Empty Graves cover reveal

We can now reveal the cover for our next historical novel, Empty Graves. It was done by the talented David V.G. Davies of From the Shadows. 

 

Pre-order the ebook here: Amazon UK Amazon US

Blurb:

1828. The year the dead rose.

Edinburgh’s medical schools hide a dark secret. There is only one way students can learn to save lives: by practising on the dead. However, the law only permits them fifteen murderers’ bodies a year from the hangman. With five schools, supply is in high demand and there aren’t enough murderers to meet it. But there are plenty of graveyards. In the city of the dead, the resurrection men are kings.

How many graves held bodies? Or did nobody sleep in the city of the dead? Were the gravestones now empty masks, hiding the city’s shame?

Lachlan Ketch comes from a long line of hangmen, who take pride in the role of Edinburgh’s executioner. Some people he’s hanged haunt his dreams, others torment his waking hours. They were always depicted as monsters in the songs. Lachlan had never hanged monsters, only men.

But when you’re alive, Hell seems so far away.

One night, he hears voices in Greyfriars Kirkyard and finds resurrection men digging up a grave. He tries to flee but is captured by Rab, the leader of the Greyfriars Gang. In exchange for his life, they hand him a spade.

But they’re not the only resurrectionists in Edinburgh and the other gangs aren’t keen on sharing the dead. When Lachlan discovers the malevolent method of how two of their rivals – Burke and Hare – are obtaining bodies, he must find a way to stop them. Or he’ll end up on the doctor’s table.

“Doctors’ careers are built on Edinburgh’s empty graves.”

Sisters of Spin

After the disaster that was the Horror Cons collapsing, which you can read about here, a lovely guy named Chris, who runs the Liverpool Horror Club, emailed us, offering us a free table at a horror event he was planning at the end of September. He wanted to do something to restore faith in the horror community. There are still good people in the world. Then he saw we do polefit and invited us to perform after the horror event was over. Hyped on excitement and pole addiction, we agreed. We’d been considering entering doubles pole competitions, but chickened out, so this would let us know whether performing was for us. We like challenging ourselves and this certainly counted.

What usually happens after we’ve been brave, is that the anxious brain wakes up and asks: what the hell have we done?

We’ve never performed. We’d never even SEEN a pole performance that wasn’t on Instagram. Luckily, we had tickets to the Welsh Pole Championships and Bristol Pole Championships, so we went, hoping to be inspired. It worked. And raised the nerves a little. But at least we wouldn’t be doing this in front of knowledgeable pole fans. And we had about three weeks to choreograph a routine. No pressure.

We spent those weeks in the pole studio we use, KT Wild’s vertical Fitness, choreographing a routine. KT let us have unlimited use of the studio, whenever we wanted it, for which we are eternally grateful. We’ve never choreographed a routine before. This whole thing was so far outside our comfort zone, it needed its own postcode. We feel awkward when we film sexy pole routines in front of other polers in the class! How the hell could we perform in front of a room full of strangers? This was a bad idea. But backing out never crossed our mind. We wanted to do this.

We instantly knew what song we wanted – Cry Little Sister by G Tom Mac. The song from Lost Boys. We were in the pole studio three, sometimes four days a week, sometimes for two hours at a time. Weirdly, we never got sick of that song! We even decided to throw in a bit of chair burlesque, just to make it a bit different. We thought a chair spin from standing on the chairs would be cool. It was. It was also ridiculously scary at first but we didn’t die on our first attempt so figured it would work. The last third of our routine was changed so many times, it’s wonder we learned it at all. But four years of zumba had prepared us for learning dance routines and we barely forgot a single move. Our last practice in the studio went really well and we were ready. We deliberately didn’t do anything stupid in gymnastics so we wouldn’t get hurt.

Our teacher, KT, kindly lent us her stage pole for the performance and allowed us to borrow the chairs we’d been using.

And it all started to go wrong.

