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Hurricane Work Before the Rodeo

I just wrote a flash fiction in less than three minutes. And no, that’s not a brag. It could be better. The word choices are unpolished. The idea may not fully translate. I could let it sit, rewrite it a few more times, but I want to make a point.

Flash fiction can be a literary form that’s quick and powerful. Literary art itself can do good in the world. Case in point: Sarah Brentyn of Lemon Shark is using a flash fiction challenge to raise awareness of how to find reputable charities for natural disasters when we feel we want to help. She’s also donating a dollar (up to $50) for every flash fiction others write and link back to her challenge. Check out the rules of the challenge, links to charities, and join her in helping.

So why three minutes? Because I have much to do! Like all writers, I’m busy. I have three live readings tomorrow, negotiations with a book publisher for designing the interior of The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, I had to go buy chocolate and update the list of Books by Rough Writers, and prepare for the Rodeo that begins Thursday. I’m also meeting with KEDA again about Carrot Ranch, and a local dance troupe has asked to use my reading voice to MC their show Friday and Saturday.

Not every writer’s week looks like that, but it’s some jumble of book platform, marketing, revision, planning, relationship building, family and work. Oh, yeah, and we all write, too!

Flash fiction helps us break free of the busyness. When I’m frustrated with video equipment, trying to remember I actually need to look fresh and not like a reclusive writer tomorrow, and worried about the insanity of the world in ways only a writer can observe, I need a creative outlet. Flash fiction to the rescue. A three minute free write to a pattern my mind knows (59 words in this flash form) and acceptance that it’s raw and will do is all I need.

One of the recipes I have for Busy Writers is this:  Write the flash fiction in five minutes. Serve quickly.

Take time to support Sarah’s worthy cause. She’s fully demonstrating how literary artists can use their craft to do good.

For All Who Suffer by Charli Mills

Harvey, Irma, Maria.

Names of friends who killed themselves on the rez. They had alcoholic parents, missing teeth. His friends took their pain and left. He took his pain and volunteered to clean up after the hurricanes. It gave his mind healing, his body strength.

He returned sober to Pine Ridge after Puerto Rico and rolled up his sleeves.


My inspiration comes from anther Rough Writer, C. Jai Ferry, who shared this powerful video story with me about an issue of fighting injustice and predatory capitalism on Pine Ridge.

Join us tomorrow (Oct. 3) at at 10 AM, 2 PM, 6 PM (EST) for live readings or on the Rodeo Fest post for updated recordings. Comment on either platform to be included in prize drawings.

Sweet Sixteen

shawnaToday is October 16th and the birthday of Shawna Ayoub Ainslie of the #LinkYourLife movement. Her writing home is found beneath a rambling porcupine banner at The Honeyed Quill. Shawna is a writing coach and consultant, specializing in creating safe spaces for artists who engage in issues of survivorship and social justice. Her blog posts support writers and, like Carrot Ranch, connects to a vibrant online community. Shawna has a guest series on her blog, and I’d encourage anyone from this community to consider her Call for Guest Posts. It’s an opportunity to talk about the social justice issues behind your fiction or what story you share (and survived) in your memoirs. You might also recognize Shawna for the Flash Fiction Contest that we hosted at Carrot Ranch as a fundraiser for her son’s service dog.

Today, I’d like to honor the often unseen work of Shawna Ayoub Ainslie with 16 sweet reasons I’m grateful for what she does. And thank you to fellow #Lifer, Devon J Hall, for encouraging the posts today for Shawna’s online birthday celebration.

Shawna, I’m grateful for:

survive-your-story1. A quill dipped in honey. The act of writing itself is a journey to truth, but the choice to lift up with one’s words is the choice to use honeyed ink upon the page. You set the tone.

2. A movement called #linkyourlife. Many claim that social media is disconnecting people. #linkyourlife demonstrates the opposite: that through social media we can go deeper and forge meaningful bonds through shared stories.

3. A voice. What happens in silence perpetuates in silence. You coach survivors to share their stories, coaxing each voice to break the silence.

4. A safe place. Those who have experienced abuse are often re-traumatized by the backlash that can exist when sharing their stories. You provide a safe place. You encourage respect. You teach us to learn as we go.

5. A safe place to be heard. Within that safe place you model how it is we can listen to one another.

6. A safe place to ask. Within that safe place you let us ask hard questions and allow others to answer from compassion, knowledge and experience.

7. A safe place to share. For some of us, the safe place may be the first time we voice an experience or test out reaction to our story.

8. A safe place to withdraw. For others bold and brave to publish, the safe place provides a safe harbor to escape the attention brought on by sharing our stories.

