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Jubilation in the House of Windsor

The soap opera that is the British Royal family had a lavish ceremony earlier this month and millions of fans from around the world joined in. Personally, I found little to celebrate in an event that diverted funds from feeding the hungry and that saw the pre-emptive arrests of potential protesters under the kind of law you’d expect of a police state. Nevertheless, I confess I smiled at a couple of rousing anthems I’ve sung several times appearing in their original context, but only slightly.

Instead, I’ve been focused on a milestone in a much more modest House of Windsor: this month, my fictional Ms Windsor becomes a three-book series. The character who first appeared as a seventy-year-old psychiatric patient in Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, then backtracked to an abused young woman in Stolen Summers, finally reaches her centenary as a care home resident in my new novel, Lyrics for the Loved Ones.

When the care home manager promises her a mammoth celebration for her hundredth birthday, Matty imagines something regal. If not quite on the scale of the Coronation, she’s inspired by a grandiose ceremony to mark the Queen’s official birthday in June 2019.

Read an extract from Lyrics for the Loved Ones:

Matty is napping in the lounge among the Loved Ones when a baritone bark from inside the television shudders her awake. She could have dropped straight off to sleep again had Oh My Darling not crouched by her chair to hand her a nylon Union Jack on a candy-floss skewer. She blinks at the screen.

Two sky-grey stallions clip-clop a Cinderella coach past ranks of men in pillar-box red jackets and furry hats. Behind them, lines of conker-coloured horses, their riders sporting pointy helmets streaming silver hair. Pay attention, says her mother. You might learn something of consequence.

As the men stomp in formation, Matty sees that some carry bugles and some carry drums. Then, as if by dint of her paying attention, they pay attention to their instruments, and thrash out such a merry melody that Matty would dance a jig if she could rise from her chair unaided. Oh My Darling would help her, were she not so consumed by the spectacle, beaming so widely her gold tooth gleams as she conducts the performers with her flag. Matty follows suit until her arm founders.

Presently, militiamen supplant the musicians. Matty’s flag falls at her feet. They drill like clockwork soldiers, clacking their weapons in unison from shoulder to shoulder and down to the ground. She would not be surprised if, as they about-turned, she spotted a wind-up key protruding from each red-coated rear.

The Loved Ones have been observing quietly, apart from the standard coughs and throat clearings; now one of them harrumphs. “How long does this flimflam go on for?”

“Aren’t you enjoying it, Olive?” says Oh My Darling.

“I’d rather sit through a reception-class nativity,” says the Loved One. “It’s less effort keeping my face straight.”

Matty notices her face is indeed askew: not only her mouth but one eye droops. Yet her pearl earrings and ebony chignon confirm her as Popeye’s Sweetheart, Olive Oyl.

“I’m a sucker for pomp and ceremony,” says Oh My Darling.

The Maharaja concurs: jolly decent of an aristocrat accustomed to cavalcades of elephants and tigers. “It’s our heritage.”

“It’s obscene. A waste of public funds when folk are feeding bairns from food banks.” Olive’s chair whirrs as she wheels away. “I’ll be upstairs.”

Oh My Darling’s gaze pursues her to the door before sweeping the room. “Everyone else happy to watch it? We could have a game of Trivial Pursuit if you prefer.”

Matty racks her brain for something to restore her maid’s bonhomie. As the screen flips to cheering crowds attired for a blustery English summer, she recalls the solitary passenger in the gilded carriage. “That lady is held in high esteem.”

The Maharaja guffaws. “I should bloody well hope so.”

“You might have missed the introduction, my lovely,” says Oh My Darling. “It’s the Queen’s official birthday.”

“Queen Elizabeth?” says Matty. Where is King George? she wonders.

“Who did you expect?” says the Maharaja. “Queen Camilla? Queen Kate?”

Matty bristles. He might be Oriental royalty but a subject of the British Empire has no right to mock. She directs her words to Oh My Darling. “Is she a hundred?” Nothing less could merit such display.

“In another seven years,” says the Maharaja. “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen Trooping the Colour.”

Matty does not deign to reply. She does not even comment on the ridiculous notion of trooping a colour – like a rainbow parade of paint pots. Nor does she quip that an Asiatic has no business patronising her on questions of English idiom. Her brain buzzes with loftier concerns.

The universe beyond her chamber can be draining. The Loved Ones’ babble. Mrs Jefferson’s rules. The meddling of Goodnight Irene. Matty often returns to her quarters with her mind in tatters; only when she’s cloistered with her knick-knacks and chattels can she effect the necessary repairs. Today the blasted television has created the muddle: battlefields mixed up with orchestras; flags and fancy dress and fairy tales; a queen without her king. Yet now, amid the maelstrom, she gathers the ingredients of a brilliant plan.

It is most irregular. Matty brushes her skirt and flexes her toes. Pats the top of her head for good measure. She certainly seems real. Did her mother not advise watching closely? Matty has caught every clue. Olive Oyl’s passion for drama. Her Royal Highness’s birthday pageant. Even the Maharaja was impressed.

Next year, Matty will be a hundred. She will mark it with more than a card from the Queen.

All three Matilda Windsor books are on special offer in e-book format this month in honour of the coronation the Matilda Windsor series. Lyrics for the Loved Ones – launches at a discount; Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is £0.99 / $0.99; and Stolen Summers is currently free. Why not pick up the set?

Check out the Matilda Windsor series page on Amazon:

Matilda Windsor series

or get Lyrics for the Loved Ones here:

Lyrics for the Loved Ones

Impossibly Blue Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

The Translator’s Headache by Anne Goodwin

Ada sits at her desk, the weight of responsibility pressing on her shoulders. There’s no doubt Fenxilg Muwvrik is a masterpiece and, written in a language with only three thousand speakers, and fewer readers, she’s long dreamt of translating it into English. But it’s tough. Even for Ypcíd, renowned for the complexity of its grammar and metaphors, the author’s word choice seems bizarre.

Puzzling over another challenging paragraph, she goes to the window as if to find inspiration in the view. Beneath a sunny sky, nature’s colours are reassuringly conventional. Yet in Fenxilg Muwvrik, the grass grows impossibly blue.


A Happy Blue by Geoff Le Pard

Kat Gutte and Doug Biskets ran Little Tittweaking’s art suppliers. Kat ran the retail side; she could saw a multiverse of colours – 247 shades of beige and a pink that caused granite worktops to bleed. To Doug everything was a version of blue; he did the accounts, ordering copious amounts of Blutack. He thought Kat stunning with her fiery blue hair, luscious blue lips and a ruby blue complexion. Kat tried to persuade Doug to drop the “everything denim” shtick. When they wed, Kat stunned the guests with her impossibly blue ensemble. Doug thought she looked a little pink.


Carrot Ranch by C. E. Ayr

Sometimes, even when you’re old and cynical, life can still surprise you.
Or so I recently discovered.
I’m in Scotland, visiting a friend who lives in the undulating hills of Ayrshire, the country of Robert Burns.
He’s a market gardener, and he has, among his acres of quality produce, a carrot ranch.
Funny name, right?
Anyway, as he’s showing me around, he asks if I want to see his latest creation, his pride and joy, which no one else has yet seen.
We go into a walled area where he shows me a carrot.
It is, incredibly, blue.


Soul of Blue by a-zend-life

She sits in her window as the blue in the sky starts to fade away with the sun. She was mesmerized by the vivid blanket of blue all afternoon. She didn’t want it to go away. Somehow, because it matched her soul for that day, she took pause from her hum-drum afternoon chores to just sit comfortably in her favorite over stuffed chair and ponder the vastness of the sky. Enmeshed with the many different shades of blue, she knew it wouldn’t be this way forever. Finally, the blue disappeared. She ushered it out with grateful remorse.


