June 6: 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.

June 7, 2019

Most of the white beach-washed pebbles are limestone fossils, remnants of a former coral reef. Some are chert with a coating of lime. When I first began hunting rocks on the shores of Lake Superior, I couldn’t tell my limestone from my chert, but with one I learned to recognize glossiness and a microcrystalline structure, and with the other distinct patterns and often a macrocrystaline structure. If I could see crystals like rock sugar, it’s likely a limestone fossil. Yet sometimes — sneaky as metamorphosis can be —  chert can replace the original fossil structure.

A big black tote bag holds all my rocks not yet displayed in window sills or gifted away. The window sills are so nearly mine, I’m taking the chance to clean them. Deep cleaning. Nesting. Rock sorting. I don’t have time to sort rocks, so lively as my days have been, but I find comfort in the process. If my rocks are organized, if I can name them, recognize their details and structures, then everything might yet be okay. I could also go to hell in a big black tote bag, and it will still be okay.

Point is, it’s okay. It’s more than okay. I don’t have to name all the rocks, but I can dream of what I’ll do next with them.

In the span of a week, I spent the night with a ghost, attended and presented at a writing conference out of town, met my next great author mentor, helped my kids  move out of my not-yet house, picked out paint for the walls, got a bed (GOT A BED!), moved from the Rodeo Room to the Happy Trails (named rooms), deep-cleaned kitchen cupboards, swapped out the spice cupboard for the tea cupboard and contemplated how to fill the rest of the pantry, unburied my desk and planned how to live in more space than my previous four foot by two foot corner, spent late nights at the Lake with Cynthia to watch sunsets and listen to cold spring-peeper, talked to my neighbors, talked to my flowers (which confused a neighbor who thought I was telling him to “Grow, baby, grow”), planned curtains with the Hub’s cousin, and buried a grandmother.

Some of these things were more life-altering than others. My neighbors will adjust. Before Sunday, they were my daughter’s neighbors, now they are mine. Now they get to learn I talk to flowers and chipmunks and stare long and hard into the eyes of the stars late at night. It has to be late — I don’t get back from the Lake until dark, and that’s after 11 p.m. My new bed is glorious (do you hear angels singing?), and I’ve been slipping off to sleep earlier than normal. We are adjusting to space. We are preparing to own this space. The Hub leaves a trail of socks and discarded shirts from room to room like he’s marking territory.

Of all these things, the biggest splash came from the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association Writing Conference in Marquette. That’s where I met the ghost and my newest writing heroine. I want to tell you about my teacher, but you’re probably curious about the ghost story and starting to wonder if my new neighbors are right to think I might be a bit off my rocker. So first, the eerie tale.

When I signed up for the writing conference back in November, I didn’t know it would coincide with the weekend my kids would move out, and I was designated Cook to the Movers. Sunday was the official move day, and my conference was all day Saturday, so I canceled my second night and drove home afterward to fix strata and macaroni salad. I drove to Marquette on Friday after Warrior Wives group to attend a dinner for presenters and UPPAA board directors.

A funny thing happens when I get to a hotel — my inner introvert wants to curl up and stay in. But I had a BOGO free card for drinks, a $20 meal credit from the hotel for having signed up for the room during their Spring Fling, and the expectation to show up. Marquette is home to Northern Michigan University, which has a competitive MFA in Creative Writing. This gives the town a strong literary base. From that base, grew UPPAA which welcomes authors of all genres and forms of publication. When they asked for someone to join the marketing panel, I raised my hand.

Let me pause a moment and encourage you to attend regional writing conferences. When I lived in Minneapolis, I attended Loft events, Rain Taxi, and workshops throughout the upper Midwest. When I lived in Idaho, I won a scholarship to attend BinderCon in LA and worked with Montana organizers to bring a satellite BinderCon event to Missoula. Sometimes you have to travel, but the biggest gains are networking and learning the current state of the industry and publication interests. It’s fun, too! Which I told my inner introvert who just wanted to hang out in the room with the purple and lavender wallpaper.

Before dinner, I sat down with ten strangers. After dinner, I parted from new friends. I sat next to a brilliant children’s book author and her seeing eye dog, Floyd. I met a historian who writes about Upper Michigan history, and he told me about his latest discovery — an abandoned quarry where the town was built into the rock like some 1800s Anasazi city. It’s off the grid with no discernable road. I met the incoming UPPA president, one of my co-presenters who publishes regional imprints. Then I met the outgoing president, author of Haunted Marquette. He asked me if I was staying at The Landmark Inn, and I said yes, up on the sixth floor.