9. A vision based on community. You dream for yourself and include others in the dream. This is the opposite of Trump. He dreams for himself, manipulates the expectations of others and delivers to satisfy only his ego. You truly understand what it is to dream inclusively. You should run for president.

10. A perseverance that is encouraging. Dreams are not built in a day no matter how clearly the vision. And circumstances often derail the strongest of dreams. You show us how to keep the dream on track. You show us our dreams are possible, too.

11. A compassionate pack of tools. No matter what shit-storm hits the media or what individual suffering might be going on, you have practical tools to share from uplifting songs, to meditations, to wise words you’ve penned or shared with others.

12. A values-based coaching style. If writing were football, you’d be the sport’s Vincent Lombardi. “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” ~ V.L.

13. A love of family that spills over for a love of others. The fruit of a life well-lived is love. You have a bumper crop and we all get to share in it.

14. A cool porcupine design. Sooner or later this logo on a coffee cup with be all over the world and we will feel like the cool kids with the cool cup.

15. An opportunity to grow. You give others what they need to grow their craft, voice and publishing/sharing goals. You house everyone from readers and lurkers to advocates and authors. And no matter where each us might be, you reach out to encourage our growth.

16. A friendship beyond the (web)page. Thank you most for that!


Response From A Humble Tiny House Dweller

0713162018In response to DEAR PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN FANCY TINY HOUSES by Lauren Modery, published on

Dear Lauren Modery,

Worst smells exist in tiny houses than Mexican food farts. You wondered if I love living in a fancy tiny house. If I wake up thinking, I’ve made a terrible mistake. Well, I hope you don’t mind an answer from a plain tiny house dweller.

Wow, 250-square feet is fancy indeed! My house is 161-square feet, and yes, that odd one-square foot makes a difference — it’s my toilet. If you are going to have a home in the US, you need a toilet. Spend a week homeless and you’ll discover you have to pay to poop. Those public toilets are for paying customers only.

However, conscientious of space, my squared-foot plastic throne of human dignity resides in my newly remodeled shower. Because my husband and I are not youthful sleek millennials, neither of our Gen X buffalo butts fit in the original shower. Why let two-square feet of space go to waste?

The water closet is exactly that — a closet. A cheap tension rod sprung across its expanse allows me to hang turquoise-colored velvet hangers (hey, I saved money on the rod and only own 12 tops so I could splurge). The former shower now holds fabric-covered cardbord box-shelves for an illusion of fancy. Press-on plastic hooks (same idea as press-on finger nails for those of us who can’t afford manicures), allow me to show off my hair bandana collection. Silly me! I think I own more bandanas than tops!

The central piece of art in the water closet is a copper-looking shower-caddy that hangs next to the built-in mirrored cabinet. It holds several bottles of herbs, monster finger-puppets (don’t ask, that’s a different response), a pottery jar of cotton balls and all my earrings hanging from the rungs. It’s all spectacular space until my husband steps into the closet to pee. Aim has never been more important.

Ah, so you ask about smells. Let me explain our simple contained septic system. Wash your hands and the flow goes to the “gray-water” box; poop or pee and the flow drops into the “black-water” box. When contained (yes, curious writer, we can travel with our tiny house!) we use an enzyme that masks odors. When parked, we pull out a slinky-like blue hose, open both boxes and secure the hose into a sewer pipe with a piece of firewood to secure the connect.

Due to gravity, most spillage sits in the hose. This used to require lifting the slinky for a manual dump. Fortunately, we discovered a slunky. This is an accordion apparatus of flat plastic slats with a semi-circle cutout upon which the sewer hose resides at graduated heights. It’s tallest at the point of entry from water boxes and lowest by the time it reaches the pipe. Who knew sewage required such thought? If no heed is given, oh, Baby — it stinks and gives you heed!

Recently, a kind neighbor in a fancy little house (this mo-fo has 450-square-feet with chrome, slide-outs, cable-satellite dish and a flat-screen t.v. so big we can watch it best from our place) complained about our stinking hole. He even pointed out that a congregation of black flies had gathered in glee around the place where our hose dumped. He said, “Get a doughnut.” Before I could ask why such a diet change mattered, he showed me his hole (we are quite intimate, we communities of tiny house dwellers).

Turns out a doughnut is a soft piece of black rubber that fits onto the sewage hose and can be pressed like clay into the sewage pipe, thus blocking odors and breaking up fly parties. As of yet, no such doughnut exists to block Mexican food farts. Too bad, because, as you correctly surmised, the expansion rate of a bad fart exceeds that of the space of a tiny home. It’s a mathematical problem only alleviated by going outside, where the kitchen is.

