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October 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s the day before the Day of the Dead. As a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. Living on the California and Nevada border meant a two-day celebration. You see, Nevada Day is also October 31. We could talk at least one parent into driving us “Alpine County” kids across the border on the night of October 30 because that’s when Nevadans do their trick-o-treating. It was only a 20-mile drive.

The next day, we got to dress up again because we partied at school. Yes, we partied at school. Bobbing for apples, games, even the older grades setting up a haunted house in the gymnasium. If that wasn’t enough, the Forest Service Station in my tiny hometown also hosted a party. But that was after every child in Alpine County paraded through Markleeville in full costume. Businesses competed to hand out the best treat bags. Then we marched on down to the Forest Service garage, where they roasted hot dogs and handed out hot cider. Once we warmed up, we ran around town in our costumes, trick-or-treating every house to the delight of the old-timers who rarely got so many visitors.

The refrain “trick or treat” still reverberates in my heart, a joyous sound. We never tricked anybody. It never occurred to us to do that because we were so happy to get candy and compliments for our clever costume ideas. We whooped and hollered loudly between houses, and in the dark stretches where there were no lights, we told ghost stories to scare each other. I didn’t know about zombies. Tommy Knockers from the old mine shafts or Water Babies from the Washo tradition kept us properly spooked.

One time, an older girl from a different town wanted to go up to the cemetery. I didn’t like the idea because the cemetery was special to me. It contained stories and curious people and beloveds. I was one of few children who lived in town, and as an only child, I sought out the company of old-timers. They fed me cookies, taught me about afternoon tea and coffee at any time of day. They knew where the old shafts were, and who was buried in the abandoned cemetery on the hill. They even told me where the old road to it was.

I’d go up to the cemetery to find and read every marker I could. Some had toppled. Some I had to scrape free of lichen. And some were simply gone, only depressions and snow-damaged wooden railings remained. Three of my favorite old-timers were what we’d call shut-ins today. They were also siblings, and despite their memories of burying their parents and another sibling who drowned as a child, I could not find the family graves. That’s what led to me reading and locating all the markers.

Curiosity drove me to ask about the other children buried up there or to find out about names I recognized from places. Grover’s Hot Springs was a state park near Markleeville, and the cemetery had elaborate graves marking the Grover family, including a 10-year-old girl. Yet, no one in the area remained who was a Grover decadent. Over the years, I also found many other abandoned graves, cemeteries, and even two burial grounds of the Washo. It took listening to stories, exploring, and learning to read old records. By the time I was 16, I had served on a county board to save the cemetery records and to record the archeological sites around my town.

So that Halloween, when the older out of town girl insisted we all go to the “scary” cemetery, I felt uncomfortable. It was not a scary place for me. I still laugh at the memory of climbing the hill in our costumes, crawling under the barbed wire fence that kept out the summer cattle, and shining a light across the familiar chaos of titling and toppled gravestones. When the light caught green eyes glowing in the dark and illuminated a black cat perched on a granite marker, the group screamed in pure terror and fled. I stayed behind laughing, petting the stray cat I knew well.

The Day of the Dead begins October 31 and goes through November 2. It’s a Mexican holiday, but one I’m sure that echoes the sentiment of other cultural days set aside to remember and pray for ancestors and those who have passed on. It’s a prayerful day, not one meant to incite fear. Like those kids that Halloween decades ago, fear is of the unknown.

Sugar skulls are a memento left behind at a grave during the Day of the Dead. Sugar was an ingredient readily available in Mexico and could be easily crafted into a skull treat left behind to remember a loved one or ancestor. Today, they can be made of other materials and are often elaborately and colorfully decorated. Some celebrants even dress up with faces painted like sugar skulls, which fits in with the Halloween tradition of dressing up in costume.

Tonight, the Hub is on his own to greet neighborhood trick-o-treaters. I look forward to future times when I’m not buried beneath coursework and responsibilities, and I create some fun outdoor decorations. I’m heading out to 41 North Film Fest at the Rozsa Center. I plan to read in between films this weekend. It’s like an intense artist date, screening thought-provoking films crafted as visual stories, and meeting directors and screenwriters. What a way to spend the Day of the Dead!

October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holiday, a modern adaptation of it, a similar remembrance, or something entirely new. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 5, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Submission closed. Join us for the next prompt.

Bridging Culture by Charli Mills

Stage lights bounced to the beat of the music and Carmen danced with her college friends. Halloween landed on a weekend and that sent the entire engineering department to blow off steam in town. The floor was sticky with spilled beer and Carmen’s ears rang. She grabbed her roommate; said she was getting a breather. Outside, she walked downhill to the waterway. From her pocket, Carmen retrieved one of the sugar skulls she had made to delight her American friends. She held it to her heart, cast it into the water, and prayed to the memory of her father.

