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Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Clark Farley!

“Kid, who’s thet feller jist come in? I don’t think he’s from aroun’ here.”

“Well, I’ll be a six sentence gun-of-a-son. That’s Clark Farley.”

“Some sorta writer, Kid?”

“Some sort fer sure. Thinkin’ he might be sortin’ it out. Let’s talk to ‘im. Howdy Clark! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Well are ya er ain’tcha?”

“Pardon?”

“Wondrin’, are ya er ain’tcha a writer?”

“Well, I have written a Six Sentence Story every week since sometime in July 2015. Six Sentences is where I met your writer.”

“Whut?!”

“Easy, Kid, ya know it ain’t never been a ‘sclusive relationship. Writers kin carry on with all sorts a dif’rent characters an’ dif’rent blog hops. Wouldn’t ya say, Clark?”

“Ahem, well yes. As I have a first class jones for serial stories, I have a large number of characters at any one time.”

“Yer a serial writer? Seriously?”

“Yes, I have concurrent stories. Of late I’ve written Six Sentence Stories as installments of two serial stories, ‘The Whitechapel Interlude’ and ‘The Case of the Missing Fig Leaf’.”

“Six Sentence Stories agin… what d’ya injoy most ‘bout Six Sentence Stories?”

“They happen every week! Interestingly enough, most of my novel length stories, such as ‘Almira’ began as a Six Sentence Story.”

“Ain’t surprisin’. Ever’ acorn contains a tree.”

“Our writer’s grown some stories there. She say’s yer a hoot ta write with, Clark. D’ya participate in any other blog hops er writin’ prompts?”

“Yes. The TToT (Ten Things of Thankful) and, until relatively recently, Finish the Sentence Friday.”

“Them story lines a yers, all them characters… got favorites?”

“My favorite right now is Almira and ‘The Case of the Missing Starr’.”

“Why thet one?”

“The characters became real enough to tell me the story. I listened and typed.”

“Yep, we kin relate ta that. Some of us fictional characters make it real easy fer our writers. Think sometimes we work harder an’ you know who. We run a saloon an’ never git a chance ta set an’ injoy a bev’rage.”

“Shush, Kid, this ain’t ‘bout you. Clark, ya said ya been writin’ Six Sentence Stories an’ even growin’ some of ‘em inta novel length stories. Thet’s some word wranglin’ right there. What d’ya find most challengin’ ‘bout writin’?

“Starting. Writing isn’t hard, starting the process on any given day, very much can be. I wish I’d been the one to originally say, ‘I love having written’.”

“Well it soun’s like yer givin’ it a good go, writin’. Which come first, the writin’ er the bloggin’?”

“I’d say I’m a blogger first.  I’ve been blogging since June 2009. My lack of skills prompted me to write, as immersing myself in a story is a painless way to practice.”

“Kin ya tell us more ‘bout yer blog?”

“Thought you’d never ask, Pal. The Wakefield Doctrine (the theory of clarks, scotts and rogers) is a perspective on the world and the people who make it up. The Doctrine has proven to be remarkably predictive, coherent, useful and fun. The core idea is determining how a person relates themselves to the world around them, i.e., as an Outsider, a Predator or a Herd Member, allowing a body to know way more about a person than one might imagine.”

“This like one a them personality profiles?”

“I suppose, or an insight into your personal reality. The core premise of the Wakefield Doctrine is that we are, all of us, born with the potential to experience the world as any of the three. At a very early age we settle into one (and only one) and grow and develop our social strategies, coping mechanisms, quirks and picadilloes, aka personalities. While we have only one ‘predominant worldview’ we never lose the potential of ‘the other two’. Sometimes our secondary or tertiary aspect is significant.  The Doctrine is concerned with the character of the relationship between the individual and the world around them. For reasons best labeled serendipitous, the three categories of Outsider(clarks), Predators(scotts) and Herd Members(rogers) yields a degree (and quality) of insight into a person that is, kinda, impressive.”

“That’s some deep shift. Yer no ordinary writer! If yer blog is ta do with this theory of clarks, scotts, and rogers, what’s yer bloggin’ goals?”

“Why, to write the perfect Wakefield Doctrine post.”

“Now I’m wunnerin’ if thet doctrine a yers heps yer writin’.”

“The Wakefield Doctrine is grounded in the notion of three ways a person can relate themselves to the world around them, as would an Outsider (clarks), a Predator(scotts) or a Herd Member(rogers). For unknown reasons, the characteristics of the experience of the world (and the people who make it up) from these ‘worldviews’, is totally on the mark. The three worldviews are gender, age, and culture neutral. If you said, ‘Hey! A clark, a scott and a roger are all in a car approaching a (very) recent traffic accident, how would each behave?’, it wouldn’t matter whether they were male or female or old or young or Romanian. They would, beneath the external shape of behavior, respond like Outsiders or Predators or Herd Members.

So, for writing, especially cross-gender (i.e. male author writing a female or female writing male character) there is possible a fundamental accuracy in predicting responses and reactions to novel situations.”

 “Huh. Might have ta study up on thet.”

“Clark, d’ya find it at all odd to be innerviewed by fictional ranch hands from a virtual word wrangling ranch?”

“Have you read any of my writings? Lol… no, serially, some of my best friends are virtual.”

“Ya sure got a passel a characters in yer varied stories, Clark. Do ya have fav’rites?

“They’re all my favorites.”

“Which a them’s most likely to sit up at the bar here an’ injoy a beverage?”

“I think that’s depend on what is going on in their ‘lives’ or, narrative permitting, what they believe is happening in their respective worlds.”

“Well don’t look now, but I think one a them jist walked in.”

“Ian Devereaux! What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same, Clark. What, you’d rather be here with hayseeds in a saloon than with me at the Bottom of the Sea Strip Club and Lounge?”

“If you must know, these characters are interviewing me. But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten your serial Ian.”

“Me, I’m just searching for a reason for it all. But, please, don’t tell my client, she thinks I’m trying to find her ex-husband’s murderer. Funny thing about missing persons… figuring out the ‘why’ is way more useful than the ‘where’. Everyone’s got a where.”

“Jeez, Ian, yer so Guy Noir!”

“And more, Pal. I have to go now… Mysteries to solve. Don’t mind the heel-clickin…kinda want to get back through the right door. ”

“Uh, yeah.”

“That shouldn’t be considered a judgement on your existence. As imaginary settings go, you got yourself quite the nice gig here. Only one way in, a thousand backdoors, and the help are working for love not money.”

“Ya got thet right. Good luck with yer case, Mr. Devereaux. An’ Clark, it was real good gittin’ ta know ya an’ show ya off here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Yep, we wish ya luck with all yer writin’ Mr. Farley. Mebbe you’ll try a Carrot Ranch flash challenge one a these days, 99 words, no more no less. Yer sure ta recognize some a the ranchers that come by.”

“The pleasure’s been all mine Kid and Pal.”

“Well Kid, thet Clark Farley was quite a character.”

“No, Pal, he’s real. Ian was the character. One a many.”

“What I meant was— oh, never mind. Hey Kid, I think the mic is still on.”

“Oh shift, not again, here I’ll jist

Clark Farley can be found on his entertaining and interesting site, The Wakefield Doctrine. In addition to his fun stories and serials, Clark is one of the most asterisking commenters out there. One of the three gentlemen in the photo is not only a clark, but is the Clark.

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Pete Fanning

“Pal, what’re these notes here on the bar? Justice In a Bottle? That’s a good name fer a drink. RunawayBlues? That with blueberry vodka? Bet either a those’d give ya the blues if yer not careful.”

“These ain’t cocktails Kid, they’re book titles. Our guest this week come out with Justice In a Bottle in 2019; Runaway Blues was one a the good things ta come out in 2020, an now there’s Bricktown Boys. Heard tell there’s another book in the chute too.”

“Jeez, Pal, this guest is real prolific!”

“I don’t care if he’s fer lifficks er aginst lifficks, Kid. Thinkin’ we’re real lucky ta git Pete Fanning ta stop by the saloon. Hey, here he comes now. Howdy, Pete! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Hello Pal. Hello Kid.”

“Seems I seen ya ‘roun the Ranch afore, Pete.”

“Oh man, yeah, we go way back. Seven or eight years? I had some stories in Rough Writers Volume I. I still write flash fiction, sometimes respond to Charli’s prompts at Carrot Ranch. Over at lunchbreakfiction.com the stories are usually a bit longer, 500-800 words”

“Is writing yer job or do you still fit it in on lunch breaks?”

“Writing is too much fun to be my job. Not that my real job isn’t fun, mind you. (Hi boss!) I write in the mornings and find myself reading at lunch, or at night if I can stay awake.”

“Well ya seemed ta a found some time somewheres. We was seein’ how yer on a roll!”

“I’m glad it looks that way! Timing, I suppose. I wrote Justice in A Bottle and Runaway Blues a while back, maybe in 2015. They sat for a year, as I wrote other things (coming out now), then I came back to them and changed some things. Then I fixed them again. Then, while querying, I kept on chugging along, writing new stuff, and so on…”

“What’s the most challenging part a writin’ fer ya?”

“Kid, I’d have to say it’s the getting started part. That’s the hard part. Once it gets going, it’s good.”

“Good, huh? Whut’s the easiest part a writin’?”

“The easiest part is when you fall completely into your story. When you are there. Those times when you stop and have to blink yourself out of it. Those are my favorite times.”

Heard tell ya had an aging coach tell ya once ya didn’t deserve to wear a Duke t-shirt, implied there was things ya jist couldn’t shouldn’t do. Anyone ever try to dissuade ya from writin’?”

“Ha, joke’s on the old ball coach, I’m a Virginia fan. To your question, maybe not so much dissuade but a lot of people couldn’t understand me making time to write. I remember one friend telling me, ‘You either have it or you don’t.’ Which is nonsense. Stephen King didn’t wake up one day and write Carrie. He wrote ALL THE TIME.”

 “What does a writers’ t-shirt look like? How do ya know if ya deserve to wear that one?”

“If you enjoy it, wear it. If it makes you happy to write words, build worlds, create stories, wear the air brushed, neon green hoodie that reads, WRITE STUFF. Just me? Okay cool.”

“So are ya one a them plotters, or are ya a more of a pantser?”

“Let me consult my notes to better answer this… Kidding! Pantser all the way. To a fault.”

“Pete, we ‘preciate ya comin’ by fer this innerview. We know ya been featured elsewhere, includin’ a PBS television innerview. Some folks come here an’ take the stage in our fam’ly frien’ly dinin’ area an’ others cozy up ta the bar here fer conversation.”

“This seems like a classic western saloon bar, Pal, except for the books lining the shelves.”

“Yep, Ernie stocked us with books of all sorts as well as bottles. I notice thet lots a yer short stories thet I’ve read at lunchbreakfiction.com have a drinkin’ drunk of an adult character thet brings real tension ta the story. Not jist Troy in Bricktown Boys.”

“I feel like things happen in real life and they should be told in real life language. I get that some people might not want to read about things they disapprove of and that’s fine too. My next book, THE GIRL IN MY TREEHOUSE features two parents and a loving household, and one sheltered boy whose world changes in one magical summer.”

“They’s some incomf’terble truths in Bricktown Boys. Nuthin’ wrong with thet. How’d ya meet the characters a Bricktown Boys?

“I wrote this terrible novel one time, okay many times. But this even before Justice and Runaway Blues. The story was filled with flashbacks of the main character’s childhood. That was probably the beginnings of Sam and Tommy. Over time the story changed but the football was there, the kids too. Troy came along. Mrs. Coleman’s part grew and then I thought: Well, she’s just has to coach the team. Delia came last. She’s what I call the best kept secret of the book.”

“I liked all yer characters, well almost all the characters. They felt real.”

“Thanks Kid.”

“How long ya been working on that one, Bricktown? I feel like I seen some scenes here at Carrot Ranch in 99 words.”

