Adjustments~~by John Nedwill

Just over three months ago, my daughter found herself a job. For the last four years – since leaving university, in fact – she had been looking for employment. Every day she would go through the same routine: winnowing the job alerts she had received in her email; logging onto the employment websites to see what was new. Every day she would apply for 10 jobs that she thought she could do. Ideally she wanted a job that reflected her skills and education; but, being realistic, she would also apply for other jobs. She would upload her CV, fill in the forms, push the ‘SUBMIT’ button, then wait.

Sometimes she would receive a reply thanking her for her application. Less often she would get an invitation for an interview. However, most of the time she was ignored. She would send off her details, then hear nothing more about it. It was a disheartening time for both of us. When COVID restrictions were brought in last year, the number of jobs available fell dramatically. Firms were not hiring new starters. Instead they were hunkering down and trying to weather the oncoming storm. But my daughter kept checking the internet, looking for work.

But, all things pass. As the COVID restrictions were lifted (we can debate the wisdom), the job market picked up again. My daughter sent off more applications and got offers of job interviews. Then, one day, while tapping away on my laptop, she called me.

“Hey, dad!”

I couldn’t read the tone of her voice over the tiny speaker, but it sounded like something important had happened. “What?” I asked her.

“I’ve got a job!”

My heart leapt. That night, the two of us had a small celebration. We ordered in pizza and toasted my daughter’s good fortune: me with a tumbler of whiskey, her with a bottle of milkshake. For the first time in months we felt good about the future.

And then reality hit. We had to get used to different arrangements. Mealtimes became fragmented. The house became too quiet during the day. We would maybe speak to each other for a quarter of an hour in the morning, then for an hour or so in the evening. It was very different from when we would go out for walks together in the afternoon, strolling along the path by the railway for our daily exercise. But we adjusted and established new habits.

Then, last week my daughter came to me. “Dad,” she asked. “How much are our household bills?”

“We’ve already discussed that,” I replied. “I’ve set your contribution.”

My daughter gave me that look that only children can give to their parents. “No, dad. How much do things cost?”

I took a deep breath. “Why?” But I knew the answer already. In the past we had both discussed the time when my daughter would eventually move out and become an independent adult. But that had been at some indeterminate time in the future. This conversation turned it from a possibility to an actuality.

I won’t pretend that I don’t have mixed feelings. In some ways I feel nervous, worried about the uncertainty of the future. In other ways I feel proud that my child has become her own person, confident enough to strike out on her own.

I’ll miss her. And she’ll miss me. But we’ll adjust.


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 are now available (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

Brain Health~~by Søvn Drake

The wife of my best friend from college is having a baby next week. Remembering what it was like to have a newborn, I can almost feel that gnawing pain of exhaustion between my eyes. I took three months’ leave after my son was born, but really I shouldn’t have been driving at three months post-partum, let alone going back to work. I love babies but babies are not good for your brain.

As writers we are acutely attuned to the state of our noggin. When it isn’t working, we aren’t writing. When we aren’t writing we aren’t happy. Then it becomes a chicken and an egg problem. If we aren’t happy it is hard to write. Then you are in the dreaded writer’s block situation. So today I thought I would talk a little bit about how to keep your brain healthy. A healthy brain equals a creative brain, one willing to write stories for you.

The information I’m going to share isn’t rocket science, it is advice your grandmother gave you. But there is good scientific evidence that taking certain measures may help your brain function properly well into old age.

Eat Your Vegetables

Our diet can affect our mood and cognition in numerous ways. A Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of green vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil and limited sweets and dairy may stave off dementia. I know when I make a colorful veggie stir fry it can pull me out of a funk. And while sugar makes me feel good at the moment, an hour later I’m lower than low.

Note to author: Don’t mention the tiramisu you are eating with your coffee while writing.

So don’t eat unhealthy foods (too often). Eat whole foods, nuts, berries, fish. Limit cheese and red meat. And alcohol? They say you can have one glass of red wine. Hmmm. Well, nobody’s perfect. Plus if you offset it by having a few with friends…

Note to author: You simultaneously digress, admit your weaknesses, and try to make excuses.

