Papillon Grand Canyon tourThere was only one thing worth getting out of bed at 6:20 a.m. for – our helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon with Papillon. The bus was picking us up at 8 and we needed the time to get ready. Unlike some people, we don’t jump out of bed, picture perfect, ready to start our day. We groan, slump out and wander like zombies. Do you know how long it takes to turn zombies into passable humans through the power of makeup? 20 minutes. We’re not big on makeup and get bored easily.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Papillon Grand Canyon tourWe’re pretty sure the tickets mentioned a limo pick up. Considering the only limo we’ve ever been in is a funeral one, we were excited, imagining this was how film stars lived. The black bus that turned up was certainly not a limo. No spacious leg room and mini fridge for us then. The bus driver seemed really beaten down by life and almost killed us several times on the way. It was like she was determined to end it all and take us all with her! And several other guests went missing, leading to us spending a long time driving around the strip and blocking hotel entrances. We’d been excited about the Grand Canyon for most of the year. No way in hell were we planning to end our morning flattened in a bus. If Sandra Bullock could take the wheel in Speed, so we could we. Luckily we didn’t have to. Our Travel Insurance didn’t cover bus hijacking.Papillon Grand Canyon tour

Papillon Grand Canyon tourThe greeter at the airport not only knew where Wales was, but had just come back from visiting Swansea and Cardiff! A lot of people in America thought we were English. We mentioned Wales and got blank stares. We had to explain it’s next door to England but is not in fact, England. So finding out this guy even knew our cities was a proud moment. Then over the tannoy they announced our names for the flight and added “from England.” A frustrated cry of “Wales!” echoed around the gift shop. *Grinds teeth* There are FOUR countries in the UK. FOUR. We shared the helicopter with three French guys. We sadly did not get to sit in the front, which would’ve made for amazing views. The helicopter ride was fantastic. First time we’ve ever been in one. And we didn’t play the Airwolf theme! Very disappointed in ourselves for that. Papillon Grand Canyon tourLynx only felt sick once on the way and a couple of times on the way back but Cat pocketed a sick bag just in case. The views were stunning and it’s so weird seeing such straight roads! It’s like they’re trying to defy nature. We landed in the Grand Canyon’s Western Rim with three or four other helicopters. It was incredible. We took a couple of rocks as souvenirs. Papillon Grand Canyon tourActual pieces of the Grand Canyon are way better than touristy mugs and keyrings. Though if the canyon collapses now, we apologise. We had a picnic in a shelter. They provided a small tub of Pringles and a packet of apple slices so we were able to eat something. We even drank some water! Check us out, trying new things. Most people just stayed under the shelter with the picnic, but we went exploring and gently hugged a cactus. The half hour went way too quickly. Photos don’t do the scale of it justice. Still can’t believe we were there.Paillon Grand Canyon tour

After a quick stop at our hotel to freshen up, we decided to go to Fremont Street. As we were heading for the bus stop, there were street artists dressed up. One was a Transformer, one was some kind of robot and there was another one. The robot guy wanted a high five from us then the three of them asked us for a photo. We declined, because you have to pay them, then one even said he’d waive his tip for a photo! :D Normally it’s tourists wanting photos with street performers, not the other way around! We got a 24 hour bus ticket and headed for Fremont Street.

Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas

canal in the Venetian

Except we’re easily distracted and spotted the Venetian hotel with its gondolas. So we jumped off the bus and booked a gondola ride through the hotel. The inside is amazing, they’ve recreated St Mark’s Square in Venice, complete with canals. Yes, there is a canal inside the hotel.

Venetian Hotel gondola

us and Caj

While we were waiting, a Russian tourist asked if he could take a photo of us. Our gondolier, Caj was brilliant. He was funny and even sang the Cornetto song when Neen asked. Every damn word. He sang the proper version then Mambo Italian while we danced. Nobody else appeared to be dancing in their gondolas. Caj kept blowing us kisses as we were leaving.

Venetian hotel gondola

Neen and Caj

We got back on the bus then stopped at the Mob Museum. That was really cool. We know a little bit about the mob, but not a lot, so it was great to learn the history and put faces to infamous names. They had the actual wall where the gangsters were killed in the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. So naturally we posed by it, with Neen shooting Lynx, Lynx surrendering and Cat doing a death pose.

Mob Museum, Las Vegas

actual wall from the St Valentine’s Day massacre

Mob Museum, Las Vegas

Neen firing a Tommy gun

Sensitive as always. We got to have a go with a fake Tommy gun then there was an electric chair which moved. So we took turns getting electrocuted. Naturally we did the whole ‘juddering as electricity courses through our veins’ bit then slumped into a death pose. Some people who were watching thought we were actors that worked there and even applauded us! Nope, not actors, just tourists messing around :D We also fired a bulletless revolver in a training video and kept shooting suspects in the arse as they ran away. Take that, dirtbags. We had our photo taken in a police lineup. The lady there loved our look and even loved our accents. Really? We told her the Cardiff accent really isn’t popular back home. But is appears we sound exotic to Americans. Who’da thunk it?Mob Museum, Las Vegas