It was either an office or kitchen indoors, but with 161-square feet of space it couldn’t be both. I work from home, so it’s an office at the end of our tiny home. I have a desk stacked on top of storage files, a laptop, killer speakers, a wi-fi system smarter than me, a printer, telephone (an antiquated system called a “landline”) and a coffee pot. Truly a coffee pot is more an office item than it is part of a kitchen. Behind my office/folding chair is a twin-bed platform. Our children (lucky them!) are grown with living space of their own, so the platform is a glorified dog bed with exceptions. I’ll return to that idea momentarily.

Step outside and our kitchen is massive! We have a barbecue pit surrounded by patio chairs; a propane smoker barbecue; a tabletop briquet barbecue; a picnic table/food prep/dining table; a crock-pot with extension cord; and all the milky-way as night lights overhead. Ah, curious writer, this is the benefit of tiny house dwelling. It desperately makes you want to escape your condensed space before you knife each other or kick a dog that you develop a greater appreciation of the outdoors.

We also eat out a lot. Unfortunately, we love southwestern cooking, Mexican food’s kin with similar fart DNA.

Cramped space? Yes, but you learn what is necessary in life. Stinky? Oh, yeah, but you cope and mask. Sexy-time? Ah, well, did I mention we are not youthful sleek millennials? It’s not the farts that create havoc with the four inches above our faces in our sleeping den; it’s claustrophobia and the physicality of not fitting sexy-time into the sleeping space. So what to do? That’s when the two dogs (German Short-haired Pointers, by the way so no toy-dogs here) get an unexpected invite to sleep in the bed platform too high for them to reach without our help. The dog bed suffices. It’s also a good place to watch t.v. through our neighbor’s window.

Zombies? Oh, come now, don’t be ridiculous. We don’t fear the zombie apocalypse because technically, our tiny house is a can and we can’t be easily shaken out of it with windows molded in place and access points that fit only easily-squashed mini-zombies. In fact, more than one zombie through the narrow door is impossible, allowing us to easily pick them off until frustrated, they’ll sneak into easier to access big houses. Besides, we can hook up our tiny house and get the heck out of Dodge when the zombies come. Can you do that with your big house?

Finally, let me explain the worst smell possible. It’s not farts but breath. Before we learned the doughnut trick, our two dogs escaped our tiny house (probably in desperation for space to roam). Being pointers, they followed their noses and discovered where we had been hiding the toilet water they once loved when we had dwelled in a big house. Without opposing thumbs, they managed to pull out the sewer hose and lap up what liquid spilled forth.

Believe me when I say, dog-breath enhanced by sewage is way worse than a Mexican fart in 161-square feet of space. May you never lose a big house to find out for yourself.

Happy Trails,

Charli Mills, Humble Little House Dweller


good-byeLife is full of goodbyes — to loved ones, missed opportunities, places. Yet, saying goodbye can bring a new beginning, too. As in , one door closes and another opens, or the wisdom to see beyond the loss. In many ways, goodbye is not the end.

The past two weeks, writers have explored farewells in various customs and perspectives. Some goodbyes are rooted in choice, and others are unexpected. Writing about goodbyes had surprising conclusions, as well.

The following stories are based on the August 31, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye.


Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye by Drew Sheldon

We had barely spoken a word all morning as I got into my car. We had promised not to say a certain word and were struggling to avoid it. She did tell me she made extra strong coffee to help start my long drive. I still couldn’t help but cringe at the taste. She erased my expression with a kiss. Starting my car, the radio was playing an old song perfectly timed. We shared another kiss through the window before I put my car in reverse. Pulling away, I sang to her, “Sweeten my coffee with a morning kiss…”


Heartbreak in Paris by Rowena Newton

Nobody warned Chloe that the City of Love, was the City of Heartbreak. Or, that the River Seine flowed with lovers’ tears.

Yet, what could she expect from a holiday romance? A wedding ring?

Instead, he’d returned her letters and wasn’t returning her calls.

The lights of Paris had gone out and as Chloe leaned over Pont Neuf, she felt herself being pulled in.

“Nobody’s worth dying for,” a firm arm grabbed her, pulling her back from the edge.

What was she thinking? He wasn’t worth this.

An infinitesimal flicker of light broke through the darkness.

She was free.


Goodbye by Sharmishtha Basu

“Goodbye” never came easily to her lips, it was so hard to even think that they may not meet again, so she always said, “Till we meet again!” and hoped the same too.

Whenever she said those words she meant it, if she said goodbye to someone that clearly meant goodbye.

