Interview with Thoth, God of Lit. ~~ by Raymond St. Elmo

Interview with Thoth, God of Lit. ~~ by Raymond St. Elmo

Took ages to find him. I’d ask at writer’s conferences, libraries, weird old book-stores. Searched online. Most said Thoth quit, he’d died, never existed. Or sold out to Amazon, was running a bed-and-breakfast in Thebes. I gave up. One more god crossed off the list.

Then at a bus stop I notice this bag lady reading ‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead’. I don’t usually talk to strangers, but that book? It’s like the first fantasy novel game-manual. We chatted, she dropped a few crazy hints, then trundled her shopping cart away. The wheels squeaked like harpies giggling.

So I found the god of writing. In New York, in the alley back of the Random House offices. I don’t think that was irony. The spot happened to be sheltered from the wind, with a good steam-vent and dumpsters stuffed with slush-pile rejects you could read or toss into the trash-barrel flames. Pretty sure one of those manuscripts was mine. I always print my submissions on ivory paper; expensive but gives the MSS an old-scroll feel. Not that editors even send a reject email. Snobs.

Thoth was a tall guy in a couple of coats, a ragged hoody, long beak of a nose sticking out. He wasn’t alone. Fellow homeless stood around, warming hands, debating the worth of what they found in random pages of manuscripts before tossing them to the fire. A lady wearing ten sweaters hummed in Greek; she might have been Thalia, Muse of Poetry. But mortal or deity, we stood together staring into the flames, listening to city sounds: sirens and cars, trains, planes and the eternal wind.

At length I asked Thoth: how did it all begin? Not what was the first story; but why had some lunatic made up that first tale? He took his time answering. As the gods do, when they answer at all. At last he spoke, in whisper low and sing-song as the wind.

“It began just like this. A circle of lonely eyes staring into flames. Hunger in the belly, fears for the dark beyond firelight’s edge. A circle of survivors who saw no story in life but this: eat till you are eaten. And then, and then… some conjunction of thought and sound and heartbeat came. I remember far-off a wolf howled, while fire-wood shifted, sending sparks to the stars. And a sick child coughed. And some man or woman began talking to the flames. Someone who felt suddenly filled with wonder, yet drowning in worry. Wonder for the joy that is this life, and worry for the sick child. Who’d feed them, fend away the wild dogs? And when it became their own turn to be sick, to fall behind in the hunt? What then?

“And so the first story came. Words out the mouth. With plenty of hand gestures, I recall. I forget the tale itself. Some tangle about a forest, a spear and a monster that could only be defeated by a tribe working together. A hunter, a farmer, a pot-maker, and a funny dog who kept stealing the scenes. A mess that needed blessing from the Muse of Editing. It seemed an absurd waste of breath to those practical survivors about the fire. And yet… the idea stuck. Caught, as fire does. They had a vision of a united tribe, caring for one another. Life as a tale finding meaning not in surviving, but in helping to live.

“You ask what was the seed of that first tale? Caring. At least concern. But give credit to the dancing flames, the circling dark and the wolf-howl wind. Most of all to the heart’s cry that life must be more than sparks rising, vanishing, gone.”

I stood there silent, weighing Thoth’s words. Not the first time someone has claimed the origin of storytelling is in the heart’s tangles, not the brain’s wrinkles. Nor that the highest stories turn our heads from the pages, to look at one another with new eyes, with opened minds. Bit old fashioned, I suppose. I’d expected something more grim-dark, but perhaps that’s a style for a darker age.

I was just about to ask the God of Literature if he’d review my new work-in-progress but the cops came, blowing whistles. They put out the trash-barrel fire. Arrested the Muse for being an illegal, confiscated my manuscript though I explained it hadn’t even had a chance to be tossed to the trash yet. My third tazing over a review this year. The rest scattered. Haven’t seen Thoth since.

But I like to think he has a high opinion of the One Million Project.


