August 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

August 29, 2019

Grab your notebook and walking stick, a light coat, and maybe a hat. It’s cold enough to turn a few maple leaves into fire paintings. We’re going for a walk.

Feel the brisk air? Inhale deeply and watch your breath frost on the exhale. I wasn’t kidding about the cold. I know, it’s dark so let your eyes adjust a moment. See my tomato plants in the shadows of night? It won’t frost yet. They’ll be okay. If you can strain your eyes, that’s a potted eggplant. No flower, no fruit. Ah, well. It was worth a try. See over there to the right of the tomatoes? Yes, I know it’s dark, but see how the light-colored leaves illuminate? Those are all Brussel sprouts. Six of them and they will continue to grow until frost. After that, they will sweeten on the stalk.

Carefully take the stairs, and we’ll gather beneath the street lamp. Look back at my home (MY HOME!) and see how the light in the back windows glows. It makes me sigh in satisfaction. A heavy sigh frosts my breath again! Notice the color of the lamplight is pinker than the warm yellow tones emanating from inside my house. Just an observation. Smell that? Crisp fall air smells sharp and clean. It clears the sinuses the way champagne cleanses the palate. Did you catch the whiff of smoke? Someone has lit a fire against the chill.

This narrow street we are standing in is named Jensen. It’s a one-way alley. See Mrs. H’s house over my shoulder? She’s on the corner of Roberts and Ethel. Next door on the corner of Ethel and Jensen is her granddaughter’s house. Their back yard is a run-on sentence to ours. We really don’t know the property lines. That bank of lilacs might be mine, or they might belong to Mrs. H. Their snow gets shoved into our yard each winter. But I’m jumping ahead.

If you count those two houses and the ones across the alleyway down to where Jensen curves back up to intersect Roberts, we total six houses. There’s only one other house on the other side of my next-door neighbor. That makes eight, ours makes nine. Let’s walk to the corner. The alleyway slopes downhill slightly then rises again to meet Roberts Street. That open space fills with snow removal in winter.

If you go past the last house, there’s a hillside where we all dump our maple leaves after they drop. That house on the corner is for sale. Bet the new owners will be surprised to see the neighborhood crossing their yard with a parade of leaves this fall. Okay. We are at the corner. If we turn left, we’d have to cross the snowmobile trail. It’s great for walking the dogs in summer. If you walk up the long hill, you’ll pass the county fairgrounds where the city of Hancock stores all its removed snow. It’s like glacial melt in the spring.

Further, are the Maasto Hiihto Trails. I know, it looks like a misspelling, but double vowels are typical in the Finnish language, and you’ll find that our area is imbued with Finn culture. The Laurn Grove Park is only a block up the snowmobile trail. It has an ice hockey rink and play area for kids. If I had young children, they’d play there, making sport of cutting paths through the small copse of woods on the other side of the trail.

The park is named for two boys who grew up in the scattering of neighborhoods like ours on this hillside. Both died in WWII on different ships in the Pacific. Past the park is the house where the Koski boys grew up a generation later. They both served in Vietnam, and their wives are good friends of mine.

The opposite way down the snowmobile trail is the Finlandia football field. I heard them practicing well after dark tonight. The Hancock high school squad practices there, too, and I know the parents of one of the boys. His dad served in Iraq, and his mom works fulltime at Michigan Tech. She takes care of him. He has back injuries, TBI and PTSD almost to the point of agoraphobia. But he watches his son play.

War has left its mark on my small neighborhood. My husband is a veteran of Grenada and deployments to Central America. My next-door neighbor was in the Army. Not sure if he’s a combat veteran, but he can seem intimidating. I talk garden matters with him, and that softens him.

Let’s walk back to the house from Roberts Street and add to our count the neighbors on the opposite side. Fourteen. That’s our block. A good baker’s dozen of us. A friendly bunch. Dog walkers and bird watchers. A few general landscapers, just two of us gardening, but everyone mows their lawns or hires Mrs. H’s great-grandson.

Come on inside. I don’t know about you, but my hands are cold! The tip of my nose, too. It was quiet tonight. Last week, when the fair was in town, traffic got loud up and down Ethel. Sometimes we can hear noisy bikes or trucks blasting down Quincy Hill. Otherwise, it’s a quiet place for town-living. I’m going to link a map for you, and you can zoom in to see 1112 Roberts Street or zoom out to where I live in proximity to Lake Superior.

