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

Heavensent~~by Christine Larsen

Without missing a beat,

gliding the thermals,

ONE most special winged soul

looking no different from the rest.

From a vast distance

DROPPED from the sky.

Getting bigger and bigger as she came to Earth,

when happenstanced the body of an angel

grew between her giant wings.

A great sigh echoed through the land.

HOPE was reborn in despairing hearts

that the world would live on,

after all.

Truly, it has been little more than a year of fear, suffering, loss and grief the Covid pandemic cursed humanity with… but to those worst affected, it must seem a lifetime. Many will see their loved ones again sometime in the future; some will not see theirs again, ever.

So much has changed about Life as any of us knew it. So much will never return to the status quo of our yesterdays… and for this, many despair. Many more grieve for all they once had, when too many of us took our good times for granted. There is much fear for the next and future generations amongst those who have lived history’s toughest moments… and survived. Many of those survivors believe younger folk have not experienced near enough hardship to develop the inner strength required; and many are correct.

But, will it require the same courage and tenacity as in the past? Will there be more of these attributes required this time around? Or less? There are so many support systems in place these days that were non-existent throughout previous hardships and in times of greatest need.

Perhaps a whole new flavour of communal understanding and empathy, respect and caring could approach, now the rich, the powerful and the famous have all been levelled to the same playing ground as the poorest and saddest humans. That’s the one thing about this disease — as in other pandemics that have swept our great globe — it bears no respect for any human strengths… or frailties, choosing its victims willy-nilly. Those who succumb are all as one in the eyes of this mass murderer.

Perhaps the despairing hearts will indeed turn as one to something greater than humankind to ‘deliver them from evil’.

Hope springs eternal. Fortunately, this optimism has been the basis of the human condition since time immemorial; and always will be.

Perhaps… after all.


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

Hope – Against the Odds~~by Christine Larsen

An angel shelters a city. A text caption reads: "A great sigh echoed through the land. HOPE was reborn in despairing hearts that the world would live on, after all."

The odds WERE formidable.

A US Air Corps fighter pilot who found himself in a German prisoner of war camp after his plane was shot down. He survived that disaster, but wasn’t too sure about his current ‘home’. Despite this, he refused to let the probabilities stop him from making the best he could of every moment he would have.

Boredom threatened his sanity, until a light bulb moment illuminated a memory of a gift of an old ‘fiddle’, with the words, “It’s yours, Red. Maybe you can make music with it.” And thanks to that other life and long-lost place, he’d become a musician… a violinist with an intimate knowledge of violins and their magical workings. Getting one now was an impossibility but he had been carving many small things, so… ?

His first move was a common tactic in these harsh conditions – barter, swap,or trade. For tobacco rations, some sympathetic guards desperate for Amerikanische Zigaretten, traded a pen-knife. From his upbringing on a farm during the Great Depression, and his resourceful father he got determination, remembering, “You can make something out of nothing, Son. All you’ve got to do is find a way… and there always is one.”

When other POWs learned of his quest to carve a violin, they began slipping odd bed slats from their already barely underpinned and supported bunks. And he began whittling and carving. Some parts required a sharp piece of broken glass, others an old kitchen knife, ground on a rock to form into a chisel. All took time… a great deal of time. And patience. And stealth.

Glue presented another problem until he solved that one too, with others pitching in to help scrape old dried carpenters’ glue residue from a few chairs in their wretched barracks. Ground and heated and mixed with water, it worked. Soaking of other thinnest of timber pieces in water heated on their communal wood-stove enabled intricate manipulation and bending of the pieces.

It took three months to make the body, but time was one thing the prisoners had aplenty. Eternally grateful he chose not to be a smoker, care-packages provided him and several other non-smoking prisoners with many cigarettes to barter – for pumice for sanding and paraffin oil to bring out the golden glow of the beech wood, the now unrecognisable bunk slats. A sympathetic guard found him catgut for the strings and a real violin bow was like a gift from the Gods.