Getting It Right (Part I) by D. Avery

Come to find out Gloria isn’t crazy. She’s an artist.

She said I am too, and I guess she’s right. I do make a lot of pictures but I don’t always like them.

“What do you mean?” Gloria asked me. “I love this landscape with the lake in the foreground.”

“It’s not right,” I insisted. “That’s an impossible blue for a lake and a sky. But it’s the only colors I have.”

Gloria taught me to make any color I wanted from just red, yellow, blue and white!

“I want blue like… Bob’s eyes.”

We smiled at Bob’s laughter.


Getting It Right (Part II) by D. Avery

“Tell me again about the princess,” I told Gloria. “Why she refused to marry the prince.”

“The princess, as her wedding day approached, felt improbably blue. She realized the prince really wasn’t so charming, and being with him would not bring her happiness. She didn’t want to fall under a lifelong spell of pretense and pretending; so, she committed to herself and her art and has been living happily ever since. Of course, the villagers thought she was soft-headed for leaving family fortunes behind.”

The crown on the princess I’d drawn looked more like a halo. It looked right.


An Honest Review by Nicole Horlings

“Hi there, and welcome to my makeup vlog! Today I will be reviewing the Colours of the Sky eyeshadow pallet from…”


Laura looked away from her camera to her five year old daughter, who walked proudly into the room holding a pallet and an eyeshadow brush. “I did my makeup today!”

She had indeed put on makeup; her eyelids were entirely covered in one single shade of bright blue eyeshadow.

“Great job, honey!”

“Can I review this pallet for your vlog?”

Laura lifted her up into her lap. “Sure.”

“This eyeshadow is impossibly blue, and I love it!”


Zoo Wonders by Norah Colvin

The children studied the map while Granny sipped the compulsory cup of tea.

“Okay,” she said. Finally.

Granny squinted in the sunlight. “Wait.” She rummaged in her bag. “Drat. I’ve forgotten my sunnies. I’ll just pop back to the shop.”

The children groaned.

“To the lions,” they said, when Grandma reappeared.

Two steps later, Grandma cried, “Stop! Children stop! Look at the sky!”


“It’s soooo blue.”

“It’s always blue.”

“But this blue, it’s – impossible!”

“It’s just your glasses, Grandma.” They read the label: With Impossible Sunglasses, every day’s a blue sky day.

“Now can we see the lions.”


Fairy Lights by Margaret G. Hanna

Grandmother Ferris told us stories of fairies, sacred hills and wells, and giants roaming the Cornish moors.

“The lights that flicker at night, they be wanderin’ spirits searchin’ for rest ‘cause o’ some ‘arm they did, and like as not to take tha’ with ‘em in their wanderin’.”

We sat wide-eyed, open-mouthed, not daring to breathe lest one of those spirits snatch us away.

“I see ‘em many a time. Oft times, a blue light, most unworldly. Tha’ take good care around St. Feock’s church, the saint guards it close.”

Thereafter, we took great care going through the graveyard.


Blue Sky Dreaming by writerravenclaw

Blue sky, dreaming of a day, spent on the beach, watching the waves waltz over each other. A beautiful memory, of building sandcastles with her father. They used to make several trips to the sea, with a bucket to fill their moat. Now it was her turn, not only with her children, but with her grandchildren. Learning to be a child, without any cares or worries to pull them down to earth.

‘Can we build a real castle Grannie?’ She said.

‘Of course, then afterwards we will have a Horlicks and a cheese sandwich.’

‘Yay, with lots of ketchup.’


Impossibly Blue by Duane L Herrmann

I go out to a rise in the prairie, away from the trees which are often below, down lining the creeks, especially the morning after night rain, when dust has been washed from the air, and lay down in the grass and look up – straight up – I am stunned. The blue straight up, with no clouds in the sky, is impossible. There is NOTHING to compare. The word “blue” is woefully insufficient. There is no intensity like that blue. That BLUE is a power in itself. If God has material existence – it will be THAT blue!


The Sky That Loves Me by Hugh W. Roberts

The sky above was a deep, impossibly blue. The kind of blue that makes you feel like you could reach up and touch it. The type of blue that makes you want to sing.

And then I started to sing. I sang about the impossibly blue sky. I sang about the hope that it gave me. I sang about the love that I felt for the world around me.

And as I sang, the sky seemed to get even bluer. The world seemed to get even brighter. It was then that I decided today was not my suicide day.


Blue by ladyleemanilla

The blue sky and the blue sea
Freedom whispering in my ears
Sweet as the summer breeze, I’m free

Symbols of depth that is so clear
Value of how we live our lives
Freedom whispering in my ears

Impact of what we have in our archives
Initiating our wit and reason
Value of how we live our lives

Occupy ourselves in any season
Bubble of life and jest of living
Initiating our wit and reason

Parallel between giving and receiving
Rhetoric of wanting love and peace
Bubble of life and jest of living
Life in Berlin, Istanbul or Caprice


The Natural Music of Spring by JulesPaige

Impossible blue Hyacinth bells are ringing in my imagination like clear vowels, rising up by my street rural mailbox. “Aye!” “Eee” “Eye” “Ooh” “You”
Look see me, spring has sprung.
Let my heady scent fill your home in that Milkwhite vase.
Pair us with the brilliant yellow of forsythia who will soon fall to a late March lion-like wind that will strip them bare until their greens leaves open.

blue hyacinth bells
yellow forsythia peal
seasonal music

join triumphant daffodils
announce springs’ late arrival

shed your own thick layers
expose your skin to the sun
hear the weather change


The Arrival by Joanne Fisher

The computer systems aboard our starship awoke us from our long hibernation. We all slowly awoke with long hair and raging hunger. According to our computer, we had finally arrived at our destination after silently voyaging for millennia through the depths of black void. I looked at the viewscreen: before us was a planet with wide oceans and continents. The planet was so impossibly blue it stood out in sharp relief against the blackness of space around us. This was to be our new home where we could begin again, and hopefully not destroy the biosphere a second time…


Planet by Simon

In space for 7 years, scientists were amazed at the discovery of a blue planet. They named Impossibly, the planet was hiding behind a big gassy planet like Jupiter.
The name was derived because of its strong ozone layer and what amazed the most was the planet, 100% perfectly habitual for human colonization.
The entire crew landed in hope of successful colonization. They did not expect the danger that awaited.
One creature maintained the whole planet Like a God. No matter how well they began to colonize, the creature’s latest Favorite food is now Humans, Planet i.Blue.


Anime Blue by Kerry E.B. Black

He heard all babies’ eyes were blue when they were first born, but he’d never seen a truer, more entrancing hue on any other person. Even the child’s mother’s eyes, though incomparable, quite literally paled in comparison.

The tiny fingers fisted his pinkie, and the babe’s rosebud mouth pinched with concentration while the crystalline eyes studied him.

He swallowed a lump of pride and incredulity. “Hello there. I’m your Daddy.”

Non-existent eyebrows raised at the sound of his voice, enlarging already anime proportions.

He wiped an errant tear from his cheek and gazed into the universe’s most perfect eyes.


Hallucination Blues by Bill Engleson

I don’t know what I’m seeing.
I don’t what’s in the sky.
Sky’s so blue
It’s an omen.
It’s so blue
makes me cry.
I don’t know what I’m seeing.
Flying saucers in the sky,
Cannot be, I’m thinking,
Cannot be in my sky,
It’s so blue,
the blue sky.
I am very slowly drifting.
Drifting high above the sky,
Full of dreams so uplifting,
Never been quite this high,
So very close,
to the sky.

I don’t know what I’m seeing,
No matter how hard I try,
All I see are the heavens
And the everlasting blue sky.


