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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

Saddle up, tighten your reins and pull on your riding boots. And while you’re about it, watch your back, because wicked wranglings are afoot at the Rodeo. Western or English? Doesn’t matter. Thrown off a few times? Never mind. Devious, deadly or just plain dangerous, it’s time for some murderous musings.

Long fascinated with the dark side of the human heart, I read a lot of True Crime. Not for the gory details, neither for the whodunit: I want to understand the why.

As a memoir writer, I need to explore the true motives driving the story. I wonder how many of us ask ourselves, if truly honest, what might we be capable of if pushed too far? What would be our not so perfect storm?

But it never occurred to me that I could explore this through fiction. This memoir writer doesn’t write fiction, of any kind.  I can’t; I shan’t; and I won’t. But Charli Mills had other ideas. “Oh yes you can,” she said with a knowing look in her eyes. We’ve never physically met, but I’d know that look anywhere.

So I gave it a go, playing it safe at first with a touch of fiction based on a true story – a BOTS, I came to learn. Bashing out 300 plus words was the easy part; telling the same story in 99 was not.

But with practice it got easier and soon I was hooked.  And then the unthinkable happened: characters appeared from nowhere with ideas of their own and there I was, writing flash actual fiction.

Today, I continue to relish the delicious freedom I get from writing these bite-sized bursts. Coming up for air from my memoir, my fictional characters lead me away from the confines of memoir’s truth, allowing me to freely explore their world of darkest revenge, immorality and twisted justice.

This, I now understand, is why most of my flashes contain murderous undertones. What better way to blow off writing steam? I can’t remember what I was dealing with in my memoir when I wrote ‘Homemade Cider’, but I have told my husband he has no need to worry:

Homemade Cider by Sherri Matthews

They had shared their hopes and fears; heck, they had even shared husbands.  Now, as the two elderly women sat on the porch swing, a faded, hand-made quilt stretched across their bony knees, they said nothing. Only the crickets strummed their twilight song.

“I wish I had known,” sighed Mave at long last, shifting beneath the quilt.

Ellen rubbed her eyes and yawned.

“I didn’t want you to worry.”

“But you needed my help…”

“You were busy.  Anyway, Bob helped me bury him under the apple tree.”

Mave grinned. “Well at least he’ll make great compost…nothing beats homemade cider.”


I asked Charli to share her flash fiction process and how it’s helped her explore the ‘why’ in the murder of Wild Bill Hickok, the subject of her work in progress historical fiction novel Rock Creek:

‘London historian and biographer of Wild Bill Hickok, Joseph Rosa, claimed that the Rock Creek incident of 1861 remains among the most debated gunfights in the American West. At the heart of the debate are two questions writers often ponder — who is the villain and why?

My family handed me a myth growing up. The story goes that the first man Wild Bill Hickok ever shot was my third great-grandmother’s brother; my Uncle Cobb McCanles. Talk to any Hatley, Green, Paullus or McCandless and they’ll curse the villainy of Hickok, tearing the man down as a coward, shorter than history makes of him.

Talk to the descendants of Hickok and they’ll tell you what a fine and upright man Bill was. It’s understandable for families to cheer for their own kin and clearly see the murderous intent in the other. But add historians to the mix and you get more myth and romanticism. Hickok, one historian from Kansas wrote, was a chivalrous knight. A Nebraskan historian responded that Cobb McCanless was a family man cut down in front of his 10-year old son.

No one can definitely answer why. Why did these men clash in a deadly way?

Flash fiction became instrumental to my historical investigations. Writing tight snippets, I considered what it was like before and after Cobb’s untimely murder. These flash fictions became a way for me to explore emotion, reaction, pain and consider who was truly the villain. You’d be surprised by who has murder in mind, and readers like surprises. It’s all in the ‘why’.

The Day After by Charli Mills

“I’m not ready for this.” Sarah had spent the long night alone at the sod house, scrubbing congealed blood from her hair. The stained dress she burned in the woodstove. Several Pony Express riders came by to convince her leave on the morning stage to Denver. Hickok was not one of them.