We’ve never used a stage pole. It’s a foot and a half off the ground. It’s high and the pole wobbles and dear god it was terrifying. Even doing basic moves on this was scary. Doubts pummelled us like a furious boxer. We had two days to practise our routine. Two days to conquer our fear and sudden inability to pole. In one part, Cat jumps down from near the top. She was too scared to do it on the stage pole and kept bailing and sliding down. Lynx was too scared to sit and lean around right at the top as we could see our entire street from up there. Other parts needed altering to fit into the much smaller space we now had. And the chairs slipped on the stage’s metal plates. As Cat jumped off the chair, it fell, hitting her leg and gouging a deep wound into her shin, leading to a swelling and tender bone. Remarkably, her leggings were undamaged. A month later, the scar and swelling are still there. Then during a reverse grab spin, Lynx kicked one of the chairs, leading to a bruised and swollen toe. We behaved in gymnastics, only to injure ourselves practicing the routine. Every practise went wrong on the Thursday. By now, we regretted agreeing. We couldn’t do it. We were going to fuck it up and it would look awful. Our confidence was taking a battering. Annoyed, we went to a pole lesson then returned to practise in the dying evening light. Those two rehearsals went ok.

In one part, we cartwheel off the stage. Due to our sloped garden, we didn’t have room to practise this part together. We only hoped it went alright on the night. On Friday, it all kept going wrong. Again. The reverse grab spin just wasn’t working and it was one of the coolest parts. Cat’s arm ended up scrammed, either by her or by Lynx, and Lynx’s little finger got crushed in a spin. The final practise on Friday was the best one we did and even that wasn’t perfect. But we’d run out of time. We had to drive to Liverpool.

On the way up, we tried to think up a stage name. We couldn’t use our writing name, but wanted something that combined our love of horror and pole. We thought of Pole’s Ravens, or Sisters of Spin. Dave suggested Slutty Little Midgets and that became our unofficial name.

The trading event at the Sanctuary Bar went really well. Us and Dave were together and Neen travelled up with us to help out and film our routine. We did a reading from Silent Dawn and hadn’t even practised as all our attention was on the routine. All day we were nervous. Breathless, heart pounding, unable to eat type of nervous. We didn’t want to do it. The two other poledancers had performed or competed before. We were complete newbies, so asked to go first. We didn’t want the audience to feel let down by ours if we went last. We strongly considered backing out. The anxiety was overwhelming. It would go wrong, like it had in every practise with the stage. We’d hoped to be able to put the stage up and have one practise beforehand. All the performances were taking place in one room. We couldn’t put the pole up until it was our time to perform. So no last minute practise. The performances were then pushed back. We were meant to be on at 8:30. Think it was around 10pm we finally got on. Except fake blood needed to be cleaned up from the gorelesque girls before us. And tables and chairs needed to be moved out of the way. There wasn’t a lot of space. We didn’t even know if there was room to cartwheel. We didn’t have a backup plan. We hung out in what got dubbed the Strip Loft with the two poledancers, Lou D and Alabama Whirley, and the Enchantico gorelesque girls, Lex Cole and Kitty Massacre. That actually helped ease our nerves. That and the raspberry vodka and lemonade Neen made us drink.

Putting the stage together killed our nerves, as we became very stressed about it, conscious of time, speed and the audience watching our every move. Then some audience members refused to move. Neen told one woman that we needed to practise a kick out and she was in the way. She didn’t want to leave her friends. Neen kept insisting she moved. She wouldn’t. Cat told the woman we would be kicking out and she might get kicked in the face. She still wouldn’t move. So Cat high kicked inches from her face. She fucking moved then! Listen love, if a performer tells you you are in the way, you do not get to decide that you’re not. Take your drink and move the fuck away! Cat then warned two men she would be cartwheeling off and they may get kicked. They stepped back. She did the cartwheel and landed right by them. They were scared and impressed and agreed not to move even a step forward.

Then it was time. Oh god.

Our timing was a bit fast at the start but we compensated for it. And we did the reverse grab spin! That was the bit that was causing us the most anxiety. People were whooping and clapping in parts, especially when Cat stands on Lynx’s shoulders and Lynx stands up. Cat did the jump from the top without holding on. And Lynx did the lean around. We both did the cartwheels at the same time, even though we hadn’t practiced it! Yep. The first time we cartwheeled together off the stage was during our performance. That got a big cheer.

When we bowed, there was a big sense of “thank god that’s over!” And “Yay it didn’t go wrong!” The audience seemed to really enjoy it. Afterwards, people came up to us to tell us how much they loved it. One of the other pole dancers, Alabama Whirley, told us we need to compete. We’re probably not at that level yet! Once the adrenaline of finishing was over, we were starving, relieved and in desperate need of a drink. We were glad it was over and thankful we didn’t fuck up in front of a crowded room.

