An eerie glow backlit the clouds like copper. Appropriate, considering I live in Copper Country. The lighting reminded me of the way Midwestern clouds turn a greenish hue before spawning tornadoes. Due to the lingering scraps of maple and oak leaves, all orange and yellow, the veil of clouds that hid the sun took on an autumn glow.
Eerie? Maybe because it was unusual. Difference frightens us. It’s a primal urge, most. likely, a reaction for heightened vigilance. Those familiar with PTSD call it “lizard brain.” The amygdala can get hijacked, creating an intense emotional reaction. Eerie can transform to terrifying. And yet, some thrill-seekers welcome the response.
I used to love spooky tales when I was a kid. The western tradition adds its own flavor to the human tradition of such scary stories. Around a ranch campfire you’d hear frightening tales about tommy knockers in lost mines, monstrous jackalopes, or cowboys doomed to push the devil’s herd for eternity.
I think what I liked most about spooky tales from a region was learning about that place. Once I discovered historical fiction, I needed ghost stories less and less. Yet, I keep my ear open for eerie tales or phenomenon. There’s something thrilling yet about raised goosebumps. Maybe I also like a bit of mystery in my surroundings, too.
I’m going to end our western themes with this last prompt. Like the others, it’s not genre related but simply born of my buckaroo roots as the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo winds down. Kerry, Colleen, Marsha, and Goldie aren’t through with you all yet, and I have one more installment for TUFF. We’ll be working with our judges to pick a winner in each category.
Look for announcements of each winner:
- November 3: Folk Tale or Fable
- November 10: Double Ennead Syllabic Poetry
- November 17: Git Along an’ Start Writin’
- November 24: Wanted Alive
- December 1: TUFF Love
Last week was one that buried me, and yet it had rich soil — I attended my first virtual writing conference for Women Writing the West. Conferences are a great way to meet agents and find out from industry representatives the trends impacting publishing. The workshops were high quality and I met many new author friends. Even got to see Ann Edall-Robson who is now the blog coordinator for WWW.
I’m on the home stretch of completing my shitty first draft (SFD). Emphasis on the “s.” Ah, but that is why we revise. I tried to be a plantser as I wrote but discovered that my pantsing tendencies do not serve me as well as I thought. At the end, I’m scrambling to use my plotting tools, realizing I need to write another shitty second draft before I can really get into the meat of revision. Enter NaNoWriMo at the perfect time.
My final goal is to have a decent revised thesis by March, and a polished (edited) version by mid-April. Wish me luck! My advisor has yet to say if she thinks I can pull it off. But this is my story, and I’m going to give it my best shot.
Forgive my absence last week. I did speak of the possibility and it’s not my intent to ignore any of you! It’s a rough month with not enough time, but it will pass. I appreciate those of you making rounds to comment on stories, welcoming everyone to the campfire at Carrot Ranch.
Now, let’s tell some spooky tales!
October 22, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a spooky tale told around a campfire. It doesn’t have to include the campfire; it can be the tale. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by October 26, 2020. 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.
Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.
The Lady of Silver Mountain Mine by Charli Mills
“Once, an Englishman bought Silver Mountain Mine.” Jeb’s bushy brows scowled at each buckaroo around the campfire.
Slim smirked. “I’m quivering in my boots.”
Jeb spoke quietly. “Laugh it up, but this is the story of the vaquero woman who butchered his bones.”
Jan shrugged. “She was probably justified.”
“She’s. Still. Here.”
A ghostly figure emerged from the pines carrying a knife. Buckaroos scattered, hollering.
Myrtle, the camp-cook, wondered what got into her crew. First, the flour sack dumped over her head, then she found a rusty butcher-knife on the trail, now everyone vanished.
“That’s mine,” a voice hissed.