“Again, the origins sat in a desk drawer for a while—years—which was good for the book because in the meantime I became a better writer. Trayvon Martin’s death hit me hard. Tamir Rice, too. I’m sure it was in the back of my mind when I came back to the story.”

“I didn’t like Troy, but know folks like ‘im, an’ thought ya dealt with ‘im kindly. I loved Mrs. Coleman! Did ya have either a them characters in yer real life ever?”

“I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood. Different races, same boat. I met some Troy’s but luckily my Dad was always around. Each kid in the book is loosely based on friends I had growing up. Mrs. Coleman is a mix of my grandmother and a few teachers and a few friends’ mothers.”

“Pete, d’ya have characters that ya jist cain’t shake even after givin’ ‘em a novel? Will there be sequels or series?”

“I have this book (Coming in July!), Fairy Dust Fumble. It’s about a clumsy middle school kid who’s cast as a fairy in a play. But when his sister actually creates a spell that turns one of his stage props magical, he starts doing all these crazy things on the football field. Well, she was too much fun so I’ve written an entire sequel with her as the main character. I’m calling it Spellbound and I’m currently pitching to my publisher.”

“We don’t doubt thet it’ll git published. Like we said, yer on a roll. Wondrin’, are ya at all worried about fame and fortune? What with bein’ on PBS already and what with Justice in a Bottle nominated fer an award.”    

“I am not. Besides, Justice is like a bridesmaid. It was a finalist in the Indies Today awards and was considered by the New York Public Library for their best of 2020 list, but my mantel isn’t exactly overcrowded with hardware. My son is proud of me and that’s pretty cool, but if I ever start thinking I’m big time I can just go change his sister’s diaper. That will take care of that.”

“Well Pete Fanning is a big time name ta us.”

“Ha! Funny because my sister started calling me Pete when I was three and it stuck. It’s what I go by and like to be called, and what my first three middle grade books are written under. Now, my publisher has asked me to take a pen name for future Young Adult releases, some of them with more mature content. I had to laugh. I’m using a pen name!”

“Well, congratulations on all a yer successes, unner any name. Thanks fer comin’ by the Saddle Up, Pete Fanning.”

************************************

Publisher:

https://www.immortalworks.press/product-page/bricktown-boys

Amazon:

Bricktown Summary:

It’s 1987 and twelve-year-old Sam Beasley only wants two things: to play football and for his mother to stop dating losers. Only there’s no money for a football team in Bricktown, while there’s an endless supply of losers for his mother to bring home.

Sam finds a friend in the elderly widow down the street. While he’s careful not to let on about his crummy home life, Mrs. Coleman always seems to know when he needs to do wash or eat a hot meal. When he mentions his football dilemma, she surprises him by offering to fund the team. It’s a dream come true, until she names the team The Gospel, declares herself head coach, and arms herself with a whistle, Bible scriptures, and a mouthful of grammar lessons. But Sam has bigger worries, like his mom’s latest loser, Troy, easily the worse one yet. As Sam’s home life spirals out of control, the boys of Bricktown become more than a football team, and football becomes more than just about winning.

The Girl in My Treehouse Summary (4/12/2021)

Only one summer sits between Matt Crosby and high school, and it feels like his middle school friends are leaving him behind. But when a comet of a girl moves in up the street, Matt discovers a side of himself that’s dying to break free and try something new.

Lia doesn’t see the Matt Crosby everyone else sees: the shy, awkward kid with the stammer, but instead a friend. With Lia, the long, summer days are action-packed with wonder. From scavenger hunts at the grocery store to midnight canoeing under the moon at Preacher Higgins’ pond. Or maybe just staring at the sky and feeling completely comfortable in his own skin. But in a small town like Maycomb, a girl like Lia doesn’t go unnoticed.

Matt’s old friends make jokes about the way Lia dresses, her hair, even her darker skin. As a correctional officer, Matt’s father has already run into Lia’s mother at the jail. But it isn’t until Matt discovers Lia sleeping in his treehouse that he realizes things might be worse for her than she’s letting on. Having found the courage to follow his heart instead of his friends, Matt realizes that somewhere along the way, he became the Matt Crosby Lia saw all along.

Author Bio:

Pete Fanning is the author of Justice in a Bottle, Runaway Blues, and Bricktown Boys. He lives in Virginia with his wife, son, newborn girl, and two very spoiled dogs. He can be found at www.petefanning.com, where he’s posted over 200 flash fiction stories. 

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Serious Fun

“Pal? Pal, where ya at?”

“Pal’s not here, Kid. Just me.”

“What? Why’re you here at the Saddle Up, D. Avery? Where’s Pal?”

“Pal asked me to fill in this week. Said it might do you some good to touch base with your writer.”

“Hmmph. Ya know well as me I kin write m’sef.”

“I do know as well as you Kid. But Pal thought maybe I should check in on you.”

“Hmmph. But I s’pose ya knew I was gonna say that.”

“Kid, I know a lot of people identify me as your writer, but the fact is I don’t often know what you’re going to say or do. So why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you.”

 “I ain’t quite sure either. Guess it’s this writin’ thing.”

“I saw that you wrote a short story for Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat! Congratulations, Kid.”

“Yeah. Thanks. It’s jist that, people think I’m funny. That was a serious story a suspense an’ mystery.”

“Ahem. Okay. But, Kid. Being funny is your job around here.”

“Well that’s a lotta pressure, D., havin’ ta be funny. An’ then what if I ain’t funny?”

“Is that your worry? Sure, you take risks Kid. Everyone that writes at the Ranch is taking a risk, putting themselves out there. But I think it works; you are usually funny.”

“Yeah. Thanks. It’s jist that… ah, never mind.”

“No, what, Kid?”

“It’s jist that bein’ so funny an’ all, I worry I won’t never be taken seriously.”

“Seriously Kid? You’re worried about not being funny and about being too funny?”

“Well, it sounds funny when ya put it like that.”

“Listen, Kid, I’m glad you’re taking humor seriously.”

“You tryin’ ta be funny?”

“Not always. But humor always helps. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Maybe something I read at Norah Colvin’s site? Growth mindset and all that? I don’t know. But just recently the Wellness Committee at my new school asks, Did you know that humor is actually a way to build resilience? Yes, I did know that. Your friend Shorty must know that too, Kid. She set you up with the Saddle Up Saloon at the beginning of the pandemic so that you could help people reduce stress by giving them a laugh.”

“Yep, she give me an’ Pal a space ta ennertain folks.”

“Funny you should say that. A space. Sogyal Rinpoche, a Buddhist teacher from Tibet, said humor is a way of ‘making room’.  Of being accommodating. I always felt, as a teacher, that humor facilitated both teaching and learning in the space provided by its use. And humor can provide a lens to look at problems in a new way, to see things differently.”

“But I ain’t no teacher, D.”

“You might be, Kid. I’ve learned from you and from Pal. And what you do is provide people some time and space to step away from reality. As Elena Aguiliar says, When we laugh at ourselves, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. When we laugh with others, humor breaks down barriers, brings us onto common ground, and builds our resilience. If you can help people to laugh, Kid, and get silly, well that’s important work. Humor helps build a healthy mindset.”

“Mmm.”

“Aguiliar also says that much research has shown that laughter strengthens the immune system. And that laughter is grounding.

“It does feel good ta be a part a that. But that’s jist more pressure fer me ta be funny. An’ if I am funny then that’s jist more reason that folks mebbe won’t never take me seriously.”

“Look, Kid, playing the fool doesn’t make you foolish. Pay attention to old stories and traditional tales. The jester is as important as the wise man to balance the king, and the jester’s counsel and advice often contains more wisdom, in a more palatable form.”

“Mebbe. Like havin’ a musin’ character and a amusin’ character?

“Uh, yeah. But, look, Kid, if you really want a serious role, I can write you differently.”

“You’d do that fer me?”

“If it’s important to you, yes.”

“Kin fix it so I ain’t mixin’ up words, things ain’t goin’ over my head? Fix it so I ain’t messin’ up an’ gittin’ inta scrapes?”

“Sure.”

“Not annoyin’ Pal all the time?”

“Yes. I mean no. I mean, yes, you could not be annoying Pal all the time.”

“Well that doesn’t sound like much fun, D.”

“But I thought— ”

“Think agin. I was just Kid-ding!”

“Phew!”

“Mebbe I’ll even start tellin’ dirty jokes.”

“No, Kid, not that.”

 “What, ain’tcha got a sense a humus?”

“Ugh. See you around the Ranch, Kid.”

“Yep.”

“And Kid?”

“Yep?”

“Congratulations to you and to Pal. It’s a year today that you’ve been running the Saddle Up. And I think you’ve got another great year ahead.”

“Ya got that write, D.!”

Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse

And cool the earth, the air and you.

~Lanston Hughes

Interact! Leave a link to a favorite funny story, or leave the story in the comments. What are your thoughts on writing funny?

*Elena Aguiliar quotes are from her Onward; Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators .

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Ann Edall-Robson!

“Pal, is that…?”

“Yep. Sure is, Kid. Ann Edall-Robson ‘as stopped by the Saddle Up.”

“Woohoo! The Rough Writer who pens the Quiet Spirits column fer Carrot Ranch? I heard she might be too busy fer us, heard she’s got a lot a irons in the fire. Uh, Pal, does that s’pression refer ta when irons fer clothes was heated up on a cook range, or is it referrin’ ta brandin’ irons on the cattle range?”

“Reckon we could ask Ann, she might know.”

“She might er she might not. Heard tell she makes stuff up.”

“Thet’s ‘cause she’s a story teller, Kid. Come on, lit’s go talk with ‘er.”

“Howdy Ann!”

“Hello there Kid. Pal. You caught me wetting my whistle here at the bar. Come sit with me.”

“Thet soun’s good, Ann. Sure liked what ya did couple weeks back in yer Quiet Spirits column. Had folks guessin’ whether yer stories was truth er fiction. How much does thet blurry border matter ta story tellin?”

“Well Pal, it’s hard not to mix the two and at the same time it’s not hard to mix the two. Writing a story specific to a topic needs believable information. It shows readers who are knowledgeable about the subject that my work is credible.”

“Speakin’ a borders, where d’ya hail from, Ann?”

“Home for me is Canada. I grew up in what is called The Cariboo Country of British Columbia. Some forty odd years ago a transfer became available with the company I worked for and I migrated east of the Rockies to Alberta, where I have hung my hat ever since.”

“Are ya all snowed in out there, Ann, er d’ya got stuff goin’ on?”

“Snow and cold aren’t a big deal when you grow up with it. You learn to be prepared for every kind of weather. When it gets real cold, like -40F or colder, it’s nice to know I don’t have to go out. I hunker down and work on one of the dozen or so projects I have on the go. Although, when the weather is that cold, it can make for some pretty amazing photography opportunities. We are also very lucky in this part of the world to experience Chinooks. They are also known as snow eaters and the weather can change from -40 to above zero in a matter of hours.”

“Ain’t that ranchin’ country out there where yer at?”

“Kid, didn’t’cha know? Ann here is a real deal rancher.”

“Truth?”

“Truth, Kid.”  

“Well, not quite, Pal. My dad ranched and rodeoed before enlisting to go overseas in WWII, but that’s a story for another day. I grew up in ranching country. We had family members and friends who were/are ranchers and I spent as much time as I could with my aunt and uncles on their ranch. It’s where I got addicted to horses and doing chores and chasing cows. It’s common for ranchers to help each other to round up cattle in the fall and gather to brand cattle in the spring. Whenever I could, I was immersing myself in this life. Somehow I managed to convince my parents it would be a good thing for me to own my own horse and my aunt and uncle gave me a mare and foal when I was ten or eleven. It didn’t take long for me to start entering local gymkhanas and rodeos.”

“Is that where ya git yer stories from Ann?”