Do as I say, not as I do. Just try to drink less than your, er, friendly neighborhood doctor.

Move Your Body

Nobody needs to buy gym memberships. You can walk. With your feet. You should walk every day. Nothing helps me solidify plot lines like walking up a hill, and there are plenty of them here in Seattle. It’s almost as if when my heart beats faster and harder it moves the stagnant blood around my floundering brain cells. We were never meant to sit in front of computers all day. Our bodies were designed to play, hunt, and forage. On foot. Want to stay functional into old age? Walk. Every day.

Engage Your Brain

Sure, writing gives our brain a workout, but we need all types of mental stimulation. Social stimulation is as important as, if not more than, just doing puzzles and those cognitive stimulation apps on your phone which, despite their claims, have not been proven to prevent Alzheimer’s. So why not take a walk with a friend? Then you are doing two good things for your brain at once. If you really want to go for the trifecta, garden with a friend and grow and prepare some healthy vegetables.

Sleep

As I get older, sometimes it seems the world conspires to prevent me from getting a good night’s sleep. Or maybe I just didn’t care when I was younger. The good news/bad news is that when you exercise–especially outside with natural daylight to suppress your melatonin–and you eat healthy foods and you don’t drink too much, you sleep better. A lot of people get sleep apnea as they age. Get that treated. Having it can mimic symptoms of dementia and maybe lead to more permanent cognitive decline.

What Happens Next?

Our brains will age, just like the rest of our bodies. Cognitive aging is well documented and different for every individual. We may find it harder to assimilate new knowledge and it is easy to become a creature of habit. But science has shown humans can still flex their brains, learn, and even gain emotional intelligence well into their 80s. But if we want our brains to stay in shape, we have to treat them right and keep them engaged. Don’t succumb to your routines.

Change is the only certain constant after all. The world will change around us whether we like it or not. The only chance we have to keep up with it is by continuing to learn, meeting new people and trying new things. Otherwise we might find ourselves sitting in the corner shaking our fists at young people and their modern ways while the world passes us by.

Oh, and my dear old friend became a father at age 47 of a healthy baby boy during the three weeks it took me to finish this article. He and his wife are dreadfully tired and not thinking well at all. My initial intention was to conclude this article by telling people not to have babies in midlife, to preserve their brain health. However, I can see my friends are in love and have committed to a lifetime of connection and trying new things with the next generation. In the long run it was the right choice.


Søvn Drake is an emerging writer who can be found haunting coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. More about her and her writing can be found at: https://sovndrakestories.wordpress.com


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (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

Gaps~~by Mark Huntley-James

Not too long ago, we watched a documentary on Japanese art, which highlighted negative space as one of the key concepts, the unmarked paper around the subject, enhancing and defining, creating detail from nothing.

Recent events and anniversaries have drawn my attention to some of the negative spaces in my life. Perhaps those gaps help to define me, and they are most certainly empty spaces left, but the are far from being unmarked paper.

As I write this, it is almost exactly twenty-nine years, to the hour, since Grandpa Stepney died, forty-four years since Grandpa James died, and almost twenty-four hours since our cat Oatmeal had to be euthanised by the vet.

There are plenty of gaps in my life, but those three will do for the moment.

It’s also eighty-one years since Grandpa Huntley died, but that was more than two decades before I was born, and leaves no sense of a defining gap.

Grandma and Grandpa James lived just around the corner when I was a kid, and were the go-to baby-sitters for myself and my sister, but Grandpa James was also the one who would take us to the park, and most importantly of all, he was the one who taught me how to ride a bicycle. Honestly, my memories of those times are patchy at best – ignoring the no cycling signs at the park, pedalling around the big concrete circle which I suspect was once the bandstand, and the magic moment when I no longer needed the training wheels. And then there was his tiny back lawn which he trimmed to create a road layout, with a junction and pole with three tin cans containing candles to be the traffic lights, blowing them out and lighting them as needed.

Grandpa James has been gone a long time, and the gap is small and faint, but it’s still there, outlining a part of my childhood.