TUFF Beans Challengers

It wouldn’t be a Flash Fiction Rodeo without a TUFF contest. The Ultimate Flash Fiction asks writers to write and revise a single story by reducing it to its sparest form and then rewriting it again in 99 words. TUFF goes from 99-59-9-99 words with one story. The process challenges writers to rethink their stories and revise. The final output shows a transformation from the original idea. It takes courage to rewrite original stories and TUFF introduces a tool to help.

The following are challenge submissions for fun.

The Calypso Triplets by JulesPaige

99-word first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. It wasn’t always easy figuring out what to cook for dinner. They were very independent and had very different tastes.

Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything, but she didn’t like cleaning the cauldron.

Breakfast was a challenge too. Amy liked full brew coffee, Bernadette decaf and Connie just liked to keep the grounds for the garden. However they all agreed that sharing an apartment was cool beans.

59-word reduction of first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything.

Lunch was often a soup mixture of Green, Red Kidney Beans, Black Eyed, Borlotti, and Haricot Beans. Bernadette kept Beano handy.

9-word reduction of first draft: “Excuse me’s” peppered the lives of the Calypso sisters

99-word revision of first draft: The triplets tried to live a very healthy lifestyle. They didn’t want to become ‘has been’s’. So they attempted to be good vegetarians, which required much of their protein to come from a variety of beans.

Amy enjoyed experimenting with soy based tofu. Bernadette thought most beans were bland and needed herbs and spices. Connie pretty much ate anything.

Connie let her sisters do all the cooking. They didn’t need to know that she stopped at the Golden Arches for a burger now and then. What they didn’t know was just one less ‘explosion’ they’d have to deal with.

🥕🥕🥕

Movie Talk by Bill Engleson

99-word first draft: “It’s a saying. Means you’re cookin’, doing what needs doin’. ”

“I don’t know. I think you’re wrong.”

“Come on. Everyone knows it. It’s as common as saying…big fish eat little fish.”

“That one I know. But this one, Man, I think we ought to look it up.”

“Don’t have to look it up. Hell, it was in the Godfather a couple of times. Sonny said it and Moe Greene, you remember him, waking up with that horse’s head in his bed?”

“That wasn’t Moe Greene.”

“Doesn’t matter. My bad. But both Moe and Sonny said, “I made my beans…”

59-word reduction of first draft: “Come on. It’s as common as the saying… a hole in the head. Means you’re cookin’ doing what needs doin’. ”

“Think you’re wrong.”

“No, I’m not. Hell, it was in the Godfather. Sonny and Moe said it different times.”

“Moe…the one with the horses head?”

“That was another guy. Anyways both Moe and Sonny said,” I made my beans.”

9-word reduction of first draft: It’s gangsterese, right, to say, “I made my beans.”

99-word revision of first draft: I thought, beans. I like beans. I like slow cooking them. A bonanza of dishes is possible.

Charli mentioned Chili Con Carne, eh. A childhood favorite food. And while I’m thinking, I decide, okay, I’ve got two tales in the hopper. How about a third?

I’ve done this before. Recently. Played with a prompt. Like a teasing cat with a silly mouse in its paw.

To honour Leo Gorcey’s, Slip Mahoney, I seek out a one syllable b word.

Balls?

Bras?

Beads?

Then I watch the news.

Fires in California.

That horrible human trafficking story from England.

Beans, indeed.

🥕🥕🥕

Yellow Roses by Charli Mills

99-word first draft: Yellow roses climbed sun-bleached lattice where silage soured the air like beans. A teenaged boy in hot-pink satin shorts watered roses with a milk bucket. His grandfather once mulched with cedar chips, but having none, the teen used manure. A setting sun bruised the horizon with a purple haze. His father pulled up and the leaking exhaust of the rusty truck lingered like stale smoke. “Get that bucket to the barn, boy.” The teen nodded. He had the patience to grow his grandfather’s roses in the desert. One day, he’d leave and take his yellow roses with him.

59-word reduction of first draft: The teen grew yellow roses in the desert and cultivated a plan to escape silage and endless beans. Wearing hot-pink satin shorts to irritate his old man, he watered roses with a milk bucket. The setting sun bruised the sky. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe and cedar mulch, but the rusty rattle gave away his father’s truck.

9-word reduction of first draft: He’d escape the beans, taking yellow roses with him.

99-word revision of first draft: Yellow Roses of Saigon

“Get that bucket to the barn, boy.”

A teen in hot pink satin shorts rose from watering his grandfather’s yellow roses. Exhaust leaking from his old man’s rusty truck choked the sour air of dairy cows and beans. The setting sun bruised the sky like a beating from his father’s fists. Putting the bucket down, the boy pruned cuttings from the bush. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe. He turned to face his father. “I joined the Army, Dad. Me and my roses leave tomorrow.”

“Fool.” His father spat into the sand. “Yellow roses won’t grow in Vietnam.”

