My short story “The Home Secretary is safe” is now published in Phantaxis Issue 6

A new Million Eyes Short Story is now published and available to read in science fiction and fantasy magazine Phantaxis!

The Home Secretary is safe is included in Issue 6, which has just been released. (I’m even named first on the cover – think it’s just alphabetical but still – WHOOP!)

In the story, Cody Evans is taking the train to visit his cousin Rachel (the eponymous star of Rachel Can See, published in Metamorphose Volume 2, and Rachel Can Still See, which will be published by Phantaxis in November).  When bizarre things start happening on the journey, Cody finds himself at the centre of a heinous plot and the unwitting target of assassins…

Click on the cover image to buy the magazine from Amazon, or click here.

Enjoy!

Coming soon: Princess Diana’s secret daughter

TWO “Million Eyes” short stories to be published by Phantaxis Magazine

What a month! After a very slow first half of the year in terms of publication news for the Million Eyes Short Stories, my story Eryl Mai’s Dream just got shortlisted by Dark Tales, and Who is Rudolph Fentz? got accepted for re-publication by Storgy Magazine. Now, within 3 days of one another, I’ve had two further stories accepted for publication by Canada-based science fiction and fantasy magazine Phantaxis!

Phantaxis rejected both The Quiet Invasion and Operation Loch Ness previously, so I certainly wasn’t expecting them to suddenly accept two of my stories. Obviously these ones struck a chord.

The story to be published first is called The Home Secretary is safe and is about a teenage boy who experiences probably the strangest train journey of his life before becoming the unwitting target of assassins. I’m told this story will appear in the August issue of Phantaxis — so not long!

The second story to be published is called Rachel Can Still See, which won the Rushmoor Writers Hyde Cup 2016 and was highly commended by Writers’ Forum a few months later. This, as you might guess, is a sequel to Rachel Can See, which was published last year in Metamorphose, Volume 2. You don’t have to have read Rachel Can See to understand the sequel, but I’d definitely advise doing so. (There’s a sneak peak of Rachel Can See on Metamorphose’s website, and Volume 2 is currently available to buy half-price.)

I’m told that Rachel Can Still See will be published in the November issue of Phantaxis. So a bit longer to wait for that one but hopefully it’ll be worth it!

Hope you all have a fabulous week! I’m off to Disneyland Paris! 😀

Podcast with Oliver Mell – “Million Eyes”, Black Death conspiracies and Princess Diana’s death

I’ve just taken part in my first podcast! I chatted with Oliver Mell, author of horror novel Godless, about Behind The Curtain, my reasons for creating it, and my forthcoming novel Million Eyes.

We talked specifically about some of the conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries that feature in Million Eyes, as well as whether the Black Death might’ve been a deliberate plot to wipe out the West. We also touched on several other conspiracies that I’ve written about, including the Royal Family being reptilian aliens, Watergate, Karen Silkwood and Princess Diana.

And Oliver’s invited me back at the end of next month to talk more about Princess Diana, since it’ll be the 20th anniversary of her death on 31st August (can’t believe it’s been that long).

Go to this page of Oliver’s website if you’re interested in having a listen!

Top 5 cures for writer’s block + story updates

Last month I talked about the different ways I usually deal with writers’ block. Now comes the sequel article I promised, looking at some of the weirdest/funniest/most unique cures that other writers use.

First things first. Some updates on Million Eyes and the Million Eyes Short Stories. Also, I’m working on something new…

Million Eyes and the Million Eyes Short Stories — latest news

Just over 90 pages of Million Eyes have been fully proofed by all three of my proofers and corrected/tweaked by me. I’m waiting on one of my proofers to come back to me with the remainder so I can continue with corrections on the rest of it. I’ve also submitted it to a number of novel opening chapter competitions.

I posted on Sunday about the fact that Who is Rudolph Fentz? and Eryl Mai’s Dream, two of the Million Eyes Short Stories, are due for publication in Storgy and Dark Tales respectively. I don’t have a date for Dark Tales yet, but Storgy will be publishing Who is Rudolph Fentz? on August 23rd.

Apart from that, I’m waiting to hear about a bunch of other competitions and magazines that I’ve submitted stories to, and keeping everything crossed.