Grandma and Grandpa Stepney lived in Sussex, a half a day’s drive away, and we would visit for Easter, and perhaps a week or two over the summer. Grandpa Stepney introduced me to his shed where he taught me how to solder and do basic wiring. I got to learn to use a drill and a file, although not quite to the exacting standards of his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.

By the time Grandpa Stepney died, I already had my PhD in physics, in part due to him letting me loose in his shed to poke things around and understand how they worked.

As for Oatmeal, the gap is immediate and obvious. For the first half hour of the day I had a nagging sense that I had forgotten to do something, which was to give him his medication, and I am sure that it will be weeks or months until I stop checking before stepping round a corner in the house, because he always slept in the most inconvenient places – doorways, just around a corner, or perhaps on my shoes.

Now that Oatmeal is gone, I shall need something new to write about, because as my partner pointed out today, Oatmeal gets more entries in my blog than the other three cats combined. I’m not sure how exactly Oatmeal has defined and shaped me, aside from the physical impact of six kilos of cat, but the gap is there, wide and uncomfortable and unlikely to get shaded in any time soon.

I think perhaps those painful gaps in my life follow the style of the Japanese art in the documentary – you can pick out the spaces and try to identify what they mean, but that loses the totality of the picture.

My gaps have to be taken as a part of the whole, memories and experiences sketched in with the pencil of life, soft lines and hard shadows, variously blurred and faded with time.

As the automated voices on the London Underground will tell you, please mind the gap.


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. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

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 are now available (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

Pot-holes Abound~~by Christine Larsen

They loom up in the mists of passing time, unseen and unanticipated… until they trip you in unforeseen ways. After all, no-one promised a smooth path; far from it, especially when the path chosen is an extremely lonely one… in the middle of the night, when your ‘brave’ falters under the burden of pain.

Thankfully, no matter what transpires, I have no doubts, no insecurities about my firmest decision to reject all chemical and otherwise artificial therapies. Once all the the facts I could find were gathered, researched and deeply deliberated upon, I made my decision with no qualms, no doubts, no ‘second-guessing’ the rights or wrongs of my choices. What a blessing that is… for me.

If there had been any lingering doubts, they would have been swept away as clean as that outward draining away of the sea before it returns with the lethal tsunami. ‘By WHAT?!?’, you may ask. By a mistaken belief I had that I should take full blame for accepting (without double-checking) that the side effects of a doubled increase of a new pain relief would have fewer side effects. WRONG! The side effects were horrendous, resulting in the need for hospitalisation and best medical efforts to meet my needs. A return home to nurse myself back to my version of ‘good health’ is seeing me winning this particular battle; slow as… but winning! Some deeper testing in just over a week will reveal much about the continuing residual pain, and a video conferencing with a pain management specialist a week or two later may help us all find some more acceptable answers.

BUT… the best therapy known to Man and Beast is surely what I look forward to in just a a matter of hours now — a quality time ‘getaway’ with beloved family and friends at two favourite beachside towns (near to each other) — with absolutely nothing more important to do than share love and some nurturing of this tired soul, with some of my dearest folk. Hubby, Kanute, is in need too. He’s having a particularly nasty time with the pain and disabilities arthritis provide (most generously in this changeable and unseasonal weather). A huge relief to us both is that all our laying hens are re-homed in a loving environment at another farm, not so far away. And bitter-sweet (a particularly large pot-hole), our beautiful, but highly energetic and over-enthusiastic Kelpie dog has been re-homed there too. It’s a truly loving home and plans are afoot to have her trained as a full working dog (the thing she’s always wanted and needed all her life, both before and since we rescued her from a suburban backyard). Best of all, she loved her new ‘Dad’ from first meeting, and vice versa. But with the parting came another kind of pain altogether. It will lessen, but it is also s-l-o-w as …

Two of our loved ones we will be sharing that precious ‘quality’ time with have been working particularly hard in the last week or so and are also sorely in need of some loving ‘time out’. I see a massive re-charging of batteries taking place in the gorgeous surrounds of two most special seaside holiday spots. I flick the ‘memory’ switch for these two beloved corners of our Earth, and at the first one, I’m a little girl again, taking a ride on the upper deck of a horse-drawn tram across a long causeway to the aptly named ‘Granite Island’, across a mostly calm and pristine bay; and I have swum in a rocky little cove there on its calm side, and revelled in the views from its rough side with a view forever and ever across our great Southern Ocean; and walked the long and windy path around the island, happening upon penguins once upon a time, and ever enthralled by the amazing rock formations, and a myriad of old black and white photos of our family enjoying ourselves.

