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Pages of Sound

Often we visualize the imaginary settings and scenes from the pages of a story. This leads writers to focus on what they see when they write. Yet, we use all our senses to perceive that imaginary space. This week we played with sound.

Sonar creates an acoustical image. The challenge to writers was to explore creating a flash fiction by sound. Prepare to hear something different this week.

The following is based on the August 3, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use sound to create a story.


Sounds Surround Us by Norah Colvin

The deadline looms and I wonder how to extract a 99-word story from my unwilling brain. Contemplation, false starts, abandoned ideas: the well is dry. But listen! Outside, the day fades. Birds serenade folk hurrying homewards and signal the changing shifts. Soon they’ll sleep and the night time chorus will begin. Inside, the computer hums patiently, waiting to tap out the words. In the kitchen, doors creak: pantry then fridge. Vegetables are scraped and rinsed. Water bubbles on the stove. What joy! Yes, I get to eat tonight; but my, how the gift of hearing enriches my world. Gratitude.


A Mother’s Journey by KittyVerses

The first cry of my daughter announcing her entry on earth, it was music to my ears.Often wondering, why is it a cry that we arrive with, why not a smile? Over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s only with the cherished ones we drop our shield and cry.

Much like,

At the foot of the waterfalls, by her side, this was another sound I wasn’t going to forget. As the water announced her entry to the world, heralding goodness, prosperity, luck, much like my daughter who despite her tantrums, disagreements, conflicts during her growing up years, stood by me and banked upon me during the good and tough times.


Sunrise Flash by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He stands on the bank where forest parts to sunrise on the rich strip of green, and lowers his muzzle to feed. Thick grass pops between his rotating jaws, snapping as he tears into clumps of equally satisfying roots.

He sneezes, shakes his antlers, and freezes at the whisper of small feet on the low cliff, opposite.

Alert, he steps back into shadow.

She sees him and laughs as water over shallows.

He nods, unconcerned, as she sheds her nightshirt and plashes into deeper water. Skin twinkles and turns, and flipping her tailfin, she’s gone.

He nuzzles the grass.


Forest Bathing by Jules Paige

Most suburbs have cookie cutter houses and some
neighborhoods are lined with concrete sidewalks, that for a
time were required by law. They reside in between areas
where the yards go right to the streets’ paved edge. Which
were at one time disconnected from other areas by remaining

Those houses with old growth trees nestled in hillsides where
fox, deer and pheasant still hide… that is where you can hear
the past meeting the future. Little pockets of Shinrin-yoku await.

Insects buzz, woodpeckers tap out Morse Code. and early
risers climb with dreamsand still stuck in their eyes…


Million-dollar Violin by Anne Goodwin

The sound was sublime, more mystical than any music. But Lea wasn’t satisfied. Replacing the instrument on its stand she tucked another under her chin. Serenity swept through her father’s body as she slid the bow across the strings. But still not good enough for Lea. He cringed when she picked up the one with the million-dollar price-tag. But the tone! The resonance! The joy that entered through his ears, echoed in his head to be transported by his arteries to his toes. He’d do anything to get it for her. Even give the devil his soul.


Sound by Michael at Afterwards

Each night it starts with a scratch scratch scratch on my window. I close my eyes and hope this it is just branches blowing against my window, but it never is.

From the forest into my room they creep, scuttling across the ceiling, shrouded in darkness. Skull less eyes glow red, foul hissing breath on my skin as they envelop me. I lie frozen and unable to scream as their claws caress me, hungry tongues snaking out to feast on my fear.

With a full belly they return to the night and I am free to scream, too late.


Failed Investigation by Mick E Talbot

Buzz, the buzzer buzzed!
Under the spell of the questionnaire or so we thought, but it jumped, grabbing her by the throat, blood spurted everywhere.
Zapped by a taser, no affect?
Zapped again, still standing, and now the questionnaire was decapitated.

Twice, with no effect. panic ensued
Once should of put it down

Beaten, security called for help, armed guards arrived within seconds.
Agonisingly the alien submitted, it was then manually restrained..
Next, in anticipation of further trouble it was restrained. with three sets of handcuffs.
Grinning, nodded its head ten times, looked up, then disappeared with a bang!


The Chimes by Allison Maruska

A familiar chord greets me as I step onto the curb. Amazing those old wind chimes carry this far. As the Uber drives away, I stare at my childhood home. Its color has faded in the past twenty years.

But that E-chord still sounds, not as cleanly but definitely as present. I follow it across the dead grass, through the rusty metal gate, and into the back yard.

She sits on the porch, the chimes ringing above her despite the still air.

Her focus centers on me, and a chill shoots through my body.

“I knew you’d come back.”


The New Bell by Michael

Bang, crash, push, heave, ugh!

“You got it yet?”


It grated as they pushed it further. The grinding rang in their ears.

“A little further?”

“Do we have to?”

“Stop whinging, now grow a pair and push.”

Breathing heavily, they huffed and puffed, then huffed some more.

One looked at the other, sighed deeply and then took purposefully hold.

Gradually they made progress. It moved begrudgingly, inching forward resisting their every breath consuming effort.

With a resounding squeal of metal on metal, they moved it into place.

The new shiny bell swung gracefully. It would ring out anew.


Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

My dad’s eyes flashed silver when he got into a bottle. His lungs darkened, his voice bellowed, and Mom would whisk me off to bed amidst the building gusts.

In my bed I could still smell the sourness in his skin, his blood charged with ozone and bourbon. I counted the seconds between flickers of light beneath my door and thundering steps. I’d curl into a ball, flinching at every sudden bang.

Sometimes it passed. A heavy downpour would turn to snores. Other times it thrashed about, uprooted and blowing a gale, heaving against the house through the night.


The Protector by Pensitivity

Someone had broken in.

Drawers were ransacked, papers shuffled and ruffled, heavier objects thrown to the floor.

Footsteps were muted but still audible on the carpet.

Wardrobes were violated, the swish of clothes on hangers disturbed the silence.

They were searching.

She trembled in her bed. Not for her to make a sound and announce her presence.

She’d been kicked by intruders before.

Angry barking rocketed through the stillness.

Sticky fingers stopped mid poke, the unwelcome guest backed into a corner by a snarling beast.

The German Shepherd guarded his patch and waited. The poodle went back to sleep.


Sound by FloridaBorne

I awake on a moonless night, eyes open, trying to make sense of the darkness. I close them again and, for some inexplicable reason, this helps.

My dogs have their favorite places to sleep. White dog, tight against my body, whines when I move. Dingo, who likes to sleep against the bathroom door, snores peacefully. I take exactly 9 steps toward the sound, stopping just short of Dingo’s snout. His hot breath bathes my feet, as he continues to snore. Turning the door knob startles him. My bladder reacts when he yelps.

I hate cleaning pee off the floor.


Crinkling by Kerry E.B. Black

Crinkling, like anxious mice in an autumn woodland, woke Wendy from a sound sleep. She wrinkled her nose around a musty smell. The insidious crinkling crept deeper. She lit a bedside flashlight and shone it on the ground. She gasped. “No.” Water crept into her room, surrounding her as though she were Thumbellina asleep on a lilypad. Her feet splashed on sopping carpet as she rushed to gather the most valuable of her belongings. Tears splashed into the rising tide. The water rose above her ankles, collecting items to ruin, crinkling like a voracious wolf gnawing an ancient bone.


Buzz to Bang by Irene Waters

“Ugh! Tinnitus. Today it’s thrumming rather than clanging.

“I’ve got buzzing reverberating also.” Sheila cocked her head. ” It’s in the garage.”

The hum intensifed as Peter entered the garage. “Hell! There’s a swarm of bees in here.”

“Smoke subdues bees. Use the fireworks.”

“Great idea.” Choosing Mad Monster, Peter placed it under the honey comb. The scrape of the match igniting was quickly followed by a whizz then loud booming explosions. Bam! Boom!

Unexpected whizzing and banging as the other fireworks ignited. Crackling fire engulfed the garage. In the distance a welcome nee-naw, nee-naw.

“Preferred the hum” Sheila whispered.


Wildfire by Kate Spencer

An eerie silence descended upon the acrid night air. Lori’s eyes burned as she stood on the porch staring at the crest of the distant hill, her heart pounding. Waiting.

And then it was there. Two hundred foot flames shooting into the sky over the summit followed by a roar like a fast approaching freight train.

“Rob, it’s time,” she yelled.

Rob appeared with a half-eaten sandwich in his hands. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I’ll start hosing down the house. Go. The guys are expecting you.”

“Love ya,” he whispered before racing off to do battle with the advancing wildfire.


A Grating Sound (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Gears ground when the all-terrain vehicle powered up the slope. Danni heard Evelyn shout, “Giddy-up, Mule! Haw! Haw!” The revving engine faded, and a drone of voices washed over Danni like white noise. She studied the sonar graphs, puzzling over the dark features buried four feet below the Kansas clay. Trowels scraped, volunteers called to one another and the porta-potty door slammed intermittently. Danni focused. The active noises blurred.

“I’m a gardener!” A high-pitched voice like nails on a chalkboard.

Danni grit her teeth hard enough to hear enamel chip. A child. Who brought a child to her dig?


Offerings by D. Avery

The curtain snaps against the breeze in the open window. Triumphant flapping and clucking of Hope’s favorite hen heralds its daily escape.

She listens to comfortable thuds and thumps as he prepares breakfast. Brewing coffee rumbles a baseline to the robins’ chirping. The last stair-tread squeaks as Hope joins her father. Both quiet and reserved, in the mornings together they are quite talkative, sharing observations from the farm or surrounding woods, their voices rolling soft like the round-rocked brook.

Unconsciously they interpret morning sighs. They bring her coffee, their tentative daily offering, worry they might rouse her to flight.


Jack Pine Wings by Ann Edall-Robson

The wind in their faces, the full moon above. Always upwind of the unsuspecting herd feeding in the quiet, illuminated darkness at the meadow’s edge. Spooked to a dead run by the young men moving ever closer. The fleeing sound of pounding hooves, branches snapping, voices yelling. Escaping the open to the trusted sanctuary of the trees, only to face barriers built by those pushing from behind.

Jack Pine pole wings guide them into the funnel opening of the corral. Held in the stronghold, wild-eyed, snorting, blowing. Squeals of defiance fight the ropes settling around sweating, heaving necks.