“Maaayyyyybeeee…haha… It’s like this; where I come from guides me to where I need to go. As luck would have it, I am passionate about letting people know about the western and ranch culture that encompasses a way of life that is fast disappearing. I can hopefully educate people by including the knowledge I was lucky enough to experience growing up into the books and such that I write.”

“How an’ when did ya git from them ranches ta Carrot Ranch?”

“I have a collection of my writings going back to my high school days. The man of the house (aka my husband Steve) and I had many discussions about publishing these archaic works, but neither of us had a clue where to start. Steve was an advocate of networking, and started doing research to see if anyone else out there was in the same boat. Through some online searching for like-minded writing people/groups he came across the Carrot Ranch. I remember the day he announced that he had found the place I needed to get involved with to start getting my work seen. In April 2016, I wrote Ivor Oaks, and my first 99-Word story was published here at the Ranch.”

“How would ya d’scribe the kinda writin’ d’ya do?”

“I write in several genres (cozy mysteries – contemporary fiction, cookbooks, children’s books, some poetry, and, non-fiction). They all have one thing in common – western and ranch culture.”

“Which kinda writin’ comes easiest to ya?”

“Anything that gives me the opportunity to share mine and Steve’s heritage and culture. Oh, and stuff that turns a random what if thought into a rambling of words that need to be sorted out somewhere down the line.”

“Which gives ya the most satisfaction?”

“The knee jerk reaction to that question is, “All of them!” What it boils down to is, I love to share what others may never get to experience. You will hear me say that time and time again; but the reality is it’s true, and through all of my writing genres, I am able to do this. Now if you want me to identify my absolute favourite genre, I would have to say the cozy mysteries and the children’s books are neck and neck.”

“Ya done mentioned photo opper-tunities. Thet camera yer totin’ ever git in the way a writin’ er does it git the writin’ goin’?”

“My photographs never get in the way of writing unless you take into consideration the days I think I should be writing and I am out somewhere taking pictures, like today.”

“What do you do with all yer pictures?”

“A lot of my pictures can be found on our DAKATAMA™️ Country where people can order products with my pictures on them. I use my photographs for my book covers, and have had other authors use them as well. We are also in the process of adding photo products to our new business website. If you follow my Ann Edall-Robson FB page, we share a picture prompt there every Thursday. And, we have recently added The Photo Challenge to our website for those who are not on FB. 

But, here’s a secret for you about the hundreds of thousands of pictures in my photo library – My 99-Word stories or any other prompt writing I might get involved in all boil down to one thing – have I got a picture to go with it? Very seldom is the answer ‘no’. Not many people know about my photo inspirations in writing my 99-Word stories, that is unless they actually follow the link back to my website.”

“I’d highly recommend they do link back to yer website jist ta see yer amazin’ photos. Seems like some was featured here at the Saloon too, when we ran thet Art Showin’.”

“Yep. Ann, yer a visual artist, well as a literary artist, seems like it goes hand in hand. But what’s been yer greatest challenge as a writer?”

“For me, I would have to say Marketing is a challenge for two reasons. First because I am an Indie Author and my company publishes my own books so it is completely up to us to market our products. Second, and I think this falls in line with the challenges I face in marketing, is my upbringing. I was raised that if you talked about yourself and your accomplishments, you were a braggart or blowhard and most likely both. This was not acceptable. People knew what you were capable of and would spread the word if necessary. It has taken me quite a while to get past the morals of my upbringing to talk publicly about my work and what my passions are. Since I have resigned myself to the fact that these elements are a necessary evil in promoting myself and my work I now consider it part of the job. It doesn’t make it any easier to do, but I know word of mouth isn’t the marketing platform it once was.”

“What’s been yer greatest joy as a writer?”

“Writing! Being able to put all the thoughts spinning on the Bunster Wheel down on paper. Knowing that some will never see the light of day and others will be shared with the world whether they want them or not. Getting the past as I know and remember archived in some way for future generations.

Writing has also given me the opportunity to mentor others in the craft. Not necessarily as writers, but the independent publishing and business side that comes with wanting to become a published writer with aspirations to sell their books.”

“Sure seems like yer like-minded with Carrot Ranch all write. Yer a real asset.”

 “Thank you, Kid, but speaking of assets, I need to step down off this stool and stretch.”

“Pal, look! Ann Edall-Robson’s tall like Shorty!”

“Shush Kid. Ann, we wanna thank ya fer a fine innerview.”

“Yep. We sure ‘preciate ya takin’ time outta yer schedule and findin’ yer way ta the Saddle Up.”

“My pleasure. Thank you Kid and Pal.”

Ann Edall-Robson relies on her heritage to keep her grounded. Reminders of her family’s roots mentor her to where she needs to go. Gifting her with excerpts of a lifestyle she sees slipping away. Snippets shyly materialize in Ann’s writing and photography. She is a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Edall-Robson shares moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWest, DAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact her. Books written by Ann Edall-Robson are available through her website, at Amazon, and various other online locations.

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Right Place, Right Time

Sometimes you just seem to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s something to celebrate!

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Curiosity by Saifun Hassam

She remembered that glorious day so well.

Running headlong with the wind along Great Bay’s sandy shores. Stopping abruptly where an abandoned kite lay, the incoming tide tugging at its string.

“Come, come into the ocean” the waves beckoned.

She picked up the kite and ran with it. The wind caught at it! Curious. Would it lift her into the sky too?

She kicked up sand. How many grains of sand on the shores? in her hand? A gazillion.

At night: how many stars? A gazillion.

A dream to explore the stars lightyears away in a sail spaceship.

🥕🥕🥕

Waking Adventure by Ann Edall-Robson

Eyes smile

Welcoming the early ​

morning glow of colour

What escapades

will this day bring

Baileys splashed

in morning coffee

Feet tucked under

reading books

A charcuterie platter

offering treats

Perhaps a wander

Snippets of this and that

to directions unknown

Or a calming glide

on the water

Dip, paddle, silence

Nature’s fingers caress

Is it the gravel roads

enticing the soul

The glory of life

erupting at each

hill crested

Yet the land with

minuscule life welcomes

The scent of sunshine

through the trees

The wonders of life

giving and forgiving

Morsels of celebration

for each waking

adventure

🥕🥕🥕

Birthday Celebrations by Ruchira Khanna

“Did you hear me, Joe?” Patty inquired.

“Yes! I got it. I have to be home on time,” said Joe irritably as he walked out the door.

“I bet he’ll be late, and there goes all my preparation for his birthday party,” Patty whispered to herself as she pulled out the many bowls she had hidden in the oven, away from Joe’s sight. “Oh! I know, how about I move the party to his workplace. That way, I won’t have to fret over him coming on time,” she said with a wide grin and was quick to text all.

🥕🥕🥕

Right Place, Right Time by M J Mallon

The right place at the right time, at ninety-one, that’s a feat. My dad’s ninety-two today. At his birthday celebration last year he astonished us all by serenading the pretty waitress in Russian! Dad’s a Scotsman with one known fear: the snow! He’s always preferred sunny climates. It’s no wonder that he escaped to Malaysia and married my mum, who’s from Kuching, a place that stole his heart too. He always has a tale to tell, or a song to sing and still dreads the snow! Bless him.

🥕🥕🥕

Something To Celebrate by Anita Dawes

Turning 75, something to celebrate, you think?

Not me.

The morning went slow,

dragging my mind further into darkness

Deciding on a fresh cup of coffee to pull myself together,

walk around the Friday market.

I notice a face, my best friend, a sister I should have had.

We lost touch twenty years ago.

Thoughts rush my mind.

Why had we lost touch?

Would she want to speak to me?

Would we have anything to say after so long?

I need not have worried.

My 75th party went like a sixties disco,

With my best friend by my side…

🥕🥕🥕

The Fall Guy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“I don’t understand what you want from me.” Trevor was mystified. Heather was leaving him. Again.

“That’s it!” she huffed, jaw clenched. “I just can’t trust you’ll be there when I need you.”

“It wasn’t my fault that you drank too much at the party!”

“You should’ve been there to stop me.” A tear slid down as she walked away.

Trevor flipped his hand, palm up, in a bent elbow gesture. “Why did you keep accepting Kevin’s drinks?”

“Because HE was there!”

Just then, a baby bird dropped into his palm and peered up at him, annoyed but grateful.

🥕🥕🥕

The Harsh Truth by Sue Spitulnik

Over coffee, Lexi said, “Mom, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad you left Dad. You’re happy now. Would you mind sharing what gave you the guts to make the move?”

Tessa looked away, remembering, then smiled at her oldest daughter. “I overheard a conversation between the wives of your father’s higher-ups. One wondered to the other if I knew your father’s continual unaccompanied tours were by request. I was shocked at first then soon decided I had been at the right place at the right time to learn the truth.”

“That’s harsh.”

“It was, but beneficial.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Serendipitous Discovery by Nicole Horlings

“Where ends the street, there shall we meet,” the slip of paper stated.

Jack chuckled, paused his exploration of the old mansion, and followed the road out of town, strolling along until it finally ended at the edge of the forest. A fairy flew down from a tree. “You found my note.”

“You can predict where I’ll go to explore next too well,” he grinned.

“Is that a problem?” she flirted, fluttering her lashes.

“No,” he laughed, then kissed her. “Your little game is fine. I’m glad I met you while exploring the forest,” he sighed, hugging her close.

🥕🥕🥕

Lockdown Literary Launch by Anne Goodwin

The kids needed the laptop for their schoolwork. I needed it to practice addressing the camera instead of the screen. I’d neglected them, constantly checking the joining link and time zones. Learning my lines. But they were good kids, they’d forgive me. They’d have my attention once the book was launched. “Good evening, and welcome!” On Zoom, no-one would see me wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans. Gaze fixed on the camera, I didn’t immediately notice the kids had taken revenge. Rubbish at tech, I couldn’t cancel the filter. I read out my poignant passages as a cat.

🥕🥕🥕

Pu-Chai by Colleen Chesebro

“How much is the black puppy?” I pointed to the fuzzy Pomeranian in the cage.

“That one? I’ll have to check. He’s been here for months.”

Dark, soulful eyes stared at me as if the pup understood the conversation.

“Pure black Pomeranians are rare. Is he papered?”

“Yup. Two champions in his line. Nobody wants him because he’s all black. You know, bad-luck.”

He nosed my hand through the cage.

“I’ll take him.”

“Looks like you are in the right place at the right time. He’s on sale, only $99.00.”

“Sold.”

In my arms, Pu-Chai found his new home.

🥕🥕🥕

We All Have A Purpose by Ritu Bhathal

Walking home, shoulders slumped, I wondered what my purpose was. No one really needed me. What use was I? Might as well just keep walking, until I walked off a cliff. No one would miss me.

A sound caught my ear. A whimper. I looked around. No one.

Another little yelp brought me closer to a box. The flap was open, and inside I found him. The runt of the litter, left, abandoned.

He looked up at me with those eyes, and it was in that moment I realised that I did have someone to live for, after all.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Cause for Celebration by Rebecca Glaessner

A metal ship crossed the perfect sector. Great Mind opened a path beside the ship as a youngling’s human host floated out. Great Mind pulled the host through and sealed the path. The ship drifted onward, oblivious.

“Ugh-” the host, a human female, stumbled beneath unexpected gravity. “We’re saved!” came a voice in her head. She stared at the alien structures, the creatures beyond.

“You are home,” began Great Mind, “we aren’t yet part of your second world. It’s not safe.”

“No-“

“When we supplant an Elder, you’ll be returned. For now, you are home.”

“This is not home.”

🥕🥕🥕

Right Place, Right Time by FloridaBorne

Atop the Ferris wheel, with no other riders, Marjorie felt free for a few minutes each day, compliments of her father, who owned this stately wonder. Father understood that each generation possessed a different gift. His charm attracted riders. In winter, when the park closed, Marjorie’s victims provided anything he asked. Her mother felt contentment inside their home, refusing to leave a vessel filled with her love. Today, Marjorie had walked among the crowd, implanting ideas and imparting suggestions into unsuspecting minds. Sherlock Holmes had appeared and she’d saved her family! Neither he nor his client remembered their investigation.