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by D. Avery

99-word first draft: They ran out of milk and eggs first. When the hay ran out and her milk had run out they ate the cow. When the hens had picked every scrap of anything edible from the hay and the scraps from butchering they ate them. They’d been out of meat for days. Still it snowed.
He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but there was nothing except a sack of beans for planting come spring. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue, and still it snowed.
Her children were starving. She opened the sack.

59-word reduction of first draft: Still it snowed. He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but again there was nothing, nothing left to eat except a sack of beans intended for planting come spring, seeds for future harvests. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue.
As snow fell she fed her children unsweetened boiled beans, bitter but filling.

9-word reduction of first draft: Her starving children found the plain beans sweet enough.

99-word revision of first draft: “Those are seeds. There’ll be nothing to plant.”
In normal circumstances his logic would hold. They’d kept the cow for milk until all the hay was gone, kept the chickens for eggs until their feed was gone. Then the meat from those animals had run out. They’d boiled every scrap into soup. Snow fell though calendar spring was two months past. Her children were starving. Her logic would prevail. She made him promise. Her children would eat those beans, the last meal she would prepare for them. But it would not be the last time she would feed them.

🥕🥕🥕

Stinker of a Ranch Yarn by D. Avery

99-word first draft: “Ello, Keed, how have you bean?”
“Pepe LeGume! It’s tuff times, but I’m all right. You?”
“I am so very happy, Keed. You see dat post? No, not dat fence post, de post dat ever body read. I am mentioned in eet. So. I am real, no?”
“Reckon ya could pass fer real.”
“Keed, I been passed so much. Now I find dees ranch, I jes’ want to linger here and smell de roses.”
“Phew. I think ya dropped a rose.”
“Keed, I am going to cook beans for ever’body. Weeth bacon.”
“Fer real?”
“How you say? Darn tooting.”

59-word reduction of first draft: “Pepe, this might be a tuff question fer ya. How’d ya end up here at the ranch?”
“Keed, I am from south of the border, that ees, da border of Quebec. I snuck in weeth dat lead buckaroo when she crossed Quebec and Ontario returning to her headquarters in the Keweenaw.”
“LeGume! Yer a bean stalker!”
“Ees magical, no?”

9-word reduction of first draft: Legume blew in after the Writers Refuge, lingers still.

99-word revision of first draft: Beans are magical. Not Jack’s magic beans, not the magical fruit that’s good for your heart; something more is encased in those symmetrical shells.
The magic of plants and cycles is revealed to young children who can easily observe a plant unfold from the hard bean; can plant them, watch them grow, flower, and bear more beans.
A great source of protein, traditions and stories are revealed through the preparations, memories stirred, savored, and shared. Beans are the humble communion of gatherings and of campfires, the places where friendships are forged and where magic unfolds like a favorite story.

🥕🥕🥕

The Last Will of Sven Andersen

It’s amazing to consider how prolific Geoff Le Pard is as an author. He turned on the fiction faucet in 2006, and it’s been blasting ever since as fast as icebergs melt. I read his first novel, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, several years ago, snort-laughing and waiting for the next installment of Harry Spittle’s life. Well, I’m pleased to say, it has arrived with the third installment quick on its heels.

Without further ado, I’ll turn the Ranch over to Geoff to tell you all about his latest book:

The Last Will of Sven Andersen

By Geoff Le Pard

The first book I ever finished was Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, a comedic coming of age tale of the hapless Harry Spittle, then aged 19 as he struggled with the three challenges facing a teenage boy in the deepest countryside: how to earn money, how to spend as little time as possible with his irritating family; and how to someone willing to have sex with h,im. When I wrote it as part of a Masters in Creative Writing I envisaged it as a stand-alone novel that would be driven by the characters and their dilemm,as and decisions. But as the book writing process progressed I became sucked into the plot and the weird and wonderful adventures Harry took me on. Wind the clock on five years and I’ve now committed to paper both a second and third book in the series. And guess what? It’s the characters that dominate. Without their personalities shining through who’d want to carry on? It’s because the characters were the reason, front, and centre for writing the first book that book two crept up on me and kept saying ‘write me’. They tapped on their toy-box demanding an outlet and here we go, a full-fledged series. Characters, huh? Who knew they’d take over your life quite so much?

It has led to a change in approach to things such as editing too. I am now more confident in my characters that I want the Beta ,reading to come later in the process.

All of which of course doesn’t mitigate the fact that there are many times when I misunderstand them and they tell me in no uncertain terms to, change tack because they just wouldn’t, do/say X. Now though I’m less likely to make those mistakes and I’m certainly less likely to argue if I do. I think we, my characters and I, know who’s right.