A Blue Picture by gordon759

“It’s an insult.” Fumed the President of the Royal Academy, looking at the crowd gathered around the painting of a boy in a blue suit.
“Whatever do you mean?” said his companion. “It follows historical ideas, those of Van Dyke.”
“In my last lecture I said that you shouldn’t use grey, green or blue as the main colour in the centre of a painting, and Thomas Gainsborough produces this.”
“But look at the crowd, everyone thinks it’s a masterpiece.”
“Yes, it certainly is, and that just makes it worse.” Sir Joshua Reynolds snorted, and walked out of the gallery.


The Worm Hole by B.C. Graham

I started working here six months ago and I’m already testing their most coveted and controversial technology. Today’s theme: blue, the rarest natural color. On a nearby shelf rests a VR headset, labeled “Past Life.” I put it on.

Vivid explicit memories of ancient Egyptian lapis lazuli mines suddenly dance between my hippocampus and amygdala. Half-built pyramids float in the distance. I’m seated atop a golden throne, gazing out over the quarry.

Am I a pharaoh? I reach up and remove my headdress. Etched along its impossibly blue bejeweled edge, in blazing hieroglyphs, are two perplexing symbols: Future Life.


Identity by Gloria McBreen

Sandra looked closely at each photo on the table. She immediately eliminated the first one; his eyebrows met in the middle. She studied the pale blue eyes of the man in the second photo. Not him.

In photo three, a pair of soft grey eyes conveyed kindness and warmth. No. The fourth photo showed beady eyes that were more green than blue. Definitely no.

Photo five. Impossibly blue eyes, round like perfectly cut sapphires, cold and vacant. She would never forget those eyes. She handed the photo to the sergeant.

‘This is the man who attacked me,’ she said.


Scareless by Reena Saxena

The image that stares back at me is not me. This does not match my always optimistic mind.

The skin is blue, however improbable it seems. The lake of unshed tears is frozen, and refuses to provide a glance into its dark interiors. Callousness, continued distrust and malicious remarks draw a blank. There’s no disappointment with any one any more, just a deep apathy.

How can you expect positivity in return for all this? The darkness is equal on both sides – improbable blue with shades of burgundy, like dried blood stains on the soul.

The soul will return – scarless.


Impossibly Blue by sweeterthannothing

I try not to vomit as my world rocks on its axis, up and down I bob and spin in this ocean of grief. 

Impossibly blue. 

I’m drowning, desperately trying to claw breath into my body. I sink beneath the waves. 

My feelings; impossibly blue.

I weep, I sob, I wail at the world and its cruelness, that it could take so much and leave behind shadows. 

My tears burn; impossibly blue. 

The image of you, the last I’ll ever see, as you lay in that cold morgue. Those soft lips I used to kiss, now frozen. 

Impossibly blue.


Blue Screen of Death by Sadje

Impatiently, she stared at the screen as her laptop installed the latest update. She had a lot of pending work but her device had to be updated before she could work on it.

The final restart indicated that it was now ready to be used, but all of a sudden it just turned blue! Impossible! she screamed, how can this be happening to me?

Mom! she yelled loudly, my computer has updated but not working, how will I get my assignments done?

“Oh no!, you’ll have to uninstall the update!” her mom said as she walked into her room.


Music From Another Room by Joanne Fisher

I loved her, more than I would ever admit. She didn’t love me though. I was quite certain of that. One morning I found her knocking on my front door. She had a basket in her left hand.

“I’m surprised to see you.” I told her as I opened the door. She smiled.

“Hi Jo, I did some baking this morning, and thought of you.” She stated. In the basket were cookies with love hearts cut into them.

“Thanks.” I said taking them.

“Look into my eyes.” She requested. I looked and was immediately lost. They were impossibly blue.


Impossible Blue by Ann Edall-Robson

Butterflies stormed her stomach, making her feel queasy. Like the day, as a kid, when her besties lured her to the rock outcrop above the lake. “Jump! Do it!” they encouraged, laughing and nudging her closer. Experiencing an adrenalin rush when her feet pierced the water. Their adult relationship was much the same, only this time they encouraged her to take the chance, live on the edge, go for it. Today, their words filled her with trepidation. He walked toward her, holding her attention, his impossible blue eyes never left her face. Tingling with an adrenalin rush, she blushed.


Scotty’s Got the Blues by Sue Spitulnik

“She has impossibly blue eyes, not the color of a sunny sky but of thick, cracked ice. That impossibly blue dress flounced around my legs all night on the dance floor, then she left me standing on the stoop feeling impossibly blue when she didn’t invite me in. Oh, I’m blue, blue, blue.” Scotty played and sang.

Mac said, “Don’t believe I’ve ever heard those words or anyone howl the word blue.”

“The way I feel it seemed to fit.”

“Our Katie’s eyes are green; maybe you’re focusing on the wrong gal.”

“You giving your permission?”

“Don’t need mine.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Scotty is a new bartender at the No Thanks. He has hesitated asking Katie out for fear her father and grandfather (Mac) wouldn’t approve.


Incorrigible by Kate Spencer

Jena sidesteps past the painter’s ladder into her kitchen. Pouring herself tea, she hears Rocky let loose a howl outside. This is followed by a cat’s growl and a rumble up the back stairs.

The doggie door flings open. Rocky storms in, slides across the kitchen, knocks over the hallway ladder and capsizes the paint tray onto his back. The cerulean cannonball yelps. Then bolts out of the house, Jena in pursuit.

She eventually spots Rocky and laughs.

Something borrowed, something blue?

Because there he is, her incorrigible tongue-lolling, tail-wagging blue dog, trailing a bridal party into the church.


Treasure Hunting by Charli Mills

“Found somthin’!” Druzie squinted in the semi dark.

“Did ya find Prince Albert? Let him out, Cuz.” Citrine peeped over the rim of the mine shaft.

Druzie snickered at the implied Prince Albert in a tobacco can joke. Old Nevada miners favored the cans for staking a claims.

“Nope. Glass.” Druzie wriggled her fingers across jar after jar. In the scant shaft light, she scanned the remains of a miner’s pantry. Impossibly intact. Her cousin sent down the retrieval basket.

When Druzie climbed out she glanced to the jar Citrine held up to the noon-day sun. Pickles. Blue pickles.


The Giver, Still Giving by Chel Owens

“[T]he apple had changed. Just for an instant. It had changed in mid-air, he remembered. Then it was in his hand, and he looked at it carefully, but it was the same apple. Unchanged.”
Dale’s hand froze, hovering, wondering that its body could freeze. Up till then, it’d thought all words were only for others -like this place of words was for others.

Here, though, was what it felt. -Words for when dead trees stood against impossibly blue sky. -For when a lonely, vibrant leaf floated in grime.

Dale looked at wreckage of what Had Been, and knew hope.


Blue of Throat Chakra (Double Ennead, 99 Syllable Poetry) by Colleen M Chesebro

light blue of sky heavens
your throat chakra spins
free communications, expressions of truth
if blocked, we struggle to
speak our truth frankly

Vishuddha energy
let harmony flow
respect and authenticity will follow
trust your inner voice and
cleanse your throat chakra

peaceful blue energy
positive speech flows
as your throat chakra comes into alignment
creativity grows…
now, follow your truth


Indebted (Part I) by D. Avery

“Thet sure is a upbeat tune yer whistlin, Kid.”
“It’s a blues song I’m workin on fer The Berries.”
“Oh yeah, Pepe’s band, from the “jam” prompt. But Kid, the blues ain’t s’posed ta be cheery soundin.”
“How kin it not be? This song’s bout the skies over Carrot Ranch.”
“They are not cloudy all day, thet’s fer sure. But, the blues… oh, never mind. Seen our writer anywheres?”
“Nope. An we’re holdin our own.”
“But is she? These yarns is got more loose ends then Ernie’s shag carpet. An speakin a loose ends, Logatha’s gonna have a bambeano?”


