrubby pines, that’s where they fixed meals. Yes! I find a broken matate. And those flat rocks expanding past the trees to the rim. They crushed pinenuts and collected water. Yes! I find an old reservoir and pits. Many of the modern fire rings are built right on top of old ones. Shards of clay pigeons and brown beer bottle glass mingles with colorful chippings. Magical place and I lament I have no tobacco to offer the Ancestors. I will return with an offering. After all, this place was a gift to “see.”

Now I use my imagination to write historical fiction. Miracle of Ducks is not historical, but Danni’s career is. Her nemesis who she must befriend in Ike’s absence is Michael. He’s my conscience.  He’s the one who calls Danni a bone-digger. He resents her interest in his ancestors and culture. She argues that she reads trash in the layers of dirt and that his ancestors would laugh at her carefully collecting pieces of debris to give the story of who lived there before. I felt as if Danni and Michael had traveled to this place with me. I cast the matate aside, beneath a juniper after showing the Hub, and taking a photo:

The exploration ends when Bobo tangles with a cactus and we have to pluck spines from her tender hide, nose and paws. As the sun sets I look across this lost city and can see the rim I had sat upon on the night of a super moon. As it does every night, the sun sets.


November 17, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is told around a campfire. It can be a bonfire, burning trash can, a fire pit, something flaming outdoors. It can be a prop, and you can tell the story of anything — ghosts, ancients, jokes. Who is gathered and listening? Note the extended date (Happy Thanksgiving to US writers; may turkey take our minds off the one about to enter the White House.)

Respond by November 29, 2016 to be included in the compilation (published November 30). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Looming Giants (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“And then that German pinned me, my face to his backside. Without much thought, I bit through his pants and clenched until he cried for mercy! And that boys, is how I beat the German Giant from Kansas.” Cobb tipped his bitters bottle and the bonfire gathering cheered.

Sarah listened from the porch. The more Cobb drank, the louder he told stories. She wondered at these men, many converts from the British Isles, headed to Mormon Zion with handcarts and talk of multiple wives. The women sat in the shadows, exhausted, on guard to fighting giants of their own.


Reading Miracles (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Campfire wasn’t light enough to read by. Danni shined her flashlight across the inky scrawl of penmanship no one today would have. She read aloud,

“The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden.”

“Sounds biblical,” said Ike.

“It’s from the letters Max found in a cigar box. He said his father’s Mormon grandparents left Zion for a miracle in Idaho.”

“A miracle!”

“Oh, Ike. It’s just a story. It can reveal facts about pioneer migrations.”

By firelight, Ike grinned. Danni refused his miracles. Facts mattered.


Beyond the End

the-endNovember 8, 2016 was an end. To what? Perhaps the cliche of “life as we know it” suffices. No matter one’s standing, a post-Trump election ends how we perceive ourselves as a nation, and how the world perceives us. The change an ending brings is already in motion. Some rejoice. Some want to normalize it without process. Some seek meaning. Some protest.

It’s fitting that writers explored what the end means. While we might want satisfactory endings, the end can also surprise us or shake us. This week we explore the possibilities of the end we didn’t see coming.

The following are based on the November 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pivots around an unexpected ending.


Communal Shower by Anne Goodwin

Undoing the buttons down the back of Esther’s dress, I remember the Rosenbergs. What fools we thought them to abandon their friends, their factory, their fine collection of avant-garde art. The Chancellor could not be serious and, if he were, our neighbours would form a wall between us and his henchmen. And if even they turned against us, our intellect would keep safe.

At thirteen, my daughter is shy to undress among strangers. Shamed by her newly shaven head. But won’t it be lovely, I tell her, after days of travelling, to be finally allowed to take a shower?


Caldwell by Bill Engelson

Heat from Aggie’s Spenser blistered her hands. A fusillade of bullets plundered the air. Half of Caldwell’s raiders had fallen after the first sortie.

The rest kept coming.

A squander of lives.

She glanced over to the rooftop opposite. Henry Taylor caught her eye, and nodded. He then levelled a volley, ending the miserable existence of two more marauders.

She quickly looked below. Dobbs was covered in gun smoke.

Behind him, a tall, hefty specter with flowing red hair appeared, yelled, “Times, up, Dobbs,” and fired.

Clancy Dobbs fell to the dust.

Aggie twirled, snapped off a lethal round.


the End by Elliott Lyngreen

It is thee enduring absence of faith which encumbers. Which changed such imperceptive adaptations; similar to the curved gunmetal swarming on ancestral earth. Hovered, surrounded, grim countenances across sub-railway small inhabited towns; down curbless sideroads and long-suffering unexplored drives form the atmosphere and once infinite expositions; slight, actually adjusting in slow centrifugal motion only keen to the sightless observers, thee overlooked visions of divinity… Now suspended, the torrent raised, smothers this perennial parade, and the uninformed simultaneous rows of edge to edge strangers (as they collapse together); perhaps no longer swelled in that umbrella of skepticism or aware… #cuzastheyfacethesuntheycastnoshadows


THE END by Neel Anil Panicker

Inside the hall the lady in white held ground.

Above her, the shimmering white dome reflected a sea of eyes, all glistening with unbridled joy, reflecting faces that screamed victory with a capital V.

The venue was a personal choice.

‘It’s would be a landslide… …they are all rooting for you…the coast is clear…the heartland is also yours…he has no chance, madam’

Her moment had come.

Then the roar came. Outside shooting flames lit the skyline.

Above her the glass had shattered. She couldn’t break the glass ceiling.

She had just become the most powerless person on this Earth.


Pretty Princess by Norah Colvin

Once upon a time there was a princess, pretty in pink and smothered in cottonwool. In constant preparation for the life arranged for her, there were few opportunities to think outside her royal expectations and obligations: Stand straight. Point your toes. Smile sweetly; and on, and on.

But think she did: Why does the moon shine? What makes the rain fall? How does the grass grow? Why can’t I: play outside? straighten my hair? eat with my fingers? go to school with other kids?

One day she said, “That’s it. I’m going.”

And she did. The end.


The Booth by Larry LaForge

Ed entered the booth, drawing the curtain closed behind him. He rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath as he tried to collect his thoughts.

Ed wiped the sweat from his forehead as he contemplated the seriousness of what he was about to do. His mind wandered back over the past several months. He softly whispered the words as he recollected recent events and confrontations: Dishonesty. Deceit. Braggadocio. Narcissism.

Was he being too harsh?

Finally, Ed finished his business and paused for a moment.

“Say five rosaries and ten Hail Marys,” the priest instructed from behind the screen.


The Deplorable Double Wide by Mr. Macrum

Roscoe opened his eyes. Disoriented, he took stock of his surroundings. He was seated at a wooden table in the kitchen of a deplorable double wide.

Where he was now was not the location of his last waking moment. He was sure it was tipping shots and slapping backs with his Wall Street buds in lower Manhattan. On the big screen, their guy was kicking ass.

“Uh, Where am I?”

A pudgy hand with no wrist dropped a plate of Spam and eggs in front of him.

“Home, you dumass. You got shitfaced last night cuz your man won.”


The End by Arjun Shivaram

Sher Khan was a successful robber. How much wealth he and his 99 apprentices had amassed over the years is upto the imagination of greedy minds.

One night, while robbing the house of the Inspector General’s secret mistress, a serendipitous mistake committed landed him in prison.

But his pride and feeling of importance were unsurpassed by even plump tomatoes. While in prison, he made a call – not to a lawyer, though he could have hired the most expensive of black gowns.