🥕🥕🥕

Just in Time! by Joanne Fisher

Jeremy’s car had broken down, so he walked to the creepy castle in the middle of a thunder storm for assistance. When he knocked on the door, it was answered by a creepy-looking old man who led him straight to his Master. While Jeremy explained to the Master about his car, everything suddenly went black and he collapsed onto the floor.

“That was fortunate. Talk about right place, right time!” the Master said as he looked down on his creation, now with Jeremy’s stretched face added. “Now Igor, let’s hook this up to the grid, and see what happens!”

🥕🥕🥕

No Mention by Simon

He wore it for the first time and looked in the mirror, he saw himself as his own mother wearing it. And something inevitable happened, his dad entered and saw his son standing in front of the mirror wearing his wife’s skirt. The rage in his eyes burned his son alive.

At the right time, his step mother entered and saved him, stating he was practising for the drama and helped him tie the skirt properly and placed a kiss on his cheek and said he looked pretty, Just like his mum.

He thanked her.

She said no mention.

🥕🥕🥕

A Million Dollar Question by Goldie

They stopped at the local bar on their evening walk around town.

“Wanna get a drink?” Scott asked.

“Sure,” Emily shrugged.

Inside, a live band played and patrons swayed to the beat. The music was loud, but the vocals decent and the songs classic.

“I said: ‘Hey! What’s going on?’” Scott belted out.

“Hmmm… but he only sings funny, made up lyrics,” Emily frowned.

When Linda Perry sat down next to the couple, everything changed. Scott now has a recording deal and Emily a new lover.

Which one of them was at the right place at the right time?

🥕🥕🥕

Cautiously Staged by JulesPaige

Convinced by prompting he

Chose kabuki to

Celebrate life – then he could hide in plain sight

Only a few close friends

Shared his deep secret

He loved to paint his face

And pretend to be

Heroines in plays to arouse audiences

He really had to

Act without costumes

Such was his lot not to

Incite the wrath that

Could befall any who were deemed different

At least in this year, this

Time of harsh judgements

🥕🥕🥕

Overboard by Donna Matthews

“Gonna be a nasty storm!” The captain declares.

Prophetically, it turns out. But he couldn’t know then. Could he?

Looking toward the horizon, I see the dark clouds gathering. The winds soon howl, and rain thrashes our fishing charter. Shaking below, I fear this will be the last of adventures. But hour by hour, the fearsome storm wears itself out and finally settles into a harmless drizzle. Coming up to deckside, I see the entire boat is taking on water! I grab a bucket and start scooping!

“Where is the captain??” my children shout behind me. “Overboard, my guess!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Fish Story by D. Avery

“Luckiest fishing day ever!”

“Hope! You and Cousin Bobby caught enough for a meal?”

He groaned when the children showed him their sleds loaded with pails of fresh perch along with the ice-fishing gear. “That’s a lot of perch to dress.”

“We found a hotspot, Daddy!”

Laughing, Hope’s mother headed back inside.

“Hey! Help skin.”

“After some phone calls.”

Throughout the afternoon people started dropping by, some chatting while peeling perch out of their scaly skins, some cooking fish over an outside fire. Fish stories old and new were told.

Hope beamed.

“This is the best perch dinner ever!”

🥕🥕🥕

Right Place, Right Time by Di @ pensitivity101

Right place, right time, right nurse, and a casual mention that I qualified for three months free membership with a slimming group.

I signed up, and within a few months had lost almost 3 stones in weight.

Something had been lurking under the flab, and if I hadn’t lost weight, we wouldn’t have found the lump.

Discovered early, it was analyzed and found to be treatable and curable.

Radiotherapy followed, and all was good until 2019.

Not quite so lucky this time, and a mastectomy was needed.

But, again, it was discovered, analyzed, dealt with.

And I’m still here.

🥕🥕🥕

Stargardts by Willow Willers

Norma knew her sight was failing ever since she was ten. But what really worried her was, had she passed this fate on to her daughter?

The day had arrived when they would get the test results. They’d been at the hospital two hours waiting. Finally they were called in. The doctor smiled at them both and without any preamble told them the Stargardts had been passed on.

Outside Jenny hugged Nora. “Mum you can help me through this. I have seen you cope, you have taught me so much already.”

They basked in the warmth of the sun.

🥕🥕🥕

Dominic to the Rescue by Annette Rochelle Aben

Annette loved her job at the Ambassador Bridge. Hers was a glorified secretarial position processing Import and Export paperwork for U.S. Customs. And the friendships formed with people from all walks of life were the best part.

As she did several times a day, Annette walked along the bridge plaza to the Customs dock office. Suddenly, she felt the ground give way under her feet. She screamed for help, and a nearby truck driver grabbed her and pulled her to safety.

It seems she had stepped on a loose manhole cover and that quick-thinking driver actually saved her life!

🥕🥕🥕

European Summer Bill Engleson

In 1963, along with 300 young Canadians, I was in Paris just before Bastille Day.

By July 14th, we had convoyed by Bus to Switzerland.

However, though only sixteen at the time, I immersed myself in the sounds and smells of Paris, acquainted my then lanky and totally unsophisticated self with baguettes, wine, strong coffee, and, to my shame, behaviour so Trump-like that I was tossed out of the Paris Opera.

Our chaperons, including my Art Teacher who ran the trip as a side business, threatened me with repatriation to Canada.

They relented.

I stayed.

Right decision!

Great summer!

🥕🥕🥕

Jack Shift

“Kid? Yer lookin’ a might discombobulated.”

“Kinda am Pal. Shorty’s cloistered away at Headquarters, schedule’s been shifty, guest hosts at the saloon, an’ a outta season Rodeo? How kin I know I’m in the right place, right time?”

“Thinkin’ we all jist end up where we’re at, when we need ta be there. Doin’ whut we do.”
“Reckon… uh, what is it we do?”

“Well, Colleen’s got the Saloon ever’ third Monday, hear tell Chel’s gonna guest host ever’ first Monday, an’ the Sue Vincent Rodeo’s wrappin’ up, winners’ll be ‘nounced March 22.”

“Yep. Agin, we do…?”

“Shush Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Saddle Up Saloon; Barroom Free For All

“Kid, whut’s goin’ on? Looks like mebbe some movie stars asettin’ at the bar. They here ta take the stage?”

“They might be some sorta celebrities, Pal, but they jist wannered in. I ain’t got no acts or innerviews lined up this week.”

 “These three ladies soun’ like they might be from thet same place as them two blokes thet come through thet time, ‘member? One of ‘em, Logan it was, tangled with yer goats.”

“Think these ladies is arguin’ a might ‘bout where they come from, Pal. Thinkin’ there’s some drama unfoldin’ right here at the bar.”

“Ya best not be eavesdroppin’ on the customers, Kid. Least ways not so’s they notice ya doin’ it. So who’s who?”

“Well, them two at the end a the bar come in t’gether. Venus – that’s the curvaceous one with the dangly earrings – said Diana needed a drink ta calm her nerves.”

“So they are going on stage?”

“On a plane. Seems she’s scared a flyin’ but Venus says she’s got ta rise above her fear.”

“She’s goin’ fer her pilot’s license?”

“Jist as a passenger. There’s some place she’s gotta visit. Cairo. Think that’s in Illinois.”

“Or Egypt.”

“Gypped? Nobody gypped me, Pal. These women is runnin’ tabs. Anyway, then this other lady come in, name a Ruth Thompson. That’s when it got kinda tense.”

“They’re campin?”

“What? No! The first two, Diana an’ Venus,  are jist on a day trip. They’ll sleep at home t’night. An’ if Diana ever gits ta Cairo, she’s gonna stay with a friend.”

“An’ who’s the older one? Thet Venus don’t look so pleased ta see her.”

“Ms. Thompson. She’s movin’ ta France ta live.”

“An’ here they are, at the Saddle Up Saloon. Strange. Hey! Whoa. Stop. Back up. Them’s characters outta Anne Goodwin’s book!”

“Which a her books, Pal?”

Sugar and Snails. Yeah. I recognize Ms. Thompson from A Postcard From the Past; was recently at Story Chat.”

A Postcard From the Past?”

“Yeah, Kid. A Postcard from the Past is a short story based on a scene from one a many drafts a Anne Goodwin’s day-bew novel, Sugar and Snails. Sugar and Snails was published by Inspired Quill in 2015 and shortlisted fer the Polari First Book Prize. Ya kin read it fer free durin’ February 2021 by registering fer Anne’s newsletter here: https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book.”

“Uh, Pal, that’s real awesome an’ all, but mebbe we best git back ta the bar. Somethin’s goin’ on.”

“Put it behind you? Just ‘put it all behind you’?  It’s that easy to start fresh, ignore your own past?”

“Ma’am, please…”

“Venus, please, just sit down. It’s not her fault. No-one knew what to do with me.”

 “Oh, jeez, Ms. Diana, yer arms. Did ya climb the Poet tree out back or somethin’? Yer scratched up purty good.”

Shit! I thought I’d dealt with that last night. Could I borrow a bar towel, Kid?

A bar towel won’t stop it, you goose! You’ve lost a humongous amount of blood. I’m taking you to A&E.”

***

“Whut is goin’ on? Ms. Thompson, that woman was sure lightin’ inta ya jist then.”

“I’m happy to see that Diana has such a good friend. But that’s all I can say Pal. Confidentiality and such.”

“But… Jeez. What’re ya even doin’ here at the Saddle Up Saloon?”

“I’m sure I don’t know. I’m a minor character in Sugar and Snails. Described as a hippie-haired social worker. The first ‘Ms’ Diana met.”

“Ya musta had a major impact ta keep showin’ up; first at Story Chat, now here.”

“I arranged Diana’s place at an elite boarding school as a teenager. I thought it would help her shake off the past. But it seems it wasn’t enough. If you want to know more, read Sugar and Snails. Remember, Anne Goodwin is offering it for free during February 2021 if you register for her newsletter HERE. And she’ll be discussing it soon in an online event with author Mia Farlane. You’d be welcome to join them.”

“When? Where?”

“Soon! Wednesday the 24th of February, 7 GMT. Just click HERE. Now, I must catch my plane. I have someone waiting for me in the Dordogne, someone special. I am sorry for causing tension in your lovely saloon. Good bye.”

“Bye, Ms. Thompson.”

***

“Kid thet was weird.”

“Ah, come on Pal, jist some harmless characters that ended up at the saloon. It happens.”

“Since when is the Saddle Up Saloon a layover for flights ta France an’ Cairo?”

“Jist this week, Pal. Jist as long as Anne Goodwin’s free e-book offer lasts.”

“Soun’s good. Reckon them women’ll ever come back by here?”

“Hard ta say, not knowin’, Pal. Why d’ya ask?”

“’Cause all three a them characters left yer bar without payin’ fer their drinks. Sayin’.”

“Yeesh! Gypped!”

“Yep, Egypt. An the uther one is done gone ta Dordogne, doggone it.”

https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Anne Goodwin is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Throughout February, subscribers to her newsletter can read Sugar and Snails for free: https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnJ5pbhSLho&feature=youtu.be

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Twitter @Annecdotist.

Link tree https://linktr.ee/annecdotist

Amazon author page: viewauthor.at/AnneGoodwin

YouTube: Anne Goodwin’s YouTube channel

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

February 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s Thursday again, time for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. Once again we will all fill in so that our friend Charli can focus on that thesis of hers. As I alluded to last week, Charli has set this community up to be successful and to manage even with her not directly at the helm. We know what to do to keep the Ranch running— read, write, comment. A foolproof formula!

All we need is a post and a prompt.