Mob Museum, Las Vegas


Inside Vegenation

We headed to Fremont Street and joined it in the middle. We walked down to the end to find the vegan place in Container Park, which is a fenced off area with large shipping containers. Hence its name. The vegan place only served healthy stuff. This is a particular pet peeve of ours. You go to a vegan place and it’s all lentils, tofu (what the hell is tofu anyway?), kale chips, chickpeas, nuts and raw whatevers. People think this is what vegans eat. No! You know what we eat? Ice cream. Chocolate. Chips. Crisps. Sweets. Cake. We eat like normal people, just a vegan version of it. We’re vegan because we love animals, not because we want to eat like squirrels. So we wandered back to Fremont Street, but a different way and happened across a vegan restaurant, Vegenation. They served fries, which were actually large potato wedges sprinkled with paprika, and ice cream! We had vanilla and chocolate. Delicious! Chips and ice cream. It’s not that hard to keep us happy. Vegenation only opened in May. A good find! The greeter loved our hair so sat us near the door to attract customers :D


vegan ice cream at Vegenation

Fremont Street Las Vegas

Fremont Street

We walked back through Fremont Street. As it was dark, it was all lit up, with people on a zip wire above us. This is what we imagined the Strip to look like. There were street performers everywhere. Some wearing hardly anything. Yet people were taking photos of us. We’re not the most interesting people in Vegas! They obviously don’t get many Goths or twins in Vegas. We were trying to find a bus back then saw one behind us. We ran about a block alongside it and just beat it to the bus stop. It amused the bus driver anyway.

Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Fremont Street at night

Viva Las Vegas!

we're ready to go!

we’re ready to go!

You know your first time of leaving the UK is off to a bad start when you have an argument with airport security over Cranberry and Raspberry squash.

we took our own food

we took our own food

We travelled down on the Saturday night by coach to Gatwick. Our flight was leaving from Gatwick but returning to Heathrow, which caused a bit of a headache and in the end, we decided a coach was our best option. We managed to watch the Wales v England game on the way down with patchy 3G. We were gutted when we found out we were travelling down on game night. But Wales won so our holiday got off to a great start. But that wouldn’t last long. We stayed in Gatwick central Travelodge over night. We were only 10 minutes from the airport.

view from our plane

view from our plane

Then it started to go a bit wrong. The boarding passes we printed at home wouldn’t scan but they checked our passports and let us through. Our big case was too big to go with the other luggage and had to go in a different area. It was dead on its 23kg weight limit. Then at security, Cat set off the bleepers and had to go into a body scanner and stand on the footprints, which were too wide for her and raise her arms above her head. That that didn’t look at all inappropriate. The footprints were shoulder width for most people. We’re pixie people. Lynx didn’t set them off, even though we were wearing practically the same.

Colorado river

Colorado river

Then they seized Cat’s tray and the guy told her she couldn’t take her bottles of Cranberry and Raspberry on. 5 bottles, in a clear plastic case, that had an aeroplane on with a tick, showing they were suitable. Lynx didn’t get stopped for the bottles, even though we had the same set. Guy “What size are they?” Cat “100 mil.” That’s the allowance. Guy “They’re not marked. You can’t take them on.” Cat “They’re 100 ml.” Him “Can you prove it?” Cat “No, I don’t have my eBay receipt.”

our massive Virgin Airlines plane

our massive Virgin Airlines plane

Yeah we know, being a smartarse in the airport was never going to win us any favours. He took out her bottle of foundation, which was also unmarked and said she could have that, but not the other bottles. There was no way she was losing them, after we’ve paid for them. Cat “What do I do?” Him *shrugs* “You can’t take them.” Cat “Well shall I go and find an empty bottle and empty them into it?” Him “If that’s what you want to do.” Then took her passport, boarding pass and the bottles. She dumped her stuff with Neen and Lynx and went to ask him where she should go. He walked off. So she followed him. When she caught him up, she asked where to go. He wanted her to follow him. Then tell her that! He took her back to the boarding gate and left her there. After a while, Neen went and asked him where Cat was. He shrugged. Neen “Cathryn Davies, goth girl. Where did she go?”

biggest plane we've been on!

biggest plane we’ve been on!

Him “I left her at the gate.” Neen “Where is she now?” Him “That’s up to her.” Neen “Will she come back up this way?” Guy “I would advise her to.” Really helpful. By now, Neen and Lynx were panicking that we’d miss our flight and we had no way to contact each other. Cat had to find her way back down to the newsagents. After queuing for ages, they didn’t sell empty bottles. She found her way back upstairs and went to another newsagents. The lady there was really surprised they wouldn’t allow the bottles. Cat went back to the boarding gate and told the lady there. She was also surprised and asked which side she went to. Cat said right, so the lady said to use the left. So she did, put them in the tray and guess what? They allowed them! That other guy was clearly a wankenstein.

plane selfie!

plane selfie!

We boarded really quickly. But 11 hours is a long flight! We watched a documentary called Life After Manson, about Patricia Krenwell from the Manson family; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Poltergeist and Terminator: Genysis. We also played Dobble and dice Carcassonne. In Dobble, you have cards with loads of pictures on and you have to match one to one of the pictures on the previous cards. One of the pictures is a bomb. Only after slapping her card down, did Cat realise calling out “bomb!” on an aeroplane probably isn’t the best thing. Then Neen’s Carcassonne dice catapulted across the aisle, landing beneath another passenger’s feet, so Cat had to retrieve them. Lynx got really sick on the landing ‘cos there was so much turbulence. There was a lot during the flight but it got really bad as we descended and Lynx has always been travel sick. Neen’s nickname for her when we travel is Sicky McSickpants.

Lynx & Neen on the bus to Vegas!

Lynx & Neen on the bus to Vegas!

Cat on the bus

Cat on the bus

Cat soaked a tissue and put it on her neck as she got pins and needles in her hands and feet. As soon as people started clearing the plane, Neen and Cat sent her off while they grabbed the stuff. There were no sickbags on board. At customs, Lynx got quizzed about her trip, whereas the guy Cat went to didn’t speak to her. He wanted to know what Lynx planned to do, what her job was, how much money she brought, where she got her customs form, who was that person loitering nearby (Neen). At baggage collection, Cat nearly took out 2 guys with her heroic dive for the big case, then couldn’t get it off, so a guy helped her.

Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas

Had to queue for ages to another customs thing, then Neen had to go to a different area cos she had alcohol and they made her empty her bags while we were waiting at the exit for like 20 minutes. The woman took one look at the small bottle of vodka Neen had and laughed.

Excalibur hotel, Las Vegas

The Excalibur

Walking out of the airport into the Las Vegas heat was immense. It’s like standing below heaters set to their highest temperature. We couldn’t breathe. We got a bus to the strip. It was only $2 each. The Excalibur was huge! Though the air con smelled in our room. We hung out in our room for a bit then wandered the hotel. There’s a couple of outdoor pools and loads and loads of slot machines, arcades etc. Seriously, the entire downstairs was filled with them and there were arcade games in the ‘fun dungeon’ below. We were all too tired to really do anything. Asked about a fridge for our soya milk – they could send one to the room for $28 a night. No way. The guy suggested we get some ice from the machine and fill a container. So we did. That’ll do. Got back to our room about 6:45 pm. Went to bed at 8:30. Living the rock and roll lifestyle in Las Vegas!Excalibur hotel, Las Vegas

Cover Story

Do you ever get the feeling that something is cursed and the universe is telling you that going ahead with it will lead to your ultimate destruction? But you continue anyway in the vain hope when the day comes, the universe gets distracted by something shiny on the ground? In our case, that ‘something’ is The Malignant Dead. We get the feeling Fate doesn’t want us to release it. We don’t know why – we agreed not to release the stories of that time we caught her- anyhoo, we had the cover, it looked stunning and we sent off a press release with it and bought promo material. Createspace sent us a proof copy. It was too dark. Most of the plague doctor can’t be seen. Lizzie lightened him and we adjusted the photo on the back cover. We sent off for another proof copy, this time paying extra for the fastest delivery.

It looked no different.

Bandit holding Cat's hand through the Photoshop ordeal

Bandit holding Cat’s hand through the Photoshop ordeal

There was only one thing for it: change the black background. We found a misty one on and thought it would be a simple case of swapping the black for the new background. It took us two friggin’ hours! For a start, we couldn’t just swap it – no, we had to resize it to match the covers and spine. Then it didn’t fit on the print template – it was too small. For the other one, we cheated and filled the background in black. We tried this, continuously having to delete and resize the misty background to fit, and you could clearly see the cover on top of the background. We obviously weren’t going to be able to cheat this time. So we had to resize the cover. Several times. We probably should’ve asked someone who doesn’t hate Photoshop to do this, but we are so pushed for time, we can’t ask someone to drop everything they’re doing for us. We finally beat Photoshop into submission and sent the cover off for review.

They rejected it.

So this morning, we adjusted it to make sure it’s in the damn bleed area and sent it for another review.

We know most writers when they have a book coming out/ newly released, are gushing over their new baby. We now hate this book with the passion of a thousand burning witches. Which is a shame because it’s been one of our favourites to work on and we’re sad that we can’t work on it anymore.

We have a problem – we don’t think we have time for another proof copy. We have to have the books for our launch on Halloween and if we get another proof, we risk the books not coming in time unless we pay for the fastest shipping, in which case we’ll have zero profits. They come from America, so take a while. And customs once seized Deadly Reflections so they took months to get to us after we had to beg them to release it and pay a fine. If customs seize The Malignant Dead, we have no book launch. If we don’t get another proof, we risk the book looking terrible. We need more time. But we’re going to America next week and time is something we don’t have. We’ve had book launches without books before – Bad Romance and Romance Is Dead didn’t go live until the evening – but they were virtual launches and it’s never mattered if we haven’t had the print books. But this is a book signing. We need the books. And we need them before we fly to Scotland on October 29th.

We’re not changing the ebook cover – that one is staying black. We like the black and if we change it, it means our promo material was a waste of money. And we hate wasting money almost as much as we hate wasting time. We are so stressed, we can feel the frustration knotting in our chests. And we had our last therapy session on Monday. This is a bad time to be cut off from the people who keep us sane. We’re supposed to be excited about our first trip outside the UK but we can’t even concentrate on that at the moment. We are almost ready to throw away our atheism, adopt an ancient god and sacrifice someone to him in the hope that this will end well.

But this is our book. And our books never have happy endings.

Here is the new version. You can pre-order the Kindle version here – Amazon UK  Amazon US  Smashwords Read chapter one here.TMD mist

Night Watch

Last night was the opening night of Monstrous Productions‘ Night Watch in The Gate Arts Centre. This was their biggest production to date and the first time they’ve attempted one with the Watch and Sam Vimes. Having read it a few months ago when we knew which play would be next, we thought “How the hell will they do this on stage?” But they did. And they did it brilliantly. Having been part of the cast for their last play, Witches Abroad (we played the creepy Snake Twins), we know just how much effort and hard work goes in to each of these productions.

Night Watch tells the story of Sam Vimes, Commander of the Night Watch. After grappling with murderer Carcer, both fall from the roof of the Unseen University and end up back in time. Except Sam becomes his old mentor, John Keel and ends up mentoring his younger self amidst rebellion, riots and Carcer becoming a police officer. The complicated time travel was helpfully explained by Lu-Tze, a history monk, played by Howard Dickens. Craig Harper was great as young Sam Vimes. He played Mort in, well, Mort, so it was good to see him back in a leading role. He did well to capture how young Sam is in the book – nervy, eager to impress and wanting to do the right thing. Jez Hynes was outstanding as older Sam Vimes/John Keel and the part where he recited his Night Watch contract, word perfect, with all the punctuation, got a well deserved applause. Tyron Sullivan was fantastic as the villainous Carcer. A lot of actors when playing villains, make them too hammy, but he successfully avoided that and made Carcer into the type of bad guy you want to hate, but can’t help liking, because he portrayed him so well. The way Heath Ledger was as the Joker. The scenes with Carcer and Vimes together were amazing. They were the perfect pairing. And full applause to their final fight scene. They completely threw themselves into it. We could easily believe it was actually Vimes and Carcer fighting in real life. It was thrilling, though we imagine Tyron must be a bit sore this morning!