Jubilee Night by Bill Engleson

Some might think it sounds like a drunken grizzly scratching a chalkboard.

In the cities night air, the grizzled old academic, twitching in his fuming sadness, hears the piercing refrain from Marie’s Wedding seeping through the raccoon infested briar that separates his Edwardian from the Collectives.

“Damn hippies,” he mutters, tips his flagon, and swallows his sour brew.

But the beauty of the pipes, a surprize this Saturday Eve, intrigues him.

He rises and is drawn to the window that overlooks the neighbours lawn, replete with a hundred celebrators.

“Damn fine tune for the bagpipes,” he allows. “Damn fine tune.”


My Spouse by Reena Saxena

He tiptoes to come close, and deliver a surprise. He grunts to express disinterest or disappointment. He slurps with a look of satisfaction, on the dining table.

He hammers and nails, to fix things around the house, even if it disturbs my writing. The whirr of the car engine reflects his mood for the day. He belts out a romantic number while driving, in his not-so-melodious voice. I prefer the radio instead.

His voice softens, almost breaking down, on hearing that his father is now terminal.

I know my spouse, more through the sounds he makes, than other expressions.


Dinner Date by C. Jai Ferry

He pressed the oversized lid onto the sizzling wok with a metallic burst of frustration. His phone vibrated in his pocket, producing another insistent ding-ding-ding. She was sick, wasn’t coming in. The power washer whooshed to life, a sink full of silverware rattling under the steaming water. The sound made his teeth ache. He stepped into the hallway, where gentle guitar strings embraced him from strategically placed speakers. He dialed her number. Straight to voicemail. Beep. He hung up. He contemplated calling back. Rhythmic chopping against a thick cutting board interrupted his thoughts. He’d fire her after dinner service.


Quiet Sunday Morning by Deborah Lee

It powers in with a rush and a roar, surrounding the building in seconds. Becca staggers to her feet, careens from room to room, arms wrapped around her head. The entire apartment throbs. War. It can only be war. China? North Korea? Plenty of choices these days.

Finally the thwapping fades.

Panic says it’s war; logic says just another damned tourist helicopter. Her single crystal wineglass, the one she hid from Richard’s sister to ruin the bar set, is the casualty this time. Vibrated itself right off the counter. Becca swigs from the bottle until her heart finally slows.


Lock the Bathroom Door by Susan Zutautas

Meg was having a nicotine fit and needed a smoke. Her parents were home so she went into the bathroom.

Sitting on the toilet taking that first drag, she felt instant relief.
She heard a tap, tap on the bathroom door and panic set in. “I’ll just be a minute”, she said.

Quickly she put her hand behind her and was about to drop it into the toilet when her mother walked in to comb her hair.

If I drop it she’ll hear the sizzle of the smoke hitting the water.

Seeming like forever her mother finally left. Reprieve.


Sound Track by D. Avery

“I love it here.”

“Yeah, Kid, what do love about it?”

“Well, until you showed up jest now, flappin’ yer pie-hole, I was jest lovin’ the sounds. Listen. Hear that? Far off ya can already hear the clopping footsteps of some rider bringin’ one in. Soon ya’ll be hearin’ the easy lowing of the new herd in the corral. And from up by the bunkhouse friendly laughin’ and talkin’. And, ya hear that? Best sound of all. Bangin’ pots and pans, ringin’ out with the promise of vittles. Shorty’s fixin’ to cook. Cookin’ up somethin’ special.”

“I hear that!”


New Sign by D. Avery

“What’sa matter Kid?”

“Look at Shorty’s new sign over the gate. Use’ta jest say Carrot Ranch. Now it also says ‘literary community’.”


“Well? Is it a ranch or a literary community?”

“Cain’t it be both Kid?”

“I jest wanna ride the range, wrangle some words now an’ agin.”

“But ya generally begin an’ end here at the ranch. Where they’s other wranglers; an’ readers… you know, a community.”

“I ain’t the communal type. I’m free range.”

“Ah, Kid, come on in outta the cold. There’s bacon cookin’.”

“This community has bacon?!”

“And raw carrots.”

“For me?”

“For all.”


August 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

Science. It’s what brought my eldest and her spouse to the Keweenaw, where Michigan Tech has been a public research university since 1885. She’s now Director of Research News, writing and directing science stories for several academic publications, including the university’s research blog, Unscripted.

While I’ve had rocks on the brain since arriving — a common Keweenaw affliction — I’ve been pondering the relationship between arts and science. As a literary artist, science fuels my imagination. Yet science relies as much on creativity as it does data. As a geoscientist and dancer, my daughter understands this dynamic and writes about the intention of Unscripted:

“…This is a place where metaphor and methodology meet. Where curiosity inspires conversation, art, and science. We write the research you can’t find on news wires, capture science in action, and speak frankly about the work we do. Often succinct, we’re not afraid of an in-depth exploration either. Yeah, Unscripted is a university research blog—and then some.”

Metaphor and methodology. It’s like finding a mineral in its matrix with a spectacular inclusion at the juncture. As writers, we work to balance what drives our rawest ideas with the structure of craft. And like scientists we don’t go at this alone. We share research, theories and ideas. We encourage that curiosity to drive both art and science.

