March 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

March 23, 2018

An inch of brown foam blooms over double scoops of grounds, and I wait 30 seconds before filling the press pot with more boiling water. After five minutes I press the grounds and pour the dark brew into a stainless steel mug, over a small spoonful of Northwoods maple syrup, stirring, stirring, stirring. I pour half and half while the whirlpool in a mug yet spins, and it lightens to tan. My final step is to strike a whole nutmeg thrice.

I have earned my Morning Coffee Badge.

This is a tale of badges and how they arrived at Carrot Ranch to help writers follow their dreams.

My dream is to write from a cloud of inspirational joy. I know what that levitated state feels like — it’s comparable to the snowboarder when wax catches air on a mountain face; it’s the rock climber midway through a 5.9 climb; it’s the first river raft run when only the guides dare to face the rapids. Writing is my adventure. Literary art is my sport.

I always said I’d have a ranch, one day. This wasn’t what I meant when I contemplated how to grow a herd of 300 black Angus or convince my new husband to buy a ramshackle homestead tucked into the shadows of Great Basin mountains. But I was young and thought writing was a part of the dream.

Now I know it is the dream — to write the stories that clutch my heart and to free the characters kicking around the trails of my mind. I want to know how to master words, to make them leap through fiery hoops. I want a reader to feel what I feel as a dreamer. The writing builds the bridge between us. This ranch might not have cattle, but it wrangles more stories than ever rode the dusty drives of the American West.

No matter where I rest my heels or dip my toes, I am always out West for it resides within me. Its transformational imprint doesn’t go away, and over the years its come to color my art in the duns of the desert and the reds of cedar bark. Mix that paint with the blues and greens of the Keweenaw, and I feel…home.

Of course, my virtual sandbox, the place where I play and run barefoot with the literary tribe, has to be a ranch. It is a ranch. Carrot Ranch. Where bacon is appreciated and the day begins with the perfect cup of coffee. This is where literary art is accessible, to you and to me!

But how do we grow such a tribe? From the bloom, it seemed easy — keep writing, keep playing, keep planning. Have you ever nurtured a zucchini plant from seed? It’s a hearty seed full of promise. Press it into the soil beneath a sunny disposition and water frequently with inspiration, and soon you have a bush that drops squash after squash after squash. What do you do when zucchini is abundant?

Diversify and share. Zucchini patties, breakfast bread, chocolate cake, chutney, oven chips, grilled spears, green smoothies and pale soups.

This is how the Rancher Badges came to be. The zucchini is abundant at the Ranch, so we are going to make good use of it. If this is a place where literary art is accessible — and it’s a fun, vibrant and authentic experience — then we can all find good uses for the abundance. We are going to make good of the increase in writers at Carrot Ranch.

Rancher Badges reward community interaction and empower individual writers. The idea is to invite engagement without expectation. It’s also a way to provide structure for each writer because we all have different reasons to be here. The diversity is what makes the Ranch a special place — you make the Ranch a special place!

The program is optional. You don’t have to play. If you do play along, it starts with you setting your sights on which Badges you want to earn. Think of it this way — if we are each here because it’s a stop along the path to follow our dreams, which of these badges will get you there? Which of these badges matters to you? Which badges make you smile? Which badges inspire you to feel a part of the tribe?

You set and track your own goals. Once a quarter (June 1, September 1, December 1, March 1) you will turn in your request for badges. An email or submission form will be posted. Within two weeks, you will receive a digital Badge Board through email. You may keep it private, print it or publically display it on your own blog. You can show it off on social media, or share it with your kids, partner, dogs or cats.

Same badges, new badges, and an annual board. Each year the program will offer a new board and updated badges. You can collect them from year to year, or retire a board when a new year begins. It’s all about how you want to play and show off what you earned. You get to decide what your goals are. The Ranch will reward you for achieving them.

*****INTRODUCING THE RANCHER BADGES*****

Participation Badges show your involvement in the challenges at the Ranch.

A quarterly star rewards your accumulative flash fiction over three months. You set the goal: once a quarter, once a month; once a week. The idea is to meet your expectations and not that of others. Be your own star!

An ambassador badge rewards your engagement with other Ranchers. If someone is new, welcome them to the Ranch. If someone has been gone a spell, welcome them back. Leave appreciative comments (say what you liked about a flash). Point out good craft. Visit other blogs. How often? How many handshakes? That’s your goal to set.

Writing Badges support your personal writing goals.

Carrot Ranch attracts a variety of writers and has three badges to support different goals. As an author, you can set word count goals or meet deadlines. As a blogger, you can set post goals or participation in other blog challenges. As a poet, you can set goals to write a certain number of poems or master a new technique or style.

The prolific badge rewards the writing habit you most want to cultivate — a number of pages per day, more fiction than non-fiction, word count, number of flash fictions, number of different blogging challenges. If it feels prolific to you, then it is.

The phrase “runs with scissors” is a tongue in cheek way to denote taking a risk. Maybe it terrifies you to submit a story to a contest. Maybe you want to ask others to beta-read, but you feel shy. Maybe you need to write the scene you try to ignore. This badge pushes you to take a writing risk.

Extracurricular Badges encourage you to accept other challenges at the Ranch beyond flash fiction.

Rough Writer and memoirist, Irene Waters, hosts a monthly writing challenge based on memory and includes comparative demographics. She guest writes at Carrot Ranch to teach memoir craft.

Rough Writer and grit lit author, C. Jai Ferry, pushes writers to the dark side of TwitterFlash where literature is carved into tweetable slices. She guest writes at Carrot Ranch to teach Twitter best practices for literary artists.

Raw Literature is an open guest series for any writer from our extended community. The personal essay explores why or how a writer writes. A new guest essay posts on Tuesdays.

If you hang out at the Ranch long enough, you’ll realize I love rocks as much as I love stories. I dreamed up #CarrotRanchRocks in the darkest days of a Keweenaw winter to combine geology with literary art. I’m looking for writers to join me in crafting 99-word stories about rocks which will go forth with a hashtag and a serial number for linking up to its story.

Community Badges recognize the attributes of writers among writers.

Are you social (friends)? Are you shy (lurker)? Let others know where you stand, or challenge yourself to connect more or explore unseen.

Sharing is caring in the blogosphere, and this badge gives you recognition. Teachers are also caring writers among us who like to teach us new words, techniques or challenge themselves to keep a growth mindset.

Just for Fun Badges recognize the playful spirit of writers at Carrot Ranch.

Love bacon? Love carrots? Show your preference (and both counts).

Flash fiction opens up avenues to creativity and trains the brain to problem-solve in 99 words, no more, no less. If you want to push your creativity, set goals, or simply embrace it, this creative badge says it all.

Unicorns. Carrot Ranch. Eventually, you’ll come to understand. In the meantime, if you dare to write a unicorn story, here’s your badge.

Administrative Badges identify community leaders.

The Congress of Rough Writers is the core group of this literary community. A small advisory team who leads the annual Rodeo form the leadership behind the scenes. Those who participated in Vol. 1 contributed to the book earning 5 stars from Readers’ Favorite.

How to earn Rancher Badges:

  1. Decide which badges best match how you want to participate at the Ranch as a writer.
  2. Set your own goals to further your writer’s journey.
  3. Keep track of your goals.
  4. Once a quarter (June 1, September 1, December 1, March 1) submit your request for badges.
  5. Within two weeks you will receive a board (or two) with your badges to display at will.