BIO: Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels, he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction, and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

BOOKS:

The Last Will Of Sven Andersen

When Harry Spittle, nearly qualified as a solicitor, is approached to write a Will for old acquaintance Sven Andersen, he is somewhat surprised but rather pleased. That pleasure sours after he finds that the Will Sven actually signs is very different to the one he has drawn up, with Harry as the executor. Disappointment turns to horror when he discovers that Sven has been winding up his late father’s criminal empire and a number of not very nice people are interested in the Will’s contents.

If he is to remain in one piece, able to continue his career in the law and save his on-off relationship with his girlfriend Penny, who is unfortunately under suspicion of murder, he needs to find out what’s happened to the money and distribute it according to Sven’s wishes. The trouble is Sven has not only hidden the assets but also the identities of those who benefit. Harry will have to solve a fiendish puzzle Sven has left behind with the help of his sister Dina before his world comes crashing down. With so many people depending on him, Harry knows it’s time for him to grow up – it’s just that he really, really doesn’t want to.

Set in 1981 to the backdrop of punk, Thatcherite politics and an upcoming Royal wedding, this is a book for those who like their nostalgia served with a side of humour and a dash of optimism all wrapped up in a compelling mystery.

Pre Order Here

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle

It’s summer 1976 and hotter than Hades. Harry Spittle, nineteen, is home from university, aiming to earn some money to go on holiday and maybe get laid. He expects he will be bored rigid, but the appearance of an old family friend, Charlie Jepson, his psychopathic son, Claude, and predatory wife Monica changes that. As his parents’ marriage implodes, Harry’s problems mount; before he knows it he’s in debt up to his ears and dealing in drugs. Things go from bad to worse when he is stabbed. He needs money fast, but now his job is at risk, his sister is in trouble and he has discovered a family secret that could destroy all he holds dear. Will Harry have to join forces with the local criminal mastermind to survive the summer and save his family? Can he regain some credibility and self-respect? Most importantly will he finally get laid?

Dead Flies will be free from 30th October 2019 to 3rd November 2019

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

This is available here

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Smashwords

 

Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Life in a Conversation is an anthology of short and super short fiction that explores connections through humour, speech and everything besides. If you enjoy the funny, the weird and the heart-rending then you’ll be sure to find something here.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

Rodeo #4: TUFF Beans

With Pepe Le Gume on the prowl at Carrot Ranch, I might regret prompting anything with beans. But beans hold a special place in my heart. I grew up on pinto beans, cowboy beans. A special treat was refried beans. I never had navy bean soup or chili beans or baked beans until I was an adult. Chili was a con carne served over pasta, soup was sopas, and whoever heard of maple-sweetened beans in buckaroo country? Now that I’ve had Vermont beans, I understand Pepe’s appeal.

In case you aren’t familiar with the mainstay challenges at Carrot Ranch, D. Avery created Pepe along with a host of characters in her weekly Ranch Yarns. Like beans, once a writer gets a taste for 99-words, you’ll keep coming back for more. We make sure the pot is always on at Carrot Ranch, where we create community through literary art. I want to thank all the regular Ranchers for honing their skills and diving into the contests. I’m proud of all of you for your dedication to writing and growing.

Now things are going to get TUFF. Our final contest of the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo is all about having the guts to revise. As if writing weren’t challenging enough, we also have to know what to cut, what to add, and how to improve our stories. Revision is where the work happens. TUFF is an exercise in getting to the heart of a story and rebuilding it with that understanding. TUFF stands for The Ultimate Flash Fiction. In this contest, you will be asked to write one story with several reductions and a final revision. Your revision should be different from your initial draft. That’s where a writer has to gain courage and insight. TUFF will help guide you if you practice it.

Keep in mind that the TUFF contest is all about process. So far in this Rodeo, writes have tested skills of storytelling, craft, and creativity. Now it’s time to show how you approach revising an initial story idea. Your first 99-words should be a first draft and your final 99-words should be polished and improved. The word reductions in between help you find the heart of your story (59-words) and a punchy line (9-words). Judges want to see how you manage the entire process of TUFF.

And yes, beans are involved.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include beans (go where the prompt leads).
  2. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  3. Your second 99-word story should show the evolution or transformation of revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process lead to new insights that changed the final version?
  4. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  5. It can include any tone or mood, and be in any genre, and don’t forget the beans.
  6. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 30, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Three-Act Story Challengers

A writer uses many craft elements to tell about something that happens to someone somewhere. When told in three acts, a story has a beginning, middle, and end (BME). Rodeo #3 is all about the mechanics behind storytelling in 99 words. The contest has now ended, but you can enjoy the following submissions by challengers. Some are prolific 99-word story writers and had more than their one contest entry. Some just wanted to have fun, telling a tale. In three-acts, of course. Winners of the contest will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Coursework or Coarse Work? by JulesPaige

Acme constantly delivers to Wile, who thinks he will succeed in his quest of catching his nemesis. It is an old story of chasing one’s dinner. Being the mighty hunter. Yet the coyote seems to only have a series of unfortunate events repeat. Most often damaging more than his ego.

