No rules please. We’re fiction writers.

So I came across an article in the Guardian recently called Elmore Leonard’s rules for writers and saw red. (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration given all the things currently happening in the world I could get angry about. Let’s say I saw carnation pink.) Anyway, I felt compelled to write an anarchic response for writers and readers everywhere.

As always, before I move onto that, I have a handful of updates to share regarding Million Eyes.

Million Eyes — just 4 chapters to go

At the time of writing, I’m on page 248 of 291 of the final edit of Million Eyes. My copywriting work has quietened down a little over the last month, so I’ve used the time to make good headway with the edit. Now that I’m numbering each chapter (which I didn’t do before), I’m about to start editing Chapter 28, which means I have four chapters to go and the final book will have a total of 31 chapters.

My August 31st deadline for finishing is still ages away, so I’m more than on track to hit it, even as my copywriting busyness is now on the up. In fact, I’m hoping that I might have the book finished and proofread by then. I have two lovely volunteer proofreaders — my bookworm girlfriend and a fellow member of Rushmoor Writers. They tell me they’re fast readers (unlike myself), so let’s see if Million Eyes grips them enough to rattle through!

The Million Eyes Short Stories

No major news to report this month. I’m still submitting the Million Eyes Short Stories that remain unpublished, and the ones that have been published are being submitted to publications that accept reprints.

I had a particularly frustrating rejection from one publication that shall remain nameless a couple of weeks ago. It was a story called “The Bisley Boy” (regular readers of my blog might be able to guess what it’s about). The editor told me she “really liked the story” and got me to confirm that it was unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere. Then, hours later, she sent a further email saying she just wasn’t “comfortable” publishing it, but that the story was good, the writing was good, and she was sure other editors would love it. This magazine has done this to me before, telling me how much they liked The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller and saying they wanted to publish it before ultimately rejecting it.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate constructive feedback, and what writer doesn’t love praise and kind words about their writing. This magazine has given me both over the last year or so. But when a writer is told these things while an editor is still considering a story, it makes the eventual rejection so much harder. My friend at Rushmoor Writers said the editor was a “lit-tease”. She’s right. It was some serious carrot dangling.

Continue reading

Jesus didn’t rise from the dead — he went back to the future

Here’s a thought. Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t the son of God at all. He was a time traveller. His miraculous abilities were the product of technology and medicine brought back from the future. And his ‘resurrection’ was just him returning to the future. Go on. Prove me wrong.

It’s Easter, the time of year that Christians celebrate Jesus Christ magically rising from the dead (and the rest of us stuff our faces with chocolate eggs). What better time to explore the notion that Jesus duped us all into thinking he had magical powers and zombie tendencies, when in fact all he had was some clever future tech and a time machine? Naughty scamp.

Seriously, though, it’s worth considering. The gospels have Jesus performing a whole bunch of different miracles. Could all those healing miracles be the result of Jesus using medicine that was way ahead of its time? Okay, so a lot of the stories talk of Jesus touching lepers, paralytics and blind people and instantly curing them of their ailments. Even the technology of today wouldn’t be able to do that.

But there are two possible arguments we can make here. The first is that these are stories, not historical accounts. Most modern scholars and historians and some liberal Christians recognise this. None of the gospels are contemporaneous and all are inconsistent with one another. So these healings could easily be distorted accounts of events that, in reality, involved medicine, technology and recuperation time. If Jesus was using today’s medicine, it would still have appeared miraculous to people at the time, and then decades of Chinese whispers would’ve led these stories to become the instant-healing-with-a-magic-touch tales that were recorded in the gospels.

Taking the gospel stories more literally, the other argument is that Jesus’s magic touch was the result of medical technology far beyond anything that we have today. After all, time travel itself hasn’t been invented yet (or has it? There’s debate on this…). It’s quite feasible that if Jesus was a time traveller, he came from our future. Perhaps a hundred years from now. Perhaps two hundred. Perhaps a thousand. Who knows what medical technology we might have in a thousand years? Healing someone with a single touch sounds like science fiction. But two thousand years ago, so would antibiotics.

Continue reading

Forensic evidence proves Hitler didn’t die in 1945

The official story is that Adolf Hitler, one of evolution’s biggest mistakes, blew his brains out on 30th April 1945. However, recent forensic tests have revealed that the skull we all thought was his was actually a woman’s, lending credence to the theory that he was secretly whisked away to safety…

In his subterranean bunker in Berlin, Adolf Hitler met an unsatisfactorily tidy end via a suicide pact he made with his wife, Eva Braun, just as Germany was about to surrender to the Allies. He shot himself while Braun swallowed a capsule of cyanide, less than 40 hours after they got married.