In addition to badges, we have another important change in process for the flash fiction challenges. I once said that my limit for collecting flash would be 50. We’ve exceeded that, and I’ve been thinking through my process for collecting and how it could change.

Right now, the way I collect keeps me from my own ranch. If I engage over the course of the week, I lose my place with the way pingbacks, links, and comments popuate. That’s why I ride in on Wednesdays and burn the 3 a.m. oil.

I’ve considered different ways, but I don’t want to diminish the interactive vibe we have going on or the level of diversity.

Before the participation bloomed as robust as zucchini, I collected stories on the Carrot Ranch Facebook page. This allowed me to apply the CR style and clear the formatting. But the back and forth became too much.  I will now ask all writers who want to be included in the weekly collection to post stories at www.facebook.com/CarrotRanch/ following the CR style:

Title in Title Caps by Pen Name or Author Name

99-word flash fiction

###

Short link if applicable (use https://goo.gl/)

Notes to editor: such as italics or centering of poetry

This step is in addition to linking, ping-backing or leaving your story in the comments. I’m asking you to take this step to help free up my process so I can be more interactive throughout the week. There is no need for anyone to comment on stories on FB. Keep the comments here and/or directly on shared blog links. It’s okay if you don’t understand the style, but it reduces my workload if you follow it.

The reason Carrot Ranch has a style is for editorial consistency. Each country of origin retains its own spelling and punctuation except for the title and byline. I’ll be reminding each of you in the comments.

If you are allergic to Facebook, a ludite or worried about Russian interference, please use the Contact Form as an alternative.

Now to play!

March 22, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme “follow your dreams.” Bonus points for throwing a badge into the tale. Go where the prompt leads.

  • Respond by March 27, 2018, by leaving a link, pingback or story in the comments.
  • If you want your story published in the weekly collection, also post it at Carrot Ranch on Facebook in the post newsfeed (this is the second posting of your story).
  • Follow the style of the flash fiction that follows.
  • Leave a short link on FB with your story if you want one included in the title.
  • Rules are here.

***

Comanche by Charli Mills

Follow your dreams, they said. So, he stomped dry dust up the Kickapoo Trace into Missouri, dodging the likes of Jesse James. He was handsome, strong and nicknamed Comanche. In St. Louis he gathered with the rest, seeking fortunes west, avoiding the plow. He had dreams. The Army picked only the best, and he stood tall and proud, selected for service. Outfitted with Captain Keogh of the 7th, he marched wild and free. That’s how he felt, living the dream. Until he took seven bullets on Custer’s Battlefield. And lived. The only survivor, the handsome brown-eyed mustang from Texas.

###

https://wp.me/p2trS5-2S5

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308 Comments

  1. Ritu

    I need to sit and digest this Lol!
    So we write.. . We post… we share post link to the Ranch FB page with the flash title… am I getting that right? ????

    • Norah

      I think, Ritu, that you can post your story and link here in the comments as we have always done. But now, if you wish to have your story included in the compilation, you post the story (not just the link) in the CR FB post newsfeed. It should look just like Charli’s flash does. She did it as an example (though I couldn’t find it on FB) :).
      I hope I’ve got that right. Good luck.

      • Ritu

        Thanks Norah!!!

      • Charli Mills

        The visitor posts are showing up under a tab under Posts which is an obscure place for them. Already, I’m thinking FB is not the way. It seems confusing, too. I like the forms and they help with formatting, too, but they also attract spam. I think I’ll just have to deal with the Nanjo Castilles that try to get through. Thanks for helping Norah!

      • Norah

        Hmm. I hope you get this worked out. Sounds complicated to me. 🙂

      • susanzutautas

        Irene, if you go to this link you’ll find you can shorten your link.
        https://goo.gl/

    • Charli Mills

      I hear you, Ritu! I’ve been working on this since mid January, trying to answer the question of how to grow and keep it fun.

      Thanks for asking for clarification as I’m sure others are thinking about it, too.

      I’m asking reach of you to do what you have been doing — share a link, pingback, or flash fiction here in the comments. Same as “usual.”

      Then, if you want to be published in the weekly collection, post your flash fiction with title, byline, story and shortlink on the Carrot Ranch Facebook page.

      It’s an extra step and I realize it will take getting used to, but it’ll help me streamline how to gather all the stories. And people can self-select — maybe not everyone wants to be published.

      That’s the idea, but please ask more questions or point out something I might have missed!

      The badges are a way to say thanks to those of you who help spread the good vibes at the Ranch and also give each of you tools to empower your individual writing goals.

      • Ritu

        I’ve posted on the page as a post. Or would it be better to post the fiction piece with all the requirements in your comments for the prompt? Maybe pin that post to the top each week until Wednesday? Just an idea xxxx

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a good idea, Ritu! I’m discovering some FB issues I hadn’t anticipated and I think next week we’ll go with using a form. At least I feel freed up to comment without the worry of losing my place collecting.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Charli I have just submitted via a form but when it comes to a short link I only know the link that is at the top of the page I post on and although it isn’t long it isn’t short either. Is there another place to go to get a short link?
        I will use the form rather than facebook at the moment.

      • Charli Mills

        No shortlinks after this week.

  2. kim blades, writer

    Facebook doesn’t work for me, so I will be using the Contact Form as an alternative. Kim

    • Charli Mills

      That’s fine, Kim! I don’t want to put a comment form in every post because the are spam magnets, so just go to the contact page. Thanks!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Hello Mr Mills. I am intestrested in this presuit of dreaming and gold setting. i can help you and for only little bite of BiTCHcoin.
        we candei;ver to you grosses of baDjis, vinttag from 2nd worldWar. You think mabe i Putin you on! also yo mite be intrersted in cases of spam from same error. Mistr Mill, Charles, youd be fuel to not take thas deal. You are needing many meny batjhes, you want your peepl looking feeling all good got selfesteamed. Garenteed best badjes on market best price plus for our longstood relations free case of surpluss spam.
        N.C.

      • Norah

        This is actually a response to N.C. Oh no, I’ve just realised that I have matching initials with the spammer. But that’s all I have in common. That’s one clever piece of work. I don’t know how the spell check lets it through – Grammarly surely wouldn’t!

      • Charli Mills

        D., u Putin me on and make me laugh!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I am an imposter. I know nothing of the original Nanjo. Glad to have you all giggling with this imitation.

  3. Norah

    OMG Charli. Your brain has been a-buzzing. All those badges! You are so clever. I hope your new plan does ease your workload. I have been noticing it increasing from week to week and have wondered at your ability to keep on going. It’s great to keep the style consistent in the compilation and, since I have done the compilation once or twice, I know how difficult it is to grab people’s stories from their posts or the comments and present them all as one. When I did it, there weren’t nearly as many stories. I think it’s great too, because it encourages all of us to think a little more deeply about our goals for hanging out at the Ranch and to take a little more responsibility for our participation. What you are asking of us requires little more of us individually, but will, hopefully lighten your workload and allow you more time to work on both your novels which I am getting anxious to read. I hope this new plans helps you achieve your dream much sooner.
    Comanche – lovely story. When the identity was revealed in the last few words, I had to go back and reread for all the clues. A clever piece and a lovely tribute to one who wore the badge of honour with pride. Seven bullets and survived! Wow!