Leroy settled a trunk with her belongings in the back of the buckboard. “It’s best you come with me, Sarah. Emotions are running hot.”


“He’s dead.”

“I know. But…a funeral?”

“He’s already in the ground.”

Sarah’s scalp itched. Triggers pulled in haste left no mourning time.


Now to the contest! Write a flash fiction in 109 words, no more, no less and weave a murderous vibe through an every-day setting, either in thought or deed.

Submission Guidelines:

  1. Submit your entry using the Contact Form below.
  2. 109 words, no more, no less, will be counted exactly. Title excluded.
  3. Weave a murderous vibe through an every-day setting, either in thought or deed.
  4. Add your name and email address, but please note, judging will be blind.
  5. Deadline for submission is 11:59 EST Tuesday, 31 October. Any entries received after this date will be disqualified.


CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest, please feel free to respond to this in the comments as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.


Go where the flow takes you, with bonus points for a twist that shocks the judges:

Mike Matthews, sound-boarder, proof-reader and husband extraordinaire; Hugh Roberts, friend, author and blogger with a deliciously dark flair for short stories; and me, Sherri Matthews.

We can’t wait to read your entries.  Have fun but don’t forget to watch your back: you never know who might be lurking in the shadows at the Rodeo.

NB: As providence would have it, I am in the throes of our house move this week. Huge apologies for my lateness in replying to comments, but I will return before the 31 October deadline.  Many thanks to Charli and Hugh for holding down the fort in the meantime.  

Next up: The Ultimate Flash Fiction (TUFF) by Charli Mills on Tuesday, October 31.

Announcement of Winner

Winner will be announced at Summerhouse and  Carrot Ranch on December 19.



  1. Charli Mills says:

    We are now live with Rodeo Contest #7 — until murder unfolds! Sherri, you’ve given us a deliciously wicked direction for our fiction!

    • Hi Charli! In great haste to say thanks so much for the opportunity to host my true wicked wranglings of the heart, ha! Let’s hope this Rodeo Contest stays live and doesn’t die in the dust! And also to you and Hugh for holding down the fort until I can get back here properly asap. Great comments and flashes here just from a quick scan, can’t wait to get my teeth into them…ooops, I mean read them… in full. Love it…see you very soon! <3

    • cam8510 says:

      I just realized that for contest #7, I didn’t put my name and contact info with the story. Should I resubmit or will it be okay since I put my name and email on the form along with the submission?

  2. Charli Mills says:

    I have to admit — it was fun to think of murder. After I posted and started to write one of my own, I naturally thought of rodeos. I wondered what would make a rodeo clown commit murder. And this funny idea popped into my head. I think I understand why Sherri finds this form of fiction both liberating and entertaining.


    Lipstick for a Rodeo Clown by Charli Mills

    Hubert outlined each eye with black liner. It had been Neva’s. Next, he penciled his lips the way she did before applying cherry-bomb red lipstick. He giggled. He loved Neva’s lipstick. Carefully he brushed his brows and powdered his face.

    “Next up at the Tonopah Rodeo and Stampede, bull riders!”

    Hubert danced a jig when the announcement gave way to the roar of the crowd. Neva wouldn’t be scowling among them. He’d be free to clown around, distracting bulls and wearing the make-up she refused to share with him.

    “Rodeo clowns don’t wear Maybelline, Hubert. Use face paint like others.”

    Her last words to a man coveting cherry-bomb red.

  3. Heehee. Great application.

    • Oops, I replied to you in the wrong space, Charli. And I do love how you brought in that clown.

      Night Musings

      “Would you stop that infernal pacin’ an’ jist git some shuteye!”

      “I don’t like this Pal, it ain’t right. This here is a nice safe community, ever’one says so. Folks gotta feel safe here. No, this ain’t right.”

      “Jeez, Kid! Yer mutterin’ an’ pacin’ is kepin’ me from my much needed rest. What in the blazes are you on about now?”




      “I already regret this, but Kid, what’re you talkin’ about?”

      “This latest rodeo event, that’s what.”



      “The bull ride?”