Something is brewing…

Funnily enough, I was complaining last month that I’d had writer’s block for years about what comes after the Million Eyes trilogy. I mentioned having a bunch of half-baked ideas for new novels, but none that were developed enough for me to be excited about them.

But Million Eyes is basically done. The first one, anyway. I’m not going to resume work on the second book (of which I have a full initial draft) until/if the first book is published and successful enough to justify me working on the second book.

That means I need something else. Getting past this block has become a necessity because I need to be writing, fiction I mean. Otherwise I’ll go mad. Fiction writing isn’t just a hobby I’m trying to make into a career. It’s something I have to do, just like eating and sleeping.

The next stage of the journey for Million Eyes is going to be as boring and mind-numbing as doing job applications. It’s where I send off Million Eyes to as many literary agents as I can find. I’ve done it before. It isn’t fun. The fun part’s over.

I. Need. Fun.

Enter my new novel. At last I’ve really, actually cracked it. I worked out that the reason I made Million Eyes work for me as a writer is that it had tons of ideas from tons of sources all amalgamated together into a complex plot that never lets up. Which means there was plenty of stuff to sink my teeth into, and I never got bored writing it.

I realised I needed to do the same thing with my new novel, and I’m pleased to say that it’s just as packed with stuff as Million Eyes was.

What’s it about? That’s what you really want to know. Well, so far I’ve written 7,000 words of concepts and plot/character outlines and only 1 page of the actual book, so I’m not willing to say too much just yet.

What I will say is that it’s a high fantasy novel (i.e. set in a world that isn’t Earth, a conscious decision on my part after the colossal amounts of historical research I had to do for Million Eyes). It’s not going to be your typical medieval, swords-and-sorcery, Game of Thrones-style universe, but will have elements of it. It’s also not going to be steampunk or contemporary, but again will have elements of both. And it will, like Million Eyes, be a conspiracy thriller (but of course!).

I’ll reveal more as it starts coming together…

Top 5 cures for writer’s block

Now these aren’t my top 5 cures. In my last article, I talked about the things I do to cure writer’s block. However, these are some of the most interesting cures I’ve found, so I might try a few of them next time I come down with a block…

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“Million Eyes” short stories to be published in Dark Tales and Storgy

I’m super-pleased to announce that TWO of the Million Eyes Short Stories are slated for publication!

The first is Who is Rudolph Fentz? This is based on a time travel urban legend that I’ve written about before. It was previously published in print in Issue 68 of Scribble Magazine, winning 3rd prize in its quarterly competition. Now Storgy Magazine has accepted the story for publication and will publish it online on Wednesday 23rd August.

Since the Scribble issue is out of print, that means everyone who owns a computer or a phone will now be able to read it. (And if you want a taster in advance of August 23rd, here’s a sneak peek.)

The second is a story called Eryl Mai’s Dream. Inspired by real events, this follows a little girl called Eryl Mai who has a disturbing dream about her school, and a mysterious supply teacher who’s investigating whether there’s more to the dream than Eryl Mai realises.

Eryl Mai’s Dream was submitted to Dark Tales‘ monthly competition and got shortlisted, which means it will be published in a future issue. I’m not sure when yet, but I will announce it here as soon as I know.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Did the ‘Candy Lady’ abduct and murder children in Texas?

In the early 1900s, in a small rural county in Texas, a missing child was finally found — in a ditch, eyes gouged out with a fork, pockets stuffed with sweets. An unsolved mystery at the time, locals today believe the perpetrator was none other than the mysterious ‘Candy Lady’…

Over the course of a ten-year period near the turn of the 20th century, a number of children went missing. The story spread that the Candy Lady was responsible, luring children to her home with sweets and murdering them.

It was revealed that several children in the area were waking up to find sweets on their window sills. Fearing that their parents might try and stop whoever—or whatever—was leaving the candy, they initially told no one.

After a child had been receiving candy for a while, notes would start appearing, tucked into the sweet wrappers. These notes enticed the children to come and play, and were signed “The Candy Lady”.

As children started going missing, those who’d received and eaten sweets from the Candy Lady finally confessed it to their parents.

Then a farmer found a sweet wrapper at the edge of one of his fields. Opening the wrapper he found a child’s teeth, black, rotten and bloody. The police investigated and that’s when they found the missing boy with the candy-filled pockets and gouged-out eyes.