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


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

The Confession ~~ by John Nedwill

The Confession ~~ by John Nedwill

Alright, I can’t keep this to myself any longer. There is a terrible secret that I have to confess. Please don’t look down on me for this. You see, I wasn’t always a writer. I was – and still am! – a tabletop gamer.

I first became a tabletop game in 1980. You have to understand that I was young and very easily influenced then. My initial exposure was from an advert in the back of a computer games magazine – one of those that had programme listings you typed in by hand. The ad in question was for a company called Games Workshop, offering three games for £20. But these games were not computer games. These games were roleplaying games: games to be played with dice, pencil, paper, and (so the blurb claimed) imagination. As there were three games, three of us banded together and scraped up the requisite cash. Then we bought a postal order, posted it off with the coupon and waited.

About two weeks later a parcel arrived for us. We tore it open and pulled out three boxes: Basic D&D, Runequest and Traveller. Each box contained manuals on how to play the games, complete with type-formatted text and tables. We were, to put it mildly, perplexed. How could these be fun? But, we had spent our pocket money for the next two months and we were determined to find out what was going on with these things.

It soon became clear that these books were not just words and numbers. They were a means of codifying worlds of fantastic beings and strange treasures; guides on how to settle disputes were settled fairly, if not necessarily amicably. They sparked something in us. For a glorious few years, we became Bronze Age heroes, valiant explorers of space and time, and slayers of dragons. Even better – we became creators of worlds.

But, as inevitably happens, we went our separate ways and outgrew our adolescent fantasies. Well, I didn’t. I kept playing. I found new friends who had also been drawn into these shadow worlds of the imagination. Together we honed our skills. We learnt how to create memorable characters and how to build new worlds. We learnt how to create epic adventures. We read books and shamelessly stole ideas from them, proudly flaunting our thefts and not caring if we were found out. But, most of all, we learnt how to tell stories.

I am still a gamer. I still sit around a table with my friends, eating snacks (admittedly low-fat and low-sugar now), drinking beverages (tea rather than fizzy pop) and rolling strange dice (we still compare our collections). But, I have managed to parlay the skills I learnt from gaming into skills for writing.

You see, gaming has taught me how to create rounded and believable characters. It has taught me how to detail locations. It has taught me how to create plots that will stand up to being poked, prodded and generally tested to destruction. But the stories I tell are now meant to be read rather than played out.

So, that’s my dreadful secret about how I became a writer. What’s yours?


OMP Admin Note:  John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #OneMillionProject Blogger.  His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

 

The Sounds of Silence ~~ by Michele Potter, #OMP Blogger

The Sounds of Silence ~~ by Michele Potter, #OMP Blogger

What goes through your mind on an early morning walk?

For the first part of my morning ritual, my mind is pure chaos. The stream of consciousness chides, cajoles, threatens, and screams at me as I plod along.

You didn’t need that bowl of ice cream last night!

Get that house clean!

Why can’t you stay on a schedule?

What were you thinking?

Why did you say that to him?

And on and on . . .

Interspersed with lectures from my other selves are words that I can’t forget: sharp words that hurt, rebukes, insults, and the like that should have been pushed back into the dusty closets of my mind. Instead, they echo as heavy backdrops of negativity. They weigh me down as I walk, translating physically by making my back and legs ache, my head throb.

My walk becomes more like a wild boar crashing through than a graceful gazelle on the Serengeti.

How does one find serenity? I know people who always seem calm and reasonable, a joy to be around. Even in the face of adversity, they can find silver linings. I tend to do the opposite. And when I consider what kind of a life I’ve had thus far, it hasn’t been that tough. Especially in comparison to others.

“There’s always someone worse off,” my mother would say when I complained about most anything. And I know that now; in fact, I knew that then. Yet this compulsion to get down on myself, to torture myself by going over and over every real and perceived wrong is constant, no matter how often I beat it back.