    • Charli Mills

      Brain buzz! I feel good about the badges because it can help individual writers work on their own development as a writer and yet tie it back to their participation at the Ranch. Collecting and commenting has been a challenge, but I also feel better knowing that we can find a way to make the collection more submission-oriented but still maintain the discussions and interactions here and on other blogs. Already FB is proving tricksy — I think I will go with the form next week. I’m writing! I would be in an unfulfilled place if all I did was novel work. I love writing and researching novels, but my true passion is the literary art itself and sharing it with others. I get to have my carrot cake and eat it too this way! And, what a horse, right? Seven bullets and arrows, too. But I understand it’s a myth that Comanche was a lone survivor. Other horses lived, too, but he became an icon afterward. Funny how that story bubbled. I was thinking I wanted to write about a horse with dreams and then Comanche showed up.

      • Norah

        I hope all the new plans work out, Charli. I’m not surprised there are some initial glitches. Isn’t that how things go?
        So pleased to hear you are writing. You must have infinite energy. It’s good to be able to have your carrot cake and eat it too. That sounds like an endless carrot cake – would go well with a bottomless cup of coffee. 🙂
        Comanche is an amazing horse. I’m so pleased he showed up, and even more pleased that he chose you to write about him. I didn’t realise it was based upon a true story.

      • Charli Mills

        Bottomless coffee and endless carrot cake! That’ll get us through anything! I had forgotten about Comanche until I started to write with a horse in mind. We must have endless archives in our minds, too!

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my contribution this week, Of Dreams and Nightmares. https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-16W I used the Contact form to submit. I hope that’s okay. I’d love my story to be included in the compilation, please.

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you for using the contact form, Norah! That’s what we’ll go forward with next week. Good to see Marnie!

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. The contact form worked well from my end. I hope it did from yours. I’m looking forward to delving a little deeper into Marnie’s life.

  4. ellenbest24

    I love the flash it is somehow poetic and gathered its own speed. Nicely penned. I’ve been away ( unwell) a while and was hoping to dip my toes back in at the ranch, I need simple rules straightforwardness as my head isn’t always able to make sense. So I will try digesting the changes that have confused me at first glance. ????????

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Ellen, welcome back! Hope you are feeling better. I agree I think trying to explain the formatting AND FB is too much. Also, FB is not posting visitor posts the way I thought they would be visible. Use the contact form! That’s what I’ll go to next week. And I’ll have a page with all the badges by next week, too. It’s meant to be fun!

      • ellenbest24

        It will be Charli I am sure, it always was. ????

  5. Annecdotist

    Wow, Charli, you certainly dream big! The Ranch has blossomed far and wide and I appreciate your need for an easier way of collating the responses to the prompt. But I can’t help wondering if the time you might save will be eaten up by assembling the badge boards.
    I like your analogy with growing cucurbits and squashes, especially in celebrating the glut even as it overwhelms us. I have a short story about growing a courgette (zucchini) in my forthcoming short story anthology.
    I’ll be back tomorrow with my flash.

    • Norah

      I also wondered about those badges, Anne. It looks a mighty task to me.

    • Charli Mills

      Courgette! I knew there was a British word and I forgot it. Glad you have a forthcoming story on one. The boards and badges are all made and measured in Canva as a template, easy to plop in place and email. Each writer will need to think through their own goals and submit for badges. It’ll reward community engagement and cultivate a growth mindset. And hopefully, it will be fun! Thanks, Anne!

    • Annecdotist

      I struck lucky this week, Charli, as I’d already decided to illustrate my post on character names with an image of a badge. It’s a much plainer badge than those you’re offering the Rough Writers but it makes better sense with my response to the prompt:

      What’s in a name?
      http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/03/whats-in-a-name.html

      I’m off to try and post on Facebook. Fingers crossed I can make it work!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a brave badge, nothing plain at all, Anne! Finger crossed worked. I retrieved your flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Anita and Jaye!

  6. jenanita01

    We appreciate the need to simplify things, as we are attempting similar feats at the moment! Hope you get on better than we seem to be doing…

    • Norah

      I hope we all get on better as we move towards our dreams. Best wishes for yours.

      • jenanita01

        You too, Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      Creating efficiencies is a process, isn’t it? And already, I’m finding out that the FB share is not working according to plan. Ah, well. The contact form is working great, though.

      • jenanita01

        Never thought it would be this complicated, and it seems to be getting steadily worse. My old brain is struggling to keep up, but by heck I will!

      • Charli Mills

        The brain struggle is real! 🙂

      • Norah

        If only I could get the brain to run on time! 🙂

  7. Shallow Reflections

    What a fun way to encourage goal setting, Charli. I like maple syrup in my coffee, too, and drooled as I read about how you earn your morning coffee badge. “Writing is my adventure. Literary art is my sport.” Yes! It is such an adventure to me, too, and CR has helped ignite a new spark for me – fiction writing. Love your flash this week – I had to read it twice, too, to see how I missed the Comanche’s identity clues the first time. I am so lucky to hang out with the likes of you and the other terrific writers on the ranch. I hope the new system makes like easier for you. Now to start thinking about ‘follow your dreams.’

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, maple syrup is the best in coffee! On Fridays, I go to a veteran spouses group and I bring my mug with maple syrup already in it. I’m so glad you are here to share your writing adventure. I think FB is not working out. A dud already! But the contact form is good and I will make it easier to follow next week. I look forward to your flash!

      • Shallow Reflections

        Too bad about FB. It is too many steps to read them now, hopping around each blog. There has to be an easier way! I am glad to be here at the ranch, too, and look forward to each week’s prompt.

  8. Judy E Martin

    I love all these badges, Charli. I have been away for a bit but do still want to try and improve my FF writing. I hope it will be ok to dip in and out as and when I get the chance to do so. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Judy! Absolutely! The first rule of the Ranch is to make it work for you. There’s no obligation to write weekly. I’m glad you love the badge and I look forward to which ones you pick to follow!

      • Judy E Martin

        I have my eye on several, Charli 🙂

  9. Ann Edall-Robson

    Wonderful!! I really mean that word when I say it. A tremendous endeavour to encourage and reward. I have now taken a screen shot of all the badges and nestled them safely in my Carrot Ranch file while I ponder which will be the most challenging for me to go after.

    Simplicity is a blessing in disguise and I am pleased to see you moving in the direction of simplifying the robust involvement at the ranch and elsewhere. The CRFB (Carrot Ranch Facebook) column has been added to my posting spreadsheet to remind me of one more place I need to send my 99-words.

    A spreadsheet? “Damn Straight!” It keeps me on target and online. Lets me see where I am not pulling my weight and where I am being overactive in the social media world.

    And now onto thoughts of this week’s challenge, with memories and lyrics of the spinning vinyl playing Johnny Horton’s song – Commanche the Brave Horse. Definately a classic.

    • Frank Hubeny

      I use a spreadsheet also. I wouldn’t remember from week to week what was where without it.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! Spreadsheets! I have three open on my computer every day — one for my editorial calendar, one for Vol. 2 and one for marketing. I also have one for the Rodeo and another for freelancing but I don’t freelance anymore. I’d be lost in the fog without my spreadsheet. I will build one for the Badges, too! I’m glad you like the endeavor. By next week I’ll have a page up for it, too. And you’ll need to amend your spreadsheet — FB is not working out, but the contact form is. I’ll include a form each week starting next week. Thanks for reminding me of Johnny Horton’s song about Comanche!