His heart stopped for a second when she uttered those words and closed the door.

He returned again and again but they never met, he could hear her inside but she was never home for him, after years of trying to please him she finally told him goodbye.


Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Lust at first sight, it was. Though you weren’t flashy, some inner magnetism drew me past the others to your hangout. Brazenly, I stroked your sleeve.

Friends said we were made for each other. Looked good together. A perfect fit. Do you remember when the rot set in? When you lost your warmth? Now I go out, and you stay home.

It hurts to move on from what we had together. Yet there’s life enough in both of us to begin again with someone new. So one last kiss, old grey cardigan, then it’s the charity shop for you.


Paradise Lost (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane looks at her forlorn hideout, seeing instead the home she left behind.

She hadn’t even said goodbye. She’d been glad to leave it, tired of family tensions and no jobs, looking forward to a plum job in an exciting city. She’d driven off in the U-Haul with scarcely a look in the rearview mirror.

She hadn’t meant to leave it forever, but the economy had taken care of that for her. How funny. She’d had paradise and hadn’t even known it.

She misses her rose bushes, hoping the new owners are taking care of her catalpa tree.


Farewell Summer by Ellen Best

Autumn fruits and winter boots, wrapping up for the day,

Cold noses on the children, their cheeks glow as they play.

Reddend skies apple pies, climbing fences made of wire,

Warming stews and evening news tucked up by the fire.

Halloween, bonfire night, toffee apples on their sticks,

Burning smelly candles right down to their wicks.
Warming bubbles soothe the bones

reading stories, haunting tomes.

Fond memories seep inside my head,
of windy nights wrapped up in bed.

We put away flimsy dresses

tie up loose flowing tresses

Say farewell to summer

the honey and the Bee,

That’s what Autumn,

conjures up for me.


Leaving Can Be So Hard by Geoff Le Pard

‘You ok?’

Paul nodded. ‘I feel a fraud going to Jerry’s funeral. I barely knew him.’

Mary held his hand. ‘So don’t go.’

He shook his head. ‘No. I feel guilty, how I ignored his overtures. Now I know how tough things got, I just wonder. If I’d called him…’
‘Shh. It wouldn’t have mattered. If it helps, then go.’

Paul stood by the door. A woman stared. ‘Paul North?’

‘Stella Pierce?’

‘And some. Mrs Marchand now. Why does it take a death to bring people back together, eh? Come on, lots of old faces, lots of old memories.’


Time for Bed by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

Mary rocked on the porch with a quilt tucked around her and Lizzie. The baby within stirred. After evening chores, the boys took to bed, leaving Mary alone with none to hear her heart pound. Cobb insisted she move in with his parents, but she wasn’t ready to leave Watauga County. The familiar woods, the patchwork of corn and squash, the smells of hearth fires nearby. She was born just over the ridge she couldn’t see in the dark. All her children were born here. And so would this last one. It was time for bed, not for goodbye.


Goodbye by Lady Lee Manila

the hardest goodbye
was to my Dad
on his bed
before my flight
I didn’t cry
I said sorry
things I’ve done
things I haven’t done
he said no need
I was forgiven
I promised him
lots of things
I’d look after everyone
I’d make sure they’re fine
I looked at him one last time
he was the man I dearly love
my idol, my ideal man
the man who pinned my medals
the man who left me notes
the man who cooked
the man with a big heart
his memories in my soul
miss him like the rain


Them Windows by Elliott Lyngreen

Angels humming; pass through in that sordid vanish of itself, that sort of end, that culminated bright waking where she rains so close to my temple; sense warmth where our heads were assuming endless yet turn up into the pillows. Barely touched her head and tremendous washed ‘awww-awww-ahhhs’ of angelic hums instilled into my dreaming still clenched in the raining. As I removed the pillow from our heads and I lay there, the day it seemed was washing away – as if I had seen her… again… Again the radio, the alarm was 24 Gone – Girl of Colours.


Flash Fiction by Lisa Ciarfella

The Market was bustling, its usual lunchtime crazy, people jamming carts into each other left and right. Amanda’s out of control chocolate craving was the culprit, but she just had to have it; their new fire-cracker dark bar. Thinking on it since last night, she braved the parking lot, nearly sideswiped three times to park, then dashed in quick under the pelting rain. Grabbing the stash, she looked up and saw her; cart in hand, oblivious. Last semester’s professor who’d screwed her out of the Teacher’s Aide job. Paying, she ducked past fast, not waiting to get into it.


Treachery by Bill Engelson

Time, dust and mortality cycloned in on Dobbs. He had to move quickly. “Damnation,” he realized, “I should have located Caldwell earlier.”

