DEEP WATERS ~~ thoughts on my writing: its failings, its purpose, its promise ~~ by Melissa Volker

DEEP WATERS ~~ thoughts on my writing: its failings, its purpose, its promise ~~ by Melissa Volker

My published collection of short stories was born of a time in my early adulthood in Manhattan where I was single, sometimes lonely, always rebellious and beholden to no one but myself. My plummet into depths or lift into heights affected no one but me, and my desire to connect with the human condition in all its glory and despair led to much of both.

I yearned for intense understanding of what it is to be, to love — to love too hard or not enough — to long for more or wish for nothing, to see the world and those moving through it with x-ray empathy right into their core. It was simple (save for the sometimes crushing lows) for me to be raw, vulnerable, tough, crass, essentially with emotional and spiritual impunity because I was young, life an adventure more than reality, and mortality little more than fiction — or at least, an enemy to dare.

I look at portions of my recent writing and stare at pages full of blatant gaps and accusatory holes; it is often just skimming the surface of what I really mean, where I intended to go. It might be rich in language, moving and full of a certain truth, but it does not take the daring, unabashed leap into the brutal honesty that would make it…devastating. Enlightening. Real.

The words are there — purposeful, melodic, weighted with intent, but they are merely bobbers on the surface of a deep pool. They are fallen leaves of autumn in the current of a river — vibrant, lovely, slipping and spinning, carrying you away to an uncertain destination, the rush and momentum intoxicating…

But what about all that cool, dark water beneath where it is all plays of light and shadow, blades of sunlight slicing into its murky depth with selective illumination that create corresponding pillars of darkness.

That’s where I must go. To the pebbles and rocks on the bottom that cut your feet or sparkle in shafts of sunlight — to flip them over and reveal the multitude of life, death, and breathtaking beauty. I must dive down and cut my flesh on the sharp edges, releasing my blood into the water, or gather the bits of mica and pyrite hidden in the darkness and bring them to where their glitter reflects that of the sun on the ripples of the surface.

The leaves are lovely and bring melancholy contentment, troubled uncertainty, or simple peace, but they are not — all of it.

I must reach All Of It for the words to say what I mean.

Plumb the bottom where it’s dirty — where too much movement stirs up the silt and makes the water murky, thick, suffocating.

If I’m not reaching there, if I’m hovering only just beneath the surface, why is that?

Because life has changed and to delve into those waters requires a fearlessness that has waned.

Those truths are too possible — those pains, that loss, the trauma, that…death.

I am older, with a more complex life — one I am acutely aware could be damaged, maimed, gone even, in no more than a breath because the truth of life is that nothing is guaranteed.

So I cannot dive with fearlessness because I am fearful.

I know now that some wounds never heal. Some pain is too acute. Mortality is no longer a fiction.

Nothing is hypothetical, imaginative, speculative — they are all very possible realities. And to write them, to explore them through fictional lives with any semblance of genuine truth and honesty — with raw realness — I must experience them. Not in the living world — in the imaginative one. But if I do it with commitment (which I must for it to matter), it feels no different.

But there are nightmares there. Fodder for an anxious mind and sensitive heart.

And yet, it is also what has always, always driven the best words to the paper.

What has driven me to the paper.

I am reminded of the definition of courage: it is not acting without fear.

Courage is being afraid — and doing it anyway.

And when I have courage — I am a writer.

When I do not — I merely pretend.

So I look for courage — and I dive.


OMP Admin Note:  Melissa Volker is a writer and OMP Network member.  Melissa is one of our guest bloggers for the One Million Project website.

To learn more about Melissa and her work:

www.melissavolker.com

Twitter: @melvolker

Facebook: @mvolkerwordphoto

New Contemporary, surreal YA “How the Light gets In” out now!


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

The Confession ~~ by John Nedwill

The Confession ~~ by John Nedwill

Alright, I can’t keep this to myself any longer. There is a terrible secret that I have to confess. Please don’t look down on me for this. You see, I wasn’t always a writer. I was – and still am! – a tabletop gamer.