We root for underdogs because we desire the right recognition. Dreams though seem to be elusive, like the Road Runner that escapes unscathed. Are our human wants just a different hunger that can only be sated by hard work?

Where’s the fairy tale ending? You gotta write it yourself!

🥕🥕🥕

A Water Story by Charli Mills

The ground above Lake Itasca releases an underground spring. A trickle becomes the 2,348 mile-long Mississippi River, nicknamed Father of Waters. Yet, it is within the wombs of women where life grows in sacs of amniotic fluid – water from mothers. Women bring life.

Scientists document facts about water. They can tell us our bodies use it for cell development and waste elimination. They point out the rapid rate of glacier melt as a phenomenon of climate change.

Men pass laws against women’s bodies and reverse protections for the environment. In the end, who can deny — Water is Life?

🥕🥕🥕

Bare Facts by JulesPaige

Looking through her rearview mirror she spied the driver behind her dangling an unlit cancer stick from his mouth. Her internal thought dripped with sarcasm that he could not hear; My, isn’t that attractive.

Cancer has become a dreaded word. Often becoming the elephant in everyone’s living room. Survivors abound every day due to those skilled in various treatments.

Three males in her family were being treated for three different cancers in the same month. She only knew the full circumstances of her man. And he was going to make it because of early detection and a skilled surgeon!

🥕🥕🥕

And Then the Sun Shone by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The yard was covered, leaves bright yellow, and wet from last night’s rain. Randall shook his head, tipped his cap to scratch his balding pate, and looked up to the sky. No help there. Rainclouds fisted up again overhead.

Marla’d promised to bring the grandkids over for his birthday tomorrow since Sadie had passed. Five years now, and he missed her every day. She would’ve ensured the place was spotless. Dragging the rake to his front porch, he eased into the wooden chair.

He lifted his head as the truck rumbled in.

“We came early to help! Happy birthday!”

🥕🥕🥕

Neighbours by Joanne Fisher

One night a vampire moved into the vacant house next to us. At first we were concerned, but she turned out to be no bother really.

Life went on in our street. The vampire was rather quiet, and kept her house and grounds tidy. We only usually saw her in the evenings flying off to somewhere. Occasionally she would come round to ask for a cup of blood.

Then a hunter came and the vampire was no more. After that a guy who constantly plays the drums moved into the now vacant house. Honestly, I’m really missing the vampire.

🥕🥕🥕

Fetching by Charli Mills

Bare limbs of birch pointed skyward, yellow leaves buried roots. A pup burst through the woods, scattering leaves. A woman ran, red leash in hand, calling, “Maxwell, come here!”

Max chased snowshoe hares down the birch-lined trail, pulling a woman on skis. She laughed and he pulled harder, kicking up a lone yellow leaf.

She wrapped him in a fleece blanket. “Good boy, Max,” she said, her hand lingering on his head. Walking the leaf littered road, a tear slid down her cheek. It had been fourteen autumns since she had walked this way alone. But water needed fetching.

🥕🥕🥕

Beginning, Middle, End by Chelsea Owens

Top Bun was the epitome of a beginning: first to stand in line at the condiments counter, first to graduate in his class, and always top bread at work.

Meat, meanwhile, existed in the middle. Middle child, middle man, middle class -that was him.

Poor Bottom Bun was last. No matter what he tried, he always woke late. He never caught the train on time; if he did, it was behind. The best dance partners were already taken, and even his mother had run out of names when he came out. He was, as one might guess, The End.

🥕🥕🥕

A Quitting by D. Avery

She felt proud. It’d been six months; she was sure she was done smoking for good.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started. Well, it’s done now.”

He blew smoke rings; sipped his coffee.

She could taste food again. She was more mindful of the food she ate, made healthy meals. She lost weight. She felt good.

He complained there weren’t mashed potatoes anymore. He crushed each beer can after draining it. She winced at the sound.

He’s only been gone a week, but she’s sure.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo #3: Three-Act Story

What is a story? We all tell them, and as writers, we craft them in the written word. A story is about Something that happens to Someone, Somewhere. It’s plot, character, and setting. A story has a beginning, middle, and end. Because we are hardwired for stories, we retain data better from narrative. Storytelling is in my blood.

When I was a kid, my mother ran a general mercantile in a town of 99 people. One of those 99 was Eloise Fairbanks, a one-eyed shut-in born in 1908. Her father operated the water mill, and when she was a young woman, she rode the backcountry of the Sierra Nevadas as a telegraph lineman. Weezy, as she was called, would call the store and order a six-pack of Coors. My job was to pedal the brown bag over to her house. She’d holler for me to come in when I knocked, sitting at her kitchen table. I’d sit, too, anticipating what followed the popped tab of her first beer — stories.