What a glorious tool, Google Maps! You can also click on places like Maasto Hiihto Trail or Franklin Mine or McLain State Park and look at streets and satellite views and click on photos. You can measure distances and see the terrain. Maps used to show space on a grid. Now they can be more interactive. The purpose of our walk tonight was to introduce you to something I just learned and feel excited about — deep mapping.

Consider the difference between space and place. Space spreads out on a map and can be measured in longitude, latitude, and altitude. Place is what we make of space, the meaning we attribute to it. To deep map a place, we start with observation. We took a walk. According to Linda Lappin, author of a book I’m reading for my MFA called The Soul of a Place, “A deep map, then, is a sample swatch of the multiple manifestations of the genius loci [the spirit of a place].” The term comes from PrairyErth: A Deep Map by William Least Heat-Moon and shows the stratification of a geographical spot.

Walking the spot is the first step to deep mapping. This is exploration. Next is a gathering of details — how does the light of day, the cold of winter change the place. Lappin advises authors to learn the names of plants and birds and streets. This act transforms a writer into a camera, a recorder, a scientist before artist. As artist, deep mapping then calls the writer to respond to all discoveries, to learn and observe. Push deeper and research the place names and local history. Think about how your personal story intersects with all this information about a single place. Finally, a deep mapper must organize all this material into blocks, miles, and themes.

Lappin writes that she gathers superstitions, plant lore and recipes to add local color. All this true-to-life background informs the details upon which she traces out the plot of the story. She shows that deep mapping crosses all genres and can include interiors as well as exteriors. I find it fascinating because I’ve intuitively deep mapped places I write about not realizing there’s an entire process to this kind of work. Film-makers, visual, and performing artists also use the tool.

And as a writer of 99-word stories, I often use that literary artform to catch my mapping impressions, which makes me even more excited about the process. If you give deep mapping a try or find, like me, you already do some of it, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

While reading The Soul of Place, Lappin shared a list of street names she collected in Italy. One translated to Girl Thief Road. This jogged my memory of a Mean Mary song:

The banker’s boy, the boss’s son
They’re hoarding all the treasures their daddy’s won
And they think the vault is safe but she’s smarter than they thought her
They always underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter

You can listen to the full song here: The Safebreaker’s Daughter. One of the techniques for deep mapping can be music. I like songs that hint at a story, ones I can apply to a place. Mean Mary never reveals “the story” in her song, and that’s why it always niggles at me. How did they underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter? And, who was the safebreaker? Did he have a legitimate job, or was he a thief? What if I plopped these characters from a song onto my street? Deep mapping can be fun, and there are endless ways you can use it to spark your own writing.

August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 3, 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.


Thelma on Roberts Street by Charli Mills

The light overlooking Roberts Street flickered and faded. Thelma smiled and accepted the omen – all that glows holds no permanence. Probably the gales blew out a transformer nearby. Wind gusted through the maple trees, scattering small flocks of leaves to the ground. Summer was over. The tourists went home; the college students returned. The latest batch of football players for Finlandia made a good excuse for her to walk this path. Just another smitten female sauntering home late. Who would think she was casing the football coach’s house? She had ten minutes to prove she was the safebreaker’s daughter.

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  1. Becky Ross Michael

    So interesting to find out this name “deep mapping!” (Also wonderful to be in the UP again, walking around:) I think I’m probably doing this in a story I’m currently writing and will compare your post to what I have so far. Thanks, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Isn’t it? I was all over the idea as I read, naturally deep mapping, and learning some new ways to add to it. It’s great to expand our vocabulary, to discover words for what we do. Thanks for taking a walk with me, Becky!

  2. Jim Borden

    hmmm…. interesting prompt!

    • Charli Mills

      Maybe she is studying accounting…! 😉

      • Jim Borden

        If that’s the case, I can see why she would pursue safebreaking instead!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s funny, Jim!

    • Charli Mills

      Look at you go, Susan! Breaking the code like a pro!

