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Flash Fiction Challenge: November 1

Rain clouds the color and weight of lake-tankers hang over the neighborhood. These days, I don’t know if the moisture is pelting rain or sloppy snow — it’s the season of transition all around the world.

No matter the hemisphere, change is happening. The sun slants, the weather patterns shift, and we feel uneasy. We crave the light.

After managing the leads of three dogs, I unbuckle the collars and let the beasts pound across the hardwood floors, nails clicking as they all head for the dog water. My pea-coat harbors husky fur and I pretend it’s trendy wool. Bidding the dogs farewell for the evening, I head back out into a spit of rain and behold a sight —

The setting sun, momentarily free from its captor of steely clouds, diffuses light across the neighborhood of three-story mining house all with the steeply pitched roofs of snow-country. Like a laser beam, the sun illuminates the thinning orange maple across the road, and it glows like amber. One of my hearty, hale, and elderly neighbor’s steps outside across the street from me with an old film camera. He takes a photo.

“Never seen the likes before,” he tells me.

A moment is all it takes to change our world. Light can alter us, uplift us, convince us that “a new dawn, a new day” is all the hope we need to face more gray clouds and uncertainty. I’ll take it as a good omen. After all, I’m on my way to a Diwali feast — a celebration of light over darkness.

I imagine Michigan Tech’s international students feeling far from home. The engineering and technological university prides itself on a diverse global student body. But Houghton (on the south side of the portage canal) and Hancock (on the north side) remain remote. They only exist because of the 125-year-old copper mining industry. The industry’s legacies are two universities and a peninsula full of poor rock ore and ghost towns. What a strange place this must seem.

Yet, they bring their culture with them, sharing it with the community. Like Diwali when the Indian Cultural Club spends three days cooking a meal and weeks preparing a show full of romantic matchmaking, dancing, and music. I head out, aiming for the light.

Last we gathered at the Ranch for a weekly challenge, we watched stories of a Prade of Nations unfold. After month-long Rodeo, we return to a festival of lights. It seems the hopeful side of transformation.

The Hub spent the month in Minneapolis at the Poly Trauma Center. We are learning to focus on what he can do — a light. He’s learning to let go of his worry over cognition and focus on loving-kindness. Think about that a minute. When faced with the changes of an altered brain, when faced with any transition or uncertainty, what a light to focus on — loving kindness.

And isn’t that the essence of all the holidays that are about to descend?

Loving-kindness. Light over darkness. Good over evil. Hope.

Like the elderly neighbor, I want to snap a picture. I want to remember the warmth of food served to me by gracious college students facing exams and loneliness for home. I want to believe in the points of light we can all be when we spread kindness. It doesn’t remove the pain or gloss over the fear; it accepts that we have a choice in what we do next.

Light a candle.

Not giving up hope on my long-suffering novel and the mess I’ve made of it, I’ve backed up to an earlier, crappier version, but one that is complete. I already know I’m going to tank significant portions. I’ve mostly decided on where to locate the wandering characters who must feel as homeless as I do by now. And I’m going to listen — listen to their story instead of trying to force mine upon them. Writing is messy. But I’m going to light a candle every night and show myself that loving-kindness as I kick it into gear and rewrite it.

You know what that means — yes, I’m doing the NaNoWriMo event. And I’m going to TUFF my way through writing every day. I’m also committing daily time to Vol. 2 which is lagging behind the tight schedule I set. In a perfect world, I’d be, well, perfect! But I’m imperfect. I process slowly. I get tied up in knots and angst my way into woeful prose. I bleed across the keyboard and forget to compress the wounds. I’m ready to light my way home.

My storyboard for Miracle of Ducks hangs on the wall, stripped of all its notes. Bare bones. Today, I write those bare bones, I free-draft Danni’s story — 1,800 words. Then 99, 59, 9. Then I start to plot the storyboard, delete or TUFF chapters 1,800, 99, 59, 9 words each day until I hit 50,000 words. I trust the process to get me back on track. I seek my own elixir.

Tune in on Fridays to catch winner announcements for all the October Rodeo contests. With each announcement, I’ll publish the qualifying entries on a page under the Rodeo tab. We still have two live contests, and I encourage you to check them out. Both are free and have prizes:

Sound and Fury by D. Avery asks you to write a story that shows the sound and the fury of an intense and dangerous situation that the main character willingly chose. Closes Nov. 7 at 11:59 p.m. Top prize $25.