See what I did there? I slipped in a little story about stories. It has a beginning and is about someone, with me as the narrator (first-person POV). The Someone is Weezy. She’s from Someplace in time (when I was a kid, the Sierras, my implied hometown). Something happened — she’d tell stories once she got her beer. The end.

According to Greeks, stories happen in Three Acts.

Act I, the beginning, the story rises. It’s marked by pity, or what we would now consider empathy. If a story is about someone, we have to feel something for that character. Literature can teach empathy because writers and readers practice it. When we care what happens next for or to this Someone, we come to the middle.

Act II shifts to fear, according to the Greeks. We can interpret this as the emotion that drives the writer and reader to worry about what happens next. Or be curious about what comes next. The driving emotion doesn’t have to be fear, but the middle holds an important shift or build-up of tension or expectation. The story is in motion.

Act III is when that motion comes to an end. The Greeks called it catharsis. The action falls; the story has arrived at an exit. A good ending is not canned, but one that lets the reader think about the story and the Someone long after the conclusion. A twist is when a writer ends with the unexpected, and it can be humorous or dramatic.

When I teach storytelling to engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs, I like to show them the science of a three-act story mapped out in a graph. This video is worth watching. Kurt Vonnegut graphs stories, and once you see their form, you’ll also understand how versatile story structure can be.

Now it’s time to craft a story!

CRITERIA:

  1. Write a story that has Three Acts (they do not need to be labeled).
  2. The story must have a discernible beginning, middle, and end.
  3. The story must be about someone, set somewhere, and something happens.
  4. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  5. It can include any tone or mood, and be in any genre, and there is NO PROMPT.
  6. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 23, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Pro-Bull Mashup Challengers

Writers faced the bullpen at the Rodeo with the rip-snorting task of combining three pro-bull names into nouns and mashing them into two genres — game show and pirate. They faced, rode, and wrote Bodacious, Nose Bender, and The Heartbreak Kid onto the stage, the plank, or perhaps a strange new reality tv show.

Each writer gets to enter the contest once. Some only want the fun of the challenge, and others are prolific and wrote extra stories. These are the challengers from Rodeo #2: Pro-Bull Mashup.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #3 launches October 17, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Foul Play by D. Avery

“Pal, I won us tickets ta see the bull ridin’. Nose bender seats.”

“D’ya mean nose-bleed?”

“Nose bender. From pressin up against the fence an’ peerin’ through the knothole. Guy said ringside seats is sold out, this is such a bodacious event.”

“Sold out? This rodeo don’t charge.”

“The guy said we had to pay, Pal, but said I could git these seats if the price was right. I answered some ranch trivia questions an’ I won!”

“Nanjo Castille! This ain’t trivial, he’s a pirate! This could lead ta heartbreak, Kid. Where’s he at?”

“Sleepin’ off Ernie’s ‘lixir.”

“Shorty!”

🥕🥕🥕

One Chance to Ride by Charli Mills

Heartbreak Kid tightened the rigging. Daddy schooled her in knots. She’d want it to come loose, not drag her through the arena like a ragdoll. They all wanted her to bomb, break bones. It would serve her right. She had pirated the sport meant for cowboys, not cowgirls. Daddy’s nose-bender against the county rodeo association made salacious headlines. He fought for her right to ride. The paper dubbed her the Heartbreak Kid, mocking her dreams of riding eight seconds. This was no game show with winner’s confetti. Getting to ride a bull named Bodacious would be her prize.

🥕🥕🥕

Sink or Swim! by JulesPaige

The very bodacious hostess was looking for a ‘Romeo’, not a heartbreak kid for her contestant. Michael Nosebender needed a new name if he was going to compete on national television. So he pirated the first name he thought of; Mickey Rooney. Since this was a match up for the silver hair set Carol let the guy slid in the third seat. Not that anyone with any brains would want to date that old curmudgeon.

The widow Della Street wanted someone young to offer her a very romantic cruise far away from raunchy buccaneers. Florida’s Gulf coast would do.

🥕🥕🥕

A Bull in a China Store by Goldie

“I’m Mark – Will’s best-man. We met in college” – Mark smiled and took a sip of bourbon.

“I don’t want any surprises” – said Will before the rehearsal dinner.

“No problemo” – Mark replied.

200 guests.

“He was known as the Heartbreak Kid. The ladies loved him. I had to break a nose, or two when a jealous ex came after Will. They called me ‘Nose Bender’.”

Another sip of bourbon.

“She was dressed as a pirate that Halloween. Bo-dacious! Will says she’s the one that got away. Will, I have a surprise for you. Let’s see what’s behind curtain number 3!”

🥕🥕🥕

Games off the Coast of Brazil by Charli Mills

Nosebender ruled the deck of her ship Bodacious with its black sails. She was French Basque, busty and disfigured. Sometime during her trade, gaming Spanish galleons out of Brazil, the butt of a pistol bent her nose. It frightened God-fearing captains during raids she crafted into a high-seas game show. She called her first-mate, a Portagee with a blind left eye, the Heartbreak Kid. A bit of a pirate joke — he was ugly as Nosebender. But he supported her slick game of ridding Spain of her ill-gotten riches, sharing the winnings with the wretches of the New World.

