Real Life — by Mark Huntley-James

Real Life — by Mark Huntley-James

It’s funny how the same theme can pop up over and again, apparently by pure coincidence.  I’ve been in conversations with writers, talking about progress on current projects and a regular (largely humorous) complaint is but real life got in the way this week.  I know we’re only larking around, and I have my fair share of Real Life(TM) getting in the way, but it got me thinking – this is not a coincidence, it’s the wrong way of looking at things.

Firstly, ignore the implied pretension that writing is more important than real life.  Whatever gets your blood moving will always be more important than the necessary chores of daily existence.

Secondly – Real Life(TM) is the most important resource a writer can have.  Yes, it pays the bills, gets the laundry done and all that, but real life is the fundamental building block of our existence, with so many uses.

Thirdly – Apparently using Real Life in your writing is a proper Thing now, but it’s called Slice Of Life, which sounds more like a pizza serving suggestion.

Why would I ever use Real Life? I write crazy stuff about time travelers, alien beasts and a fictional English town where demons walk at night, doing unspeakable things with chocolate flakes. Any hint of real life there is surely going to set off a fictional allergy attack that will leave my books coughing up their final chapter through the prologue.

Maybe not.

That fictional town of mine – it’s inspired by bits of a place where I lived for years, along with scraps of the nearby town where I now do my shopping.  It has all the geographical continuity of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (I’m not knocking the movie – Morgan Freeman was fantastic).  Yes, there’s a lot of fiction stitching it together, but the town and my characters are sucked straight out of Real Life. (And then thoroughly chewed until there’s no visible sign of Real Life.)

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing bizarre fantasy, or fictionalising a true story, there is nothing like a hefty infusion of Real Life to make it more convincing.  A reviewer said some complimentary things about the believability of my characters, but the real point is I that have met them, and not just in my head. No one character is a single individual from my Real Life, but like my fictional town, each one contains a bunch of reality glued together with fiction.

No matter how realistic or fanciful your story is, Real Life ingredients are an inspiration, a valuable background canvas, and a taste of the familiar to help your readers connect.  Yes, Real Life gets in the way and is pretty much impossible to get around, but that just means you’re not looking at it the right way.  Real Life is someone in front of you at the bus stop.  Say hello, start a conversation, and perhaps find yourself in a fulfilling long-term relationship with Real Life(TM).

That bus is only going to get you to the office or the shops.  Real Life can show you stories. And it can show you how to tell them.

In spite of all of that, I’m still going to joke about Real Life getting in the way of my writing.  It’s that sort of relationship.


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” ( ) and “The Road To Hell” (  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog (, his website (, and occasionally on that new-fangled social media thing (tw: @MarkH_J, fb: @MarkHuntleyJames)


Memoirs, In Pieces

Memoirs, In Pieces

OMP Blog by Michele Potter

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that everything is autobiographical; that authors cannot help but integrate their views, life experiences, and personality into whatever story they write. I will admit that my personal history has inspired some of my writing. Writing is a way to claim a bit of immortality, so it follows that we inject our personal slant to our stories.

Most of what I write is complete fiction, fantasy stories from my imagination. I have shied away from the memoir idea because my non-celebrity status and relatively scandal-free life would not make for a best seller. However, I recently found that personal writing can enhance creativity and move one past the dreaded writer’s block.

For Christmas, my son and his family gave me a subscription to a site called StoryWorth. Through this site, questions are sent out a couple times per month. The questions are such as: What were your grandparents like? Describe one of your favorite Christmases. How has your life turned out differently than you expected? In answer to each question, I write several paragraphs. At the end of a year, the company binds all the responses into a lovely book to be passed onto the family. My prospective audience is my grandchildren.

From the first, I liked putting together the little pieces and adding old photos. As I wrote, I noticed some remarkable things: My memories grew; while writing about one thing, other, long-forgotten memories bubbled up; I became emotionally involved, often laughing or crying over my keyboard; best of all, after finishing a piece, I felt energized and inspired; I could go back to my “other” writing with a better frame of mind.

If you are doggedly writing late into the night, becoming frustrated, and staring at a blank page, you might consider taking a little time out. Think about something in your life that affected you, your family, or your friends. Write about it, quickly with no editing or stressing. You will find the words come easy. Even if emotional pain was involved in your memory, the act of writing it out is deeply cathartic. Keep your memoir pieces in a file. At some point, you might want to share them. Or if you fear that your memory is fading fast, you could revitalize those cranky brain cells a bit.