I first became a tabletop game in 1980. You have to understand that I was young and very easily influenced then. My initial exposure was from an advert in the back of a computer games magazine – one of those that had programme listings you typed in by hand. The ad in question was for a company called Games Workshop, offering three games for £20. But these games were not computer games. These games were roleplaying games: games to be played with dice, pencil, paper, and (so the blurb claimed) imagination. As there were three games, three of us banded together and scraped up the requisite cash. Then we bought a postal order, posted it off with the coupon and waited.

About two weeks later a parcel arrived for us. We tore it open and pulled out three boxes: Basic D&D, Runequest and Traveller. Each box contained manuals on how to play the games, complete with type-formatted text and tables. We were, to put it mildly, perplexed. How could these be fun? But, we had spent our pocket money for the next two months and we were determined to find out what was going on with these things.

It soon became clear that these books were not just words and numbers. They were a means of codifying worlds of fantastic beings and strange treasures; guides on how to settle disputes were settled fairly, if not necessarily amicably. They sparked something in us. For a glorious few years, we became Bronze Age heroes, valiant explorers of space and time, and slayers of dragons. Even better – we became creators of worlds.

But, as inevitably happens, we went our separate ways and outgrew our adolescent fantasies. Well, I didn’t. I kept playing. I found new friends who had also been drawn into these shadow worlds of the imagination. Together we honed our skills. We learnt how to create memorable characters and how to build new worlds. We learnt how to create epic adventures. We read books and shamelessly stole ideas from them, proudly flaunting our thefts and not caring if we were found out. But, most of all, we learnt how to tell stories.

I am still a gamer. I still sit around a table with my friends, eating snacks (admittedly low-fat and low-sugar now), drinking beverages (tea rather than fizzy pop) and rolling strange dice (we still compare our collections). But, I have managed to parlay the skills I learnt from gaming into skills for writing.

You see, gaming has taught me how to create rounded and believable characters. It has taught me how to detail locations. It has taught me how to create plots that will stand up to being poked, prodded and generally tested to destruction. But the stories I tell are now meant to be read rather than played out.

So, that’s my dreadful secret about how I became a writer. What’s yours?


OMP Admin Note:  John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #OneMillionProject Blogger.  His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

 

Home from Home?? ~~ by Christine Larsen

Home from Home?? ~~ by Christine Larsen

The first raindrops hadn’t registered in her ears or mind; so light and far between were they. Little more than a soft breeze drove them… at first.

Rachel peered out the window – even opened it slightly, hopeful of a welcome freshness. A cleansing, she thought. God knows how much we need that. And she imagined luxuriating in a hot shower instead of that hated yet strangely welcome ‘basin bath’. OK for Josh, with his typical young boy aversion to soap or anything that smelled clean! But not Penny. At this age, she’d take a contrary stance to Josh on anything and everything… and to most other boys as well.

The surrounding gloom dragged Rachel’s heart and soul down, deepened by the earliest light of day remaining hidden behind a vast, solid-looking wall of clouds. A quick glance at her old, trusty watch confirmed daylight was near. She smiled. You never let me down old friend.

A deafening clap of thunder drove all else from mind as the gentle thrumming abruptly changed tempo. Impossible to tell whether huge raindrops or hailstones were battering the bitumen stretching emptily away. Rachel’s mental meanderings washed away as cleanly as layers of dust from her family car.

I’ve always loved hearing rain on a roof, she thought. Always. But  I never thought we’d be hearing it quite like this.

 Her sadness and despair deepened. He’d threatened to take everything many times but she found herself refusing to accept a Liam so cruel, a break so brutal. This was not the man she’d married; the life they’d planned to build and share.

“And the children?” she’d asked, and heard her voice wearing an unfamiliar cloak of desperation. Surely parental love would sway him? But this stranger with Liam’s face refused to acknowledge feelings, reasoning, logic. Nothing moved him. He simply didn’t care.  His rejection was just as final for these children he’d fathered.

“They’ll be fine,” he continued as if having an everyday chat about shopping, or taking Josh to football practice, Penny to ballet class. “You’ll see to that. You always do.” Now his voice held an unexpected venom, as he grabbed her chin and shook it threateningly. An unpleasant, coppery taste filled her mouth, nearly quenching that newly found determination. You won’t hit me again… not now, not EVER again.