“Not the Lilac Room?”

“Uh, yes, the Lilac Room.”

“It’s haunted.”

After a brief chat about the librarian and her lost-at-sea lover, I was warned to check for screws in the bed. Upon retiring to my (haunted) room, I was skeptical. The room was bright and clean and didn’t feel creepy at all. I pulled back the sheets — no screws. Settling into bed, I read and nodded off, waking up to bright lights. I opened my eyes, and it was dark. I flipped on the bedside lamp, feeling a bit uneasy. I chalked it up to the ghost story playing with my mind. But when I turned back off the light and closed my eyes, I could see bright lights. I wondered if I was getting an ocular migraine, a rare occurrence but I’ve had three in my lifetime, and I see bright lights in my periphery. Whatever the phenomenon, it was difficult for me to fall back asleep. So I read and finally drifted off.

In the morning, I thought about my “haunting” and laughed it off as being tired, impressionable, and maybe something weird but explicable with my eyes. On a whim, I tossed back the covers and no screws. No sheet, either. I know there was a  top sheet because I folded back the cover and just used the sheet until I went to bed. I found the sheet at the far corner as if it had been neatly pulled taut all the way down. Not scrunched or kicked down. Pulled. I couldn’t explain it. I turned to coffee, but my Keurig would turn off seconds after I pressed the power button. I gave up, showered, packed, and gratefully left the Lilac Room.

What isn’t in the haunting stories is that the lovelorn librarian hung herself with the sheets in that room.

Okay! Moving on from haunted rooms (don’t let that deter you from going out of town to conferences). On my way out of the hotel, I recognized one of my author, idols. I was surprised because Karen Dionne had been at Finlandia University the week before and I was bummed to have missed her. I try not to idolize authors, but I have great admiration for her breakout novel. I called her by the first name and asked if she was headed to the Peter White Library — turns out she was our keynote speaker. I felt embarrassed that I missed that detail, but thrilled that not only would she be there, but I was walking with her. Karen is lovely and down to earth. And she had just sent off her next novel to her publisher. Like that morning. She rose at 4 a.m. and wrote until 9 a.m.

Good thing she didn’t get the Lilac Room.

I want to share with you, what Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, says of teachers and why I look to my  favorite authors as mentors, whether they know I exist or not:

“Do you want to study under the great teachers? Is that it? Well, you can find them anywhere. They live on the shelves of your library; they live on the walls of museums; they live in recordings made decades ago. Your teachers don’t even need to be alive to educate you masterfully. No living writer has ever taught me more about plotting and characterization than Charles Dickens has taught me—and needless to say, I never met with him during office hours to discuss it. All I had to do in order to learn from Dickens was to spend years privately studying his novels like they were holy scripture, and then to practice like the devil on my own.”~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Karen Dionne shared with us her story and lessons from her journey. To me, she made a big splash when she said, “Have the temperament to take risks.”

And here I sit, at the end of what’s been a long journey to home, surrounded by all the risks I took to keep writing no matter what. And I will keep going. Don’t quit. Adjust, as needed. Learn. Take a deep breath but don’t quit. Bat-crazy stuff will go down in your life. Sorrows will rise, distractions will tempt. But stay the course. Writing is a journey with disappointing and astonishing destinations along the way. It is the act of writing, of shaping yourself into a Writer. Go catch stories, haunted, real, or imaginary. Find mentors. Take risks. Take risks with your writing and write something that scares you — not ghosts, but pushing into that deep place, feeling uncertain about what is rising to the page. Let it rise. Go write.

It’s been a rough few weeks for me emotionally. And it will be a difficult wait until we close. The Hub is having trouble with the transition, and I have to occasionally escape to the Lake to ground so I can return and practice patience when I want to come unhinged, too. No matter what, I still write. And sort rocks.

June 6, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that makes a big splash. It can be fluid, or you can play with the idiom (to make a big splash is to do or say something that becomes unforgettable). Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 11, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.


Lucinda Arrives (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The rumble of a Harley echoed across the valley, crushing the crackle of a nighttime bonfire. Ramona leaned forward on her lawn-chair and asked Michael, “Is that her?”

“Yes, that’d be Lucinda.”