Tonight, I’m in a weather warp. Rain pummels my umbrella and I’m chilled in a sweater. Half-way up the hill I realize the “path” we chose is actually a broad rain gutter. At the top of the hill we’re greeted at the door with amusement and the comment, “Not from here, hey?”

(Note: “hey?” is an inflection not a question, a Keweenaw colloquialism.)

“Hey! No, we just relocated.”

“You’ll like it here, hey?”

We already do. The stress of the past year fades each new day, even though we face medical mountains and home hurdles. We have a safe pad at the home of Michigan Tech’s News Director and her Park Ranger/Bubbler/Baker/Solar Man. We’re exploring options to use the RV to get homed, setting up VA appointments and growing the Ranch. You might have noticed the banners for Carrot Ranch changed here, on Facebook and Twitter. That’s part of the growth that has been delayed by a year of wandering on wheels.

Branding is both art and science. The art appeal is subjective — it always is, so don’t take it personally if someone likes or dislikes your art, it’s not a true measurement. However, I like the art and what it conveys: we are a literary community. Ann Rauvola, my long-time friend, colleague and CR designer uses her skills, her scientific knowledge of color and collage to create the art. I’ll let you in on a design secret — the banner is a fusion of three photos. But the shot of the bird and horse? Hey! That one lucky shot from an afternoon of photographing the interplay between blackbirds and Elmira Pond ponies.

A science part of branding is consistency. The change was meant to be subtle, and yet I didn’t do it until I could upgrade all three banners. This is in preparation for a launch of Patreon in preparation for a launch of an annual rodeo in preparation for a launch of the first CR anthology in preparation for work on the next. Whew! Timing is everything and a misstep, or a house loss, can really throw a monkey wrench in the workings. It’s why I’m grateful to have this Keweenaw stability to actualize the literary community vision.

Why, you might ask? That’s a legitimate question.

My process is both art and science. The latter coming in the form of research — historical or natural. The art flows from the writing. Like the Unscripted researchers, I want that conversation and connectivity. Art and science is best shared, and we do learn from and inspire one another. As a platform for my writing I can be the lone cowpoke or a lead buckaroo. A community of writers is dynamic, and together we make a bigger footprint in the writing world. My long projects are, well, long so collaborative short projects keep me going. I hope you find something here, too that gives you purpose in being here.

At the heart of the community is taking time each week to interact, play and think. You all make me think. And I like thinking.

Which is why I walked up a rain gutter to listen to a scientist speak on the world-class mineral collection at Michigan Tech for a program called Science on Tap — a pub crawl with scientists. Four more blocks in the rain and we arrive to hear a second presentation on the shipwrecks of Lake Superior and here’s where science bent my brain. First, an oceanographer stands before us declaring the Great Lakes “inland seas.” He explains ocean currents and government funding; how he has to explain science to a current administration not keen on it.

Then, he tell us we can see with our ears.

I’m all ears. Show me…And he does. Through a series of slides he shows us photos taken at sunset, elongating shadows. He points out optical illusions, and how to see beyond. Then he shows us slides of Lake Superior where it’s so deep it’s always dark in her ice water mansion where thousands of ships have wrecked. You can’t see those depths with a camera, but with sonar you can create a picture of light and shadow. Sound makes an acoustic image of many historic wrecks on the lake (cue Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of Edmunds Fitzgerald).

“Superior, they say, never gives up her dead…” And it’s estimated that more than 30,000 lives have been lost in this lake. This is why the scientists do not sound map more recent wrecks like the Edmunds Fitzgerald — not only is it an iron ore ship busted in half on the deep floor of Lake Superior, it’s also the grave of 29 men with family who yet live. In our collective psyche, we all think of Lightfoot’s song in this region, the scientist even admits to owning the musician’s collection of albums. Where science doesn’t go out of respect for the recent dead, our imaginations do. Art and science help each other to see.

Scientists have sent down dive teams on other wrecks they’ve discovered through the sight of sonar. In 1895, divers identified one of the wrecks as a coal ship struck and sunk by a steamer in thick fog. Four crew died in that wreck and the legs of one can still be seen poking out from spilled coal of the shattered hull. During WWI, the French worked on secret mine-sweepers in Thunder Bay (Lake Superior on the Canadian side). Two ships were lost in a November blizzard on Lake Superior without any clue of where. Two captains and 76 men disappeared. The search with sonar continues.

As writers we create images with words to tell these stories, to show these stories. Sound is often a sense overlooked in the craft of creating that image. It’s intriguing to think of how sound can map an action, character, tone or scene. Can we use sonar, sound navigation, to make a flash fiction? It might be difficult, but the art and science is there to push us to try.

August 3, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use sound to create a story. Just as you might “see” a scene unfold, think about how it might sound. Even one sound to set the tone is okay. Go where you hear the prompt lead. Feel free to experiment.

Respond by August 8, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published August 9). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


A Grating Sound (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Gears ground when the all-terrain vehicle powered up the slope. Danni heard Evelyn shout, “Giddy-up, Mule! Haw! Haw!” The revving engine faded, and a drone of voices washed over Danni like white noise. She studied the sonar graphs, puzzling over the dark features buried four feet below the Kansas clay. Trowels scraped, volunteers called to one another and the porta-potty door slammed intermittently. Danni focused. The active noises blurred.