Who’s the fool now? I have nothing to say and a gazillion things I could say. Once upon a time… no. This time, maybe today’s date is a place to start.

Maybe today, February 18, isn’t a special day for you. But it could be. Today is the birth date of both my husband and my sister-in-law’s mother. Birthdays…

I never had children so have never hosted a children’s birthday party, never had to be the one either fulfilling wishes or causing disappointment. I remember many of my own birthdays as a child. One of the best was when I turned ten. First of all— ten! Double digits; a roll over number; a whole decade old; it was a big one. But I remember it for getting what I wanted as a gift from my parents— a hammer. Maybe after ten years I had simply worn my mother down, but my request was not ignored, it wasn’t replaced with a more “appropriate” gift, with what she felt I should really want or need. And it was a nice hammer, with a sleek red wooden shaft and a rubber grip. It was real and it was mine. More important, I had been heard and acknowledged. It was a good birthday, with even better days to follow as I dragged slabs into the woods and hammered together a fort.

As an adult I sometimes ignore my own birthday as best I can, other times I take the day into my own hands. When I was crazy busy during summers with my one-woman landscaping business I would give myself the day off to spend time making the cake I wanted, homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I’m not much of a baker, so this cake making took time and that time was my gift to myself, a time of meditation and reflection.

When I changed careers and had summers off I sometimes chose to spend my birthday making a nice meal for friends and family to enjoy together with me after their workday. Again, it was a meditative way to spend the day and was a way to show gratitude for those people who were going to acknowledge the day whether I wanted them to or not.

A memorable day that happens to have also been my birthday was the one when my sister-in-law took the day off from work just to hang out with me. With no planning we ended up kayaking four ponds, having to portage only small distances, needing no vehicle. We lunched on delicious sandwiches out on the water. We were joined by the local bald eagle for a bit as well as other wildlife. It was a fine adventure, our Four Pond Day.

I’ve had so many fine adventures and memorable days, some with friends and family, many spent all alone. I’m reminded of and just reread a picture book written by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Peter Parnall, I’m In Charge of Celebrations.How could I be lonely?” the narrator asks. “I’m the one in charge of celebrations.” The setting is the American Southwest, but the narrator’s outdoor wanderings and recognition of amazing sights and events to celebrate resonate with me here in my wooded northeast. With lyrical language, set upon the page as poetry instead of paragraphs, we are told about some of the narrator’s findings and reactions.

And then all day

you think

how

lucky

you were

to be there.

Some of my best

celebrations

are sudden surprises

like that.

If you weren’t outside

at that

exact

moment,

you’d miss them.”

Her New Year celebration has to be “a day that is exactly right…. Usually it’s a Saturday around the end of April.) … I spend the day admiring things…

I celebrate

with horned toads

and ravens

and lizards

and quail…

And Friend,

it’s not

a bad

party. ”

Celebrating New Year’s at the return of spring makes sense to me. I had always thought of the first day of a new school year to be New Year’s Day but this past September was different, as I had left that career for who-knows-what adventures. This year the first day of school away from school was a birth day, a new beginning. While my former colleagues did all that first day stuff I hiked the mountain with no agenda. The barred owl was as surprised to see me as I it. It is quite something to see an owl slipping silently through the trees. How lucky I was to be there.

Today is the birthday of at least two people that I know of and I will let them both know that I appreciate their being in the world. But today could be your special day too, for any number of reasons.

In Byrd Baylor’s book dust devils, rainbows (and the rabbit that also saw the rainbow), a green parrot-shaped cloud, a coyote, falling stars, and the new year are celebrated. The narrator says that she is very choosy about what goes into her celebration notebook.

It has to be something

I plan to remember

the rest of my life.

You can tell

what’s worth

 a celebration

because

your heart will

POUND

and

you’ll feel

like you’re standing

on top of a mountain

and you’ll

catch your breath

like you were

breathing

some new kind of air.

Otherwise,

I count it just

an average day.

(I told you

I was

choosy.)

Life is the present. And you are the one in charge of celebrations.

~D. Avery

February 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story where a character is in the right place at the right time. It may be cause for celebration! Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 23, 2021, to be included in the compilation. 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.

A Fish Story by D. Avery

“Luckiest fishing day ever!”

“Hope! You and Cousin Bobby caught enough for a meal?”

He groaned when the children showed him their sleds loaded with pails of fresh perch along with the ice-fishing gear. “That’s a lot of perch to dress.”

“We found a hotspot, Daddy!”

Laughing, Hope’s mother headed back inside.

“Hey! Help skin.”

“After some phone calls.”

Throughout the afternoon people started dropping by, some chatting while peeling perch out of their scaly skins, some cooking fish over an outside fire. Fish stories old and new were told.

Hope beamed.

“This is the best perch dinner ever!”

🥕🥕🥕

Special Sue Vincent Collection

Stories in this collection honor fellow writer, Sue Vincent who has impacted the lives of many around the world through her stories and prompts. Life is a river of consciousness where writers dip their quills. Sue has provided us access.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi

Dust of Life by FloridaBorne

We gather the dust of life, floating inside a watery womb.

We burst into a world too cold, light too bright, sounds too harsh, searching for sustenance.

Held in soft arms, comforted by a lullaby, we forget that once we floated in God’s arms, listening to celestial music.

Our universe becomes a nuclear family, adults become gods that fall from favor once we discover their flaws. We become gods to a new generation and fear the loss of our borrowed time.

We cast away the dust of life to float in a universe of joy… knowing we’re finally home.

🥕🥕🥕

Adrift by Rebecca Glaessner

A youngling cast eyes skyward upon birth. Energies entered its being, strengthened its mind, its heart.

That youngling grew, phased, loved, laughed. Built together a house-family, welcomed partners and friends, life happy and full.

Years on, now-grown, they lay ready. Every village eagerly awaiting the next youngling’s birth on the morrow.

Eyes closed now, their mind drifted.

No longer amongst their house-family’s hearts, but rather above, looking down upon sprawling villages-turned-cities.

How they’d all grown.

Life flowed onward.

A new youngling cast eyes skyward upon birth, its mind and heart strengthened by an ancient energy.

Unseen, yet deeply felt.

🥕🥕🥕

The Everyday Physics of Dreams by Jeff Gard

Like matter, dreams cannot be destroyed. Unlike matter, they are created by scattered dandelion seeds, extinguished birthday candles, teeth hidden under pillows, and wishes cast upon twinkling stars. They are first kisses, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and promotions. Desires are our bones and blood. One day we will exhale our aspirations. They will rise on thermals, waver within a red and green Aurora Borealis. They will race into space, outpacing radio waves and light. They will dance in the Milky Way and body surf Saturn’s rings. In spiraling clouds of gas and dust, our dreams will condense into newborn stars.

🥕🥕🥕

My Thoughts Move Like Water by Brandon Ellrich

Sometimes quickly over rocks with ripples and waves,

Moving so swiftly I get lost and afraid.

At times it slows, spreading deep and wide,

Touching places unknown, feeling peace inside.

As the river bends and winds I go to and fro,

Joined by streams and rains, as I learn and grow.

I give of myself to those who thirst,

And I am changed for better or worse.

I draw near the ocean and my journey’s end,

And reunited with lost family and friends.

Part of the whole, the greatness, the sea,

My body is loosed, my soul is free!

🥕🥕🥕

Every Ripple by Willow Willers

“What are you looking at?” the young man asked the older woman.

Smiling she turned to answered him. “I am looking at life.”

Perplexed the young man wondered what she meant. “Every ripple, every shimmer of light upon the water is a life, a story. You see we all flow from the source encountering highs and lows as we meander along. Traveling though the seasons we learn. Small streams join as we travel they do not diminish us but help to us grow as we journey on to reach our sea of enlightenment.

The young man saw the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Believe by Sherri Matthews

She waited by the brook where the fairies played. Where water bubbled gently over smooth, wet stones – she had seen them. Sparkle sunlight drops had danced and promised it would be all right. But years had passed and she wasn’t all right. Where had their promises gone? Like the river beyond she had yet to find, did they exist? How could she trust when she’d known only lies? A twig snapped, she gasped. He had come! She ran to his embrace, he kissed her tears away and said, ‘I never left you.’ And the girl now a woman believed.

🥕🥕🥕

Forward Facing by JulesPaige

An odd vista up in the Arizona mountains, riding on a paddlewheel riverboat on a manmade lake. After taking twisting winding roads, some one lane only to reach our destination. The cacti forests were over hundreds of years old, their multiple arms each at one point a stub at fifty years young, amid the scenery. What more could we wish for? A new beginning perhaps for the loved one we had lost. Buried in a box in the same plot as their spouse. Thankful to still have each other to lean on. We silently contemplated where we were going.

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley: Tom by Saifun Hassam

When Janice died shortly after her second brain tumor surgery, Tom was desolate. He felt marooned on a sandy bar, his capsized boat swept swiftly downstream on a mountain river. He felt he was in that river cascading over boulders and rocks, perhaps to disappear into a desert even.

Tom went kayaking again on Seasquall River. It was painful at first. The glint of sunshine on the whitecaps. The distant snowcapped Seasquall Mountains. In Lynn Valley, he spent time with Aunt Bev and his cousin Hannah. Their love turned his silence into conversations and his moroseness into laughter. Janice.

🥕🥕🥕

Trust by Bill Engleson

I stand on the bank of the river.
It winds through my starving soul,
the water, cool, clear, dream-like,
as I float on its sea-bound roll.

I stand on the shore of the river,
pebbles, pools, and sandstone knoll,
as a broken limb of arbutus
drifts by in the currents control.

I wade knee-deep in the river,
stand in a soothing shoal,
bend, as one will in a river,
take hold of my new walking pole.

I drift in the flow of the river,
no destination, no particular goal.
Full fealty to the river,
Allegiance to my inevitable toll.

🥕🥕🥕

Flow by Myrna Migala

A child is born, parents have high hopes, small as a sprinkle, and grows as the world pulls the child into it.
Growing and flowing began a small stream. Gravity pulls it down, moving toward an ocean of eternity. Banking, down to the river’s future. The twists and turns, the bends. The land around is life! Changing from an uphill climb to a comfortable flow in a low valley. Life as a river flowing from height, beginning down through the world. Ups, downs, twists, bends. Life, a gift — a river that someday will end. Ends — or begins again?

🥕🥕🥕

The Ripples of Life by Norah Colvin

The stone made a mini fountain where it plunged into the water. The boy and the man watched the ripples spread. The boy’s eyes filled with wonder, the man’s with life’s wisdom.

“Where do the ripples go?” asked the boy.

“Everywhere,” said the man. “Even when we no longer see them, their effects go on. Like that stone, we make a splash in our family when we arrive. Our circles grow as we grow. Our lives touch more and more. We may never know the effects, but they are there, rippling through the world, flowing forever in the river of life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Life Explored by Jo Elizabeth Pinto

They sat on the riverbank, the waning sun on their shoulders, poles in their hands with limp lines in the still water, their laughter light on the air.

“A tug, a tug,” she said. He took her pole, his hands over hers.

“Gentle … gentle …”

They lifted the trout, shining, dripping–he held it below the gills while she felt its curves, its muscles rippling. Then he quickly slipped it off the hook and let it drop with a splash; it disappeared into the stream of life.

He touched her cheek tenderly; his wet hands smelled of fish.

🥕🥕🥕

Off Balance by JulesPaige

Too many adults weren’t talking. Too many changes were taking place at one time. Her river of consciousness had divided to conquer the fragile sanity that only a child who is kept in the dark after a parent’s death can muster. Willing herself to be in a place of comfort, she sat comfortably in her grammar school art class until the teacher asked why she wasn’t in her reading class. The magic bubble burst, hope dissolved like candy floss on the tongue. Reality slammed her back where her body sat like a mannequin. Reality was cold, bitter and harsh.

