On the Borderlands of Fantasy ~~ by Raymond St. Elmo

On the Borderlands of Fantasy ~~ by Raymond St. Elmo

I write fantasy. I read fantasy. I suppose I love fantasy. But I do not live it. Nope. I cross no fingers, knock no wood. I change the smoke-alarm batteries yearly and disdain mutant clovers, blessed crosses and St. Anthony medals for protection. I buy Captain Crunch, not Lucky Charms. I rotate my tires, signal lane-changes and floss. I yawn at spilled salt, black cats and cracked mirrors. I stare up at the night sky and see no Man in the Moon; just craters and plains with Latin names. I am… Mr. Reality.

And yet my daydreams are of stone vaults where cloaked figures gather for the Ritual. When enemies duel on a cliff-edge, I am there, popcorn bowl in hand. As lightning flashes across the cemetery, it lights up my eyes as much as any vampire’s. My ears are tuned to the sound of a ghostly horse trotting down the midnight road.

I told my kids Santa was a fraud, the Easter Bunny a flop-eared construct. That the periodic chart of the elements had greater influence over their destiny than any Zodiac. Even as I read to them from the Hobbit, Narnia, Prydain, Goosebumps, and the tales of Mr. H. Potter. Sometimes I wondered: did this create a fault line that must, soon or late, shake their lives?

Which duality brings us to scrubs. If there is a spectrum of fantastical clothing, with golden armor and velvet capes upon one side, the dress-code for Reality’s far end is blue-green plain two-piece unisex cotton clothing. Scrubs, that maketh the soul to stand in the harsh fluorescent lighting of what is real.

My daughter is interning in nuclear-med imaging tech. She can recite the bones of the body as I can the kings of Numenor. List the interactions of human organs as I can explain the factions of Dune. And gives me advice on hydrating as though I lived on Arrakis. She comes home in scrubs.

It is not really a uniform. It is more like holy armor. It says the wearer has been helping cancer patients out of wheelchairs and back in again. Injecting strange potions into veins, scanning bones and soft tissues with magic devices that will reveal the ill within.

I ask how her day went, and she shrugs. For her, it was just another day in reality town: fluorescent lights and heavy traffic. She knows what is real. Things that leave weird stains on your scrubs. But now I’m not so sure I know.

I am not a person given to causes and quests. OMP’s chance to write a story for a charity tilting at cancer was mere opportunity to do a bit of daydreaming. And yet, and yet… I think I have wandered across the border I spent so many years mapping. I sit at the kitchen table and worry that the fantasy world is slyer than I gave it credit. It wants us to be heroes, or villains, or at least explorers in strange lands. To take the quest, tilt against the giants or the windmills.

Bah to fantasy fog! I’m sitting at the kitchen table in Reality’s sunlight, feeling proud and nervous. True, outside the window I hear thunder, and maybe the hoof-clops of a ghostly horse. Old stuff, old props I can handle. But…scrubs? Who would have supposed they could be the magic robes of fantasy?


OMP Admin Note:  Raymond St. Elmo is a computer programmer living in Texas.  A degree in Spanish Literature gave him a love of magic realism. A fascination with artificial intelligence gave him a job. His books tend to be first-person fantastical accounts with frequent references to William Blake, Borges and PKD.

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Gays — by Akje Majdanek

Gays — by Akje Majdanek

I can’t remember why I was at Electric Lit recently, but I stumbled across “this post” from a gay reader who resents heterosexual women writing m/m romance novels.

I can see his point, but of course, these novels aren’t meant for gay men, they’re written for straight women. They’re not supposed to be accurate portrayals of gay men; they’re supposed to be portrayals of men the way we want them to be. All romance is fantasy, after all.

Speaking for myself, I first started reading m/m romance when I’d read one too many hetero romances with a bimbo heroine and it occurred to me, Why am I reading a book about some TSTL heroine who isn’t me having a relationship with a great guy she doesn’t deserve, when I could get two men for the price of one?

It just made more sense to read about two men coming together than try to live vicariously through some stupid cow I couldn’t relate to. Evidently, a lot of other romance readers feel the same way. (♯^.^♯)

But I can totally sympathize with gay men who get a rude awakening when they stumble across one of these books. I feel the same way when I buy a bookmarked literary fiction, only to find it’s actually pulp fiction that happens to have stream-of-consciousness, a navel-gazing character, or an emphasis on characterization over plot. Personally, I define litfic by depth, not by gimmicks.

What’s needed is a better way to categorize books so the appropriate audience can find them and others know to avoid them. The problem is how to do that when the Book Industry Study Group is slow to recognize new genres, and Amazon has even fewer categories than the BISAC listings.

Actually, pondering it now, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. ˓(ˊᘩˋ⋆)


OMP Admin Note:  Akje Majdanek is a writer and OMP Network member.  Akje is a guest blogger for the One Million Project website whose creativity is evidenced in her work.  Akje’s books–Der Reiter and Adeline–are available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Akje_Majdanek/e/B00UZSTW74 

The Problems with History ~~ by John Nedwill

The Problems with History ~~ by John Nedwill

Normally I write short stories. There is a discipline to it, trying to write a story that is complete but compact. And there is definitely a challenge in writing something that makes sense and is engaging when you only have a certain number of words to tell it in. Besides, the short story form seems to suit my butterfly mind. It allows me to develop an idea, write it down and move on before I become bored with the whole thing.