All was done… but would it play? To his joy, the pilot and his violin produced the pure poignant sounds of that wonderful instrument, as though this one had volumes to say. Although he was banished to the latrine for his earliest practices, he soon regained his old skills. And caused singing and dancing and some relief for aching hearts and bodies.

One Christmas Eve, the pilot played Silent Night, and voices were heard from other barracks, singing that beloved old carol in different languages. Amongst them, German was heard… from the guards. So many of them were ordinary family men far from their homes and their loved ones, too. Somewhere in the shadows, it was said, an elderly guard [maybe the donor of the bow?] stood and sang quietly. And cried softly.

Among the countless tributes, a particularly precious one was 50 years after WWII, when the pilot donated his violin to a special museum aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid, honouring the men and their memorabilia. At the opening, the concertmaster of the NY Philharmonic orchestra played this precious instrument and commented it was ‘an amazing achievement’ with a ‘quite wonderful sound’, when he had actually expected ‘a jalopy of a violin’.

Not really. More like a gift from God, was the thought the pilot had at that precious moment, later shared with his family.

Winning ‘against the odds’ does not always bear the shape we imagined, not always the wish we made. Bizarre how often the worst imaginable outcomes of illness and loss reveal unimagined ‘silver linings’, so often ending in unexpected strength and empathy, and a new or renewed determination to help and support others.


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

Sticker Pride~~by John Nedwill

Yesterday I had my second vaccination dose against the SARS-CoV-2 virus – or what is more commonly known as Covid-19. The vaccination itself was a pleasant enough experience – our local vaccination centre is in a sports facility – and it only took half an hour, including the fifteen minute wait. I went home and back to work with only a sore arm and a sticker as mementoes of my visit.

Today is a different matter. After I had my first vaccine shot, I experienced side effects: headache, shivering and lethargy; so, I suspected that I was going to feel somewhat the same after this one. And, less than twenty-four hours on from my appointment yesterday, I can report that I am indeed suffering from the post-vaccination blurgh, and it feels like it is settling in for the weekend.

Looking on the bright side, I am more than happy to have been vaccinated. In fact, I’ve been actively looking forward to getting both shots. There are a number of personal benefits. For a start, there is the protection that being vaccinated gives me against infection – and against passing on the infection to others. Yes, I will still have to wear masks in public places for a while (Maybe until next year. Who knows?), but I feel that I can now go places and see people. While my holiday to Japan that I booked in 2019 (Ancient history, that!) may not take place this year, I can at least go back to Ireland and visit my family there – family who I have not seen in eighteen months.

Then there is the benefit to others. Vaccination has been successful in suppressing diseases that were once considered deadly. I’m old enough to have been vaccinated against whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, tuberculosis, polio … In fact, I have quite a list of vaccines in my medical records. All of these diseases were common when I was born (I’m 52 this year – work it out for yourself.). Indeed, the year after I was born, a measles epidemic was killing children in Belfast, and two years after that I came through pertussis unscathed. My mother is proud of the scar from her smallpox vaccination, and I can still show you my tuberculosis jab. They’re the reasons why younger people don’t have to worry about these diseases any more.

Currently something like 75% of adults in the UK have received at least one course of vaccine, with just under 50% having received both. So, the likelihood is that anyone reading this will have been vaccinated. However, for those of you who are still waiting or who are feeling some concern – don’t worry. When it comes to your turn, go and get vaccinated. And wear your sticker with pride. You’ve done your bit to make the world a little bit safer.


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

Dramatic Licence~~by Mark Huntley-James

We have been watching our favourite medical drama on DVD – all utterly preposterous, but very enjoyable, but seriously, can anyone have that many disasters in their life? I was grumbling about it to my partner… and I was reminded of a few things. If anyone were sad enough to dramatise my life, perhaps pack it into a three part miniseries (The Quiet Early Years, The Middling Stuff, The Gentle Fade), just how many crises and disasters are there, given a little dramatic licence?