He scampered back into the morning shadows of Union City. “They will not harm the children,” he willed it to be. “They mean nothing to Caldwell.”

Behind the bank, he peered in. The Banker was busy.

He had a customer.


There was an easiness between the two men.

Each sported a twisted grin; two bedbugs, fat and sassy.

He had been a fool to trust the Banker. Any banker.

He would not make that mistake again.


Goodbye by Shane Kroetsch

“So that’s it then.”

“I guess so.”

Jess was doing her best to hold it together, but she couldn’t stop the tears from breaking through.

“Do you need a ride home?”

“No. I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

The Head of HR waited by the door, eyes watching each piece as it was placed in the cardboard banker’s box. Marilyn was shocked by how fast everything had happened. How cold it made her feel. And she wasn’t the one being walked.


I don’t know what to do, Marilyn wanted to say.

“It’s okay, really. Take care of yourself Marilyn.”


Arrivederci by Jules Paige
(a haibun)

I missed too many, those important last words…the ones from
those who had whisper voices or none at all, before entering
death’s door to never to be seen again. Related by blood or bond.
Often the claim being that children brought germs. Did that matter
to those who were dying already?

last words lost and found
in dreams appearing to be
presently lucid

Distance is a hamper for dirty clothes hidden in the back of
a closet along with skeletons. Those who I could sit beside,
kept last words hidden with medicated slurring…barely stirring
to say…Good-bye.


The Birth by Rowena Newton

Walking into the hospital with my suitcase packed, I had no idea this would be my greatest goodbye.

Rather, all I could think about was the birth and welcoming our tiny son into the world. After feeling him moving around like an exuberant butterfly, I’d finally see his face and hold him in my arms.

No longer a work in progress, he’d become real.

With such anticipation and a love I’d never known before, I didn’t notice the door slam shut behind me. That the woman who walked in, wasn’t the same woman walking out.

That Mummy was born.


A Goodbye Clapping Song by Norah Colvin

It’s time for you to go, go, go

I’ve lots to do and can’t be slow.

It’s time for me to fly, fly, fly

Upon my broom into the sky.

It’s time for you to leave, leave, leave

I will be happy, do not grieve.

It’s time for me to run, run, run

And jump so high I touch the sun

It’s time to say goodbye, bye, bye

You’ve work to do and so have I.

I’ll blow a kiss, and smile, smile, smile

I’ll see you in a little while.

Bye. Have a good day. Love you!


The Worst Goodbye by Paula Moyer

Jean was never a follower of kidnap stories. Before the Amber Alert, she had glazed over the milk carton notices. A weird protection – if these cases weren’t real, her daughters were safe.

Then, one night, the news bulldozed over her. An 11-year-old boy, missing for 27 years. His remains found on a farm 30 miles from home.

Along with the boy’s mom, part of Jean had hoped he would surface alive.

After the news, Jean and Sam turned on the porch light – for remembrance.

Goodbye, little man.

Hello to hope – not for your return, but for remembering your face.


Flash Fiction by Cheryl Oreglia

It was early December, The Carol of Bells by George Winston, was playing in the background. That was the last time I looked my Dad in the eye and said goodbye. I knew I would not see him again, well at least not in this life, and I was bartering with God for a little more time. I held his gaze through a blur of tears, lingering in that wretched space, knowing my beloved was close to death. Although I was not granted more time, embedded in that gaze was a lifetime of love, and I am grateful for the sacredness of the moment.


Leaving Cousin Klaus by Susan Budig

“Sören, I didn’t even say goodbye.”

“Not a word, Becca?”


He laced his fingers inward toward his palms then pressed his thumbs together repeatedly. After several seconds, he looked at Becca standing next to him. Impulsively, he reached out to rub the tear away that trickled down her cheek.

“What would you have told him,” Sören asked.

Her shoulders rose up as she twisted her head to face his. “Why, I couldn’t have said anything. My family was stealing away, running from the SA, Jungvolk and everything that evil elfish man represented…saying goodbye would have betrayed our plans.”


Keepers, Chapter 3 Excerpt, by Sacha Black

“We’ll leave you the train and travel to Siren city overnight. Okay?”
I nodded. It wasn’t really a question and his tone of voice told me not to argue.

Mother looked back, her mouth sagged just enough that her unsaid words pricked the air. I stepped from foot to foot, desperate to find a quick question she would answer. I had nothing. So, like a child, I reached out to cling on to her. She leant back pulling her body out of my grasp. A tear rolled down my cheek.

“I love you, Eden East.”