      • Susan Zutautas

        Charli, Just stopped in to say “howdy”. Sorry for my absence but I’ve been spending a lot of time daily at the hospital with my MIL. She had a fall last Thursday and broke her hip. (Same side as the knee replacement) Guess I’ll be taking care of her again for a few months. Anyways I’m going to try my damndest to get back here and read everyone’s flash.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, no, Susan! I’m so sorry to hear about her fall. I know she’s in good hands with you, but it’s also a huge strain to be a caregiver. I hope this doesn’t make her afraid of mobility. Does she have physical therapists to work with? Do you best, write and read as it gives you joy but no obligations! Hugs! <3

  3. Liz H

    You are definitely feeling inspired by your new start MFA, if this post is any indication!
    “Their back yard is a run-on sentence to ours. We really don’t know the property lines.” Can I say HOW MUCH I love this these two sentences, together? Speaks so much of place and neighborhood culture. Wow!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m as on fire as a turning maple leaf, Liz! Honestly, I don’t know if I would have had this same appreciation for an MFA 20 years ago as I do now. Plus I feel like its 100 percent play. This is what I love and it took me years and many other experiences to pare down to exactly what I want to write and though it has no genre per se, it is place and people set in the maps I know or discover. Thanks for riding along! I hope this infuses us all.

  4. denmaniacs4

    Another powerful post, Charli. Rich, detailed, well-mapped. And the overlay of wars past, and some still present. I loved the song, it was new to me, and initially sought to capture its mood in my own 99 word lyric but found a different path. May still try to sing my own little song.

    Time Change

    “His torch dimmed?”

    “It did. Comes to us all. Even him.”

    “It’s good you could be there. How was it for you?”

    “Comforting. Oddly comforting.”

    “Did you talk?”

    “It was hard for him. I held his hand. Then I remembered something he told me as a child. He always had that wall safe. One day, I was, maybe seven, I asked, ‘what do you keep in there?’

    He said. ‘Nothing but time!’

    I didn’t understand.

    He could see that.

    There, as he lay dying, I joked, ‘what’s in your safe, now?’

    He smiled, and said, ‘It’s your time, now.’

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, you definitely grabbed the mood but did something new and unexpected with the time change. Well done.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Woah, Love this one!

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    I have always loved maps. And geography in general and some certain places in particular. Loved this idea of deep mapping. In some ways it’s maybe just another way of “show, don’t tell” with respect to setting. But this is more. Your definition of space I noted (math teacher, you know) was three dimensional. But the definition of place, ‘the meaning we attribute’ to our spaces, well, that’s quite another dimension. Good stuff, Ms. Mills, good stuff. Sure am enjoying the sharing. Thanks for that.

    • Charli Mills

      This whole deep mapping concept makes me love mapping and scrapbooking and walking and all the detail collecting. It’s as if one could gather so much detail, the intersections tell their own stories. Glad this resonated with you. Ha! Thanks for expanding my horizon, Teach!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yeah, thank you. That Lappin book is in my kindle. TBR.

      • Charli Mills

        I have a crazy notion to use the Lappin exercises every day in November to create a NaNoWriMo Place Setting for my WIP.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        A Place Setting would be the perfect housewarming gift. Go for it.

  6. Doug Jacquier

    The full lyrics, in case that helps with inspiration.

    In a dream I had, all the rich were kind

    And business not so bad, and justice not so blind

    And no we needed more ‘cause you reaped just what you sowed

    No one knockin’ at your door sayin’ you owed more than you owed


    The banker’s boy, the boss’s son

    They’re hoarding all the treasures their daddy’s won

    And they think the vault won’t break come hell or high water

    They always underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter

    They always underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter


    They took the land away from the farmer’s daughter

    And they took away the clay from the son of the potter

    And with no drop of shame in their wheelin’ dealin’ eyes

    So when the morning came all she left them were their lies


    They took the rights away from the children of the free

    They said that gold today is worth more than liberty

    They didn’t think she’d find the stash they were stock pilin’

    But she found the safe behind a picture of them smilin’


    The banker’s boy, the boss’s son

    They’re hoarding all the treasures their daddy’s won

    And they think the vault is safe but she’s smarter than they thought her

    They always underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter



    She don’t keep a dime and no bribe has ever bought her

    She remembers all the things her daddy taught her

    And you can’t lock her out, or put the chains about her

    She won’t be denied, the safebreaker’s daughter

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for getting into the full song and sharing the lyrics, Doug!

    • the dark netizen

      I love this song even more now! 😀
      Thanks, Doug! 🙂

  7. Doug Jacquier

    Her Dad was a legend amongst the other surfers at Bell’s Beach, which was in itself a legend in world surfing. His legendary status was nothing to do with his reckless but skillful derring-do but was based on the exact opposite; his unwillingness to take a risk. He was always looking for the safe breaker.
    So when his daughter came along, grew up and had kids of her own, his words would ring in her ears as she swam towards the reef, beating down the desire to catch the biggest wave she could. She was indeed the safebreaker’s daughter.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! Very punny. No, very literal. I hope she breaks away and catches a wave.