Firstly, tick off the standard family bereavements, paternal grandfather in my teens, maternal grandfather in my late twenties, all the way through to my mother a few years ago. Nothing out of the ordinary, really, although plenty of scope to pepper the script with personal tragedies. Wait… one more… need to add Jim, the son of our neighbour when I was growing up, only a matter of months younger than me. Mum phoned to say he had had a massive stroke aged thirty – now that is a serious kick in the life experiences. All of those ‘standard’ family bereavements were in their eighties and nineties, but Jim… if it could happen to him, it could happen to me…

So now, roll on a few years, and changing jobs. After a number of years in the scientific civil service, I decided I wanted a job out in the real world. I deliberately took a month break between old and new, just to build a new back door. I thought it would be fun and interesting (which it was) but there was time pressure – a week before the new job, we were going to a convention, so the door had to be in and secure. And there had to be time to cook a whole selection of easily re-heatable meals for a family party just after our return from the convention, and then be ready for the new job on the Monday. And then…

Commuting by train to Slough – not my idea of fun, but scarcely a disaster. By my second week, I was experienced enough to know that something was wrong, just little signs, not enough people at the station, no west-bound trains, and then when I reached the office, not enough people. I was travelling East from Reading and getting off at Slough; had I been coming West from Paddington I might have had a front-row seat for the Paddington crash which killed 31 people and injured over 500 on 5 October 1999.

That’s got to count for a bit of drama. As it turned out, one co-worker was amongst the injured.

A year or two later, and I was driving to Slough, which has to be so much safer than the train. This was my “welcome to the game of Russian Roulette known as the morning commute”. On my first day, I was fractions of a second from being part of a multiple pile-up. I just happened to be in the outside lane passing the motorway junction East of Reading and saw the car three vehicles ahead drift into the central reservation.

That is not a good sight.

The first and second ranks of cars somehow dodged through the mess, those of us in the third managed to stop. That left a dented van parked up on the bank beyond the hard shoulder, a hatchback destined for the scrappy in the middle lane, and the initiator of the whole sub-second crisis parked against the central barrier, facing the wrong way. No one was killed, no-one injured enough to need emergency attention, but a tenth of a second or two different and I would have been testing the crash-worthiness of a Volvo.

Time to sit up and test your seat-belt.

The list goes on: near-misses on the motorway, test results to confirm it wasn’t cancer, the announcement of a redundancy round the day we were signing the papers for a huge mortgage, the employment hiccup that led to the move to Cornwall, or even just the day that Bitsy, a delightful cat who had been with us for nearly fifteen years, died curled up on my lap. One ordinary, run of the mill life, mostly filled with near-misses (for which I am very grateful) and still packed with stuff that could be an over-blown miniseries with just a little dramatic licence.

I suspect it would be hard to find anyone who didn’t have a similar list. It doesn’t all happen at once, there is no music to hint that it’s time to reach for the tissues, and no stunt double if it really does go wrong.

I’m off to watch another episode of over-hyped, unrealistic, and dramatic nonsense (only half a step from the stuff that happens to everyone at some point) and ignore the news channel with its snapshots of the people who aren’t lucky enough to have the near-miss.

Personally, I don’t have a dramatic licence, and wouldn’t want to have one in the house. The universe has a funny sense of humour about these things, and I can just imagine the licence whispering to those near-misses…

Closer, my lovelies, come closer…


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

Holding Space~~by Christine Larsen

One beloved, long-term partner is in pain. The other fusses around, plumps the pillows, tweaks the blanket a little smoother. “What can I do for you? Should I call the doctor? The ambulance?” And the suffering partner says, “Just love me.” The carer thought that was what they were doing with all their attentive actions. Gradually they realise the act of ‘being there’; touching, holding, emotionally walking close alongside on this final journey, requires only the quiet but steady warmth of their love. Only? That is only everything to the needy one.