    • Jules

      OK I am pretty much in the dark about most computer things. But I can create a file in my Google Docs. But I’m not sure how to do that screen shot thingy. Anyone willing to guide me with step by step instructions?

      I’m working on the whole insert photos thing but that may not come to fruition until late April…(if ever).

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I can guide you if you have a Mac Jules. Not quite sure how to do it on windows but I could work it out and then let you know unless someone else knows immediately. Let me know if you have a Mac and can guide you through.

      • Jules

        Nope…my guy’s IBM…I’ll get help eventually. Another kind soul just showed me how in the New WP editor how to turn comments on, on pages. I guess the default is to always have comments off. Thanks…

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        It is a constant learning curve and as soon as you think you have mastered it – they change it.

      • Jules

        ….that’s why I’m still using the old edit program in WP…mostly anyway.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I’m using the new one but it doesn’t have all the functions of the old one but I have got used to it now.

      • Jules

        I don’t want to permanently switch… if I have a choice…

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Depending on whether you use a PC or Mac would determine the which instruction would be needed on creating a sceen shot. One of the best tools around for learning is YouTube. Open YouTube – Enter the words “Screen shot for Mac” or “Screen Shot for PC” and there will be a lot of instructional videos available.

      • Jules

        I’ll look into that thanks. Sometimes the Youtubes move too quick. But anything is worth a try – I did print out a wad of WP instructions thanks to a link from Charli… now to get over the fear of actually looking at them and trying to follow them.

      • Charli Mills

        I love Youtube for learning videos! Screenshots also depend upon which browser you use, too. But Youtube is great!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I’d never thought of a spreadsheet. I have to admit I leave it to memory and just hope for the best. Sometimes things creep up on me before I know it and then I panic. I might have to give it a go also.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        I am like Charli, I have more than one on the go. I utilize the ability to add sheets/tabs to look after different categories/projects if I need/want them. I wouldn’t be without this tool.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I’ll have to give it consideration but I fear it could for me become another tool of procrastination. That I am good at.

      • Charli Mills

        I love my spreadsheets, Irene. It’s like a hub for deadlines and a cache for ideas.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Shit.”
      “Kid, now what are you cussin’ about? This use ta be a fairly family friendly ranch.”
      “Yep, it did. An’ spreadin’ shit use ta be a simple chore requirin’ simple technology, jist a manure fork. If they computerize that chore I might be made redundant.”
      “Kid, ya certainly ain’t super, but neither are ya superfluous. What in heck are ya on about anyway?”
      “Read Pal! Now they’s all on about usin’ them dang computers ta spread shit. I happen ta like that chore.”
      “Kid, they’s talkin’ ‘bout spreadsheets. Yer dream of gittin’ a shit shovelin’ badge lives on.”

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Thanks for giggle D. – Every ranch needs a modernized manure spreader to organize the piles outside the brain, ooops, I mean barn. I think the Kid deserves the shovel and pitchfork badge.

      • Norah

        Sometimes those spreadsheets can be a bit like spreading shit. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        There’s a spreadsheet on the computer in the tack room of the main barn with a manure forking schedule… 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Aunurag…that’s some funny shiiiit!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Fork the spreadsheet! The Kid has got this shit.

  10. janmalique

    Wow! This looks like a treasure trove. I will need to scrutinise the contents slowly and carefully. I will participate.

    • Charli Mills

      I hope you find some badges that will encourage you on your writing journey, Jan! I’ll have a page up for reference by next week.

      • janmalique

        I’m looking at the badges carefully, will have a think.

  11. calmkate

    very creative and attractive badges Charli, great idea 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you think so, Kate! I hope you find some that encourage you!

      • calmkate

        I’m about to go off air for a month so lets see what unfolds after that …

  12. Pete

    Josefina ran home after school, her thoughts bouncing with her bookbag against her back. The whole class was abuzz. They were planning a field trip to go see the monuments in Washington.

    Josefina knocked. She admired her new honor roll badge. Her mother opened the door.

    “Mom, we’re going on—”

    “Silencio! Your sisters are napping.”

    Josefina whispered, but the excitement roared back as she broke the news. “I just need my social security number, and—”

    Her mother took a sharp breath. He shoulders slumped. “No. I’m sorry.”

    “Mom, what do you mean?”

    Josefina’s sisters began to cry.

    • Frank Hubeny

      Very well presented.

    • Charli Mills

      How easily you build up the excitement of a bright young student and then deliver an implied does of reality for “illegal” immigrants. Well done, Pete.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Wonderful Pete. You really captured the benefits that the USA offers its children and then the reality of being in the USA illegally so the benefits can’t be fully accessed. I loved how you ended with the sisters beginning to cry. Powerful.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwwe, such a powerful tale on how even dreams can become ‘illegal’.

    • Norah

      What Charli said. 🙂

      • Pete

        Thanks guys, I was trying to work the DREAM act into the dream prompt.

      • Norah

        I think we all agree you did well.

  13. Frank Hubeny

    Follow Your Dreams by Frank Hubeny

    Scorn them with your thoughts. It’s safe. No one knows.

    No one believes thoughts can kill. No one believes empaths exist. No one thinks they can know another’s hate. If their hearts break, it’s their own hearts’ failure. If they can no longer forgive, that’s better.

    Janet’s dream guardians told her to follow them, “Smile. Sit tall. Take deep, slow breaths. Play your dream songs.”

    Janet put on her headphones. She set the player to keep repeating the sacred love songs.

    When the hate came, the empath and her dreams were ready. Until they fell, they mirrored love back.

    • Charli Mills

      A unique take on “follow your dreams” Frank! It makes me think that if an empath can train her brain with love, so we all can.

      • Frank Hubeny

        We all can. Thank you, Charli!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Wow, such a unique, fascinating take.

  14. Sherri Matthews

    Oh I am love with the handsome brown-eyed mustang from Texas! Wonderful flash and what a fantastic selection of badges. They remind me of my Brownie badges and I haven’t earned one of them in a very long time 🙂 You’ve been incredibly hard at work Charli, and I’m so glad you’ve devised a system to alleviate the load. Just to clarify, from now on, we set our goals and which badges we want to earn and make our first submission on June 1st? One more thing, I just took a look at CR FB page as it occurred to me that I haven’t seen anything of it in my FB feed for ages. Double checked I’ve liked it, following it and got it on my ‘see first’ list – yes to all three. But I took a quick scroll down a long line of posts and I haven’t seen any of them, hence my lack of engagement there. So now at least you know it hasn’t been intentional 🙁 As an aside, I’ve noticed on my public FB page the number of views is very small now, with a constant suggestion to pay to boost my posts. I’ve been reading this is a problem with FB now. Anybody know why I’m not seeing CR’s FB posts in my feed despite ticking the above three boxes? Will return with my flash…keeping the dream alive 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Historic photos of Comanche show his big brown eyes. He was a beautiful horse. And yes, Brownie badges! Very similar. The idea is that you can pick which ones you want to earn according to the goals you have for your own writing, blogging or community engagement. And you are correct — the first call to submit badge requests will be June 1. Some, of course, is a given, such as the administrative badges, but it’s entirely up to you which ones you want.

      FB newsfeeds are an algorithm mystery. I have similar settings and often it doesn’t seem to make a difference. FB is also proving difficult as it is placing visitor posts in a sidebar under the posts tab. But the contact page is proving easier for me to find, and I can set it up each week without trying to train everybody in style guides! 😀 When you come back with a flash, post it here and in the contact form.

