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


The road so far

Every year, our New Year’s Resolution never changes: Do Something Different. This year, we smashed it.

VeniceWe went away for our birthday in February for the first time, visiting somewhere we’ve never been: Venice. We rode Vaporettos, tried Gelato (yum) and pizza for the first and probably last time (ych a fi, that taste still haunts us) and went to an insane Asylum museum on a separate island. We deliberately got lost so we could explore every part of Venice. We went to Murano and visited the glass museum. Sadly we didn’t get to go to Poveglia, the plague island. Maybe next time…It was an amazing experience and we still miss it, even though the dogs wouldn’t come and say hello. Venice is an incredible place. The architecture, the canals, the museums (we visited 11) and due to going in February, there were hardly any tourists.Venice

SpainIn May, we went to Spain for the first time to visit our friend, Cinta. It was an unexpected holiday, but we’re glad we said yes. We also went to Gibraltar. It would’ve been rude not to, as we were so close. Fortunately, we didn’t get mugged by monkeys. That would’ve been a low point. We also learned to drive a left-hand drive car on the other side of the road. That was a terrifying experience! But we loved every minute of it. Particularly the vegan ice cream. We also visited the historic town of Ronda, which we meant we got to drive through the Spanish mountains.

We also did something this year that absolutely terrified us –  we started gymnastics. Our coach came up to us in Comic Con (Cat knew him from physio class four years ago) and said the magic words: “You know what will help you with polefit? Joining my gymnastics class.” So we did. A month later, because it took us that long to pluck up the courage to go. We’ve never done a forward roll, cartwheel or handstand in 34 years of living. Mostly, the fear of breaking our necks always stopped us from trying them. Most kids don’t have that fear, but we did. Now we can do them. Sort of. We can also do somersaults. Can’t land them though. We’re learning handsprings, backflicks, roundoffs, front walkovers, handstands on the beam, Aerials. Haven’t yet mastered a single one of them though but we’re persistent. We’re also doing Acro Yoga poses for funsies. Mostly we fail and face plant and ruin our coach’s prep work. We prove nothing is fool-proof. Starting gymnastics at an age where most people have retired, isn’t easy. Especially when we’ve never done it before and everyone else is much younger and better than us. But we’re conquering our fear and doing things we never thought we could do.It’s a very frustrating, soul-destroying sport that inflames our darkshines to the point we want to quit. But we’ve made some awesome new friends, in particular, two women, both called Sarah. We would’ve quit if it wasn’t for them.acro balance

paddleboardingPaddleboarding with fellow poledancers was certainly a new thing. We thought we’d be shit and end up in the water. We were actually pretty good! And we instantly fell in love with it, imagining ourselves as Olympic champions. Turns out it’s not a competitive sport. Oh well. Though a woman has paddleboarded across the Channel, so it could be a cheap way for us to get to France.

acro balanceIn November, another gymnast, Si, messaged us with the words “Warrior Training will help you with polefit.” Next thing we know, we’re in a gym in Caerleon running on a treadmill, lifting weights and pushing a monstrosity called a Prowler while Si graciously takes being sworn at as he increases our treadmill speed and adds more weights. Usually, people take offence when you flip them off, but Si just responds with “I love your fighting spirit.” This is going to be a brilliant relationship. During our first session, pushing the prowler up and down the gym nearly killed us. By our fourth session, doing it with 30 kg weights didn’t seem as hard. Then we went up to 40kg. In just four sessions our strength has dramatically improved. Now we’re going to enter something called the WOLF run. We HATE running! 6 miles of Woods, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields. But you get a cool medal and t-shirt at the end. They’re our motivations for doing it.Warrior Training

warrior trainingWhile poledancing is not a new thing for this year, conquering our fear is. Considering we used to be scared of being upside down, we’re now doing pole flips and drops and even spinning upside down! We’re loving the progress we’re making and we’re finally starting to look a little graceful! We did a routine to Marilyn Manson’s Killing Strangers that our teacher, Amy, devised and thanks to Hannah, we finally beat our nemesis move – The Superman – by flipping in to it. We don’t do things the easy way!