Would we perform again? Probably. But we’d give ourselves longer than two days with a piece of equipment! And maybe we’d be more forgiving of ourselves and not expect perfection. After all, the audience doesn’t know our routine.

And our injuries still hurt.

Here is our performance.

Author Interview: CL Raven – Part I

Interview we did with Matt Doyle

Con-demnation

Sings Stain’d “It’s been a while…” Not even sure where to begin other than with the words “what a shit show.”

Yesterday we found out that all the horror cons we were booked at have collapsed. Completely, utterly crashed and burned and in the process, taken out the traders with it. We rely on these cons for sales, for meeting new readers and for meeting friends. We’ve built up a lot of friends at these events, people we would never have met otherwise. And it’s not just us. It’s the customers too. People like us, who don’t fit in with normal society, who have found friends and acceptance at horror cons. Horror people are the most accepting, non-judgemental people. They’ve now lost out and are as gutted as we are.

We’ve already paid out for four tables at four events: London, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. London got postponed three weeks before the event and we had to cancel our AirBnb, losing £16. We were lucky it was that little. We’ve opened claims with Paypal but we don’t know if we’ll get the money back. One was done through bank transfer and there is no protection that way. So that’s at least £90 lost for the table and parking at the London event. If we can’t get the other table money back, that’s a total loss of £276. Unfortunately, our Liverpool Travelodge is non-refundable so rather than lose that money, we’ll be having a random staycation in Liverpool.

But it’s not just the tables. It’s the sales. Horror Cons are where we sell most of our books. So loss of sales is what’s going to hit us hardest. And loss of readers. Loss of new readers. Our online sales are appalling: we average between 1 and 5 sales per month online and that’s for both print and ebooks, whereas at cons, we’d average between 9 and 20 sales. We’re now quite established faces in horror cons. People we don’t know personally now come to horror cons to buy our latest book or one they haven’t got yet. Or they come to meet us because they’ve talked to us online. We now know a lot of traders and returning customers. Horror cons are where we meet up and hang out and get to be surrounded by the one thing we all love – horror. We do interviews, we’ve done readings and a dead author panel. We adopted traders and took them on a tour round Edinburgh. We adopted the first Jason Vorhees and took him on a tour around Liverpool Horror Con. We have so many great stories from these events.

Unfortunately, it leaves only one horror con – HorrorCon UK in Rotherham. And we got ourselves blacklisted from that for daring to complain about their ridiculous £45 charge for the second trader. We can’t afford that and their response was “if you don’t like it, there are plenty of other people who want your table.” We said we didn’t like it, they sold our table to someone else. We don’t want to back down and go crawling back to them when that is their attitude so we now have to decide whether to give up sales or our principles.

They say bad luck comes in threes. First there was this. Then on the same day, Lynx’s phone got run over. And today Working Tax credits are demanding £1700 back. On Tuesday, we went to a casino for the first time and won £34 on roulette. It looks like we might have to give up writing and become professional gamblers.

So if you want to meet us, you know where to find us. We’ll be the stylishly dressed twins crying into the roulette wheel.

Here’s the updated list of where you can find us.

Here is our Etsy store if you would like signed books or merchandise.

Snowbeasts

snowboarding

Cat’s first run

First off, some good news. We’ve had two short stories accepted for publications this week. One we can’t talk about and the other one we can. The Eden Project, which won third prize in the British Fantasy Society award 2016 has just been accepted by the Best Indie Speculative Fiction anthology! And we’ll get paid, plus get a copy of the anthology. We’re not sure when it will be out yet, but we’ll keep you updated. And don’t forget, our Horsemen of the Apocalypse novel, Bleeding Empire, will be out this Saturday! Its official launch will take place in Wales Comic Con, but you can pre-order it. UK. USA. Although we’ll be too distracted embarrassing ourselves in front of Pink Power Ranger Amy Jo Johnson at the con to properly launch the book. If you hear news of people being banned from the event because of asking her to do balance tricks, that will be us.snowboarding

snowboarding

Lynx learning to front side slip

And on to more exciting stuff. On Sunday, we went snowboarding for the first time. One of our gymnastics friends, Becky, wanted to do something fun for her birthday and put it to a vote – trampolining, swimming or snowboarding. Snowboarding won. We were excited. We’ve always wanted to try it. We’ve never even been skiing before. Our parents couldn’t afford it when we were kids and we can’t afford it now we’re adults. Plus we hate the cold, so a skiing holiday has never appealed to us. We can stay at home and be cold and save ourselves a lot of money. But this would be a group lesson and was surprisingly affordable.