    • Charli Mills

      A breakout flash, Doug! I appreciate both your wordplay and the characters you brought to life. Thanks!

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    She had hung out in the shop her whole life, had always lived and dreamed bikes.
    Be practical, her father had said. The bike shop could only support one of them; her brother would take over the business. He and her mother had always dreamed she would go to college.
    And here she was, strolling another campus, her bike tools always in her bag. She favored the bolt cutters and the hack saw.
    Her father’s practical advice to his customers, “Invest in a good lock when you invest in a good bike.”
    No lock was too good for her.

    • Charli Mills

      She found a way to break the mold and have the bike dream her family denied her. Playing it safe doesn’t satisfy. Interesting take on the prompt and a great mashup, D.!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thanks, Boss. I think I like the second draft, the mashup better. This was the quick draw raw version. You know… like a carrot.

      • denmaniacs4

        And there is almost nothing as crunchy good as a raw carrot…

      • Charli Mills

        I think you just coined a new Ranch term: Quick Draw Raw.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        My dearest Perfesser Mills;
        While the term just fell from my pen, I am always pleased to add to the Carrot Ranch lexicon and would not be surprised if “quick draw raw” shows up sometime somewhere. Perhaps at Rodeo time. But what exactly is its definition? Isn’t quick draw raw (QDR) simply the first phase of your TUFF challenge? Or any challenge? That initial response, from the hip, point and shoot. Wing the story, track it and careful aim later.
        (Oof, is this offensive, is it an American ugliness or maybe just local color, these gunslinging idioms? Please reassure your readers that Carrot Ranch is a safe place and while many take risks here with their writing, no one gets hurt)

      • Charli Mills

        Any time something falls from your pen, you know how I am, eyes scanning the ground for lost items, rocks, and stories. Yes — QDR is exactly how to begin TUFF. If a writer is feeling sluggish, adding a constraint of time, such as five minutes to pen 99 words, is also an example of QDR. The ideas are there, and you drop cool names! And I hope our modern home-grown terrorism does not fully eradicate our American frontier heritage. For now, it fits the western ranch trope without offense.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, nightlake!

  9. pensitivity101

    I didn’t quite know where to go with this, but here’s my effort

    The letter arrived along with the usual bills and flyers.
    Type written, she opened it and sat down quickly.
    She wanted to know how they found out. She was the vicar’s wife, right?
    A pillar of society and liked by most, she thought she had escaped her tarnished past.
    Now she’d received this open threat to expose her to her husband as a fraud due to her father’s criminal activities unless she paid £1,000 for the writer’s silence.
    She took the letter into her husband’s office and anxiously showed him.
    ‘Don’t worry,’ he said calmly, as he knew everything anyway.

    • nightlake

      This is a very good attempt.

      • pensitivity101

        thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      Di, maybe you didn’t know where to go but I like where you went! It seems like a story of trust.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. Being married to the vicar meant no secrets.

      • Charli Mills

        It would be the right way, but secrets in fiction add tension.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Doug Jacquier

      Beautifully set up punchline. Love it!

      • Ritu

        Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Lovely twist, Ritu!

      • Ritu


    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Leanne!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Good point, TN! The Safebreaker’s Daughter just might not be like her parent.

  10. H.R.R. Gorman

    Wonderful post, filled with beautiful mentions of the coming fall. I got to experience summer early, and I’m hoping I can eke another month out of it, for my own sake!

    Anyway, I wrote a little story, and I hope it’s enjoyable. May not be creative, but… that’s the way the cookies crumble sometimes!

    • susansleggs

      Very creative H.R.R. My safebreakers’s daughter also breaks the chain. We think alike.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thank you! I’ll check yours out when I see it pop up on my email!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for walking the neighborhood with me. We have shifted to temperature highs in the 60s now, maybe a high of 71 mid-week, but cloudy. Eke out another month if you can! I’m still harvesting tomatoes and if my cucumber plant holds out, I’ll yet have a bumper crop.

      Good for you to follow where the prompt leads. Sometimes our cookie crumbs surprise us.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you up to some devious fun, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

  11. Chelsea Owens

    What a cute area. I can’t help but wonder what it’s like there in winter, when the Google car couldn’t have driven up and down all those little roads.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I’d like to see the Google car try, kind of like a Google challenge! It’s tempting to come here to experience a Keweenaw snowstorm, but then, you might not get to leave.