Instead of waiting to become famous to write your memoirs, pack away pieces of your life for yourself and possibly your loved ones. Doing so could be another way to achieve immortality.

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.

The Words No One Wants to Hear

The Words No One Wants to Hear

If you ask almost anyone what is the one thing you don’t want as your diagnosis, a large percentage will say, “Cancer.” In the hospital, we simply referred to it as ‘CA’. Over the years, I’ve watched patients deal with their new diagnosis or the return of the dreaded disease in another part of their body just when they believed they’d won the fight.

It is a fight. A battle against mutated cells generated in our own bodies that overpower our immune systems and sometimes even destroying the body’s ability to build the white blood cells needed to combat diseases. It can hitch a ride using our bloodstream or lymphatic system to travel throughout our bodies.

It is a terrible enemy without mercy attacking young and old alike. I hate cancer. I want to see it made as innocuous as polio is now.

My family has — and is — dealing with cancer. And wouldn’t you think having been a nurse for over 30 years, I’d be immune to its ability to wound my heart and soul. The answer is no. Even in the hospital setting, I remember heading to the bathroom, running water and flushing the toilet repeatedly to hide my sobs when I couldn’t deal with the hurt and pain I’d witnessed moments before.

I’m old enough to remember when people would whisper the word ‘cancer’ as if saying it aloud may bring bad luck. Back in the mid-twentieth century, it was often a death sentence. Today, modern advances in treatments and surgical procedures have reduced mortality rates for many forms of cancer.

It is a good feeling to personally know so many long-term survivors of breast cancer and other cancers among my family and friends. I can only pray I would be as strong and appear as fearless as my loved ones if I would be diagnosed with CA.

This is why I support the One Million Project’s efforts to raise money for Cancer Research UK (CRUK).  Their research has aided in helping develop treatments such as immunotherapy to specifically target cancer cells throughout the body and reduce the ill effects other types of cancer treatments have had on surrounding healthy cells during the treatment process.

OMP Admin Note: Kate McGinn 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. Kate hopes to spread awareness of the issue of American Veterans returning home to less help than they deserve. EMMAUS is one of the two main charities we are supporting.

Kate McGinn’s fiction can be found on Amazon in the flash fiction series BITE SIZE STORIES (Volume Two) along with five other guest writers and in the One Million Project Fiction Anthology. Her books EXODUS  and WINTER’S ICY CARESS are available on Amazon.

The Crux of the Word — by Nera Hart

The Crux of the Word — by Nera Hart

The power of words. Our pen- our sword.

What life to breathe into an empty space, and what love to feel through the magic of black symbols spread over the white sheets. Our power. The glorious, beautiful, infinite power of words…

Light in a darkened room and the air to breathe.

I’ve been in the dark. I’ve seen it in the eyes of The World; poverty, misery, illnesses amongst other things. We live right in the middle of all of this.

As a writer, I will use this darkness. I’ll exploit its’ ugliness to bring out my shine. I’ll explore its’ hollow emptiness to fill it with stories, but I’ll always believe in that magic, in that persistent human endeavour to make anything beautiful, to build from the ashes…

This is what I am tirelessly looking for when I write.

Whether I choose to write from a dark place, or see the obvious beauty around me and glorify it in words, I’m bringing dreams into the existence.

The voice that comes out from a writer, once found, is the voice of life, and there’s nothing more satisfying than to share it with the world. To light the darkened corner. To be able to do something out of nothing.

For in reality- darkness is all too consuming. It sometimes wraps around us and grips its claws deep into the skin, and we drag it around- unable to shake it off.

Cancer, homelessness- how I try to imagine the life with it- but can’t even begin to understand the full impact of living with something like that. Yes, I knew close people suffering from cancer and I am more than aware of many people being so much less fortunate than myself. I cannot cure cancer, and I certainly can’t buy a country in which everyone would live happily ever after…

But I can be a part of something great-  The One Million Project.

How it embodies my vision; soldier personified out of tools like music and words! Artists and writers drawing their swords and standing up proud…Might be an exaggeration, but to do something with this power of ours, to make it a little bit better, to be able to speak up, it is absolutely a thing to be a part of.

If this is a fight, then we do not plan on losing.