Following this call, the Inspector General was handed divorce papers and dragged to court for a lofty alimony.


An Ending by Irene Waters

The door slammed behind her lover. Maeve lay back on the bed spent, almost too tired to care that yet another man had walked out on her. ‘Oh bugger!’ She rolled onto her side. ‘They come and they go. What was it she did wrong? Why didn’t any of them stay?Maybe I try too hard. Perhaps they’d stay if they thought I wanted them to go.’ She propped herself in order to see her reflection in the mirror. Smiling, ‘well it’s not that I’m horrible to look at.’

A door banged shut. “How about a croissant and tea?”


She Wants, He Wants by Joe Owens

Jenny sat with her arms crossed tightly over her chest. She only plied her arms apart long enough to keep the evenly flowing tears wiped away so she could see Aaron’s expression as she talked. She was silent now after almost a half hour of presenting her case of how much she wanted to be Aaron’s only love.

He sat on an opposite couch with his lips tight for what seemed like an eternity to Jenny. She waited for the words her heart knew were coming.

“Thing is Jenny, I don’t want that with you. You’re not my person!”


December Conversation by Drew Sheldon

On a winter evening in the December of their lives, they reflected on how they had gotten there. They had been born many miles apart and were now many miles from those places.

Their lives hadn’t been fairy tales before, and they never exactly wrote one together. Would they do so now?

The conversation began to die down, and that question would no longer wait.

“Why didn’t you ever marry me?”

“You wouldn’t let me.”

“Will you marry me now?”

The question lingered in the air. After so many years, the answer would have to wait a little longer.


Hickok’s Ending (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah knew this was the end. She sat in her cabin, hands folded and quivering. Several times she stood to draw the curtain only to realize she already had. Twice now. When the scrape of boots thundered across the porch, Sarah startled like a sparrow in the willows. Hickok stood in the doorway. Had she forgotten to close the door? Or were his boots so loud, she failed to hear him enter.


“Why are your boots so loud,” is all she could think to say.

“It’s over. I done it. I’m riding to turn myself in on self-defense.”


Undermined Diamond? by Jules Paige

Privet’s Farm, isolated from other farms sat exposed to the
elements. How could Craig even think of bringing Grace to
here, thought Albert?

Albert boohooed Craig’s delicate effervescent fake ‘Grace’,
heiress ingenue. Jiggling kinetically loose morals, not overtly
protective quips registered sour.Tequila undermined vanity
which xeroxed yesterday’s zeugmas.

Albert would have to rescue Craig again. Grace, looking for
a sugar-daddy,did not count on Craig having Albert to disrobe
her so easily. Hopefully the tart would harbor no ill will when
her sails were deflated.

No albatross, like the Hesperus – Grace, with half-baked
dreams, had lost her bearings.


The End by Michael

The clocked ticked towards the end of the day. The heat was insufferable. He counted down the final seconds and got up to leave. Grabbing his bag, he made for the lift, the carpark, his car, the trip home, freedom from drudgery.

The lift moved. Then stopped. “Oh no,” he thought. Not now. Suddenly it plunged. Down it went. Around him were the faces of terror. Was this the end?

Then it slowed, he breathed again, the woman beside him spewed, the man opposite covered his wet pants. The lift doors opened.

Where had all the sand come from?


Memories, Where Life Doesn’t End by Geoff Le Pard

Penny looked thoughtful when she returned from school. ‘Dolly said they sprinkled her grandpa’s ashes at his favourite place.’ She looked tearfully at her mother. ‘She said it gave them a memory of him. Mum,’ the tears began to flow, ‘I can’t remember him. He’s gone.’

Mary hugged Penny. ‘He hasn’t.’

Penny frowned. ‘Come on.’ Mary pulled out a box. Penny smiled. ‘It’s grandpa’s scent.’

‘I kept some things, reminders. You take something and keep it in your room. When you see it you’ll remember him.’

Later Mary looked in Penny’s room; a scarf sat draped around the mirror.


The Legacy by Ann Edall-Robson

He found her at the barn. He knew she would go to the one place she and the old man had called their second home. He stood in the open door watching his wife brush the sorrel horse. The old cow dog at her feet scrutinizing her every move.

He could barely hear her as she talked to the animals. Her quiet voice mixed with sniffing. She leaned into the horses neck. Her shoulders shaking with grief over the unexpected loss of the man who had mentored her all her life.

Together, her Grandfather’s legacy would be kept alive.


Until the Bitter End by Kerry E.B. Black

Candy grew into her name, sweet and eager to please.

She was young when she married a widower and took his children into her heart. She lavished attention and care, sacrificing for her family and believing in happily-ever-after. No treats for herself. Instead, she provided trinkets to please them. She attended and applauded their school performances. She encouraged their every success.

Neighbors whispered and pointed, accusing Candy of neglect and abuse. Her stepchildren portrayed her as negligent, and others somehow believed them.

Candy grew bitter and withdrawn. When was she cast as the evil stepmother in the fairy tale?


Blue Moon by Sherri Matthews

Tragically beautiful as expected, the moon shimmered like a magnificent, white diamond show-cased on a black velvet sky.

Jan shivered. “Remember that film about the moon crashing into earth?”

“Yeah, the end of the world…” whispered Tom.

“It couldn’t really happen…could it?” Jan’s words formed into icy breath. She tried to shield her eyes from the burning white light. “But it’s getting much closer and bigger, look!” She screamed.

“Are you okay Mum?” called Zac from the bedroom window.

“I’m fine darling…just practicing my lines for the play! Come down and look at the moon with us, it’s massive…”


Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

‘It’s so DULL,’ Greta said. ‘I want something with more zing, something more dramatic.’
‘Sorry Doll, it doesn’t work that way.’
‘ But I want to stand out, I want to be remembered!’
‘Look Babe, that’s the way it is. Company cut backs and all that. We already have the final frame.’
‘Stuff your final frame! This is my story, my life!’
‘That’s Hollywood for you, Sweetcheeks. At least they read the screenplay.’
‘Can’t we punctuate it with a question mark?’
‘Great idea, Toots. That’ll leave it open for a sequel.’
‘ Oh and it’s Greta by the way, surname Garbo.’


Safe Space by Pete Fanning

Kim liked to say that his palm matched her own, even if his hand did not. Darnell envied how his wife lived without fear. How her daring blue eyes took on lingering stares, at the park or out shopping.

It was her idea to join the march against injustice. Palm in palm, the couple took to Tenth Street, where a college-age girl was handing out signs. The girl’s eyes lingered. Her sign read END RACISM. She spoke only to Darnell.

“This protest is for people of color only.”

Kim gasped, clutching her belly.

A person of color was kicking.


To Begin a New End by Ellen Best

Thousands gathered, some rode, others walked to the stones. Drawn some say by forces, maybe magnetic, psychic or coincidence. Either way we all gravitated here and more arrived daily, with scraps of lives some in rags.Escaping the turmoil, that destroyed life as we knew it.

In a flash, unease spread tempers began to flare. Before long gangs tore people limb from limb they burned and ate the bodies in that once sacred place. Until the ‘Hum’… the light, In a suck of a vacuum a gigantic slurp all evil was gone. We clung together as one; to begin a new end.


Dryads by Sarah Brentyn

The trees remember.

They think about when their sisters covered the valley, standing tall and proud.

Glossy, green foliage waving in summer breezes. Bare trunks frosted in winter snow. Branches reaching out, grasping hands, dancing in moonlight.