All the fight scenes in the play were brilliantly choreographed and everybody involved in them, embraced them. You could hear the thuds to prove it. And once again, Monstrous Productions proved you don’t need a fancy set and hundreds of props to bring a production to life. It was great seeing some cast from Witches Abroad again and also new faces. In particular, Jamie Gibbs, from Geeks in Wales (he used to write the Mithril Wisdom blog), who played Ned Coates. Us and Jamie have been at all the plays, sometimes at the same time, and all reviewed them, but we’ve never met in person. After we got the part in Witches Abroad, we told him he had to audition for the next play. And he did. And he was awesome. So well done Jamie for going from reviewing the plays to acting in one.

We have to commend the cast’s singing too! We didn’t know they could sing! The song went from being a soldier’s slightly humorous song, to being haunting, to being touching, purely by the way they sang it.

The storyline didn’t allow for many female characters, but the few women who were in it were great. Zoe, Lowri, Isabelle and Katya returned from Witches Abroad to vastly different roles. Katya was especially impressive as Lady Roberta Meserole, capturing her elegant yet slightly sinister nature perfectly.

In keeping with Pratchett’s novels, the humour was brilliant too. Los Shanahan as Dr Lawn had some great, funny lines, and Matthew Hitchman as Fred Colon managed to make the audience laugh just by waving a flag. We laughed the whole time he had it.

If you’ve never seen one of their plays, go and see it. If you love Terry Pratchett, go and see it. If you’ve never heard of Terry Pratchett, go and see it. All proceeds go to Alzheimer’s Research and so far, they’ve raised over £12,000 from all their productions.

We’re already looking forwards to the next play in February (opening on our birthday) and Going Postal in August. We hope they will be able to perform every Discworld novel, but they’ll have to re-do Monstrous Regiment and Carpe Jugulum, because we missed those ones.


Sam Vimes/John Keel – Jez Hynes

Young Sam Vimes – Craig Harper

Carcer – Tyron Sullivan

Fred Colon – Matthew Hitchman

Nobby Nobbs – John Simpson

Snouty – Pete Belson

Lu-Tze – Howard Dickins

Ned Coates – Jamie Gibbs

Lady Roberta Meserole – Katya Moskvina

Havelock Vetinari – Harry Spencer

Dr Lawn – Loz Shanahan

Reg Shoe – Nick Dunn

Snapcase/Tilden – Stuart Moss

Dibler/Selachii – Matt Burnett

Lord Winder/various – Joshua Flynn

Captain Swing – Michael Dickinson

Mrs Rutherford/various – Sarah Pruett

Rust/Dr Follet – Terrance Edwards

Supple/Young Sybil – Sarah Burrow

Wiglet – John B. Dent

Captain Wrangle – Tony Beard

Sergeant Knock – Matthew Fisher

Major Mountjoy Standfast – Edward Duke

Slant/various – Ben Wilson

Sergeant Dickens – Matthew Edwards

Hepplewhite/various – Luke Belson

Dotsie/various – Zoe Azzopardi

Solider – Sam Steele

Sandra – Isabelle Burman

Leggie/Gabitass – Richard McReynolds

Various – Mikey Wickham

Rebel – Lowri Belson

Waddy – Dan Collins





Puppy Love

rescue dog

Bandit within an hour of coming home with us.

A year ago today, our lives changed. No, we weren’t hit by a bus. We adopted a 6 month old puppy named Harly.

7 years ago, we lost both our dogs, Bru and Jack (AKA The Boys) within 18 months of each other. They were our best friends and we swore we’d never get another dog. Not because we couldn’t love another one, but because we couldn’t lose another one. Their deaths devastated us and we couldn’t bear that again. Then after our sister, Sarah, lost her dog, she wanted another one to fill the hole Misty left behind. Our mum said as we would be looking after our sister’s dog while she’s at work, maybe we should get one so they could grow up together as they’d be spending all day together. We said no. We wanted a tortoise.

our boys. L-r Jack, Bru

our boys. L-r Jack, Bru

Misty and Google

Misty and Google

Sarah had visited all the rescue centres and we even went with her to Cardiff’s dog home. We hated it there. It was like a giant dog prison, with the cages only a foot away from the dogs opposite. Just perfect for the nervy dogs placed within spitting distance of the noisy ones. Though we fell in love with a massive Staffie called Rex. They told us we would have to bring our cats to them in a case to meet the dogs. There was no way in hell we were taking our old cats (aged 10-16) into a place full of barking dogs, where they would be trapped in a case, terrified. How stupid. Then Sarah heard of a litter of puppies that had been born at Crofts Kennels Rescue Centre in Bridgend. They were two weeks old. Their mum, a lab, was on her second litter and had been seized by the police. She was 18 months old. We went to Crofts with Sarah so she could meet the mum and decide if she wanted one of the puppies. We couldn’t say no to seeing puppies.