      Keep the dream alive! <3

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        So when we apply for our badges in July – we know which ones we’ve earnt because we have been keeping our own record of our involvement or are we just going to say I’d like whichever and you decide if we’ve earnt it. Sorry just a little confused although I love the idea of badges. I’m goal oriented so having something to work to is right up my alley.

      • Sherri Matthews

        I am sure I read a story about Comanche once, but for some reason it’s not clear where or when, but I’ve always been fascinated by him and absolutely loved your flash Charli. You are the Wild West and with writing like this, you take me home 🙂 Thank you for confirming the badge info, how proud we’ll all be displaying our wall of badges! And for the FB update, duly noted. Dream and write! I’ll flash tomorrow! <3

      • Charli Mills

        Irene, the idea is to individually use the badges as incentives to set goals. I included different areas of development and made them flexible so you can each set and track your own. I hope writers will find it an empowering experience.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Di!

    • Jules

      Sometimes we wonder if The Fates have a hand in our meeting…I think perhaps sometimes they do…

      • pensitivity101

        I’m pretty sure that was the case with Hubby and I. We used to go to the same places on different nights, and when he was in the forces, the guy in front of him picked my letter out of the ‘penpal’ box.

  15. denmaniacs4

    The Pretend Sheriff of Butternut Island

    Bill Engleson

    That summer, gosh, it must have been ’81 or ’82, we were tossing back some brew on the deck of the Sparkling Water Tavern, looking out on the sea.

    The sun was sizzling, slapping off the ocean like bright stones spinning.

    Darius wandered in, gold Roy Rogers deputy sheriffs badge pinned to his red plaid shirt.

    I suppose there was always a chance that crime would break out on Butternut.

    “Streets quiet, Deputy?” some wise-ass weekender asked.

    Darius held it together. “Long as folks respect the law,” he answered.

    Wise-ass wanted to say more.

    Thing was, he’d been bested.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Charli Mills

      Great flash, Bill! Kind of hard to follow your dreams when you’re the sheriff where there is no crime. And what a name for a community! Loved this gorgeous line: “The sun was sizzling, slapping off the ocean like bright stones spinning.”

    • anuragbakhshi

      Lovely use of words there, such a whimsical tale.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Generations of oppression – it happens in all cultures I’m afraid. Sweet story but sad, too.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for venturing over to FB. I was disappointed to realize that visitor post show up in a weird obscure way on the page. Starting next week, we’ll use the forms. That way we won’t need short links, either. Sometimes reality doesn’t unfold how I planned it! 😀

      • Ritu

        Okay… so contact forms on the blog itself? Xxx

      • Charli Mills

        I’ll put the form in the post next week so it will be visible. The only reason I decided against the form was not to attract spammers. But we might get something from Nanjo Castille! This was a live test and FB failed! Thanks for being patient! Maybe I need to offer a patience badge…

    • Jules

      To have such encouragement from someone who felt they could not move beyond expectations is a treasure. Well done.

      • Ritu

        Thank you for YOUR encouraging words Jules ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Lady Lee! You have a lovely weekend, too!

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Badgered

    “Kid, I kin hear yer dang harrumphin’ halfway ta the corral.”
    “I ain’t goin’ ta the corral, not via no dang Face Book.”
    “Well, don’t then, use the contact form. Look, Kid, I bunk with ya, so I kin smell ya don’t like change, but this here’s good. The Ranch is growin’, Kid, Shorty’s dreams are growin’. Ain’t that some change ya kin pocket?”
    “Well, if’n it helps Shorty. T’ain’t much of a chore, really.”
    “Many ranch hands make light work. Maybe ya kin even git a badge.”
    “Git deputized? I ain’t inta badges.”
    “Ya sure do badger me.”

    • Charli Mills

      Kid might earn a badger badge! Thanks for showing me the obvious — the form works way better than Facebook. I’ll include one with the formatting built in so no one has to understand what I’m yammering about with style and all. 😀

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Did it work? Good, thought these two ought to try it.
        Good on ya, Boss. You are getting through a growth spurt! Viva Buckaroo Nation.
        PS, I never say so, but I liked your flash, liked how you championed that horse. Somehow I did not know about that lone survivor. I must be too far east. Now I do know, told to me in a fun flashy way.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        These two just show up. They’re fun to me too. They often get me on track with the prompt.

    • Shallow Reflections

      You nailed it D. People don’t like change but ‘many ranch hands make light work.’ Clever flash – I’m sure you earned a badge! haha! – Molly

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thanks, but as I said to Irene, if anyone gets a badge it’s those characters not me. I just show up now and again, they do the work.

  17. Jennie

    This is terrific!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jennie! And readers can request badges, too! 😉

      • Jennie

        Wonderful!

  18. Colleen Chesebro

    OMG! I love the idea of earning badges, Charli!! I never got to be a girl scout but hey, I want to be a literary star, now. LOL! Love it. The link for our posts is a great idea. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Yay, Colleen! You get to be a literary star now! And you can earn all three writer badges — set goals for your book writing, your poetry, and blogging. Starting next week, I’m going to add the submission form. That will make it easier for everyone. FB is not posting the way I thought they would.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I love it! I’m so tickled. I’m a goal person so this is perfect for me. WOO HOO! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joelle!

    • tintins

      Great flash!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Shallow Reflections

      Fun take on the prompt – loud does often trump brilliance!

      • floridaborne

        And as we all know, brilliance doesn’t always come with common sense. 🙂

    • Jules

      Badge the cat… better than a bell. 🙂

  19. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Render by D. Avery

    “It’s too tight”, Marlie complained as her mother hurriedly strapped her into her car seat. Today she’d made her mother late because she’d been absorbed watching a moth ensnared in a spider web, hopelessly struggling, its wings rendered useless.
    Craft time was underway when Marlie arrived. She saw what the others were doing and quickly got herself some sticks and yarn too. Her thoughts swam in the colorful weave of her careful work.
    “Nice, Marlie. It looks like a spider web. It’s a Dream Catcher.”
    Marlie paused, then loosened the yarn, undid each wrap and weave, dismantled her creation.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      You have submitted here perfectly. Only Charli knows if you have done the other submission as well. We are all on a learning curve at the moment but before long it will all become second nature. Loved your flash.

      • Nicole

        Thank you! The link doesn’t change to the right color before I submit it, I guess, so that confused me. I am glad it came through correctly. Thanks for your help!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a learning curve for me, too, Nicole! I got your flash and next week I’ll take what I learned and make it simpler.

      • Nicole

        Thanks Charli! Your efforts are much appreciated! This is a terrific community and I am grateful to you for making it possible.

    • Charli Mills

      No worries, Kate. FB isn’t working as planned anyhow. I’ll have a form next week.

      • calmkate

        sounds good you have to find an efficient system that works for you .. it’s a huge job, kudos to you!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your thoughts, Michael!

    • Jules

      Beautiful.

      • Michael

        Thanks so much Jules.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for honoring the troops, Christina! Found you on FB!

  20. Juliet

    Good day Charli and the Jolly Ranchers,
    I have recently been wondering how you go through all the comments and sort through the stories to get them all into the Wednesday collection. My brain was boggling at how you managed it! So an easier way is definitely needed.
    I am totally allergic to Facebook (more so than ever now) maybe something of a Luddite (although I would never dream of smashing up my pet iPad) and it’s not just Russian interference that worries me ????, so I’m glad the contact form option is maybe going to save the day.
    I’ll have to reread through all the badge options to see what might be good for me. You are so creative Ms Mills!
    Anyway, here is my offering this week and I’ll drop it into the form later. Not sure what brought this one on….