I stop at the little bridge to watch the rushing water, muddy and ever-changing. We’ve had some recent rains, and I can see where the creek had risen on its banks. A doe hesitantly ventures out from the trees, followed by twin fawns. They drink at the wide part of the creek, choosing to ignore me standing on the bridge. They know I’m not dangerous. Crazy, maybe, but not dangerous.

I take a deep shuddering breath as if I had been holding it in. Tears hang like silver threads in the back of my head. I haven’t cried in ages and I’m not going to now. A sweet melody from a goldfinch trills across the valley. I hear a tree frog and splashing sounds as the deer run across the creek.

I decide to go on with my walk and my life. My sneakered feet make a rhythmic pleasing sound on the trail. A truck passes on the road nearby, the first traffic I’ve noticed this morning. I meet a bicyclist who greets me with a good morning and a smile.

The flora by the trail is fifty shades of green. Fifty Shades . . . I laugh at my own “literary” reference. The words in my head fade into a hum, and I pick up my step. I walk through a spider’s strand, brushing it off and breaking it. That poor spider worked a long time to get that strand just right to catch its breakfast, and I’ve gone and wrecked it. But what if it had caught me? A storyline partially forms in my mind.

I’ll never reach serenity or Nirvana, but hey, I’m all right for now.


OMP Admin Note: Michele Potter is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues.

Michele is an incredibly diverse and talented writer who I hope will collect her short stories and make them available on Amazon someday soon. In the meantime, her story PERCEPTIONS is available in the guest author section of the flash fiction anthology BITE SIZE STORIES VOLUME ONE.

https://www.amazon.com/Bite-Size-Stories-Jason-Greenfield-ebook/dp/B01HALHVBW/ref=la_B00CBFLI1W_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475095358&sr=1-4

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bite-Size-Stories-Jason-Greenfield-ebook/dp/B01HALHVBW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1475095546&sr=1-1


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

 

Gays — by Akje Majdanek

Gays — by Akje Majdanek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Problems with History ~~ by John Nedwill

The Problems with History ~~ by John Nedwill

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

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

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

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

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

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


OMP Admin Note:  John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #ONeMillionProject Blogger.  His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.

Real Life — by Mark Huntley-James

Real Life — by Mark Huntley-James

It’s funny how the same theme can pop up over and again, apparently by pure coincidence.  I’ve been in conversations with writers, talking about progress on current projects and a regular (largely humorous) complaint is but real life got in the way this week.  I know we’re only larking around, and I have my fair share of Real Life(TM) getting in the way, but it got me thinking – this is not a coincidence, it’s the wrong way of looking at things.

Firstly, ignore the implied pretension that writing is more important than real life.  Whatever gets your blood moving will always be more important than the necessary chores of daily existence.

Secondly – Real Life(TM) is the most important resource a writer can have.  Yes, it pays the bills, gets the laundry done and all that, but real life is the fundamental building block of our existence, with so many uses.

Thirdly – Apparently using Real Life in your writing is a proper Thing now, but it’s called Slice Of Life, which sounds more like a pizza serving suggestion.

Why would I ever use Real Life? I write crazy stuff about time travelers, alien beasts and a fictional English town where demons walk at night, doing unspeakable things with chocolate flakes. Any hint of real life there is surely going to set off a fictional allergy attack that will leave my books coughing up their final chapter through the prologue.

Maybe not.

That fictional town of mine – it’s inspired by bits of a place where I lived for years, along with scraps of the nearby town where I now do my shopping.  It has all the geographical continuity of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (I’m not knocking the movie – Morgan Freeman was fantastic).  Yes, there’s a lot of fiction stitching it together, but the town and my characters are sucked straight out of Real Life. (And then thoroughly chewed until there’s no visible sign of Real Life.)

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing bizarre fantasy, or fictionalising a true story, there is nothing like a hefty infusion of Real Life to make it more convincing.  A reviewer said some complimentary things about the believability of my characters, but the real point is I that have met them, and not just in my head. No one character is a single individual from my Real Life, but like my fictional town, each one contains a bunch of reality glued together with fiction.