      “No, #7… murder.”

      “Kid, it’s just fiction.”

      “Fictional lives matter.”

      “Kid, there’s seriously gonna be a murder if’n you don’t shush up.”

      “G’night Pal.”

      • Thanks for kicking the contest off. Love how you included some of the other Rodeo contests in this piece.

      • julespaige says:

        “Fictional lives matter.” …

        What a line it just brought me to tears.
        I’m laughing with delight… while the other half of my brain goes deliciously dark…

      • I am feeling the Kid; like I am on the verge of just snappin! Yet due to This insane Rodeo. It is too too much! ! Are we serious here?!? Seriously!?! Already!?!

        Naw really I’m actually good cuz i think i just got a great flash come to mind. Gotta write it.

      • Them night musings will turn any situation murderous if the kid don’t watch it…I’ll be watching my back this evening! Great flash D 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      You are a well of clever puns, D.!

  4. […] Source: Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7 […]

  5. Reblogged this on judyedwinamartin and commented:
    Time to unleash the beast!!!

  6. Looking forward to this one Sherri 😁😁

  7. Ritu says:

    All entered!!!!

  8. Juliet Nubel says:

    Good morning Sherri and Charli,
    I loved this post and ooooh am I excited about this one. Just about to send it now. Here we go….

    • Thanks, Juliet. I’m Hugh (one of the judges) and am responding to comments in Sherrie’s absence, as she’s in the middle of a house move.

      • Juliet Nubel says:

        Hi Hugh, yes I read that in Sherri’s post. Thanks for replying. I’ve been thinking about this contest for a few days. What is it about murder?
        I remember you well in fact, Hugh. I wrote a follow-up to a six word challenge on Jenny’s Sunday Scribbles after you posted a comment on my entry. It was especially to answer your question 😀
        Have a lovely day!

      • How kind. Thanks, Juliet. I always enjoy hearing about inspiring people to write. The comments section is a great place to find new ideas.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Juliet! So glad you are excited about this one!

    • And I will say good evening to you Juliet! So glad it got you fired up for some murderous musings! Can’t wait to read your entry, thank you so much for entering and good luck! 🙂

  9. Chris Mills says:

    Dark stories of murderous rampage on the ranch remind me of a song by my favorite singer/songwriter, Tom Waits…Murder in the Red Barn. Submitted. I look forward to reading your dark side.

  10. Reblogged this on Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist) and commented:
    Here’s one for all you crime writers. Not my genre but I’ve been shuffling through a few James Patterson and G.K Chesterton and I’m ready to get my dagger out and poison quill. Join in.

  11. […] Source: Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7 […]

  12. julespaige says:

    OK I just submitted my contest piece. I didn’t want to run out of time –
    I had the idea brewing last night and I percolated it before my morning cup of java. Hope is passes muster… (bwahaahaah…)

    I might think of a challenge piece too. One thing at a time though.
    Oh, can as in other contests if we are graced with such brilliance can we enter more than one contest piece?

  13. Well I have unleashed the inner evil and entered! 😈😈😈😈

  14. A. E. Robson says:

    Well, this part of the rodeo is entered. Looking forward to the next go round. Good luck to all the contestants.

  15. julespaige says:

    For a challenge piece I’m….

    Horsen’ ‘Round?
    (109 words)

    Them dang cow pies the horses done cloppsright in the
    middle of it. ‘Cas Abner can’t think to vere ‘round them when
    he’s making deliveries. And he ain’t a one to have to care
    for the critters once he done brought hiself home. An’ Molly
    and Sal don’t like crap stuck in their shoes. So after supper
    I got take a bucket brush to the barn. Got’s to check ‘m
    every darn day.

    I’s gotta make ‘im his meals and clean up house too. One
    o’ these days I’s gonna saddle up Molly and put a pack on
    Sal after I smother Abner in his sleep with cow pies.
    Cloppsright isn’t a real word. It came up in another prompt.
    And after a slight adjustment “Horsen’ ‘Round?” also fit for
    this challenge piece. (I only had to remove one line.)