snowboarding

Lynx making it to the bottom

We showed up at Cardiff Ski and Snowboarding Centre in more layers than an onion. It’s a dry slope centre, so we were worried about getting hurt. Plus, Cat tore her ankle ligaments last week, falling off the gymnastics floor, so we wanted to limit further injury. Yes. She tore them falling off a floor. Last week, we did the Wolf Run and only got a few bruises. Two days later, we did two hours of gymnastics. No injuries. At the end of session, she helps to put a block away, falls off the floor and tears her ligaments. Fortunately, she managed to get the swelling down enough to get a boot on, and once the boot was on, it acted as a brace, allowing her to walk without crutches. The sensible thing to do would have been to not go snowboarding, but it’s something we’ve always wanted to do and we didn’t know when we’d next get the opportunity. Besides, her ankle was fine, proving it was the right decision. Plus, it couldn’t get any worse!

snowboarding

Lynx doing a side slip

The instructor handed out boards by sizing them against us. He put one against Cat then gave it to Sarah C (you may remember her from our last post about the Wolf Run.) He returned with shorter boards for us. Cat “are we getting children’s boards?” Yes, we did. 35 year old women on children’s boards. We all headed out to the slope and had to decide which leg would go forward. It wasn’t about being left or right handed, but which leg was dominant, like which one you jumped off, or which one was forward in a boxing stance. Our fighting stance is left leg forward so we went with that. Having the left foot forward is known as snowboardingregular, having the right foot forward is known as goofy. Sarah C was

snowboarding

Cat doing a front side slip

the only goofy one 😀 No-one was surprised.

After that, we practised moving the boards in a circle, bending them and jumping. Except the bindings on Cat’s board were broken so she couldn’t join in as her board was being replaced. Then we headed up the small red slope at the bottom of the dry slope. You had to walk with one foot on the board, dragging it behind you. That was tiring work! Never mind Cat’s torn ligaments, this action caused immense pain to her bad knee (it’s had 3 operations), as it twisted it. Sarah C had the same problem with her bad knee too. We all lined up and the top…and refused to go. Nobody wanted to be the first down the slope. We were all terrified! Eventually, someone volunteered and we all reluctantly took our turns. Our hearts were pounding as our anxiety went into overdrive. Would we fall? Would we go too fast? Would we be able to control it? The only thing we weren’t worried about was making fools of ourselves. These guys see us make fools of ourselves in gymnastics every week.

snowboarding

Cat landing on her arse

After we’d been down once and didn’t fall, we were slightly less scared the second time. That was until the instructor, Guto, said we had to stamp our back foot as we went down. Why? We’re not rabbits warning the warren of danger. Again, everyone was reluctant to go first. The third time, he wanted us to jump the board slightly. What? We were barely confident going down flat! Save the tricks for another day, sir! This time, Cat did fall, but not badly. She ended up sliding backwards down the slope like a starfish. Guto then said we were heading up the slope. Uh, no, we were just getting used to the little slope! We went up the slope and sat on the prickly white brush. We didn’t wear enough layers for that.

snowboarding

Lynx going backwards

We had to do what’s called Side Slip. Stand sideways on the board and go down the slope. This was it. This was where we would die. The younger instructor, Dom, told us all to show enthusiasm. It’s hard to be enthusiastic when you’re staring death in the face. Guto warned if we caught our toes, we’d somersault. We’re a group of gymnasts. Somersaulting would be the one thing we could do. Well, except us. We can’t land them. Again, no-one volunteered to go first. Luckily, Lynx had her phone with her and was able to capture all the falls. She was one of the few who didn’t fall.

snowboarding

Cat was better going backwards

Lynx went down really well, looking confident. At the bottom, Guto turned her and pushed her forwards. This was far less scary now we’d done the red slope. Then  it was Cat’s turn. She went too fast and nearly took Dom out, who was guiding her. Then she fell on her arse. She got back up, again nearly took him out and again fell on her arse. He eventually got her down the slope. We had another go. Lynx’s run went smoothly. Sam was really good at it. Sarah C fell over. Lloyd and Sean also kept falling over. Cat warned Guto she nearly ran Dom over. Then promptly ran into Guto, nearly sending him down the slope. He turned and pushed her at the bottom. She fell on her arse. As he helped her up, she assured him she was already injured and explained about the ligaments. Him “Should you be doing this?” Cat “Yes.”

