She tells me about her ravens, how she buys frozen meatballs in family packs although she lives alone on Misery Bay. The meatballs are for the ravens. Black wings fan across white snow, and they keep her company. Her two rottweilers developed a taste for the meatballs, too so she fashioned a cement feeder where the dogs can’t get them before the birds.

In North America ravens outsize crows. They flock in fewer numbers, too. Not as murderous as crows, a flock of ravens is merely a conspiracy.

I have no conspiracy theories to share. I wish I could believe as tens of thousands of Americans do — that somehow our horrific school shootings are a CNN conspiracy that employs “crisis actors.” I think the only thing worse than a national crisis is the denial of it. Those who survive are stripped of their validation, diminished to playing bit parts. Where is the humanity in such ideas?

At Carrot Ranch, I straddle neutral ground as much as I can to allow you, the participating writers and readers to feel safe to go outside your comfort zones. If you do believe in conspiracies, you can take it to 99-words. If you believe America has lost her ever-loving mind, you can take it to 99-words. The point is, we can push more into hard topics through literary art and share opposing points of view.

As the leader and host, I try not to be too controversial, too opinionated.

This post is different, and I’ll explain why. Like many Americans, I’ve long been troubled by the increasing gun violence in our public schools and spaces, as well as the rise of an NRA I no longer recognize. When I was 12, I won my first essay writing contest. It was sponsored by the NRA. The topic was deer hunting and just that year I had received my Hunter’s Education Certificate.

Today, I no longer believe the NRA has public safety in mind. In fact, I’ve been disgusted with their messages and marketing tactics for a long time. My point is not to focus on them, but to go beyond their political reach and ponder the question of sensible gun reform a phrase that draws ire from most proponents of the Second Amendment. But I believe we can no longer ignore or float fanciful conspiracy theories that “they” are going to take “our guns.”

If I were mother to America, I’d stand firm on consequences and accountability. No more. The gun violence stops, and I will be a part of the process that stops it.

Fine words to speak and a tough cause to live up to. If we truly want to be a nation with such freedoms as the Second Amendment, we must be the number one nation in the world when it comes to gun safety. I’m advocating training like I once received through NRA sponsored programs as a young hunter. Instead of hunter’s education, it could be firearms education and required before anyone could purchase a weapon.

Like many Americans, I’m thinking about real solutions. Already, retailers are responding with action they can take regardless of laws (such as raising the age for purchase and refusing to sell assault rifles and high capacity magazines). Students are speaking out in powerful ways. The Florida school mass shooting is possibly the one that turns the tide for Americans. No longer can we ignore the gun violence in our public spaces.

Literary art is a way to explore complex human issues. And I’m prefacing a short story I wrote as a competition piece for the Bloggers Bash Writing Contest. Because we have to post on our own blog sites, I’m explaining why I wrote the story.

My character is the kind of man who would not necessarily be an NRA–card-holding member, but he’d certainly go to the gun range with the guys. He’s struggling to understand shifting social paradigms — a guy can’t even watch Sunday football without a political fight breaking out. There are a few hints that he’s old-fashioned and not ready to hear from the other gender in the workplace, either. Basically, in 300 words, I tackle Black Lives Matter, #me,too and gun violence.

So I figured you all might need a word of warning that what follows hits big hot buttons. And don’t worry, for the prompt we’ll return to ravens. If you are new to Carrot Ranch, this is not a typical post. Last week we were writing about unicorns.



American Royalty by Charli Mills

Cory laid out bags of Dorito chips and a bowl of pickles to watch Sunday football with the guys. Jennifer retreated to the mall with their teen daughter for some mother-daughter clothes-shopping. Before she left Cory kissed her lips and said, “Drive safe with my princess.”

He grinned as his wife’s Toyota pulled away. Today, he’d be king of his suburban castle, holding the tv remote like a scepter. A few buddies from the office showed up with the prerequisite beer to gain entry. Cory pressed the button and illuminated the 65-inch HDTV flat screen.

Unfettered cheers rose — no work, no church, no wives. At least for four quarters.

Steelers versus Patriots. The sportscasters predicted plays before the start of the game. Cory sipped the suds from his can of Budweiser and shifted in his easy chair, hoping none of the players took a knee. Christ, why couldn’t they just play? After last week’s Tweets from DC, the protest of players to the National Anthem dominated office talk.

“UnAmerican,” his manager said, claiming he’d protest by not watching the Sunday games.

“Disrespectful to the flag,” said the copy-machine repairman.

 Brenda from sales said, “Good! Let’s shut down systemic racism!” No one made eye contact for fear she might cry “me, too.” She was that sort.

The Patriots stood. The Steelers hung back in the tunnel, only number 78 stood, former Army. Before the guys could jeer, Breaking News interrupted.

Another shooting. Not a cop, not a black man. Not the injustice the players knelt to. Beneath the American flag at the local mall, a white shooter cut down twenty shoppers. Cory dropped his beer when he recognized his wife’s purse and sprawled hair. Pools of ruby and brass surrounded her head like an American crown.


How do you approach writing tough topics? Do you go for realism or symbology? Can literary art be part of a community dialog? I’m interested to know your thoughts.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy of ravens circles overhead.

And there’s still time to participate in Vol. 2 as a “Friend” to the Rough Writers. Because this is a published book, I will work with each writer to polish their submissions. You will get a bio along with our Rough Writers. It’s an excellent opportunity to build your writing portfolio. You qualify if you are part of the writing community here and you are willing to participate.

If you are interested, please respond by March 14, 2018 (details will go out by email March 15):

March 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. It can be in nature or used to describe humanity as a metaphor. Follow the bird. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 6, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 7). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


American Royalty (99-word version) by Charli Mills

Cory grabbed bags of Doritos, kissing his wife before she retreated to the mall with their daughter “Drive safe with the princess.”

He grinned, now king of his castle with a tv remote scepter. A few buddies arrived with prerequisite beer to gain entry. Cory illuminated the big-screen. Unfettered cheers rose — no work, no church, no wives. At least for four quarters.

Breaking News.

Another shooting. Cory dropped his beer. Obvious as a black raven against white snow, he recognized his wife’s purse and sprawled hair. Pools of ruby and brass surrounded her head like an American crown.


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