  16. Liz H says:

    ‘ “Oh yes you can,” she said with a knowing look in her eyes. We’ve never physically met, but I’d know that look anywhere.’

    And that’s the heart of an online Flash community.
    Love it! <3

  17. Not sure if I can write about a murder but I am thinking!

  18. julespaige says:

    Leave me alone with my lap top… and you get a second entry….

    I’m on a roll. I guess reading murder mysteries for the last month or so has helped?

    (I am having way too much fun.)

  19. Norah says:

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    Got murder on your mind? Here’s a chance to work it out; in fiction anyway – contest #7 in the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo #FFRODEO.

  20. Norah says:

    Great prompt, Sherri. Best wishes with your move. I hope all goes well.

  21. TanGental says:

    a bit of a challenge piece this – it must be the cheese…
    Making a Killing
    Jeremy was always eating. No-one knew he had a disorder that meant he never felt full. They just thought him hungry, then greedy, then morbidly obese. And when he said, with a sad repetition, ‘I could murder for my dinner’ or ‘I could kill for that burger’ that made him quaint, but harmless.
    He warned them that boot camp would end in tears; they thought he was just ‘being Jeremy’.
    When they found him, after ten days without food, surrounded by the corpses of the clinic’s staff , frying the Director’s viscera in lemon and sage, he shrugged. Prison was many things, but devoid of food it was not.

  22. […] Ranch Rodeo continues with Murderous Mussings What words or thoughts can you agues… Challenge or contest, all for your […]

  23. julespaige says:

    No… folks, when you leave me to my own devices…
    I’m like the Energizer Wabbit… I just keep going:

    Hoping to attract the darker side… with:
    A Rhyming Lure, Writing’s the Cure

  24. Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:
    Another killer contest at Carrot Ranch. Would you commit murder for a cash prize? In a flash! The Flash Fiction Rodeo rocks on.


    Just trying the challenge.

    Just Desserts

    “What I want ain’t on the menu, sweet cheeks.” His usual prelude to a grab at her ass.

    He was a regular. She and Annie disagreed about the regulars, this one in particular, but Annie was the owner as well as the cook. “He’s just having a little harmless fun”, Annie would say.

    He always sat at her tables. If she worked the counter he took a stool. “Lean over the counter, show me your specials.”

    She straightened and endured his dessert order. “Gimme a taste of your cream-pie.”

    “I knew you’d say that”, she said. “Here you go, made it special. The pie is to die for today.”

  26. Well that eerily came along easily… perhaps a discovery of genre i may be more adept at writing. ??

    This is wild, in the sense that i have sort of always struggled writing characters into conflict because i think i just care too much about them. Or maybe my characters have always been too personal. Anyways, a vastly different angle for me. Yet another great contest Rough Writers! ! Opening doors and uncharted realms. Thanks! ! !

  27. cam8510 says:

    This is my first challenge during the Rodeo. I’ve already submitted for the competition. I hope you enjoy, “From My Window, I Watch.”

    From my window, I watch the girl who walks my street at night. Weeks ago, I witnessed a man drag her into the alley. Maybe she hadn’t made enough or skimmed some off. Fists fell, boots rose. She landed in a heap.


    I watched.

    He came back.

    Fists and boots put him on the ground. I grabbed his hair and jerked.

    She hit me from behind. But I knew the game. He put her up, fed her. I finished, ear to ear, and pocketed his cash.

    From my window, I watch. New clothes. New boss. And if she doesn’t make enough or skims some off, I won’t beat her.

  28. dgkaye says:

    Fab contest Sher! And that’s where you’re hiding, almost in the new house yay! I love your description of no way writing fiction, that’s always been my position, so I’m proud of your girl! Maybe, just maybe, I’ll sneak in. 🙂 xx

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sneak in if you dare, Debby! 😀 Sherri is in her new home without internet, but zimmering her dongle. I’ve learned much from Sherri on the art of memoir and have delighted to see her stories in fiction develop.