      • Chelsea Owens

        I suspected as much!

  12. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,
    What a terrific blog — loaded with ideas for writing, and for reading!

    Deep mapping reminded me of the sci fi/horror/historical fiction novels that I read. Creating that imaginary place — influenced in one way or another by the author’s observations of today, their place, their reality.

    Linda Lapin’s (TBR list) inclusion of superstitions reminded me of “Jekyll and Hyde” , “Frankenstein” and how those stories have lead to so many variations.

    Imagine the Safebreaker’s Daughter opening Victor Frankenstein’s safe and finding his notes on creating Frankenstein. Would she “create” a partner?
    That made me think of Bonnie and Clyde.

    I think it was in the Old World Charm blog that D. had a FF of Pete Le’gume and The Totem Pole — would be a great way to capture Carrot Ranch Souls and Places!


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Pepe is just looking for an artist. We can start with a sketch of the pole. Carve it out of carrots and run it through a 3-d printer. Anyone out there got the skill set?

    • Charli Mills

      Saifun, thanks for linking the deep mapping idea to speculative fiction, too, including classics. What fun to deep map new worlds, using the details from our own backyards or neighborhoods. Great imaginative thinking — what would the Safebreaker’s Daughter do with notes from Victor Frankenstein’s safe? Bonnie and Clyde were made out to be monsters. Were they, perhaps, misunderstood? Some historical counts point to Clyde’s abuse in prison as the making of his thirst for revenge.

      I looked up patterns for 3D printers and it is possible I might talk my SIL into a winter project with his 3D printer. We’ll have to find an artist to sketch some characters!

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Poet-Tree Place

    “Ever’thin’ ok up there, Kid?”
    “Jist thinkin’, Pal. Thinkin’ on how ya said ya ain’t from anywheres but right here at the Ranch. Thinkin’ I cain’t figger if yer a part a this place, or if this place is a part a you.”
    “I reckon places beget the folks thet live in ‘em. Mold’em. Shape ‘em.”
    “Do places tell stories or is it the people?”
    “Reckon it’s both, Kid. But folks has ta work harder at listenin’. Git thet figgered out, places jist hum with stories.”
    “And buckaroo-ku:

    *Earth hums Her stories
    immeasurable songlines
    pulse through time and space*”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Eh; don’t give up yer day job Kid. Come down outta thet tree and git ta yer chores.”
      “Okay, Pal.”
      “Careful now, be safe. Break ‘er branches on thet tree an’ Shorty’ll be upset. Yer climbin’s gittin’ better. Who taught ya?”
      “Jist practice. Who taught you ‘bout ranchin’ Pal?”
      “Reckon if a character gits made up fer a ranch thet character knows ranchin’. Who taught ya ta buckaroo-ku?”
      “Learnin’ as I go. Jist tryin’ to find my way, mappin’ the wide open spaces of the ranch with words.”
      “Reckon words make space a place.”
      “Yep. 99 at a time.”

      • Charli Mills

        Making space a place 99 words at a time! Deep philosophical thoughts from our ranch characters this week. They might be evolving. Have a good week of catching the hum!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Come on, Boss. Underneath their shift they’ve always been deep. And sneaky about meeting the prompt. (did ya catch it?) And now they are thinking of meeting up with an Irish rancher; Phil. Phil O’Sofiklee.

      • Charli Mills

        And safety is a priority with this crew…not often breaking suit to ride too dangerously. 😉

  14. susansleggs

    I thoroughly enjoyed your walk through town with all the deep details. Thank you for sharing your FMA class. I used it to observe our evening out tonight and will try to emulate it as I blog our drive along Rt. 66 in the US for the next month. I may not be able to keep up at Ranch but you will be in my thoughts. On to the prompt……

    She Learned What Not To Do

    The business man built the mansions, the banker financed them and when the safebreaker was notified, he robbed them. The three men didn’t care about laws, nor who they hurt. Years went by. The builder’s and banker’s sons took over for their fathers. Having not been taught a work ethic, nor adequate skills, the son’s faltered. They were at constant odds with the safebreaker’s daughter who had decided it was up to her to break the ill-gotten chain of control. The young men never recognized their own foibles and blamed their troubles on THAT woman. She hadn’t underestimated herself.