snowboarding

how to get around

Then we did the side slip backwards. Lynx reckoned Cat would be better going backwards. We work weirdly that way. We had to roll over with the boards attached to our feet and shuffle into position. That was dignified! It was much less scary going backwards! Mostly because we couldn’t see the slope. Sarah C mysteriously managed to tumble over backwards. We each had two turns of this. And Lynx was right. Cat was much better going backwards and didn’t fall once. Becky and Sam proved to the best at snowboarding and even managed the backwards side slip unaided.

snowboarding

how not to get around

We now want to go again. At first we were terrified and going forwards in the side slip was even scarier. But then we got used to being on the boards and the balance and we really enjoyed it. We want another lesson now before the fear returns! This is definitely a tick on our New Year’s resolution of ‘Try Something New’. So far, we’ve done an online Anatomy and Physiology course for aerial fitness, taken part in the Wolf Run, got cartilage piercings, tried a new gymnastics club (where Cat did her ligaments on our first night there) and have now gone snowboarding. And it’s only April!snowboarding

Wolf Run

The Wolf Run

l-r Lynx, Sarah C, Sarah F, Cat

We spent our Sunday cold, wet, muddy and smelling like a duck pond. No, we hadn’t been bog snorkelling. We completed our first ever 10k muddy obstacle course called The Wolf Run.

In November, we started warrior training with Si Dwyer, which is basically an hour of relentless exercise (weights usually) accompanied with colourful language and abuse. And that’s just from us. Si pushes us beyond where we feel we can go and he proves we can do it. So as his warriors, Si invited us to take part in The Wolf Run. As our new year’s resolution is always ‘do something different’, we agreed. Plus we’d seen the medals and Si said they were dressing as superheroes. We love challenges and obstacle courses, so this sounded like fun. There was one drawback – we hate running.

When we say we hate running, we mean that given the choice between running and being water-boarded, we would be offering our faces up for torture before a runner had finished tying their laces. But we agreed to do it so we forced ourselves to go out jogging two or three times a week. Our running friends said we would grow to love it. This isn’t like a marriage of convenience. The love didn’t grow. Our social media was filled with statuses about how much we hated it. We bitched, whinged and selfied our way through our torment. We mean training. We posted about how we were looking forward to completing the Wolf Run just so we could give up running. Si took us on a 3 mile run around Carleon to train us. We passed a cemetery as they were lowering a coffin into the grave and at that moment, wished we could change places with the corpse. Corpses don’t have to run. Si warned us about an oncoming car, but to be honest, getting hit would mean we’d have a rest if we were sprawled on the tarmac. We had to take a month off due to illness, so by the time the Wolf Run came around, we could only run for two miles without stopping. 10k is about 6 miles, so we were well off our target, but we’d run out of time.

Wolf Run

Lynx escaping the ash hole

We bought costumes – Lynx was Black Widow and Cat was Catwoman (the one from the comics). We decided to see if we could run in them before the big event and got some stares. The Catwoman hood with ears and goggles was a bit hard to hide. And the zip undid every time Cat ran. So a safety pin would needed for the event, or the poor runners would not only have to endure mud, but unimpressive boobs jiggling beside them like peaches in sack.

On Sunday, we got up at 6 a.m. and picked up our two friends from gymnastics – Sarah F and Sarah C. Sarah F was doing it with us, while Sarah C was there for support and to take pictures off us face planting in the mud. Sarah F was running as Supergirl, Cat was Catwoman and Lynx was Black Widow, which everyone at the run mistook for Catwoman. We got there at 9:40 and went to register. Our anxiety was now in overdrive. This was completely new and terrifying. And there were so many people! As one member of the team had dropped out, they allowed you to substitute a runner. Luckily, Sarah C happened to be wearing running gear and the next minute, she was signed up with an hour to go. Crazy woman.

wolf runThere was another team all dressed as superheroes, so we weren’t the only ones. Lots of people thought we were mad and that we’d get hot in our outfits. They were wrong. So very, very wrong. Everyone running at 11 had to do a warm up then we all crowded at the start line. And Lynx immediately had a panic attack. Thanks, anxiety, not being able to breathe right at the start of a 10k race is super helpful. Fortunately, having had panic attacks for 20 years, getting out of them is no longer a problem. We didn’t expect to hit the first obstacle so soon, but happily clambered over the hay bales. That’s where we lost the Sarahs, after helping them over. Then there was thigh deep water. That was it. We hadn’t had the chance to even build a sweat and we were already cold and wet. We stayed that way for the entire run. We didn’t warm up once and by the time we left the water, our fingers already hurt from the cold. It was not the start we’d hoped for.

