Author Interview: CL Raven – Part I

Interview we did with Matt Doyle

Matt Doyle Media Dot Com

Welcome, one and all, to the first part of two-day interview with the horror writing twins, CL Raven. Now, this is a special run, because I went a bit overboard and sent them more than seventy questions … and they answered every single one! So, we’re splitting it up over a few days. Today, we’re talking about their latest title Bleeding Empire, and their other novel and novella length works.

Welcome to the site! For those unfamiliar with your work, can you readers a quick introduction to yourselves and what you write?

Hello! We’re C L Raven, we’re identical goth twins from Cardiff and we write horror short stories and novels.

CL Raven Bleeding Empire Book Cover HorrorWe’re going to talk a little about as many of your projects as possible, but we’re going to start with your latest novel, Bleeding Empire. Now, this is a darkly humourous take on the apocalypse, and features…

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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

That’s A Wrap

ClownfaceIt’s a wrap! Complaining about the cold, sleeping on the director’s floor and managing not to yell at anyone for not washing up. We were back on Clownface! Like the Facebook page. Follow the adventure on Twitter Watch the trailer and the Kickstarter preview scene.

Filming on Clownface finished on Friday, after a final two days of shooting. There’s just pick ups and a final scene left. And we’re sad it’s over.

We drove up to West Bromwich Wednesday night to stay with the director, Alex. Producer, Mark, actors Hannah and Phil and runner, Razz, were also staying in Alex’s one bedroom flat. On the first block of filming, there were eight of us staying so we got used to the cramped conditions. We got there about 9:30 p.m. because we wanted chips before we left. Priorities. It was an early start the next morning as unit call was 8 a.m. and the location, an airbnb house, was 35 minutes away. Desite leaving slightly late, we were still the first to arrive and sat in our car, worried we’d got the wrong house. We went to the front door and creepily watched the owner making sandwiches. Fortunately, the others turned up 15 minutes later before we were arrested for prowling. Not sure Clownface’s budget covers bail fees.

It was a lovely house, if a little small. We thought filming in the cottage was squished, but this was even smaller. One of our jobs on Clownface is set dressing. It’s been our favourite job, apart from working the clapper board. Two days before we were due to be in Birmingham, Mark asked us to gather props to dress Hannah’s character, Jenna’s bedroom. Us “we’ve got nothing.” Mark said it just had to be normal stuff you find in a bedroom. Us “dragons and swords. That’s what is in ours.” Not quite suitable for an ex party girl in her twenties. So we failed in that aspect. We’d used all our non-gothic ornaments to dress the B&B in block one so couldn’t reuse them. Luckily Hannah had brought some old photos of herself so we used them to dress the sets. It was made difficult by the lack of nails in the walls, so some of the photos were stuck up with tape. Sorry Josh!

Cat was on clapper board duty so Lynx took continuity and behind the scenes photos. We also reprised our role of sticking foil to the windows to make it look like night. Hey, you can’t choose the talents you’re given. It was a long day with filming continuing til gone midnight. We haven’t worked on Clownface since November so we forgot how tiring 15 hour shoots can be, especially as we were recovering from a horrible virus that’s been wiping people out. We got quite a bit of reading done during set up times and food times. This time, however, we had no washing up related meltdowns, as a guy called Gene was on hand to do all the washing up. He quickly became our favourite person on set. We didn’t realise we’d be filming outside, so we dressed for indoor filming. It was so cold, we quickly stopped feeling our feet and fingers and threatened to quit. Then when we were back inside, the front door kept being left open, allowing the cold to invade the house and torment us all over again.

We left at 12:15 a.m. as us, Mark and Gene were returning to Alex’s flat, while everyone else was staying on location. There was nothing for us to do, as they were filming a fight scene in the living room and we’d been locked out due to lack of space. Unfortunately, Mark’s SatNav is a complete dick and the 35 minute journey took an hour. It didn’t help that Mark ignored two road closure signs then we ended up heading towards London for ten miles. We resigned ourselves to the long drive and slept through the rest of it. We got back to Alex’s flat at 1:15 a.m. There was no heating on, as the flat had been empty all day, so we slept in our coats. Cat’s air bed had deflated and our pump mysteriously stopped working, so she slept on the floor.