This is according to eyewitnesses, including two of Hitler’s most loyal military officers, Otto Günsche and Rochus Misch, who found the bodies. According to them and others, Hitler announced to his commanders his plan to stay in Berlin till the end and shoot himself. Right before doing the deed, he reportedly said farewell to all of his staff, before retreating into his private study with Braun. At 15.30, a gunshot rang out.

Like I said, though, this is according to the witnesses. Witnesses often aren’t reliable as it is. But witnesses loyal to Hitler? They wouldn’t be at the top of my trust list. That means we need some physical evidence to corroborate their stories. Some bodies would be nice. Those should be easy to get hold of, right?

A convenient burning

Er, perhaps not. According to Hitler’s instructions, his and Braun’s bodies were immediately removed from the bunker, doused in petrol and torched. Hitler wouldn’t have wanted their bodies falling into Allied hands, granted. But this is an awfully good way of hiding evidence that you’ve escaped, too (as any Game of Thrones fan will know).

Continue reading

Book Review – “The King’s Deception” by Steve Berry

The King’s Deception is a Dan Brown-esque conspiracy thriller that centres on one of British history’s most intriguing political conspiracy theories. FULL SPOILERS AHEAD…

There are two reasons why I wanted to read The King’s Deception. 1. Because of its parallels with Million Eyes, my own forthcoming conspiracy thriller with historic British conspiracy theories at its core. 2. Because I read a fascinating article about it in the Daily Mail.

I wrote an article about this theory myself a while back. It was entitled, Queen Elizabeth I was actually a man in drag. Yes, you read that right. This isn’t a new theory. In fact, the first person to put the theory in print was none other than Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who described the legend of “the Bisley boy” in his 1910 non-fiction book Famous Imposters.

The story goes that Elizabeth I was sent by her father, Henry VIII, to stay in the village of Bisley to escape a bubonic plague outbreak in London. She was 10 years old at the time. While in Bisley, she fell sick with an unknown illness and died. Her minders, terrified that Henry VIII would blame them, replaced Elizabeth with a lookalike. As it happened, the only person in Bisley who looked vaguely like the princess was a boy.

Proponents of the theory argue that this is why Elizabeth, as queen, never married or bore children. Why she always wore wigs and heavy makeup. Why she only let a couple of trusted physicians attend to her, and ordered that no autopsy be undertaken after her death. And why during May Day celebrations in the village of Bisley, the May Queen is always played by a boy in Elizabethan costume.

While The King’s Deception has numerous point-of-view characters, the main one is Cotton Malone, a former agent for the US Justice Department. He and his son, Gary, become entangled in a CIA operation called King’s Deception, which is trying to expose a centuries-old mystery to blackmail the British and stop them from releasing of a Libyan terrorist. That mystery being (we learn later) that Elizabeth I was an imposter.

Continue reading

Are cat lovers really cat lovers? Or are they parasite-controlled puppets?

There are dog people and there are cat people. Just a preference, right? Wrong. There is evidence to suggest that cat lovers don’t really love their cats as much as they think they do, that in fact they’re being controlled by a horrific parasite that needs cats to survive…

Today I’m talking about monsters. In the past, I’ve talked about cryptozoological monsters, those creatures that are the stuff of legend, myth and rumour. The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Trunko, the Montauk Monster

The funny thing is, the scariest monsters are the ones that actually exist.

Enter Toxoplasma gondii, probably the most famous and most controversial neurological parasite. When you think about it, all parasites are pretty monstrous. The fact that their entire lifecycle depends on slowly sucking the life out of other creatures—their hosts—is both nightmarish and one of evolution’s curiosities. This microscopic protozoan basically looks like a blob, but don’t let that fool you. T. gondii has some rather frightening abilities.

It starts its life in cat faeces, where its eggs lie in wait to be picked up by carriers like rats. Once the eggs are safe and warm in the guts of their temporary rodent hosts, the next stage of T. gondii’s lifecycle begins. The eggs transform into tachyzoites, which then migrate to the rats’ muscles, eyes and brains.

But T. gondii needs to reproduce. And strangely there is only one animal in which the parasite is able to undergo sexual reproduction. Cats. In order to lay more eggs, the tachyzoites need to find their way into the bodies of our unassuming pets.