“I’m a gardener!” A high-pitched voice like nails on a chalkboard.

Danni grit her teeth hard enough to hear enamel chip. A child. Who brought a child to her dig?


August 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

August 3In the pre-dawn light I hear the Hub mumble, “radial engines.” I awaken to hear a roar overhead and wonder what it was like to experience the sound of radial engines in the sky during WWII. Both historians, but he thinks of the engines and I think of the experiences. Our eldest daughter is named for two radial engines, not that I was aware at the time of naming. However, as a writer, I can easily get hung up on sound. How does one describe the “roar” of a radial engine versus the roar of a lion or a firestorm?

A DC-10 is now stationed at Grant County International Airport because the fire season has blown up in central Washington, Idaho and western Montana. It’s a seasonal reality, one that has greater impact in modern times due to human populations near and within forests. The airport skirts the town of Moses Lake, Washington where I currently live un-homed in a camp trailer. The Hub works on Boeing 777s and 737s for unnamed executives retro-fitting commercial liners into personal pleasure jets and casinos. Next door to the hanger where he turns wrenches on jet engines, the old radial planes gather as bombers to dump borate on wildland fires.This particular airport once trained B52 Bomber pilots and has a 13,500 foot runway. Thus home to a variety of mega-planes, old and new.

Does sound matter to so silent an activity as writing?

Yes, because writers build a believable world for readers by using tangible details from which to suspend their story. Sound is vital to construction. However, similar to learning styles, typically a writer will construct with a dominate sense (sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch). I know that I’m a visual writer. I can create scenes that readers can “see.” Yet I also know I tend to forget some of the other senses. I’m a visual learner and sometimes a kinesthetic one. Sound is actually difficult for me to capture and describe. Therefore I often challenge myself on the spot to describe a sound or push past a cliche like “the radial engines roared.”

What do I notice? The sound is distinct and it builds as it gets closer. It has a feel to it, like a vibrational rumble. It’s a landslide in heaven, a detonation overhead, a passing combustion. Roar is also an onomatopoeia; a word that sounds like what it describes. If I try to replicate the sound (and keep in mind my auditory senses are my weakest), I might use bruuummm. At 4 a.m. a DC-10 shook the trailer and bruuummmed overhead to wake us up, knowing fires yet blazed. I’ll keep working on it.

Last week, I was delighted to spot an onomatopoeia in Larry LaForge‘s flash fiction Home Office. I couldn’t help but notice the last line immediately: SWOOOOOOOOOOSH. Anticipating the character Ed’s affinity for sports, I expected the ending referred to a ball in a net. Ah, but Larry had a different sound in mind and it worked well to reveal where Ed’s home office resides. Swoosh is a fun word that tries to replicate the sound of rushing air…or water.

Then I received an email from one of our Rough Writers who had an interesting dilemma related to sound. Jean Lombardo has been cracking away at a client memoir and needed a meaning check. She had a scene peppered with cuss words and had replaced the strong language with soundalike words, including effing. She also had a clever replacement for an offensive phrase and if she joins in with her passage, I’ll let her share it with you (warning: it’s very Chaucerian, as in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale). And speaking of Chaucer, he used a fun onomatopoeia in that chapter from the Canterbury Tales: whoopee!

Can we cuss in our writing? The answer depends upon who is the intended audience for reading. Young ears, easily offended sensibilities or fundamentalists will avoid raw language. It’s why we have ratings for movies. Editors and clients might direct a writer one way or the other and publishers will have a keen sense for what will be acceptable to their market audience. If you are an indie writer, you might want to beta test both ways. Jeanne’s sampling all agreed the cussing needed to be raw to sound real.

Among the writers who join us at Carrot Ranch are poets and musicians. I admire the ear for sound such writers have, for balance upon the page they achieve for the silent words spoken in readers’ heads. When I was attending open mic nights in Sandpoint, I’d read from the Carrot Ranch compilations and discover how rich and rhythmic many of the 99-word stories sound aloud. Even when writing longer pieces, it’s a good practice to read one’s writing aloud. Many readers today are in truth, listeners. An entire industry within book publishing is audio-books.

Sound is relevant. Even the absence of sound has meaning. One of my favorite Simon and Garfunkle songs was recently remade by a hard rocker, Sound of Silence:

…People writing songs that voices never share…

…Take my words that I might teach you…

…Whispered in the sound of silence…

Writers, we can paint a soundscape of color and orchestrate stories with our mere arrangement of words. When you are writing, pay attention to all the senses and include sound. When you are revising, read aloud to shape the sound of your story. And decide to cuss explicit or use soundalikes.