Indebted (Part II) by D. Avery

“No worries, Pal, got almost nine months ta work that one out. An ya fired that circus fella, so that’s one less character ta keep track of. Ernie’s off with Sassy-squatch. Tip and Top are back in their cowboy duds ridin the range. Curly’s swimmin with her beaver friens. An here come Frankie an Burt ta deliver the mail. Frankie!
“See Pal, all unner control, all us characters jist doin what we do.”
“But the details, Kid.”
“What details?”
“Zactly. Fer instance, no lookin— what color are Frankie’s eyes?”
“That’s easy, Pal. One’s grayish blue an one’s impossibly blue.”


Embedded by D. Avery

“Dang it, Kid, you jist git away with this cuz a the prompt.”

“Ain’t that the point a the prompt, Pal? An what d’ya mean, ‘git away with this’? Git away with whut?”

“Jist flappin yer gums, thet’s whut. We’re inta a third 99 an ya still won’t admit ta not havin a story.”

“So tell a story already, Pal.”


“Once upon a time was a blue hoss.”



“Was a wild stallion, couldn’t be caught. It would stan on the top of a hill on a blue-sky day an disappear from sight. Would stan by the creek an not be seen. Even out in the grass it appeared ta be a shimmerin mirage. Even if ya could git near ta it, it would run like the wind an whinnied like the wind too. Nobody ever got a good look at this wild blue stallion.”

“Again, I say, Impossible! If no one seen it, how’d folks know it existed?”

“They was a ranch nearby thet raised Palominos.”

“Them yella hosses?”


“Bunch a the mares had green foals.”

“The end.”

“Now who’s gittin away with what?”


“Word count?”

“Count em, Kid. Thet’s a 99-word story.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

How Not To Allow A Blank Screen To Defeat You When The Words Go Missing

Some believe writer’s block is a myth, while others claim it has ruined their writing career. It can last a few days or many years. How do you deal with writer’s block?

Fortunately, I discovered writing challenges early in my blogging journey. I found them beneficial when staring at a blank screen and words failing to travel from my brain to my fingertips.

But there have been times when I have faced writer’s block when taking up a writing challenge. For whatever reason, the prompt does not motivate me to write. My creative cogs refused to budge, and even walking away from the screen and going on a walk failed to get them turning.

Has this ever happened to you?

Last week, I had one of those blank-screen moments while trying to write something for the weekly 99-word flash fiction challenge here at the Carrot Ranch.

After coming back from a long walk, I thought I’d be able to knock down the writer’s block wall, but it would not budge.

As the blank screen became a nightmare, I started panicking and thinking I would fail. Then I had one of those bright spark moments when I thought, write anything.

As the words began their journey to the screen, a story in my head began to form. I saw a woman sitting in a comfy chair, staring at her husband, who she thought was ignoring her again.

Why was he ignoring her? I asked myself. The words began to flow.

Then another question popped into my mind. ‘Why did the wife think her husband was ignoring her?

It wasn’t long before I had a story from two perspectives.

After writing both stories, I set them aside for 24 hours and allowed them to rest. The next day, I read both stories and began editing them.

I don’t know about you, but I never publish the first draft of anything or write and publish something on the same day. Didn’t I read somewhere from a well-known author that the first draft is always, umm, shall we say, something that attracts flies?

But although writer’s block seemed defeated, I now had another dilemma. Which of the two stories was I going to cut down to 99 words and publish?

I could have asked for feedback on which one, but I had a gut feeling about one of the stories and went with it.

Do you always go with your gut feeling when making a decision?

Given all the many pieces of flash fiction I’d written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge, I knew which of the two stories my readers would like the most. Another gut-feeling? Yes, but I saw a dark edge to one of the stories, something I always hope readers will pick up.

I cut the story to 99 words and weaved in the dark edge, trying to make it slightly more obvious.

You can read my piece of flash fiction, The Squeaky Husband, here.

A couple of days after staring at a blank screen with failure sitting at my side, I was having fun rewriting and editing a story born from writing a Christmas wish list.

Yes, that piece of flash came from writing my Christmas wish list. Any words help. It doesn’t matter what they are.

Writer’s block? What is writer’s block? Did it exist on that day, or was it something I’d made up because other writers believed in it?

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you conquer it?

Copyright © 2022 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

About the Author

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues, including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping, and walking his dogs. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived in various parts of the United Kingdom, including London, where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is, “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

You can follow Hugh’s blog at Hugh’s Views And News and follow him on Twitter at @hughRoberts05.

Why My Ears Work Better Than My Eyes When It Comes To Advice About Writing

There is lots of writing advice out there, but there are two things I can’t entirely agree with that some authors swear by.

The first is to drink gallons of coffee because writers need lots of the stuff. I’m not too fond of coffee, are you? But I am partial to a bar of coffee-centred chocolate or coffee-flavoured cake. Does that count?

What if you don’t read books?

The second thing is that to be a good writer; you must read books.

The problem with that piece of advice is that picking up a book often terrifies me.

As somebody with dyslexia, reading books is something I struggle with.

I cannot finish reading 90% of the books I pick up because I can’t make any sense of them. But it’s not usually the author’s fault, but the fault of how my brain works when reading words on a page.

My heart sinks when I read the advice that you must read lots of books to be a good writer. I start doubting that I’m not a good writer because I don’t read enough books.

Picking up a book is a frightening experience because my brain tells me I will fail to reach the end.

But even though I dislike drinking coffee and don’t read many books, I still love to write!

They say practice makes perfect.

It’s one of the reasons I participate in the Carrot Ranch 99-word flash fiction challenge every week. People tell me that my writing and flash fiction has improved a lot. And, yes, I can see the improvements.

However, if I rephrase ‘to be a good writer, you must read books,’ to ‘to be a good writer you must watch lots of television,‘ would you look at me oddly?

You see, there are many ways I get ideas for writing fiction and improving my writing, and reading books hardly features.

I watch much more television than I do reading books.

Because of my dyslexia, I find watching television, a movie at the cinema, or a show at the theatre much easier. I can sometimes lose the plot, but I often put that down to a poor script or lousy acting.

I have much more success improving my writing from the screen or stage than from a book page.

However, just because I find reading books problematic doesn’t mean I find other stuff hard to read.

How the world of blogging helps.

When I first discovered the world of blogging, I amazed myself how easy it was to read many blog posts.

I can easily read most blog posts providing the quality of writing is good and does not show any signs of being rushed. I can spot a rushly-written blog post from miles away.

One downside for me because of being dyslexic is that I find blog posts written in accents hard to read. Even the simplest of words prove difficult as my brain tries to determine what the characters are saying.

However, I have no problem if I’m watching a movie or television show where the characters speak in a particular accent. This dyslexia can be a funny business, sometimes.

One last writing tip that may help.

I also get many ideas for stories and blog posts when ‘people-watching’ and listening in on conversations that I and the entire world can not miss because of how they’re being conducted.

My ears work more than my eyes to help me overcome my problem with dyslexia.

I’ve had some success listening to audiobooks, but my eyes need to watch something while listening, so I often give up on them too.

So don’t feel weird or out of touch when other authors and writers recommend that you must read many books to become a good writer and author. It isn’t true for all of us, especially those with problems with words and letters playing tricks on them.

As for drinking gallons of coffee, I’ll have a couple of slices of that coffee and walnut cake rather than a mug of coffee, please.

Are you somebody who is dyslexic but who loves to write? Do you have difficulty reading books? What tips do you use for improving your writing?