Now the few who remain nod to each other across empty fields studded with stumps of their sisters.

Their shadows stretch along barren land, soil cracked and dry.

Tufts of brown-tinged grass pretend they are a lush carpet of healthy green, turning from the truth.

The trees know better.

They are wise and no longer hold on to hope for the earth.


Busted! (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane tucks her hands inside her sleeves. Why is the math lab always freezing?

Dendrite, she writes, but draws a blank. She moves on. Axon. Vesicle. She writes the definitions neatly. The biopsychology final is tomorrow; she’s never felt stupider.

Alarm twinges as the math professor heads her way. Is she going to be reprimanded, maybe lose her lab credits, for working on not-math? The signs are posted everywhere. She shifts some calculus notes to cover the open textbook.

“Jane,” smiles Rosalie.  “Do you have a minute? A tutor position has come open. I thought you might be interested.”


Not Over Yet (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Christmas decorations sparkled from every corner of the cabin. Danni strung evergreens and LED lights across the porch eaves, and bedecked the pine she cut down. Ike would laugh at her waggling path where she’d harnessed three of the dogs to pull the tree home. He was finally coming home. Of course, Danni would act mad at first, chewing him out for his lack of calls while he travelled.  She barely heard the knock at the door, but the dogs barked, including Nana.

It wasn’t Ike. It was Sandwater Security on official business. Ike would not be coming home.


Never Give Up by Lady Lee Manila

Is it the end of life as we know it?
When perversity wins and we accept?
When equality loses and we bow?
And the king of the throne is such a twit?

The response was somewhat a tat for tit
Make the most of it or see how it goes
Frustrating perhaps but give it a chance
We’re all in it together, so don’t quit

We let it happen, we have to admit
Let’s not lose hope, we have to keep trying
There’s always light at the end of tunnel
In the end, it’s all for our benefit


New Territory


Carrot Ranch is entering new territory. And it’s a beautiful view!

First of all, prompts shift to Thursday (Friday for those opposite the earth clock from Mars, Utah). The November 17 prompt will be an extended one to stretch across the Thanksgiving holiday in the states. Mostly, because my daughter surprised me with getting time off from work and flying to Las Vegas from Montana. This is a woman who rarely takes time off unless it’s to raft a crazy river, go bow hunting or sailing Flathead Lake. I’m beyond thrilled!

As I informed all the ranchers who gather here, November is my NaNoRanCho planning and reflecting period. The shift to a Thursday flash fiction challenge is part of that. The deadline will continue to be the following Tuesday, which gives me a day for compiling. You might not realize it, but I give thought to the order. Sometimes I don’t see patterns and I follow a general “as submitted” order. Most times, though, interesting patterns emerge that I feel make a stronger statement in a certain order. Or sometimes I break up seriousness with unexpected humor (or the other way around). I immensely enjoy the finished collective product and want to have that extra time to shape it. The compilation will post on Wednesdays.

When the deadline day arrives for the previous flash fiction challenge, Carrot Ranch is going to use Tuesdays to be a regular profile or guest post. This space is to reflect upon the importance of literature from one writer’s perspective. A profile is a post in which I interview a writer and write the post. A guest post is one a writer writes. The theme is like a prompt: what value does literature have within the constraint of a story you want to tell (or I want to tell if I interview you). With this post-election reality, I see more than ever how important literature is to crafting empathy for other; telling the story from multiple or opposing perspectives; developing critical thinking; experiencing literary creativity; starting a dialog. I’m sure you can add to that list, and all interested in submitting or interviewing can take flexibility to include your own writing projects or books.

Coming in 2017, Mondays are for marketing tips. I’m partnering with another social media group to post brief tips to encourage the group’s writers to submit their work or build their platform. Some of you might know I have a specific idea of what a writer’s platform is: branding, community, credibility, target audience. This is based om my experience in marketing and what I’ve learned about the writing industry. I do not believe there is one way to build a platform. However, I do believe writers need to make informed decisions. My goal is to create an hub of information at Carrot Ranch to empower writers to feel confident in their marketing and platform building tactics. I will work with industry experts to post articles and I’ll introduce each post to explain which of the four components the guest is addressing. This is appropriate space for any blog tours for new books, if the author talks about his or her own platform or marketing strategies.

December will continue development of Carrot Ranch as a non-profit and our first anthology. The current Rough Writers are those who have prior material that we are including in the anthology along with exciting new works from several of our writers. Anthologies will continue to build upon the flash fiction we develop here, but they are more developed and reflective than a simple collection of what we write each week. We can grow this in many ways because it is a group effort. Sarah Brentyn has done an amazing job of developing this first one. As a non-profit, Carrot Ranch will also seek anyone committed to serve as a board director. More on that later, but be thinking about it if you are interested in being a part of a grass-roots organization that supports literary writers through flash fiction and marketing support.

Currently, I’m developing questions for my consultant who is helping me create a survey that shows what kind of platform builder an individual writer is. You can help me by asking me questions you have in regards to one of the four categories: branding, community, credibility or target audience (ask in the comments). This survey will be free for all writers and the intent is to generate a graph that shows each person his or her strengths or gaps in platform building. An e-book companion (for purchase) will then break down each component and show how a writer can either maximize strengths or bridge gaps. You’ll never be confused by a marketing post or book again once you learn to identify which component it relates to. Instead of reading books that seem at odds or discourage you as a writer, you can decide if it’s the right message or strategy for you.

So that’s my NaNoRanCho report thus far. I hope you are interested in taking part in the guest post (or interview) opportunities. I will also have a schedule for times (like this next week) where I would welcome a challenge host. You’ll get to create the prompt, write the challenge post, read and engage with participants, and compile the responses. If you are excited to be a part of the Carrot Ranch community as a rancher, email me at Rough Writers are selected from regular participants for each anthology and we are still at book one. Hang with us and you might be a Rough Writer in the future. You are always a rancher her at the ranch when you read, write or dialog and that’s why we say, Rough Writers & Friends. Thank you for being here!

PHOTO NOTE: This is the backside of West Temple at Zion National Park. On the other side of that sandstone feature, which is almost 8,000 feet in elevation, is Zion Canyon. It is surreal to have access to the backside of a place that attracts over 10,000 people a day in the height of season. It’s a sketchy road that climbs three layers of mesas. This flat reveals an ancient history. Stay tuned for the next flash fiction challenge.

November 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

november-9It’s the end of the world as we know it. I’m standing in the ruins of an American farmhouse, staring at the abandoned photo of an immigrant ancestor. I leave the house in decay, the cattle in the field and expand my mind. I exchange an agrarian heritage for an urban lifestyle. I become the generation to bridge my buckaroo roots with the progression of a democratic nation through education. I’m the first person in my paternal line to earn a college degree. Two of my three grown children (and my son-in-law) all hold Masters Degrees.

Despite what I have learned through higher education, I know first hand “The Cult of Ignorance” Issac Asimov speaks of in a 1980 article:

“The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

I grew up in this anti-intellectualism, where I was told reading was lazy and books full of shit. When my grandfather ran cattle for a large ranch, he’d make fun of the owner for his worthless college education. One day the owner’s wife saw me riding and offered to teach me to post. I was thirsty to learn anything and everything. Watching the Fox Hunt Club come through the ranch on weekends, I was fascinated by how different they rode their horses. I readily accepted lessons.