A much closer recall of the second vista also involves these massive granite rocks, several beautiful bays further along the same shore, this time in our earlier married days, pre-kids, when we were dairy farmers less than an hour away, and heard radio reports of one of the earlier ‘social’ visits of whales to this well-known point. When we arrived, cars filled every available space at the lookout, and many people (large and small) peppered every nook and cranny amongst the rocks,and over them, to watch one of these mighty creatures… sleeping! You could have heard a pin drop in between the amazing rumbles issuing from this giant… it was snoring! Floating gently backwards and forwards with a quiet tide, bumping against the massive granite formations and blending with them as if it was just one more… it’s shine was the only giveaway.

Whilst I don’t imagine our current visit to embrace these small miracles of Nature again, a whole different one will be happening, with a special sharing of love and healing, that can only happen amongst people who care deeply for each other. Once again, as I’m sure many have already heard me say,

‘No matter what is taken from you in this Life, something SO bright and beautiful will be yours to compensate… in ways you cannot imagine.’


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 contributed A Bonny Wee Lassie to the One Million Project: Fiction anthology.

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 are now available (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

Archives of Memory~~by John Nedwill

At the end of August I went to the Museum of Making in Derby. This was once known as the Silk Mill Industrial Museum, and had been built on the site of the Lombe Mill by the banks of the River Derwent. The Lombe Mill has a long history. It was opened in 1721 and was one of the first manufactories in England. In 1834 it was the birthplace of the trade union movement. During the 19th century the mill fell into disrepair, but in the 1920s it was taken over by the newly-formed local electricity board to act as a support building for Derby’s first power station. In 1975 the local council took it over and turned it into the Silk Mill Industrial Museum.

The last time I visited the museum – just before it closed in 2015 – it was a tired building. Many of the exhibits were static and uninspiring. There were displays of old engines that had bee made by Rolls-Royce in the local works. A few displays told the story of the now defunct railway works. Upstairs, the exhibits that had been designed to appeal to the children of the 1970s and 1980s were covered in dust and neglect. The austerity measures forced on the local council had forced them to reduce funding and divert it towards the more central – and more popular – Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Dead metal and old plaques were no match for Egyptian mummies and Scottish soldiers in the eyes of the local children. Promises were made that the old Silk Mill would reopen, but no date was given.

Six years later, the Silk Mill finally reopened. The building had been refurbished and cleaned up. Old rooms had been reopened, redecorated and repurposed. New displays had been made to show Derby’s place in the world and to celebrate the history of making and creativity that had grown up in the town. But these to me were just sterile and showed only a fraction of what had been in the original museum. With their flashing lights and screens they would appeal to children, but only for a moment.

Then I went upstairs.

It looked like somebody had taken the debris of 300 years from the attics of the town and spread it through the building. Old cabinets held strange models of aircraft and trains. Instruction manuals for long-forgotten pieces of machinery had been stacked next to racks of lithographed maps and technical drawings. Everywhere I looked, my eye was drawn to something. But what was I looking at? I had no idea.

“Can I help?” A woman wearing a badge with ‘Explainer’ written on it looked at me.

“Yes,” I said. “What is this place?”

She took me to a touchscreen. “Here,” she said. “We’re digitising the archives. You can look for things by a keyword or you can put in the location you found something in.” She pointed at the letters and numbers that hung from the ceiling and the racks. “The system will tell you about it.”

I thought about one of the models that I had seen in a wooden cabinet and typed in the location code. The screen displayed a blank form. The guide smiled in apology. “It’s going to take a while to get everything in the system. But we will get it in place. And then we’ll invite people to add their own stories about these things so everybody can read them. If you come back in a month, there should be some more things in the archive.”