Danni hoped Michael’s tension was excitement. Ever since he visited his aunts last fall, he spoke about the Navajo biologist he met at powwow. Lucinda rode her bike from Red Cliff, Wisconsin to Elmira, Idaho.

Rumbling up Danni’s driveway, the woman dressed in fringed black leather stopped and dismounted. Ramona gaped when Lucinda shook thick black hair from her helmet. “Oh, Michael. She’ll make a big splash.”

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  1. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli, I’m confused about the dates of this challenge. Did you mean the June 3 challenge to be due on June 4 but you posted it on June 7… 🙂 I saw this from my Reader. I’m babysitting my granddaughter… 🙂

    • Jules

      I just took it to mean 6.6 or 6.7 and four days after.
      I think Charli’s got a lot on her plate at the moment 😉

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I thought so, Jules. Thank you for checking. 🙂

      • Jules

        I am only going by what was in my mailbox – it was the only way I could get to the new prompt. Hope everyone else figures it out too 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I hope so, Jules. They may figure it out. ????

      • Norah

        I agree, Jules. Challenge on the 7th, respond by the 11th. 🙂

      • Gloria

        Good to know Jules. Thank you.

    • Norah

      I think it should be June 7 challenge, respond by June 11. When you keep some parts the same in each post and cut and paste, it can be difficult to remember to change all the necessary parts, particularly when there is a lot on your mind. Funny thing is, if I hadn’t read your comment, I wouldn’t have noticed. I know the routine – challenge posted on Friday and responses due by the following Tuesday. I obviously don’t read as thoroughly as you. 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Norah. We all figured out by now in addition to Charli’s note! 🙂

      • Norah

        That’s great, Miriam. I haven’t seen Charli’s note yet! 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        She did it yesterday. ????

      • Norah


    • Charli Mills

      Oh, wow. My head is not where it needs to be! I posted the challenge late and completely botched all the dates. No wonder when I was at the Vet Center yesterday, I could figure out how our open house was next week because I thought Friday was June 4. Thank you for flagging this Miriam. I sorted it out, including corrections on social media.

      CHALLENGE DATE: June 6 (yes, it posted late on June 7)

      Thanks for having my back and understanding my momentary discombobulation! (I hope it’s momentary.)

      • Miriam Hurdle

        No worry, Charli. We figured out your timeline of the challenge and submission date. It happened to me a lot (to some retirees because we don’t have work schedule to keep track of our days and dates. Haha… 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I got upside down in the month of June! Thanks for understanding, Miriam, and for figuring it out.

  2. pensitivity101

    Hi Charli, me too confused, but have gone for it anyway

    They say there is nothing more affectionate than a wet dog.
    Maggie loves the water, and when she was a pup, we’d drive down to the park every day where she could have a swim in the sea.
    She took the groynes as her personal obstacle course, which of course Hubby encouraged.
    She went flying over them with ease, until the last when she did a complete somersault and ended up on her back. I was panic stricken, only to find her splashing around in total bliss as the water was quite deep on the side I couldn’t see.

    • Norah

      I’m glad Maggie was okay. Sounds a bit tense there for a moment.

      • pensitivity101

        She loved it, and climbing log stacks in the forest which were something like 14 feet high and she was only a pup!

      • Norah

        Wow! That’s one brave puppy. 🙂

      • pensitivity101

        There was no stopping her and we encouraged her curiosity though obviously wanted to keep her safe.

    • Charli Mills

      Maggie the super water dog! Fun story, though I caught my breath at her tumble, Di. Well told. Sorry about the confusing dates — that’s about the speed of my brain wheels right now. It’s sorted and corrected up above. Thanks for going for it anyways!

      • pensitivity101

        It wasn’t the only time Charli. At one stage she launched herself off the end of a small jetty and was swimming around having so much fun!

      • Charli Mills

        What a sight to see! I can imagine it, the way you describe Maggie in the flash.

      • pensitivity101

        And the rest! I was terrified!! (Hubby laughing at me didn’t help as he was used to it!)

    • robbiesinspiration

      I would have also been worried, Di.

      • pensitivity101

        She loved it though, and was so confident.