    • Aww Deb, thanks so much as always for your unfailing support.Even when I’m in hiding, behind boxes or otherwise lol, you’re always there, cheering and encouraging me on. And both of us being memoir writers, we get that ‘no way writing fiction’ feel lol 😀 But if I can do it, so can you! There’s still time to sneak one it, if you feel so inclined with a murderous musing! But no worries if not…you know where to come if you decide to flash up a fiction another time…In between writing the memoir, of course! 😉 <3 🙂

      • dgkaye says:

        Thanks again Sher for the invite. I actually was contemplating it, and I shall see how much I get done today. I’m in the publishing process of book cover, blurb writing and soon to receive edits back from editor, so a bit hectic. But if I don’t I’ll be reading! And yes, I will hop on eventually! <3 xoxo Happy Halloween Sher. Huge hugs xoxo

      • Wow, you are one busy lady Deb! You’ve got enough on your plate, which makes your support here and at the Summerhouse even more wonderful. You’re a star! There’s always time later for some flashing lol! Hope you had a Happy Halloween too…quite for us, but I’m just so happy to have my black cat back, no matter what day of the week it is 😀 And thinking of you with your edits and look forward to hearing all about your latest book launch! Huge hugs right back… <3 xoxo

      • dgkaye says:

        Thanks so much girlfriend for the kudos. <3 xoxo

      • Of course Deb…likewise! <3 xoxo

      • dgkaye says:

        Always Sher. <3 xo

      • <3 🙂 <3

  29. Reblogged this on A View From My Summerhouse and commented:
    Wouldn’t you know it: the same week I host Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7 over at Carrot Ranch, I move house. It was supposed to happen in July, but how else to keep up with my broken record/cliche fashion Summerhouse phrase, Better Late Than Never? But we did it and more on that in another post! Today, I’m thrilled to reblog Murderous Musings: When Good Folk Turn Bad at the Rodeo. You’ve got until the deadline at 11.59 EST 31 October to write a 109 word flash fiction weaving a murderous vibe through an every day setting. Shock the judges with a great twist for bonus points. As always it’s free entry with a cash prize. Read on for all deviously dastardly contest details. Huge thanks to Hugh Roberts and Charli Mills for holding down the fort with replies to comments, as this in great haste until I’m able to return. Will do so asap and before the deadline. Huge apologies to D Avery for dropping the ball timewise and not re–blogging her Bucking Bull Go-Round Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #6 that went live on Tuesday, but there’s still time to enter if you gallop over to this link today:
    Judges Hugh, Mike and I can’t wait to read your murderous musings and really hope you’ll join us. And look out for the final contest #8 live next Tuesday with Charli Mills’ The Ultimate Flash Fiction.
    Have fun everyone, see you soon and remember, watch your back for this one: you never know who might be lurking in the shadows at the Rodeo…

    • Charli Mills says:

      We know you are lurking, having incited murder and then moved! Is that so the coppers can’t find you? 😀 Funning aside, I’m so happy to have you leading the way with this contest, Sherri! <3

  30. Norah says:

    Great post and challenge, Sherri. It’s interesting to hear about the ways in which flash fiction has benefited your writing. I know I have always enjoyed reading your blog and fiction, and am waiting to have the pleasure of reading your memoir. I’m certain it will be a fine work. I remember reading your Homemade Cider story earlier. It gave me a smile now as it did then. Thank you. Charli’s Rock Creek flash is interesting in the way it explores the question of guilt. Will the real villain please stand up. Probably not. There is rarely a black or white answer, only multiple shades of grey. Well done, both of you.

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s been great fun to watch both of you develop fiction and characters as we’ve flashed at the Ranch. <3

    • Aww Norah, you are always so incredibly encouraging, both you and Charli. Thank you so much…I’m just thrilled you’ve enjoyed this challenge and not thought too badly of me with my confession of wicked wranglings, ha! I’m honoured that you remembered Homemade Cider! I can see those two women now, but I am not sure what really happened…other than a bad end for the husband. Maybe I should write it again and find out 😉 Ahhh…the beauty of flash and fiction! And yes, I too was fascinated with Charli’s exporation of the why behind the crime. What a wonderful Rodeo for us all! 🙂 <3

  31. I intend to join in sounds fun! Going out now for a while to enjoy the sunshine but will come back later with darks thoughts of murder in mind, Sherri, Charli! Never written murder before so it might be a bit lame but always good to try new things. 🙂

  32. julespaige says:

    Putting this in as a Challenge entry. While it has some ‘trump’
    it might be a little mushy…

    Challenge piece 109 words

    Title: The Cereal Killer

    When playing Bridge it was hard not to use political
    posturing. None at the table supported the same parties.
    So it was agreed to leave disagreements in that realm for
    other times.