🥕🥕🥕

Through the Rough by Gloria McBreen

As a young girl, under the watchful eyes of my father, I paddled with the minnow in the shallow part of Dundragon River. The safe part, where the water flowed gently across a million pebbles. As years passed, I ventured further up the river. Deeper, muddier waters, where I learned to trust my own judgement in the absence of my protector. Tread carefully or be swallowed. Keep my head above the water and prepare for the inevitable ripples. When the dam breaks, keep swimming, knowing that those watchful eyes will guide me across the rough, to gentle waters again.

🥕🥕🥕

Choices by Ruchira

Today, as I stand on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and observe the waves come crashing, I contemplate upon my life. The goals I had in mind, but the choices I made, paved an unknown path. It made me wonder why I chose to tread on it? Why didn’t I give up and decide to pursue my goals instead? Just then, drops of water fall on my face, and a smile crosses my lips. Aah! It gave me happiness and peace of mind. It’s impressive how life can flow in a flashback anywhere as a river of consciousness.

🥕🥕🥕

Clearing Your Mind by Ellen Best

Sit unmoving, unrestricted by the flimflam of everyday drudgery. Listen, hear the burble of the brook giving life to fish, frog and newt. Hear the flop flap as webbed feet slap to keep her afloat, the duck rounding up her ducklings. Inhale, fill your lungs and hold until your head swims, like that day, you took your first sip of golden nectar; back when you were too young to try it. Give thanks for the now. When you hear the beating wing of the hummingbird moth you are there. in the right space to know the measure of self.

🥕🥕🥕

Do What You Love by M J Mallon

What makes us human extends beyond the care we give our young. Perhaps it is our creativity which marks us as distinctive from other species. Life is akin to a river of consciousness, we may drift along, or choose who we truly desire to be. Whatever we decide, we must live life to the full, expressing ourselves in music, words, performance, or art. Troubling obstacles will come and go, pebbles of uncertainty, meandering moments, thunderstorms and floods of tears, unsure and uncertain times. To accomplish our hearts’ desires we must stay focused, determined and resolute on life’s turbulent river.

🥕🥕🥕

Common Waters by Kerry E.B. Black

Everyone knows brooks babble, but not everyone listens.

Legends explain waters spring from the same source – Then take on their own lives. Sometimes they secret underground, but other times, they flow, vast and muddied with so much information, even the most astute has trouble understanding.

Clever streams of consciousness skip from rock to pond, clear, youthful, only to pool resources and tumble as mighty waterfalls. Be they sluggish and algae-thick or coursing with rapid purpose, people dip into waterways in dreams Jung interpreted as universal understanding.

We test waters to share commonalities, if only while we wade and listen.

🥕🥕🥕

Clouded by JulesPaige

within the acceptable range

all the courses, the trails

worked up and down, predator and prey

 in the air or on the ground…

the black bear went over the mountain

crossing the valley…

test results were blurry facts

that just flowed on the page like that snow melt

from the peaks into the common valley below

who wanted to read the writing

that determined any finality?

who wanted to read the last sentence?

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Flow by theindieshe

She lived in an ivory castle with pink lined walls beneath the canopy of the bright blue sky and spun happy dreams. But Sisters of Fate deluged her paradise and she drifted into stormy waters. Meandering down the cobbled bed, she was tossed and turned to be chiseled fine. Savouring each rough tumble, she bravely flowed on to learn new lessons at each turn. The tiny bubbling rivulets infused a surge of hope in the weary, battered soul. She drifted along to new shores to make a fresh beginning. She was reborn to be as bold as an unleashed tempest.

🥕🥕🥕

A River’s String of Consciousness by Kate

I am a river born from the rattling-cold mountain streams, a peaceful current sliding around rocks and meandering amongst the trees, on my way to the sea. Silver-coloured fish hide beneath my surface while armored turtles plod covertly along my bed. Iridescent and blue, playful dragonflies swoop over my waters catching their prey and howling coyotes come out at night and frighten the gentle deer away. People rarely visit me, but when they do, they usually come alone or in twos. They always sit and listen to the gurgling of my waves, while I give comfort to their souls.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Places: Crater Lakes: Jeff by Saifun Hassam

That spring, when the snow melted, the earth tremor’s impact on the Crater Lakes’ bio-habitat became more evident. The historic Ranger Station west of Lizard Lake tilted at an alarming sharp angle. Lizard Lake, an ancient volcanic crater, overflowed with snowmelt from a new underground river. Green Lake, a meteorite crater lake, had sunk deeper into its bedrock. Its marshes were alive with songbirds. Jeff discovered a new sinkhole near the Greenford River bearing snowmelt from the Granite Mountains. Broken pine trees and rock debris filled the dry sinkhole. In time Greenford River would flow into a new lake.

🥕🥕🥕

Forms by D. Wallace Peach

“Men are like the wind,” she said as they strolled beside the river. “Untamable, borderless, playing life like a flute.”

He grinned. “And women?”

“Rivers.” Her gaze roamed to the water. “We possess boundaries through which we channel our power, connecting the past spring to the future sea, always present as the river is present, though each day it is entirely new.”

“Am I truly the wind?”

“I think you are clay,” she decided with a laugh. “You’re still forming. Pushing and poking. But do not worry. I am the river. I’ll keep you from drying before you’re done.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Vessel by Anita Dawes

Shout it from the roof tops
Climb the highest mountain
Let out that long held yell
The universe should know better
Than pluck a beautiful flower too soon
How dare that unseen hand
take that which we long to keep
Rage against the injustice across the planet
Rub out as much of it as you can.
Beautiful people, music, words of a song
They leave their mark on your heart,
Live for ever, in memory
they remain forever young.
Love flows like a river from heaven.
So much, it cannot be contained.
No vessel will hold it all…

🥕🥕🥕

River Drops by Barb Taub

My beachball, almost as big as my 4-year-old self, shivered in the current carrying it away. I laughed.

My fluorescent pink float dropped into the River Liffey, tracing the path in Ulysses we’d read together. He laughed.

My children dropped sticks from the bridge into the stream below. We laughed.

I dropped his ashes into the waves above the beach we’d loved. I remembered laughing.

I stand at the water’s edge. A bobbing flotilla approaches, beachball stripes proudly at front. All the bright tear-filled laughter calls, my flotsam raft. I step aboard, head out to sea. All the laughs…

🥕🥕🥕

Finitely Endless by Goldie

I was born high up in the mountains. In the beginning, full of energy and with my head up in the clouds, I navigated twists and turns with little care. Splashing outside my confines, I caressed rocks, inviting them to join the party. Some gave in and rolled with me, while others remained stagnant. Somewhere along the way, the terrain had changed, and the excitement vanished. Open plains contained me. There will come a time when I take my last breath and become one with the sea, but, until then, I must keep on running. Running like a river.

🥕🥕🥕

The Life River by Ritu Bhathal 

Life is a river

Of consciousness

Each of us a drop

Merging together

To become one

When we clash

Life flows

Unevenly

Turbulent currents

Water gushing

Fiercely

Banging and crashing

Against the banks

When we live

Harmoniously

Gentle ripples

Dapple the surface

Creating

The illusion

Of peace

Together we flow

Side by side

Whether we like it

Or not

Life is a river

Of consciousness

Echoing the

Ebbs and flows

Of life

River beds

Dry up

River banks

Burst

But, in the end

The river

Continues to flow

Like life

Ups and downs

Ebbs and flows

Life goes on

🥕🥕🥕

From Where I Came by Donna Matthews

It’s summer; you’d think it’d be hot, but not so in northern California. Instead, downright chilly, I think, as the freezing river water makes its way inside my shoes. We have two miles to hike along this riverbed to reach the Tall Tree Grove. As typical on the trail, my thoughts soon join my feet in wandering. I love the cold air on my cheeks. Yes, the feeling of being wide awake at this moment — exactly where I need to be. Finding myself at the exit into the woods, I stop and look back from where I came.

🥕🥕🥕

On Beeley Moor by Anne Goodwin

Legend coats this landscape: stone circles, the bronze-age burial mound, Hob Hurst’s House. Layers of later industry: guide stoops for the packhorse trails, millstones left unfinished when grit-grey bread went stale. My thoughts flow through histories of those I’ve met here, steered here, recollected on these moors. Consciousness a stream of memories adrift from date or time. Ideas I’ve birthed amid the heather, drowned in peat-bog, revived on bilberry bushes as green hairstreaks feed. Until the final stile prompts my wondering: What happened to the ice cream lady? How many rambles since her van’s been spotted on the bend?

🥕🥕🥕

River Life by Di @ pensitivity101

Silence and solitude,
Magnificence of Nature,
What secrets does the river hold?
A haven for wildlife,
A studio for birdsong,
Each has a story to be told.
The river bends, hiding
Its twists and turns of mystery,
Reflected images awaken,
Dawns and sunsets,
Colours undaunted,
Feathers and foliage shaken.
Ripples are gentle,
Cascading outwards,
Tickling the surface so sweetly,
Poetry in motion,
Majestic and regal,
At one with each other completely.
Man is a visitor,
This world is for learning,
Take heed and a privileged pride,
Watch, see and wonder,
Relax in its splendour,
Its beauty cannot be denied.

🥕🥕🥕

From One Question To The Next, Ad Infinitum by Geoff Le Pard

Earliest memories are impossible to confirm, as time coalesces when young. Mine, if it be such involves me, in my pushchair watching a thrush smash a snail on a flagstone. My reaction was to ask my mother why. First memory and first question.

Life runs on questions, expanding from the toddler’s incessant whys, through the hows and whens and wheres to the teenager’s whatevers and beyond.

We paddle forwards on those questions, sometimes battling intractable ignorance and at others flowing easily as answers accumulate in our wake.

Eventually Mother Nature answers my final why with a terse ‘why not’.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hunter by D. Avery

The pale winter light was already waning when he began following the buck.

Only the frost sparkled moon witnessed his pursuit farther and farther into the snowy woods.

The buck loped across the snow covered river, looked back from the tree line. He followed. Midway he heard water chuckling under soft ice. Breaking through, he chuckled too, suddenly realizing the joke.

Letting go his rifle, he slogged through deep icy slush, pulled himself up to where the deer had disappeared. Soaked and freezing, he nestled into the snow, saw the river of stars overhead.

He chuckled again. Another river.

🥕🥕🥕

The River of Life: Double Ennead by Colleen M. Chesebro

dawn reflections shimmer

a blood-red birthing

the new journey meanders in small ripples

searching for a known truth

testing the waters

a small stream traverses

the land, growth is key

consciousness actuates a forward passage

as water rushes fast,

over stones ahead

From the sun’s dying light

the darkness succumbs

to the passage of time, the river still flows

 in the celebration 

of a life well lived

🥕🥕🥕

Substituting

Even with the lead Buckaroo away the writers played. In a quest for added glory, many substituted characters and situations in familiar fairy tales.

Writers responded to the prompt, and normally what would follow would be a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology. Instead it is a flash-salad made of the finest ingredients, amateurishly assembled by a stand-in.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Four and Twenty by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The Hunter’s moon rose high as Henry knelt, pulling the pie out of the oven. Dear Liza’d been sent, holey bucket in hand, to gather autumn leaves for decoration. For their 154th anniversary, he’d sworn to make the pie on his own, though Liza was the undisputed expert in finding solutions and substitutions not available in their Ancient Forest home.

Liza returned, bucket in hand, hole fixed, full to the brim with bounty.

The pie steamed and whistled as they sat down to feast.

“Couldn’t find blackbirds, so I substituted bats,” Henry cut the first slice.

“You’re brilliant, Love!”

🥕🥕🥕

Once Upon a Time to Be in the Sward by Bill Engleson 

I will not be me tomorrow.

I have shed my skin.

All that was me.

Though I will no longer be me, I will still be where I am seen.

Others will see me.

Fewer in this time of isolation, I allow.

We have all become less than we once were.

Before the virus, we were the sum total of our world.

We were whom others saw.