    • Norah

      Interesting reflection on life and use of the word.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you so much, Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your wise words, Reena!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Thinking Charli Mills is my mentor. Your posts and flashes are a weekly wonder. (I wonder at how you keep it all together!) Patience, for just a little while longer… soon…
    Maybe the sock trails in your enormous space is to ensure he doesn’t lose his way. It’s all good.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Unmannerly Speaking

      “Pal, yer goin ta hell in a tote bag.”
      “That’s ‘in a hand basket’ Kid.”
      “Mebbe yer goin ta hell in a box a rocks.”
      “No, Kid, that’s ‘dumber ‘an a box a rocks’. Figger ya’d know that idiom.”
      “Yer callin’ me a idiom?”
      “If ‘n the boot fits.”
      “Well, you kin take a long walk off a short pier, Pal. Make a splash.”
      “Speakin’ a short peers, how ‘bout thet Shorty? Didn’t useta have a ghost of a chance, now she’s chancin’ upon ghosts an’ rubbin elbows with writin’ idols.”
      “An idyllic life!”
      “Yer still an idiom, Kid.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I’m surprised I can have mentor status when I can’t count days! Thanks, I’m holding up the patience end and might consider leading the Hub throughout the space a different way than a trail of socks.

      Them idioms make me laugh every week!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        *Headquartered in a state appendicular
        Way up on the Keweenaw Peninsular
        There’s no need to fret
        Because of the net
        Worldwide, the Ranch is not at all insular.*

        “Knock it off, Kid, limrickin’ gits my Irish up.”
        “Yer Irish, Pal?”
        “No, thet’s an idiom.”
        “Ah, stop with the name callin’ already. Oof, speakin a limb wreckin’, I’m some sore from fallin’ outta the Poet-tree. Was up there spinnin’ tales, then was in a tailspin.”
        “Mebbe ya shoulda hit the ground runnin’, Kid. Or flapped yer arms ‘stead a yer gums; soared ‘stead a sored.”
        “Someday you’ll pay, Pal.”

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha — limb wreckin’! Hope Kid’s okay in that poet tree!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Oops. The limb wrecking follows another yarn down below.

    • Norah

      A story I can see being played out just as it is told. 🙂

      • Ritu


    • Charli Mills

      Ritu, thank you for going with inspiration instead of confusion! I sorted out the dates and hopefully my mindset, too.

      • Ritu

        We are all allowed those moments of confusion, Charli!
        I’m in one now as I try to get back to school mindset after 2 weeks off!

      • Charli Mills

        The brain likes to fly free some days! Good luck, Ritu!

      • Ritu


  4. Jules

    Dear Charli,

    Still thinking all good thoughts your way. Wow. A Ghost! And meeting up with favorite writers. I’m just going with the flow here… I got the prompt in my mailbox and wondered why it’s not in CR side bar… but what do I know?

    Anyway I’m doing some Grand-sitting too, but I managed this mini-mash:
    Feeding Frenzy?

    My brain cannot comprehend where this intermittent Manna comes from.

    The serenity of the opaque surface is broken in what some would call dreamscape.

    Sometimes in little bits, other times too big.

    I care not that I share space with would be siblings.

    Those too afraid to part from schools.

    I will wave my appendages, push through from underneath.

    With all my energy focused on receiving this heavenly gift.

    Though, I am wary of baited hooks, lines, and sinkers.

    I will feed myself, and grow to spawn.

    I will make a splash, not knowing or caring who gets wet.


    Note this piece could go nicely with H2O 1 & 2 Especially H2O 2 especially if you are looking for clarity.

    • Norah

      Good one, Jules. 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I dunno, Jules. There’s something fishy about this flash.

      • Jules

        Hm… I think you could be right 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Jules! Thanks for the good thoughts, and for following the prompt here despite all the hiccups with my posting of it! I think it’s all good, now. Enjoy your grands time!

      There’s a depth to your flash, wisdom of life from a fish.

    • Norah

      That was a splash!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks 🙂

        Glad it wasn’t a crash-and-burn. 🙂

      • Norah


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Another cautionary tale, a flash of cash or splash.

      • floridaborne

        When you’re young, it’s hard to think past the next marguerita. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I hadn’t realized you had been sick and long in recovery, Joelle. I hope all is better. Disruptions can be so disrupting!

  5. H.R.R. Gorman

    The ghost is an incredible story! Sounds like your time at the conference was well spent, in many ways.

    I would be remiss, though, if I had read this passage with the bit about the rocks and didn’t ask if you’d seen that Lucille Ball movie “The Long, Long Trailer.” I was sitting here at my desk, imagining Charli Mills in turquoise boots, hiding her rocks in ovens and other sneaky places throughout the trailer in the movie.

