But You Really Had To Be There… by John Nedwill

Over the last fortnight I have been preparing for Games Expo 2022. This is a gathering of tabletop gamers of all kinds – role-players, boardgamers, cardgamers and miniatures gamers – that takes part every year at the NEC in Birmingham. As one of the regular volunteer games masters (just one of the names we go by), every year I prepare five game sessions. Each game session is supposed to entertain six people for up to four hours at a time – four hours of improvised storytelling and inspired madness. My preparations involve writing the plots for the gaming sessions, mapping out locations, creating characters – both major and minor – and creating protagonist characters for the player. It’s just like plotting out a story. So, it’s no surprise that I have to find some way to relax. And what better way to relax than with a good book.

The book that came to hand was a short story collection – “Mage’s Blood and Old Bones: stories set in the universe of the Tunnels & Trolls game,” written by the people who created the game. The foreword discussed fantasy literature and gaming. In particular, the author of the foreword noted that, in his opinion, “Gaming stories always make bad fiction, while fantasy fiction makes bad games.”

Having just spent the last two weeks deep in rulebooks, notebooks and character sheets, this sentiment took me by surprise. “Really?” I thought. Then, after a moment’s consideration, “Yes. Really.”

If your only experience of tabletop roleplaying games is through watching such things as Critical Roll or Dimension 20, then you might be under the impression that gaming sessions are full of action and adventure, and that fantasy literature and tabletop roleplaying would be perfect matches for each other. After all, the fantasy and science-fiction shelves of most bookshops are now filled with books based on various gaming franchises – both computer and tabletop. And, if you have ever been in a gaming shop (at least one that isn’t devoted to Warhammer), then you will see plenty of sourcebooks and splatbooks based on media franchises.

However, literature and gaming are very, very different. If a fantasy novel is a symphony – carefully composed and orchestrated – then a gaming session is freeform jazz. In a fantasy novel the characters are well behaved and follow their assigned roles. The equivalent in a gaming session are the players. Players are wilful, independent and (for the most part) determined to be the stars of their own stories. And that means that anything beyond the loosest of plots in a game is rarely followed. A typical tabletop roleplaying session will be full of plans made on the hoof, arguments and shameless grandstanding; all to the constant background of the games master’s exasperated sighs.

This doesn’t mean that roleplaying games are not full of great stories. The stories, however, are not in the action that goes on around the table. Rather, the stories are in the minds of those playing the games. There are still the sweeping vistas beloved of scenery porn; there are the epic struggles of great warriors; there are deeds that will go down in history. And, like all tales, these only grow in the telling. Old gaming groups can and do reminisce about their adventures. But, to know the true stories, you really had to be there … .


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

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Winter Texture~~by Mark Huntley-James

We moved to Cornwall more than fifteen years ago, just in time for our first winter, and just like our previous home in Berkshire, the ground was frozen solid. A part of the previous winter routine had been intermittently checking the vegetable patch until the soil was soft enough to dig. Cornwall held no surprises in that respect until our third winter, a soft one.

We are close to the north coast and winter weather is dictated by whatever comes in off the Atlantic. The phrase that characterises our first soft winter was “where did all this mud come from?” After being accustomed to crisp and crunchy ground under our boots, soft and sticky, sucking and sliding was an unwelcome surprise.

In a soft winter, gateways become an opening to the centre of the world, because no matter how much mud you dig out, there is more at the bottom and the hole gets ever deeper. That was the winter when, in all innocence, I searched online for anyone local who could deliver hardcore – a startlingly long list of results, but nothing that would help firm up a gateway. Fortunately, the neighbours understood what I meant by hardcore and gave me the number of a local quarry who delivered ten tonnes of scalpings.

We are having another soft winter this year, which is fine because all of those pesky gateways are now packed with stone. Elsewhere in the UK there has been snow, but here, aside from a few morning frosts, the ground is soft and the temperatures are mild, and I was being bitten by midges a month ago. Down in our sheltered sunken garden, the white willow catkins are opening so it looks as if the trees are dusted with snow, and the hazel tree is a mass of its own trailing yellow catkins.

When we first came here, and I mean literally the day we got the keys, we took a stroll out on a chilly January day, and followed the boundary around. One of the first things we encountered was a fence along the top of a shallow cliff and down below lay an unreachable magical, sunken garden, a border of trees to the east and west, a view out to the north, gorse bushes draped with cobwebs and a light mist curling through. We were both smitten with that sunken (OK, strictly it was a terrace, but from atop the cliff it was sunken) garden. We walked on, all the way down to the woodland and stream of our lower boundary, ignored how much work was needed on the fences, and then back up, only to find ourselves in that magical sunken garden, looking up at the spot from where we had so recently looked down.

As it turned out, the sunken garden looked magical on a misty January day, but in the middle of summer it was a humid hell-hole plagued with savage biting insects. However, over the years, we have planted trees, made a few changes, and now it is becoming a pleasant piece of open woodland, shielded from the worst of the weather, and the place where the soft winter comes into its own.

