Noticing Noticing~~Mark Huntley-James

Mornings have a simple routine, get up, check the animals, have breakfast, except for winter when breakfast happens first whilst we wait for daylight. That’s most mornings. Some time back now, I had one of the specials where I needed to be somewhere, on time, clean and presentable. That meant add in getting showered, finding clothes with no significant animal debris on them, and packing in lots of extra jobs that couldn’t wait until after I got back.

The clean clothes were already set out. All I had to do was shower, cook breakfast, get clothes off the rack beyond my partner’s desk, check weather forecast, nice legs, stroke cat…

Wait. Nice legs? Where did that come from?

Back up. Literally. It was something that caught my eye on the desk – a piece of junk mail waiting for the decision: recycle immediately, use as fire-lighter, use as litter-tray liner. In the semi dark, some unquiet corner of my mind that still remembers its testosterone-addled youth picked out a dim photo, and nice legs. It took some staring at the desk to put the pieces together.

The thing is, this was just a passing glance. All that background stuff in my head, at the subconscious level, picked out a particular detail – part of the activity we mostly don’t notice. The same stuff that gets your foot shifting to the brake before you can consciously paraphrase the Bard – is that a pedestrian I see before me? – or keeps your fingers out of the way of the knife so that supper remains the vegetarian option. We spend so much of our time not actually noticing all the stuff we notice, that it comes as a surprise when circumstances make us actually notice it.

The people who do the adverts in the junk mail know it too, even if they don’t know they know it. That picture, on close inspection, was an ordinary young couple walking down an ordinary street. When I pick it up and look at it now, my head doesn’t instantly say ‘hey, nice legs’, except as an echo of earlier surprise, instead it explores things like do we want another credit card? No. Not even with really competitive rates and easy balance transfer? Er, no. Mostly my head says, is this paper too shiny for the litter tray? But somewhere, in the background, that bit of my mind is probably still chuntering – nice legs, see, told you so. So even though I don’t want the credit card, and surely wouldn’t be swayed by the nice legs, some bit of me noticed, and there’s no telling how insidiously it might be nagging the rest.

Now here’s a thing – I am currently ploughing through a manuscript, doing final edits and proofing, with a view to publishing it in the coming month – and there’s a minuscule theme of nice legs running through the story. My thief is chasing a rich-girl, because she’s made off with the trinket he was stealing, and his thoughts encompass nice legs and good legs for running. Is this just random chance, or did the Tiny Plot Detail department in my subconscious have this thing lying around and spot an opportunity to use it?

So not only did I notice a tiny detail in passing, I’ve now noticed that I seem to have folded that into a story. It makes me wonder how many tiny details slip into my writing without me even noticing where they come from.

Hmmm… this reminds me, I must tell my partner I’ve just noticed there’s some junk mail needs processing. Nice fire-lighter.


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 http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, 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

At Any Age ~~ by Kate McGinn

At Any Age ~~ by Kate McGinn

Today I turn 59 years old. It’s hard to believe that only four years have passed since I began to seriously proceed on my writing journey. I’ve always written stories as soon as I knew how to read and write. When I was young, I dressed up in some type of costume or outfit living out the fantasies in my head as a part of my play. 

As my younger sisters grew, I included them in my make-believe worlds assigning them roles. Our little trio did pre-school improvisation presenting our playacting fun to our family.  I wrote songs (bad songs), and to this day my sister and I remember one of them and can sing it. No one, trust me, no one wants to hear it.

In high school, an English teacher thought enough of my stories to submit one to a national competition. It didn’t win any prizes but knowing that he’d thought enough of my work to submit it made me so proud. Why didn’t I end up writing my first book until I was fifty-five years old?  Life — it’s that simple and that complex.

I hear writers lament about not starting sooner or worrying that the fact they began writing, later in life diminishes their creativity in some way.  As if being an empty-nester or a retiree, somehow lessens the validity of what they are doing. The words and phrases like “hobby”, “time on my hands”, and “writing for the enjoyment” reduce the level of professionalism and creativity because the author is older.

When I was thirteen years old, I visited my uncle and aunt in Newtown, Connecticut for a summer. My aunt’s grandmother had painted several canvases I’d admired. One was a masted ship sailing on an ocean, another illustrated a lush Japanese garden, and the third painting depicted a scene showing my young cousin playing at the beach. I remember these works vividly, and also that my aunt’s grandmother was in her nineties when she began painting.