Not only was I shamed and ridiculed when my grandfather found out, he yelled at owner’s wife to stay away from me. I learned that for some reason, we were different, that woman and I. It was more than how we rode. And secretly, I loved how she yelled back at the man who abused me, the man no one else in my family ever stood up to until my cousin confronted him some thirty years later.

Confrontation is battleground for me. It doesn’t induce fight or flight; it leads to paralysis and I avoid that at all costs. With my craving to learn, I rebelled, however, and hid to read. Throughout my childhood, I had many willing adults ready to feed my mind. Growing up, mentors appeared to direct me to read Greek Classics, to look for certain rocks, to pay attention to lessons found in different cultures. I was primed for intellectualism despite the pride my family of origin placed on their hard work being superior to knowledge. It was my rebellion from life as I knew it.

A sense of superiority masks a fear of inferiority. Generational incest occurs in families that feel powerless. The dynamic is one of power and control. Trump does not grab pussies because he’s crass; he does it to prove his power. A working man who grooms his own children and grandchildren for sexual gratification is not necessarily attracted to children, but to the power he can over them.

An even more sinister dynamic of incest is the one that involves women. It might be difficult to understand, but in this power dynamic, women feel safer protecting the abuser more so than the abused. Let that sink in a moment. This is a real thing. Women can be our own worst misogynists. The women are left to clean up, deny and redirect the flow of family stories. Generation. After. Generation.

I’m not trying to make you squirm. In fact, I feel angry when I feel the need to write about incest on a blog meant to prosper diversity in literature. Unfortunately it is part of my story and I’ve been triggered since the realization that my grandfather just won the presidency and my mother, grandmother and aunts are all yelling at me to behave, to quit being the rotten apple and calling me crazy. I can smell gaslighting as if it were leaking propane. Rotten eggs.

In my mind, Trump was never a valid candidate. He was not properly vetted and his popularity was showmanship over discourse. He found that vein of hard-working, disgruntled white Americans and played into their desire for power in a world that didn’t reward their ignorance. Instead of education, instead of seeking a growth mindset, this disconnected pocket of Americans united in a false sense of righting whatever powers they felt they were denied.

The losses are real, don’t get me wrong. Ranches, farms small-town businesses, factory jobs, steel-mill jobs, mining boom and bust cycles have plagued those who have come to America and worked hard for their slice of the pie. Instead of realizing they could better their situation through education, they clung to ignorance as a shield. And in this mess, as well as among the elite circles were power became a heady elixir, a rape culture unfolded.

The day Trump’s infamous sexual assault bragging on video was made public, women who had been sexually abused or assaulted have triggered. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), calls to their Hotline (1-800-656-4673).  What triggered me was not the “locker room banter” excuse, but the fact that countless white American women defended his words and actions as no big deal. This minimalizing and normalizing of sexual assault, especially in how it relates to power and control dynamic, is what did me in. I had to seek self-care.

Thus, what we are seeing in America is the dynamic of incest. A wealthy and powerful narcissist has agitated the ignorant and powerless white majority who feel entitled to more because they work hard to earn it. They don’t see themselves as bigots, racists or misogynists; they see themselves as frustrated, ignored, hard-working individuals who value God and want to not find new beginnings in endings. They are scared they are losing out to minorities, special interests and government as usual. Valid concerns. Yet they fail to see any harm in what they are doing or applauding. Ignorance does not think critically.

I’m not saying the percentage of white, uneducated, evangelical female voters are guilty of perpetuating generations of incest, but that they are participants in a similar dynamic. It doesn’t help that neither party listened to constituents and provided non-toxic opponents, or that we are deadlocked in division with a failed two-party system and fear voting third party.

To those who claim that the third party vote elected Trump, go look at the exit polls. I’m a registered third-party voter and I anguished over my vote, but in the end I voted for HER; the most qualified person for the office. If she is truly guilty of criminal wrong-doing, then let our justice prevail. If you protect one Amendment, you protect them all. And every citizen has the Constitutional right to due process.

I cannot let my voice be silent. I broke the silence of one dynamic and I can’t refrain from expressing what I’m seeing in this election. It’s my way and space for processing it all. To those who voted for Trump, I hope the hate rhetoric is just that — words — and we as a nation come to prevail in unity for all in action. That politics as usual needs a good overhaul, I don’t deny. But hate only breeds hate and fear is its fodder.

President Obama has set the stage for a peaceful transfer of power. My greatest hope is that we can all live up to that, and heal the dynamics that churn ignorance. Let us never fear, nor make elite, knowledge. It is for everyone. It teaches new perspectives and empathy. Let’s embrace diversity. Carrot Ranch is safe space for writers to practice craft, explore voice and model compassion. We grow together.

And write. Write like your soul needs the wind to pass through this season. Write like your brain might seize up if you don’t. Write like you need to leave a legacy. Write whimsy. Write rage. Write the light in and the dark out. Write. Open your mind, your creativity and we will rise above the chains of ignorance. Power is not what we need. Find your own empowerment. Unity is not in old power dynamics; it is found in diversity.

And the end? Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. It might be the end of the world as we know it, what comes next?

November 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pivots around an unexpected ending. If it’s the end of the world as we know it, what is the renewal? You can have history repeat itself. You can include dynamics that never change despite an ending. You can show a triumphant ending. A tragic one. A silly, “That’s all folks!

Respond by November 15, 2016 to be included in the compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Hickok’s Ending (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah knew this was the end. She sat in her cabin, hands folded and quivering. Several times she stood to draw the curtain only to realize she already had. Twice now. When the scrape of boots thundered across the porch, Sarah startled like a sparrow in the willows. Hickok stood in the doorway. Had she forgotten to close the door? Or were his boots so loud, she failed to hear him enter.


“Why are your boots so loud,” is all she could think to say.

“It’s over. I done it. I’m riding to turn myself in on self-defense.”


Not Over Yet (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Christmas decorations sparkled from every corner of the cabin. Danni strung evergreens and LED lights across the porch eaves, and bedecked the pine she cut down. Ike would laugh at her waggling path where she’d harnessed three of the dogs to pull the tree home. He was finally coming home. Of course, Danni would act mad at first, chewing him out for his lack of calls while he travelled.  She barely heard the knock at the door, but the dogs barked, including Nana.

It wasn’t Ike. It was Sandwater Security on official business. Ike would not be coming home.


When Monkeys Fly

monkeysFlying monkeys figure in science, fantasy and bar room predictions. History has much to reveal about or on behalf of flying monkeys. When monkeys fly, a story unfolds.

This week writers explored why and how monkeys fly and entertain us with stories for when they do. Flying monkeys offer an interesting backdrop or streak of color to flash fiction.

The following are based on the November 2, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using flying monkeys as a device or phrase.


Possible Outcome by Sherri Matthews

Once upon a time, there lived a rich man who believed that one day he would be the President of America.

“No way!” laughed his parents.

“You’re an idiot!” mocked his friends.

Scandal followed the man in his bid for the Presidency, but that didn’t stop him gaining popularity everywhere he campaigned. Those who had once made fun of him started to think he might just do it.

Others, horrified that such a thing could happen, said flying monkeys would fill the skies before he won, but since evil clowns now ruled the streets, some believed anything was possible.


Little Miss Baker by Irene Waters

“Crate all the monkeys. ‘Cept her” Carrying her, cuddling her.

At home Miss Baker learnt arithmetic and alphabet. At work, anything, even in a tube wearing a rubber and chamois jacket and helmet, providing she got cuddles.

Hugging her,tears filled his eyes. John loved her yet capsulised her, attaching oxygen.