Old Time Radio by Charli Mills asks for 99-59-9 words for radio spots to capture the history of the Continental Fire Company. Closes Nov. 7. Three winners get $25 each and a chance to hear their story produced into an actual radio spot.

I want to thank all our leaders, judges, participants and sponsors (please take time to look at the sponsor ads along the right-hand column and click on those that interest you). The community effort and participation makes the Rodeo a fun way to stretch our writing skills. Thank you!

Now to shed some light on the season of transition! Welcome back to the weekly challenges.

November 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any holiday, event or moment. Express the hope of light over darkness. Or use it to highlight injustice. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by November 6, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.


Festival of Lights by Charli Mills

Glass shatter during dinner. Papa grabbed the boys and we sheltered beneath the table. Patterns of woodgrain forever etched my memory. Mama stood until Papa hastened her to hunker down with us in frightened silence.

We waited for boot thuds and forced entry. A truck engine revved. Guttural voices hurled invocations hard as the pick-ax that smashed our front window and toppled our Menorah – “Big-nosed Jews!” “Death to Hymies!”

My 10-year old mind probed why Papa’s features fated us to die. Friends at school said, the Holocaust wasn’t real, grow up, get over it, this is 2018 in America.


  1. Hi Charli.
    You’ve got some really busy times ahead.
    Working on my entry and will post later.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I feel like we’ve turned a corner, though. The Hub is finally getting the care he needs which removes a huge burden from my shoulders. I’m flexing to write! And it’s good to be back to our weekly challenges and yet also exciting to watch the results of the Rodeo unfold weekly. I look forward to your entry, Di!

      • So glad to hear, especially The Hub getting what is needed. Take care.

      • Done, but I can;t remember if I have to copy it here too, so forgive me for duplication!

        It only takes one:

        There is no darkness
        When a single light shines,
        It brings hope and promise,
        A gathering of minds.
        Another light beckons,
        Two soon becomes three,
        Four, five and six,
        Reaching out to set free
        Festival torches,
        All sizes and bright
        Dazzling in glory,
        Embracing the night.
        Some call upon spirits
        For Lost Souls to find peace,
        Warmth, joy and kindness
        Are within easy reach.
        All join together,
        No-one is ever alone,
        Lend a hand, ear or shoulder,
        Or just pick up the phone:
        Celebrate living,
        Let light show the way,
        It only takes one
        To keep darkness at bay.

      • Charli Mills says:

        You can do both, Di! The form helps me grab stories for the collection and by posting it in the comments and/or linking to your post, we can comment within the community. Thanks!

  2. calmkate says:

    a timely topic … and the holocaust never seems to finish!
    Glad you and hubby are focused on loving-kindness and light … things will improve but what a marathon you’ve embarked on … good luck, I’ll watch from the sidelines and slide back into weekly challenges after the excitement and dust of the rodeo settles.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sadly, I never thought I’d see the world slip into the kind of fervor that led to such an atrocious event and not even that long ago, historically speaking. I look forward to your entries after the dust has settled, Kate!

  3. Liz H says:

    In sorrow and solidarity with Pittsburgh. And so many other places in our “modern’ world… 🙁

    • Charli Mills says:

      I couldn’t get it out of my mind, and what happened in Pittsburgh. To be the light we have to call out the darkness. Solidarity with you.

  4. Jennie says:

    Your writing is always rich and interesting. Thank you for that!

  5. Here’s a comment: There is a lot packed into this post.
    Reminders of current ongoing rodeo and radio contests. Try them.
    The reminder of our own people and their books posted there along the side. It worked, I just bought two, one click to Kindle, what ease these days.
    And what darkness these days. Just read Charli’s flash too. Too true.
    Write, and light a brighter way.
    One world, one people.

    • Charli Mills says:

      One world, one people. Many fine books to read starting with the column to the right. And many fine collections that will be populating the Rodeo page every Friday. But — as you mention, two Rodeo contests remain live!