The problem is, rats aren’t totally stupid. They’ll tend to shy away from areas where cats live, because they know they’ll get chased and killed and eaten. When they do come across cats, they’re generally quite good at escaping them.

So what is T. gondii to do? It’ll have to resort to some mind control, of course.

Continue reading

“Million Eyes” updates and a review of South House Retreat in Dorset

Evening all! I have come up for air following two weeks of total immersion in the final edit of my forthcoming conspiracy novel, Million Eyes. In this week’s blog, I’ll share where I’m at with everything and talk about my time at South House Retreat near Dorchester, Dorset.

Million Eyes — a deadline

By the end of the two weeks I spent at South House Retreat, I’d got through 43,000+ words of the final edit of Million Eyes, which is just over halfway. This involved editing, rewriting and one new chapter written from scratch. Parts of the earliest chapters had not had an edit for almost two years, and given how much my writing has improved in that time, they needed quite a heavy do-over.

The main issue was with one of my main characters, Gregory Ferro. For a while I’ve been struggling to picture him, struggling to feel like I know him. The breakthrough occurred a few weeks before my retreat, when I decided to change the character’s religion. Weirdly enough, a new personality — one that, despite not sharing the character’s beliefs, I could identify with more — seemed to flow quite organically from that decision.

I also added a new chapter from Gregory Ferro’s point of view to the early part of the book, just to fill in some plot gaps.

Once these early chapters were done and dusted, the pace of the edit started to increase, and the later chapters I was flying through by comparison. I’m expecting this to continue as I edit the rest of the book (apart from one chapter that, following feedback from Rushmoor Writers, requires more historical research).

So I have set myself a deadline of August 31st to finish the whole book, which means setting aside a few Million Eyes-focused days each month. In general, copywriting has to take priority, since that’s what pays the bills (until, you know, Million Eyes makes me famous and rich and all that). Having said that, that’s the good thing about being a freelance writer — my hours are my own! The next thing will be whether I actually make my self-imposed deadline. That’s the plan, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m pretty determined.

Watch this space. 🙂

Continue reading

My short story “Rachel Can Still See” has been highly commended by Writers’ Forum

Good day fiction fiends, mystery-philes and conspiracy lovers everywhere.

I have returned from full immersion in my forthcoming conspiracy novel, Million EyesMore on that tomorrow; I’ll be posting an article with updates on my progress with Million Eyes, along with a review of South House Retreat and my time there.

In the meantime, just a quick blog to say that my story, Rachel Can Still See — the sequel to Rachel Can See, which was published in Metamorphose V2 last November — has been mentioned as “highly commended” in the latest issue of Writers’ Forum. Slightly annoyingly, the magazine printed my full name instead of my pen name, C.R. Berry, but never mind. The story itself isn’t published (you have to get into the top 3 for that), so I’m now in the process of seeking publication elsewhere.

In any case, a minor win! 😀 This story previously won the Hyde Cup 2016, an internal competition for the members of Rushmoor Writers.

The Nampa figurine — more evidence that time travel is real?

nampa-figurine-1In 1889, well-drillers discovered the Nampa figurine, a mysterious artefact that really puts a spanner in the works of modern evolutionary theory. But I have another idea. What if the figurine is proof that time is not as linear as we all thought, but a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff?

On August 1st 1889, workers led by M.A. Kurtz were drilling a water well in Nampa, Idaho. Suddenly their steam pump spat out a small piece of a brownish clay and sparked a baffling archaeological mystery.

The object, also known as the Nampa image, was one and a half inches in length, made from clay and quartz, and clearly human-shaped, with one leg partially broken off. Geologist G. Frederick Wright said it was a “female figure” with “lifelike lineaments” and “remarkable for the perfection with which it represents the human form”.

Professor Albert A. Wright of Oberlin College (yes, another ‘Wright’, but I think the two are unrelated…) said that there were “faint geometric markings on the figure, which represent either clothing patterns or jewellery”. These markings, mostly on the arms, wrists and around the neck, led Wright to conclude that “the doll is the image of a person of a high civilisation, artistically attired”.

Wright also commented on who might have crafted the figure. He decided that it was not the work of a “small child or amateur”, but of a “true artist”.

Herein lies the problem. The problem that has confounded scientists for decades.

An out-of-place artefact

The Nampa doll was recovered from depths of 320 feet. The stratum at that depth was about 2 million years old. However, humans like us have only been walking the Earth for 200,000 years. This makes the Nampa figurine an out-of-place artefact, an ‘oopart’, because, well, who the hell could have crafted it if humans didn’t exist?

Continue reading