Countdown. “Please come back,” he whispered knowing none had survived reentry. 38 gs contorting the face he loved, her body weightless.

“16 minutes, altitude 48o kms.”

” Distance 2,400 kms. Touch-down in Atlantic.” John couldn’t watch. Excited screams. “She’s alive!”

On marrying Big George 2 years later she wished she was still a flying monkey.


Wicked Witches and Flying Monkeys by Kerry E.B. Black

When her husband branded her “wicked witch” before company, Amanda filed for divorce. Name calling in public was the newest humiliation and abuses.
The court awarded child support and alimony, and Amanda invested in a business, a bar. The hours allowed her to care for her children during the day, and the building’s upstairs apartment kept them in proximity through last call.
She devised bewitching drinks and hired a cook. With care, she hung stained glass and fine stemware.
A mutual friend asked, “What will you call the place?”
A fan of irony, Amanda smiled. “Flying Monkeys, of course.”


The Flying Monkey Twins by Ann Edall-Robson

In the shade of the old wagon little ones sat in awe, listening to aging woman speak of her childhood. Her favourite story was not her imagination playing tricks with her mind. She had been there the day the monkeys flew . . .

“We gathered from behind our mother’s skits. Unafraid of the menagerie chained to the wagon bed. They filled the field at the edge of town. An odd lot of wagons filled with laughter and gayety. Bright colours streaming from tops of the circus tents. The lady with a beard, prancing horses, gum drops and the trapeze monkey twins” . . .


Flying Monkeys, A Tale of Discovery by Gordon Le Pard

The monkeys flew across the room, trying to catch the fruit that bobbed like balloons in the air.

“Rest Sahib,” the servant mopped the forehead of the delirious man.

He saw how the stronger monkeys always caught the fruit, how they grew bigger until he was screaming in terror. As the fever abated and he awoke to a tropical dawn he knew what it meant.
He knew the secret, knew how species changed, he had to tell someone, there would be a mail ship soon. He sat down and wrote – To Charles Darwin, Downe, Kent.

The letter changed everything.


Author’s Note: Charles Darwin had delayed publication of his theory of evolution for nearly twenty years, he was finally forced to publish when he received a letter from Alfred Russell Wallace, who had come to the same idea when he was suffering from fever.


Danni’s Circus (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Danni’s yard had become the local circus. Instead of flying monkeys she had ten canine clowns.

By nine weeks, the puppies were the biggest attraction in town. Tourists gathered and Deputy Erikson cruised by daily. He informed Danni she could keep the litter up until twenty weeks unless she was training any, and at that required a special license.

Twenty weeks. Danni would let the circus run away before she lived with this chaos that long. It was time to sell the clowns. Yet, she looked at the male, Bubbie, and wondered if she should apply for a license.


Corrupt Compassion? by Jules Paige

Oz. It wasn’t all that wonderful of a world, that dark side
that showed the green face of a scary witch and her flying
monkeys. Yet, when you read the book “Son of a Witch”…
by Gregory Maguire, you get a different view. Not all is what
it seems. The monkeys are loyal friends and companions
doing more than just what they are told. So they have wings
and can fly, so do fairies.

Needless to say in the end…or continuance of Baum’s
Magical world – one gets to feel some sympathy for Elphaba,
Liir and his green child.


Temple Monkeys by Anne Goodwin

Swinging from trees, scampering over stupas, stealing snacks from tourists, offerings from pilgrims. Scrambling up stone steps to assemble on the tiled roofs to pick the lice from each other’s fur and mock us, their cousins, our movements so ungainly, so slow.

I came here seeking solitude, the peace to heal a life gone astray. I’d leave perhaps with answers, a tidier mind. I had as much chance of that at the zoo.

I sit and watch and, little by little, their mischief makes me smile. They’ll teach me if I let them. To laugh. To fly.


Monkey Mischief by Norah Colvin

A no-show nanny, insistent emails, and bills to pay: the verandah seems the best solution. He can ride his trike or play with toys; with the iPad backup if necessary.

It’ll be fine, won’t take long.


Incident #1: Laptop flat

Easy: Power cord

#2: Cord short, stretched high

Solution: Be watchful – won’t take long

#3: Trike stuck, wails

Extricate it

#4: Again!

Ignore attention-seeking, almost done

#5: Demands iPad monkeys


#6: Snatches credit card, laughs, runs, daring

“You little monkey!”

#7 Monkey trips. Card flies, disappears between boards.


“It’s okay, Mummy.”

Grimaces: It’ll be fine


A Day at the Zoo by Diana Nagai

Erin guided her daughter Chloe to the monkey cage. The adoption was still fresh and mother and daughter held hands tentatively.

Chloe spied a juvenile monkey pacing high in a tree, its mother gracefully swinging below him. Unexpectedly, the small monkey launched himself from the high branch and fell several feet through the air before catching the branch where his mother waited. The two began a game of chase, delighting their audience.

Chloe whispered, “Mama, they’re flying!”

It was the first time Chloe had called her mama. Erin gently squeezed Chloe’s hand and scarcely whispered back, “Yes, they are.”


Flash Fiction by Marigold Blooms

They sat at the edge of the pier, toes wiggling in water. “Daddy, I don’t want you to go.” Sophie’s sadness added to his overwhelming dread. “I know, but I’ll be home soon.” He wondered, as he started his eighth year, when she might stop believing him. Tears ran down her cheeks. “C’mon, let’s play,” hoping to distract her. Wiping her nose, she rested her head on his shoulder and inched in to snuggle. “Look, I see a duck.” “Too easy,” Sophie laughed at the clouds. “I win! See? Two flying monkeys!” God help me get home, he thought.


Reading Between the Lines by Geoff Le Pard

Penny read from the paper. ‘Local man, Sam Dobbs was found guilty of threatening Chin Lo. Dobbs claimed Lo was cooking monkeys but Magistrates found Lo had said ‘Try a flying monkey’, a new cocktail and not, as alleged ‘Try a frying monkey.’ She looked at her father. ‘That’s so funny.’

‘I’m not sure Mr Lo would find it funny being threatened.’

Penny looked upset. ‘No. I didn’t think.’

Paul kissed his daughter. ‘It’s written for laughs. Not your fault. Do you know what such misunderstandings are called?’


‘Chinese whispers.’

Penny frowned. ‘Isn’t that racist?’

Paul laughed. ‘Touché.’


Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Her Daddy had promised a special pet for her 16th birthday, but this was what she got, a boring field trip to some out of town shack store called ‘The Flying Monkey’.
No cute marmoset, no Justin Bieber capuchin, not even a stuffed chimp.
Some birthday this was. Her friends had all been given cars for their 16th, but her Daddy couldn’t afford one. A pet monkey had seemed a cool alternative.
Passing her a pair of overalls, the burbling of an engine made her turn.
The Flying Monkey was a plane and her present was a flying lesson!


Flying Monkeys (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane’s eyes are glued to the computer screen. The library is oddly quiet tonight.

She’s ostensibly working on her research paper. Type one sentence, check one fact, return to election live updates. Add a citation, couple more sentences, tab back to the updates. She’ll have to use all the battery her phone has, back at her abandoned house, to track this all night.

So far, so good, for the address she used for voter registration. Now what she needs is a President who will address her issues.

Back to the tracking screen. Don’t make me call my flying monkeys!


The Charge by Bill Engelson

They came, as would a plague of locust, this horde of Brace Caldwell’s hired sycophants, evil-winged simians, neither men nor beasts, but, rather, some horrific malfunctions of a careless God, galloping in a sinister storm of grit and terror, shrieking guttural sounds meant to raise the dead and frighten infants not yet conceived.