Toni Morrison published her first novel at age 40. Dorothy Allison, the author of Bastard Out of Carolina was 42 years old when it hit the scene. George Saunders was an environmental engineer before becoming a best-selling author at age 37. George Eliot published for the first time when she was 40. The author of  White Oleander, Janet Fitch, knew she wanted to write at age 21, but didn’t publish her first book for another 18 years. Even Mark Twain didn’t write Huckleberry Finn until he was 49! Other authors who had their first breakthroughs after their mid-thirties include: Cheryl Strayed, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Maya Angelou.

Being older doesn’t negate the creative voice, but it can accentuate the depth of life experiences we bring on our writing journey.  I’ve had over forty years of heartbreak, love, sadness, triumphs, failures, and joy that my young teenaged self hadn’t experienced yet. I worked as a nurse for over thirty years, served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, became a wife, a mother, and a bed & breakfast owner during those years. I lived in Texas, Florida, and Italy. I traveled to multiple countries and across the USA. Every single memory good and bad influence the words I place on the page.

It’s never too late to tell your stories. Don’t ever let your age whether young or more mature (like me) stop you from pursuing your creative dream. It is valid at any age.


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 Clare Thibodeaux Series which includes the suspense books — EXODUS, WINTER’S ICY CARESS, and NEVER SHOW YOUR HAND — is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Kate’s stories can also be found in the magazine — Mom’s Favorite Reads available on Amazon and Smashwords.

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01KUKTYFQ

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-McGinn/e/B01KUKTYFQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1473258097&sr=1-2-ent


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

 

Bemused~~John Nedwill

I was in the bathroom getting ready for work when she walked in. “Hey!” she said and sat down on the toilet. I grabbed for a towel to cover myself up.

“Don’t you knock?” I asked, trying to make up for lost dignity with indignation.

“No,” she said. “You know I don’t. Now, I’ve got an idea that I’d like to discuss with you.”

I waved my foam-covered toothbrush at her. “Can’t it wait? I’m a bit busy right now.”

She sighed and stood up. “Alright. I’ll catch you later.”

And, with that, she vanished.

The next time she showed up was when I was on my morning commute. I was in my car, waiting for the lights ahead of me to change. She walked up to my car, opened the passenger door and got in. “We need to talk,” she said. “About this idea of ours – remember?”

“I remember.” I drummed my fingers on the car’s steering wheel. “It’s just it’s a bit awkward right now. Can we – ?” I was interrupted by someone in queue behind me sounding their horn, letting me know that the traffic light had turned from red to green.

“Later?” she asked in a disappointed tone, then vanished.

Later turned out to be when I was sitting in a meeting. The room was full of too many bodies, giving off too much heat as the Chief Engineer droned on about quality assurance and budgets. My attention was drifting, so I didn’t notice it when she let herself into the room.

“Can you get out of this?” she whispered in my ear. I shook my head. “Not even if there’s an urgent appointment you just remembered?” I shook my head again. “You’re no fun.”

I didn’t see her again until much later. I was in bed, asleep, when I was woken by somebody shaking me. “Good,” she announced as I turned on the light. “I’ve got you all to myself.”

I fumbled for my glasses and looked at the clock beside the bed. It was after midnight. “You want to talk about your idea. Now?”

She gave me a grin that was full of teeth and mischief. “Yes, I do. And I’m not going to let you sleep until we’ve sorted it out.”

“Fine.” I levered myself up and searched for the pen and notebook that I had left on the floor by my bed. “Where shall we start?”


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

Praise to Raise~~Christine Larsen

Dear Mum,

It all began outside the back door admiring the growth of our tomato plant – once again planted in the same spot. Ten years in a row now. It’s totally against best advice from experts, but even they might reconsider if they saw the stunning results, year after year. It’s probably due to the North-facing wall soaking up all the sunshine during the afternoon and staying warm for much of the night.

But you know me, Mum – always choosing an alternative view, especially if there’s a touch of mysticism about it. I love imagining those tomato plants grow so well due to all the attention they always get from everyone who comes to our door and find themselves unable to resist a comment about the glorious size and beauty of the current plant. And that thought centred all my thoughts on you.

Do you remember that quite fabulous daisy bush at the back door of our dairy farmhouse? Uhrr, did I say bush?… more like a small tree. As if you could ever forget those armfuls (or more accurately, bucketfuls) we would pick for you to take back to the city after another of your little farm getaways.