Everything starts just a little sooner down in the sunken garden, including us. The first bits of pruning and trimming are done, new steps giving access down the little cliff will happen this year, the elder is in leaf, the bluebells are up and the buds on the daffodils are just starting to curl down, ready to flower.

I am not a fan of mud, but I do like the feel of our soft winter.


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

BEHIND THE SHADOWS~~by Christine Larsen

Dream-writing in the shadow of my hand.
lighting the darker corners of my mind.
Will I find hidden treasures?
Maybe… just around the corner.
Will I find memories there?
Feel the bi-polar swings of extremities of happy;
of sad?
Again?
Over and ever again?
Sometimes they stumble, near fall;
others they flow, waltz, harmonise,
and lift spirits beyond high.
Such is this day,
this blessed moment.

It’s a ‘re-charge of batteries’ day I’m giving myself after a yesterday that zapped my reserves…

physically, mentally, and most of all, emotionally.

“How can you be SO strong, ALL the time? some ask, truly believing the smiling face, the spirited voice and demeanour.

Such an actress sometimes.

Yet another learning curve on this trying, tortuous path, painfully passing through this tangled field of cancer weeds.

Though I walk alone in many ways, I am surrounded by well-wishes and prayers… and more than any of these… LOVE!

Do they ALL carry candles, these dear heart loves… causing a tsunami of a glow to safely, comfortingly, enfold me?

Would they truly suggest I alone am responsible for my creativity?

NO apologies when I reply insistently with a resounding ‘NO WAY!!’

Would those dear hearts also wish to share my lows?

They DO happen… like yesterday, resulting in a decent flow of tears and a snuffly outpouring of doubts and fears. But, as always, my cavalry arrived. This time, my ‘fighting’ forces took the form of —

  • a long and lovely cuddle on the lounge by my dear ‘Old McLarsen’ — hubby of 56 years;
  • a copious handful of tissues;
  • more pain meds;
  • three (yes, 3!) microwaveable gel ‘hottie’ packs for strategic areas of greatest discomfort;
  • careful and most caring, superb surveillance by one cat and one dog;
  • and always and ever,
  • the serious inner care and support from MICA (my inner ‘warrior’ child);
  • and this cast of thousands (hmm… bit of an exaggeration!) — of my caring’ loves’.

The catalyst of this’ ‘low’ (or meltdown) presented the latest need for adjustment to my ‘pacing’ as I deal with the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’ of my journey.

I find it tremendously important — and most helpful, to be as prepared as possible for these ‘downers’… and accept them for exactly what I just described — a time to recharge. We all need that, no matter what we’re facing. A favourite saying (if I haven’t shared it before) is —

‘Don’t put the keys to your happiness in someone else’s pocket’


OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. 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

Victor Ludorum~~by John Nedwill

Just before Christmas I was down in London, attending Dragonmeet. Dragonmeet is a one-day tabletop gaming convention that takes place at the start of December. It has been going on since the turn of the millennium, and I have missed it only twice. Once was because it happened to coincide with my 20th wedding anniversary, and the other time was in 2020.

During December 2020, we were at the height of the pandemic. However, the organisers of Dragonmeet had decided that they would carry on and hold a virtual convention. There would be the usual talks, seminars and gaming sessions; but these would take place online. One of the organisers contacted me. “Hey – John!” he asked me. “Would you be able to run some of your games for us?”

“No,” I said. “I’m not going to. Not this year.” And I explained my reasoning. I’d already been running online gaming sessions for friends, using the various tabletop tools and communications software at my disposal. But even though I knew the people I was playing the games with – in some cases for over thirty years! – I found it hard to cope. I could not easily judge people’s reactions and tell how to pace the game or how to pitch it. There was no way I’d be able to run gaming sessions for random strangers that way. “I won’t be able to bring my ‘A’ game,” I said. “But as soon as we can meet in person, I’m in.”

And I was. The convention organisers had a number of rules for attendees. We all had to wear masks, all the time, in the convention halls. We all had to present evidence we were either vaccinated or not infectious. There were a few people who complained, but there were almost 1800 people who turned up on the day.

For most of the day, I was in a meeting room, the windows open to the chill December air. I was wrapped up against the cold, changing my mask every four hours. But, most importantly, I was running game sessions. It felt good to be back in the saddle, telling tales and entertaining a group of people, putting them at the centre of their stories – stories that we were crafting for ourselves and for nobody else.

We were back together, doing the things we loved. And, despite the cold, the masks and the other things that were different, we felt good.


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

Approaching The Time Of Janus~~by Mark Huntley-James

It’s the end of the year where we look back at what happened and embrace the prospect of the new, or perhaps just brace for what’s coming. I used to skim through all the photos my partner had taken over the year, just to get a feel for what happened, because many years ago I reached mid-December and was amazed that we had apparently had a year where nothing happened and nothing got done. It was only after skimming the photos that I wondered why we hadn’t retreated into hibernation in late September out of sheer exhaustion.