No matter how realistic or fanciful your story is, Real Life ingredients are an inspiration, a valuable background canvas, and a taste of the familiar to help your readers connect.  Yes, Real Life gets in the way and is pretty much impossible to get around, but that just means you’re not looking at it the right way.  Real Life is someone in front of you at the bus stop.  Say hello, start a conversation, and perhaps find yourself in a fulfilling long-term relationship with Real Life(TM).

That bus is only going to get you to the office or the shops.  Real Life can show you stories. And it can show you how to tell them.

In spite of all of that, I’m still going to joke about Real Life getting in the way of my writing.  It’s that sort of relationship.

 


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog (writeedge.blogspot.com), his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media thing (tw: @MarkH_J, fb: @MarkHuntleyJames)

The Black Hole Of Pantser by Mark Huntley-James

The Black Hole Of Pantser by Mark Huntley-James

One of the big questions writers ask each other is “are you a plotter or a pantser?”  I know it doesn’t sound big, certainly not the most earth-shattering issue, but go on, dip your toe in this creative minefield and ask a writer whether they plan every detail before they write or just go for it. Just ask, if you dare.

I can see the appeal of plotting, the certainty, the sense of knowing where you’re going, but it just never works for me, so I’ve been a pantser since… forever. Now, suggest being a pantser to a dedicated plotter and put your fingers in your ears to block out the screams of anguish.

So, if you ask me, I’m a pantser, and proud of it. Simple, yes? What could possibly go wrong?  OK, that’s a much bigger question.

Last year I got sucked into the Black Hole Of Pantser – a murky Shadowland of creativity. I knew how my story started (I was a third of the way in, after all), and I knew how it needed to end. I’d just written a crazy scene that tied my flawed hero in more knots than a troop of boy scouts could ever undo in one lifetime. It was wonderful, completely crazy, and I could see the ending in the distance… just one more step… wait… who turned my lights out?

The friable subsoil of my plot crumbled under my feet and dropped me into a black hole, the chasm between where I had reached and where I needed to finish. I had no idea what came next. I didn’t even have a spare box of matches to set fire to my fingers. If I were Indiana Jones, there would be snakes as well.

Anyone else down here? Hello? It’s lonely in the Black Hole of Pantser.

I did the only thing I could think of – logged on to my favourite writing community and screamed for help. I wasn’t looking for an actual answer, just fellow writers to say the necessary things:  there, there, I’m sure it will be fine; put the coffee on; try writing a plot outline.

Nobody had the answer, but that wasn’t the point. I was stuck. I needed an open space (other than the black hole) where I could scream frustration and not get escorted away by qualified medical professionals. I needed people who understood.

Then I went and wrote some more. Any old rubbish. What my hero did next, minute by minute. How often did he trip over his own feet? How many books on knots could he find in the library?  Write and write, until I could see light.

I wrote my way around the Black Hole and accidentally backed into the Cave of Random Rubbish. It’s amazing what you can find in there, and even the gloom of the Hole looks bright in comparison…  And there, under a tatty piece of inspiration, was a big tub of Expanding Plot Hole Filler, more than enough to patch over the gap and take me all the way to the ending.  (Oh, and according to the packet, it contained 90% Completely Bonkers, so that was perfect for me.)

Now, if only I had a plan, I would never have got into that mess. Would never have spent an hour or two online, sharing woes and jokes with other writers. Would never have had the pleasure of finding my unexpected way out of the hole over the course of several days “writing blind”.

If only I had a plan, I would be a completely different writer.

Plotter or pantser? An apparently trivial question that is intricately entwined in how we create. Go on, ask the question, and be prepared for a long, long answer.

This trivial big question is like being left or right handed. Liking or loathing marmite.  It’s twisted tightly through the core of the writer’s creative heartland.

Go on, ask the question.


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry, and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog (writeedge.blogspot.com), his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media thing (tw: @MarkH_J, fb: @MarkHuntleyJames)