What a picture you made, sitting in the back of our car with a mass of daisies seemingly sprouting out of the floor around your knees. We often debated who had the brightest face – you, or any one of those white beauties with their cheerful yellow centres.

How your neighbours in the block of elderly citizen’s units loved to be given a share, along with fresh milk and parsley and farm-fresh eggs. Like a breath of fresh country wafting into the city, they said, stirring many faraway and long-forgotten memories. For some, it was farm holidays when they were young enough to embrace every moment, every chore. For others pleasant picnic outings into hills or rural surrounds.

But I’m wandering off the subject. Back to the daisy ‘tree’ at our door. How often, as we harvested our generous bounty, would we talk about the amazing growth and size of those glorious blooms? And chat about my belief that the constant praise of visitors was the reason for the spectacular growth – as though that bush preened and grew some more, just to prove worthy of its admirers.

When I heard of research proving human praise promotes plant growth to an unbelievable degree – and when we were appreciating our flourishing tomato plant, I smiled as I remembered that daisy bush. My imagination took flight, thinking how absolutely this applies to the human race.

Even the tiniest of babies – human or animal – respond incredibly in growth, both physically and emotionally, in an atmosphere of loving approval and caring calm. Constant kind talk and gestures of approval build a degree of self-respect and esteem that can rarely be seriously dented in that child’s future.

I came full-circle to wonder if you ever knew what a gift you and Dad gave me. I don’t think so. You both simply mirrored and magnified your own happy nurturing, without thought or deliberation. I think being who I am is a testament to you both – but especially you, Mum. We had so many more years together than I had with dearest Dad.

Many desire or imagine lost parents as Guardian Angels, hovering near, always watching and protecting. I have a different view, Mum. I see you and Dad free of ALL earthly cares, never looking down to witness much that would cause you pain when compared to the world you knew.

This was what you strengthened me for with your love and unswerving belief in me; to face my own battles with courage and a stoic belief in myself and my own abilities. I am the epitome of the saying,

what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’

… thanks to you!

Love always,

Christine


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.

To find out more about Christine and her work:
ceedee moodling (Christine’s website)
Christine Larsen, Author


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

Don’t be a Dick~~Mike Cooley

Advice for Writers

As a writer it can be tempting to be a dick. There is some evidence to support the idea that “being a dick works.” Maybe you were a dick before you started writing. I have just one thing to say about that: “Don’t be a dick.”

The following information details a number of ways that you can avoid being a dick. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list. I’m sure you can find many ways to be a dick that I haven’t thought of yet.

Twitter

No one wants to see your book link on their twitter feed ten times a day. Not even your mom. Take my word for it. It’s true. Sure you can use twitter to post links, but engage in conversation, tweet about things other than writing, respond to people… be human. If all you use twitter for is promotion, you will be ignored and unfollowed quickly.

Facebook

Facebook is a great promotional tool. So don’t be a tool when you use it. Don’t engage in fly-by activities where all you ever do is post links to your work in every freakin’ group you are in. Most of your fellow writers and readers are in a lot of those groups too. They don’t need to hear about your shiny new instant classic in every single group. Pick a group; post it; move on. Take the time to engage in conversations with other writers and readers. Showing that you have a sense of humor and some tact can go a long way toward gaining readers. All right, screw the tact.

Email

If you give out your email address as contact information, be prepared to answer emails. Some of them may be unpleasant. Some of them may be creepy. Some of them may put a smile on your face that lasts for a week. Be responsive. Be nice. Word travels fast.

Signings

Don’t go to a signing feeling like you’re the second coming and expect everyone to kneel down in front of you for a signature. The readers that show up are doing you a favor. Treat them like royalty. Smile. Talk to them. Put them at ease. If they bring twenty copies, sign twenty copies. If they want you to sign their boobs, sign them. You can explain it all to your wife later.

Interviews

Be prepared. Be awake. Try to sound intelligent without forcing it. Relax. They wouldn’t be interviewing you if they weren’t already interested in your work. Show your enthusiasm for your work and your characters. It’s infectious. Be sincere. I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate. Tell it like it is. If there is something you don’t want to answer, be diplomatic, but say so. If it’s a written interview, double-check your spelling and grammar. If it’s a phone interview make sure your phone is charged and you have the time right.

Brand

Brand is bland. I don’t remember who coined that phrase, but I agree with it. There’s nothing wrong with having an identity and a writing style and a voice, but don’t go overboard. Not everything you do has to look and sound the same. You don’t have to homogenize your message or dumb it down to get readers. Your work is your brand. Period. Let me repeat that. Your work is your brand. You don’t need to cultivate anything artificial. Brand is for tennis shoes and cars. You are a unique little flower. Try to act like it.