I looked at the long loft where great machines had once twisted silk skeins into threads, ready to be woven into cloth, and I saw the place with new respect. Here was a place to come and look, to investigate and discover. Here was a place to be inspired. It was a proper museum. “I’ll definitely be back,” I said.


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 are now available (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

Timepiece~~by Mark Huntley-James

I hate being late, loathe the last-minute rush, dread the prospect of uttering that well-worn phrase sorry I wasn’t here earlier. In fact, I suffer from that common complaint, a chronic punctuality infection. This particular train of thought came about as I stepped off the ladder (roofing job before the weather turns on Wednesday) and remembered that this article is due today. In fact, it ought to have been done already.

That’s one of the challenges of chronic punctuality – it doesn’t stop me being late, just makes being late very uncomfortable.

Oddly enough, many years ago, I knew a chap with punctuality issues known as The Late Mister Dale.

Since moving to Cornwall over fifteen years ago, I have tried to chill and adopt the Cornish principal of dreckly. When will this article get written? I’ll do it dreckly. It’s akin to mañana, but without the urgency. Perhaps if the industrial revolution had been confined to Cornwall, chronic punctuality would never have been invented. I can just hear the station announcements: the next train will be arriving dreckly, and the following train will be dreckly after. So much less stressful than actual schedules with times. (Although back when I commuted by train it often seemed as if the railway company had adopted the dreckly method but failed to inform us passengers.)

However, much as I have tried to adopt the dreckly mantra, that underlying punctuality infection simply won’t go away and living here has so many ways to set it off.

Firstly, there’s our livestock. They need to be attended to, daily, regardless of whatever else is happening. That’s all right though, isn’t it? A routine, easily planned for. If only we could get the livestock to cooperate.

A few weeks back we planned to go to an open garden event in support of the Cornish Wildlife Trust, so really a very difficult thing to be late for – just arrive after it opens at two and before it closes at five. Except that morning, one of the older ewes showed classic signs of meningitis, which effectively cancelled everything we had planned for the day.

I suppose I could argue that we weren’t actually late but completely absent.

After livestock come the tricky issues of travel and medical appointments. Our dentist and optician are in a nearby town about twenty minutes drive away, or forty minutes depending on the traffic, which is almost impossible to predict, except at this time of year when it’s best to add a further minute per mile.

In the summer months the Cornish roads are dominated by tractors and tourists, both of whom drive slowly because tractors aren’t generally built for speed, especially when hauling a trailer fully laden with something agricultural, and tourists get stressed by the discovery that Cornwall historically adopted a narrow-gauge road system where the difference between a major and a minor road is whether a tractor brushes against the hedge on both sides.

Oh, and a Cornish hedge is an earthen bank, or sometimes a stone-faced earthen bank. That stresses tourists as well as they try to reach their holiday cottage on time with their paintwork intact.

And no punctuality crisis would be complete without a mention of lambing, hatching, and all the other rural events that mean a new life has arrived. Lambs come five months less five days from conception and hen eggs hatch in twenty-one days. Honestly, that’s what it says in the books.

Just as soon as I have time, I’ll make an appointment to try to teach the sheep to read.

And use a clock.

The time is now late, but it’s still Monday. Don’t think of it as a deadline, but more a broad brushstroke.

I’m done.


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. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

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 are now available (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 Journey Begins~~by Christine Larsen

“Chemotherapy my only option? Is that what you’re saying?” I kept my voice calm somehow, though my heart was pounding so hard you’d think it could have been heard at the other end of the Oncology section. I knew the diagnosis, of course. That was made a few weeks ago, after an x-ray to investigate my shoulder blade pain revealed a shadow on my lung. To hide my shock at that time, I’d joked that the radiographer had tried for ‘a selfie with a difference’ and inadvertently put his thumb in the picture. That felt like a lifetime away now. More x-rays, more tests, more scans and then finally a biopsy of that murderous villain lurking and growing in my lung had followed… each one confirming the presence of my most unwelcome tenant.