Yes, you know where this is headed. First, a nod to those pilots flying the borate bombers. I hear you hard at work. The photo for our prompt this week is credited to Port of Moses Lake and is from the 2014 fire season and you can almost hear the roar of the DC-10 radials as it drops fire retardant. I know how dangerous the fires can be; history and modern reporting tell similar tales of fire’s unpredictable nature. The history book I picked up in Wallace, Idaho while camped on the Coeur D’Alene River is one I imagine my character Danni would read. And it recounts a horrific firestorm on August 4, 1931:

“The fire was burning practically everything from the bridge down to Brett Creek on an old burn that was full of fireweed and fallen timber. That hillside threw so much heat you couldn’t face it for more than half a minute at a time…The fire exploded in the mouth of Cinnamon draw and took off like goin’ up a chimney. Birds and game under it didn’t have a chance. It throwed up a great wave of flame…Then she boomed up and down and she throwed big waves up the drainage one after the other…The roar of the flames and the gale from the draft sucked in by the flames made a scream and that along with the sounds of smashing timber — Hell! — I couldn’t hear nothin’. I got off the horse and stood right along the fire chief and yelled in his ear and all I could see was his lips movin’…That whole Cinnamon Creek drainage went out in 8 minutes. The whole damn works. 8 minutes! 15 square miles. 8 minutes took the fire to Pond Creek and the divide…Night time it looked like a great city, spread over the mountains.”

That’s where we camped for three weeks, just below that drainage in northern Idaho. Now a similar blow up has occurred across the border in western Montana near Hamilton where the Hub’s great-great grandparents are buried. It’s called the Roaring Lion Fire and if you watch the time lapse sequence below, you will see what a roaring fire looks like. And we are now camped near the airport that launches the bombers to fight fires. It seems, there is always a connection to be found.

This amazing time lapse video of the Roaring Lion Fire is the creation of Montana photographer, Gary Schild.

August 3, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the sense of sound. It can be an onomatopoeia, a swearing session with sound alike substitutes, lyrical prose or a description of a sound. Go where you hear the prompt calling.

Respond by August 9, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


War Zone by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

Danni sloshed her peach margarita the night they set off the M-80s.

When the AR-15s blasted a volley into the darkness, Ike ordered Danni to the tent and dashed down the rutted dirt road, favoring his wounded knee. She complied only to dry her hand and restore the splash of peach spirits over limeade. It was the best part of the drink and she wasn’t going to let idiots lighting off fireworks on the far end of the campground disrupt a good nightcap. Ike would soon realize the sounds of war he heard were celebrations of a free nation.


Silent Night on the Prairie by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

Cicadas trilled from the honey locust trees and coyotes yipped in the distance, their song drifting further away. Sarah missed the sound of rushing creek water that used to lull all sounds at night. Here, on this vast stretch of prairie, it was so quiet she could hear critters tip-toe in the dark.

She sat up in bed. Horse hooves? By the time Sarah was certain, she heard men shouting from the camp at Rock Creek. Commotion. Low voices. None nearing her cabin, though. Should she dress? She hesitated. More horses, this time heading east. Then silence. And cicadas.


Sounds of Harbingers

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSound is the element writers explored this week, using it to announce some sort of change to the story. Sometimes it is the absence of sound that speaks loudest. Creativity is limitless, as are the types of sounds that writers use as harbingers.

The following stories are based on the August 27, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use sound to announce some sort of change. Enjoy reading the results!

Jackpot by Larry LaForge

Amidst the constant ding, ding, ding a deafening sound suddenly blasts: whoop, whoop, whoop.

Eddie knows immediately things will never be the same.

Despite the commotion, Eddie’s mind drifts back. “Here’s a dollar,” his pal Jack had said last week. “Give the slots a shot for me in Vegas. I totally trust you, man.”

All eyes in the casino are on the flashing dollar slot machine showing a million dollar payout. Cheers erupt. Before the play Eddie had mumbled, “This one is yours, Jackie boy.”

Eddie ponders his dilemma as the casino settles back to normal.

Ding, ding, ding.

The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.


Rivals by Pete

The casual evening sun roamed the horizon, and just over the volley of drums and clashing of cymbals, the sinuous thread of horns cut through the thick of August as the marching band prepared for the season opener on Friday. Ridgeton’s two high schools, Stonewall and Fairmont, kicked off each year at City Stadium, and this year’s clash carried the additional weight of mending the divide that had captured the town. The heat wouldn’t relinquish its reins for another month. The wounds would take a lifetime to heal. But for now, the sounds of rivalry echoed throughout the streets.


American Road Trip by Sherri Matthews

Annie turned towards the rumble of the V8 engine as she watched the low-rider inch slowly towards her where she stood in the street.

“Whose that?” she asked, raising a hand to her eyes against the blinding headlights.

“Don’t look at them!” Ken hissed.

“But…I was only….”

“Turn away, now…!”

Annie froze as Ken took a swig from his beer bottle in a failed attempt to look cool.

At last the gang drove off deep into the LA night while Annie heard the distant whines of a police siren.

This wasn’t the American road trip she had bargained for.


For Those Who Have Ears to Hear by Tally Pendragon

The roads were still good, if lacking their former glory. A man appeared, out of nowhere, carrying a staff and smiling. “I believe this is yours,” he said, and put it into Merlin’s hands. In the silence Merlin could hear the slithering. As it grew closer, his mind expanded, until restored silence brought a bright flash. With his consciousness so newly awakened he was not surprised to see that a green and purple dragon had wound itself around the staff, its head resting on top and it’s wings folding themselves neatly into the gaps. Now his purpose was clear.


Openings by Geoff Le Pard

‘Leave me ALONE!’

The door bulged as it slammed shut. Mary’s daughter’s muffled sobs were replaced by Carly Simon.