    Anyway, I took the opportunity to use ‘splash’ in a way you’ll find typical of me: gangsters!


    ***With a Splash***

    It would help if they didn’t wiggle so much. But boss says it’s cleaner, quieter this way. I do as boss says.

    I tie the cinder block to the potato sack full of human refuse, then toss the concrete over the bridge. It hangs in midair.

    “No! Don’t do this!” the sack shouts. Damn, he’s undone his gag somehow. I hate it when they do that. Now I have to pick him up and toss him by the legs so he won’t bite me.

    He splashes into the canal. I wait ten minutes to confirm the job is done.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks for watching the links, Jules!

    • Norah

      I’ve seen those splashes in a few movies. 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Dirty work, that. But ya gotta do what the Boss says.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Some days my life is a Lucille Ball movie, H.R.R.! My rocks are all neatly sorted and dusted and the agates in a sherbert glass. No more sneaking. Rocks are out.

      Fun flash, feeling some empathy for the gangster.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thanks! And glad I got you pegged as a Lucy person.

  6. denmaniacs4

    Always wishing you and yours well, Charli. This little ditty was originally destined to be a splish-splash, I was taking a bath knock-off. Somehow, perhaps a Joe Btfsplk moment, I went for something else.

    From a Certain Height

    From a certain height,
    the water below,
    as supple as night,
    a light winter snow,
    from a certain height.

    In full cannonball flight,
    There’s a crueller tinge,
    Blue water, black night,
    As you clasp your fringe
    In full cannonball flight.

    As you plunge the air,
    as dawn turns from night,
    your essence, aware,
    warmed by breaking light
    as you plunge the air.

    There’s no turning back,
    the river awaits,
    blue water cracks;
    your plummeting fate;
    there’s no turning back.

    From a certain depth,
    Day’s night, nights day,
    A curable path
    If you’ve lost your way,
    From a certain depth.

    • Charli Mills

      Your lines make a big splash, Bill. And thanks for looking after my slippage of dates!

  7. Liz H

    Boy, your blog post today crackles with energy, from start to finish, to your Danni installment: natural, supernatural, and ultra supernatural! Glad you have Lady Lake to commune and center with–we all need that kind of spiritual touchstone from time to time.

    A little early to make a splash IN the lake, but if your temps are anything like here in MN, you could kick off your shoes and dangle some tootsies! Proud of all you do,m and grateful for all you share. I needed a lift!

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, I’ve dared to get as deep as my ankles but it makes my teeth hurt it’s so cold, still. I like that reference to a spiritual touchstone. Lady Lake is that. Thank you!

  8. thoughtsnlifeblog

    So much energy it takes to move. But it sounds fantastic too.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s been a long move, too! And yes, a good emergence that will be fantastic.

  9. Liz H

    Ewww…I went creepy with this one. Maybe not a big splash, but a sickening surge? Anyway, it provides background for another tale that’s been lurking about…

    Freedom’s Price

    The Gull cries warning, but Gwyneth is late to work in the Manse’s scullery. She’s agreed to pay off Auntie Shallah’s debts from drink and gambling. Shallah had bet her tailfin; she’s now imprisoned by Pastor Johnson.
    [Continue ]

    • joanne the geek

      I really liked this one. I went for a mermaid story too.

      • Liz H


    • Norah


    • Charli Mills

      Wow, creepy but really deep and impactful, Liz.

    • Norah

      Surprise in the point of view – well done, Joanne.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes the link is missed! And I’m often the one to miss it.

  10. Norah

    What I hear most in your post, is determination and hope, Charli. You have worked so hard and come so far, I do hope your house becomes a reality and that you are not let down again. I want you to have sweet dreams in that bed of yours and enjoy your space. It’s interesting that you are finding different ways of using some of the areas. And naming the rooms is fun. I haven’t thought to give our rooms names like that. I like the thought of Todd ‘marking his territory’ with socks and clothing. Perhaps we can be more tolerant of behaviours if we apply an acceptable reason to them. (Thinking of children who leave stuff everywhere.)
    You are so lucky to have found such a good friend in Cynthia and she in you.
    The conference sounds wonderful with lots of networking and lessons for all. You mention your mentor. You are mentor to many, Charli, and I think there are going to be many happy writers meeting their mentor at your writing refuge. I hope there are no ghosts in D.’s cabin. I could do without those. Though I have promised to be there in spirit. 🙂
    I enjoyed your flash and look forward to learning more about Lucinda, her relationship with Michael, and the splash she’ll make. I wonder if she and Danni will become friends.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Butting in:
      Nope, no haunts in the cabin, though there are strong spirits around.
      Regarding Charli’s flash: Of interest is Danni’s concern for Michael. What will also be interesting is Ramona and how she gets on with Michael and now Lucinda. This story is growing and deepening.
      Of course this Suzuki rider is just glad that Lucinda’s Harley didn’t break down on the way.