Then she was gone.


Goodbyes Were Few by Ann Edall-Robson

Through the open door of the old country school, the lively sounds of a three piece band played on. Laughter and voices singing to the music. Small children lay asleep on benches around the room. Waltzes, polkas, old time schottische and swinging butterfles. Sashaying around the room with neighbours, friends and loved ones. Midnight lunch, a conglomerate of pot luck dishes on tables at the back of the room. The slowing chords and the crowd singing ‘Irene, Goodnight Irene’ announced the evening’s end. Across the grass covered field, was a chorus of “See you next time”. Goodbyes were few.


Goodbye, Again by Diana Nagai

You crossed the rainbow bridge months ago. My children’s sobs echo in my memory, as does the quiet ride to the hospital. I see your eyes, too tired to complain about the car ride. My arms feel your weightlessness as I handed you to the veterinarian, full of hope, yet knowing the truth.

We said goodbye that day.

Yet, I continue to wash blankets covered with your furry DNA, erasing your existence even more. At every moving shadow or tinkle of a bell, I look for you. I remember. I struggle with renewed loss. I say goodbye, again.


Goodbye Gram by Kerry E.B. Black

Ariel dreaded the M.I.U. and its decaying grandeur.

Gram rested in an over-sized chair before a quiet television. The other residents’ smiles quavered across wizened faces, searching for recognition. They found none.

The nurse whispered a warning in Ariel’s ear.

As she stroked her Gram’s pigment-free hair, a tear slid over Ariel’s cheek.

Gram stirred and searched Ariel’s face. “Is it you?”

Her heart leapt. “Yes, Gram, it’s Ariel. I love you.”

Gram’s bony finger collected her tear. “I love you, too, dear.”

Ariel cried into her Gram’s lap, uncertain even at the end if her Gram really recognized her.


The Slow One by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

“For God’s sake, Ike! You’re forty-nine years old, you need readers, your one knee is bad and your other one worse. You know what the fellows on the Baffin expedition used to say? ‘Don’t have to be faster than the polar bear, just faster than the slowest in the group.’ Well, Ike, guess what? You’re that slow one!” Danni stood on the curb of the airport, ready to block his entrance.

“Babe, I know. But I have to.” Ike grabbed his duffle, kissed his wife goodbye and disappeared into the concourse as if Iraq had already swallowed him whole.


Letter From Wallace, Idaho

14671646437561500431736Howdy Ranchers!

I’ve come to Wallace, Idaho today. It’s an old mining town 20 miles from where my leaky home on wheels is parked along the beautiful Coeur D’Alene River.

During last week’s rain we discovered our camp trailer leaks. We were parked at a lovely Airbnb property outside Sandpoint in the Selle Valley. It’s a possible home for future writing retreats with a beautiful house, rustic cabin, RV pad, walls through the forest, magnificent outdoor shower and a hot tub.

We took care of the property in exchange for the RV pad to parker trailer. We had to move when RV guests arrived, but concerned with the leaks we went to an RV place in town. After hearing our story, they have us a free place to park for the weekend.  It was miserable and I felt so inconspicuous with our trailer wrapped in a tarp and parked for all the world to see. I really felt exposed. But it was a generous offer and we had to wait until Monday morning to get inspected.

Not good news. Repairs would cost about 1,000. However, they showed us what needed doing, what supplies to use, and how to do it. So for a couple hundred dollars and a lot of Todd’s elbow grease, we can fix it. We bought the supplies, borrowed a ladder and moved closer to Coeur D’Alene where Todd has appointments.

Monday was a day of making phone calls until I got those appointments. Why is it so dehumanizing to get the help a veteran has a right to and needs? Some play into Todd’s pride…”soldier up, you can live in a tent…” Or they simply hold to a ridiculously rigid set of rules that shifts despite its rigidity.

I got three appointments up and we headed to CDA me and the dogs in the car, Todd in the truck pulling the trailer. The dentist was a cattle call for homeless herds and it devastated Todd to learn they’d only pull his teeth and not fix them. He has an appointment tomorrow and I’m canceling it. I’ll find a dentist working to work with our budget to do two root canals.

Dentistry has become a class separation. I’m appalled that all they will do for veterans or anyone down on their luck is pull teeth leaving smiled with gaps as big as class separation. Now it makes sense, the teeth whitening craze…it’s to show off that one can afford dentistry.

We headed into the mountains toward Montana where friends recommended free camping for 14 days. We found a meadow with a noisy moose and mosquitoes last night. Woke up and drove to an old inn for breakfast and felt lucky to have such mobility and ability. We found a better camp side right along the river. Peaceful.