And we chose to be seen.

Now, the sward has grown into the sky.

With no skin, I gloriously glide through the sheltered greensward.

I am free to be no longer me.

🥕🥕🥕

Evolutionaries by FloridaBorne

It was said that his ancestors evolved from creatures with thicker legs, smaller beaks, and wings. Their species system of determining height was the ancient wing span, oddly similar to a newly discovered planet. They used yards and meters, but were primitive in comparison. Their males were larger than females, and they were attempting space travel. A planet of savages! On his planet, females were twice the height of a male and they were the rulers. Perhaps Earth’s aberrance and savagery was the reason that he, and the other expendables, were in route to seek and destroy the humans?

🥕🥕🥕

The Stranger by Saifun Hassam

The Cowboy Roy and Maury settled into their sleeping bags around the campfire. It was a moonless night on Twin Horse Plateau. Spurs jangled. Guns in hand, Roy and Maury were instantly alert. Horses whinnied, desperate to cut loose. Roy shot. His bullet flew back pinging his gun! The stranger knocked the terrified Maury’s gun out of his hand. Tall and wiry, the stranger started up the campfire with a flint. His silver metal parts glinted. His voice was cold as a winter’s night. A cowboy at Circle AI, he was a lookout for horse thieves. “Tell me a tall tale.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bear Grease by Ann Edall-Robson

How many batches? She shrugged her shoulders and looked at the failures in the garbage. Once upon a time, she had watched her aunt make these cookies without a recipe. Each pinch and handful of ingredients melded together, resulting in a delicious treat. Why couldn’t she make them from memory? Giving in, she opened the cookbook to the inside back cover. She could feel her face redden as she read her aunt’s instructions. The substitution efforts would have made her aunt laugh. Replacing bear grease with bacon grease and then butter was the culprit? Back to the drawing board!

🥕🥕🥕

Finding Your Prince Charming by Ritu Bhathal

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Princess, awaiting her Prince Charming. After reading the Find Your Prince self-help book, she tried the Sleeping Beauty, the Snow White, and even the Cinderella. Nothing. Eventually, she decided to use her long hair as she attempted the Rapunzel.

Sitting in her tower, with her golden plait fluttering out of the window, she felt a tug. “Yes! Finally, my Prince is coming!”

More pulling followed by the grunt of her beloved-to-be as he hoisted himself up. Alas, no Prince, just the toothless Palace window cleaner!

🥕🥕🥕

Waking Up by Joanne Fisher

They cut through the hedge of thorns and found a castle full of sleeping figures. They walked up the stairs. There the Princess lay on her bed sleeping soundly. The figure closed in, kissing her on the lips. The spell broken, the Princess abruptly woke up and saw them standing over her.

“I thought a prince was meant to wake me.” She said wide-eyed.

“My brother is away, so I thought I would take care of this.”

“I’ve never been kissed by another girl before.” The Princess stated.

“Is it okay?” The Princess pulled her closer. They kissed again.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tale of the Frog Prince by Goldie

“Five minutes to curtain time,” the director announced. “Dylan won’t be able to make it. You’re up,” he added in passing, as if those words weren’t the most important of my life.

Being Dylan’s understudy never have I thought I would actually get to step in. My palms began to sweat. “A frog transformed by a kiss…” I gulped.

Veronica peeked through the curtain. “I’m nervous,” I thought she said. Her shoulder-length locks were made of gold. Her lips the color of raspberries. A real-life Barbie doll.

“Dylan!” Veronica squealed, lunging towards my nemesis who just walked through the door.

🥕🥕🥕

Prologue: Sunken Submarines: “Atlantis” by Saifun Hassam

The unique mini submersible “SeaSquid” maneuvered into the deep valleys of the Mariana Trench. It was designed to explore regions inaccessible to humans. “SeaSquid” contained an AI brain of digital code and human brain scans. Captain Louisa Verne and cyborg navigation officer Melville were stunned by the digital video camera feed. Supergiant stingray, octopus, and squid swam past “SeaSquid.” Another sign that Earth’s ecosystems were recovering from the intense global warming and freezing of past centuries. In a narrow defile in the Trench, “Seasquid” discovered a spherical titanium object! The sunken submarine “Atlantis” lost more than two centuries ago.

🥕🥕🥕

The Substitute by Marsha Ingrao

Room 12’s door banged behind Natalie.

“We can’t read cursive,” pronounced the linebacker sitting next to her chair.

“Raise your hand, dork.”

“She ain’t Grimes.”

“Raise your hands if you like magic.” Natalie pretended her arm was a wand. Hands lifted. “Can you print?” Natalie asked. Hands swayed like palm trees in a hurricane. “I’m going to turn cursive into printing and back again. Watch. Natalie winked, added connecting strokes, and raised her arms. “Done.”

“It says Miss Conifer, don’t it Teach?” said the giant. “I could do THAT magic.”

That day Ms. Grimes’ special education class learned cursive.

🥕🥕🥕

The Art of Supply Teaching by Jack Leonard

There were three of us that day, waiting in the reception area for the flustered head of department to hand over some hastily cobbled worksheets. The usual crew. A Stephen King lookalike (there the level of interest ended), me and a guy that looked like he had just unicycled his way out of the circus.

Maths. Five classes. Five different visions of the apocalypse. Stephen King went home at lunchtime, unable to cope with the horror. Leaving, I asked unicycle guy, ‘What did you have?’

‘Spent the day making origami pets with them all,’ he laughed, ‘They loved it.’

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American Boarding School by D. Avery

My black hair flutters to the hard plank floor, dead crows windrowed around the stiff boots that bind my feet.

They point at me, repeat a sound.

I tell them my name. Pointing at myself I repeat my name. They beat me.

They point at me, call me that sound, make me say it. The sound is sand in my mouth.

I point at myself. I speak my name. They beat me again.

I say that other name. They smile.

I learn to keep my real name close. I will run with it, will leave their chafing boots behind.

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Shady Characters by JulesPaige

Alice looked up into the tree and saw a golden shiny outline of an insect.

“I was expecting a smile to evolve into the Cheshire Cat, who are you,” she asked?

“I am the shade of a cricket, I once assisted a wooden boy a long time ago, but once he became real he no longer needed me,” the bug sang in a singsong voice.

Alice did not think before she stomped her foot and cried; “But I am a real girl!”

Jiminy sighed. How’d he end up in Wonderland. Maybe Peter’s Neverland would be better? So he vanished.

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Shady Characters (Two) by JulesPaige

Jiminy must have taken a wrong turn at the stars that lead to Neverland. Somehow though the place reminded him of something familiar. Hopefully it wasn’t the Neverland Ranch – That particular Michael never did grow up did he?

Piglet felt a little breeze that made him sneeze. and saw a shimmy shine outline of an insect. And he knew just what to do about faded fairies. You had to clap to give them life! The shade of the cricket solidified. Piglet smiled welcomingly.

“What’s your name?” Piglet asked in his quiet way. “Welcome to Hundred Acre Woods little cricket!”

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The Key by Clinton Siegle

In the trunk there was a journal in Spanish with an English translation attached to it in paper. The travels of Jorge Luis Borges. The book went into absurd detail about how to get into and out of a mirror of reality and the universe itself. There were charms and spells and of course a keyhole for a key in the journal. The exact location of where the journal would take someone was easy to understand. The realization I could use the key found elsewhere to go was intriguing. To be offered the adventure of a lifetime interesting. No?

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Replaced by Anita Dawes

I woke late this morning, feeling less than my usual self.

As if a part of me had run off during the night.

I showered, dressed, tried to hurry.

Walking through the office saying Good Morning with no replies

Had they all become blind?

Patting myself down, the way some people pinch themselves.

Did I do something to be sent to Coventry?

I couldn’t think.

Reaching my desk I could see God knows what.

A shadow that had taken my place, holding my cup of coffee

My colleagues chatting, nothing seemed wrong.

I had been replaced by dust particles…

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The Best Day of Your Life by Goldie

When Rashid told me for the first time that he already drove me that day, I just shrugged it off, but when the same happened a couple of weeks later, I asked him to drive me to where he thought he drove me earlier. That is how I met Aisha – a woman who is not related to me but looks eerily just like me. We thought it would be a fun prank for me to stand-in for her best friend’s wedding. Would they know the difference? I had a blast until one of the groomsmen decided to rape me.

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It Would Be Her by Donna Matthews

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the stupidest of them all?” Carrie thought as she dressed for the day. Yesterday, an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions; she just didn’t know how she would manage the situation today.

Taking a deep breath and straightening her sweater, she rebuked herself for the harsh words earlier. Carrie knew she would figure it out. There was a time, not too long ago, she believed in and desired rescue. The ol’ knights in shining armor kind of fantasy. But no more. If anyone could get out of this jam today, it would be her.

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Special Substitution by Norah Colvin

“Where’s my Burger Special? You promised!”

“Here, sweetie.”

“Burger Specials have chips, not carrot sticks!” The carrot sticks plummeted to the floor.

“I substituted them, hon. Carrot sticks are healthier. We want to be healthy, don’t we?”

A mouthful of half-chewed bun adorned the table. “That’s disgusting!”

“Multi-grain’s healthier. Try some more. You will like it.”

“I don’t want substitutes.” The poorly-disguised plant-based patty frisbeed across the room. The parent hauled the protester from the restaurant.

“You promised Burger Special!”

“You’ll get something special, as soon as we get home.”

“There’s no substitute for proper parenting,” tut-tutted a diner.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes by Sue Spitulnik

At a church dinner, a precocious girl about three appeared at Michael’s side. She looked over the wheelchair then patted his longest leg stump. With total innocence, she asked, “Why don’t you grow new legs like Pinocchio grew a new nose?”

Michael laughed, “Pinocchio didn’t lose his nose like I lost my legs. The nose he had grew longer. A man can’t grow new legs.”

“Why don’t you wear those fake ones I’ve seen you walk on?”

“Because they aren’t good substitutions for my real ones. They make sores on my stumps.”

“Oh. Will you give me a ride.”

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A Deadly Substitution by Sarah Brentyn

“Your Majesty, I beseech you…”

“It is not your place,” the king continued rewrapping tampered-with food parcels. “I’m surprised it’s you who objects.”

“I live for the court,” the jester looked at his pointy shoes mumbling, “and this may bring the end of it.”

“What was that?”

Taking a deep breath, the jester lifted his head, bells on his hat jingling. “The commoners…they will revolt.”

“Nonsense!” The king’s face reddened, softened, and then he laughed. “Ah, another of your jokes.”

The jester cringed. “No joke, Your Majesty. Substituting carob for chocolate… It may be the end of the kingdom.”

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Sometimes a dog is just a dog by Anne Goodwin

A friend’s new puppy steals the show at our Zoom session.
A substitute child.
Mutts a-leaping fracture my thoughts and scare my muse from my morning walk.
A substitute for purpose – a dog’s a god – in aimless times.
Government wags the daily vaccine stats. Opposition barks the death toll.
Their substitute for crisis management: Getting Brexit Done!
Yet Sigmund, whose habit killed him, declared: Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.
Even he succumbed to canine charms eventually and leant on man’s best friend to soothe his aching jaw. The world’s awash with substitutions. So should I get a…?

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Tootin’ Rootin’ No Disputin’

“’Ello dere Pal. Ees Keed here?”
“Pepe LeGume. Long time no smell. Kid’s walkin’ the hog. Did ya happen ta catch this week’s prompt? Kid’s already whinin’ ‘bout the switchin’ an’ substitutin ‘roun here lately.”
“Stub-shit-toot-eeng? I do not know dees word, Pal.”
“Means steppin’ in, temper-arily.”
“Oh, I have stepped in eet before. An’ de air, eet was rank.”
“No, LeGume, fillin’ in.”
“I am a feeller upper Pal. Go beeg or go home, ey?”
“No, fillin’ in fer someone cain’t be there ta do the job themsefs.”
“Pal. Some teengs cannot be stubshittooted. I keed you not.”