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, I hope deep mapping is a part of your drive. It will enrich your Route 66 Tour. If you get to Gallup, wave for me! Enjoy your time together on the road.

      Wow, great flash with a meaningful punch. Love that last line and its twist — she hadn’t underestimated herself!

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Charli, I hope you have time to read my blog. My daughter is loving it. And we will be in Gallup, in a couple of weeks.

      • Charli Mills

        I went and bookmarked your blog, Sue so I can follow along. Ever since I got the new Macaroo, I get bumped out of the WP reader. Yours is one of those sites, that every time I go to it I “follow” and then next time I have to “follow” again. It’s made following along with WP difficult so I’m trying to bookmark blogs instead. Ah, technology! Get your kicks! 😀

  15. Norah

    I loved taking a tour with you around your place in space, Charli, as you deep-mapped it. It sounds amazing, and so different from here where the seasons barely change from one to the other. Our wattle that is now in full bloom is one indication that spring has sprung. The Indigenous peoples of our land, who have watched the changes for millennia, are more in tune with the subtle changes and their significance than we of Western origin. I wish I was more observant of them. It takes knowledge to observe. Just as you were told to name the plants and animals in your place, we need to label the changes to really notice them.
    I loved being able to locate your home and other landmarks on the map. Thanks for the link. I should have done it long ago. So much is available to us, if only we look.
    I love the song ‘The Safebreakers Daughter’ too. I wondered if it was a traditional Irish song as it certainly has those influences. Seems it is a recent Mean Mary original though and I couldn’t find her origins. I look forward to writing something in response to it. Now, all I need is an idea. 🙂
    Have a great week.

    • Charli Mills

      Your wattle in bloom must be lovely, Norah! And prettier, I suspect, than a turkey wattle. 😉 Funny thing about observation, if you don’t know what you are looking at or for, it’s hard to detect and observe as you pointed out. A few nights ago, we went to watch Aurora Borealis in the pitch black of night. The predicted solar flares brought half the humanity of the Keweenaw to the shore. It was fun to be in the dark, looking for those Northern Lights. But they aren’t as we expect a full flare. The Hub noticed white rays perpendicular to the horizon. When he pointed them out, I saw the curtain dancing! It was faint but distinct. As we began to point it out to others, it was as if we all gained new sight. You have to know what you are there to observe! But showing up, looking for incongruencies, and sharing observations is a start.

      I’m not sure of Mean Mary’s heritage, but she is from Alabama and writes in the folk ballad genre which is based on traditionals from Ireland. She has performed several times up here on the Keweenaw and the Hub listens to her frequently.

      An idea will find you! You have a great week, too!

      • Norah

        A turkey’s wattle, beautiful in it’s own way, is nothing compared to our native wattle, Charli. 🙂
        It would be amazing to see the Northern Lights. The Southern Lights are quite spectacular too, I believe, though I’ve never seen them either. I love the way you describe helping each other see when you knew what you were looking for. We gain knowledge from others like that all the time. It’s what teachers do daily – highlight what’s there to be seen.
        Thanks for telling me a little more about Mean Mary. I’m not surprised the Hub listens to her all the time. She’s got one mean voice. (Know what I mean?)
        An idea found me. Cute, I hope. Thanks. 🙂

    • Norah

      Hi Charli,
      Here’s my story:

      What Does Your Daddy Do?

      The children drew portraits and wrote profiles of their fathers’ work. Some had accompanied their father to work and related first-hand knowledge of laying bricks, wearing a fireman’s helmet, sitting in the manager’s chair, or distributing medication to patients. Then it was Patsy’s turn. She read:

      “My Dad

      My dad goes to work at night. He is a cleaner. He works when everyone else is sleeping. He wears black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. He wears gloves so he doesn’t leave fingerprints where he has cleaned. He usually cleans up banks and jewellery stores.

      The end.”

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! I did not expect that even though I knew the prompt! Well, she let the cat(burglar) out of the bag! Fun prompt, Norah.

      • Norah

        I’m pleased you enjoyed it, Charli. I had fun writing it.

  16. Jules


    Your Thema is looking for more than a ten finger discount. I hope to listen to the music soon, but I have not done so yet. I did a bit of a mash, for your enjoyment:

    Type Cast?

    Astrid knew he did it for her, not to get dollar bills for the topless dancer, the one who might have been her mother. Who he spoke of in his sleep – when dressed wore bell bottoms and gypsy blouses. Astrid, his little chick, didn’t get the woman’s outer beauty. However, her father saw in his daughter, her inner beauty and he never wanted her to take the blame for his own faults.