Wolf run

Where we nearly drowned in the ash hole

We ran on, keeping to our pace, as Si had advised. He’d warned us that we may start running faster than normal, as we’d be all hyped up on adrenaline and excitement. We were feeling dread, not excitement, but we managed to stick to our slow jogging pace and for once, didn’t feel the need to race against alpha males. Thirteen minutes after we’d started, there was a muddy pond called the ash hole. We’d promised our sister that we’d stick together and twins don’t let twins drown alone, so we linked hands and waded in. It was a good job too, because the muddy ridge Lynx was on disappeared and she would’ve gone under, had Cat not been holding on. It was meant to be waist deep. Everyone else waded across, no problem. We quickly got out of our depth and had to swim. Si had warned us that when we got to the big lake, get in and when the cold hits, don’t panic and stay there for 15 seconds then swim. Because if the cold hits when you’re out of your depth, that’s when you get into trouble. But this wasn’t the big lake and we were already out of our depths. And the cold hit. Hard. We couldn’t breathe and couldn’t put our feet down. Honestly, we were scared. We’re very good swimmers but this wasn’t something we were used to. We had no choice but to swim as fast as we could for the shore, whilst feeling like we were suffocating. This was worse than panic attacks. Fortunately, there were ropes to pull ourselves up the other side. Then we ran across a field to get warm, but as the temperature was 10 degrees C, we couldn’t get warm.

There was a log wall which had a foot hold at the bottom and one near the top. When we stood on the bottom one, only our hands reached the top one, so we had to pull ourselves up and climb, which isn’t easy when it’s covered in wet mud. We hate heights. Our fear of heights is genuinely crippling. We can’t go above step 3 of a step ladder without going rigid. And this wall was high. Cat boosted Lynx and Wonder Woman from the other group of superheroes. We got to the top and a steward asked if we wanted help. Yes. This was fucking scary. He guided Lynx’s foot to the gap at the top then she climbed down and helped Cat and Wonder Woman. We then stayed to help another woman.

wolf run

water slide

We were so cold, wet and miserable that when we saw the 4k mark, we were disheartened. We thought we’d be at least over halfway. We were ready to quit. At 5K, there was another deep muddy lake called the mud sucker with a tree trunk in the middle to climb over. This water was up to our armpits. Then came more running, up a inclined field. We actually considered skipping the water slide because despite running for most of the way, by the time we reached it, we were shivering. You know that point of cold, where your teeth have chattered so much, your jaw locks. And we were only half an hour into the run. Cat’s broken finger was now in agony, due to the bandage being cold and wet. She couldn’t move it. By this point, we’d already decided we were skipping the lake, so we wanted to limit the amount of obstacles we missed. Wonder Woman advised us that as we were already frozen, it might be worth missing it, but if we’d regret that, then we should do it. She was actually concerned by how cold we were. We didn’t want to do it, but we didn’t want to feel any more like failures than we already did, so we went up. It was horribly high and you had to go down face first. We hate going down things face first, but there was no choice. Everyone else jumped on with glee. We stood there staring at it, wondering why the hell we were doing this. Suddenly, the medal and the free t-shirt didn’t seem worth it. We climbed up and slid down at terrifying speed. We crashed into the water at the bottom, totally blinded then ran like hell. Fuck pace, we had to get warm. We sprinted across the fields, overtaking all the other runners.

The Wolf RunOne of the obstacles we’d been looking forward to, was a rope up a slatted wall. We can climb poles easily, so figured it wouldn’t be a problem. It would’ve been fine, but rope burn on freezing hands was torture and we almost couldn’t do it. Not being able to bend a broken finger also added to Cat’s challenge. We forced ourselves to climb and we scaled the other side, our hands on fire. There were more muddy ponds and ditches filled with water to go through. There was probably about 1k woodland that we walked through. Not because we didn’t want to run (we were so cold that running became our favourite part), but because we couldn’t physically run in the mud without slipping. Everyone who was with us also walked, so we didn’t feel so bad. We saved a few people from falling over. When we got to the halfway point, people were standing around drinking and chatting. We ran on. If we stood still, we would’ve frozen to death. We had fun on a giant cargo net. The man beside us said “you really are Catwoman.” No, sir. Catwoman isn’t scared of heights.