It was another 8 a.m. unit call on Friday, but first the four of us fetched Leah, who’d played Charlotte, from Walsall, as she was helping out for the day. We arrived at half 8 but everyone else was still in their pyjamas so we tin foiled windows and prepared the sets. While Cat operated the clapper board, Lynx spent her time resetting the house to its original condition so it would look like we’d never been there. We only had the house until lunchtime, after which we moved to a street location from the first block. Again, we managed to get to location first, swiftly followed by the DoP, Ben. Because our teams used Google maps on our phones and not SatNav. We had time to eat a yoghurt, some chocolate and settled down for a nap by the time everyone else arrived.

Again, we weren’t dressed for filming outside. This time, while Cat operated the clapper board, Lynx loitered behind a tree with a walkie talkie so Barry the sound guy could capture the clapper on it. We were so glad that Alex only wanted one shot on that scene. Freezing to death before Birmingham Horror Con would’ve been mildly inconvenient. After that, it was back to Alex’s flat for the final scene. Abi, who plays Amy, had brought a whole load of set dressing stuff so we could transform Alex’s bedroom into her room. We also taped one of our skirts to the wall, as it’s a lovely purple satin skirt, so added some colour to break up the plain wall. Again, we put foil on the window.

The final scene was a montage scene and Abi kept everyone amused with a rubber chicken. It was a great way to end the shoot. We left at 6:15 p.m., drove all the way back to Cardiff, saw our animal army then packed our stuff for Birmingham Horror Con. We picked our mate, Dave, from the valleys, played with his dog, Phreak, for a bit and drove back to West Bromwich. We got to Alex’s at 12:15 a.m., quietly dragged our sleeping bags into his bedroom and slept on the floor. Our mum had bought us new batteries for our pump, but we still couldn’t get it working, so Cat slept on cushions. The glamorous life of film making.

The hours have been long, and there were times it was frustrating and cold, but it’s been such an amazing experience. We went from being completely inexperienced, to learning lots of different roles. It was hard at times, being around so many people for so long, but we coped by eating by ourselves and reading, and fortunately, nobody seemed to mind that we needed to be alone in order to keep functioning. When we started, we only knew Mark, Jack and Laura, so found it extremely anxiety-inducing being trapped with a massive group of strangers. But they were all so lovely, that we started feeling comfortable around them. Working on Clownface has been one of our best experiences. We have so many good memories, we’ve learned a ton of new skills and made new friends. And we look forward to many more film projects. As long as we don’t have to do the washing up…

Ghosts without Parole

Gloucester prisonMaking ourselves unpopular, debunking the paranormal and failing to find ghosts. Calamityville Horror are back!

After a long, long LONG hiatus, we were finally back together for a ghost at Gloucester Prison. Neen’s mum Elaine booked it. It’s been over a year since we’ve investigated together so we were excited but also apprehensive as we’re not keen on public events. Usually because stuff is faked or there’s one guest there that really rattles our coconuts. And we went with this company to Newsham Park. You can read our thoughts on them here. Neen and Elaine assured us that on the past two events with this company, everyone was lovely and the team had different members. You’d think that now we’re a lot more socialised, our tolerance for people would have grown. In fact, it’s shrunk. And we now crave solitude.Gloucester prison

Gloucester Prison was a category B men’s prison that was built in 1792, designed by William Blackburn. It was rebuilt in 1840 by Thomas Fuljames, who created the flanking brick wings. In 1971, a new young offenders prison was built there, as was C Wing. A new gate, block and visits centre was added in 1987. In 2003 it was listed as one of the 20 most overcrowded prisons in Britain. The next day, prisoners staged a 3 ½ hour siege by locking themselves in a cell. Really? Climb on the roof like other protesting prisoners. They want you in the cell. In 2007 it was criticised for overcrowding, poor dining provisions and cramped cells. A month later, the ground floor flooded and 100 prisoners were moved to other jails. The following month, it was criticised for its woeful training and education facilities. It finally closed in 2013.