This does have its drawbacks, though. I find it very difficult to sustain a story to 10,000 words – let alone the 100,000 that most publishers seem to demand for a modern novel! It’s not that I just stop writing, leaving my story hanging in mid-air. No. What happens is that I start to close down my story. I resolve the various plot threads, I try to give the characters their endings, and then everything is brought to a (more or less) satisfactory conclusion.

Still, I am trying my best to overcome this. I recently embarked on a project that I think might actually be worthy of receiving a longer treatment. While doing some research into the history of my family, I discovered an interesting but little-known incident: the Larne gunrunning of 1914. As I looked deeper into events surrounding the incident, I found myself fascinated by the personalities involved, the political machinations surrounding it and the actual logistics of smuggling guns into Ireland. The more I looked, the more I became convinced that there was a story here that needed telling.

That’s when I hit another problem. For those not familiar with the recent history of Ireland, it has been a rather turbulent two or three centuries, the events of which still have repercussions to this day! And some of the people of Ireland have long memories and can be very touchy about certain subjects. So, rather than risk the wrong sort of attention by dramatising the actual events, I decided I would write a story that was a fiction based on the events of 1914, with names and places changed to suitably muddy my trail.

Oh dear. If you think writing historical fiction is hard work, it’s even harder trying to disguise it! I have had to alter the details of the events, changing them so that while they are accurate, they are not accurate enough to offend people. I have had to invent characters who, while they reflect the people involved, are not the actual people themselves. I’m also trying to play up the farcical elements of the whole thing. A sense of humour can be a wonderful defense. In short, the whole thing is a minefield and I feel like I’m dancing around the craters!

Will I actually bring this project to a conclusion? Will I break through the 10,000 word barrier? Will my story even see the light of day? I have no idea, but I’m going to find out!


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.

To Cure? Or Endure? by Christine Larsen

To Cure? Or Endure? by Christine Larsen

“I got the death sentence!” Harry sank heavily into his favourite chair by the fire. His face was white and drawn as if indeed he’d had a deadly serious eyeballing contest with the Grim Reaper… and lost. Harry’s death sentence was as irreversible as the diagnosis of lung cancer being the inoperable primary, and liver and lymph system stalking closely behind as secondaries. I never witnessed this tragic day but heard it in sorrowful detail from his wife, my ‘other’ mother, sometime later.

Throughout his relatively short battle, he fought to reverse the diagnosis. Unfortunately, his attitude swung constantly from one potential cure to another. As he embraced each one, his hopes were impossibly ‘high’, at first believing changes for the better really were happening. No matter how slim, every possibility was tried and then rejected when it didn’t make major differences to his pain and physical deterioration within a few weeks. Each and every time he plunged emotionally to the depths, returning rapidly to his base belief in that ‘death sentence’ – until the next apparent miracle cure was found on his never-ending quest.

Inevitably, he died. And when the immediate pain of his loss quietened somewhat, his family questioned how much his attitude could have affected the speed and severity of his disease. They examined attitude and illness and its effects on longevity and severity of the disease. Could it – would it – have been altered by a less desperate mental and emotional grasping to stop the terrible nightmare that lingered on, day after day?

Much respected research has shown positive or negative thoughts of those dealing with chronic illness CAN indeed impact recovery.  Strong negative emotions create avoidance, denial, depression, anxiety – and severely hinder the body from fighting back. But those who feel the slightest control over their illness are less distressed, able to adopt and stick to more positive coping strategies. Given the chance and options, all degrees of illness can be managed more successfully.  In rare cases, enough true positivity has proven to stem, even reverse the toll of the ‘good health thief’.

Other equally respected researchers loudly disagree, but even in the midst of their nay-saying, admissions are made that cancer most certainly affects the mental health of its victims. The question then is – can it, in turn, be significantly managed and coped with better with ‘mental health care and emotional support’. Surely there’s no place like home for this to begin – with the person’s own attitude.

I think of the times any one of us has been home, sick, left alone to wallow miserably in our unhealthy state. But should the phone ring, or the doorbell – and a friend or relative we care about be there, we are capable of an impressive, if temporary, appearance of coping far better than we truly are. Is it adrenalin? Pride? A wish to not spend precious time together with a loved one miserably? Later, we’re probably exhausted from the pretense… and yet, are we not feeling more cheerful and more than somewhat improved, at least in our heart of hearts? In our mindset?

Maybe the experts who insist unequivocally that the quantity of Life is not altered in the least by mind control, are right. Perhaps there is nothing known to Man able to stop that relentless march towards the ‘death sentence’ Harry was convinced awaited. But they could be wrong. Researchers into all manner of things from time immemorial have been mistaken in their most unshakeable beliefs.

Let us all hope and pray the research into Cancer we, One Million Project writers, donate our words to, will uncover the answers to this and so many other questions sitting on the tip of that iceberg, melting quickly into the 90% laying below the surface and exposing the truth of this Life-thief.

 


OMP Admin Note:  Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, IMG_7208and 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 –

ceedee moodling

Wattpad

Tablo Publishing

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

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” (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 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.

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

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.

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You can find Nera and her work at:

https://m.facebook.com/groups/1778050345825324

https://my.w.tt/2Jb4T1zLzL

Twitter- @nerahart