OMP Admin Note:  The One Million Project welcomes Nera Hart as one of our guest bloggers.  Nera is writing poetry, short fiction and in a process of writing her first crime fiction novel. She writes in two languages, English and Croatian, and has the ambition to translate the classic Croatian novels into the English language.

Nera runs a Facebook group ‘Quills And Parchments’, in which book lovers and authors socialize.


You can find Nera and her work at:

Twitter- @nerahart

In Memoriam — by John Nedwill

In Memoriam — by John Nedwill

As I write this, it is exactly eighteen months to the day since my life fell apart. Since then, I have had to pick up the pieces, rebuild my life and that of my daughter, and try to do what the world expects of me.

What happened to bring about these awful changes? Eighteen months ago my wife died of complications following a surgical procedure. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just six weeks before. There had been nothing to prepare us for it. For about a month before the cancer was found, my wife had been feeling ill. It was nothing serious at first. The initial tests showed some abnormalities in her liver and gallbladder. This was followed by a bout of jaundice. An ultrasound revealed a lump pressing against her bile duct. The doctors decided to carry out an endoscopy and take a sample.

Two weeks after that, we got the bad news. The lump was malignant – it contained cancer cells. My wife and I were shocked. But, there was a hope! The doctors believed that the cancer was only at Stage 2. They could go in there, operate on the cancer to remove it, and then it would just be a case of deciding whether chemotherapy or radiation therapy would be the way forward. The procedure would be drastic, though. The Whipple Resection, as the procedure was called, would involve the removal of the pancreas and the rerouting of the intestine around the affected area. It would take eight hours of intensive surgery.

I was at home on the day of the operation. The surgeons told me that they would call me when the operation was over and let me know how it had gone. I reckon that my wife had only been in the operating theatre for four hours when the hospital called. Not only was there cancer in my wife’s pancreas, it had spread to her liver. The surgical team had stopped the operation and withdrawn. There was nothing more they could do.

Over the next two weeks, my wife’s condition deteriorated. While in the hospital she contracted an infection that developed into pneumonia. The antibiotic she was given did not work. I spent her last night beside her, trying to comfort her, to stop her raving and keep her from pulling out the drips that were dulling the pain. At six o’clock on the morning of Monday, 24th October 2016, I stepped out of her room. She had fallen asleep, and I had not eaten or drank in twelve hours. I needed a cup of tea. I needed some fresh air. I needed a break. My last words to her were, “I won’t be long.”

When I came back, my wife was dead.

This is one of the reasons why I decided to support the OMP. I am doing this not just for my wife, but for all the people who are struggling to cope with cancer, for all those people who may have to face it in the future – either suffering from it or supporting those who are. I do not want anyone to go through what I went through.

Thank you for reading.

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

Homelessness Happens — by Christine Larsen

Homelessness Happens — by Christine Larsen

Homeless. What a desperately sad and empty word. Homeless. Hopeless. Sadly, I’m learning those two words are constant bedfellows. Never thought that’s the address I’d be filling in on those endless bloody welfare forms. Thought that was ‘owned’ by the crims and the druggies and other no-hopers. Didn’t give a thought to those who are left financially and mentally crippled by divorce and losing the family, the home and the job. Didn’t know how easy it was to lose the lot. Or how low that could bring a fellow.  Hmm… interesting words – ‘fell’ and ‘low’. Didn’t know just how low that was until I lost the respect of all I loved; how much I needed them; how ‘nothing’ I felt without them.

Would’ve thought one look at me would be proof enough. I try to keep up a semblance of cleanliness, decency and the like. But it’s damn difficult here on the streets with only the cracked and too often filthy basins in public toilets. Easier to clean one of them than risk the so-called ablution block – a favourite place for the drug-dogs to shoot up. AND leave their needles on the shower floor. If the busted up tiles don’t get you, the sharpies surely will. And a heap of other unsavoury types… don’t go there. Or to public ‘conveniences’ either. IF you have the luxury of choice!

Saw some headlines on a newstand yesterday – another homeless man found frozen where he tried to sleep overnight in an abandoned demolition site. Somewhere in the US of A, they said. This long and fierce cold snap of theirs is taking a terrifying toll of those doing it rough, they said.

Hmm… be grateful for small mercies, they tell us. And I am. I AM grateful for our balmy summer nights Downunder. And a chorus of other ‘down-on-their-luck’ types would chime in – if anyone with the ability to change things ever asked.