Dobbs issued one final command to Henry and Aggie. “To the death for them, comrades, for surely their cankered hearts have no room for mercy.”

And then, the appalling heat met the riders dust.

Rifles cracked.

Gunsmoke spiraled.

Blood poured through the streets of Union City.


Beyond the Zone! by Lisa Ciarfella

Hector cursed them; damn financial aid forms!

Jumping through hoops, that’s what this is. How the hell do they expect me to get all this filled out by Friday, with three papers, two exams and a final to suffer this week? Like monkeys flying bat-shit all over campus, it just aint gonna happen!

What he needed was cash. Lots of it, and now.

The line grew longer by the second, and sensing his out, he took it! The grey gun metal felt cold to his touch in his pack as he raised it, passing the point of no return…


Flash Fiction by Florida Borne

There are flying monkeys that soar from one tree to another, and flying squirrels that glide through the air. A species has to aim toward flight long before it actually gets there, but it only took dinosaurs around 10 million years to turn into birds.

Before you start to laugh, remember that the galaxy is over thirteen billion years old. As a comparison, if you lived to be 1300, it would’ve taken 1 year of your life for dinosaurs to turn into birds.

I, for one, am not looking forward to running from flying giraffes, cheetahs, badgers or platypuses.


Monkeys Can Fly by Joe Owens

The Yankee fan sat at the bar waxing philosophic about his championship rich franchise.

“My Yankees could win every year if Steinbrenner was still there!”

“That’s bull,” The Red Sox fan replied. “Even Epstein ran out of magic! He was so bad he had to go to stinking Chicago! The Cubs will be World Series Champions the same day a monkey starts flying!

The bartender turned up the sound on the television as he listened to the men and grinned as he realized his bet of the Cubbies winning Game 7 in extra innings was about to pay off.


Tales from Kansas (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Then the witch sends out winged monkeys to stop the farm girl from Kansas.” Jesse Williams read Sarah her favorite chapter from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Sarah sipped her tea, not wanting to leave the warmth of Jesse’s family parlor. “I knew of a real fantastical man from Kansas.”

“Tell me, Sarah!” Jesse seemed more of a child than a near-grown woman of 16. Maybe it was because Sarah felt so old. She was ancient.

“He came to Rock Creek after wresting a grizzly bear.”

Jesse’s Dad coughed, and laid down his newspaper. “You knew Wild Bill Hickok?”


November 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

november-2Clouds stiff as meringue coast overhead and cast shadows upon the red and white sandstone pillars of Zion. I watch as light returns, then gives way to shadow again. The cliffs, canyons and mesas morph in the obscuration of partial clouds. Reds deepen, crevices appear, whites highlight. It feels like watching a live kaleidoscope. All this show, and I also indulge in an afternoon cappuccino and crepe. I think of flying monkeys and wonder what shadows such creatures would cast.

My visit to this tourist hamlet of Springdale today is to uncover stories of flying monkeys. If Virgin (where I now live) is the gateway to Zion Canyon, then Springdale is the doorway. Tens of thousands of people pass through Zion National Park daily during the height of season. Despite a warm sun and partial clouds, tourism is receding. And no, flying monkeys did not chase off anyone. But I want to know more about them, and starting at the wood-fired grill of their namesake seems right. I have coffee at Me Me’s next door.

When I enter The Flying Monkey, savory smoke grabs me; my nose convinces my stomach to let my mouth experience a pizza here. There must be magic enough in the aroma to make monkeys fly. I return to my mind when the hostess approaches. I’m here to ask about monkeys not the fire-roasted pineapple and cilantro pizza.

“So, about the flying monkeys, ” I start to say.

“Oh, you want to know about our name.”

“I know where you get your name. I live in Virgin below Hurricane Mesa.”

“Oh…I’ve been up there…camping…”

“Did you see anything?” I’m excited now. The hostess may actually be an eye-witness.

“It was dark. But I always look at that strip and think about them, you know.”

“Me, too.”

“They all lived!”


“So I’ve heard.”

“Who is the local expert on the flying monkeys?”

This is how I often begin historical research. Casual conversation. I know what you’re thinking, how can conversation about flying monkeys be casual. I listen for rumors, look for odd local business names, seek the resident story-tellers. Today, I got two hits. Maybe the jeweler on the other side of Me Me’s knows something or perhaps the man across the street at the tire shop. The hostess tells me they’ve both lived in the area forever. She’s from St, George and this is her second season working in Springdale.

Geology opened this Pandora’s box. I wasn’t looking for flying monkeys, but places to rock hound. After my first big adventure in southern Utah, the one sliding across slimy red clay in the rain, I came home with some local jasper. I bought a book, Rockhounding Utah: A Guide to the State’s Best Rockhounding Sites. That’s where I read about Hurricane Mesa and it’s curious feature (in addition to agates and petrified wood). Author, Gary Warren, warns:

“There’s some private property up on the mesa now, so be sure to heed any posting. Be especially careful not to enter the test track area. It may be tempting, but it is a great big no-no!”

Knowing the military had a test track up on a mesa piqued my curiosity. That’s when I dug deeper into aviation records locally and discovered that in 1955, the Air Force developed a facility on Hurricane Mesa to test jet-propelled airplane ejection seats. Looking up at that mesa every morning, I think how tempting the big no-no is. Not only am I curious, I’m visual. I want to see what there is to see. And that was before I knew about the flying monkeys.

Now that we are officially Virgin locals (not to be confused with virgin locals), we find other locals readily talk about this magnificent area with a unique history. Filmography has convinced us this is the Wild West, but reality is rooted in Mormonism and mysterious testing. The Mormons pioneered to this geological land of wonder, once home to Paiute, Navajo and perhaps even Anasazi. Tensions between cultures led to deadly encounters. Global tensions after WWII led to the terrifying testing of nuclear weapons for which this area was fallout. We often hear tragic family stories of generational cancer. One John Wayne movie filmed here is reputed to have led to the deaths of all involved by cancer.

Locals tell us radiation surrounds us as much as geological beauty.

Do monkeys fly because they are local aberrations? Creatures resulting from radiation exposure? A Native American myth? A mushroom picker’s mistaken identity? Another local writer’s unchecked imagination? No. The answer is found back on the test track at Hurricane Mesa. Monkeys flew as live test subjects in the jet propelled and track ejected cockpit pods. Before men tested the ejection seats, monkeys did. And, so far, according to local lore or wishful thinking, the flying monkeys all lived.

November is, of course, NaNoWriMo. It’s the perfect season to write a first draft about mysterious government testing, monkeys and how women might have been involved. That is always my angle — history often forgets women among men and monkeys, and those are the stories I ultimately seek. However, No NaNoWriMo for me. More like, November is NaNoRanCho month. With a new home, office and ergonomic chair, I’m ready to get back to my ranch.

You might think that statement as odd as, well, flying monkeys once soared over Virgin, Utah. Why not “get back” to writing novels. First, I never stopped. Each week I work on revising two novels, in fact. Some weeks my revisions are processing, some weeks are filling research  gaps, and more weeks are needed for constructing transitions and new material. I’m not on a deadline for my novels. Perhaps if I had an agent or active publisher, my schedule would be different. As a marketer, I also know I need to have a well-crafted final manuscript for sale and a well-crafted platform from which to launch my books (like flying monkeys).