In the first pen was a sad looking lurcher pup. Next to him was a bouncy little Staffie. Sarah stopped by the lurcher’s cage and called us over. There something about him that made her stop. The pups were right down the other end. We couldn’t see them, but the mum, Kiki, was a small golden lab cross. We got talking to the guys at the centre and mum mentioned we were also thinking of getting a dog. We were still against the idea. Them “We’ll bring Harly to meet you.”

rescue dog

With his first toy we bought him.

Moments later, the skinny, sad looking lurcher pup that Sarah found, was brought in. You could see all his ribs. He’d only been there a week. They told us some people would phone up and ask them to take their dog and the centre would request an £80 re-homing fee. Then within a few days, people would show up with a ‘stray’ and the centre had to take them in. We wondered if this is what happened with Harly. He came straight over us, wagging his tail and acting like he’d known us forever. He sat down by our feet. We fussed him then crouched so he wouldn’t feel intimidated by us. He cwtched up to us and put his head on our shoulders. Them “think he’s going home with you. He’s £110.” We had exactly £110 in our wallets. Them “You can take him now if you want.”

And damn it, we did.

He was so skinny, he fitted into Misty’s harness. She was a Jack Russell cross, so she wasn’t exactly big. In two weeks, he outgrew two harnesses. When we first got him, he had a habit of eating slugs. Whether he did this for food before going into the kennels, we don’t know. But he no longer eats them.

That was a year ago today. They’d said “There’s a sheet here for if you to decide to bring him back.” Us “We’re not bringing him back. He’s ours now.” After 9 days, we renamed him Bandit, on account of his eye mask. And because our mum said a flat-out no to Van Helsing. We’ve since discovered, how unusual his reaction to us was. He’s actually really wary of strangers. He won’t approach them, hates it if they approach him and it’s taken him ages to let other dog walkers actually pat him. He’s especially wary of men. But when he met us, he put his head on our shoulders and acted like he’d known us his whole life.

When we got him home, we looked up lurchers online. We’d never owned one (we only ever had mongrels), had no idea what one was (greyhound/whippet crossed with collie/spaniel. Judging on Bandit’s appearance and personality, he’s whippet/springer spaniel – fast and crazy) and wanted to know what we’d let ourselves in for. Mostly, we wanted to know what he would’ve looked like as a baby. We’d only ever had dogs from small pups. Scamp was bought for £1 in the 70s, Max was found, Jack showed up on our doorstep one day and refused to leave and Bru was in a horse market. Online, advice was “don’t get a lurcher if you have small furry pets. Lurchers are hunters. They’re trained to kill small furry things.” Our house is filled with small furry pets. We suddenly felt a deep sense of “what the hell have we done? We’ve endangered the animal army by bringing a hunter into the house.” But there was no way we were taking him back. This had to work. Even if it meant he could never be alone with the cats,  we were not taking him back. Being in the animal army is like being in a gang – you only leave it when you die. We were given a bit of hope by finding forums on how to integrate lurchers with cats and people were posting photos of their lurchers cwtched up to the cats. Considering Warlock (whose previous owners used to set their dog on him) hated dogs, Ebony when first encountering anything just flees and Speccy tends to hiss at new things, we weren’t holding out much hope for this to work. To be fair, Speccy’s the second oldest pet and has been forced to take in countless little brothers.

rescue dogs

Bandit and baby Axel

rescue dog

Bandit and Speccy

So Bandit was kept on a lead for four weeks. He spent his first week with us being made to sit outside by the rabbit pen until he got desensitised by the fluffy bunnies hopping around. Made worse by the fact Drogo bunny likes to tease the cats and teased our newcomer. Oh, and there’s Peking duck, who enjoys tormenting small furry creatures. This wasn’t going to be easy. There’s also the iguana and corn snake. It was a few months before he met them.

And Sarah did get one of those puppies. We talked her into it.

rescue dogs

Bandit and fully grown Axel

Her partner’s only ever owned Jack Russells and doesn’t like big dogs. We practically strong armed them into getting the puppy, saying, “his mum was small, he won’t grow much bigger than her.” Turned out, dad was a Rottweiler. And a big one, judging by the fact that the puppy, Axel, at a year old, is the size of a small horse. Every time we saw him, he’d grown. He grew overnight, every night. And we laughed. They wanted a small dog, we talked them into getting a dog that is nearly big enough for us to ride. We still laugh about this. And Sarah’s now had to sell her Ford KA ‘cos Axel doesn’t fit into it. They still don’t see the funny side.

rescue dog

Bandit and Kyler

Ebony LOVES Bandit. He’s always there to greet him when he comes back from his walk. Speccy sometimes wants to cuddle with him, sometimes moans when he gets too close. But she does that to us. She cuddles on her terms. And he thinks her slapping him is her playing, because that’s how he plays. Warlock very quickly trained Bandit into obeying him. Bandit won’t leave the room if Warlock is in his path. And if Bandit’s being wild, Warlock will enter the room and sit down. Bandit will jump on the settee and behave. Warlock’s got this dog psychology thing cracked, just by being a bit of a psychopath. Our stray cat, Moussy, looked at him then went back to eating. He and Bandit had an instant respect thing going. And we can sit on the settee with both Bandit and a bunny. After a little while of introducing him to the iguana, Kyler, Bandit helps out at Ky’s bath times and will even put his nose on Ky’s face. He’s only met Charlie snake through the glass, but he’s fascinated. And though he chases squirrels, when he gets close, he stops and lets the squirrel get away. We were determined that the adoption would work out for all the animals. We had no other choice. And it paid off.

rescue dog

Bandit and Ebony

Bandit certainly lives up to his name. He’s a wanton thief. He cannot walk past something without picking it up. Shoes and gloves are a favourite. He once invaded some teenagers’ picnic, stole their rubbish, then when they got it back, stole their football in revenge. Axel once knocked Neen’s little girl over in excitement. Bandit stole the hat off her head and ran off round the park with it. He also mugs other dogs and trespasses farmer’s fields. He has a reputation as a troublemaker and we can no longer go to parks. He has 3 modes – hyper, naughty and sleeping. He’s also easily distracted, which makes training difficult because he can’t concentrate for long. Damn it, this dog is ours in every possible way.

A year ago, we had no idea we were about to meet our new best friend. There’s only one thing we’d change – we wish we’d got him sooner.

rescue dog

Happy adoption day, Puppydog!

The Malignant Dead cover reveal

*drum roll* We can finally reveal to you The Malignant Dead’s cover! *Tugs on curtain. Frowns as it gets stuck. Tugs harder. Winces at the crash.* Well that wasn’t supposed to happen.

The Malignant Dead

We think you’ll agree that our artist, River Rose (who did Disenchanted  and Deadly Reflections’ covers) has done a fantastic job. This has probably been the most stressful book release we have ever had. And in the history of Raven releases, that says a lot. We’ve had releases without books when Amazon cocks up, but this was the first time we had to cancel a release, back in June. But finally, it is all ready for it’s Halloween launch, which we will be having in Falkirk, Scotland, thanks to Julie and Dee at Trinity Moon, who stock our books.

And we will also be at Bristol Horror Con on Saturday October 17th! Yep, they’re letting us have a table. Tickets are available here. So come along and say hi, just so we look marginally popular. Or if you’re too shy to say hello, just stand by our table, which is our usual method.

Read chapter one here

And here is The Malignant Dead’s book trailer!

The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK US and Smashwords 

Mansion in the Woods

Wandering the woods, interviewing sheep and scaring fellow guests. Ghost hunting the Calamityville way. It’s not like you see on TV.Woodchester Mansion

Last night was the second horror night at Woodchester Mansion with Team Impact. We didn’t think it could get better than last time. We were wrong. Even though we were at the last horror night, we were excited. One, because we were looking forwards to meeting Team Impact again, and two, because they promised something special to test our bravery. Paul had threatened to blindfold us and leave us in the cellar or mortuary but then told us they had changed their minds. They had something better. We asked if it was being used as human Ouija boards. Apparently, it was worse. With thoughts of being human wickermen, we were intrigued. We reminded them the gods would not be happy with us as an offering. We’re more the bargain basement types of offering that gives your enemy incurable toothache, rather than the grand offerings that get you a good harvest and allows the sun to rise each day. We were even more excited when Paul admitted they were nervous about it. Now we were thinking they were planning to strap meat to us and leave us for the panther that has been spotted in the valley. We’re fast, but we’re not ‘escape a hungry panther’ fast. And we’d probably become horror clichés by falling flat on our faces in the mud, our dignity scattering with our cameras.

Woodchester MansionIt threatened to be a very quiet episode as Cat has spent the last few days suffering with a bad throat. By ‘bad’, we mean acid reflux has sent stomach acid to her throat, which caused acidic burns and ulcers in her throat and mouth, resulting in 3 sleepless nights on the settee watching Monsters and Mysteries on Pick. Our mum and sister kept telling her not to go as she looked so awful. But our belief is, “if we’re not dead, we’re going.” So for last night, she disobeyed doctor’s orders and spent the event downing Ibuprofen, Gaviscon and using a throat spray which tastes like perfume. It meant she could talk, eat and drink without the need for interpretive dance.

Woodchester Mansion

the library

The adventure started badly when we left 45 minutes later than planned then realised we’d forgotten our cameras and had to go back for them. We’re filming a ghost hunting show and we forget the most important pieces of equipment! As soon as eBay start selling memories, we’re upgrading, because our storage capacity is clearly full and has started deleting files. Like Sky Plus does when we record too many programmes and don’t watch them. Then we reached the M5 junction and couldn’t remember whether we went north or south. *Refers you to the sentence about our memories deleting files* We went south. We were wrong. We decided to give Helen another chance, even though the last three times we’ve used her, she abandoned us in Cornwall, sent us to the far end of Wollaton Hall, and sent us on a roundabout route through Bute Park when we were only a hundred feet from our destination. But we figured, everyone makes mistakes, she could redeem herself. Everyone is always telling us to get satnav and we’ve resisted because we don’t trust technology. We’ve heard the horror stories of satnavs directing people to the rough parts of towns where they’re then murdered. Or was that an episode of CSI? Helen repaid our trust by diverting from the AA route planner. When we reached a roundabout we definitely didn’t recognise, we typed the postcode in. And lost service. When we needed Helen the most, she was silent.

We were lost.

Woodchester Mansion

library ceiling

Sensible people would have turned around and retraced their route to the point where it diverted. But this is Calamityville. Being sensible gets you from A to B. We wing it and hope for the best. That gets you stories. One long country road later, we were beginning to think we should give this ‘being sensible’ thing a try and turn around. But there was nowhere to turn around. So we kept going. Our theory is, we would eventually end up somewhere with a road sign. It worked. The sign pointed to Nympsfield. A few minutes later, we spotted the gates to Woodchester. We had somehow circled around and come from the other side. Screw you, Helen, we don’t need you and your unreliability.

Paul, Dave and Chris were already at the gate. We followed them down. A storm was meant to hit so we tried convincing them to do a rain dance. Dave did a couple of moves. Then we heard rustling in the trees. Rain was coming. Then the clouds’ stomachs burst open and rain escaped like baby face huggers. We leapt back in General Pinkinton, cursing Dave’s rain dance. That’ll teach us to mess with Mother Nature.