Copyright © 2022 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

About the Author

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues, including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping, and walking his dogs. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived in various parts of the United Kingdom, including London, where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is, “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

You can follow Hugh’s blog at Hugh’s Views And News and follow him on Twitter at @hughRoberts05.

Looking Back, Growing Forward  

We all are one, yet so different from each other.

Our present is shaped based on our past, and our choices shape today. Memories keep us company on dull days. They can either choose to make us edgy or excite us. 

All individuals have a story to tell. This story could be a laugh-out-loud incident or a tear-jerker one or inspire the listener. 

Either way, it’s unique since your emotions are entwined around it. 

Why don’t we give ourselves some ‘me-time’ and pen it down? 

Aah! the things writing can do!

  1. Overcoming Trauma
  2. Discovering your inner self: Dialogues with the Soul
  3. Journaling into a creative story

Overcoming Trauma

We are such intelligent souls that we faced the brunt when life threw lemons at us. Many of us got bruised along the way. 

No doubt, we got hit by the lemons, but eventually, we learned to make lemonade out of it and fought our battles.  

This applies to going back in memory lane and penning down our journey where we overcame a physical, mental or emotional trauma. Now, our fight could inspire many out there. So, with that mindset, suit up and go back into those dark, grimy lanes, which can make you nauseous. Surprisingly, when you pen down those details, you too will heal from it. Writing has such magical power that it can outlive a magic wand. 

“You learn more from failure than from success. Don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.” — Unknown. 

Discovering your inner self: Dialogues with the Soul

The title was inspired by the poem, A Dialogue Between the Soul and the Body by Andrew Marvell. Here the poet describes the conflict between the human body and the human Soul. Each attributes its troubles and sufferings to the other. 

Now, I don’t want to highlight the exchange of words between the enslaved Soul versus the bolts of bones. 

Instead, let’s ponder the exchange of dialogues between our minds and the intellect when we deal with emotional, mental, or physical pain. 

Our mind is known as the pirate, which can cause turbulence within ourselves. Thank heavens’ our intellect takes over and helps with the reasoning for the latter to curb its thoughts. 

There must have been junctures in our lives where our intellect has had dialogues with the Soul. The consciousness then signals the body to act accordingly. And those are the turning points in our lives. 

Pen them! 

“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” — Will Rogers.

Journaling into a creative story

Every story has a sweet and a sour element to it. After all, it’s the life that all humans are living. 

You have been brave enough to dig up all your past’s emotional and mental debris. You can either choose to add a fictional character or give it your name. 

Give it wings and let it fly. 

Life has given us the tools to achieve wellness within and around us; however, it’s up to every individual how they can piece it together. 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou

About the Author

Ruchira Khanna is an indie author and an energy healer. She draws inspiration from the issues that stalk our minds and she addresses them through her tales of fiction. Her characters undergo a contemplative arc she hopes her readers will, which is why they classify each of her novels as, “one that will make you ponder.”

Thoughts to Ponder

I live with one foot in tradition—and keep it there—while the other foot steps out to allow me to grow with modern technology. 

As I have watched the explosive growth of technology in modern society, my heart still acknowledges that the old ways are not so bad. Certainly, they’re different, but there are some things about the lifestyle we need to hang onto and share with the generations coming up. 

The ‘traditional’ era is when I started to embark on my life experiences. I didn’t know it then, but I was learning about consequences without being told that’s what they were, and I was testing the waters of life from a child’s perspective. Life was pretty dang good.

We played outside, even when the winter weather was below zero, and that’s Ferenheight. We made snow angels and dug caves in the snowbanks the grader had left when clearing the roads. We built fires to toast cheese sandwiches and melt snow in a can to make a hot drink. 

We walked to the two room elementary school until we were old enough to take the bus to a neighbouring town to attend high school. Contrary to stories that circulated about the hardships of walking to school, it was about a half a mile and it was not up hill both ways. We did not have professional days or teachers gong to conventions to deal with. We were expected to attend every day, regardless of the weather unless you came down with measles, mumps, chicken pox, or your meals weren’t staying in your stomach. That was about the only way to get out of going to school. 

We climbed trees and built forts in them. We played in the creek with bits of wood and leaves that were our boats. We played kick-the-can, hide-and-go-seek, hopscotch, and whatever else was inspired by our imagination. 

Hours were spent sprawled out on our backs in the grass, conjuring up shapes in the clouds our imagination let us see. At night, that same position let us gaze at the stars, finding constellations and watching for the satellites moving in and out of our view. 

Our patience was tested to the limits while we sat in the middle of a clover patch, without talking, waiting for the bees to come along so we could catch them in a jar. The challenge was to see who could catch the most bees in one jar before we let them all go and moved on to some other activity like running along the top rail of the snake fence that was part of the nearby fence line. 

We were young entrepreneurs, too. We dug worms at daybreak to sell to early morning fishermen on their way to the lake. Twenty-five cents a dozen for the worms was big money to us. When it wasn’t fishing season, we supplemented our income by collecting pop and beer bottles from along the side of the road. Those dabbles into self-employment provided the funds to buy jawbreakers and Bazooka bubble gum at the general store in town. 

When you hear someone telling a tale about knowing it was time to go home when it got dark, it really was like that. It was a good life. We improvised, we tested our parents, and mostly we had fun. 

I had chores to do, but my memory tells me that wasn’t until I was older, maybe after I was ten and my first horse arrived on the scene. That would also be about the time I learned to drive. There was no better place than a hayfield to put newly learned driving skills to the test. After my first year helping to bring the hay in, I was relegated to staying home to help with the cooking because my driving skills—or lack thereof—kept shifting the load of hay. Let’s just say It didn’t take Dad long to realize that a person who is about 40 inches tall should probably not be the one responsible for driving a truck with a clutch and four-on-the-floor gear shift while looking through the steering wheel, especially when hay fields with hills are involved. 

We had friends and relatives who depended on oil or gas lanterns for their lighting. Their wood stove not only provided heat to cook on, but it also heated their home and the stove’s reservoir heated water. Regardless of how hot the weather got, the wood stove was kept going to cook meals. Before bedtime, it was stoked to make sure there were hot coals in the morning to start the fire so breakfast could be made. That stove was also used for baking bread and canning preserves.

Indoor bathrooms were not all that common unless you lived in town, and even then, it wasn’t a necessity. The bathroom, a.k.a. known as outhouses, was either a one or two-seater. It was located out behind the house, usually not too far away. Nighttime visits to the bathroom were a chamber pot under the bed. 

My aunt and uncle’s ranch had no water in the house but had a water pump outside the back door. When I stayed with them, I loved pumping the water, but, like driving the truck, I was not big enough when it came to carring the filled pail into the house. 

A weekly newspaper told us what was going on in the world. The local diner where people gathered when they went to town kept us informed of what was happening in our more immediate world.

Our home had some modern amenity luxuries such as electricity and running water. I don’t remember us being without indoor plumbing, but I do remember an outhouse behind the house, and at the school. I’m guessing it was what we refer to nowadays as: it’s good always to have a backup plan. We had a crank telephone, our number was Fawn 3B, and our ring was a long and three shorts. The B & W television with one channel (and definitely no remote) arrived on the scene when I was about four or five. It was never turned on during the day unless you were sick because you had too many other things to entertain you that were mostly outside. The house was heated with wood-burning stoves: one in the living area, one in the furnace or mudroom, and a small air-tight heater in the bedroom area.  It was my twelfth summer when the oil furnace was installed, and the woodshed became redundant.  