Surgery and radiotherapy were not options for me, I learned. The cancer is in several of the smaller lymph glands, somewhat removed from the lungs, so a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy are the recommended treatments. The oncologist had a plan of treatment/dosages/timing all worked out with tremendously convincing arguments to assuage doubts and fears; she was well-prepared to convince those unwilling to make the life-altering decisions. And there are many of these; along with much misinformation held by a large percentage of cancer victims… and make no mistake, these unfortunate folk are truly ‘victims’.

Happens I’m not prepared to be one of those tragic unfortunates… and the main reason is not some kind of magical wand enabling me to wave it away; nor some miraculous alternative medicine. Mine is simply that I AM a writer. Happens I love my skill SO passionately, I will allow nothing to place this gift in danger of being damaged, even destroyed. Some may find this difficult to understand and/or accept, but I think almost all other artists are right behind me in my decision to refuse a treatment that can (and usually does) create a ‘chemo brain fog’. I feel I would gather far more agreement when you consider a poem I wrote a few days ago. It was inspired by a magical photo of a massive column of white and grey storm clouds burgeoning against the bluest of skies. Below, the furrowed paddocks wait hopefully for whatever comes next. They are as prepared as they can be… for whatever lies ahead. I called my poem —

Sweet Rhythm of Distraction

I CAN be more
I’ve done it before.
Raised out of pain
a soothed heart’s refrain,
filled that hole, that void
great music my opioid.
Calming the storm
drawing back to my norm…
whatever THAT is.

I’ll face anything,
salve its harshest sting.
Bolster my strength
whatever the length,
ne’er to underestimate
my power to dictate
survival, so Divine,
right before my cloud nine…
MY Rainbow Bridge.

Whether songs of birds,
or rhythm of words,
an instrument seeking
to soothe pain, ever speaking
its music so caressing,
endowing its blessing…
Peace waits there,
with nary a care.
My Choice.
My Nirvana.
My Heaven.

© 2021 Christine Larsen

If you would like, I would be happy to continue telling you of my journey… mainly because it will have some interesting differences than most of the ‘norm’ who follow the paths of the various treatments. My wish would be to help anyone ‘sitting on the fence’ and worrying about the decisions about treatment, which to choose; and then the continuing doubt and fear as they agonise over having made the correct decision. Or not. You will already have gathered that I am a particularly determined, opinionated and strong-willed human. I have also given this the thorough kind of research and consideration I bring to all of my writings. I consider myself blessed to have my writing to nurture and strengthen my resolve, and to have the ability to share my innermost feelings as I travel the path I have chosen.

Amongst many deeply meaningful and appropriate thoughts and quotes I have been gathering even more eagerly these days, I have particularly loved some words of ancient American Indian wisdom, suggesting every thing that happens in your life, and its timing, and the people who come in and out of a lifetime; ALL have their special place and meaning to your personal growth and understanding… and most of all, gracious acceptance.

This, along with a hefty dose of courage, is what I would wish to share with you.


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 contributed A Bonny Wee Lassie to the One Million Project: Fiction anthology.

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 are now available (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

Goblin Fruits~~by John Nedwill

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Winter is cold and wet, while the summer is too hot for me. I like to doze under heavy blankets, and I cannot do that in the summer heat. While spring temperatures are just right for me, there is still an underlying hint of frost. But autumn? In autumn we have the dying heat of the year and – best of all – it is time to go foraging.

I am lucky in that I live within easy distance of the countryside. There are plenty of parks and woods for me to walk through, canal towpaths and riverside paths to make my way along; and it is this time of year that the bounty of the countryside is at its best. The hedgerows become a blaze of colour, filled with ripening fruit and berries. I like to wander the trails, clutching a bag full of plastic boxes, scouring the brambles and the trees for blackberries, damsons and sloes.

My introduction to blackberrying came at an early age. My mother would take my sister and I for long walks along the coastal path on the southern side of Belfast Lough, looking for tangles of brambles. Then we would dive into them, searching for the biggest, ripest blackberries that we could find. My mother imparted the wisdom that had been passed down to her: “You have to pick blackberries before October, otherwise the devil sours them,” and “Don’t pick any blackberries below waist-height. The dogs will have pissed on them.” Then we would go home, laden down with our haul, and watch as our mother made jars of sticky-sweet bramble jelly to spread on toast during winter teatimes.