  6. […] #Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  7. syncwithdeep says:

    Welcome back Charli. In a few days, we have the festival of lights celebration. A small take on the beautiful prompt,

  8. […] Carrot Ranch Highlighting the end of Daylight Savings Time. I went were the prompt lead… […]

  9. Jules says:


    Too often we forget the plight of blighted history. It is a sad day indeed when violence strikes Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Your flash could be straight from the horrific headlines of the news. May all who mourn those lost lights of life find comfort from those of us who do remember.

    I went with the loss of Daylight Savings Time multi-prompt haibun. I’ve got a Maxine Comic at the post which can be gotten to with the title link:

    Where is Clarity?

    Gnat. Sat. After annoying my nose, flying past my glasses.
    Adding an extra period where it did not belong on my screen.

    I could imagine the gnat elsewhere, like visiting simmering dew, outside.
    While thinking about what to write I forgot about my coffee.
    The rim of fluid enchanted by the glowing reflection of the chandelier.

    swimming contently?
    not quite caught in a raindrop;
    gnat gained afterlife

    could’ve drowned in a raindrop
    did his soul add any light?

    Saturday we will switch from later dawn to an earlier dusk.
    Just who are we fooling by ending Daylight Savings Time?


    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you for bringing levity to the prompt, Jules! We have too much plight and blight in the headlines these days. I hadn’t realized that the massacre took place in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.

  10. […] Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

  11. […] was written for the November 1st Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Range.  I wrote about the Brown Mountain Lights, a set of ghost lights found in the […]

  12. Loved the Rodeo – but boy, what a ride! While it was great, it’s also fun to just get back into the regular saddle.

    Brown Mountain –

    Recent floods had stopped the trains from winding through the mountains, and Stewart took advantage of this darkness to investigate the Brown Mountain lights.

    Lights glinted ahead. They didn’t flicker like a lantern or candle, but this region wasn’t lit by electricity. Stewart picked up his pace.

    The massive, golden source became more apparent as he closed in on it. He noticed the light streamed from an open doorway, and a queue of skeletal figures entering. The ghosts ventured forth with smiles, and Stewart felt no inclination to stop them.

    He reported on the haunting, “Lights caused by trains.”

    • Jules says:

      This reminds me of an investigation of strange lights. Turned out to be the defused headlights of cars over a distance – since the new highway was put in. The headlights looked like odd eyes of a ghoul.

    • Liz H says:

      Echoes of Halloween as we roll into the next season.

    • Nicely spooky.
      But no rest for the wicked- the rodeo isn’t finished! Ride on! Live dangerously. Write a radio script.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yep, putting away the gear, getting out the workday saddles. Still time to take a dangerous ride with Rodeo #5 Sound and Fury, or write an Old Time Radio spot. You are in fine form with an unexpected ghostly festival.

  13. Pete says:

    We stepped off the train and into the exposition, our stunned silence engulfed by the ragtime and laughter. The grounds shook, abuzz with current, a waft of Polish sausage, popcorn, wisps of smoke and steam as Papa paid our .50 admission. We’d begged for months. And now we were here in Chicago.

    The World’s Fair, and it must have been half the world there. Lightening harnessed, tied into knots and strung along glimmering buildings and white tents. My eyes couldn’t focus. The movie boxes, telephones, phonographs. The magic. And then I saw it.

    The giant wheel in the sky.

  14. Ritu says:

    Here’s my historical piece! Not really fiction, but a lesson in religious history!

  15. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Prompt (11/01/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any holiday, event or moment. Express the hope of light over darkness. Or use it to highlight injustice. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  16. Liz H says:

    My Friday night lights…

    “Alas,” Lady Arabella sighed, holding a palm out from under her parasol. Days of full darkness had been followed by months of half light. “It seems the sun will never again shine, nor rain warm our moonless nights.”
    [Continue ]

  17. denmaniacs4 says:

    Brief Outage

    In the night, there is the increasingly familiar hum. The neighbour’s high-end generator has kicked in again.
    The house is silent, a symphony of darkness, save for the thump of the fatter cat’s feet in the room above. And a near-spent nightlight.
    The electric bedside clock is unforthcoming.
    I stretch. My toenail slashes her ankle.
    I get a wallop. “That hurts,” she points out.
    “Damn! you’re sorry, are you? You always do it.”
    It’s the best I can do…
    Then the house starts to buzz.
    The clock flashes its resurgent time.
    Power surges.
    The night’s electric again.