That’s ‘holding space’.

Another long-term couple share her last hours exactly as she has wished; not in a hospital bed, not connected to countless, soul-less machines. She lies on their old, worn lounge, just a shadow of herself now. Surrounding her with his love, he holds her hand and reminisces about so much they have shared from that amazing first meeting of eyes… of hearts… and souls. They whisper, “I love you forever,” and her peace is absolute.

That’s ‘holding space’.

When you’re giving your full empathetic attention to another who’s distressed, lost, ‘in need’ — with no judgement, no rush to try to solve their problems with platitudes; when you totally accept them, warts and all, whether or not you really understand their sorrow and fears, you are empowering them. You are telling them by your acceptance that you believe in their strength and ability to deal with their crisis.

That’s ‘holding space’.

Allowing another person to express themselves without fear of judgement or whether they are ‘telling their story right’ is like creating a bubble around them to protect them from the world and its intrusions; like giving them freedom to think and feel exactly ‘in the moment’. Remind yourself, over and over, it is not your job to solve their situation. It is your job to just be with them, loving them through this part of their life journey; hearing them with your heart; echoing their thoughts and emotions; always acknowledging their right to feel the way they do.

That’s ‘holding space’ in a most special way.

And what of the survivors of those first stories of long-term partnerships? What of their space when their loved one has peacefully slipped into that final sleep? Woven into their grief and loss will be a precious ‘knowing’ they recognised exactly what their loved one wanted… and willingly, lovingly, held open the door to their new reality, to simply ‘be there’, fully embracing the moment.

Having learned the lesson so well, the survivor’s greatest reward will be the ability to accept the hole in their heart that no other can fill; comfortably and comfortingly indulging in a large dose of self-kindness. It’s not suppressing or denying the pain of the loss; rather an acceptance of the inevitability of Life and the risk we take when first we love.

That’s ‘holding space’ for themselves.


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

Eclosion~~by John Nedwill

In theory, by the time this blog entry is published, England will have passed another milestone on its route towards a new normality. Like may other countries, the UK has dealt with the SARS-COV-2 outbreak with a combination of lockdowns, testing and vaccination (with varying degrees of success). The current strategy of the government is a programme of controlled relaxation of restrictions, carried out in stages. On 12th April, all shops – both essential and nonessential – were allowed to open. So, this means that as well as supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores, those of us who live in England are now allowed to go to stationers, book shops and other places. Cafés, bars and restaurants are also allowed to serve people – provided it is a takeaway service or customers are seated outside.

When I was talking with my mother, who lives in Northern Ireland and is subject to different restrictions, she asked me what I was looking forward to. I thought for a minute, then came up with three things.

First off, I’m looking forward to being able to go to the butcher that I have used for many years. They are based in the local market, but the market building was closed as it contained a number of businesses that were deemed ‘nonessential’. Over the years I have got to know the staff at the butcher, and the service is good. Before the restrictions, I would often chat to the people behind the counter and exchange news and gossip.

Next door to the butcher is an ice cream stand. They sell their own ice cream and it comes in flavours that I have not been able to get anywhere else. Yes, it is significantly more expensive than the ice cream in the freezer section of the supermarket; but it is definitely worth it.

Finally, the local bookshop will be open. I have been able to buy books by mail order (unlike the meat and ice cream), but there is something about being able to go to a bookshop, to browse the shelves and to discover a book through serendipitous accident rather than through an algorithm.

In short, what I am after is variety. After a year of working at home, after months of lockdowns and ‘stay at home’ orders, I am looking forward to getting out of the house and experiencing life again – even if it is just the small pleasures of seeing people, tasting new things and being back in familiar places.

(Editor’s note: eclosion is the act of an insect emerging as an adult from the pupa or as a larva from the egg.)