Woodchester MansionOnce we’d dumped our stuff in the tea room, we were given free rein to explore. Never ones to turn down a chance to explore, we set off while they got ready for the event. There’s a ladies’ WC on a windowsill part way up the stairs. They must’ve been really tall back then ‘cos Cat struggled to get up to sit on it, then her feet were dangling about a foot off the floor. Tony arrived while we were skulking in the laundry. We’ve never been in the laundry before. We remembered to offer around our dinosaur and ghost shortbread biscuits that we’d promised them last time in exchange for cellar time. We got cellar time then robbed them of their biscuits. We decided to make up for that by making more biscuits. We don’t like breaking promises.

Woodchester Mansion

the shop

When the other guests were arriving, Chris couldn’t find us. We were on the first floor trying to convince the children to dance with us. Chris “quick, you need to get pick of the seats.” We dashed down the stairs, with Lynx running into the drawing room where the cinema set up was and Cat ran to our equipment and food. It wouldn’t have looked good if we’d elbowed people out the way. Fortunately, Lynx had managed to claim the whole first row. It’s not just spirits we repel :D Then she realised we should’ve switched places – Cat still couldn’t find her way round the mansion.

Chris took everyone on a history tour of the mansion. For once, we weren’t the ones getting left behind. Future ghost hunt teams, if you want us to behave and stop us wandering off, let us explore first and satisfy our curiosity, then we’ll give you our full attention instead of getting distracted by shinies.

Woodchester MansionAfter the tour, it was time for The Exorcist. We haven’t seen this film for at least ten years, so it was like watching it for the first time – that is a plus side to having bad memories. Paul introduced us to the other guests as ‘horror book writers and horror comedy ghost hunting producers who make great dinosaur biscuits.’ That makes us sound far more professional than our ‘idiots with a camera.’ We should hire him for our PR. Then it was time for the ghost hunt. Paul then revealed their dastardly plan: we were going to go into the woods with Chris while everyone was doing their group vigils. We don’t know what Chris did to deserve being stuck with us for the first part of the night, but it must’ve been bad :D They weren’t sure if we wanted to do it, because it was now raining. But we donned our hoodies (which were damp from the previous downpour and slightly smelly from being stuffed in our rucksacks) and were eager to go. We’re Welsh. If we didn’t like the rain, we’d be stuck indoors for 11 months of the year.

Woodchester Mansion

the laundry

Some dog walkers have stopped walking their dogs in Woodchester’s woods, as they find them too eerie. We love woodlands – we walk Bandit in woods every day – so we were excited. Our excitement grew when Chris admitted that he doesn’t like being in them. And he likes woods. We set off to the old stable block in the woods. Now we knew why people find the woods eerie – they were quiet.  Normally, woodlands are full of noise – rustling, animals, etc. At night, you should be able to hear the nocturnal creatures. There was nothing. It was although there was nothing in the woods but us. Naturally, Stormborn (our phone. Tesco made us name him) picked this moment to blast our Silent Hill notification alarm. Yes, Stormborn, because the woods weren’t creepy enough. And we were too far from the chapel to run to safety.

Woodchester Mansion

stable block

We reached the old stable block and Chris found some steps. He’d never climbed them. Naturally, we encouraged climbing them. Weirdly, they led behind the stable block, but nowhere else and a wall blocked them off. Although we had torches with us, we had our hands full with our cameras and IR lights, so when Chris’s torch was facing the other way, it was blacker than the devil’s soul. And yet we didn’t trip once. Clearly it’s our vision that hinders us. We ventured deeper into the woods and still there were no sounds. Where were the foxes, owls, and insomniac birds? Then we came across a random log pyramid that was bolted together. Was this a panther trap? Then we found a log see-saw. It was a shame it was wet, because we really wanted to test it out.

Woodchester MansionBy now, everyone else would be starting the second vigil. We were halfway to the lakes where the soldiers drowned during a training exercise for the D-Day landings. We could go back, or we could go on. We chose to go on. Once we were out of the top section of woods, the woods came alive. We encountered the resident sheep, crickets were communicating via their secret code and owls were shouting at us from the skies. Where the hell were they a few minutes ago? The first lake we reached was the one where the soldiers drowned. The lake was odd. The raindrops that fell didn’t leave ripples. They bounced off the surface and turned into bubbles. The water also appeared to be thicker than regular lake water. Clearly someone has been messing with it. We’ve all seen the films where the government dump chemicals. Swamp Shark, anyone? Oh wait, swamp shark only ate the jerks, like some kind of moral hero. Carry on, government. We heard a lot of splashing. Was that one of the soldiers, recreating his watery death? Or a duck having a midnight swim? We’ll never know. But due to possible chemical contamination, that duck may start eating people. Stay safe, lake goers.

Woodchester MansionWe took the long route back, as they were still doing the vigils and stumbled across a car near one of the lakes. It was parked too well to be dumped, but we hadn’t seen anyone. We were tempted to peek inside but were worried at what we’d find: chopped up body parts, dogging, someone guiltily watching The Only Way is Essex. We stopped to interview the sheep about the panther, which is actually a panther cross lynx. The sheep weren’t keen to talk to us. Some even fled. We’re not sure whether they were more scared of us or the beast. Our egos are hoping for the beast. But we solved the mystery – the beast is none other than a black sheep. One of them even admitted this and backed it up with evidence while the black sheep nonchalantly ate grass, as though trying to convince us she was not in fact a carnivore. We might be rubbish at ghost hunting, but we have nailed cryptozoology. Then we spotted a black sheep with horns. She denied any accusations of being the devil, though she looked the type who would enjoy being worshipped.