After I moved away from home and set out on my own, I didn’t have much chance to go blackberrying. My job took me all over the country, and I did not get many opportunities to search out the best places for foraging. It wasn’t until I settled down again that I decided to teach my daughter the delights of autumn fruit-picking. It took a couple of years to learn the best places to go. Brambles were everywhere – but I also learnt to identify other delicacies of the hedgerow and to expand my wanderings to look for them. I also learnt how to prepare them and preserve them, so that I could enjoy these fruits well into the winter.

In a couple of weeks I am going to go looking for blackberries. My kitchen will be full of heady smells and sweet steam. Then, as the year progresses, there will be more of nature’s treasures to harvest and enjoy. I shall fill my cupboards with jars and bottles: blackberry jam, damson jelly, sloe gin – beautiful shades of red and purple that remind me of my childhood.


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 are now available (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’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours~~by Søvn Drake

I stood fists balled in my pockets outside the automatic sliding doors on a cold gray spring morning in May. I fingered the scrap of cloth in my pocket as my heart hammered in my ears. Here goes nothing, I thought.

The United States had just reached another milestone in the pandemic. Those of us fully vaccinated were free to take off our masks everywhere except inside health care facilities, public transportation, schools, homeless shelters, and jails.

Relaxed restrictions was good news for some, but bad news for others. All hospitalized patients could now have visitors, not just those nearing end of life. However, our public emergency department anticipated an uptick in violence and aggression as eviction moratoriums were removed pushing more people into homelessness.

I mustered the courage and entered the grocery store. Nobody paid me any notice. It was very early. Employees were stocking shelves and morning shoppers were intent on their lists. Everyone else wore a mask. I learned later that day that my county recommended continuation of masking indoors until June 30th as originally planned. (It’s states vs the federal government here in America!) Sheepishly I returned the next week with my mask back on.

We had almost taken flight but not quite.

I’m a smiley person and I like to smile at babies. Up until about 9 months when they naturally develop stranger anxiety, they universally smile back. It makes me happy. I found myself worried in the past year and a half that babies born during the pandemic might never know a smile other than their parents.’ Fortunately, I’ve found that the crinkles around the eyes are enough of a cue for most babies. It doesn’t matter that I wear a mask, most babies smile back when I smile at them. Try it. We all need more smiles in our life.

The day after I entered the grocery store maskless, I spoke to the owner of the coffee shop Tougo. It has been a bad 18 months for him as a black business owner who had just opened a new store as COVID hit. To make matters worse, vandals attacked it a few months later during the Black Lives Matter riots in Seattle.

After confirming we were both vaccinated we took off our masks, the only two people in a large well-ventilated beautiful space filled with plants. He shared his handsome smile with me.

He told me he would like people to continue to wear masks because he wants everyone to leave his shop better off than when they arrived. He related a story of a colleague he recently had lunch with. Even though they were both vaccinated he was nervous around this man because of his cavalier attitude early in the pandemic, going to bars before masks were mandated and lording his white-supremacist bravado over others.

We talked about how self-centered most Americans are. That we live in a me culture rather than a we culture. That in places like Japan people wear masks when they have colds so they don’t give it to other people. After chatting for five minutes, the next customer entered and we masked up again.

An article in our local paper the week of the CDC’s announcement quoted psychologists stating that some people are just not ready for the full reopening that Washington state had planned for June 30th. Humans are creatures of habit and it will take awhile to relearn social norms that changed so much in the last 18 months. The article pointed out that everyone had a different experience during the pandemic and all emotions and feelings and the decisions we make with them regarding personal masking are acceptable. We must be compassionate.

I started writing this article the day after my grocery store escapade and had to abandon the submission a week later when my husband spiked a fever of 102 F. He was sick, really sick. Damn it all, I thought. He was too ill to drive himself to the drive-thru COVID testing center, a refurbished emissions testing site. It is of course now the first thing you must do when you get sick. Thankfully it turned out to be Campylobacter, the most common type of traveler’s diarrhea world-wide. Since when are we thankful to get traveler’s diarrhea? And we haven’t traveled!