We ran around the big lake. We couldn’t bear the thought of more cold water. We were gutted because we love swimming and thought this would be one of the easier aspects of the run. It would be a break from running.

wolf run

Cat escaping the ash hole

There were a set of tunnels under a log entrance, some of which had water in them. One didn’t. We queued for the one that didn’t. We love water, but we were sick at the sight of it. By those tunnels, a woman was sat to the side in a foil blanket. We weren’t the only ones struggling with the cold. One of the tunnels was full of water. A runner said someone had gone through that one. Cat “bet it was Si.” Fortunately, we were small enough to waddle through the tunnel, saving our knees from the stones that lined it.

Cat discarded her bandage, her finger now slightly blue. Wonder Woman had given us tips on how to warm our hands. We reached the monkey bars and Cat stood on a crate to reach them. And still couldn’t reach them. After trying, we gave up and ran on. When we envisioned issues we might have with the monkey bars – we’ve done them once in our lives – being too short to get on them, wasn’t one of them. There was a slatted wall that had no footholds. You had to jump, grab the top and go over. We watched people do it with ease. Cat ran, jumped, grabbed the top and slithered down. The wall was about five foot five. We’re five one. The steward took pity, came over and told us to stand on his thigh. Next was giant tyres you had to run over. We loved those. We also jumped a tyre wall. Then we were faced with hills and more

wolf run

final lake

muddy ditches and hills. Those we could do no problem and helped pull others up.

With 1k to go, we reached another lake. To say we were disheartened was an understatement. We couldn’t run around this one, and if someone had offered to take one of our kidneys without anesthetic, instead of going in the lake, we would’ve asked which kidney they wanted. “It’s only waist deep,” the steward assured people. Yes, it was. For men. It was shoulder deep on us. Boob deep when we stood on our toes. Again, the cold took our breaths. And the lake just didn’t bloody end. Then we came to a climbing wall. It was very high but we found this easy. It was our favourite obstacle. Steward at the top: “careful when you climb over, cos of where the bar might end up.” Cat climbs over. “Yep. Right in the vag.” We jumped down hay bales the other side and slithered over more muddy slides and ditches. We ducked or climbed under tree trunks and went through more slippery woodlands. We could see the start line but the finish line was getting further away.  We swear they were moving it.

Crawling through another set of tunnels was fine. We even picked the smallest ones, to leave the bigger ones for normal sized people. We had to crawl under a metal cage near the end. A steward offered us a hug or a high five. Desperate for body heat, we willingly hugged a stranger. He said we were his favourites. Spectators started cheering us on. Finally, we were faced with the nutcracker. We had to pull ourselves up with ropes, climb a cargo net, crawl across the top and climb down the other side. Dear god it was high. We then had to climb down giant logs. One problem – they were too far apart for our tiny legs. One steward said it was further than it looked and we just had to stretch. Lynx stretched her leg as far as it would go and was still  too far away. Luckily a woman on the ground offered to help and held Lynx’s leg, guiding her foot to the log as she pulled herself closer.

wolf run

Lynx’s face says it all

Wonder Woman met us on the final part. She said she’d been keeping an eye out for us throughout to make sure we were ok. We thanked her for all her help and pep talks. She really was a hero. She even invited us to join their group for the final photo as we’d lost our group. We slithered into the final stretch of muddy water. Everyone else waded through. We had to swim for the finish line. But we did it.

The stewards all loved our costumes. One even yelled “go fight crime!” after us. Even the runners complimented them. We ran it in two hours. We thought we’d finish feeling elated, proud of ourselves and in a fit of euphoria, sign up for the summer run. We didn’t. We felt deflated and vowed never to do it again. We expected it to be a challenge but that we’d enjoy it. We wanted to enjoy it. We were so cold, our hands were extremely painful and this made the obstacles difficult. We couldn’t warm up. We shivered, shook, and some of our muscles were rigid from the cold. Especially in our faces. Our facial muscles seized and we could barely talk. Towards the end, the cold was so bad, our feet felt like we were running on ropes. That was when we could feel them. We spent most of the run forgetting what they felt like. We’ve never been that cold and we went camping in Whitby in three degrees! We didn’t expect to run much but we ran for most of it. We had no choice. The running was actually easy for us, which we never thought it would be. And while we should’ve felt proud for doing high obstacles despite our crippling fear of heights, we didn’t. All we felt was scared. We hated them. But no-one else had a problem with them, which made us feel worse. And we were hugely disappointed with ourselves -and still are- for not attempting the lake. We’d really wanted to do it. But after experiencing the suffocating cold of the first swim, we’d decided for our own safety, it wasn’t worth it. And we haven’t forgiven ourselves for it. Especially cos our friends did it. So we felt weak and pathetic after that.