There was this bloke. Clever, well-to-do… once upon a time.  Did a story on him, they did. Heap of photos and a video too. Showed 24 hours of his life. He had it all sussed out pretty good actually. Gave me a few ideas to copy, sort of… you know? Like catching the longest line a bus or train takes, riding them to the end and back again. Get a bit of sleep there – well – lots of bits of sleep, actually. Out of the wind and rain on a bad night, bit of a breeze on a stifler. Can’t complain about that.

But one problem is the scourge of our Aussie summer – the heat of the day. Shopping malls are great. Air-conditioned and all, but there are always security guards watching and waiting to shuffle you on… none too gently, either. They recognise who you are. Like they can smell you.  Hmm… probably can, come to think of it.

So it’s back out on the streets – bitumen melting beneath the painfully thin soles of your shoes; shade at a premium – and again, you’re going to get moved on – sooner rather than later.

It’s bloody tough, you know. The good-hearted mob think of clothes and rugs to warm you when you’re down. But there are long, lonely months of heat where we need sunscreen and hats and shade and water. In dreams, you have a fridge with a jug of cold water that never runs dry and a bed that folds loving arms around you all night.

IF perchance you sleep long enough to dream!

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 to 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.

Christine can be found on –            IMG_7208

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The Black Hole Of Pantser by Mark Huntley-James

The Black Hole Of Pantser by Mark Huntley-James

One of the big questions writers ask each other is “are you a plotter or a pantser?”  I know it doesn’t sound big, certainly not the most earth-shattering issue, but go on, dip your toe in this creative minefield and ask a writer whether they plan every detail before they write or just go for it. Just ask, if you dare.

I can see the appeal of plotting, the certainty, the sense of knowing where you’re going, but it just never works for me, so I’ve been a pantser since… forever. Now, suggest being a pantser to a dedicated plotter and put your fingers in your ears to block out the screams of anguish.

So, if you ask me, I’m a pantser, and proud of it. Simple, yes? What could possibly go wrong?  OK, that’s a much bigger question.

Last year I got sucked into the Black Hole Of Pantser – a murky Shadowland of creativity. I knew how my story started (I was a third of the way in, after all), and I knew how it needed to end. I’d just written a crazy scene that tied my flawed hero in more knots than a troop of boy scouts could ever undo in one lifetime. It was wonderful, completely crazy, and I could see the ending in the distance… just one more step… wait… who turned my lights out?

The friable subsoil of my plot crumbled under my feet and dropped me into a black hole, the chasm between where I had reached and where I needed to finish. I had no idea what came next. I didn’t even have a spare box of matches to set fire to my fingers. If I were Indiana Jones, there would be snakes as well.

Anyone else down here? Hello? It’s lonely in the Black Hole of Pantser.

I did the only thing I could think of – logged on to my favourite writing community and screamed for help. I wasn’t looking for an actual answer, just fellow writers to say the necessary things:  there, there, I’m sure it will be fine; put the coffee on; try writing a plot outline.

Nobody had the answer, but that wasn’t the point. I was stuck. I needed an open space (other than the black hole) where I could scream frustration and not get escorted away by qualified medical professionals. I needed people who understood.

Then I went and wrote some more. Any old rubbish. What my hero did next, minute by minute. How often did he trip over his own feet? How many books on knots could he find in the library?  Write and write, until I could see light.

I wrote my way around the Black Hole and accidentally backed into the Cave of Random Rubbish. It’s amazing what you can find in there, and even the gloom of the Hole looks bright in comparison…  And there, under a tatty piece of inspiration, was a big tub of Expanding Plot Hole Filler, more than enough to patch over the gap and take me all the way to the ending.  (Oh, and according to the packet, it contained 90% Completely Bonkers, so that was perfect for me.)

Now, if only I had a plan, I would never have got into that mess. Would never have spent an hour or two online, sharing woes and jokes with other writers. Would never have had the pleasure of finding my unexpected way out of the hole over the course of several days “writing blind”.

If only I had a plan, I would be a completely different writer.

Plotter or pantser? An apparently trivial question that is intricately entwined in how we create. Go on, ask the question, and be prepared for a long, long answer.

This trivial big question is like being left or right handed. Liking or loathing marmite.  It’s twisted tightly through the core of the writer’s creative heartland.

Go on, ask the question.

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” ( ) and “The Road To Hell” (  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog (, his website (, and occasionally on that new-fangled social media thing (tw: @MarkH_J, fb: @MarkHuntleyJames)