To this day locals say that if a child goes missing, it’s because the Candy Lady got them. They say she lures them away with sweets and punishes them by pulling out their teeth and stabbing them with forks.

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Karen Silkwood: How to silence a whistleblower and get away with it

Remember Erin Brockovich? She’s the file clerk who famously uncovered evidence that a huge Californian gas and electric company was poisoning people. Karen Silkwood’s story is similar, but the big difference is that Erin Brockovich’s story had a happy ending and Karen Silkwood’s… didn’t.

Karen Silkwood was hired to work for the powerful Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant in Crescent, Oklahoma in 1972, where she made plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. There she met her boyfriend, co-worker Drew Stephens, who expressed concerns about working conditions at the plant, putting health and safety on Silkwood’s radar.

Just 3 months into her employment, she joined the local Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union and took part in a strike at Kerr-McGee calling for better wages and safer working conditions. After the strike ended, she was elected to the union’s bargaining committee — the first woman at Kerr-McGee to achieve such a position — and was charged with investigating health and safety issues.

In 1974, Silkwood found numerous violations of health and safety regulations, including faulty fuel rods, exposure of workers to contamination, improper storage of samples, falsified inspection records, and more than 40 pounds of missing plutonium.

That’s when strange things started happening.

Was somebody poisoning Karen Silkwood?

On November 5th 1974, Silkwood performed a routine self-check and discovered that her body contained nearly 400 times the legal limit of plutonium. She was decontaminated at the plant and sent home with a testing kit. The following morning, she again tested positive for plutonium and was given a more intensive decontamination. But on November 7th, dangerous levels of plutonium were found in her lungs, and following an inspection, plutonium traces were found all over her home.

Questions arose over how she’d been contaminated. She believed Kerr-McGee was poisoning her because of her whistle-blowing efforts, while Kerr-McGee accused her of poisoning herself to add fuel to her accusations. What’s disturbing is that the soluble plutonium in her body came from an area of the plant she hadn’t been in for 4 months…

The meeting that didn’t happen

Silkwood decided it was time to go public with her evidence and contacted David Burnham, a journalist at the New York Times. On November 13th 1974, witnesses said Silkwood left a union meeting at the Hub Cafe in Crescent with a binder and a packet of documents and headed for Oklahoma City for her meeting with Burnham.

She didn’t make it.

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Avril Lavigne is dead

Yup, that’s right. In fact, Avril Lavigne’s been dead for years. A lookalike called Melissa Vandella has been impersonating the Canadian ‘Pop Punk Queen’ since 2002…

2002 was the year Avril Lavigne blew up the teen music scene. Her debut album Let Go was certified 6 x platinum in the US while hitting the number 1 spot in Canada, the UK, Australia, Argentina and a bunch of other places. She was winning awards left, right and centre. Meanwhile teens the world over were warbling the words to catchy smash hit singles Complicated and Sk8er Boi.

Ah, but that was the problem. According to a popular conspiracy theory that recently saw a wild resurgence online, Lavigne decided before 2002 was done that she just couldn’t handle the attention, the pressure, or the fame. And so her record label, Arista, hired lookalike and ‘best friend’ Melissa Vandella to pretend to be her in public.

Things went from bad to worse for Ms Lavigne. In 2003, she killed herself while at the very height of her fame. The money-hungry bosses at Arista Records weren’t about to let all that profit go down the crapper, so they decided to cover up her death and continue recording and releasing songs using Melissa.

Now where have I heard this before? Ah yes, a similar thing is said to have happened to Paul McCartney. Some people believe that he was killed in a car crash in 1966 and secretly replaced with a lookalike to maintain the Beatles’ continued success. They cite hidden clues in song lyrics and album covers, cryptic statements made by Heather Mills, and even the assassination of John Lennon as evidence for the conspiracy. (It’s a legend that forms the basis of my short story Paul, one of the Million Eyes Short Stories.)

There’s also the Hillary Clinton conspiracy from last year, in which it was alleged that she’d been replaced by a body double after collapsing and dying at a 9/11 Memorial ceremony.

But let’s get back to poor Avril and take a look at the evidence for her untimely demise…

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