Gloucester prisonThere are over 100 unmarked graves in the grounds, not all of them prisoners. Some executed prisoners were claimed by relatives, but murderers weren’t allowed to be buried in consecrated ground. Before 1792, executions took place in the nearby village of Over (where we helped to build a Halloween attraction), and prisoners were taken there in carts, sitting in their own coffins. Oh that is cold. Why not make them dig their own graves too? Between 1792-1932, 123 prisoners were executed there. After 1792, hangings were carried out using a New Drop style gallows which was erected on the roof of the prison gatehouse in 1826. In the years 1792-1864, 102 prisoners were hanged in public – 94 men and 8 women. There were no executions between William Davis on 20th April 1839 and John Butt in July 1864. The last public execution took place on 27th August 1864 when 55 year old Lewis Gough was executed for murdering Mary Curtis.

The first private hanging took place on a raised scaffold in the prison yard on 8th January 1874 when 20 year old Frederick Jones was executed by William Calcraft (a hangman famed for bungling hangings, resulting in him swinging on the condemneds’ legs) on a raised scaffold in the prison yard. Jones killed his girlfriend, Emily Gardener. On 12th January 1874, the hangman, Robert Anderson, asked for a pit to be dug under the gallows for the triple hanging of Edward Butt, Mary Ann Barry and Edwin Bailey. Butt had killed his girlfriend. Mary and Edwin had poisoned Edwin’s illegitimate baby girl, who they considered a nuisance. Mary was the last woman to suffer the short drop hanging and struggled for three minutes.

A new gallows was built on the end wall of A Wing in 1912. It had double doors that separated it from the condemned cell. 6 people were hanged here, including Herbert Armstrong in 1922. The last hanging was in 1939, but the execution chamber wasn’t demolished until 1966, after the abolition of the death penalty. Herbert was the only solicitor in the UK to be hanged for murder. In May 1919, his wife, Kitty’s health weakened, but her doctor, Thomas Hincks diagnosed her with brachial neuritis. She recovered but in August 1920, her health deteriorated again. Hincks said she showed signs of a mental collapse and admitted her to Barnwood, a private asylum. She improved and was discharged on 22nd January 1921. She became ill and died exactly a month later. All the servants closed the curtains as a sign of respect. Armstrong opened them as soon as he came home.Gloucester prison

On 26th October 1921, Armstrong invited a rival solicitor, Oswald Martin over for tea. They were on opposing sides of a property dispute. As Armstrong handed Martin a scone, he said “excuse fingers.” Later that night, Martin became violently ill. A few weeks before, chocolates had been sent to his home. His sister in law ate some and became violently ill. Martin’s father in law, John Davies, had sold Armstrong arsenic for killing dandelion. Hincks noticed Martin’s symptoms were similar to Kitty’s and warned Martin not to accept gifts from Armstrong. Martin’s urine contained arsenic, yet Armstrong kept inviting him around for tea. Martin found it hard to make up excuses not to go. “Sorry, but I don’t want to be poisoned” would’ve alerted Armstrong that he knew. Kitty was exhumed and they found large amounts of arsenic in her body. Some people believe he was framed, as the prosecution witnesses were his rival and his rival’s father in law. He was found guilty and hanged by John Ellis on 31st May 1922. His last words were “I am innocent of the crimes for which I have been condemned to die.”

Cell 25 in A Wing, landing 3 is haunted by Jenny Godfrey. Furniture in that cell gets moved and pots, pans and books were thrown around the cell. In 1969, the occupant, Robert Gore, made a Ouija board out of scraps of paper and an upturned glass. The glass moved by itself, spelling Jenny’s name. A few days later, a disembodied hand appeared and pointed at Gore. Some say she was held in the cells of the nearby Abbey and now appears in the jail to mock the prisoners. Others say she was killed by an inmate and returns to search for him. Then another story says she was murdered by a drunk man in the 15th C and points to the spot where she died. She spelled out several events that were about to happen. Some prisoners scoffed, but some of them came true. Staff hear knocking and cells doors slamming. In C Wing, shadowy figures have been seen and a sceptical guard was locked in a cell that has no lock on the door.