“You’re so bloody good at EVERYTHING, right?” But she wasn’t.  Especially when she discovered all their important documents bore only his name. Everything except clothing. Hers and their children’s.  Only a fraction of their possessions could come along to their gypsy-like existence – sleeping in the car, night after endless night as they waited… and waited for that  ‘emergency’ housing. Hmmph… some emergency! Tears of anger threatened the iron reserve of her public face. Alone whilst Penny and Josh slept through restlessness and an odd moan breaking through, she could drop her guard.

Abruptly, beads of sweat pearled Rachel’s lip as a shadow loomed outside the fogged up windows. Previously she’d left back windows open only inches to avoid giveaway signs of occupancy within their darkened car; a forlorn hope to not alert security guards. Last time, they were kind enough, but it was their job to move squatters on – even in the middle of a lonely night.

Now, Rachel dared not wipe the smallest peephole for fear of what she might discover only inches away. Elbows pressing into her sides, she tried making her body even smaller in a desperate attempt at concealment. Her grip tightened on the knife beneath her pillow, never slackening even when that shadow melted away. Had he really gone?  A major distrust of men now haunted her.

At last, Rachel’s eyes were forced into a kind of lockdown, after tearing up once too often from strained staring at elusive shapes that were mostly her imaginings. Her rest was never complete, always grabbed in fits and starts until the next foreign sound set off her personal alarm. Like little Josh’s beloved teddy bear, she figured –

‘Someone’s got to keep their eyes open all the time.’


OMP Admin Note:  Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire IMG_7208to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.

To find out more about Christine and her work:

ceedee moodling  (Christine’s website)

Christine Larsen, Author

 – on Wattpad

–  on Facebook

– on Tablo

– on Amazon

Old McLarsen had some Farms (farming memoirs)

ceedee4kids (Christine’s children’s book site)


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

 

“What Comes Around” ~~ by Mark Huntley-James

“What Comes Around” ~~ by Mark Huntley-James

Some decades back, I was offered a research fellowship, funded by a precursor to Cancer Research UK.  Sadly, although it was a hugely tempting invitation, my personal circumstances meant that I turned it down. Maybe if I’d taken it, I might have made some ground-breaking contribution to cancer research.  More likely, I would have made a tiny contribution, all part of the satisfaction of helping to piece together a larger puzzle. None of that happened, but on the other hand, had I taken it I wouldn’t have met my partner, so no regrets.

As it turns out, whilst I declined my chance, one of my relatives joined a clinical trial around about the same time. It’s a story which has only come to light in the last few years, and perhaps only now because my ageing relative has survived cancer twice, and that second occurrence presented some peculiar circumstances.

Family, supposedly, is where they have to take you in.  By my definition, family is where I have the strangest conversations, and think it perfectly normal. A few years back, I received a phone call at oh-god o’clock on a Saturday morning – a friend called to let me know that my ageing relative hadn’t felt well the previous evening, took a taxi to hospital, and had been diagnosed with appendicitis.  Strictly speaking, the first diagnosis was cancer – something about a blob like that on an x-ray in a patient that old must surely be cancer, and the other symptoms didn’t quite fit with appendicitis.

So I phoned and  had a conversation which went something like:

“Hi, so how’s the appendicitis?”

Apparently, this is not entirely normal, but it’s the way things work in my family.

The answer was, “Fine, fine, but my sense of taste is off and I can only eat the vegetarian option.” By definition, that’s pretty much the end of the world. Then I got the natural counter-question. “So, how are your heart tests?”

“Oh, fine, just one more to go.” (Which came out as all clear!)

And finally, the kicker:

“That’s good.  Did you ever see the pathologist’s report on your mother? She could have died of a heart attack at any moment.  By the way, they found pre-cancerous cells when they took my appendix out.”

Really, that sort of conversation is normal in my family.

So, from surgery on a seriously inflamed appendix, my ageing relative was also diagnosed with an almost-cancer and put on a course of chemotherapy. A few years on, and those pre-cancerous cells have recurred occasionally and been knocked back down with yet more oral chemotherapy. Equally importantly, they are monitored regularly with a simple blood test.