🥕🥕🥕

And They’re Off by Susan Zutautas

Standing at the ticket window Ian placed his bet. Twenty dollars on Nose Bender to win. Meg the practical one put twenty dollars on Heartbreak Kid to show.

At the starting gate, the bell rang, and the horses were off.

Heartbreak Kid took the lead with Nose Bender three horses back. Meg and Ian, both excited stood cheering their horses on.

Out of nowhere the favorite to win, Bodacious took the lead leaving the couple’s horses behind. The favorite won, Heartbreak came second, Nose Bender way behind, came in sixth.

Both disappointed but they had a fun day out.

🥕🥕🥕

The Parrot Nation by Charli Mills

“Welcome back to the celebrity edition of, ‘Whose Parrot is This?’”

Cheers rose from the audience, responding to cue cards. No one knew who the famous person would be. Anticipation dripped like sweat.

The host, a man with a plasticized smile and pirate hat initiated the hints to three audience members on stage

“Squawk! I speak Russian!”

“Putin?”

“No! Squawk! Diplomats suck!”

“Giuliani?”

“No! Squawk! Make America—”

“Trump!”

“Ding, ding, ding! Yes! This parrot belongs to President Trump, Stable Genius, Grand Pirate of the Walled Swamp.”

The crowd roared, prompting unnecessary. The rally had begun, the games continued.

🥕🥕🥕

Reality Show by D. Avery

“Kid, stop poutin’ up in thet poet tree. What’s wrong?”

“Reckon yawl should jist vote me off the Ranch. I feel awful fer indangerin’ ever’one. Agin. I’m heartbroke.”

“Kid, don’t git yer nose bent outta joint. Nanjo’s gone. Some bodacious city slicker name of Rudy come by an took ‘im east.”

“Ta the Big House?”

“I heard White House. They’ve got friends there.”

“Hmm. I’m russian ta conclusions now.”

“Right? But where else kin a corrupt pirate like Nanjo be tried by a jury of his peers? The $64,000,000 question is, kin we vote thet gang off the Island?”

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo #2: Pro-Bull Mashup

Where else would you find a bull-riding flash fiction 99-word contest but at Carrot Ranch? Come on, all you pencil crunchers, gather ’round and listen to a  tale.

My dad rode bulls. His dad and his dad’s dad rode bulls. My second great-grandfather wore high-heeled vaquero boots in an 1880s photograph, and while I have no more evidence than those boots, I suspect he rode bulls, too. When you grow up around ranch critters, you ride everything that will hold your weight (you can’t ride a chicken, but you can ride a pig).

Getting bucked off is fun, or so you grow up believing. Your relatives and their friends, congregate in the corrals, hold down a critter, set you on it, hoot like crazy throughout your ride, and dust you off when you faceplant in the dirt and critter-pies.

Following this generational bent, I wanted to ride bulls, too. I never got to, but I did ride goats, calves, mustangs, and even a few mild-mannered steers. Somewhere along the way, I got the taste of goat-hide in my mouth, and it’s kind of like getting the smell of a skunk caught in your sinuses. To this day, the barest hint of goat cheese makes me shudder. Eating it is like licking a goat. That and my boots are all I have left of a bull-riding heritage. The boots, by the way, are for when the BS gets deep.

Bull-riding in the US has evolved into a huge sport outside its original heritage. It’s dangerous, fast-paced, and still draws crowds. Raising stock for rodeos is also a big business, and bulls have names as extravagant as carnies or prize-fighters. It’s from the list of Pro-Bull names that this contest takes inspiration. Take a moment to feel the vibe of this year’s ride:

At Carrot Ranch, our weekly literary art and wordplay are expressed in 99 words. Several regular Ranchers often include the prompts or constraints of other writing challenges, and that is known as a “mashup.” This contest has several mashups based on multiple prompts derived from three Pro-Bull names, and the amalgam of two genres. Read the criteria carefully because this contest requires you to combine multiple writing elements and prompts.

Rosin up your writing gear!

CRITERIA:

  1. Write a story using all three bull names as names, places, or things: Bodacious, Nose Bender, and Heartbreak Kid.
  2. Combine two genres: game show and pirate. (Use the provided links for genre tropes and plots.)
  3. It can be fiction or fictionized BOTS (based on a true story), but if true, wow, what a life you lead!
  4. It can include any tone or mood.
  5. Use original details to express your tale.
  6. Make the judges laugh, gasp in surprise, or remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 16, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Modern Tall Tale Challengers

Tall tales aren’t just for contestants. Some writers took to telling whoppers like they were alligators born to drive golf carts. Some tall tales are less flamboyant. The following are submissions as challenges (not contest entries) to the Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tales.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #2 launches October 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Make America Skate Again by D. Avery

“Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”

“Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”

“Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Blasting Bunyan by JulesPaige

Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.