    There was always one who just couldn’t stop from putting
    Their two cents in when it wasn’t wanted. Spoiling this
    leisure time in the retirement community.

    Ernie had just about all he could take from the haughty
    Frederick. It was too bad that the ladies might miss him.
    And who was going to question the death of an eighty nine
    year old man with no family?

    Ernie poisoned Fredrick’s oatmeal. Took a week for Fred
    to expire.


  33. Just entered the competition hope you received my entry okay.

  34. julespaige says:

    Another challenge piece… Maybe it could have gone in the Humor Event?
    Is there such a thing as having too much fun. At least I didn’t ‘cut the cheese’.

    Title : Dante’s Meltdown…
    (109 words, and yes it is downright cheesy…)
    The Big Swiss, wasn’t like the cheese. He was more like
    Herman Munster. And it would take an Abbot’s Gold to
    move him. Unless of course you were Ms. Natural.

    Dante was desperate. There were some holes in his
    his impromptu responses to the private Gumshoe’s
    questions about the bad axe saga and left him in dire
    need to either leave Sandy Creek and the new
    relationship he was building with Bella Lodi and her
    Uncle Baron Bigod.

    Dante cried begging Ms. Natural the Fat Bottom Girl who
    was the Farmer’s daughter. She agreed that Finn was not
    in the Fellowship Too. Big Swiss’d kill Figaro Finn for her.

    Note : Swiss, Muenster/ Munster (OK I took a little liberty
    with that…) , Abbot’s Gold, Ms. Natural, Dante,
    Impromptu, Bad Axe, Saga, Sandy Creek, Bella Lodi,
    Baron Bigod, Fat Bottom Girl, Farmer, Finn, Fellowship Too,
    and Figaro are all names of cheeses.

    (I did use a net found alphabetical list of cheeses to ‘grate’
    haphazardly at best the names that came my ‘whey’… )

  35. Pete says:

    The text message came at lunch.


    Sam started to type “How?” or “When?” but what did it matter? He’d gotten sloppy. Careless. And now, retracing his steps, he knew he was to blame.

    He was with Kemper last.

    Arriving late, Sam found his wife on the couch, a glass of wine at the ready. Beside her lay a disemboweled monkey. Duke at her feet, busy with the stuffing.

    “Noah’s asleep?”

    His wife shot him a smile fit for a boss. She picked up the shredded monkey. “Found this guy over in Northside, Took some surgery but it passed inspection. Now we have to dump the body.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha! I’ve witnessed a couple of such horrific disembowelments. Stories of dogs and kids and teddy bears! Great framing, Pete. At first I was thinking the Boss was all kinds of wicked psycho. Nope, just a mom covering for dad and the dog!

      • Haha, me too Charli! The boss wasn’t who I imagined, loved the twist, and thankfully no gore here, stuffing notwithstanding. Great flash Pete 🙂

  36. Gloria says:

    Okay. ..I’m finally moving out of my comfort zone! I’ve just entered my very first writing competition! Yeah!!

  37. […] amazing support for the Flash Fiction Rodeo running at Carrot Ranch.  I was thrilled to host my Murderous Musings contest last week. For those of you sitting on the fence, you still have until EST 11:59pm tonight […]

  38. Well, drat. I so wanted to get an entry in for this one, but the double deadline today killed me. Got in just under the wire for #7, but will have to sit this one out. Boo.

  39. Yee-haw! *waves hat in the air*
    Challenge entry right here – well, over on my blog. Check it out!

  40. […] This post was written for the Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7. […]

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