Carrot Ranch was originally a website I started when I left my last marketing job. I did marcom consulting, spoke at national workshops and managed communications for business clients. But as I worked on my first novel, I felt disconnected to my literary goals. I made the leap and transformed Carrot Ranch into a platform with a literary focus and a flash fiction challenge. No matter what I do, I always want to do good in the world. I began to focus on supporting a literary community. When my own personal crisis hit with a series of setbacks, including getting scammed by the publisher at Go Idaho and getting evicted from our home (and my office) because the owners thought it would sell better empty, my community helped me get through.

Much has changed since last November when I had high hopes for completing my second novel, launching our first anthology and setting up writers retreats in beautiful Sandpoint. A lot of the work I did, such as creating a library program called Wrangling Words and hosting a successful BinderCon event in Montana, has gone aside. Our anthology was delayed as I dealt with issues of homelessness. My confidence and plans felt shaken. But shit happens. I may not be able to control the circumstances, the injustices or recoup what I lost, but I can choose how to transform and reinvest in my platform, my writing and my community.

Therefore, I’m taking a NaNoWriMo-like daily focus on writing a new business plan for Carrot Ranch as a non-profit to support literary writers around the world with weekly flash fiction challenges, encouraging responses, an annual anthology, collective promotions (community books and blogs), contests for good causes, literary craft insights and practical marketing solutions for the everyday writer.

Carrot Ranch is my platform and it also belongs to the community here. By the end of the month, I’ll have all this crafted into a plan. I’ve retained a lawyer for the non-profit side; a designer to complete our first-still-in-the-works anthology and create a branded look for the continuing series; and an academic advisor to help me create a survey that will reveal what writers need to complete a practical and individual marketing plan.

While I’m sad to let go of my dream of having writers retreats in Sandpoint, I enjoyed the writers I did get to host at Elmira Pond. I missed out on one of our own Rough Writers who had plans to stay. I’m grateful I didn’t shut down the ranch, although I admit I’ve struggled mightily to keep my focus and presence since that awful day in March when we were told our lease would not be renewed. Many good turns have happened and in the end, I did deliberately choose my next home to be an RV. We could have rented, we could buy next year, but we own this RV outright and it meets every basic need have (and when you are homeless, you come to understand clearly wants verses needs). It gives us options.

And it has a chair that allows me longer stretches of writing! I didn’t share my greatest challenge: that how we were living led to debilitating pain. I could barely meet ranch duties each week, only write in short stints and I couldn’t read for long. I’ve had three back surgeries and without an ergonomic place to sit or sleep, I developed nerve pain in my legs, shoulders and hands. I thought it would take time to build up to my previous level of desk-marathoning, but the new home-on-wheels with it’s proper bedroom and real bed plus an ergonomic chair and office space has me happily pecking away at the keys. What a relief! I now have a choice of recliner or couch for reading, too. And I’m continuing my walking and pool therapy. Thank you, to all of you’ve who’ve hung in there with me.

I feel like I can start dreaming and doing again. So, of course, I believe in flying monkeys. First, a few shots of the new Carrot Ranch office:

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November 2, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using flying monkeys as a device or phrase. As a phrase it can be something like, “When monkeys fly over Grandma’s tea party.” As a device, you can use flying monkeys as characters (a circus act, astronaut companions, zoo critters). Think of what they are doing and why. How can flying monkeys inspire you this week?

Respond by November 8, 2016 to be included in the compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Danni’s Circus (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Danni’s yard had become the local circus. Instead of flying monkeys she had ten canine clowns.

By nine weeks, the puppies were the biggest attraction in town. Tourists gathered and Deputy Erikson cruised by daily. He informed Danni she could keep the litter up until twenty weeks unless she was training any, and at that required a special license.

Twenty weeks. Danni would let the circus run away before she lived with this chaos that long. It was time to sell the clowns. Yet, she looked at the male, Bubbie, and wondered if she should apply for a license.


Tales from Kansas (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Then the witch sends out winged monkeys to stop the farm girl from Kansas.” Jesse Williams read Sarah her favorite chapter from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Sarah sipped her tea, not wanting to leave the warmth of Jesse’s family parlor. “I knew of a real fantastical man from Kansas.”

“Tell me, Sarah!” Jesse seemed more of a child than a near-grown woman of 16. Maybe it was because Sarah felt so old. She was ancient.

“He came to Rock Creek after wresting a grizzly bear.”

Jesse’s Dad coughed, and laid down his newspaper. “You knew Wild Bill Hickok?”


Flight of Raptors

raptorsStories take to the skies on the wings of raptors. It adds a greater awareness, calling us to look up, to follow the currents of winds or identify new sounds. Raptors can lure us into birding or mythology. It depends upon the story.

Writers explored their options with this topic to follow what unfolds from from contemplating raptors.

The following is based on the October 19, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raptor.


Harbingers by Bill Engelson

Dobbs had waited in broiling heat before. Too many times. Senses primed; sizzling; tension bubbling up; each moment stretched in dusty silence, taut, like the hangman’s rope.

Sounds magnified, fear, loud, heart-thumping, startling.

His mind was wandering.


Heat waves shimmered, fluttered on the flat horizon; images appeared, specks of movement, real, imagined, an omen or ominous messages of imminent death.

He snapped alert, focused on Hank and Aggie.

They both glanced at him.

Above them, as if swinging from the sun, three turkey vultures circled wide, their wings large and knowing, waiting.

Suddenly, Aggie pointed to the north.


Side-seat Driver (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Ike, look out!” Danni steadied her travel mug so she wouldn’t spill it. Habit. The mug was empty, but there was a small mass on the faded paved two-lane. Morning sun illuminated feathers Danni didn’t want her husband to hit after fixing the alignment on their truck.

Ike barely swerved, smiled broadly beneath his mousy-brown handlebar mustache and began singing, “There’s a dead…chicken…in the road…a dead…chicken…in—”

“Ike, that’s a hawk.” She leaned back into his chest, his right arm never once moved from her shoulders despite her jostling.

“There’s my side-seat driver. Awake now?”’

“Watch the road, Ike.”


Fly Like An Eagle by Sherri Matthews

Always, it started out the same: one step, then another, then raising both arms out to her sides, her feet left the ground and she was flying!

She wheeled and circled, weightless as a feather, swooping low and back up again, high above her world, through the air that belonged only to her.

She was free! Like the eagle she had watched on television once, master of its city without walls and doors and locks, no prison to hold it barred.

When she awoke, she knew with certainty she would never know such freedom, but she held her smile.


Seeing Red by Irene Waters

“Shut those dogs up.”

“Yes” I was already out the door. “Hannibal! Lector! Come!” I walked towards the frenzied barking. Hearing ‘ Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaak Bwak Bwak Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaak.’ I ran.

I saw red.  Blood. Feathers. Anger. Talons. Inside the coop, wings wide it swooped, talons first. I screamed to scare. For help. Picking up a length of poly pipe I swiped. Now it was the hunted. I raised my pipe to hit again and again.

Suddenly I saw myself.  My reaction to terror the same as that I decried in my country. My role now – Peace: protect the chickens, love the hawk.


Squeaky Toy? by Anne Goodwin

A rabbit caught in a trap, perhaps? Or someone stepping on a child’s squeaky toy. A cry, for sure, but was it from pleasure or pain? A call for help or to scare predators away?

He suggested scouring the heather for a wounded animal. She wanted to forget it and continue their walk. Begun in whispers and ending in shouts, their debate drowned the noise that sparked it. Neither thought to tilt their head skyward to watch the pair of buzzards circling, wheeling joyfully on the afternoon thermals. They stomped home, united in disappointment that no wildlife seen today.