Blogging

Readers like interesting blogs. And readers like learning more about their favorite authors. You don’t always have to talk about writing, or your books. You are a writer. Even when you are telling everyday slice-of-life stories you can and should tell them well. It will keep people coming back. Spell-check and grammar check your blog posts. Be obsessive about it. People will expect a higher level of quality control on your blog—because you are a writer. Live up to it. Blog about other writers. Network. Talk about books you love. Show you are a reader too. Show how you observe life and react to it. You don’t have to be interesting, you already are.

Fellow Writers

Treat fellow writers with respect. Remember that they may just be starting out. Remember how you felt when you were just starting. Help them. And listen to the writers who are more experienced than you. They know stuff. Useful stuff. They know not to use the word stuff.

Know It All

Don’t be one. I don’t care if you’ve been writing for one year, five years, or twenty years. You don’t know it all. What works for you doesn’t always work for other people. What works for other people doesn’t always work for you. It’s not your way or the highway. There are many roads to success. There isn’t one way to write or edit. There isn’t one program to write in. Different methods work for different people. And that’s all right. Don’t have tunnel vision. Be open-minded.

Beta Readers

Reward your beta readers. Thank them for everything they find, whether you agree with it or not. They are doing you a favor and reading your work for free. When your book is published give them a signed copy. It’s the least you can do for their efforts. Don’t be offended by what they find. They represent readers. If they get confused by something chances are that someone else will too. Beta readers are a very valuable commodity. Treat them like it.

Bragging

By all means celebrate your successes with your friends, family, and fellow writers! That’s part of the fun of being a writer. But don’t flood the internet with every positive review and every small victory. People will get tired of it. Other writers may not be having the same success, or may feel inferior because their accomplishments pale in comparison. Other writers may not be making their word counts or may have life events sapping their time. Revel in the success of your friends too, not just your own. It’s just as important to encourage other writers as it is to encourage yourself. Being a writer that people can relate to (not afraid to admit faults, concerns, insecurities) can go a long way toward making people interested in your work.

Review Sites

It can be scary to give your baby to a review site. It takes courage. But you never know if you don’t try. When you do, be patient. Review sites get flooded with submissions. It may take them a long time to get to yours. And when they do, they might not give you the rating you think it deserves. That’s all right. The quality of a book is highly subjective. Opinions vary. Maybe it’s not all that. Take your lumps and move on. If the review points out valid problems that you can fix… fix them. Don’t spew complaints about the review all over the web. It just makes you look like a child. Not everyone will understand or like your book. It’s a big world. One review won’t kill you. Two or three might leave a mark. Move on.

Responding To Reviews

Step one: don’t respond to bad reviews. Thank people for good reviews when you can. Don’t let great reviews make your ego the size of a planet and don’t let bad reviews knock you down. There will always be someone that loves your book and someone that hates it. That is the way of things. If reviews are getting you down, pick a famous book and read the bad reviews. Then, grasshopper, you will know I speak true. As long as you are sure your work is the best it can be, you can be confident in it. If you have to respond to a bad review, the best possible way is to respond with generosity. Thank them for reading it. Seriously. I’m not kidding. The more magnanimous you are, the more they look like a dick. The more you whine and bitch in public, the more you look like one. Don’t be a dick.

Editors

Editing is hard, time-consuming work. Many writers are under the mistaken notion than an editor can read and edit a book in just a little more time than it would take a reader to read it. Wrong! Depending on the type of editing, the quality of the manuscript, and the length it can many hours to edit. If you are just getting it checked for spelling and grammar—commonly called copy-editing—then it would not take as long as if you were having the whole nine yards done (consistency, plot, character, pacing,…). Editing costs vary greatly depending on the type of editing, the skill of the editor and how long it takes. Your editor is not your enemy. They are trying to help you. Let me say that again. THEY ARE TRYING TO HELP YOU. Yeah, that’s better.

The reason great editors charge a lot is because they are worth it. Sure you could have your roommate edit your novel (because she’s really good at Scrabble). Don’t! Please, for the love of all that’s holy, just don’t.