Back then, it was acceptable to drop in for a visit if you happen to be driving by. No pre-arranged phone call or appointment was needed. Either people were home, or they weren’t. There was always fresh baked goods to be offered along with refreshments. The men might make their way outdoors to discuss mechanics, ranching, logging, and sometimes sample a glass or two of what was fermenting in a barrel in the shop. The women would get caught up on the area’s news while the woman of the house finished up whatever chore she might have started before company had arrived. The visitor would make themselves useful in any way they could. 

People helped each other without being asked. It wasn’t expected; it was just done. Births, deaths, emergencies, weddings, haying and harvest, building a new barn, garage or house, neighbours and family came from miles around to help in any way possible. You could be rest-assured that there was no lack of food when it came to these events, and it wasn’t the woman of the house doing all of the cooking. Anyone who came brought food. If the woman couldn’t make it, the man brought what she had prepared. It was called neighbouring. Unfortunately, neighbouring has become a lost art unless you live in a small or rural community. 

It is my understanding some of the things I talk about are now included in the new age era of roughing it. Something referred to as Glamping. I suppose if there is a want to learn about the old ways, that is one way of introducing them. I find it humorous to listen to those who return from days of Glamping. They talk like the experience is something new to the world. I suppose I shouldn’t judge, because for many, it is. 

I should probably touch on the modern technology a bit since it has become a major part of my life, especially when it comes to my writing and marketing. I have several social media platforms and enjoy using all of them. But I do not need to be plugged in, tapped in, conversing, and checking what’s going on with them all of my waking hours. I like to be unplugged. It throws my children in a tailspin because they can’t reach me when they think they should, but I am doing what suits me, taking a page out of my other time in life and reconnecting to my old ways. Of course, I embrace modern technology and will be the first to say I’m glad I don’t have to get the fire going before breaking the ice off the water bucket to make coffee first thing in the morning. 

The changes to those old-time traditions can be mind-boggling at times. Some think about that era as being simpler or less stressful, but were they? Back then, everyone was expected to show up and work at whatever they were doing in life. A saying often repeated about the mindset of people in that era is, “They worked hard, they played hard, and they showed up for work the next day.” 

Further education was not a given path for most teenagers. Those who drove in the family shared one vehicle. You planned when you wanted to go to the lake for a day. You planned if you were going to drive three hours to a big centre to shop. 

There was only one telephone, if you had one. It was on the wall, usually in the kitchen where anyone in the house could listen to your conversation. 

Communication came by way of newspapers, radios, and letters in the mail. Mail delivery might be once a week in the country. In town, it was Monday to Friday pick up at the post office. 

Stores were not open 24/7/365, but the catalogue that came in the mail could be browsed until the pages were ragged. Ordering online was not an option. One would mail their order along with the payment and wait patiently until the parcel was delivered, sometimes up to a month or more. 

Some doctors made house calls, but not every town had a doctor. The dentist might come to town every six months or once a year. The optometrist might come once a year. 

Again, I say: some think about that time as a simpler life, less stressful, but were they?

I leave you with some pictures and thoughts to ponder from another era.

Start from the beginning (again) when a mistake is made while typing a letter or document on a typewriter. Multiple copies required the use of carbon paper.
Listening to a private telephone conversation on the party line. It took place through a brown box that hung on the wall. Reaching friends, neighbours, and the outside world happened when you turned the crank handle on the side of the box to connect you with the operator at the telephone exchange.
The summer was spent cutting wood. The results would be used in the wood stoves to cook the meals and heat the house in winter.
Last night’s dinner leftovers were heated on the stove or in the oven. 
The grocery store, for the most part, was a large garden. Fresh produce full of flavours during the growing season. Canned and preserved for enjoyment during the winter. 

The sound of a tick, tick, tick with an intermittent gong was prevalent from the wind-up clock. Forgetting to wind it was not an option nor was it an excuse.
Businesses advertised in the newspaper with an occasional one-page flyer that came in the mail, by word of mouth and the radio. Social event announcements garnered a large part of a page of the newspaper. 
Documents and letters were sent through the mail, taking days and sometimes weeks to reach their destination. 
The sweet smell of laundered bedding that had been hung on the line outside to dry. Every shirt needed to be ironed. 

The list could go on and on.  

As you read the life and times of the old ways and looked at the pictures, there may be wonderment and thoughts of “Ya, right” floating through the brain waves. 

If the truth were known, there are a lot of people who not only remember, but also lived the life. 

Do you know someone who can tell you stories from their childhood? Maybe you are that person. We would love to hear the stories. 

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 HorsesWestDAKATAMA™ 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

#CRLC #QuiteSpirits #AnotherEra #AnnEdallRobsonBooks #OldFashioned #WesternLifestyle #TheOldWays #CarrotRanch

Tales from the Silver Screen: Part 8-Capers Noir

In this series-depending on how long it lasts, for life, writing, and so many other things, are quite fleeting-I hope to look at a few classic films, give my take on them, perhaps even say something new that will have significance for today, and, failing that, try like the devil to be entertainingly provocative. I also hope to post a link or two about/to the films I examine, if available, so that they can be enjoyed (or dismissed) with full access.   

In this, the eighth in my limited series of film observations, I thought I would give a shout out to one of the more exciting noir themes: the caper. I have to admit that crime does appeal to me, ( I should be very specific here, crime in film), especially in black and white films, especially when great planning is a key ingredient, great planning and human foibles.

Both of my selections this time are excellent films. One, the 1950 thriller, The Asphalt Jungle, was helmed by John Huston, a seasoned pro at the top of his game. The other, the 1956 classic, The Killing, was guided by Stanley Kubrick, close to the beginning of his stellar career.

There of course have been a wealth of caper films but for my money, my hard-earned and never gained by committing a caper money (although, as a teen, I did speculate on crime but that was, thankfully, adolescent bravado), these two films head the list.

I may mention a few of the other interesting caper films along the way just to name drop. We will see.

Caper Noir: The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle has an outstanding opening montage.  The look is of a desolate city. Cops are on the prowl. Crime is out of control. Our antihero is on the lam. The city, stark, drab, looking possibly bombed out, is actually Cincinnati. Our ambulatory fellow in flight enters a café with signage: American Food on one outer wall and Home Cooking on the front. The café is next to Pilgrim House (not to be confused with Provincetown’s Pilgrim House which I wasn’t but I had to google it.) We are in an empty heart of America.

Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) is suspected of pulling a ton of lone gunman heists. Moments in, we have no doubt that he is a stick-up artist. And that he has associates.  James Whitmore as his food joint restauranteur/buddy, Gus Minissi, is a standout.

We soon learn that Dix is pretty much a hard case gunsel with not much going for him but his toughness.                                                      

The conspiracy comes together. There are a range of participants. Among them are the smooth money man, Alonzo D. Emmerich (Louis Calhern), and the brains, the one who has the complex vision and skill, Doc Irwin Riedenschneider, played by Sam Jaffe. Jaffe inhabits the calm and focused skin of Doc Riedenschneider and was the only actor in the film to garner an academy award nomination (best supporting actor) losing to the excellent George Sanders in All About Eve. Coincidentally,Calhern, who plays the desperate crime financier in the Asphalt Jungle was nominated that same year for Best Actor in The Magnificent Yankee, a film about Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes.                                            

To return briefly to Sam Jaffe, whilst in this film he portrays a brilliantly criminal mastermind with (spoiler alert) devastating carnal tendencies, I best remember him as the High Llama in the classic paradise found and misplaced film version of James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon.

Returning briefly to Doc Riedenschneider’s downfall, the actress who assisted his carnal demise was Helene Stanley who had a varied film and private life, modest in some regards but she was briefly married to Johnny Stompanato and also served as the model for Disney’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

The Asphalt Jungle is singularly  blessed with an early  performance by Marilyn Monroe as a femme fatale. She is a thumb sucking fatale of course at this stage of her career but she enlivens the film, gives a sort of boudoir excellence that plays well against the dark, bleak urban setting.