    Moongazer

    Its silver beams had lit up his room in Wapakoneta for as long as he could remember.
    First crossing his small wooden crib, they now wandered over the checkered quilt made especially for his new Big Boy bed.
    He was intrigued by the sphere, struck by its capacity to change shape every single night.
    He wouldn’t close his eyes until he had gazed at it long enough for the shadowy patterns to imprint themselves on his young, bright brain.
    “Come on, honey. It’s time for bed. Stop looking at the moon now. You know you’ll never go there, Neil.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It’s plausible. That one small step could well have started there.

      • Juliet

        Hi D. Yes, maybe…

    • anuragbakhshi

      Wow, a great ‘origin’ story 🙂

      • Juliet

        Thanks! Glad you liked it. ????

    • Liz H

      Mom is sometimes SOOOO off base! 😉
      (See what I did there? Like…MOON base? Okay, I’ll stop now)
      Very original story…loved it!

      • Juliet

        Thanks, Liz! ???? I’m still not sure how the Armstrong family came to mind this week. Must have been looking at the moon too much myself…

      • Charli Mills

        Mom is off base! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Good day to you, too Juliet! Though it might be a different day with some moon and stars passing in between. I enjoyed the revelation of who the child is in the story. Ah, but I’m not enjoying FB! It didn’t work out and I’ll make some tweaks to the form, and I think we’ll have a “collection bucket” that way. I’ve noticed that in the past week several apps that use FB have sent out new privacy policies. I hope you find some badges that support you in your writing goals or creativity!

  21. Jules

    Before I even look into posting a story… I have to say I am more confused at the infusion of everything. I’ve done about everything there is a badge for. I write every week (at least one post so how would making the goal be any different?) I don’t now how to include badges, much less a badge board. So I guess that would be a private thing… unless I create a new blog just for Carrot Ranch posts? I’ve already got three working blogs. Oy!

    And I don’t understand FB at all. So I’m just going to post my stories in the comments… and in the contact form too? Is that what you are saying?

    Off to the ‘dream’…

    Cheers and good luck to everyone old and new. ~Jules (the completely confounded and confused.)

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Confounded and confused? There’s a badge for that.
      In just a little while everything is going to be all right.

      • Jules

        ….and the only thing I was looking for a while back was a little embroidered patch for my jacket that said I was a buckaroo for Carrot Ranch… is this all my fault??? Highly unlikely cause the Boss is just so clever… 😉

    • Charli Mills

      This might be your fault, Jules because I started working on a badge and it kind of snowballed. I think you should have badges to show all you do at the Ranch. I already have something in mind for you, so don’t fret it. Keep track of the ones that are meaningful to you. If you want a C&C badge, I’ll make one of those, too!

      Next week, we’ll use the form to submit to the collection. We use the comments to share links and interact. Thanks for muddling through. It will clear up and make more sense…eventually!

      • Jules

        (hmm…. I thought so… a single “Patch” turned into umpteen badges. C & C I have to go back and look that up… Buckaroo Nation at Carrot Ranch = a feather in a Stetson? Oooh with a Carrot in as the pen itself?) I’ll have to send you a drawing….) 😀

      • Jules

        Ah C & C – confounded and confused. I like that. We need to give credit where it is due though as I think it was D. Avery who ‘coined’
        “Buckaroo Nation”… Just saying, I can’t take all the blame 😉

    • Charli Mills

      It is a lot this week! Thanks for your dream man story, Susan!

    • Jules

      I kinda had something like that… met my guy at a wedding… dated soon after – still going strong (just a bit shy of 40 years by a year and some months) – 😀

  22. Jules

    Oh, to dream… a bit like visualization – we will succeed! Just like that horse did, eh Charli!

    I did submit to the contact form. But I’m not sure about that short link thing…

    Anyway for the rest of you… and the vocabulary words are at my site – title links you there:
    Valuable Vagary

    Do writers lean towards mendacity? Lunging with vocabulary,
    imagining everyone will fill in the gaps, while they blush in the
    shadows at their cleverness?

    Do writers call the unattainable goals they follow dreams? And
    yet some dreams do come true. Words end up in print. Others
    spy through internet glasses and peak at the peacock preening.

    It really isn’t that way is it? Fiction isn’t fact, though there might
    be some threads of truth. And even a peacock needs to eat,
    and showing off does get some attention.

    Writers are people too. Please show em some love, won’t you?

    ©JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      We will succeed, and make it through. Just like Comanche. Great vocabulary words this week, Jules. I love the writers! <3

  23. -Eugenia

    What a brilliant idea! This was a mighty task, Charli. I commend you for it.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Eugenia!

  24. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Deferment by D. Avery

    All schoolmates, they were drinking, again. Billy was talking again about how he was going to go out west, see the sights, settle down in California and grow grapes, run a vineyard.
    “Jeezus, Billy, you still on that? You and Stevie- ‘We’re gonna have a vineyard, get rich farmin’ wine’-”
    “Whatever happened to Stevie?”
    The bartender, their former coach, laughed, showed them a bottle. “Look at the label.”
    “I’ll be damned.”
    “Shit.” Billy guzzled the rest of his beer, grunting as he stiffly got to his feet. “Gotta get back to the wife and kids.”
    “See ya tomorrow, Billy.”

    • Charli Mills

      When it comes to dreams, some talk and others walk.

    • tintins

      Great story!

      • lisarey1990

        Thank you so much. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Lisa!

  25. Miriam Hurdle

    Thank you, Charli to share your story of following your dream. I’ve been writing my story of following my dream. It’s too long because I had many mountain tops and deep valleys moments. I may have to write in three parts. I had a good conversation with Irene.
    For the flash fiction this week, I want to say about what I described in this flash fiction. I did have the second level of a dream many times as recent as two weeks ago. I use to fly in my dream in my younger age, but not in many years. I studied counseling as well as education, and I tried not to analyze my dreams. Haha!
    I read through all the descriptions of the badges and read many comments here. You have been working very hard. You are softhearted to accept beyond your limit of 50 entries. Thank you for letting me in.
    I’ll try to post it on CarrotRanchFacebook. Let me read the instruction one more time before doing it. I’ve been very ill, started with fever 103.8 on Monday, and checked in to ER on Friday night and be admitted. Will be discharged on Sunday though. I’m glad. I can never sleep in the hospital.

    Here’s my entry:

    https://theshowerofblessings.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/march-22-flash-fiction-challenge-inconceivable-dream/

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yikes, get some rest. (Perchance to dream)

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Haha, there are multiple meanings in what you said.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Breadcrumbs…how lovely. In our own way, each one of us is trying to live their dream of writing, of creating new worlds, or trying to make sense of the existing one, and our breadcrumbs are the encouragement that we get from our readers, from strangers in communities like these, so that we can get one step closer to our dream.

    • Norah

      I hope you feel better soon. I enjoyed your flash.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you so much, Norah. Yes, I’m feeling a lot better.