Today, Todd is fishing and I drove 20 miles to Wallace where I’ve been catching up online, charging batteries and writing from a lovely old Carnegie Library. Cool, historic, free access and a wonderful little desk among rows of books. Alas, it closed at 5 p.m before I finished rounding up all the wonderful flashes of home.

Right now, I’m tapping on my phone to let you know we are well, and I missed my window of internet opportunity. I tried every so called wifi hot spot, but they all shut down by 5 pm! Welcome to a tiny mountain mining town! Because I’m unable to copy and paste the stories via phone, not to mention this is probably riddled with auto corrected typos, I’m unable to finish the flash round up. Tomorrow we have allotments so we will be within civilization and the show goes on!

New prompt tomorrow! Goodnight, Ranchers!

Carrot Ranch in Crisis

Crisis. I don’t like word. I don’t like the circumstances. I don’t want to ask for help; I’m in need of help; I feel bitter if no one helps and embarrassed if anyone does. Let me back up because this began four years ago.

After fighting in court against a fraudulent mortgage, my husband and I lost our home to foreclosure in April 2012. Over the next few years I watched my husband unravel. Last year I began in earnest to get him in the US Veterans Affairs (VA). Even though his knees were destroyed by the time he was 25 years old (a hardship we’ve dealt with on our own since 1988), the VA finally recognized his disability in 2015. To this date we still don’t have an appointment to evaluate his PTSD.

After we lost our house and Todd took a job in Idaho (where he lived in a motel for 6 months), I helped a human rights movement in rural northern Wisconsin where I was living in the spare bedroom of family. I was finishing my first novel, Miracle of Ducks, about a military wife left behind when her husband re-enlists. Here’s me at a protest rally in Ashland, Wisconsin May 2012 (I’m in the purple Vikings t-shirt):

I’ve known how vulnerable we are. It’s expensive to rent. I typically have earned between $1,000 to $1,500 a month through writing for clients. However, it’s fiction that is my love.

That’s why I started Carrot Ranch. It’s an imaginary playground, a place to meet up and encourage other writers, a place to dream out loud, a place to share stories and ideas, a place to support intelligent literature or clever prose or silly creativity. Carrot Ranch has a diverse group of writers from different countries, genres, interests and backgrounds. I’ve made incredible friends here, many who have encouraged and inspired me. I hope I’ve encouraged and inspired others.

Last May, my best friend, Kate, died of ovarian cancer and I tail-spinned into grief. I pulled every last weed on this property (though the weeds mock me and have returned). As I began to adjust, I renewed my efforts on Rock Creek, my third novel in draft, thinking of the three it had the best chance at getting published. At that time, several opportunities came up, including some options for income.

One was a client project that I thought would give me the extra money if we self-published the anthology. I set up all the work, delivered part of the project and…it was cancelled with no payment. The other gig was writing for Go Idaho. The editor was recommended to me by my book editor. I was excited to work with a great editor and she agreed to let me write at least one history article a month, which tied into my novel genre. I received my first paycheck December 28. It was the only one I received.

Then, the end of March we received notice of the owners intent to sell this place. My home. What’s most vulnerable.

The owners want to sell, which is entirely their prerogative. We looked at buying it but because of our past, we don’t qualify. I had a meltdown and Todd deployed to a job in Reno, Nevada. “Deployed” is the phrase our VA advocate uses and it makes sense. When Todd thinks we are in dire straits, he feels the need to go on a mission to relieve the situation.

The day he left, I began researching my publisher. That’s when I discovered he was a serial con artist. He owes me $2,000 and he’s still publishing. Todd returned from Nevada because they decided not to hire a full-time aviation mechanic. The final kick in the pants came when the owners of our rental decided they could better sell the place empty. On May 17th we were served a Notice to Vacate in 30 days.

I wrote a plea in response. I’ve made certain to always pay my rent. We’ve not damaged the place nor have we committed bad behavior like running a meth lab in the horse barn. I’ve created a blog about this place and taken care of the resident cat!

Their response? Last week, May 31 they simply emailed: “the owners need you out.”

We scrambled. Asked the VA for assistance given we are now facing homelessness. We are definitely “at risk.” The VA sent us on a goose chase of phone numbers. Of two organizations that can help, they won’t because we don’t have a court-ordered eviction. The lawyer we contacted says there’s nothing in our lease that protects us and that our Notice to Vacate is legal. The VA says our Notice to Vacate is not legal until the sheriff escorts us out.

Other organizations have said, “Sorry, folks,” while they tout posters on their walls that proclaim “End Veteran Homelessness.” Guess it’s just a catchy phrase.