June 30th came and went and I didn’t go back into the grocery store without the mask. I just couldn’t do it. I lost my mojo, my bravery, my determination to be ruled by science and not emotion. But at the end of the day, so many of our decisions are emotional and not logical aren’t they?

I resumed writing this article a week ago and my whole family got a cold. Really? Colds still exist? It boggles my imagination. We of course trotted off back to the former emissions testing center to get COVID tested. Despite staying home from work last week, we managed to camp in the mountains this weekend at a very remote alpine lake near Mt. Rainier, away from cell reception and the rest of the world. The beauty and escape were much appreciated and needed.

Upon returning to civilization, my phone greeted me with the news that Seattle’s King County has decided to have everyone put masks back on inside. Damn it all, I thought. We just can’t take flight, it seems. I got home and rewrote this blog entry for the fourth time.

But…if you tell me you are vaccinated and we go outside, I’ll take off my mask. If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine. We all need more smiles in our life.


Søvn Drake is an emerging writer who can be found haunting coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. More about her and her writing can be found at: https://sovndrakestories.wordpress.com


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (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

Names Ache~~by Mark Huntley-James

Names have power. They can amuse, embarrass, infuriate, placate and cause all flavours of angst and frustration following that traditional question: What are we going to call it?

Most of all, names can hurt.

Choosing names has been on my mind of late for various reasons, far beyond the stresses of picking one for the new baby, or new kitten. The currently fractious state of global politics is bubbling with name-calling, the COVID crisis has added a whole new layer of vitriolic terminology, the COVID variants themselves now have a naming scheme all of their own to head off the aggression of calling them by geography. Names have power, and like any true power, they have no allegiance, no affiliation with good or bad, but depend entirely on how we use them.

I got started on this train of thought because picking names is one of those great challenges for a writer. You want a good name for your character, something that feels right, that the reader can bond with, that has that thrill of perhaps being a little bit exotic, without being anything more unusual than the style of the writing can tolerate. From there, my mind took one of its frequent sideways rambles into the general business of names, the ones we are given, the ones we give others, and the ones we choose for ourselves.

Join any online forum or social media and the first thing you have to do is choose a name for yourself. Personally, I am utterly lazy about this and do that strange thing of using my own name. I’m sorry if that seems shocking, when most people seem to pick anything but. That laziness does mean I opt for variations on a theme of MarkHJ, because the only thing I in any way dislike about my name is just how long it takes to write. I can only think of one place I have ever deviated from this, where I called myself Biskit, which is sort of a given name, just not given to me by my parents.

It’s simple really. I lived and worked in Reading for a number of years, home to Huntley & Palmer biscuit makers. So I was given the name Biscuit, or Biskit as I deliberately misspelled it.

As nicknames go, it was one I was happy to use, which is a relief because some of the names we give people are mean, if not downright cruel. You only have to read the newspaper headlines to see a fine collection go past. After all, our prime minister is prominently referred to as Bozo the Clown by one newspaper, which is not kindly meant by any stretch of the imagination.

The thing that strikes me the most is that I have taken to using “Bozo” in conversation, which feels hugely childish in hindsight, and it’s not the first time. Looking back over the years, I have bestowed unkind names on people who have annoyed me, or adopted existing cruel monikers, because those names have a fearsome power to grant a sense of victory, superiority or just being a part of the crowd.

Names are a pain. When I started writing this, I had a bundle of ideas in my head for an amusing, frothy piece about choosing character names. I’ll probably write that article one day, but for now, it’s raining, and chilly, in the middle of summer, and my mind drifted down into the darkness of names.

Perhaps the next time I give someone a name, I will be more considerate, take into account the hurt I might cause, but probably not, which annoys me no end. Names have power, a dangerous power, and I use it as carelessly or maliciously as anyone else.


Editor’s note: I was tempted to use “Biskit” for the byline of this article, but my inner adult won that argument. If I can’t think of a name for a character or place when I’m writing a story, I use a placeholder of a letter and a digit, so that I can do a global search and replace with the real name later without fear of accidentally changing any other text.

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. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

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 are now available (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