‘What’s up?” Mary flinched when she felt her husband’s hand.

‘She hates me.’

Paul listened. ‘She’s got your taste in music.’

‘It’s not funny.’

‘Why would she hate you?’

Mary didn’t answer. She pressed against the wood. ‘What was that?’

‘I didn’t hear anything.’

When Mary opened the door, the room was empty, the window open. ‘See?’

‘But where’s she gone? What’s going on?’

‘Bloody Rupert, that’s where.’

Paul hesitated. ‘Oh for god’s sake. This has to end, Mary. Now.’


Silence is Not Golden by Sarah Unsicker

Tears blend with my own. I hold the squirming child in my arms while I tread an endless circle around the room, alone, and afraid.

We lie down together. I fall asleep to the sound of her sobs.

The room is gray in the twilight when I wake up. There is an eerie silence as she lays still next to me.

Seconds feel like hours as I unwrap the sheet from her head. I bring her limp body to my chest to give her my breath, my warmth, my heart.

Never have I been so happy for her tears.


Making Change by Chris Magnuson

It rained last night. The ground is wet. The sky is dark blue to the south; storm clouds looking wicked. I look to the north. The sky is a lighter blue with fluffy clouds dotted across it. The breeze is soft, then strong. The sun is warm on my arms, back and legs. I start in on one end. I grab hold of a weed and pull. With each pull I hear, “schlep…..schlep… The sound is of weeds resisting their removal. I keep pulling. “Schlep…schlep. I check the sky occasionally. Schlep….schlep. Ah, finally I have a weed free garden.


Castles in the Ground by Sarah Brentyn

Ella fished her pink plastic shovel out of its hiding place next to the boiler. She scraped it against concrete, pretending the floor was sand. A cardboard box full of yellowed newspapers and mouse droppings became her beach pail. She hummed and built a castle, her little hands shaping tall towers. The basement was dark and cramped but she imagined sunshine and sky.

The click of the lock startled Ella. She froze, hand poised in mid-air, heart beating like a caged hummingbird. A creak from the first stair roused her. She scrambled to hide the shovel for next time.


The Crows by Irene Waters

“Look at those crows circling.” Marcia said “Gives me the creeps knowing someone’s going to die tonight. Like vultures waiting to take the soul to another place.”

“Don’t be stupid. That’s just an old wives tale.” Peter’s exasperation was apparent. “Just because they’re circling doesn’t mean anyone’s going to die.” They walked on in silence, lost in their own thoughts.

Crrrrrack! Peter looked up at the noise to see the branch falling rapidly toward him.

Boom! The ground shook from the force of the impact. Marcia shook her head as she looked at Peter’s lifeless eyes. “Old wives tale huh?”


Through the Floor by Susan Zutautas

Steamy hot water beat down against my sore and weary body. It had been a long frustrating day but the shower was massaging it all away.

Humming Thunder Road, and starting to feel rejuvenated, I reached down for the soap and heard crackling and splitting noises that were very loud.

When I came to Al was kneeling beside me repeating over and over, “wake up.”

“Why am I in the basement?”

“You were taking a shower and the tub fell through the floor. Try not to move too much, an ambulance is on its way.

“Seriously, oh my God!!!”


Sound Flash Memoir #1 by Norah Colvin

Awakened suddenly, I didn’t dare breathe. The sound was unrecognizable: guttural, movie theatre loud in surround sound. I sat up. The sound continued. I wasn’t dreaming. I nudged Bob. No response. Gripped with fear but needing to know, I tiptoed to the window and peeked through the curtain slit. I expected to see The Creature from the Black Lagoon. There was nothing. Now it came from the front, inside the house? My son! I tore down the hall. He slept peacefully! Back to the bedroom. Bob awoke. “Did you hear that?” he asked, wide eyes staring . . .


Flight From North Carolina by Charli Mills

Coins clinked in Cob’s burly hand as he jingled the liberty dollars Dryer paid for the two horses. Sarah couldn’t see how many. What mattered was boarding the Johnson City train before any Wataugans tracked their midnight ride. Waiting in line at the busy depot, Cob leaned against the wall watching folks like he was at a Sunday picnic.

“You keep fussing your bonnet, Rosebud, everyone on this platform’s going to think you’re fugitive.”

Sarah put her hands down and glared at the black locomotive. The whistle screeched and Sarah grabbed Cob’s arm. “We’ve gotta get on that train.”


Harbinger Flash by Anne Goodwin

Though the hoot of the train brought relief, she maintained a mask of indifference as it loomed into view clouded with steam. The weight of the crystal radio had all but wrenched her arm from its socket but she held the case as if it contained nothing more than some lacy lingerie and a freshly starched blouse. Five minutes, ten at most, and she’d be safe.

The thud of jackboots on paving rose above the hiss of brakes. A carriage door swung open. Before she could reach it, the soldier raised his rifle and roared down the platform: “Halt!”


Sound Flash Memoir #2 by Norah Colvin

The boat tossed mercilessly. I battled to contain my insides while all around were losing theirs into little paper bags offered unceremoniously to obliging staff.

Finally, just before landfall, I joined in. Then it was over – for me. Bob’s queasiness laid him up for the night; but I went to tea.