Cover Art

Making a cover is not a simple matter of picking a picture off the internet and then slapping some unreadable text on it and calling it good. First off it’s a copyright violation to use an image you don’t own the rights to. There are many artists available that do great cover art. They have years of training, know how to use the tools, know where to get licensed background art, and have a keen sense of what kind of covers work well in the genre you are writing in. It is in your best interest to pay for cover art unless you are an artist yourself with a lot of knowledge in the field. You can find cover artists at many different price points. Look at covers they’ve done before. Talk to satisfied customers. Then work with the artist. They want you to be happy with the final product. But don’t be difficult just to be difficult. Often a writer’s idea of what the cover should look like (perhaps a specific scene in the book) is not going to work as well as what the artist thinks of. Be open to suggestions. Collaborate with the artist until you are happy, but don’t nitpick everything to death. There are reasons they suggest certain things. Good reasons. Once again THEY ARE TRYING TO HELP YOU. Listen to them. Pay them. Thank them. Repeat.

Please don’t contribute to the endless supply of cover art that sucks ass. You won’t sell books. I don’t care how good the words are. Thank you.

Thin Skin

I don’t care if it kills you to get a bad review. Never let them see you bleed. You’re above all that. Cry in private. Bitch among friends. But do not, under any circumstances, whine and complain in public (yes most places on the internet are public). Harsh criticism hurts. That’s life. But a single critic doesn’t speak for everyone. And it’s not the end of the world to get a bad review. There are a lot of reasons for getting a bad review, and many of them have nothing to do with the words in your book. Suck it up. Move on.

Conventions

If you attend conventions as a writer, don’t just hide in your room. Readers love writers. Interact. Engage. Chit-chat. Sign-books. Be available. Volunteer for panels. Being entertaining and friendly in public will sell books. People want to like you already, because they like your books. Some might complain about something in a book, or how long it’s taking for the next one. Be gracious. Give them information. Show everyone you are just a normal—well okay, normal is probably a bit of a stretch for most of us—person that they can relate to. Show them that you put your pants on one leg at a time—just like they do. The only difference is that once your pants are on you write like a freakin’ God. (Over the top? Thought so. Apologies to SNL and Christopher Walken.)

Interact with other writers. They are your people. It’s a good idea to know who the other writers attending the convention are, and to familiarize yourself with their work. Writers are readers too. Writers can help spread the word about your work. Let them talk about their work too. It’s not all about you. Part of being a great writer is being a great listener and observer. Other writers will be more than happy to help you. Just don’t be a dick.

Thanks for reading this. I hope it helps. No, I don’t think you’re a dick. This is for all the other writers out there.


OMP Admin Note: Mike Cooley is a science fiction and fantasy writer by night, and a software engineer by day. He has written many science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. He grew up in Washington State, went to college in New Mexico, and ended up in Minnesota with one wife, a kid, and two cats. His top influences are Phillip K. Dick and James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon).
You can find out more about his books and other endeavors at https://lastwrites.co


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

Head Elsewhere~~Mark Huntley-James

Wherever I am, my head is often elsewhere – a book I’m reading, a film I’ve just watched, and most often completely else, strolling through a story I might try to write. Pay attention, watch what you’re doing, keep your eyes peeled… sorry, no-one in at the moment, please leave a message after the daydream.

This particular train of thought started when I was digging a hole – not metaphorically, but literally, with a spade, moving dirt from A to B, flat ground transformed to lump and matching dip. The aim of the hole digging was planting a tree, but for most of the time my head was elsewhere – not entirely healthy with a sharp-edged tool so close to my toes, and at some point it occurred to me that not only was my attention elsewhere but that this is almost my default state. Doing the laundry, loading the dishwasher, brushing my teeth, or planting a few hundred meters of hedgerow – it doesn’t matter where I am, it’s where my head is that matters.

I am never really alone when my head is elsewhere. Whole worlds open up, wondrous characters drop by for a chat or, on a bad day, the most fantastical bore leans on the door frame to talk me into hell. I could go back to reality, but seriously, is that any better? And what might I miss if I do come back early? Even a fantastical bore has a place in a story, perhaps even a central place depending on the tale. It’s tempting to think that head elsewhere is an essential mindset for being an author, although my suspicion is more that I am an author because my head so readily tours elsewhere.

However, I am not alone in being not alone when I’m on my own… Let me rephrase: I am convinced that I have known similar people over the years. There is a certain look and feel to them – the lights are on, someone is in, but you don’t knock on the door because you just know they are in conference with the aliens, translating Mum’s recipes from the original goblin, or disposing of a body (and there’s always room for a second one). This is only speculation, mind you, because I’ve never dared approach one of these potentially kindred voyagers and pop the question: excuse me, but is that your head, or is it elsewhere?