    Don’t become a thief he begged on his deathbed. Take my money, educate yourself. So Astrid without fear of debt, started her career as a professional student.


    • Charli Mills

      A ten-finger discount! I haven’t heard the phrase in a while, Jules. Thanks for the mash up!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ted!

  17. Liz H

    Here’s my effort–a little taste here–and the full story via the hyperlink. Hope it entertains!

    The Safebreaker’s Daughter, Her Twin, & the Fen

    Hananah’d never before been to this part of the fen, but wasn’t worried. Eavan had promised to meet her at moonrise, to raid the castle’s treasury. The villagers on the mountain were in sore need of funds.

    He was a safebreaker’s son, she his twin. Raised in a convent of sorts, they’d been trained as thieves to do good.

    She shivered, then tensed when the wind stopped, but the leaves continued to rustle.

    “Eavan?” She turned to the fen. Leaves heaved in a belch of blue, revealing a pair of glowing green eyes within a mound of rotting bracken…

    [To see what happens next…]

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, is there a correlation to you writing long and the leaves changing color in the Northland? I feel it is a sort of literary hunkering down for winter.

      What I love about creativity is the endless expression of it. What a fantastic way to state the prompt: “He was a safebreaker’s son, she his twin.”

      • Liz H

        There may be!…or as I said the other day to a friend “I am BORED with myself.” Time to dig in and get a little more serious.

    • Charli Mills

      I like your take on the challenge, Net!

    • Charli Mills

      She almost got away from her heritage! Thanks for joining us at Carrot Ranch this week, Shweta!

      • Shweta Suresh

        The pleasure and honour is all mine, Charli! ?? Thanks for the prompt and thanks for reading. ????

  18. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Thanks for leading us around your neighbourhood, Charli. I don’t need much of an excuse to go for a walk and certainly like to get the feel of the place, and am often in position to compare my expectations from the physical map with my experience of landscape, but I can’t work out whether I’m using some form of deep mapping in my writing life. It might depend on whether setting comes before story or vice versa. I might use aspects of a place but not try to replicate the whole thing.

    But I like in your description how the observer’s colours what’s seen, such as how you noticed the preponderance of war veterans and their families where I might not. That’s one of the things I particularly enjoy about point of view writing – we have to observe (in the real world or in our heads) in character.

    I read the prompt and wrote my flash before reading your post, so I’m surprised how well it fits with my reviews of two novels featuring the need for close observation, with some beautiful descriptions of landscape in one of them. I loved your flash and was so carried away in the story though the ending to me by surprise – even knowing what the prompt was! I’ve made my safebreaker female, so mine follows the perennial theme of mothers and daughters.

    Observing and conserving: Tiger & The Museum of Broken Promises

    • Charli Mills

      It’s good to have you on the neighborhood walk. You bring up a good point about writing from the perspective of character, and in a way, I think that’s the challenge of multiple POV — maintaining that character perspective. I’m reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Kidd Monk and she deftly handles slipping in and out of her two characters. At some point, I came to relish the western attribute of writing that includes the landscape, probably because I’m from the western US and count many of its authors as my mentors. Linda Lappin lives in Italy so her book is the first one I’ve read about place in setting that has not had the western writing focus. It’s all part of the evolution! I have noticed that my writing beliefs feel mercurial as I open up to so many lessons and discussions with my coursework. That’s fine with me. I’d rather discover new ideas or go deeper on old ones rather than remain rigid.

      Thanks for commenting on my story! It was an interesting exercise to go from deep mapping into calling forth a new character. I think she surprised me, too! I liked melding the details I know so well with a fictitious person plopped into the setting. It felt liberating like I could work dark magic on my own quiet street.

      We must be in a writing vein of connectivity right now — when the fiction, prompts, posts and reviews align like stars.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I wouldn’t have thought maintaining character perspective would be too difficult with just two points of view characters, but I guess there’s conflict for the writer when we have a great idea of how to describe something but we are in the other character’s head.
        I’m excited by your excitement in your course, and I’m sure you’ll be open to lots of new ideas. Putting a lot in and getting even more out of it. Very much appreciate the snippets you’re able to share with us here.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you Bladud! Thanks for cracking a flash!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

  19. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  20. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chris!

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  23. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Deborah!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Shane!


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