The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes, and too many city folks looking for them.

🥕🥕🥕

Lou Ell, Master Photosnappishooter by Faith A. Colburn

No chance of unremembering Lou Ell. He was the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife photographer. A bachelor, he spent most of his time outdoors somewhere fulfilling his role as “photosnappishooter.”

On vacation, he shot a film on the Alaska brown bear. In one spectacular sequence, he got between a sow and her cub. The momma attacked. Backed against a cliff, Lou kept shooting. “Somebody will find the camera,” he thought. Since he survived, he intended to make wildlife movies.

I visited him once years later. He lived alone in the dark. You see, he had lost his sight.

🥕🥕🥕

Say Mozzarella by Sharon C

Influencers travel the world to capture photogenic spots for social media. Traditional travelers’ enjoyment is ruined by Millenials lining up to ‘hand heart’ iconic locations. In response, camera bans are enforced at tourist sites across the world.

Not so at the Tower of Pisa. Millions of visitors annually photograph the ‘straightening’ of the tower. The impact of this phenomenon is now being scrutinized. Permanent human activity has caused denser, more resistant, air composition around the tower, significantly reversing the leaning process. Consequently, the combined minuscule lifespans of a million Instagram posts may be saving the landmark for future generations.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Pete Fanning

Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.

He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.

At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.

Old Green gave him a wizened smile.

“First day?”

Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”

“Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tall Tales: A Trio of Fledglings by Charli Mills

Wind flapped across my neighborhood so fiercely every maple leaf fell at once. Powerlines went down, and we had to call a tow truck to dig out cars and trucks along Roberts Street. Piles of red and orange drifted like snow. My neighbor said he ain’t seen the likes of this occurrence ever, and he’s older than the Porcupine Mountains. While everyone was looking at the leaf mess, I was looking up. Starlings. They flew as if the flocks were a single wing, beating over us like a thundercloud. Two small notches marked where the hatchlings would have flown.

***

It began with starlings. The urge to rescue something vulnerable. My heart is rose quartz, and it fractures when I fail. That day, before my house was home, I failed two baby starlings, and my quartz fractured twice. Later, rose quartz still beating, I held a baby loon to my chest. Again, I failed, and another crack emerged. Giving up on nestlings, I fed the grown chickadees. Then, one fall day, two fledged pigeons appeared, motherless, flightless, and so I became a surrogate again. They grew, they flew. Only one returned to roost. This is how crystals are formed.

***

Summer ended. The starlings razed the birdfeeders by the millions and left behind two changelings. They grew big, peeping. That’s when the street coyotes showed up to circle the house, howl at the moon, and demand plum pie. Turns out, the big starling babies were really coyotes. This is how I knew they were changelings. The peeping always stopped when the coyotes emerged, scratching at grizzled coats. I caught them pulling downy nestling feathers from their fur. Tricksters. That’s how I’ll remember the departures. Tricked into raising vulnerable things that go away. My empty nest is an abandoned den.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s KEVA Kiosk by D. Avery

“Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”

“I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”

“I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”

“What do you think?”

“Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”

“Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”

“In 99 words?”

“Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”

“Huh. Who’da thunk it.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tale

Out west where I grew up, to tell a tall tale was to tell a whopper of a lie so big no one would ever believe it. Someone would start the storytelling, and the next person would try to out-exaggerate the last one. Some told tall tales as a joke, especially if an inexperienced newbie might believe it. Wild Bill Hickok’s biographer, Joseph Rosa, suspected that Bill magnified the truth for fun.

Tall tales are the stuff of dime-store novels and pulp fiction.

What is a tall tale? One that openly exaggerates and magnifies the truth to the point of being unbelievable. The story itself is hyperbole. But we want to believe it because it’s humorous, melodramatic, or sensational.

This contest asks you to give a tall tale a modern bent. Don’t rely on the stories of Pecos Bill or 19th-century dime-store westerns. Go past the early sci-fi and detective stories of pulp fiction. Write a tall tale that is recognizable set in the present time.

Have fun, exaggerating!

CRITERIA:

  1. Write a tall tale and exaggerate something that happens to someone somewhere.
  2. It can be fiction or fictionized BOTS (based on a true story) but must be exaggerated to the point it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s okay — tell a whopper of a lie as a story!
  3. It can be humorous, sensational, or melodramatic from any genre.
  4. Use original details to express your tale.
  5. Make the judges laugh or gasp in surprise.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the story that matters most.
  4. Use the form below the rules to enter.
  5. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  6. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 9, 2019.
  7. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  8. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names in order to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

CONTEST CLOSED.

A 5-Star Readers’ Favorite!

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Thank you, Writers of Carrot Ranch!

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

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