      • Norah

        Thanks for butting in to assure me that there are no ghosts in the cabin.
        I agree with you about Danni’s concern for Michael. This story is definitely growing,
        I hope your Suzuki takes you wherever and whenever you wish it to. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I thought of you on that bike. When it’s published, be sure to claim your acknowledgement for technical assistance.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my story: News Splash https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1oL

      News Splash

      It was splashed all over the front page. There was no hiding it now. Mum and Dad wouldn’t be pleased. They’d cautioned her to be careful. Time. After. Time. And she was. She thought she could handle it. She didn’t need them watching over her every move. She had to be independent sometime. But this front-page catastrophe would be a setback. How could she minimise the damage?

      When they came in, Jess faced them bravely.

      They looked from her to the paper and back. Jess’s lip quivered. “Sorry.”

      “Those headlines look somewhat juicy,” smirked Dad. “More juice?”

      Jess nodded.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Aargh, what’s she done? I’m popping over to see if there are any clues in the post!

      • Norah

        I’m hoping there’s a clue in the illustration, but I’m thinking it’s maybe too obscure. I don’t seem to be able to do it justice in 99 words. Perhaps I’ll have to ask Charli for an extension. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        There was a strong clue, but I missed it!
        Loved your story when you pointed it out so couldn’t resist playing around with/ plagiarising it:

        News Splash

        It was splashed all over the front page. No hiding it. Mum and Dad would be furious. They’d cautioned her to be careful. Time. After. Time. And she was. She thought she could handle it. She didn’t need them watching her every move. She liked being independent. But would they trust her after this?
        When they came in, Jess faced them bravely.
        They looked from her to the paper and back again. Jess’s lip quivered. “Sorry.”
        “Those headlines look juicy,” smirked Dad. “Looks like you need a refill.”
        He picked up the jug. Jess passed him her empty glass.

      • Norah

        Perfect, Anne. Thank you. It takes a skilled writer. 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        This just in: Norah writes the Wrath of Grapes.

      • Norah


      • Charli Mills

        Norah, I once spilled a glass of wine on my son’s homework. I had to write a juicy note of apology to his teacher lest she thought my son was hitting the juice! I like how Anne came along and played with your flash. Makes me think it would be fun to do partner stories.

      • Norah

        That’s funny about spilling your wine on your son’s homework, Charli. I’m sure homework has sent a few parents to drink. Maybe the kids too. ????
        I love what Anne did with my flash. Shows how I can tighten the writing considerably. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I need to change ‘jug’ to carton as you mentioned in one of your comments. There’s often spillage from them in my house, and there are no 3-year-olds!

      • Norah

        I was actually thinking of carton, Anne, but I think jug works better as it’s probably heavier and more awkward to hold.
        I’ll have to tell you again how much I appreciate the work you did on my story. I have put both versions side by side and compared them and it’s very helpful. I can learn lots from it. I’ve shared your version (I hope you don’t mind) a couple of times in comments on my post.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, I hope your spirit haunts the heck out of D.’s cabin in Vermont! Good to know from D. that it will otherwise be haunt-free. Back in 2014, my editor suggested Michael have a love-interest. I wrote him one who felt flat. I never really caught a sense of who she was. Last year I met a real woman who I thought would be the perfect love-interest from my character! I’ve kept her in mind and she morphed into Lucinda on a Harley. We’ll see what Ramona thinks. Meantime, the rooms imagine their future iterations. Socks and flowers, we are settling.

      • Norah

        I love what Anne did to my story and really appreciate that she took the time to tweak it. It helps me learn and to see where I could have done better. It is very useful feedback and I think we could all do with that sort of assistance at times. While it’s always nice to be told we’ve done well etc, it’s feedback like Anne’s that makes for growth. Perhaps some partnership or mentoring writing would be useful. I know I could do with help most of the time. 🙂
        I’m pleased Michael has a love interest. Maybe he’ll be less focussed on Danni’s shortcomings (in his opinion). Lucinda seems like a perfect fit, but Ramona will know. She’ll see to the core.
        I’m counting down the days – almost one-handedly now. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Well I’m relieved you found it useful, as it could also be perceived as meddling in something that was already good enough. I do enjoy editing, although rarely with other people’s stuff! It was because I really liked your story that I felt compelled to interfere.