We set out and parked outside the gates. A man came to tell us that the gates would open at half eight. At 8:50, they finally opened. Our time was spent with all of us moaning about how much we needed to pee. It’s all not all glamour and fun on Calamityville. As soon as the gates were open, we parked up and rushed in to pee. The other guests were more…polite about their need for bladder relievement so they had to queue. Sorry, but it’s a case of speak now or forever hold your pee.

There were about 50 guests and 10 team members. People. Urgh . Just what we don’t want on a ghost hunt. We did a group tour of the prison first. We were told prisoners had scratched their names into the wall of the debtors’ prison, including Fred West. We doubted this. Fred West couldn’t write his name and signed his legal documents with an X. Trust us. Serial killers would be our Mastermind speciality. It’s also said he was held on remand here, but he was held on remand in Birmingham, where he killed himself.

Gloucester prisonThe debtors’ prison was unexciting with empty rooms downstairs. Upstairs there were sort of beds. We were called back but we’d only just got upstairs so ignored the call and kept exploring. As we were prowling the top floor, Cat suddenly found it difficult to breathe. It felt like she was having a panic attack. We started suffering panic attacks twenty years ago so know how they feel and how to control them. But we haven’t had one for a while. We’ve since been told that there is a suicide watch cell upstairs. This feeling continued as we headed into the main wing and worsened when she entered the first cell in B Wing. In this cell, Neen could taste mould. There was mould all over the walls and the smell was quite strong. Lynx gave her a chocolate coin to take the taste away.

We went into the chapel to do a séance and had to imagine the white light going through us. Neen kept changing her light to red. Cat’s kept going out. Lynx couldn’t concentrate because the right side of her face was hurting. Not from anything paranormal, just sinusitis. Then we had to picture ourselves wearing a cloak. We gave ourselves fancy cloaks. When we were told to picture tree roots from our feet grounding us, the temptation to call out “I am Groot” was overwhelming. But we are professionals. Neen thought she saw a small man in the doorway watching us.Gloucester prison

We were split into five groups of ten and our group went to C wing. This was built in the 1970s so visually, was the least interesting part of the prison. We did some calling out in the corridor. Elaine stood in the doorway of cell 13 with us three opposite her. At one point, we all saw a light hovering by her knee. As though someone switched a torch on and directed a ball of light toward her. But no-one had a torch on. Neen switched hers on to try and recreate it but it didn’t. Lynx, Neen and one of the organisers then heard whispering.

The organiser set up a Ouija board so us four and another woman used it. The planchette moved slightly. Were we finally about to have a board actually work for us and let us communicate with a spirit without someone faking it?

Were we bollocks.

Gloucester prisonIt became clear that the woman was moving it. Each time it moved, ours, Neen’s and Elaine’s fingers would come off it or hover just above the planchette. The woman’s fingers remained on it. When they did lift off, it stopped. Cat and Neen tested their suspicions by holding down the planchette. When Cat did it, the woman’s finger strained as she tried to pull it towards herself. When Neen did it, the plachette stopped but the woman’s finger kept moving. Busted. We have no time or tolerance for fakers and refused to participate in a Ouija board after that.

We moved on to an engineering workshop. The team leader put the SB11 spirit box on. Yes. That device that scans through radio stations and only seems to speak when it can get a signal. When Cat had it, it only played music. Cat “are you trying to rap your answer? It’s communicating through the top 40!” The woman who faked the Ouija board was convinced there was a spirit called David around. Next we tried a human pendulum. Cat volunteered Lynx to be the pendulum so we would know it wasn’t faked. Nothing happened. So then Fake It volunteered. Guess what? She was being pushed and pulled like a swinging door. We rolled our eyes so hard they were like the spinning pictures in a fruit machine.Gloucester prison

We had a break then so ranted to the camera about this woman’s fakery. See? We said there would be one person who irritated us. We were right. And we were stuck with her until free time at 2 a.m. The night suddenly seemed like a ten year stretch.

We went into the laundry rooms next and the leader switched on the Banshee Box. We’d not heard of one of these but man this was fun. Apparently, it has words in its database that are broken, so spirits have to put the words back together to speak. Not sure how spirits would know how to do this. We hope that if we become ghosts, we don’t have to do this. We can just about master our MP3 Players. It spat our broken words in a voice that Lynx said sounded suspiciously like the Mysterons. Luckily Lynx was in a burgundy skirt and Cat was wearing a red tartan coat so Captains Scarlet were on hand to fight them. It rambled gibberish in its creepy voice while Fake Away mentioned she sensed someone called David. Cat “half the prison population were probably called Dave.” The leader laughed and said that’s probably true as everyone knows a Dave. Cat “It’s like there was always one called William. I know about five Daves.” We’re related to two. David wasn’t mentioned again. The woman thought it said “zozo”. This thing wasn’t speaking English. It certainly wasn’t spitting out fictional demon names.

Gloucester prisonThere was an interesting response on the rem pod though. It started buzzing and at one point lit up and when the leader asked it to switch out the blue light, switched out. But it wasn’t responsive to other commands and just kept buzzing to itself like an angry mechanical bee.

We were then taken to the kitchens. The two guys in there kept saying how active it had been, how four people got affected, fleeing the kitchen retching and the fifth one had to be removed. Uh huh. Their activity was about to die because the ghost busters (aka Calamityville Horror) showed up. Sure enough, not much happened. There were some light responses on the K2 to people’s questions but the guys kept saying there were people there but they were too scared to come into the circle. Prisoners too scared to enter a circle of women? Three of whom are midget sized? The team kept talking about how active it was with all the other groups. No doubt they would be saying that about our group too. One guy said he could smell sulphur. Fake Off said “don’t say that. First we had Zozo, now sulphur.” Sulphur smells are associated with demonic entities. And landfill sites. The guy asked the significance of the sulphur, but Fake and Bake just said “don’t say that.” Lynx told him it meant demons. The guy asked who was Zozo. Lynx “he’s the latest paranormal craze.” Cat “Think Zak Bagans started it.” The woman said “actually it started with Zeppelin.” But when she tried to explain who Zozo was, she couldn’t and shut up. Yes. Pipe down with your fakery and your demonic bullshit.Gloucester prison

We could hear water dripping but the team said there were no working taps. When we returned to the kitchens alone at the end of the night, we could still hear the dripping. Lynx and Neen went to investigate and found…a leaking tap! Thought they said there were no working taps. This was an easy one to debunk but they didn’t seem interested in that.

We moved to A wing with the medium. Apparently the other teams had doors slamming. And guess what our team got? Bugger all. The other members of our group were now commenting on how our group were getting nothing. We kept quiet about this always happening to us. We’d made ourselves unpopular enough. The medium said there were about five spirits around us and kept going on about a dark negative energy in B wing. We asked if we could go there instead. In the end, she sent Cat there with one of the team. Nothing. Not a door slam, no footsteps, no voices, no evil energy. All we could hear was one of the other groups being incredibly noisy. Way to ruin our vigils!

At 2 a.m we headed back to the break room then at 2:25, set off alone. We went to B wing first. So did a lot of other people. We couldn’t do any vigils due to the noise. So we did a cool silhouette photo against a giant window and selfie on a bunk bed. Then we moved to the kitchens where Lynx and Neen debunked the dripping water. We headed back to C wing to see if the light would return but it didn’t. So we headed to A Wing, where Jenny is supposed to haunt A3 25. You can’t get up to A3 and none of the doors have numbers on. We did a vigil in the corridor and eventually, the other guests started to leave so the prison quietened down. Neen and Elaine retired to the break room at 3:35 so it was just us two left. By now, the other guests had left. We had the entire prison block to ourselves. Finally. But it didn’t feel creepy. Without everyone else there, it was quiet. It was incredibly windy and the building next door had plastic sheeting which made a lot of noise. We suspect the wind was responsible for a lot of noise activity heard through the night. And there were broken windows, which would explain banging noises that sounded like they were coming from upstairs. Or maybe it was Zozo the famous demon running amok and slamming doors because terrorising guests in Gloucester was the best use of his time that night. We may never know.Gloucester prison