The plan
  Marilyn and Calhern


A couple of small asides on two actors who ever so briefly appear in the film early on. The police have picked up Dix on a vagrancy charge and he and two others are in a lineup.

One of the other two felons, William Doldy, is played by an excellent character actor, Strother Martin. It was his second film, and uncredited. Martin would appear in some outstanding films later in life.

Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke

In 1969 he was in three of the great westerns, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch, and True Grit. He had a notable role as fraudulent guru in 1966’s Harper, one of two films made from the works of superior mystery writer Ross MacDonald, both starring Paul Newman.

The following year he uttered one of the great cinematic lines as the prison warden in Cool Hand Luke : “What we have here is…. failure to communicate.”

Henry Corden plays Karl Smith, the other man in the lineup. I should note here that the three fellows in the line-up are all different heights. The cops have a witness to what we know is the stick-up Dix has done. The robber was tall. Corden was 6’1”. Martin was 5’ 5”. Hayden was 6’ 41/2” but seemed much taller standing next to Martin who was in the middle of the other two.

Corden was in the early stages of his career and spent much time in television. He gained immortality as he provided the voice of Fred Flintstone, was even doing the voice months before his death at age eighty-five in 2005.

The Asphalt Jungle was based on the W.R. Burnett novel. Burnett authored a host of books, and a number were made into quality films. Little Caesar and one of my favorite films, High Sierra were products of Burnett’s vast talent.

 I should also note that there are at least three film adaptations of The Asphalt Jungle.  A western, 1958’s The Badlanders, staring Alan Ladd, Cairo, made in 1963 and starring George Sanders, and a blaxpoitation film from 1972, Cool Breeze.

Caper Noir: The Killing

Stanley Kubrick’s, The Killing, is a magnificent piece of work. Also starring the great, gruff, take no prisoners actor, Sterling Hayden, it is another ensemble crime masterpiece that unfolds with alarming alacrity.

In this film, Hayden is the linchpin, the driving force, the organizational big cheese. He is the planner and brooks little disagreement. As you will see, assuming the film is new to you, while he has or forms close relationships with a few of the participants, they are all operating independently. Within that individualistic motif, there are many separate but moving parts. Like a criminal Rube Goldberg machine, Hayden’ s character, Johnny Clay manipulates/buys/shapes his brilliant game of theft.

The femme fatale here is one of the best, Marie Windsor. Her acting is sleasy great.

Marie Windsor and Sterling Hayden

Most of all, the ensemble company is brilliant, equal in my view to the fine assemblage in The Asphalt Jungle. Two standout performances are rendered by character actors, Jay C. Flippen, and Elisha Cook Jr.

Cook had already made an indelible mark in holiday essaying two powerful role in two iconic films.

Elisha Cook Jr.


In The Maltese Falcon, he played a vicious yet somewhat inept foil for Bogart’s Sam Spade. In Shane, he played the doomed farmer an son of the Confederacy, Stonewall Torrey

Another great character actor was Jay C Flippen. Flippen had a long career in a range of entertainment sectors including being a song smith and sports announcer. In a host of classic post war noir and westerns (especially the films of Jimmy Stewart) he was a standout.  He spent much of the last decade of his life in a wealth of television appearances.

Jay C. Flippen


As the film unfolds, its documentary quality draws you in. The voice over keeps you and the conspirators on track and on time.

Time is the key.

And so are the players. And they are a collection of misfits. Things quickly start going awry. Each has his own foible and as they unfold, the crime, their crime, falls into disarray. So, a quality about caper films is the rise and fall of the participants.

At one point in the film, we find our selves in a chess, checkers, and scrabble club. The scene was filmed in the iconic New York City location known as the Flea House. This slight but entertaining diversion showcases another of the conspirators:  Maurice Oboukhoff, played by Kola Kwariani, also known as Nick the Wrestle who was a habitue of the Flea House

One final character actor to note here (and I am leaving out some other sparking ones) is Timothy Carey. He plays Nikki Arcane, a hired assassin. Carey was a fascinating character in his own right.  Feel free to check him out.

Timothy Carey


Final Thoughts: Each of these excellent films depict a criminal subculture that engages, reveals, and ultimately exposes their (spoiler alert) downfall. Caper films are often exciting and worth a viewer’s time. A couple of other noirish classics I would like to leave you with are Richard Fleischer’s 1950 heist film, Armored Car Robbery, and the somewhat obscure 1958 film, The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery, with Steve McQueen in an early role. There are countless others to delve into but these two offer a nice contrast. Fleischer was a master filmmaker and packs some great plot twists and location shots into Armored Car Robbery.

Charles Guggenheim, the producer/co-director of TGSLBR, went on to an excellent career as a documentary filmmaker and was nominated for a dozen Academy Awards for his work  winning in two.   TGSLBR was based on an actual crime and even utilized some of the same police officers involved. Though an interesting footnote in the caper genre, ultimately it is a lesser albeit curious project.

About The Author

Bill Engleson is a retired social worker, Pickleball aficionado, energetic novelist, poet, humorist, essayist, flash fictionista, an engaged community volunteer, and pro-vaccine fellow and is resident on Denman Island in British Columbia.  He has published one noirish social work novel, Like a Child to Home, which received an Honourable Mention at the inaugural 2016 Whistler Independent Book Awards.  In 2016, Silver Bow Publishing released his second book, a collection of humorous literary essays entitled          

Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul.

During the pandemic, his poetry appeared in five poetry anthologies, including the recent release of Word Weaving’s syllabic verse, The Moons of Autumn. His entry in the 2021 Owl Canyon Hackathon was published in the anthology, From The Corner of My Eyes.      

He has any number of writing projects in the hopper including In 200 Words or Less, a local monthly column in Denman Island’s The Flagstone, Drawn Towards the Sun, a prequel to his first novel, and a detective mystery set in the 1970’s, A Short Rope on a Nasty Night.    

A much younger Bill Engleson SFU circa 1967/68

What’s your Style of Conflict?

Conflict is necessary when writing a story. Tension is the conflict’s little brother. While conflict might be more visible through a friend’s fight, a lover’s betrayal, or a tragic accident, it will keep the reader on edge from one scene to the next as they wonder how it will all come to an end.

If omitted, readers may decide to skip your novel entirely.

The principle of conflict is that it should rise and fall at uneven intervals. Escalation and resolution should occur so that conflict has motion. As a writer, you will want your characters to respond. For example, a woman leaving her husband can not happen without reason. Here, you begin to see how certain factors in story-building affect one another. 

We have to consider the degree of conflict and how that will impact your characters. 

Eventually, as writers, we try to make peace with the characters involved in the conflict. We try to think about their personality traits, their motivations, or their goals. We try to be in our characters’ shoes by considering what they will do. How would my characters respond, or does the conflict change them? The transition could be a bumpy one. 

Similarly, when we conflict with others, we ought to learn to make a truce.

The above applies to our lives. 

A conflict in our day-to-day lives helps us stay alert and, in some cases, grateful. If nothing ever went wrong in our lives, we would never have a chance to grow stronger. On the other hand, life, all rosy, would be so dull, aimless, and bland. A rise and fall at uneven intervals can keep us on guard and allow our intellect to make decisions when we are in a puddle. It’s also a test of our intelligence, which makes us different from any other living species. 

Conflict is the vehicle for change in our society, our personal lives, and at work.

Martin Luther King, Jr., looked at conflict as a means of making positive social change. It is how we handle conflict that we need to consider.

According to the Thomas-Kilmann, Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals worldwide, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, compromising, avoiding, competing, and accommodating.


While working in collaboration with another peer at work, an individual could create concerns and needs. Although partnership could generate creative solutions, foster respect, trust, and build relationships. But it can also lead to competition to create a win-win solution. 