It’s tempting to think of the strange virtual world of the web as being elsewhere, but it’s not. Online is a different group reality, full of social communities or wild groups shouting at each other in ferocious arguments safe in the knowledge that they don’t have to look each other in the eye. Roving elsewhere, on the other hand, is a solitary exploration, no matter how densely populated elsewhere might be.

The thing about elsewhere is that it’s my fake reality. I like it there and I don’t take guests. Being an author means I that might then write about the places my head has been, either carefully sanitised (cleaned for general consumption and the really nutty bits removed) or in toe-curling detail because I feel like it and want to see eyes go wide, but whether I report it light or heavy no-one ever sees the full scope of my journey.

A few years back, on a drive home from Plymouth, in the dark (my wife was driving) I had an idea. It wasn’t much, but night driving needs concentration and, with no conversation, my head went elsewhere. I kicked the idea around, decided that it was growing on me, and wrote a story, told it to myself while I was elsewhere, edited it in my head, told it again, ran it by a receptive hedgerow. The trouble with having your head elsewhere is that even the worst drivel can sound good, but the next day I wrote it down as well as I could recall, toned down the crazy, changed the names to protect the insolent and won first place in a writing competition. Yay for me, but don’t think for one moment that the published story is really what happened when my head went wandering. It just wrote the bits that made a good story, edited for decency and skipping over the dull bits, and leaving out the embarrassing conversation with… Never mind. That’s for another story.

It’s a private business being elsewhere, full of technicolour wonder and companionship, so absorbing you can get lost for hours, only summoned back by those unstoppable forces of nature such as that cry in the distance the cat is eating your lunch, or the old-fashioned dial-up line back to reality that sends the occasional alert such as spade incoming, move your foot now.

Elsewhere. You can’t beat it, and there is so much to see. You ought to at least visit, perhaps get a season pass, and explore the boundless oddities. If you’ve got a minute I could give you some pointers to the best sights…

Sorry. Have to go. Reality calling. It’s time to put the chickens away.

My head will probably be in some other elsewhere by the time I get back. Maybe see you there. A more interesting you, of course, but that’s the nature of elsewhere.


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 http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, 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

I Think I’m Learning Japanese~~John Nedwell

I don’t want to sound pretentious, but for the last nine months I have been learning to speak a new language. You see, just over a year ago I went on a trip to Japan. I had booked it on impulse after an unexpected cash windfall. A friend of mine – who regards herself as being an enabler – said to me, “You’ve always wanted to go there. You’ve got the money. So, why not?” I couldn’t think of a good rebuttal. So, just before Easter last year, I found myself on a ten-day tour. I took a lot of photographs. I did a lot of tourist things. I also did some things that only made sense to me.

When I came back, I was grabbed by one of the people at my writing group. “What did you think of Japan?” she asked.

“It was a wonderful place,” I said. “But I didn’t see enough of it.”

“So, you’d like to go again?”

“Definitely. But I know I don’t want to go on a tour. There are so many places I still want to see.”

She nodded. “So, you’re going to have to speak Japanese,” she said. “I can teach you.”

It took a few months to get things set up – real life being the awful thing that it is – but Mo-sensei was as good as her word. In October last year I started to learn how to speak Japanese.

It has been a hard nine months. Mo-sensei started off by teaching me the hiragana and katakana. “You’ll need these,” she said. “You may never learn the kanji, but if you learn these then that will be a start.” Then she started drilling me on the simple things. Of course I made mistakes, and when I did Mo-sensei would nod, smile and correct me. We made our way through simple grammar and vocabulary. For one hour a week, we sat in her kitchen and followed the lessons. I put in an hour a day at home, writing out the characters and trying to commit the new words to memory. But, as well as words, Mo-sensei taught me Japanese manners and culture. “You’ll need these as well,” she said. “If you’re going to be on your own.”

At the start of July we reached an important milestone. “There you go,” Mo-sensei said, and opened the textbook halfway through at a page of Japanese. “You should be able to translate that.”

It took me all of the lesson to make my way down the page. At the end, Mo-sensei closed the textbook and smiled. “Very good. At least you won’t disgrace yourself in public.”

After nine months, I’m not fluent by any means. I know enough Japanese to ask simple questions. I even know enough to maybe understand the answers – provided you speak slowly to me.

And I’ve got another year to get better!


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