The path back to the cabin was unlit but for a splash of moonlight. Suddenly horrific wailing assaulted my ears. Was Bob being murdered? I hurried back. He was fine, but the eerie sound unsettled us far into the night.

In the morning we laughed: mutton birds nesting!


Flash Fiction Challenge by Laura Burke

“Ice accumulation will be like the killer storm of 1988.” The weatherman droned on, endless coverage in the background. “As temperatures drop, snapping limbs will sound like gunshots.”

Cabin Fever. It’s a thing. Time for bed.

Midnight. So far, no tree limb gunfire. I imagined limbs on power lines, electricity gone, frozen pipes, roof damage.

The covers wiggled. My dog squirmed, stretching her frame against the curve of my hip, burrowing her nose under blankets. She stilled. Except for her snoring.

Gentle white noise filled the room, rhythmic and seductive. The outdoors melted away. My mind stilled. Sleep, finally.


New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome!

August 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSummer’s heat has dissipated. Windows are wide open and a soft breeze flutters at the screens as gently as a silent butterfly. Logging trucks and late summer campers whir past the house like a rushing stream over rocks. Northbound trains clank to a halt to let the southbound ones trundle by on steel wheels. The windows are usually closed during the heat of the day,  so these usually distant noises seem amplified.

Then nothing. Silence. A chickadee calls bright and clear. It sounds like he’s whistling, “Here, kitty…here, kitty.” In between highway traffic and trains natural sounds carry. In the distance I can hear horses stomping as they mow grass and a crow caws from a tall pine. Occasionally geese honk overhead.

This morning, I saw the first flock of geese headed south. Change is coming.

We get into these rhythms and somehow we think the dance of life is always the same two-step. Change is hard for people. I remember what a huge deal it was to introduce changes in the workplace. Some employees would panic; some customers would grumble; everyone groaned in one way or another just because we changed a process that would make improvements. People liked the improvements. They didn’t like having to go through the change.

Life has taught me that change is required to get to the next step of the journey. I think of pioneers and how they had to overcome that fear of change in order to take the journey that led to new places, adventures, opportunities and even hardships. Some learned that the vibrancy of life existed on the cusp of change and sought to journey more than most.

Those would be your Wild Bill Hickoks of the world. The one I’m studying left home early to drive mules; drove freight wagons across the frontier; scouted for the Union Army; led wagon trains and cavalry. Rarely did Hickok stay long in one place. And maybe that’s what draws us to such people–we are fascinated that they can go through such changes that would send most of us to hide under the bed just so we could stay home.

In my own life I’ve felt like a trailblazer, willing to journey. In some ways it paid off like finding a gold nugget and in other ways it led to disaster like losing a crop to locust. But that’s life and like it or not, the changes come and find us even if we don’t seek them out.

You can hear change coming. A harbinger–a messenger announcing the change like a honking Canada goose winging south in the evening sky. Even the open windows right now have me tingling for changes to come–I need to gather wood and prepare for the shortening of days. It’s time to pick huckleberries and put up the last of the summer peaches. Deep within I’m both excited and unsettled for the change.

Sound is often overlooked in writing. We can create images from any and all senses, but of course, we  find visual images most natural when writing. This week we are going to explore sound in our flash fiction. Specifically, the sound of a harbinger; something that announces what is to come. It could be expected–the pounding of horse hooves upon hard sod announces the arrival of the next Pony Express rider. Or it could be unexpected–a strange hooting that is heard before a band of Pawnee arrive at the cabin door.

My examples are western, but you can write any ol’ genre you wish. I took a dive into this “idea” of Wild Bill Hickok, Cob McCandless and Sarah Shull. While exploring for stories through flash fiction, they hog-tied me, threw over the back of a horse and now I have to write my way out of this adventure. I’ve decided to accept the challenge. Writing weekly flash has become an interesting way for me to digest the research I’m doing. In October I’m visiting the Hub’s sister (she’s more like my sister) and she only lives a few hours away from Rock Creek.

It’s as if that chickadee is calling to me. A new adventure is just beyond the horizon if I dare step out to meet it. Hickok, Cob and Sarah–I will meet you at Rock Creek this autumn!

August 27, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use sound to announce some sort of change. It could be at the beginning of the story–a lonely bar keep on a quiet road hears the rumble of motorcycles and anticipates customers. That could be good news or bad…Or you could tell a story that unfolds as expected until a character hears something–like a bride getting ready upstairs at the church who hears a shattering below followed by the shouts of her groom, “I’m outta here!” Sound can trumpet, clang or whisper. It can foreshadow or be the twist.

Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, September 2 to be included in the compilation.

Flight From North Carolina by Charli Mills

Coins clinked in Cob’s burly hand as he jingled the liberty dollars Dryer paid for the two horses. Sarah couldn’t see how many. What mattered was boarding the Johnson City train before any Wataugans tracked their midnight ride. Waiting in line at the busy depot, Cob leaned against the wall watching folks like he was at a Sunday picnic.

“You keep fussing your bonnet, Rosebud, everyone on this platform’s going to think you’re fugitive.”

Sarah put her hands down and glared at the black locomotive. The whistle screeched and Sarah grabbed Cob’s arm. “We’ve gotta get on that train.”


Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.