  11. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    You are a wonderful inspiration:
    In your post today, and the FF & comments I was particularly struck by the examples of the senses –touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste.

    I thought of the sounds of splashing water.
    And that brought to mind Helen Keller, and her inspiring quote:
    ” The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

    My FF is about someone who is deaf — cannot hear the sound of splashing water or twittering birds or falling rain…

    Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes, Helen Keller understood the deepest feels. Thank you, Saifun. Your flash is powerfully moving, and a nod to Helen Keller’s attitude.

    • Liz H

      Oh! I’ve had that same discussion, with my son!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for the energy, Ruchira!

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    A continuing story continued here, 99 words at a time.


    Dad looked surprised when I said I’d be bringing a friend home after school, but didn’t ask any questions, just grunted and nodded. Permission granted. Same as when I’d tell him I was going to Jimmy’s, or Jimmy’d be sleeping over. Or me and Jimmy’d be up at the quarries.

    Dad looked even more surprised when he met Jamie, this sparkling green-eyed girl in her bright mismatched clothes. Jimmy had always been a light in our gray lives, a flash of lightning, a comet, but Jamie was a splash of colors rich and deep, new to both of us.

    • Charli Mills

      So much to wonder about, the lives of all these characters. You are one haunted writer, D. Avery!

      • Charli Mills

        Exorcizing = writing!

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Splash Down

    “Hey Shorty. Kid’s up in the Poet-tree agin. Says it flows up there, kin git words down easily.”
    “Jist hope Kid also gits down easily. Really pursuin’ that buckaroo-ku, huh?”
    “Yep, seems like. Kid’s real het up on doin’ some writin’ lately. Wants ta make a splash.”
    “Hey you two, I kin hear ya. Hang on, I’m climbin’ down with what I writ. Whoa, oh, ohhh! Oooh. Ow.”
    “Kid, ya made more of a splat. But don’t give up.”

    *ripples on the pond
    lead away from the tossed stone’s
    unwavering path
    lilies nod at the passing splash
    silently echoing*

    • Charli Mills

      Kid’s making a splat in the buckaroo ku world! Hope it don’t hurt too much.

      • Charli Mills

        It lessens the pain, teaches us to carry on. Kid’s got it.

  14. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    You’re juggling a lot, Charli, but good that you met your mentor. Although I doubt she’d be mine: I definitely don’t have the temperament for taking risks but I do have the temperament for the hard slog that serves me almost as well.
    I don’t know what to make of your ghost but glad you only had to stay one night. And Lucinda from your flash sounds fun.
    Mine is about a couple counselling along with a couple of novel reviews:

    • Charli Mills

      Successful writers don’t get to shortcut the slog, Anne. I’d say you do take risks in your writing, considering the topics you take on and the characters you create, especially in Underneath. I think that’s the kind of risk Karen meant — writing beyond the safe and easy stories to tell. But yes, I understand you won’t be base-jumping to capture an experience to write about! 😀

      Hmm, I’m not sure what to make of my ghost, either. But it makes a good ghost story! And I think Lucida will add some flare and tension. Michael’s former girlfriend (as in a different character I wrote too flat) was a mere ghost. Lucinda has substance.

      Thanks for your 99 words!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Maybe, my writing has been described as ‘brave’, but doesn’t feel a risk when ‘safe and easy’ makes me queasy.

        Re your ghost, I was thinking about the time I went slightly psychotic in a hotel where I wasn’t feeling comfortable. Our minds can take us to strange places when we’re under pressure: a reason to avoid the wrong kind of risks!

  15. susansleggs

    Charli, Your schedule makes me want to be your age again and accomplish everything at once. Your conference and meeting your mentor sound delightful. I would have loved to meet the ghost. You didn’t elaborate on the grandmother burial. I’m sorry for whomever. I hope hubs settles in to the house quickly and he will do well when you are away being your Ranch- hands mentor.
    I’m back to dialogue for the flash. That’s where I’m most at home.