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

Reintegration~~by Søvn Drake

(Editor’s note: The day this article appears is Easter Monday in the 2021 Christian calendar. I didn’t plan it like that, but it seems appropriate, given the article’s theme.)

Life changed last year and it will never be the same.

Now I find myself wondering how will it change again as we reintegrate ourselves back into the world. Perhaps as we reunite with loved ones with whom we have been separated from for so long, we will be gifted with more appreciation for life.

My husband and I are physicians, and as such we were fortunate to be vaccinated in the first wave. As soon as my mother was fully vaccinated, we swabbed our son’s and his best friend’s nose, threw them in the car, and drove 1382 miles from Seattle, Washington to Boulder, Colorado. We left at the end of online school on Friday and arrived at my mother’s before it started on Monday. My son’s school has been online since March 23rd, 2020. For twelve months he has only played with his best friend in a socially distanced manner outside wearing masks. They were limited to riding bikes, kicking a soccer ball, or snowboarding.

Since reuniting, they have giggled cheek to cheek watching episodes of the Simpsons during our twenty-hour haul across the American West. They climbed rocks at windy rest stops, ate burgers together in their own hotel room, and learned to play poker which they love. After twelve months of online gaming (grossly surpassing the amount of screentime any child should ever have) they haven’t been on their iPads once since getting to Colorado outside of their lessons. They huck rocks into the pond that lies behind my mother’s house, play hide and seek, and build forts like my sister and I used to.

The drive–through long–is a beautiful one and a route I drove in my 20’s and again in my 30’s. The stark western landscape seemed more breathtaking on this trip than I remembered. Perhaps I appreciated it more because I’m older now and I write so am always on the lookout for detail. Maybe my senses were primed because I haven’t traveled in a year. But I think I saw things differently because of how our lives were irrevocably altered in the last year.

After crossing our own local mountains, we traveled through rolling barren hills in Eastern Washington covered in shrubs. We crossed an Oregon mountain pass as a blizzard swirled around us. My trusty Subaru trekked on through an ever shifting landscape brushed with snow. Sunlight pressed the contours and jagged edges of hillsides into stark relief in fantastic and unpredictable ways. The olive-colored Oregon landscape turned to a wild west movie-worthy brown terrain in Idaho. Inspiring mountains peaks and a full rainbow highlighted our drive through Utah. The desolate dry wasteland in Wyoming finally succumbed to dazzling yellow fields as we neared Colorado. My husband and I were awed by our country’s vastness, its gorgeous large swaths of emptiness. It felt as if we had never really seen the stunning beauty of America before, and it had a powerful effect on our psyche.

We weren’t sure we were going to make our journey on the ludicrous timeline I had set, but when I realized we were only three hours from my mother’s house I was filled with a yearning to see her I hadn’t felt since she went to the hospital for the birth of my little sister when I was three. I refused to stop overnight in Laramie despite my husband’s protests. My son too wanted to push on through to his grandmother’s (previously my grandmother’s) house where we both have wonderful childhood memories.

My mother hadn’t hugged anyone in a year.

My mother is in her 70’s and has been in good health. An introvert who has never enjoyed socializing in large groups, she spends most of her days gardening. Women in our family are campers, outdoor women, and pack rats. She has two girlfriends she walked with daily throughout the pandemic. So while I worried about a lot of things last year, I never worried about her. She was so happy we made it Sunday night and didn’t have to wait one more day to embrace us.

But when I hugged her I realized I should have worried about her more. I should have called her more, Facetimed with her, sent pictures, and thought about her more than I did. She was lonely. I woke up early the next morning because I wanted to be with her, talk to her about the mundane details of life, and drink the cheap coffee she drinks, instant Nescafe. My grandmother also drank it and I’m too much of a Seattle coffee snob to ever purchase it myself. But I always drink it here when I sit on the sofa watching the Rocky Mountains change color in the sunrise. It pairs nicely with this house and all the memories I’ve accumulated here throughout my life.