Collaboration is far more powerful than competition. Your body and brain work best when you’re joyful and peaceful, not when you are pushed to the wall.


People who work as compromisers are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up theirs. They are ready to walk the extra mile to help maintain the relationship. Although the compromise is not necessarily intended to make all parties happy, to split the difference, game-playing can result in an outcome that is less creative and ideal.


People who use this conflict style deliberately ignore or withdraw from it rather than face it when in such a situation. However, they hope the problem will go away if they lay low by not taking responsibility or being involved. But then avoidance can be destructive if the opposite party perceives that you don’t care enough to engage. The result could be a loss for both parties since the argument could result in angry or hostile outbursts by not dealing with the conflict. 


People who compete come across as aggressive, confrontational, and can be intimidating. Having a competitive style is mainly to gain power while pressuring a change. However, this style could help in making difficult decisions and can harm relationships beyond repair. 


People who adopt this style of conflict usually keep aside their own needs because they want to keep the peace. Accommodators are cooperative and keep their egos at bay. They wouldn’t mind losing and allowing the other person to win.


How we respond to someone challenging our ideas or questioning our views is an essential aspect of our personality that we would be wise to recognize. At work or within the family, how we engage with others can make the difference between a positive and mutually beneficial relationship or one that is fraught with distrust and frustration.

We might consider this mode as our instinctive reaction to conflict. Knowing our mode can help assess whether we are the right person to engage in a row.

My two cents

By first gaining self-awareness, engagement with others can be more thoughtful and considerate, which is critical in improving one’s work situation and achieving professional objectives. 

Different situations demand different conflict approaches as long as we continue to heal ourselves with any process. 

So, what’s your style of conflict?


This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.

I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for five years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I can be found at:

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Instagram: ruchira.khanna

Humor in Writing

I write contemporary fiction genre with themes that revolve around the facts of life.  

Bowled but Not Out (BbNO) revolves around second chances. Often, an individual who has been let down the first time from a dysfunctional relationship will not have the courage to stand up and look out for another opportunity. Despair and discouragement will envelop her. 

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh; otherwise, they’ll kill you.”

― George Bernard Shaw

That’s when I thought of sprinkling humor in my protagonist’s life, Saru, by using cricket as a metaphor throughout the novel. I have projected Saru to be confident, empathic, funny, and silly at times. She bats away the sarcasm and negativity in the stadium that is her life. 

Humor isn’t easy to define. While you know that comedy is a cognitive and emotional experience that often leads to laughter, you may not know why. 

Why is something funny?

No one knows how to answer that question definitively. Humor is personal, subjective, and biased.

Humor is often the result of surprise. An unexpected action or phrase can be a delightful treat when set up in the right way.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

― Erma Bombeck

There is a thin line that separates laughter from pain. I embraced some tips to be able to make it an entertaining read.

  1. Mold a protagonist to appear silly. I portrayed her as a die-hard Bollywood fan who would love to sing and dance around trees and even get emotionally charged if someone did a favor for her. This easy-going personality came in handy when I showcased her in a dysfunctional relationship. But then I also tried to have a character support her transition during that period and not give up. 
  2. Compare two lives. One was the protagonist who had entered a dysfunctional relationship, and the other was her co-sister happily married. This contrast helps the reader get a grip on what my protagonist is going through, and it helps generate empathy for her. 
  3. Use metaphors to define her tragedies in addition to happy moments keeps the mood light. I used the terms of cricket to do the above. 

Example: “Go and hit the ball out of the park.” Saru’s dad cheered when they reached their destination. Saru realized that she had received a beamer and was quick to duck figuratively to avoid getting hurt. Her self-pride was bruised, but she continued to glare at the maid’s audacity. 

4. Place a character reader love to hate. That prevents the plot from becoming too spicy and intense.

Example: “Just remember, Saru, the whole world will be watching you.” Mom got comfortable on the dining chair with the rotary phone on her lap.

“What a smart way to encourage your daughter, Sushma!” Her dad scorned his wife then inquired, “What are you doing?”

“I have to inform our relatives, Colonel. How will they know that our Saru is going to be on TV?”

5. Make them laugh when they least expect it. Never set the expectation that you’re about to try to be funny. It’s much easier to be funny unexpectedly. Attempting to be funny is a subtle side effect; humor is a pleasant deviation from an expectation. Then create a scenario where laughter is induced skillfully. 

Example: Saru goes for a TV interview, and things don’t go as planned. But she turns out to be everybody’s favorite towards the end. 

I usually project the mental growth of my characters as they learn from their failures. And in my Bowled but Not Out novel, I project the same. This young lady knows to groom herself to be a confident achiever and strengthen the platform for her daughter and her future. 

The use of simple language, smooth transition of the story plot, humor, relatable and straightforward characters all make this book enjoyable and a must-read by one and all.


This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.

I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for five years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I can be found at:

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Who Left the Dang Gate Open

“If you open a gate, you close it. You’re responsible for what happens if you don’t.” These are some of the live-by words my dad instilled in me from as far back as I can remember. They still bounce around the gray matter each time I open a gate – any gate. 

The consequences of not heeding his directive meant taking the heat over a gate being left open and the possibility of animals escaping. Even worse was trying to round up the stock before anyone became aware they were not where they were supposed to be! 

Your wake-up call comes when all you see at the end of the day is one lone herd member grazing. First and foremost, you are the one responsible for making sure you take every opportunity to close the gates. Always! When you are aware of what the repercussions can be, it is up to you to be the responsible landowner.

Keeping the gates closed is a concept that should trickle down through the generations as a learning tool on how we handle our social media posts. The last thing we want is to lose visitors and possibly sales because we have been remiss in performing our due diligence.  Rotating stock in and out of feeding pastures is necessary; however, you need the knowledge to control the gate and where they go. The last thing you want is the herd breaking free before they have filled up on everything you are capable of feeding them.

Blog writing, in my opinion, has to be one of the best ways to show the importance of closing gates to keep control of the herd, a.k.a., your visitors. We have all read about the benefits of sharing links to other information that resonates with your writing, but here is where you need to be on your A-Game. Those links to outside sources can be a nemesis or a feather in your cap. 

The Nemesis—Links that open to outside information might mean your visitors leave your website and don’t come back. Why? Because the gate was not properly secured. 

The Feather—Links to outside information that is properly secured show the reader that you are willing to provide additional material. If the gate is secured correctly, the visitor will wander in the new pasture with a view of the home corral still in their sights. An example of this is the links in my Bio at the bottom of this article. Each should open as independent pages without taking you completely away from this CRCL Quiet Spirits column. 

The goal should be to allow the reader to open links without leaving the original article. As they finish reviewing the material found through the link, the linked page can be closed, and the original piece is still before them. You have not lost this visitor. 

Opening content in a new window is an easy step to keep the herd (a.k.a. visitors) corralled on your land. Platforms offering blogs, in the majority of cases, provide the option to “open in a new window” when setting up a link. If you don’t use this option, I recommend you start. It is something I also use with links within my website. Why? Because I don’t want the visiting herd to get lost on my land and not know how to find their way back. 

The long and the short of all this is: Pay attention to how you add external connections to your work. Having links open in a new window will guarantee most visitors to your website/blog will stay with you when they close the external link. Losing them through an open portal may mean lost sales and followers. 

The concept is much the same for any platform. If you forget to include opening links in new windows, you can go back and edit your work to make the change. Closing the gate after the fact isn’t the best choice, but it is a step in the right direction to keeping the herd where you want them in the future. 

I have created a free downloadable, how-to cheat sheet to help you stay on top of keeping the dang gate closed.

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 HorsesWestDAKATAMA™ 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.