I’m exhausted. I’ve had to downsize an already downsized household. All the calls, driving to organizations, the cleaning, the trying to find a rental, 30 days is hardly enough time. We had a garage sale last weekend and I met three homeless vets. That’s not exactly hopeful. I met another vet who said he lives in an ex-pat community in the Philippines and invited us to join him. Ah, why couldn’t it be Montana? Or Scotland?

I want Carrot Ranch to be a safe environment for writers, an incubator for creativity. My Big Dream is to create a platform that benefits many authors. I want to make Carrot Ranch a non-profit to create travel scholarships for writers. I want to publish annual anthologies that both contribute to such scholarships and provide an income for contributors. I want to build more contests that support worthy causes world-wide. I want to teach flash fiction as a writing tool. I want to do small group retreats and host large workshops (nature writing and western writing). I want to travel, to research, to do readings and open mics. I want to publish my own books and create some way of attracting a wide audience of readers to Carrot Ranch and all its writers.

I’m not quitting. But I am asking for help and this is hard. I also want to be fair in expectations. A Go Fund Me campaign was suggested. I thought about this and decided against it. First, the organization takes a huge chunk of donations and it generates spam. Second, most people who will contribute will likely know me or know someone who does so why not just donate to Carrot Ranch, right here.

Housing is our crisis mostly because of our vulnerability. Rentals aren’t available this time of year in our area. I found a place September 1, after the summer vacationers and seasonal residents go home. We have a friend who is loaning us a tent. I really want a camping trailer for a better bed. Yet, a trailer is mobile and opens up the possibility of travel. I could even go to Rock Creek, Nebraska for the annual reenactment of Hickok shooting Cobb! Of course, I’ll have to tell them they have it all wrong.

I’d rather ask for contributions toward the cost of setting up Carrot Ranch as a non profit, publishing our first anthology and possibly self-publishing Miracle of Ducks. I have the notion to change my character’s crisis to that of homelessness. I can’t believe this is really happening. If you want to help us out in our current circumstance, know that any financial help will go toward securing a camp trailer, gas, food and a future rental. And keep in mind I do have a monthly income and no longer have a high rent payment.

As for work, I’m available for marketing consultations and editing. I’m a big-picture person and my strengths are in assessments and strategy. I’m good at connections and with ideas. I’m not good at line edits unless they are less than 20 pages. My fees are $50 an hour and anyone interested can contact me at I would invoice (rather than use the donation button). I’ve had some people in the past buy hours and gift them to someone else. I can provide a gift certificate. I’m also rethinking how to create a way to get more readers and if I do, I’ll open up some sort of support like Patron of the Literary Arts.

I hope to resume normal activities here after the craziness of moving out.

Thank you to all the lovely Ranchers who make this worthwhile. Thank you for your help. If you are so inclined, please use this button and indicate any preference on your contribution. If you are interested in hiring me for an editing or marketing project, email me at

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Four Paws for Noah Writing Competitions

A Boy and His DogGet ready to put the FUN in fundraiser! Carrot Ranch is pleased to announce participation in the Four Paws for Noah Creative Writing Competitions. There’s more than one competition and the fundraiser is a heart-warming one.

Submission fees benefit Noah Ainslie, a nine-year-old boy with severe Autism-related anxiety. Noah has been matched with Appa, a four-month-old Standard Poodle. Appa will be trained as Noah’s service dog and will help Noah move through public and private spaces by interrupting Noah’s anxiety and being a furry best friend for life. You can read more about Noah and Appa’s journey together on their GoFundMe page.

Carrot Ranch is hosting the following and you can read the details on the Events page.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest

This is an opportunity to write a flash fiction longer than our typical 99 word challenges. The theme is “a boy’s dog.” In January, Carrot Ranch will launch an e-newsletter, The Carrot Ranch Roundup (with thanks to Rough Writer, Larry LaForge, for the clever title). Following the contest, a special edition will feature the top three entries with honorable mentions. The winner receives $250.

Judging is blind and those who regularly flash at Carrot Ranch are eligible to enter (unless you are on the judges panel). We’ll be featuring our judges throughout the contest and spurring all writers to enter. Please help us by sharing news of this contest far and wide.

And, flash fiction is not the only contest! Be sure to check out Shareen Mansfield of On the Verge. She’s host the Olympics of caffeine and wants your craziest, most unexpected stories from your best cup of coffee (tea). Find out more details by clicking on the contest photo:

Contest Coffee

All proceeds go directly to the fundraiser, managed by Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, Noah’s mother. We hope you join in the fun!