      • Norah

        I’m pleased to hear that, Miriam.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you so much, Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Miriam, I hope you are recovering from your illness. Hospitals are terrible places to sleep. I hope this finds you resting. Your second level dream intrigued me. I’ve had dreams like that. I’ve also had silly dreams that make me laugh when I remember them. I’m glad you had a good conversation with Irene. She’s knowledgeable about memoir and we have several other memoir writers here, too. I enjoy finding ways to motivate writers because it’s not an easy path we follow. I want Carrot Ranch to make literary art accessible, so it needs to be open. At various times, just need to find new ways to process! I’m happy you are here.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Charli. I usually understand my own dreams and recognize the bits and pieces from my experience, hopes and fears. I know that I can’t handle watching horror movie, it gives me nightmare the same night.
        Sigmund Freud’s defense mechanism is true but I don’t agree with his way to interpret dreams.
        Regarding my memoir, as in any history, is subjective. I have been drifting my focus several times. I changed the title of my “book” four times so far due to shifting of focus.
        I’m glad to have found this friendly community. I’m happy to see your dream come true!

      • Charli Mills

        Your knowledge of dreams is fascinating, Miriam. And I understand your shifting focus as you write. I think it’s easier for fiction writers to anchor a focus. And yet, all writers experience discovery when writing and I also think we should give time to process such discoveries. Somewhere there’s a balance between discovery and completion! Not sure I have found it yet in my own books in waiting.

    • Jules

      I’ve been out of town… finally getting around to reading –
      I hope you are much better, healthy and having fun writing and flying – I almost went up in one of those shoots behind a motor boat one year…
      I still want to go up in a hot air balloon. Hugs, Jules

      • Miriam Hurdle

        My husband and son-in-law went on parasailing in Thailand. They had fun.

      • Jules

        My hubby wouldn’t go with me… So I declined. At least he did try snorkeling with me even though he isn’t a big water guy.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        It seems like you’re the adventuresome one.

      • Jules

        We’ve each got our own limits. He’ll go camping – I’m not big on that activity. I want plumping 😉

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I know. We have different ideas about vacation sites. We ended up taking turns to pick. 🙂

      • Jules

        Compromise is good 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, we do a lot of give and take. 🙂

    • Liz H

      You rocked it!

    • Norah

      What D. and Liz said. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Matthew!

    • Jules

      Top notch!

  26. odysseyofhappiness

    This one inspired me. In a really scary way! And it was fun to write. Hope it’s enjoyed.

    DREAMSTALKER

    “Follow your dreamsss……that’s what he doesss” it rasped.

    “…Who?” I queried, a chill running down my spine.

    “The Dreamstalker…..he hunts in dreamsss…”

    “Never heard of him……. anyway… I must be onward” I said, trying to sound determined but instead letting more than a small quiver into my voice.

    “YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DREAMSTALKER!” The thing roared in anger and warning.

    I swallowed dryly. “What happens if he gets in your dreams?”

    A frighteningly cruel smile curled across its repulsive face. “thisss….. is my favorite part”.

    Terrified, I asked “what is?”

    “The part where I wake you”…

    • susansleggs

      Well done, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Creepy as hell. Loved it.

    • Liz H

      (Running off to turn on all the lights in the house and get some music going) :-O

    • Norah

      The Dreamstalker – reminded me of the BFG by Roald Dahl. I wish I’d thought of it sooner. Great flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Woo! That’s a scary tale for around the campfire!

    • Jules

      Yikes!

  27. tintins

    Scary!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Neel!

  28. Shallow Reflections

    Sorry FB didn’t work out, Charli. Hopefully the form next week will work out. In the meantime I’ll try to post the way you suggested to see if it is easier for you. I took the photo I used for my featured image on my blog post of this, the day before you published the prompt. And then I build my story around it. Such fun!

    Following the dream – Molly Stevens

    Ron’s head pounded and his hands trembled recalling last night’s combative email exchange. He knew the client and manufacturer would need someone to blame and he was a convenient target.

    He crept out of the house without disturbing his wife and boys, leaving two hours before morning chaos erupted.

    He tailgated the gray Kia, distracted by attempts to read the vanity license plate.

    Brake lights. The crunch of metal. And a close-up view.

    ‘Playmor.’

    The badge was at eye level when he opened his window.

    “Where are you going in such a hurry, mister?”

    “Just following the dream, officer.”

    ###

    https://bit.ly/2G6DH5v

    • Norah

      Interesting image. I like the flash too. Well done, Molly.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thank you, Norah. It all came together with a synchronicity I would never have predicted. Such is the adventure of writing!

      • Norah

        It is a wonderful adventure and those moments make it all the more delightful, Molly. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Good plate to read! Vanity plates can be tough to figure out sometimes but it’s fun to get the message. In Montana, they are popular to have. Ah, onto next time and the simplified form!

      • Shallow Reflections

        We have a lot of vanity plates in Maine, too, Charli. I finally got one myself a couple of years ago. Mine says, “Shallow.” Haha!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! I bet that gives people pause!

  29. Ann Edall-Robson

    Badge of Courage
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    It takes courage to share your words with the world. Nothing is written in stone saying you have to go any further than letting family and friends read your work. But, let’s say you decide to throw caution to the wind. Climbing that hill to see what’s on the other side. Wouldn’t it be fun knowing there are places waiting for you that don’t judge your words? Places that welcome you, encouraging you in your journey to follow your dreams. Where you can wear your badge of courage with pride. Such a place exists. Welcome to the Carrot Ranch.

    ###

    https://bit.ly/2uihZKv

    • Norah

      Lovely, Ann.

    • Charli Mills

      The anthem for the newest badge! 🙂 Thanks, Ann!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, for rallying the riders, Annette!

  30. susansleggs

    Wow Charli, love the badges. Your creativity gives all of us another way to reach our dreams. Sorry the FB didn’t work but am glad the contact form will lessen your load.

    Gotta’ Follow My Own Dream
    by Susan Sleggs

    Angry white caps filled the Puget Sound waterway I could see. The wind howled and rain was going sideways. The fury matched what I expected from my father when I told him I had decided to follow my own dream of becoming a pilot in the Air Force. Especially since he expected me to become a doctor like family tradition deemed. The storm also matched my own emotions how my decision would affect my mother. In no way did I want to hurt her but I felt she would understand and accept what was best for me. Sorry Mom.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Nice use of the weather and water. Was there a rainbow?

    • anuragbakhshi

      Absolutely, your dreams are your own. Trying to live your parent’s dreams is often a sure-shot recipe for disaster.

    • Charli Mills

      Writers need star charts, too! Sometimes I have to learn by doing, so no more FB. Your character is walking the path he believes in.

    • Liz H

      No need to fish for compliments on this one…cleverly writ!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha. Thank you so much Liz

    • Charli Mills

      I threw a lot at you all! Hope the good parts stick. Thanks for your entry, Anurag.

    • Jules

      I really enjoy your twists!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thank you so much Jules. Really appreciate the encouragement.

  31. Chelsea Owens

    https://chelseaannowens.com/2018/03/25/following-dreams/

    I wake after little sleep. Only hours ago, I walked the lonely aisles populated by night dwellers. “You look how I feel,” the cashier had said, voicing my thoughts before I’d worked out how to speak.

    Today’s my child’s birthday. Mentally, I list what needs completion: cleaning, baking, decorating, dinner, church, children.

    Husband stretches and wraps an arm around me. “I’ve gotta go,” he coos. “Choir rehearsal this morning.” Surprised, I check my calendar.