Nescafe has always tasted good here, but this year it tastes divine.

I sit here in my grandfather’s old bedroom writing, his doctorate in Natural Science dated July 1944 hangs behind me. The shelves are filled with photo albums and transcribed family letters dating back to the turn of the last century. I’m home, surrounded by family and I appreciate it more than I ever thought I could.

Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control officially announced vaccinated people can be indoors together without masks. So as you and your loved ones get vaccinated and finally finish that long, painful, lonely wait, cherish the reunion with friends and family. We once took so much for granted. Now we may see the colors of the world brighter than we ever have. Perhaps as writers we will overcome the brain fog and writer’s block that has plagued so many of us during these dark times and capture with our pens the beauty of life’s simple pleasures like never before.


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 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

Unconscious Desire~~by Mark Huntley-James

I don’t write about writing, as a rule, even though I’ve broken that rule several times lately. That’s the thing about rules and writing – don’t like them, don’t use them, certainly don’t want to recommend them to anyone else. I’m a pantser, I just write, no structure, no plans… no… no way that this can possibly be true.

My previous post on this topic (again, breaking my rule about not writing about writing) was on plans hatched by my characters and the intervention of unforeseen factors, which got me to thinking about my largely subconscious planning process. Since I don’t plan my writing and things still seem to work out, it feels like there must be some sort of plan happening in the background.

It doesn’t matter so much with a short piece like this – I can write randomly, rambling on to get my thoughts together, then tidy up, give it some structure, and it looks like I planned it that way all along. That does not seem a plausible or practical way to write a novel, let alone a series of novels, but apparently that’s what I do. Unless, of course, there’s some sleight-of-mind thing going on in the background, where a vast planning organisation in the back of my head does all the design work without me really noticing.

It’s a little like driving a regular commute. How many times have you gone to work, the shops or the gym and arrived with no recollection of actually doing the driving? It’s quite amazing how much the human mind gets done without the human noticing.

Last time, I wrote about a plot that was going nowhere interesting, really, really slowly, and suddenly the panster lightbulb came on, delivered fixes, and all was well. If it was really that easy, why did it take weeks of apparently fruitless work and frustration culminating in two days of ah-ha!

When I look back at what I did, there is a catalogue of writerly grunt-work. I wrote an outline of the plot I had, an outline of how that plot ought to look, notes on which characters ought to appear where and when, and then abandoned all of that because none of it really worked. At the same time, I wrote pieces of the book, trying to fill in the gulf between what was already there and what the new outline suggested would be good, which is not a happy thing to do, because I hate outlines.

Then, out of nowhere, something in the back of my head said: that goes there, that little incident is the obvious basis for a big showdown, which fits the wider pattern of the book, and look, everything makes sense. With hindsight, it seems to me that it didn’t come out of nowhere, but out of weeks of work, letting the book, the characters and the world slosh around in my subconscious until finally an answer emerged like a surprise predatory iceberg easing casually into the path of an unsuspecting ship that it’s had its eye on. Perhaps exactly the same sort of process that a dedicated plotter might achieve with a ream of paper, unlimited PostIts and a pack of pens in fifty different colours.

My way is easier on the rain forests.

I don’t know if my grand theory is true. I have no way of testing it or proving it, but it seems a much better explanation than miraculously, out of nowhere. (Besides, in terms of plots, that’s known as a deus ex machina, which is really just Latin for miraculously, out of nowhere, and is a little bit frowned upon by writers.)

Writing books is hard work. The real miracle is that anyone is crazy enough to do it. I would like to think my explanation of how my head works is right, but that’s probably based on an unconscious need for explanations, and this one is so cool that I really want it to be right.

And here, with no plan, I’m done writing this blog. Apart from the editorial litter-picking, and giving it the gloss that makes it all look planned.

(My other half, who reads and comments on all my work, deserves a mention here. She just said so.)


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 contributed a story to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology, 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