Wolf run

Swimming for the finish line

We dried and dressed in our car, forgoing the cold hose pipes outside. We’d had enough of cold water. We texted our mum and rang our sister to reassure them we hadn’t died. Dear god there was mud everywhere – even in places mud had no business being. Our new car now stank of stagnant water and was covered in mud. As soon as we were decent, we went to wait for the Sarahs. We took big towels to wrap them up in for when they finished.

The Wolf Run

The rest of our pack. L-r Si, Plum, Lynx, Cat, Alex

Part of us is tempted to sign up for the summer one, either this year or next year. Not because we enjoyed it – we didn’t – but because we feel the need for redemption. We were disappointed in ourselves by how scared we were of some of the obstacles. And we feel we let ourselves down by missing out the lake. We trained hard for this. We took up a sport we detested just to do this. We hated running so much that during training, we would have panic attacks while we ran. We try to tell ourselves that we had to break through some serious mental and physical barriers to finish – hell, going to an event with that many people would’ve been impossible a few years ago – but all we can think of is where we failed. That’s how our darkshines work. Battling our fear of heights and keeping going despite how cold, wet and miserable we were didn’t feel like an achievement at all. It felt like a failure because no-one else had a problem with it. Everyone else finished smiling, laughing and looking like they genuinely had fun. We’ve had more fun during tooth extractions. And it turns out, the medals are only for Alpha wolves – those who do four Wolf Runs in a year.

wolf run

finished!

We are now considering going for the Alpha Wolf. We want those medals. But there’s one issue with doing it – we have to keep running.

wolf run

At the finish line

Bleeding Empire

“Are you ready to end the world?”

Well, not actually end it. We have a new book to launch and an Apocalypse would be really inconvenient right now. Finally, 6 years after writing Bleeding Empire, we are ready to release it. It’s taken us so long because it was with Gollancz for 18 months/two years. They had an open period so we submitted the book to them. They received 1800 submissions. Bleeding Empire made it to the final 100. In the end, they said our writing was genuinely funny and the book was well written, but because they publish Good Omen by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, they didn’t want to published another funny Apocalypse book.

Yes. Neil Gaiman stopped us being published by one of the big publishers.

We can’t even be mad. Good Omens is a funny book. Though it is nothing like ours. But Bleeding Empire is now available for pre-order here. So read the blurb and enjoy the cover reveal. And when the world ends, remember to grab some popcorn.

“Are you ready to end the world?”

It’s supposed to be the greatest Apocalypse the world has ever known. But the death of mankind isn’t as headline-grabbing as who laundered their last load on Celebrity Dirty Washing. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse’s offspring want to tear up the biblical rulebook with style, sexiness and smiley face achievement stickers.

There’s one problem with rebooting legends: nobody recognises them.

Health and Safety forbade horses (and there’s nowhere to park them), so they ride motorbikes. And budget cuts only allow one Travel Inn room between them. Their arrival breaks four seals. And a streetlight. It’s hardly the epic, end-of-the-world entrance they’d imagined. Less ‘world-wide media coverage’, more ‘notice in the personal ads’.

Death excelled at reaping, not reproduction, so there are five Horsemen: twins Morgan and Aeron are in charge but couldn’t lead a conga line; Marsden would be the hero if slaughter wasn’t his favourite hobby; Demi prefers destroying people’s confidence to destroying crops; Mac’s low self-esteem and pacifism hinders his pestilent plans.

Fallen angel Drew fights to stop them. But as usual, love arrives to cock things up for everybody. And what better time to host an Apocalypse than Christmas, while mortals are distracted by the contents of Santa’s sack. Instead of Jingle Bells, there’ll be abject screams. Providing they stop getting drunk on sexually-named cocktails…

 

Bleeding Empire