A Falcon Graces the Suburbs by Paula Moyer

Its presence was magical. Jean didn’t expect one here. This inner suburb, situated between two golf courses and near two malls, was abuzz with city life.

But there – on the first branch of a neighbor’s tree. A peregrine falcon, talons encircling the branch, calm eyes stalking – something. Something now living, but soon …

Jean froze, as did her dog. They were mesmerized. Small for a raptor, it was gigantic compared to the burb’s songbirds.

Soon the falcon would seize the little guy. Time to finish the walk. The falcon would fulfill its nature – but Jean didn’t have to see.


Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

‘Follow me!’

The group took formation behind the leader, aiming down towards the building below, a small bungalow in the suburbs.

One whispered to the guy on his left flank

‘Is he sure about this?’

‘Yep. Says he comes here all the time, and they haven’t failed him yet.’

‘But this isn’t normal!’

‘True, but why bother if someone else is going to do all the work?’

Lining up in a regimental row on the wall, the birds waited.
Sure enough, a human came out and placed scraps of bacon before them.

‘See? So much better than road kill!’


Author’s Note: When we lived in Poole, we had a buzzard visit our house regularly who became quite partial to smoked bacon scraps. We called him Claude, and I could get within a couple of feet of him.


The Battle of the Old Birds by Joe Owens

Anderson watched the evil bird circle as his fingers drummed on the old oak table holding his rifle and its ammunition. This raptor had snatched another of his breathing stock just moments ago and when it returned for dessert Anderson would make it another prize for his taxidermy filled back wall in the cabin.

Sure, they were majestic creatures, but much more so when they stayed aloft and didn’t thin the herd.

“I am ready anytime you want to try again old bird,” Anderson said.

The screech announced the time was nigh, so he shouldered the weapon and waited.


Prey Time by Norah Colvin

Children chattered like birdsong – not a ruffled feather in sight. If only all playtimes were as peaceful.  Sudden realisation.  She scanned the children. Anxiety stirred.

“Has anyone seen Zane?”

Thomas pointed to a distant figure flitting and swooping, arms outstretched.


She couldn’t leave him there. Could she?

“I’ll get him, Miss.”

As Thomas approached, Zane screeched and rushed towards him. Thomas fled, missed his footing, and fell. Zane, still screeching, pounced, pinning him down.

“Zane! Let him go!”

“I’m a raptor. He’s my prey.”

Thomas cried. “I’m not playing.”

If he was, it would be more fun.


Hawkeye by Sarah Brentyn

My name is Red.

As in the crimson ribbons that will flow from your flesh when my razor-sharp weapon lashes out.

I watch the woman unleash a storm of violence with her sword and a smile.

I will fight alongside her.

She moves like a sharp-shinned hawk, majestic and agile. Like me.

She is deadly beauty.

I wait for her to notice me. To appreciate my brutality in battle. To take me under her wing.

She turns, red hair flying free in the salty air. My heart soars.

A laugh escapes her lips as she says, “Polly wanna cracker?”


Dreaming of Flight (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Beyond the whispering voices Sarah could hear the pounding of horse hooves. Like a falcon pushing off a fence post, Sarah took flight and could see the prairie stretch below. She was the raptor and Cobb the rider. He ran a blood-red bay with black mane and tail that whipped in the wind like a woman’s unbound tresses. The horse put his entire body into the run. Sarah pushed hers into flight. Together they covered endless buffalo grass until her coughing broke the spell. She was in bed.

Some feared to die. At 98, Sarah feared she never would.


On Raptor’s Wings by Pegg Gillard

She came silently, lithely like a raptor hell bent on its prey’s capture. Focus so sharp it could pierce steel. Stopping just short of her mark, booted feet planted hip-width apart, gloved hand outstretched, she waited. He knelt before her, head bent in her shadow cast by a razored winter moon. When he looked up into the night, into her eyes rapt paralysis cloaked him. Suddenly, from above and behind him, The Snowy Owl dove to her gloved fist and the two vanished into the moon. Jaw agape in confusion, until he felt himself lifted up on raptor’s wings.


Raptor Rapture (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

The sensation of flight is exhilarating. Jane tries to laugh aloud but the wind jerks the sound from her mouth and the air from her very lungs. She lazes, riding a current, the land below a patchwork quilt seamed with roads and rivers. The world shimmers around her. She relaxes into floating free.

Then below – movement.

Tendons stretch, tail lengthens, head lowers, cruel beak leading the way as the downward streak begins. Air thunders by as prey looms closer, unaware yet.

Jane sighs and stirs in her sleep, Troubles twitching next to her as if joining in the hunt.


The Pride by Ruchira Khanna

“Look at this Red-breasted Flycatcher. Wonder how they were created.” said one hawk to another while perched on a dead frog.

The latter one paused from tearing the muscles of the prey, “You Betcha! One has to be so vigilant to catch them.”
“But they would be tasty since they are so pretty!” the former confessed.

“Sure. But only if we are able to snap them.”

“Talk softly. We are supreme. We are the Lords in this terrain.” the latter cautioned.

That made the former chuckle, “Wonder for how long since everyone has a time scale of supremacy.”


Learning From the Birds by Geoff Le Pard

‘Next Colin will fly over there; we’ll entice him back with a little treat.’ The handler oved his hand and the eagle hopped across.

Penny’s eyes were wide with excitement. ‘How does he make him do that, dad?’

Paul said, as the bird soared high. ‘No idea but I’m not sure you ‘make’ them. It takes team work.’

‘But he’ll come back, won’t he?’

‘There must be a risk he won’t. It needs trust. Like any relationship.’

Penny nodded.

Paul watched as she gasped at the bird’s dive. If only it was so easy with human relationships, he thought.


The Hunter by Ann Edall-Robson

Through the breeze, the silence of the land penetrates the vision of the hunter. He waits patiently. There is movement that catches his eye.

Wait. Wait. Lift off. Soaring to heights on the wind like a kite with no strings attached. Flawlessly his wings dip, pushing at the wind. Moving ever closer to the unsuspecting prey scooting from grass to bush.

The wind floats him downward. Still silent. Still unseen. Legs and talons drop. A hair raising screech reverberates across the meadow. A split second, and up again. Lifeless prey dangles beneath the hunter’s body. Another scream declares victory.


On Owl’s Wings by Kerry E.B. Black

Its unblinking eyes unnerved Hal as much as knowing why it visited. His people told owl’s purpose. It conveyed souls to the afterlife. Hal flapped his clipboard at it, hoping it would fly from its perch above the ambulance, but it remained unflappable.

The rest of the crew pushed a laden gurney through the nursing home doors. The owl craned its white-feathered neck for a better view.

“Leave her alone,” Hal said, but with the sound of muffled death, the owl swooped, talons outstretched.
Hal muffled a scream, helpless to stop the winged death collect the dying woman’s soul.


Diligent ‘Accipiter cooperii’? by Jules Paige

There are hawks in the neighborhood. I’ve seen them carry off both rabbit and squirrel. That doesn’t seem to stem those
populations. I am walking more to observe nature. I was rewarded one morning, a hawk swooped low. I stood still
to watch it – thinking the bird of prey was looking for breakfast in the bush planted between the neighbors garage and front door. I was able to snap a grainy photo of the bird. There was a posted alert that I hadn’t viewed clearly until after I had enlarged the image and it made me chuckle, ”Home Security”