I know it’s a largely arbitrary choice to pick this as the end of the year. The weather and the short days, and all that goes with mid-winter makes it feel like a time of the old ending and the new beginning, but that’s only because I live in the northern hemisphere.

So, arbitrary or not, how was the year? Sat outside and wrote, spent time with our poorly cat, moved on a few projects around the farm, and generally got on with life. Perhaps I’ll skim through photos later and see what really happened.

One thing I know for certain is that I found time to do a little reading. So, this year, I learned a little about the Cutty Sark sailing ship, courtesy of Steven J Pemberton and then innovative approaches to finding homes for the homeless from Christine Larsen. Back in February, John Nedwill shared adapting his life to COVID, and in August reminded me of blackberrying when I was a kid, and those words from my Grandpa “I’m just going for a stroll” which would result in another few pounds of fresh fruit. I certainly couldn’t help a smile at Søvn Drake’s tale of emerging from behind the masks back in July.

So, how was the year? Forget the downsides, the grim times and the worries, and look back over a year of OMP blogs, full of good cheer and thoughtful moments, full of opportunities where the bright spots are lifted out of adversity and given a polish to let them shine.

And next year? I’m only guessing, but more of the same, but better.


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

CHRISTMAS LOVE TO YOU AND YOURS~~by Christine Larsen

Four little wooden dolls in Christmas outfits, against a background of falling snowflakes

Readers who are also dedicated adventurers and travellers will recognise and fully understand the detours and unexpected interruptions that are the ‘norm’ for all journeys. ‘The best made plans of mice and men!’ In my last blog post I talked of pot-holes — of all sizes and shapes. Some can be avoided by a quick swerve, but others prove deceptively deep and difficult (if not impossible) to escape from. Such a one appeared ominously in my path this week.

A recent CT scan revealed an unwanted and most unwelcome small lesion in my brain. I’m told the earliest changes this intruder is likely to introduce to my world are some visual problems and increasing headaches. The good news is that I’m not a headache sufferer, and so far, all is good except for a vertical block loss of some peripheral vision. This messes with my judgement of avoiding obstacles on my sides when walking (particularly my left, and syncing between my brain’s messages to my fingers when typing on my computer keyboard. Luckily, individual keys are clear, as is my computer screen. So I must concentrate on putting my fingers on the correct keys when I start, then all is good for this old touch-typist (uhrr… maybe a few more typos than usual— grrr… If I start on the wrong keys, I invent a whole new language… (clever?!?) All adds up to heaps of corrections (which I passionately must correct). Urhh, mostly, until I get fed up or lazy, or both.

All of this is taking a lot of time, as well as ultimate concentration… but I’m getting there, and much practice should make a difference. If I can keep my creativity at a happy level, I’ll be well pleased… and blessed!

Pain levels are well-controlled and sleeping well with help of Bowen therapy sessions and some lovely supportive medicos (not including my new oncologist replacing my lovely first one who took up another position interstate, sadly… (loved her)). I have named this one my OINK-ologist because he’s a pig of a man and his attitude was ‘if you don’t do chemo or radiotherapy… you’re just a waste of my time!’ Charming, huh? Also suggested I not wait too long to change my mind about ‘going it alone’, like when I’m bedridden with pain and collapsed spine and can’t walk any more! Good news week, hey? He also raised eyebrows in a disgusted look about Bowen therapy and other exercise and breathing expansion I planned to try to help myself. As you can imagine, I’ve divorced him. Actually, think he did me a great favour — my backbone and determination have increased immeasurably since those words! Good news is that all other medicos I’m involved with are fantastic. So helpful, caring and supportive. I wonder if they know what an old-fashioned ‘bedside manner’ is, and how much difference it makes to sad and sagging spirits. Most times, it looks as though they’ve concentrated on terrible, unreadable handwriting at ‘doctor’ school.

Speaking of hand-writing, my other fantastic development and ‘good news’ is that my much beloved and treasured longhand, cursive writing is still a skill of beauty, affording me much pleasure and pride. It’s just tremendously slow compared to my skilful yesterdays, but you can still feel the love, hey?

I realise one must accept limitations and lessened abilities of age and/or disease (or for some, tragic accidents) — all of which change everything, and must cause detours in the route of any journey, wherever and however it be taken.

To quote a popular expression of today, , ‘IT IS WHAT IT IS’ and as such, the quicker we accept our altered realities (as opposed to our hopes and dreams and wishes), the happier and healthier we are.

For me, this particular Christmas has been exceptionally challenging and difficult up until a day or two ago when I made a decision to concentrate on, and accept, my new direction, my new status ‘quo’, and choose to attempt to create a really great Christmas 2022. I’ve promised myself to start early with lots of my most beloved Christmas decorations and make the most cheerful Chrissie home possible, taking all the extra time and concentration I need these days.

I think my blog posts in the interim will be shorter, but hopefully continuing in my most positive fashion.

I have so many dear friends praying and wishing me the very best. Failure of the dedication of my heart and soul is not an option I will ever accept or embrace.

Our world and its people have endured such unhappy years recently!

Just for a change, let’s make 2022 a good one, hey?


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

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