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Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy, Colleen Chesebro!

“Kid, ya told me ya got Colleen Chesebro comin’ in this week.”

“Yep. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Yeah, but…”

“But what, Pal?”

“Well, I have ta ask, ‘cause we’re fictional characters an’ sometimes we git fictional characters in here at the Saddle Up as guests, so, I jist was wunnerin’… is Colleen fer real?”

“Of course she is, Pal. Jeez, why d’ya have ta ask that?”

“Well, mebbe she’s real, but I jist find her unbelievable.”

“She is fantastic, if that’s what ya mean.”

“Kid, I cain’t figger her out. Colleen Chesebro is a ex-military faerie whisperer? D’ya s’pose she’s got like a split pers’nality or somethin’?”

“Maybe you oughtta split, Pal, ‘cause here she is now. Jist shush an’ be polite fer g’ness sakes. Howdy Colleen! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Colleen Chesebro! I kin ask her m’sef.”

“That’s enough ‘bout what she’s done, Pal. Shush now. I wanna know more ‘bout what Colleen’s up ta now.”

“Hello Kid. Hello Pal. Kid, if Pal has questions for me I don’t mind. I certainly don’t want to remain “unbelievable”.  Ask away, Pal. Maybe I can convince you I’m for real.”

“Ha, Kid! Thank you, Colleen. Well, were ya really in the military?”

“Yes, Pal, I served in the Air Force.”

“Thought so. But I tend ta think a ya as a writer an’ a blogger.”

“I’m glad you do, Pal! But it was the Air Force that taught me how to be a multi-tasker. With writing and blogging, you are always doing a few things at one time—writing and sharing to social media, commenting, encouraging others, and sharing your thoughts. I wear many hats in my world. I work hard splitting my time between the things I love, like writing poetry, and the things I don’t love, like cleaning and doing laundry! LOL!”

“Huh. Did ya write when ya was in the Air Force?”

“Yes, I was a Chapel Management Specialist, and an Administrative Specialist— a paper pusher! I also learned bookkeeping and kept the books for the different Chaplain accounts, ordered supplies, and set up the altars for services.”

“Holy— chaps? Or chapel did ya say?”

“Said chapel Pal. At my first base, Moody AFB, GA, I was the Chapel Historian. I updated the official records of happenings for the Chapel each year. I also created the different programs for the many different church services held at the Chapel.”

“Write on!”

“You bet I did, Pal. My next assignment was at Luke AFB, AZ. In 1980, I helped write the first regulation for the USAF women’s dress code during pregnancy. I was enlisted, so an officer’s name signed off on the regulation, but I wrote it. That’s the way it was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Women were enlisting in the military in droves by then. The men didn’t know what to do with us.”

“Huh. So ya’ve been a writer fer a while, in a way. When ya got outta the Air force did ya write fer a livin’?”

“My subsequent civilian jobs found me working in accounting. Through the years, I was a bookkeeper for a builder in California, an oil company in Montana, a ranch in Montana, a law firm in Montana, a tax and accounting firm in Montana, and I even worked for a bit in the accounting department in a hospital in Montana. Before I retired, I dabbled in selling home and auto insurance. I left when I discovered I was rotten at selling. LOL!”

“Well, thet ‘splains some shift, don’t it Kid? The syll’ble countin’? The ‘finity fer the Ranch?”

“Reckon it does, Pal. Colleen, did ya write much afore joinin’ up with the Air Force?”

“I’ve always dabbled in writing and poetry, KId. It was escapism for me and still is.” 

“Yep, kin relate a might. Colleen, ya been busy in many ways lately. Ya jist traveled from Arizona ta Michigan. Heard tell these are strange times. As ya traveled, what’d ya spy with yer Poet’s eye?”

 “From Arizona, all the way through Illinois, huge swaths of the western and midwestern landscape were dotted with silver wind turbines. I thought about what it would be like to be an alien landing on our planet and seeing these three-armed machines. Like the gods, we’d harnessed the power of the wind to do our bidding. Would they recognize us as magical beings? See where my mind always goes? LOL!”

“Are ya referrin’ ta yer faerie an’ magic innerests?”

 “Yes. I am, Kid. When I started blogging in April of 2014, I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do with my writing.”

“Yeah?” 

“Then, not long after I started blogging, I had an interesting experience. On a warm November morning (we lived in Pensacola, Florida then) I set out on one of my normal morning walks. Near the side of the road, I observed what I perceived to be a bird, flapping around in the bushes. Upon closer observation, I realized it wasn’t a bird at all! I stared into the green eyes of a faery hovering over the swamp. Yup… you heard me right. A faery! At least, that’s how my mind interpreted the event.”

“I read thet in yer book Faeries, Myths & Magic.”

“Yes. It was quite an experience. It gave me pause, but, seriously, looking back now, I know I saw a faery elemental.”

“We believe ya. We got chapfaeries keepin’ an eye on things here at the Saloon.”

“So you know about this. Faery elementals are nature beings based off earth, water, air, or fire. This tiny being was possibly an undine or water elemental. Although, she did fly, so good chance she was a sylph, a being of air.”

“Soun’s like ya done studied up on these things.”

“Yes, I have!”

“Were ya skeered Colleen?”

“No, Kid. I felt no animosity from this experience. Instead, this experience ignited my interest in the fey and all things magical. It literally was an eye-opening, almost spiritual experience. Since then, I’ve connected with another part of me I’d never explored before. I felt like the lotus; my life experiences the petals that opened me to new realities, like faery-craft, and other pagan interests.”

“Cool! I also have an in’rest in pigs an’ sech, Colleen.”

“Pigs and— ? No, Kid, pagan. I’m a pagan and a Buddhist, which led me to my love of syllabic poetry. There is something special about haiku and the other forms that fill a place in my heart. I think it’s the brevity of words, expressed in a few syllables, which holds so much meaning. I find the composition of these poems almost like a puzzle. You must find the right words and syllables to convey the perfect meaning.”

“Yep, yep, we git thet. Not fer nuthin’, Mz. Colleen, but we got a Poet’s Tree out back. An offshoot from the ‘riginal one back et the Ranch.”

“I know. You both write buckaroo-ku. What exactly is that?”

“Um, well, if we were ta look back in the archives, we’d prob’ly find thet it’s not real clear.”

“Yep, Pal’s right. It’s murky-like. I think most times it’s adhere’d ta some syllable count, an’ most times it’s ranch set, but oft times it’s jist whatever falls from the tree.”

“That’s nuts!”

“Yep. It’s what we do. But yer a bit more disciplined ‘bout yer poe’try. A reg’lar Metrist.”

“(Told ya Kid, thet’s thet mil’try backround. Hup, hup!)”

“An’ I told ya ta shush Pal, be polite.”

“Ha! You two! I am a military metrist. And a pagan and a Buddhist.  So sure; meanwhile, back on the blogs… I found a haiku challenge to participate in. When I first started blogging there weren’t any poetry challenges but this one. After that I created Writers Quote Wednesday, where bloggers could choose a quote and write about a theme I’d suggested.”

“Didn’t Marsha Ingrao jist take thet over?” 

“Yes, because I’m so busy! Thank you Marsha!”

“What’s yer mainstay, Colleen?”

“Well, by 2016, I decided to begin my challenge, Tanka Tuesday, and it’s still running strong today! Between my interests in faeries and poetry, well… that’s how I became a “word-witch!”

“So is thet what yer blog’s about now? Word witchin’ with the Tanka Tuesday challenge?”

“Well, there’s that and a whole lot more at Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry.  Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry is an uplifting community where poets can learn the basics of writing Japanese and American syllabic poetry by sharing their own poetic inspiration within a weekly poetry challenge called Tanka Tuesday. Participants submit their poetry written in one of the twelve forms: haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, haibun, tanka prose, renga, cinquain, and its variations, Etheree, nonet, and/or shadorma.”

“Yep, thet’s a pop’lar challenge. An’ a good place fer folks ta learn an’ try new forms. There’s clear d’recshuns an’ links.”

“Exactly. And it’s a community. Poets receive positive feedback from peers who inspire each other to stretch their creativity. Participants and readers return each week to celebrate the weekly poetry stars and to buy books from the Tanka Tuesday Book Store.”

“Soun’s good. Think our writer’s ‘casion’ly showed up there.”

“She has, occasionally. This is an open challenge, and everyone is always welcome to join in.”

“Yer Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry blog has a lot to it Colleen. Folks should poke aroun’ over there. They might learn somethin’ an’ have some fun.”

“Thank you, Kid. I also have an author blog at colleenchesebro.com where I share my poetry, flash fiction, and more personal writings.”

“Yer blogs must keep ya some busy! What’s been yer proudest moments as a blogger?”

“My proudest moments on my blog are watching the poets in my challenge grow in their poetry writing abilities. I take great pride in hearing that some of them have entered and won contests or been accepted in literary journals, including the fact that many have written their own books of poetry. These challenges give us the writing practice we need to perfect our writing craft. How cool is that?”

“Very cool, Colleen!”

“My dream is to continue offering a quality poetry challenge to everyone, no matter what stage of experience they find themselves in. I also hope to create a yearly poetry contest with prizes. In addition, I would eventually like to create a yearly literary journal or anthology to give poets another opportunity for publication.” 

“She remind ya a someone we know, Pal?”

“Yep. Sure does, Kid. Colleen, ya’ve really grown them blogs a yers since startin’ out. What else ya cultivatin’?”

“I’ve written a book called, Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry: The Art of Crafting Syllabic Poetry. This is a beginner how-to book on how to write the various forms of Japanese and American syllabic poetry that I feature in my challenges. I’m in the editing stage now. I hope to have this book published by April 2021.”

“Oh, we sure are lookin’ for’ard ta thet, Colleen.”

“They’s more too, Pal!”

“What ya talkin’ ‘bout, Kid?”   

“Big news Pal!”

“Whut?”

“Colleeen is gonna have a reg’lar spot at the Saddle Up!”

“No way!”

“Yep. Way.”

“Yahoo! Colleen, whut kin folks ‘spect?”

 “Well, do you remember the Carrot Ranch Rodeo from last October? I created a special syllabic form for the ranch—the Double Ennead, which is a 99-syllable poem.”

“We ‘member. It was kinda a tough challenge.”

“No, Pal, not TUFF; Double Ennead. Syllabic poe’try ranch style.” 

“Yes! The word Ennead means nine, and a double nine is ninety-nine! Carrot Ranch is famous for 99-word flash fiction. Now, the ranch has its own syllabic poetry form written in 99 syllables – the Double Ennead.”

“You’ll love it, Pal. 99’s a palindrome. Git it? Pal-in-drome?”

“Shush up Kid, let ‘er finish.”

“The Double Ennead comprises five lines with a syllable count of 6/5/11/6/5, (33 SYLLABLES per stanza) 3 STANZAS EACH = 99 SYLLABLES, NO MORE, NO LESS!”

“Yep, there she goes, always accountin’. Least now we got the back story ‘bout thet.”

“Now you shush, Pal. So what’s that got ta do with the Saddle Up Saloon Colleen?”

“I’ll be hosting a monthly challenge on Carrot Ranch where poets can experiment with this form in a fun setting at the Saddle-Up Saloon. It should be great fun! I promise, it will not be as demanding as the Rodeo contest.”

“Yeah! How ‘bout next week Colleen? We kin git outta yer way ever third Monday. Let folks have anuther chance ta play an’ practice writin’ craft, 99 words at a time.”

“Yes! I am really looking forward to it.”

“Folks, next week bring yer quills ta the Saloon. Colleen Chesebro will be our recurrin’ Guest Host. She’ll be pervidin’ an extra writin’ prompt challenge, her own Double Ennead form a syllabic poetry.”

colleenchesebro.com

wordcraftpoetry.com

Amazon Author Page

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.