    • Erg. The only thing worse than a high end generator is a low end generator. Too bad everyone couldn’t just enjoy the peace and quiet.

    • Charli Mills says:

      An electrifying response, Bill. The toenail detail is one of those we can relate to yet is something hardly spoken about. I love details like that — every day and yet unusual.

  18. Horticultural Thoughts*

    “Whatcha thinkin’ on, Kid?”

    “Thinkin’ on plants Pal.”

    “Shorty said ta be thinkin’ on light.”

    “I am. Ever heard a phototropism?”

    “I favor geotropism. Like ta keep rooted, grounded in my place.”

    “Plants kin take root jist about anywhere. Patient and perseverant. I reckon plants gotta be rooted firmly an’ reach fer the light. Always pointin’ towards the light.”

    “Yep, Kid, they’s a lot ta contemplate with plants. Mebbe it ain’t so far afield, you thinkin’ on plants. Reckon folks is like plants, Kid?”

    “Some is Pal. Some need cultivatin’.”


    “Light. We gotta stay grounded and shine on.”


    (*You do know what Dorothy Parker said about horticulture?)

  19. […] and Logan. But the Carrot Ranch is back prompting, so well, we will have to see how they are getting on. This week, we revisit a universal truth […]

  20. […] Fiction Rodeo is winding down and the regular weekly prompts have resumed. This week Charli’s November 1, 2018, prompt is to, in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any […]

  21. Star of the Show

    Hope made her guess. When her mother had incorrectly guessed Mary, Joseph, wise man, sheep, donkey, cow, inn keeper, and even baby Jesus, Hope finally told her what part she had in the Christmas pageant.
    “It was my idea, Mommy! I got them to let me do my idea!”
    “What, Hope? What role is left?”
    Hope’s eyes shone with her broad smile. “The star! I’m going to be up on a ladder behind the stable dressed up like the star!”
    “Do you have lines to memorize?”
    “Nope. I just have to shine.”
    “Oh, Hope, you do. You’re a natural.”


    “Our Hope is a star, alright. Come on, we’re going snowshoeing.”
    “Now? It’s so dark out.”
    “I have a surprise.”
    “Let’s go, Hope. I’d rather tramp in the snow than have to guess again.”
    From the top of the meadow the frozen lake was an empty blackness in the moonless dark, framed by twinkling lights of houses on the surrounding rolling hills.
    Below them their own kitchen window glowed warmly.
    Suddenly beams of light reached out from the high roof of their barn.
    “Daddy! A Christmas star in the cupola!”
    “Not just Christmas. We’ll light up every dark night.”

    I was surprised by the return of these characters who got their start here long ago at the Ranch. Hope you all don’t mind a double 99. There is a somewhat longer version at the home-site too.

    See the whole thing (so far) here:


    Ranch Lite; Kid’s Story (triple 99, sorry)

    “You fixin’ ta build a fire, Pal?”

    “Yep. Figger if ever’one’s as tuckered out from the rodeo as me, they might wanna jist set a spell by the light of a warming fire.”

    “Pal, ‘member when we first showed up here?”

    “We? ‘Member, I’ve always been here, jist no one knew it.”

    “Oh yeah. Then how come we’re always together?”

    “Dang wish I knew, Kid. Prob’ly ‘cause when people hear voices it’s always plural, not ‘voice’. Someone needs us.”

    “Someone could do worse.”


    “Set, Pal, I’m gonna tell about me showin’ up here.”

    “Can I stop you?”



    It was a dark an’ stormy night.

    “Kinda cliché, Kid.”

    “Well it was, ‘an mebbe it’s metaphorical.”

    “Meta for who?”


    It was a tumultous time, deep winter. A young greenhorn, feelin’ her age-

    “What? You describin’ cheese? How kin a young greenhorn be old?”

    “That’s the way it is, Pal. Jeez, where was I?”

    “On yer way here.”


    An old greenhorn was wanderin’ the desert. The wind was blowin’ an’
    somewhere in that wind was the answer, my friend.

    “The answer was blowin’ in the wind? Was this 1963? Jist cut to the chase already.”

    “If’n you’d let me.”

    I was wanderin’ somewhat aimless, had gone off trail. I was stumblin’ in
    the dark. Then, crestin’ a rocky ledge-

    “What’s that meta for?”

    “Shush Pal!”