    Someone has posted a quote about making life what you will. Follow your dreams.

    I rise groggily from the bed. A busy day awaits.

    • Charli Mills

      Mother’s work is endless, but I do remember the peacefulness of late night shopping alone.

    • Charli Mills

      Teething problems — a good way to put it! I got snowed under over at FB and in emails, but I think I have it sorted. It felt good to wander the Ranch and know the stories were getting collected (well, up until I realized FB had glitches). Thanks, Irene!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        LOL. Yes it has to be better that we all play a part in helping you gather them together.

    • Jules

      I was a Girl Scout briefly. I did all the driving and was even a Den Mother for my boys in their Scouting. One took to it, the other didn’t. Each had different dreams and I think they both succeeded.

      Now I’m just walking miles with my fingers… And some of my dreams are coming true too. 🙂

      A kind heart is always a wonderful present.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I’m glad some of your dreams are coming true Jules and lovely that both your boys achieved what it was that they wanted.
        Absolutely – if only we could all be kind the world would be a wonderful peaceful place.

  32. Deb Whittam

    Sorry, totally lost by all of this – I’ve just done a pingback this week – sorry for any inconvenience

    • Charli Mills

      That’s okay, Deb. It’s a lot of information I put out. It will be clearer next week with a form. Thanks!

    • Norah

      Love the presentation!

      • jenanita01

        Glad you liked it, that was my contribution. Anita is the brains of this outfit, I just muck about on the PC…

      • Norah

        What a great combination!

      • Charli Mills

        Mucking about on the computer is helpful! Thanks for sharing Anita’s contribution. I’m glad she’s having fun!

    • Jules

      Beautiful.

  33. Liz H

    Here’s my bit…will try the contact form as I don’t quite get what a short link is all about… 😮
    Cheers!

    Lotta at 22

    Lotta Du Charms relished the feel of canvas around her legs, leather and horseflesh between her thighs…
    [Continue]

    • Charli Mills

      Contact form works best, as I’ve discovered this week. Ugh. Don’t ask about the short link — it was to solve a known problem on FB, but too many unknowns, as well. LOVE me some Oklahoma Lotta! My kind of western flavor.

      • Liz H

        FB gettin’ pretty trippy…but we knew, underneath it all, data privacy is a myth, rolled in a mystery, wrapped in cabbage leaves and sprinkled with the dust of our most-secret enemies…(sigh).

      • Charli Mills

        Brilliant description of FB mystery cabbage! As a marketer, I know that data mining can be benign when trust and transparency matter to your customers or clients. It’s a relationship based on permission and benefit. You tell me your zip code and I better understand the region my business serves. NOT, you give me your zip code and I sell your soul to the Russians.

        Also, as a marketer, I knew that anything I placed on a social media platform would be public. I never thought of social media as “private.” However, I never thought of data mining going so far as to access social relationships and gain data without permission. Then to consider the psychological abuse of using personality factors to control the thinking of vulnerable (fear-based) people. Wow — stinky cabbage leaves with secret enemy sauce! Unethical to the extreme, even for the sleaziest of marketers.

    • Norah

      Love it, Colleen. Let’s fight for the bees.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Hugs, Norah. I’ve made climate change one of the central themes in my series. ??????

      • Norah

        We certainly need more understanding of what it means.

    • Charli Mills

      You rocked it, Colleen! And the photo you paired with your flash says it all — we are connected to our environment and if the bees go, we go (unless we learn to digest plastic). Thank you for being a part of the Ranch!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks so much for your kind words, Charli. I’m loving the community and the challenges. <3

  34. Michael B. Fishman

    I think I’d like to write a 99-word story about rocks when the time comes. I’m taking a Facebook break so here’s mine. I think I made the shorter link correctly – goo.gl/SQhKjC

    • Norah

      Fabulous story – it’s good to follow your own dreams.

    • Charli Mills

      Michael, I will include you in on all the rocks! 🙂 I’m sorting and identifying rocks to tag. I’ll let you know when I have some details for #carrotranchrocks flash. Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jan!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie!

  35. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Her Dream’s Edge by Kay Kingsley

    She followed this dream to the edge, one she never thought existed and couldn’t comprehend, like the vastness of the cosmos, and yet after such a long journey of total transformation, she stands at its precipice.

    Every end is a beginning and the sadness of perpetual change walks silently beside her, nudging her towards the cliffs edge. Comforted by its inevitability yet frustrated at her lack of choice, she approaches with fatigued enthusiasm.

    Is this the beginning of greatness or the end of the best of her, a moment she will forever chase like a dream fading at dawn?

    • Norah

      I hope it’s the edge of greatness.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You got me with the title; intriguing contemplations.

    • Charli Mills

      Kay, your flash makes me think of the leap we are often called to make when following dreams.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, you two!

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you enjoy the prompts!

    • Jules

      I just wish I had one of my parents support… back then.
      But I would not change where I am now.
      Especially with my hubby and family.

    • PTSD Gal

      Great use of the prompt. Following your dreams doesn’t box you into select few categories.

    • Charli Mills

      Loved what you accomplished with your flash, Heather!

  36. Lisa A. Listwa

    Oh boy, I need to process all of this! Lots to think about – but great! I’ll be back, hopefully in the nick of time later tonight. Crazy day. Crazy week.

    • Charli Mills

      It is a lot, but hopefully, the dust will settle and it’ll be fun! Hoping you get through your crazy week!

  37. Sherri Matthews

    If I have this right, I’m posting my flash here and then on the contact form…I just realised though I didn’t throw in a badge (or maybe, using my imagination there might be one on the waitresses uniform, but that’s pushing it!). Thanks for keeping the dream alive Charli 🙂 <3

    Breakfast in America

    Paula shuffled over to the counter. ‘How d’ya want yer eggs honey, easy over, sunny side up?’

    ‘Scrambled and a side of pancakes, and make it snappy, will ya?’

    Paula sniffed as she poured his coffee. ‘Kinda grumpy today ain’t yer?’

    Detective Johnny Johnson lit a Marlboro and sighed. ‘Sorry Paula, some broad got me on the run, that’s all…’

    ‘Aww…and I there thought I was yer broad…you know, the one of yer dreams.’

    Johnny smiled, the first time in days. ‘Yeah, you’re my broad…’

    I closed my book and dreamed of waking up to pancakes and maple syrup.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! There would be a name badge on the waitress’s uniform! And you have me listening to Supertramp. I love what you did in your flash — at first, I was hooked on the detective, and then the narrator closed her book, thinking of the same pancakes and maple syrup I’m craving!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Love Supertramp! Haha…so I got the badge in after all!!! Eating in an American Diner was my dream and I got to do it for real!!! I’m craving them with you! Thanks Charli, great prompt as always! 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Made me laugh, Patrick! Thanks!

    • Deborah Lee

      Oh, and I went for a twofer in this flash.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m happy to share in the fun! 🙂 And thanks for Jane’s story!

  38. theoutsiderssociety

    This is great! I would love to participate, and I am happy that I found you. I am a little late on the last one, but I can’t wait for the next!

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you made your way to the Ranch! The new prompt is live and you are welcome to join in!

  39. Jules

    Excellent! I had a friend I had to take to an Chem appointment a few years back – I wrote a poem about it. Thought it might help others… now I have to find it and maybe share it too.

  40. Liz H

    Wonderful dream!

  41. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  42. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rugby!

  43. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Hugh!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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