    The Dirty Apron

    My adult son came up beside me and dipped a spoon into the spaghetti sauce I was stirring. “Be careful, the boiling bubbles can pop and splash.”
    “I know Mom. I learned that when I was about seven.” He looked at the front of my apron. “Don’t you think you should wash that thing?”
    “No.” I pointed to different splashes. “This is gravy from Thanksgiving. This is fudge from Christmas and this is the last time I made sauce.”
    “It needs a bath.”
    My grandson hugged my legs. “No Daddy, it won’t smell like Grandma if she washes it.”

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      From the mouths of babes, true words are spoken.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Ann. Looking forward to spending time with you and the other Ranchers in Vermont.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Counting the days, Susan. It will be a great time.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I think my schedule is besting me if my mixed up prompt dates were any indication! But we are settling, even the Hub. He has been grilling every night and unwinding more and more. I look forward to Vermont and campfire stories.

      You use dialog effectively and what a sweet story. Grandma’s apron will be remembered along with all her best meals.

      • susansleggs

        I don’t have a lot of experience with campfire stories. It will be an education.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Definately to make a big splash, Robbie.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie!

    • susansleggs

      Excellent visual….

    • Charli Mills

      So glad you enjoy it, Violet! Thanks!

  16. Violet Lentz

    I just noticed I had edited the prompt word out of my write, so I had to go back in and fix that. The copy I sent you is incorrect. Shall I reenter the corrected version?

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, Violet — reenter your corrected version. I use the second submission if I see repeats. That seems to work better than me trying to remember to make a change! Thanks! 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Hmm. Then maybe I’ll enter the yarns? Or reenter. Because I have no idea if I did or didn’t run them through the catcher yet.

      • Charli Mills

        Don’t make me go huntin’ Kid in the Poet Tree! 😀

  17. Ann Edall-Robson

    Gone in a Splash
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Above the falls, she found what she had heard over the thunderous sound of water hitting water at the bottom of the rocks. A calf straddled over a rock, its Momma bawling on the other side.

    Leaving her horse at the water’s edge, Hanna figured if the cow had crossed, she would be all right on foot.

    Hanna reached out to the calf at the same time a rope settled over its head. The surprise of help made her turn to look. Losing her balance she went under in a splash, the current carrying her towards the deadly falls.


    • susansleggs

      That roper best save her……

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        We shall have to wait and see where the next prompt takes them.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        That it is, D. That it is.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?!

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Everything depends on our next prompt from Charli.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Well, tomorrow is Christmas, a new prompt for all the ranch hands. Yeehaw!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no! Hanna! This is a lot of pressure…what next…!

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Hard to say what will happen next. Will Hanna be okay? Hmmm, maybe . . . maybe not.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Nicole!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Miriam!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Charli!

  18. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Charli, I’ve got my days mixed up too…thinking today is Tuesday but it’s Wednesday and hope I’m not to late, sorry! Great to be back at the Ranch, how I miss it here. I was amazed by your ghost story and am inspired by your urging to take risks, keep writing and don’t quit. The you-know-what keeps hitting the fan and not quit, so I thought, well, I’ll match it, throw some back and not quit either. So happy for your new bed and good sleep, but this is such an emotional time for you, Charli…hang in there, it’s almost time… <3 My entry is a bit of memoir…flash is a great editor!

    Burning Rubber

    I heard him before I met him. The throaty rumble of a V8 engine streets away came into view in a blue Dodge Charger with Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ thudding from his eight track. He gunned past me where I waited with my boyfriend for this, his old high school buddy. Smoke screeched from his tyres as he skidded to a turn and brought the Dodge to a stop one inch from my feet on the sidewalk. A guy built like a truck with long, black hair got out. ‘Hi,’ he grinned, ‘thought you’d like Black Sabbath, being a Limey.’

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…and that was one cool car, let me tell you! Thanks, D!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sherri Jane! Always good to see you at the Ranch. I know you’ve been working diligently on your memoir, and deserve a break to play. Dates are all up in the air this week! It’s all good. Your flash is a flashback! Great details — I can feel the vibe of this guy.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…a flash flashback, love it! Loved your flash vibe too…what is it with the rumble of engines and black hair? No matter the date mix ups…I’m just so thrilled to be back in the saddle (car or bike) after waaaay too long! Thanks so much, Huckleberry! <3

  19. Jennie

    I love your stories. I love your writing. Love!

  20. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  23. Charli Mills

    Thank, TN!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Susan!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Hugh!


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