Now, it emerges, said relative also had cancer twenty-five years previously – a benign tumour that could be removed with some minor surgery.  However, instead of getting treatment immediately, my relative joined a clinical trial – the tumour was benign and easy to monitor, therefore perfect for assessing drugs to shrink tumours. After eighteen months, the now-shrunk tumour was finally removed, and my family had made a small contribution to the development of cancer treatments.  Twenty-five years later, other small developments have come together to stop pesky pre-cancerous cells in their tracks and watch for any recurrence with simple blood tests.

It’s easy to focus on the horrendous impact of cancer, both on the sufferer and on their family, whilst forgetting the positives, the advances in treatment and the patients who volunteer to be a part of that process. All of those major break-throughs and revolutionary treatments are built from countless tiny steps and small contributions.

Thus far, I am part of the fifty percent of my immediate family not diagnosed with some form of cancer. Should that day come, and a physician says ‘we have this experimental treatment…’ I  hope I have the courage to sign up and make my own small contribution.


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog (writeedge.blogspot.com), his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Courage by Michele Potter

Courage by Michele Potter

Recently I toured one of the last fully operational landing ships from World War II. My father was a WWII veteran, and I was always interested in the history of that era.

I walked into the bay area, where tanks and other military equipment were once off-loaded. Incredibly, after more than a half-century, I could almost feel the presence of the young soldiers who had occupied the ship. I walked through the spartan, 4-hammock-high berth area and could easily imagine them resting, playing cards, smoking cigarettes, and passing the time “in between.” On the top deck, IMG_9926I gravitated to the big gun mounts strategically arranged. Through the sites, I could see the steeple of a church downtown. Each gun was manned by five men, the guide explained, and each had a specific duty. Imagine the terror of trying to aim and shoot effectively while being shot at, the sounds of screaming and explosions all around.

Courage under fire. Maintaining one’s inner fortitude while trying to stay alive. Most of us, thankfully, have never had to experience that kind of horror. But could we have survived? Would I?

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately. I suppose it comes from growing older, losing people, and coming to grips with my own weaknesses or strengths. One of the ultimate tests of courage is that shown in life-or-death situations. People who put their own lives on the line to save others, such as fire and rescue workers, law enforcement, emergency medical techs, etc., have my utmost respect. Would I put myself in danger to save a loved one? Yes, of course. But would I do so for a stranger? That I’m not so sure of. I’m not all that selfless.

Some people I’ve known, many of them gone now from this earth, had a different kind of courage. Despite being in pain, debilitated with disease or illness, they exuded awe-inspiring grace and bravery. I think of my mother, who suffered from multiple maladies that she didn’t discuss, yet always worried about how I was doing. Selfish as I was, I seldom asked how she was doing. Of course, she wouldn’t have told me the truth if I had. Or my uncle, who told jokes at his own expense right up until the bitter end. He loved to make people laugh and planned his own services with that in mind. How tough does one have to be, to know death is near and basically laugh at it?

I think of other relatives and friends who smile, don’t fuss or whine, while they suffer from the misery of cancer. They look forward to each day as a precious gift. While I, in decent health, often look at the darkest part of life, bringing sadness to myself when I should be happy. And glad to be alive.

I think I need to say, out loud if necessary, that I am glad to be alive. And like the Wizard of Oz lion, I know I have courage inside me. We all have the will to survive, sometimes against great odds. Sometimes it takes a great deal of strength just to get up and face the day.

Stay strong, my friends. Be like the lion if necessary.


OMP Admin Note: Michele Potter is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues.

Michele is an incredibly diverse and talented writer who I hope will collect her short stories and make them available on Amazon someday soon. In the meantime, her story PERCEPTIONS is available in the guest author section of the flash fiction anthology BITE SIZE STORIES VOLUME ONE.

https://www.amazon.com/Bite-Size-Stories-Jason-Greenfield-ebook/dp/B01HALHVBW/ref=la_B00CBFLI1W_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475095358&sr=1-4

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bite-Size-Stories-Jason-Greenfield-ebook/dp/B01HALHVBW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1475095546&sr=1-1


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology