Bad Girls

School’s out forever…

School Hall Slaughter

filming the trailer

This week, we ticked ‘star in a horror film’ off our coffin list. Ok, it wasn’t on our list, like ‘swim with sharks’, ‘learn to scuba dive’ and ‘world domination’ are, but it was a lot of fun. We’re not actors. We’ve never acted, never wanted to act. Drama in school used to fill us with a cold dread usually saved for facing the gallows. Our faces are more suited to radio. We’re far more comfortable in the crew roles but Huw Lloyd (you may remember him from guest hosting on our radio show and us guest hosting on his Undead Wookie podcast) wanted us to be in his film, School Hall Slaughter so we agreed. Who doesn’t want to slaughter a load of people in the name of art? Plus good things exist outside comfort zones. You can still donate to help the film in its post production phase,

School Hall Slaughter

Huw teaching Cat how to kill

The first day of shooting got straight into the death scenes. Always the best part of any horror film and the first death was no exception. Filming is a long process. It takes hours to do a single scene, even if it’s only thirty seconds. Eight hours of working resulted in what will be two minutes of footage. The lighting has to be perfect, camera angles have to be right, sometimes you shoot it from different angles or reverse shots. Add mirrors into the scene and it’s a new world of nightmares. We took our laptop and books with us so while lighting was being set up, we read our books and edited our gothic horror novella, The Curse of Ravenhall. Cat was in the first scene, which we started shooting at 5 p.m., while Lynx wasn’t needed ’til the final scene, which didn’t start shooting til 10:30 p.m. We’re glad we only had two lines each and that was at the end of the film. All we had to do was be creepy. That is as natural to us as our dark hair colour.

School Hall Slaughter

tormenting Boole during rehearsals

We warned Huw that we wouldn’t be able to stop ourselves from taking on crew roles. By halfway through the first scene, we were cleaning up blood, taking behind the scene photos and continuity photos, teaching people how to use the clapperboard and take notes about each board, which take was good and make notes on the bad takes. By the end of the first day, we were also operating lights and holding a strobe light up as it kept trying to kill the DOP, Will Bradshaw. We’d worked with Will on Clownface, where he was Assistant Director, so it was nice to get the chance to work with him again. It took FOREVER to clean up the blood from the girls’ toilets. It looked like a slaughter scene. Which it was. Getting blood out of white grouting is particularly hard. Those toilets have probably never been so clean.

School Hall Slaughter

Lamby ready for his close up

The first death of the day was the Assistant Head Teacher. The blood went everywhere! Why buildings insist on having magnolia walls is a mystery. It just shows all the blood. It was a fun death scene to shoot. People will never look at a pencil in the same way. Anthony Price’s SFX makeup looked so realistic. The last scene was the one in the girls’ toilets. It was a tight squeeze having four actresses; Will; the sound guy, Wayne Bassett; Lynx as the killer and Cat in a cubicle operating the lights. How Will managed to shoot it is an incredible feat of space usage. Full credit to him. We pointed out the toilets were too nice to pass as school toilets. There wasn’t a graffitied penis in sight! And nothing to keep us updated on who fancies who. The teenagers were all really good actors. They were about 15-20 years younger than us and all so much taller. We were old enough to be their mothers and yet there we were, in school uniform, butchering them.

School Hall Slaughter

cramped filming conditions

Day two started earlier, with copying footage over from the SD card to the hard drive. We took over that duty while Huw and Will set up scenes. We took our resistance bands and did glute exercises and flexibility work while the footage transferred then continued editing our novella. By the evening, we were having our hair and makeup done. This was a new experience for us. We cut our own hair rather than face the awkwardness of going to a hairdressers, and having someone close to our faces is incredibly uncomfortable for us. But Rhiannon (makeup) and Hollie (hair) were so lovely that they put us at ease and we were happy for them to do it. And we looked so different!School Hall Slaughter

School Hall Slaughter

Rhiannon doing makeup

We’ve had the same hairstyles for years now. In our younger days, we could age our photos by our hairstyles as they changed every year. Hollie combed it all back, pinned our fringes to the back of our heads then backcombed it. Rhiannon did beautiful dark eye makeup and was excited she finally got to use her red lip pallet. She successfully managed to make our 36 year old faces look 16. People have told Cat that she looks like Fairuza Balk (Nancy from The Craft). We’ve never seen the resemblance. But after the hair and makeup were done, she was almost the spitting image of her, even down to the wide demonic grin. So if Hollywood is reading this and you want to scrap The Craft remake and do a sequel with Nancy’s younger twin sisters, we are available. We also practise witchcraft, so y’know, we got this.

School Hall Slaughter

Hollie working her magic

Despite getting to set at two p.m, we didn’t start filming until 7:15 p.m. Our first scene of the day was the last scene of the film where we sit there looking all innocent after we’ve just slaughtered six people. There wasn’t a dolly on set so Will was bundled onto a trolley and wheeled back and forth to get the smooth zoom in shot. That scene took so long to light due to daylight coming in through the glass doors and windows as it was shot in the building’s foyer. It was probably the most awkward scene, lighting wise. It took hours to set up and about ten minutes to shoot the scene! Lynx’s eyes reacted to the smoke and watered the entire time. It’s so hard trying not to blink when your eyes are stinging and weeping. It was the only time they reacted to the smoke.

School Hall Slaughter

Cat tormenting Boole again

The final scene that day was one of our favourites to shoot as it involved action on our part. We’d actually rehearsed this scene a few weeks ago to make sure we got the timings right. Lynx stabs the victim in the back while Cat leaps on his back and savages him. The actor, Bool, is a lot taller than us, so she needed a run up. Cat had to have a blood-soaked sponge in her mouth to emulate blood seeping down her victim’s wound then smear it all over her face, psycho style. Sitting in blood wasn’t overly pleasant. It was sticky. Her fingers got stuck to her face every time she touched her cheeks on the drive home. When filming, you get used to scenes being cut, changed, added and you just wing it. That is how we like to work, so it suits us. And films never run on schedule. Two of the three days overran by an hour and a half, which isn’t bad. We didn’t get home each night til 1:30 a.m. and got to bed around 2 a.m after cleaning all the blood off and feeding our cats.

School Hall Slaughter

Lynx waiting to torment Boole

Day three was a 9 a.m. start. Full credit to Rhiannon for managing to hide the fact we’d been running on about three hours’ sleep each night. We were surprised when we found out it was the first time she’d done makeup on a film set, as she was so good and professional. Hollie tweaked our hair, which had managed to stay in place. That’s impressive. Our hair is wild and does what it wants but she managed to tame it.

School Hall Slaughter

deadly reflection

The first scenes of the day probably took the longest. They were classroom scenes and we were shooting in an actual school. Cat amused herself by reading dinosaur books in between takes. Pretty sure they drew the raptors wrong. This day, we were fully immersed in the crew roles. We were on clapperboard duty, note taking, holding reflector screens, cleaning up more blood and we provided fruit for the cast and crew. It was the longest shoot day – thirteen hours in total. During a break, Will found exercise equipment in the yard so we abandoned our squats and dashed out to do some pole poses on the high pull up bars. We weren’t in a lot of the scenes until the end, which is why we took on so many crew roles.

School Hall Slaughter

behind the scenes

One scene we’d rehearsed weeks ago, was an action scene involving a sledgehammer. Cat broke her finger when she accidentally slammed it against the wall. That was on the very first practise. She had to redo the action over and over. A month later, she can’t bend the top knuckle. On this day, we were meant to be shooting that scene, but due to previous scene changes, the sledgehammer scene got cut. But at least she has a memento of filming, even if it is a permanently misshapen finger.

School Hall SlaughterHuw wanted Lynx to twirl her machetes while walking down the corridor. Unfortunately, she completely failed at it, whereas Cat was really good, so we switched roles. Cat would twirl the machetes, Lynx would use the sledgehammer, but that scene was then cut due to timing.

School Hall SlaughterThe final scene was our fight scene with lead actress, Amber. Again, we’d rehearsed this one and it hadn’t gone too well. Cat got backhanded across the face for real when she didn’t duck in time. So for this one, she and Amber were very conscious about it. Cat felt her performance was awful in that scene, but hopefully it looks good on screen.

School Hall Slaughter

Anthony and Rhiannon doing Boole’s makeup

We finished on time on the final day then spent a while touring the school, scouring for any blood that needed to be cleaned up. We loved every moment of the shoot. The cast and crew were all lovely and we’d love to work with them again. We’re a lot more comfortable and confident being on a film set now. When we first joined Clownface, we had no idea what we were doing and spent our free time sitting far away from everyone. Now, we know what to do and just get on with it. Though admittedly, we do still spend our breaks on our own. Our first time in front of the camera went smoothly, though we’re glad we got to play creepy killers, as it was an easy role for us. Have we got the acting bug? No. We’d still much rather be crew but if needed to don the role of murderers again, we would say yes.

After all, we are the weirdos.

School Hall Slaughter

The makeup and hair team. Fiann, Anthony, Izzy, Hollie and Rhiannon

Fame and Good Fortune

Sign outside Soderkoping BokhandelSaturday 16th May – book signing day – the reason for our visit to Sweden. Surprisingly, we weren’t at all nervous. For our signing in W H Smith’s in Cardiff, we were terrified and wanted to cancel. We’re so much more relaxed in a foreign country. We should do all our signings abroad! Also, we didn’t have to do anything other than show up. Christina and Anders had arranged everything. We should employ them as our agents and managers! Pelle came home in the morning with the morning’s newspapers. We were on the front page! It was obviously a slow news day in Söderköping. Front page of the Norrkoping newspaperWe had a huge article in the paper. We never get this much attention back home. This may be the pinnacle of our career. Clearly, we’re in the wrong country. Move over, ABBA, Sweden has new icons. We dressed in our finery and arrived at Söderköping Bokhandel at 10:45. We found a sign outside, advertising the signing. A daughter of Christina’s friend collects autographs and wanted ours. She’d printed off a photo of us so we signed that. Christina bought her a copy of Silent Dawn.

full page article in Norrkoping tidningarWe’d barely put our rucksacks down when the first of the customers arrived. We cracked open a Red Bull and were ready to face the world. Fortunately, everyone spoke perfect English, so communicating wasn’t a problem. Everyone was lovely and impressed that we had learned to write our ‘darkest wishes’ signature in Swedish. Our written Swedish is so much better than our spoken Swedish. One woman saw the article in the paper and was curious, so came just to meet us. She bought a book. People seemed very excited to have us there. One man also saw our article and although horror scares him, he wanted to meet us. He was interested in hiking, so we were telling him all about our beautiful mountains in Wales. Everyone was fascinated with our stories about Wales and its mythology, the way we are with Swedish mythology. When we did the signing in Smith’s, only our awesome friends came to it, but here, we met so many new readers. To think, we thought no-one would come! For three hours, we barely stopped. We ended up staying an hour past our allotted time, and we sold more books than we did in Smith’s and way more than we usually do in cons. We bought another book, a beautiful one about myths and monsters, but this one is in Swedish. We’d spent the past two days in a book shop. It would’ve been rude to leave new friends behind. We’re now planning to have some of that artwork tattooed on us to remember our time in Sweden.

pushing a planeWe got back and were preparing to go exploring the nearby mountain, Ramunderberget when Christina got a message from Anders. A man named Michael had seen our article, where it says that we want to visit Stegeborgs Slottsruin. He came to the bookshop, but we’d already left. Anders told him that as Pelle’s car was in need of new brakes, we couldn’t go to the castle. He offered to drive us. Christina rang him and he arranged to meet us at the library. Most of our adventures start off like horror films and always turn out well, so we accepted. Meeting a complete stranger and travelling to castle ruins with him is how all good adventures start.

stegesborg slottsruinOn the way, we saw an unusual sight – two men pushing a small plane. We expected to see new sights in Sweden, but that wasn’t one of them. We also saw horses, cows, calves and alpacas. No elks,  wolves or bears. Duolingo made it seem like they were everywhere. Duolingo is a liar.

It turned out, Michael is a guide at the castle and a descendant of the Vasa Royal family who lived there. We got a special private guided tour. His brother built the herb garden behind the castle. So we were mixing with someone of royal heritage. That’s a first. The castle is beautiful. stegesborg slottsruinThe oldest part dates back to the 13th century. The top half of the tower was added in the 15th century and the king imprisoned his two daughters in it. Unlike Rapunzel, they didn’t have long hair to lure a brave rescuer, so they escaped using ropes from a wooden beam, then made their getaway by horse and cart. But the horses wore their shoes backwards, so it looked like they were going the other way.

stegesborg slottsruinThere are plenty of interesting stories with the castle, such as King Birger. When King Magnus Ladulås died, his three sons divided the country into three. King Birger got Stegesborg and Östergötland. In 1317, he invited his brothers, Duke Erik and Duke Valdemar to his palace in Nyköping for a banquet he threw in his honour. However, he imprisoned them in the dungeon then tossed the key into the river. They went there expecting a feast and died of starvation. His hospitality clearly needs work. Next time your siblings invite you round for tea, maybe claim you’re busy.

We found vegan sorbet in the gift shop, as well as a model of the castle how it used to look. And we befriended a small black dog. We came to Sweden with a lot of Kronor, as people warned us it would be expensive. So far, all we’d bought was ice cream and books. This is how life should be.

Day: 3 Number of elks seen: 0. Number of alpacas: 2

soderkopings bokhandel

with Anders, the bookshop owner

Press Gang

Press interview in Soderkoping

press interview

Meeting the press, buying books and not seeing any elk. Day two of our Swedish invasion went well.

We donned our finery, packed our Red Bull and at 10:30, went to the Bokhandel as Anders had arranged for us to meet with the press. We’re not used to this kind of attention! It’s like being famous. Press interviews we’ve done have either been in email or over the phone. We prefer email. It means we can think about what we want to say and not disgrace ourselves. Speaking never goes well. Surprisingly, we weren’t nervous. At home, we would’ve been shaking and wanting to cancel it. In Sweden, we’re relaxed and not at all anxious. Sweden is good for us! Three journalists and a photographer showed up.

press interview in Soderkoping

Being photographed by the press

They were all lovely and spoke excellent English, which means we didn’t have to embarrass ourselves with our attempts at Swedish. Not sure our Duolingo phrases of ‘the bear likes the vegetarian’ and ‘my parents don’t like that you eat ants’ would have been much use. Anders said they often struggle to get the press, or only one shows up, so the fact that three came was very impressive. They were fascinated with Wales and the different mythologies. Two of the journalists, Patrick from Folkbladet and Elizabeth from the Norrkoping Tidning, then wanted to take us outside and do a mini photoshoot. That was fun. Again, it was like being celebrities. We could get used to this lifestyle! They were all really lovely. And the photos turned out decent. It’s rare we like photos of us.

press interview in SoderkopingWe succumbed to temptation and bought books. Being in a bookshop, surrounded by beautiful books, there’s only so much self control we can muster. There were some fantasy books in English, written by Swedish authors, so we bought those. The only Swedish author we’ve read is Stieg Larsson, so it will be nice to read more Swedish authors. We were tempted by some of the others, but our Swedish isn’t quite up to standard. Maybe in a year or two we can come back and buy them. We did manage to read some Swedish children’s books, so impressed ourselves with that. We’re easily impressed. We bought our niece a book by Sweden’s famous children’s author, Astrid Lindgren.

one of Lars’s models

Our next stop was the museum. It was small but interesting. The volunteer, Lars, had made a model of Söderköping, complete with tiny lawnmowers, bikes, and a man peeing in the alley. It’s the little things that make it. Lars was lovely and insisted on giving us a postcard and a book for free as memories, so we donated to the museum instead. He seemed surprised that we wanted to take a photo of him with his models. And we discovered that Cat is the same height as a Penny Farthing bicycle.

We visited another church and saw the boat Pelle is making. It’s incredible. He’s very talented. We then stopped at an ice cream shop, where they make their own ice cream and sorbet. They had two vegan sorbets – dark chocolate and blood orange. They were delicious. We managed to succeed at one mission – buying Dave honey with lemon. You can only get it in Sweden, so when he found out we were going, he requested some. That mission was completed successfully. Mission: Elk is not going so well. Maybe they’re not so keen on towns and shops. We’d brought a lot of Krona with us as we heard that Sweden was expensive. So far, all we had really bought was ice cream and books. This is not a bad way to live.

Lars with his model

In the evening, we watched three episodes of the Swedish version of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. However, there were no English subtitles, so we had the Swedish ones on. We can read Swedish better than we can understand speech. We were thrilled when we were able to understand full sentences. Mostly, we’d pick out a couple of words and work out what it said. We finished the evening by listening to some Swedish music.

Day: 2. Number of elks we’ve seen: 0.

Made In Sweden

goths on a plane

Getting up stupidly early, having a mini meltdown in the check-in line and getting lost in a straight line. It could only be one thing: it’s travel time!

Holidays are stressful. We spend so long being excited about them then the day before comes and we don’t want to go. Packing is a nightmare and the cause of many tantrums. Leaving all our packing til the day before probably wasn’t the best idea but we were busy before. When we say busy, we mean we were doing pole. We only like Morrisons or Tesco own brand of soya milk, so that has to come with us. We also bring lots of food in case we can’t find anything we like.  Red Bull is never left behind. You don’t go on adventures and leave your soldiers at base camp.

Swedish Glace in Sweden!

We were so overwhelmed by the thought of packing, that we spent most of the day learning Swedish on Duolingo because we couldn’t control the panicky mess that were our brains. We eventually started packing, debated for ages about what to wear, fetched our books and started packing. Convinced they’d lose our suitcases, we put two copies of each book in our hand luggage. A copy of Soul Asylum and Bleeding Empire were slotted into our shoulder bags, because they’re the biggest novels and would weigh down the suitcases. The one hand luggage was just under 10kg. Perfect. The other was 7.5 kg. We also filled some rucksacks, as we’d paid for priority boarding so we could have decent sized cabin bags.

SoderkopingBut it’s always the suitcases that cause the problems. Weigh, moan about the weight, take things out, strop, rearrange things, add things, vow we’re never going on holiday again, weigh and after many hours we’re ready. We’d gone to bed at 10:30. Y’know, being sensible. We realised we didn’t have a luggage tag for the case we’d borrowed from our sister, so cue a panicky moment of creating one, laminating it and tying it on with ribbon because we couldn’t find our cable ties. We got up at the ungodly hour of 1:30 a.m. then drove the three hours to Stansted. We’ve never flown on our own before and we’ve never gone to Stansted. This was huge for us. We parked and got the bus to the airport. One man complained that people had their cases where people should stand. Sir, the bus is so crowded we can count the fibres on the passengers’ clothes. Don’t like it? Don’t get on.

Selma

We got to the airport, and luckily our check in desk was right by the doors. We tried logging on to our Ryan Air account to find our boarding passes. Lynx asked a guy where we could print them out. He said we didn’t need to, if we had them on our phones. Cat finally managed to log into our account and after much yelling at the speed of the Wifi, she found our boarding passes. It said they weren’t mobile friendly. We had to get the app. While Cat downloaded the passes and took screenshots of them, Lynx downloaded the ap and we joined the queue.

Luciferia

The downloaded speed was agonisingly slow. 2% and we’d already moved in the queue. 3%. We moved again. We reached the corner. 5%. Now we knew how Jack Bauer felt. 13%. Come on, app! We were getting hot with stress. 23%. We were near the desks. The queues were moving too fast. The download was moving too slow. 32%. The women in front of us checked in. Never have we wanted to be at the back of the queue so much. 33%. Our turn. Cat handed over her phone and we secretly prayed to Hermes that the boarding passes would scan. We don’t print them out at home anymore because they never scan properly. The boarding passes scanned. Lynx cancelled the download. Cat told the woman Lynx’s boarding pass was on the same phone. The woman swiped left, surprised to see a screenshot of Duolingo with an insult in Swedish. “The problem is you are too ugly.” Cat had saved it to remember to show people. Now it looked like she had deliberately saved it to be able to insult someone in a foreign language. Swipe right, lady, swipe right.

Soderkoping

the lockkeeper’s cottage

The suitcases were under weight, preventing another embarrassing scene like the one for Paris that will haunt us forever more. We went to security and that’s where the fun begins. Two trays for our huge coats, hoodies and spiked boots. One tray for the laptop. One tray for the power pack kindles, phones, wallets. One for each of our four bags. The lady told Cat she didn’t need to remove her boots. The scanner bleeped. Cat had to remove her boots and be subjected to a patdown. The woman poked around the boobage. Cat “That’s my bra.” The woman grabbed the hand held scanner. It bleeped. Cat “My bra.” Seriously, love, we can’t even hold a bottle with our cleavage, we’d never be able to conceal weapons.

Soderkoping

the mangling house

The first thing we did when we cleared security, was buy Red Bull. Our stress levels lessening, we headed towards the gates. We found somewhere to sit and while Lynx started on this blog post, Cat went to the toilets to put makeup on. She suggested we go one at a time to save lugging our bags.

Rule one in horror: never split up.

SoderkopingAfter several minutes, Lynx was getting concerned. Cat had been gone a long time. The Silent Hill siren wailed. Cat: ‘I’m lost! I couldn’t find my way out of the toilets either, neither could another woman, so we buddied up and left together. I thought I was heading in the right direction but I definitely didn’t walk this way!’

Lynx: ‘Can you see Boots?’’

Cat: ‘It was a straight line! I don’t know how this happened!”

two cats getting along

Lynx: ‘LOL! Head for Boots then turn right. I’m outside a travel shop.’

Cat: ‘Ooh found 5p.’

Lynx: ‘nice.’

Cat: ‘I can’t see Boots. I’m in a circular area with loads of shops. I’m going back to the toilets and trying again.’

making friends in Sweden

Two minutes later, she returned, looking sheepish. It wasn’t the best of starts for her. Lynx went to put her makeup on. She walked into the toilets and encountered a queue of women. She walked past them and only found stalls. “Where are the sinks?” A woman then said “excuse me.” Lynx headed right towards other stalls. The woman: “excuse me!” Lynx “I’m looking for the sinks.” Excuse me? Did she just accuse Lynx of queue jumping? Does she not look British? Did she not hear her clearly say out loud to herself “where are the sinks?” How insulting.

Selma has accepted us

We found our way to the gate and boarded almost immediately. Normally, we just selected ‘random seating’ so rarely sit together, but they’d put us 17 rows apart, and as it’s our first time of flying without a chaperone, Lynx paid to sit by Cat. Then we spent almost the entire flight asleep. The Sertraline makes us twitch, so Cat twitched a lot while she slept and kept getting woken by the man beside her accidentally elbowing her. Maybe he was checking she was still alive.

Soderkoping

St Laurentii church and belltower

Christina and Pelle met us at Skavsta airport in Nyköping with two giant cans of Red Bull. We’re not saying that’s how we expect everyone to greet us, but this is a standard we could get used to. The airport is the biggest one in Sweden. And it’s tiny. But we impressed ourselves by understanding signs. The drive to Söderköping was lovely. We spent the whole time staring out the windows, trying to spot the elk that Duolingo convinced us are everywhere. We saw a sign warning us about elk, but not elks. Day 1 Mission: Elk – Fail.

SoderkopingWe dropped our bags off then went with Christina and Pelle to return the car to Pelle’s colleague. On the way back, we stopped at the supermarket. And found the greatest surprise – they sold our vegan ice cream! We have Swedish Glace, and have never found it in any other country we’ve visited. We hoped, that as it was Swedish, Sweden would sell it, and they do! They had vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The UK stopped stocking the strawberry years ago. We are two very happy goths. A woman saw us, stopped and stared then uttered “tvillingar?” Twins. Us “Ja.” Check us out understanding and speaking Swedish! We made sure to learn that phrase, because it’s the most common question we get asked in the UK, so we figured it would be the same in Sweden.

SoderkopingWe stopped at Söderköpings Bokhandel, where we’re doing the signing on Saturday. It’s Sweden’s oldest bookshop. We met the owner, Anders, who is lovely. Our wallets were itching to be opened and we had to resist from buying a Game of Thrones book about the history of the Targaryens. Our Swedish isn’t that good. Yet. We managed to read some children’s books, so we were happy. We also stopped at the library to get a map and information brochures.

SoderkopingLater, we took a walk around Söderköping and took photos. It’s so beautiful. The buildings are so unusual and old. It’s really peaceful and quiet. There aren’t many cars. This is not a tourist destination. It’s unusual for us not to go somewhere touristy so this has made a lovely change. We walked along the Göta Canal and called in at the local pub. The landlord is American and seems really nice. We already love it here. We explored the town, taking lots of photos.

We’ve made friends with Christina’s cats, Selma and Luciferia. Luciferia is very shy but oh so fluffy. Selma only allows three people to touch her. That number has grown to five as we won her over with our average Swedish and nose boops. By the evening, Luciferia also decided she liked us and came for fusses.

Day: 1. Number of elks we’ve seen: 0

Soderkoping

finally meeting Christina after years of Facebook friendship.

Press Start

She’s coming…

What do you get when you put horror writers with a game developer? Silent Dawn: Asylum.

maja 3Back in January, our friend, Steve, asked if we’d like to work on a project together, creating a choose your own adventure game. Intrigued, we agreed. We’re always up for new challenges. If Neil Gaiman can be known for multiple creative outlets then damn it, so can we. We used to love playing Granny’s Garden on the BBC computer when we were kids, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, so to be given the chance to make our own was something we couldn’t turn down. In April, we finally got round to starting it. Steve showed us the programme – Twine – and how it worked. You could create different paths and have them link back up. Or not. You could have different endings, choices. And in ours, you can die. We are horror writers. If you were expecting a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.

bubblesWe sat there for a while trying to think of a setting that would make for a great game with plenty of paths and choices. It had to be dark and creepy. We came up with several then discarded them for not being complex enough. Then we realised we had one: Silent Dawn. In the book, the characters play a game called Silent Dawn: Asylum, where they have to find missing kids, while avoiding Silent Dawn. We thought it would make a great game. Why come up with a new idea when we already had a game written out, begging to be played? We’ve always wanted to create the game, but we know nothing about coding or game development. Even the sight of code sends our brains into a panicky meltdown. Luckily, Steve likes coding. Some readers had mentioned to us that they would like to play the game from the book. Your wish is our command! This is the opening scene:

            The legend of Silent Dawn dates back centuries. It changes over time and in different countries, but one thing always stays the same: wherever she appears, children go missing. Some say they become her puppets, others say she kills them and feeds off their life force to sustain her immortality. But whenever she takes them, they’re never found. Silent Dawn has returned, but this time, she has a helper.
Children have gone missing and clues lead you to the woods surrounding Nightshade Asylum. One of the patients is being controlled by Silent Dawn and has taken the children. You must collect all the patient records and work out which patient is her puppet. Find the children. Before it’s too late.

majaWe now go round Steve’s every week to add to the game. It’s taken several three hour-long sessions and we’ve barely begun. It took two or three weeks to get the character out of the woods to the asylum! That’s probably about 15 minutes of game play. There are different paths, dead ends, multiple deaths and so many variables, depending on the character’s actions. The list of variables grows every week, including character injuries and whether or not they try to mess with the game. We feel sorry for Steve having to code them all. The game starts off fairly linear, but when you reach the asylum, dear god does it go crazy. It will allow for multiple play-throughs, where you can take a different path every time.  There are checkpoints, so you don’t have to go back to the start every time you die. But…you have to find them. You didn’t think we’d make this easy for you, did you? We’ve even hidden some traps that will allow players to try to break the game. And get punished for it. Lynx is even getting the hang of some of the coding. Cat keeps accidentally putting YouTube links in. None of us know how she does it.

maja 2We’re really excited about it. It’s refreshing to do something creative that isn’t writing short stories or novels. It’s different. It’s also nice to work on a creative project with someone else, where we can share ideas and feed off each other’s creativity. Steve comes up with some of the ideas when our brains misfire. It’s given us something different to focus on, to look forward to. We don’t know when we’ll be finished yet – we’ve just got the character into the asylum – but it will be available on Twine. And it will be free to download, or with an option to make a very small voluntary donation. Steve’s cat, Maja, and his fish, Bubbles, are project managers. Bubbles doesn’t contribute much, and Maja is more intent on sitting on the router and standing on the keyboard, but we appreciate their support. 

There have been a few mini meltdowns, which happens when we work with technology. Mostly, the keyboard has a mind of its own and it seems to hate Lynx. She’ll be merrily typing away and then it’s like someone’s holding down one key. She tries to delete it and it deletes everything she’s written. We figured out Cat’s phone was causing some of the problems – it’s a wireless keyboard, and if Cat was on her phone, the keyboard would go crazy – but it’s not responsible for every hiccup. Steve’s going to buy a new keyboard and mouse before we launch his out the window. He’ll keep the current one for coding. It obeys him.

You can keep up with weekly developments on our Instagram Stories. If you want to know what the game is like, you can buy Silent Dawn.

If you go into the woods today, you’d better make sure you don’t die…

twine

SILENT DAWN TAKES YOU

Acting Up

Continuing our New Year’s resolution of doing something different, we’ve really thrown ourselves into the challenge this year. By agreeing to act in a short horror film. We are not actors. We are far more comfortable being behind the camera where our creepy faces cannot scare the general public. Unless you’re watching our ghost hunting show, Calamityville Horror, where we want to scare you. We…we make small children cry.

Our friend, Huw asked us to be in his film. Remembering our resolution, we agreed. Our acting experience is best described as ‘standing around looking creepy’. In the past, we have been the Snake Twins in Witches Abroad play (non-speaking, just being creepy), extras in Clownface (non speaking, only face planting), murder victims and newborn demon in our friend Dave’s film (non speaking, only dying) and…that’s it. Not exactly IMDB worthy. We feel slightly guilty as there are a lot of people who want to be actors and don’t get the chance. We don’t want to be actors yet have been asked to be in people’s indie films. It’s all about who you know.

On Saturday, our acting debut began. Huw wanted to film the trailer for his upcoming short horror film, School Hall Slaughter. Check out its Facebook page here. Think 80s style slasher without the big hair and terrible fashion. We play rebellious high school pupils. We’re 36. We were worried there was no way we would pass for 16 year olds. The deepening frown lines and wrinkles under the eyes, the jaded, cynical view of the world and humanity show a maturity we do not feel. However, we are short. Once we were in the uniform, standing next to the taller cast, we did look like teenagers. For once, being the height of twelve year olds is an advantage, and not just for going down mines.

For the main film, our hair and makeup will be done on set. So we showed up for the trailer looking au natural. There was no hair and makeup for the trailer. So our debut for this film is us looking our absolute worst. Hair is a mess, we’re not wearing makeup and we’ve had a lot of early starts over the past week. Yeah…we make small children cry. We’d been cleaning out the animals and walking our dog before we got to set, so we’re just glad we didn’t have hay and sawdust in our hair too.

The building we were filming in was freezing. We kept our beloved hoodies on, which actually helped make us look more like teenagers. Luckily, we were allowed to wear thick tights. Not only did this keep us a bit warmer, it also hid the multiple leg bruises from polefit. Though we hope the camera isn’t amazing quality HD, because we forgot to lint roller the cat hair off. We’re not used to the glamorous life. We filmed for about three hours and did 26 takes. We warned Huw that we were so used to being crew that we would probably just become crew anyway. We kept our promise, taking behind the scenes photos, operating the clapperboard for pick up shots and reminding the lead actress of her lines. Once crew, always crew.

Most of our role involved walking around being creepy. We were surprisingly good at this, even managing to unsettle the other actors a little bit. The minute we spied the prop sledgehammers, that was it. We claimed them and pretended to bludgeon our fellow cast members. We’d done arm day in warrior training the day before, so told them our muscles were primed for bludgeoning. How to win friends, Raven style. We were so worried that we would be terrible at acting. Everyone else on the cast are experienced actors, except us. We know how important this film is to Huw and because he asked us to be in it, we didn’t want to let him down with bad performances. Luckily, he was pleased with what we did. It seems being creepy and vaguely threatening is our forte.

The filming for School Hall Slaughter is in July and we’re really excited about it, especially as we get to do some fight scenes. We just have to make sure we maintain our youthful appearance, so we’ve been stocking up on facial toners and anti wrinkle cream so all of our 36 years don’t start showing on our ageing faces. We need to stop glaring at people. Apparently swapping out our blood for teenagers’ blood is a step too far. We disagree. They should suffer for our art.

If you want to contribute to the making of School Hall Slaughter, please check out the Go Fund Me page.

School Hall Slaughter
Team Slaughter

Sign Post

Screenshot_20190209-144714We’ve finally achieved one of our writing goals: a book signing in an actual bookshop. W H Smith have agreed to let us through their doors and unleash us on their unsuspecting customers. It would have been nice to have been invited because we’re famous and our presence would draw a bigger crowd than William Burke’s execution (25,000 in case you were wondering) but the truth is, they put a call out for authors on Twitter and past us did a stupidly brave thing and emailed them. Damn you, past us! Don’t you realise future, anxious us has to deal with your bravery? Anyway, the signing will take place in the Queen Street branch, Cardiff on Saturday 16th February from 11-1 p.m. Sorry it’s such short notice, but they’ve only just told us the time. So if you’re free, come along and make us look worth the hassle.