Woodchester Mansion

the lake

We got back to the mansion while everyone was on a break. They hadn’t had the third vigil yet, because the guests wanted a break between the first two. We told Dave and Tony about solving the mystery of the beast. Not sure they were convinced, but the confession is on camera for experts to analyse and claim we faked it. Other guests wanted to go into the woods, so Chris had to trek back out. We decided to continue doing lone vigils and headed for the sacristy. We’d brought blindfolds with us, (skull bandanas,) so Cat blindfolded herself and we did some calling out. All we achieved was scaring passing guests. They’d look into the room, see us and either jump or shriek. We were just standing there! Paul had laid out trigger objects of a wooden cross and old coins, so we asked the spirits to throw the cross, as homage to The Exorcist. They clearly weren’t fans of the film, as they didn’t oblige.

Woodchester MansionWe moved into the chapel, where Lynx donned the blindfold. We scared a couple more people with our mere presence. Now we know why Monstrous Productions wanted us to be the snake twins. We really have got this ‘standing there and being creepy’ vibe. We didn’t do a vigil in the mortuary last time, we so we headed there. The mortuary was actually a Victorian cold storage room, but it got its name because the soldiers who drowned were placed in here. So we replicated it and lay on the floor. We invited the soldiers to join us by singing Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. They declined. They wouldn’t get in the bath with us last time and now they won’t lie on the floor with us. It’s a good job being writers has prepared us for a lifetime of rejection. What’s scarier than goth twins standing around being creepy? Goth twins lying on the mortuary floor, looking creepy and at some point, doing death poses. After scaring a group, we heard a woman asking “where’s the mortuary?” In an effort to be helpful, Cat instinctively answered “in here.” The woman shrieked. We laughed. And yet, despite now finding the room she was looking for, she didn’t join us.

Deciding we’d frightened enough people for one night, we made our way to the bathroom. Cat tried to get one of the soldiers to dance with her, but to no avail. Doing the Cha Cha Cha alone should be depressing, but we don’t need partners to dance. Damn it, soldiers, you’ve been dead 70 odd years, you can’t afford to be picky! If we’re willing to overlook the fact that you’re dead, you can overlook the fact that we’re…well…we see your point.

Woodchester MansionWe went to the top floor to contact James the builder, but he was on a tea break. Then the mansion went very quiet. Like everyone had sneaked out when we weren’t paying attention. We tried to get the ghosts to communicate through the bats’ squeaks then gave up and interviewed the bats. We asked for a ‘squeak once for yes, twice for no’ and on two separate occasions, the bat answered ‘no’ to our questions. They didn’t admit to knowing anything about the ghosts. What is it with animals and refusing to discuss the paranormal?

As the silence continued, we figured we should return to base camp. Everyone was already assembled for the debrief. We snuck to our seats at the front. Not that’s possible to sneak when laden down with equipment and our necklaces jangling like bells of doom. Last time, the mansion was really quiet on the paranormal front. Last night, it woke up. When we left to explore the woods. And stopped when we returned. Damn it ghosts, stop trying to make us look unpopular! We can manage that ourselves. In the cellar, all the guests were holding hands and a stone was thrown into the circle. Everyone’s positions could be accounted for as they were all linked. Coins were also thrown. On the top floor corridor, one of Dave’s EVP recorders stopped working and just emitted static, but the static would respond to their questions. Coins were also thrown in the corridor outside the cell witnessed by Dave and by the kitchen, witnessed by Tony.

Woodchester MansionWe went down to the cellar as we hadn’t had a chance to visit there. We invited the ghosts to throw things at us. The living seem to enjoy this sporting activity, so we hoped the dead would too. Footsteps clumped down the steps. We lurked in our separate rooms, ready to terrify the ghost back into life. It was Tony and Dave. Dave hasn’t been in the cellar for four years, after he had an unpleasant experience. So we ‘encouraged’ him to go into the room where the experience happened. Face your fear and all that jazz. Lynx even went in first to dispel any bad spirits (we’re Spirit Blockers, remember?) Luckily, nothing got him this time. Paul joined us, then as Dave was tidying up, the rest of us legged it out of the cellar and hid around the corner, cameras poised for screaming. Dave wasn’t far behind :D We ended up leaving at 5:30 again and followed Tony and Dave back to Wales. At one point General Pinkinton overtook them. Proud moment. Tony overtook us a bit later and us and Dave waved to each other as they passed. We were separated at the bridge ‘cos the twatapus in front of us took ages to find his money.

Woodchester MansionWe had a fantastic night, with the added bonus of seeing the lakes. We’ve wanted to visit them since we first went to the mansion. What we love about Team Impact is that they’re fun and unlike some paranormal investigators, they don’t have big egos. In the paranormal world, there is a lot of bitching, back biting, and teams trying to prove they’re the ‘real ones’ by calling everyone else fakers. We can’t stand that bullshit and it’s stuff like that that gives the paranormal world a bad name. So it’s refreshing to find a team that takes it seriously, but knows how to have fun with it.

Tony suggested a Team Impact/Calamityville Horror team up, possibly at Tintern Abbey. We love Tintern Abbey and revealed we once fake married Red Bull at the Abbey, even making little top hats for the cans and our cuddly sheep, Marvin and Mini Marvin, who were to act as our witnesses. Not sure Tony and Paul were really expecting that response. It’s not every day someone tells you on your second meeting that they fake married a can of Red Bull. We sound crazy. When we do these random things, we don’t think we’re crazy. Maybe this is why the ghosts avoid us…

Woodchester Mansion

Team Impact l-r Paul, Chris, Tony, Dave


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,465 other followers