    I saw a strange glowin’ light, color of carrots on the horizon…

    “Were you near Roswell, New Mexico?”



    I went closer, real cautious like. I wasn’t sure what it was, if’n it were
    safe. If’n it were meant fer me…

    “Was it?”

    “Sure was.”

    I followed the light and come ta the fire here at the Ranch.

    “That’s it?”


    “Not much of a story, Kid.”

    “Lighten up Pal.”

  23. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge November 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any holiday, event or moment. Express the hope of light over darkness. Or use it to highlight injustice. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  24. calmkate says:

    Here are my entries although this first one wont be posted until tonight!

    Please note my fancy new blog name as I paid to have the advertising removed 🙂

  25. Raj lights lamps in all corners of his house with hymns playing in the background.

    He is celebrating Diwali the festival of light that symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance.

    Just then the bell rings, he opens the door to a bunch of kids dressed in spooky costumes and shouting, “Trick or Treat.”

    He smiles, grabs his bucket full of treats and shouts “Treat…Treat!” As if surrendering to their threat in a sweet way!

    Shuts the door, and continues with his prayers of the Hindu festival that comes around the same time as Halloween.

  26. traceyr1984 says:

    Here is my entry, perhaps not very creative now that I am reading the others!

    Traceyathome (In case trying to make it a link doesn’t work.)

  27. […] Prompt: Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge Nov 1 […]

  28. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge November 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any holiday, event or moment. Express the hope of light over darkness. Or use it to highlight injustice. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  29. Annecdotist says:

    Fun as the rodeo has been, it’s good to be back to the old routines! And I’m so glad you’ve got your husband back with you and he’s able to focus on the light in a dark and cruel condition. And I’m amazed at your work ethic, and looking forward to seeing how far you go in untangling miracle of Ducks.
    You know we have this dubious fireworks festival in the UK? I hope you don’t get too many of these from here (I was going to try to Diwali, honestly, but needed too much time to revise my knowledge of the Ramayana). Mine is called
    November the fifth … and the third and the fourth and the sixth too
    Into the light

  30. […] via Flash Fiction Challenge: November 1 « Carrot Ranch Literary Community […]

  31. The Rodeo has been a fun ride, but it is good to be back to the weekly challenge, Charli. Here is this week’s entry.

    Chester learns about Hygge

    Chester stomped into the house after getting his ice shack ready for winter. He said, “What in the blazes are you doing with all these candles everywhere?”

    Ruth took a sip of hot cocoa. “Now that the weather’s turned cold and the days are darker, I’m practicing the Danish art of Hygge.”

    “Hoo-gah? Where’d you get that cockamamie idea? From our loony neighbor, Myrah?”

    “No, I read a book about it. You have to admit. The candles make the house look cozy and inviting.”

    “Inviting? Yes, to a crew of firemen.”

    Ruth smiled. “That might not be so bad.”

  32. It’s nice to be back to the weekly 99 😀 Here is my entry, hopefully under the wire:

  33. […] Charli Mills, Carrot Ranch Literary Community […]

  34. susansleggs says:

    I know I keep asking this, but do you ever sleep? I’m happy there is some good news for Hubs and a specific approach to his days.
    The rodeo was a fun challenge. My last piece is so out of character for me. I’m sorry I didn’t do the TUFF ride, but there is always next year.
    Thanks again for giving us a safe, exciting place to hone our craft. And on to this weeks flash…..

    The Light of My Life

    I sit alone most evenings in my dark high rise apartment looking out at the colorful lights that make the city seem like a welcoming, safe place. Too bad I know most of it isn’t friendly at night even for a man. I have admitted to my co-workers that I do this but I haven’t shared why. It isn’t any of their business. They say it’s a strange habit. I know when my cell sounds a specific tone the whole place will be brightened with the chatter of my daughter while we Face Time. She is my true light.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Susan, I try to be efficient! Ha! It doesn’t always work, but I do get my sleep. Literary art is such a passion for me and in collaboration with all of you, these small bites fill my life in creative ways so that I can endure the long-haul of longer works and life’s challenges. I’d love to have you take on the TUFF challenge next year. I’m going to invite writers to submit to TUFF Monday. More on that soon! Your flash captures that feeling when we have a connection with someone we love who is a true light in the darkness. Well done.

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