We also did something else  scary – starting our own radio show! It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but never had the guts or opportunity. Then our friends, Jack and Laura, started volunteering at Vitalize Radio in Torfaen. They suggested we get our own show, then Jack spoke to our boss, Dan, who loved our idea of a horror show. We now host The Graveyard Shift every Friday 7-9 p.m. We love it and talk all things horror. We even get to play our own choice of music, which means we have to upload it to the system, because whilst there’s a load of Beyonce and Little Mix, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson are sadly underrepresented. Until now.Vitalize Radio


with one of our sets at Frightmare

In September we got a job helping to build a Halloween attraction on a farm in Gloucester, thanks to our best mate, Neen. We love Frightmare and visit it every year. This year we got to help build it! We spent our breaks patting the animals and threatening to ride the ostriches. And of course the three of us went along, dressed up, to enjoy the fruits of our labour. We loved every minute of it and even offered to pole dance at next year’s show. Halloween itself was spent watching a Burlesque performance for the first time with our other best mate, Andrew.


working hard at Frightmare

Getting a new tattoo counts as doing something different, right? We commemorated our love of poledancing by getting a poledancing fairy tattoo. The wings match the butterfly wings we each designed for our mum’s tattoo. While our broken raven tattoos represent starting to heal from twenty years of mental illness, the poledancing fairies represent the next stage of finally becoming comfortable with ourselves, with our bodies, and celebrating the enormous fear we’ve overcome since starting polefit. We would never have started gymnastics or warrior training if it wasn’t for polefit. We would still be refusing to expose any part of our bodies that isn’t our arms.

poledancing tattoo, gothic fairy tattoo,

Cat’s tattoo

We got our lips and ear lobes pierced. Now, we love getting tattoos. We get so excited about it. Piercings, we hate. We get so scared we nearly hyperventilate. It doesn’t make sense. So we decided to get it all over with in one go and get three piercings done at once. That was a load of agony we could’ve done without! But we don’t regret it and will hopefully get some new piercings next year.

poledancing tattoo, gothic fairy tattoo

Lynx’s tattoo


with our boss, Matt, and best mate, Neen, at Frightmare

And we’ve actually had a pretty good writing year. Well, the end of the year anyway. The start was shit, as always. We were asked to participate in a Dead Authors Death Match at Bristol Horror Con. We picked Poe, of course. And we did a reading of The Malignant Dead. Our horror story, Some Strings Attached was published by Burdizzo Books in the Reverend Burdizzo’s Hymn Book. Our travel article, Culture Shock, about our disastrous trip to Paris won second prize with Writing Magazine. A horror comedy, Pretty Vacant was shortlisted in the To Hull and Back competition and is out now. Another story, Hell’s Bells, has just been published in Australia in a Christmas horror anthology. Our first Australian publication! The Art of Dying was shortlisted by Crystal Lake and very nearly published. Deadhead has made it through to the second round of voting with Dark Moon Digest in America.

dressing up for Halloween gymnastics

ClownfaceWe also got work on an indie horror film, Clownface. We were hired as Costume and Set Dressers and also did the role of Second Assistant Camera, Sound, Runners, Props and Makeup. We get so nervous working with people because we’re used to working alone and we had to live with them. This was a major stressor for us but we coped. Even if we did end up Hulking out and screaming at people for constantly refusing to do the washing up. But from that, we were asked to write our own film. So we’ve adapted The Black Kiss from Romance is Dead trilogy and next year, we will become directors as we shoot it. We’ve also helped on our mate Dave’s film. Lynx got to die and Cat got to be a newborn demon and we helped crew it.

We’ve had some losses this year – our guinea pig, Reggie, and two of our cats – adopted stray Moussy and our beloved Warlock. And the year has ended pretty shittily for us in terms of finances, which has meant that our plans to spend our next birthday in Rome have gone the way of the Roman Empire. However, we’ve achieved a lot and next year we’re going to do even more. Or die trying. Either way.


Fears of a Clown

Spending 12-14 hours a day in haunted tunnels, preparing a serial killer’s lair and tying a man to a rusty counter. We were back for another week on Clownface. Read our previous posts about it here and here.

Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

Mickey at the entrance to Drakelow Tunnels

When Producer Mark messaged us before filming even began months ago, he asked if we knew of any abandoned nuclear bunkers or tunnels that would be perfect for a serial killer’s lair. Naturally, we said yes. Two years ago, we spent a night ghost hunting in Drakelow Tunnels, a huge labyrinth of tunnels built into cliffs of Kidderminster to house the Rover Shadow Factory during the war. People died there and paranormal teams investigate it regularly. You can read our blog post about our visit here. What better place for Clownface to take his victims? Luckily, Mark and the director, Alex, loved it as much as we did and it became Clownface’s lair.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceMonday morning was a 5 a.m start for us as we had to fetch Phil (Clownface) and the mountain of food that his partner, Ella, had cooked and prepared for cast and crew. We took one look at the bags and thought ‘that is not fitting in the Mini.’ Luckily, being Tetris champions and owning a Smartcar meant we fitted everything in then headed up to Kidderminster for a 14 hour day of filming. It was cold in the tunnels. The warmest the tunnels reach is 10 degrees C. And there’s only power for part of it. As the actors would not be wearing much, we brought heat patches with us they could stick under their clothes to provide some warmth. And we brought a portable heater. We loved being back in Drakelow and between shoots and on our lunch break, we went exploring. It was weird seeing it with lights on. When we went, we were told there was no power. That was a lie. Most of the rat holes we used as shortcuts to other tunnels had been bricked up. Mostly we filmed in and around tunnel 4. One of the haunted tunnels. The room which became one of the sets is actually a room we did a vigil in.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceCat assisted the second assistant camera guy, Josh, writing down scene numbers, takes, slates and camera lens for each take. Lynx took behind the scenes photography and we both did set dressing, which is our main job on the film. As again, there were no runners who could drive, Lynx had to fetch two crew members from Wolverhampton. Having a driving licence is actually a requirement for a runners’ job so it was annoying that one of us had to constantly be pulled off set to do this. Unfortunately, there is no phone or internet signal for two miles around the tunnels, so she had to drive for a while until maps came online. Driving new places on our own really heightens our anxiety, but when the only people who can drive are the camera crew, the producer and us, there isn’t a choice. But forcing us to confront our anxiety is a good thing. Later, Lynx accompanied Mark back to the converted barn we were staying in to check in and try to cook the jacket potatoes that wouldn’t cook. We generally only use the microwave to melt our ice cream, and as they were pushed for time, only some of the potatoes cooked.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe finished filming at 11:30 p.m. and that was only because a scene had to be cut due to lack of time. We got back to the barn at midnight, but didn’t get to bed ’til gone 1 a.m. as we had to refrigerate the food and wash out the slow cookers. The barn had separate dorm style bedrooms, so we shared a room with the actress, Hannah, and the makeup artist, Brooke. Ours was a lovely, peaceful room.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceTuesday was a 9 a.m. unit call, so we were up at 7:30 then had to wait for everyone else to get up, so didn’t make it to the tunnels ’til 9:25. Lynx continued photographing behind the scenes then fetched Hannah from the barn at 1, while Cat was Josh’s assistant, and took over the photography and set dressing when Lynx was driving. We also helped the gaffer, Ben, set up lights, rather than just guarding them. We were in a different area today. The owner had added metal beds and bedside cabinets which weren’t there when we visited the tunnels two years ago. Lynx thought she was seeing things at one point when she saw glowing green eyes and a shaggy dog. It turned out to be one of the owner’s gorgeous Spaniels. Not a ghost dog. We finished filming at 10:30 we think but didn’t get to bed til 11:35 after doing all of the washing up, even though off set, it’s not our job.

Jay, the gorgeous Collie at the barn

On Wednesday we got up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. to be on set by 6 a.m. We did more washing up and cleared away all the crisp packets that had been left outside. Ten feet from the bin. Seriously, even our dog knows how to pick up rubbish. We took Alex to set and were there at 6, ready to start. The owner wasn’t. Neither was anybody else. We had no phone signal to warn the others who arrived by 6:45. The director of photography, Ben T, was blasting My Chemical Romance from his car so we danced outside to pass the time. He kindly cleared his back seat of camera equipment so Alex and we could sit in. We danced to his great music and napped. Somehow, we knew this would be the best part of the day.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceThe owner arrived at 8. We could’ve had an extra two hours in bed! So not only had we been deprived of sleep, we’d also lost two hours of filming time so scenes had to be cut. We were back in Tunnel 4 today and again helped to set up some of the lights. We covered the crash mats in blankets to make a bed but then had to fetch a bed from another room and dress that instead. Lynx went to fetch the actor, Tom, from Kidderminster train station. Most of the day was spent re-dressing the bed and checking continuity. Lynx took Phil back to the barn in the afternoon then took over on sound after the sound guy left at 6 to do a night shift. Cat took over on behind the scenes photography and continued set dressing alone as well as being Josh’s assistant. Ben T reckoned we’re really good at doing sound and that we should go into it 🙂 It’s times like these that having anxiety can be a good thing. We get so anxious about getting things wrong that we channel it into being extra cautious and doing the best job we can.

Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

exploring with producer, Mark

We got back to the barn at 7 then went to Sainsbury’s to get ice cream. We only got internet and phone signal when we were driving so we took the opportunity to contact our mum and sister while sat in Sainsbury’s car park. We did more washing up before going to bed then Mark took over washing up duties. We swear the washing up breeds when our backs are turned. We should start charging for cleaning duties. Those who refuse to wash up have to pay us £1 per plate and 50p per mug and piece of cutlery. During this week, we could’ve bought our hearse with the proceeds. And had change left over for a coffin.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceThursday we got up at 4:45 but had to wait for gaffer Ben C and Alex, as Ben C had the keys. So at 6 a.m, we were doing flexibility stretches to pass the time. Yoga at 6 a.m. Next we’ll be going on retreats. We moved everything out of the storage cupboards and took the lighting equipment and our prop box to the new set: Clownface’s lair, which was in a rusty industrial kitchen. We were in our element set dressing this with our creepy props and torture tools. That was our favourite part of the entire film. Lynx took over on sound briefly for the afternoon while most of Cat’s time was spent blowing out and relighting the tealights on set. She’d be told to blow them out then relight them almost immediately. This happened a few times and she was tempted to start setting people on fire. People burn longer than tealights, though they’d have to film without sound, as this scene didn’t require agonised screaming. Then she was told to clear the front bench for a killing scene, so she did. Then immediately got told it should’ve been the back bench. So she had to use the continuity photos on her phone to re-dress the front bench exactly how it had been. After rehearsals, they decided it should be the front bench after all. Again, people were lucky they were not set on fire. We had a whole range of torture tools. It is not wise to piss off the props women. Josh was impressed Cat managed to keep up with the note taking whilst constantly dressing the set and tending to the candles.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe got to shackle Clownface and tie him up. He insisted it was done properly. In between takes, we were throwing his dressing gown on him to warm him. We also got to briefly be makeup assistants. Filming finished relatively on time. Our evening was spent doing *drum roll* yes. A shit ton of washing up. Where the fuck does it all come from? There’s 16 people, not 1600! We retired to our room at 9 to do flexibility stretches and hide from any more washing up, but that meant Mark did it in our absence. We’re so glad there’s only 3 humans in our house. And we have a dishwasher. Plus the residents of Casa Raven know how to use water and a sponge.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceOur last day, we got up at 4:45. Unit call was again 6 a.m. We knew no one else would be up early but we also knew there would be yet more washing up to do. We were right. This was despite us doing 3 or 4 sinkfuls the previous night and Mark did more than us. And there were countless beer cans scattered everywhere. Ten feet from the recycling bin. Checkout was at 11, so we couldn’t leave until the barn was clean and tidy. Us and Mark were sick of the constant washing up. Then we discovered someone had drunk our soya milk, leaving us with none for breakfast. That was it. Cat ended up yelling at people after overhearing that we should apparently be doing stuff as everyone was late. Think tiny Welsh Hulk bollocking a room of men. Not even sorry. We should’ve unleashed the Hulk earlier. Lynx then got sympathy hugs from Josh, Alex and Phil. So due to the clean up, Cat was late bringing actress Dani to set. Lynx and Mark stayed behind to clean the barn and throw late risers out. On route, Cat was sent to fetch gaffer tape, only for people to be angry that the actress was  late to makeup. Then don’t send the actress’s driver to fetch gaffer tape, knowing the actress was in the car! Lynx yelled at people for that, defending Cat who still wasn’t back. The logical thing would’ve been to get Cat to drop the actress off then send her to fetch gaffer tape. But logic was clearly having a lie-in that morning.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe were back in the original set so moved the bed back in and dressed it. We had to do a lot on continuity and blood clean up between takes. And hold a ladder so Ben T didn’t fall off and die, or more importantly, break his camera. There was enough time to film a scene that got dropped from the previous day. After we loaded the car, a police car drove in. Us and Phil went over to speak to the officer. Apparently it was unusual for the blast door to be open at that time. We told him about the film and assured him that the death scenes and blood were not real. He looked at Clownface’s makeup and asked if he was a victim. We replied “he’s the killer!” You know it’s a proper indie film when the police stop by. We drove Phil home then returned to Casa Raven, regretting that the next day, we would be doing an hour’s polefit lesson, followed by an hour and a half polefit workshop then driving to Hastings for an overnight ghost hunt. Providing we could stay awake.

But despite the rage we unleashed on Friday, we did enjoy working with everyone. Again, we were amazed at how excellent all the actors are in their roles. Their emotion is so so realistic, take after take. We cannot wait to see the finished film.

Oh and we got some good news: our travel article about our misadventures in Paris won second place in Writing Magazine’s travel writing competition and our burlesque ghost story has been shortlisted for an anthology. On Saturday we start working on Dave’s Emoji of Horror film. We’ll not only be crewing it, we’ll also be acting in it. Then in Spring, we start filming our own film! The Black Kiss. A story from our Romance is Dead trilogy. We’ve already written the script and started collecting props. Not that we’re excited or anything. So our writing career has taken a bit of a curve at the moment and we’re thoroughly enjoying the new challenges and experiences. And for these two films, there will no more washing up!Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface


Clowning Around

Late nights, early starts and exposing our arses on film. We were back working on Clownface.

We’ve been away at horror conventions/literary events every weekend since 23rd September, so haven’t had much time to blog. And we also returned to Clownface for two days.


us with Clownface aka Phil

Unfortunately, a lot of crew and extras dropped out last minute, so the crew consisted of the director of photography, Ben, his assistant, Rich, the sound guy, Barrie and us. And yet, it was the smoothest shoot yet. We arrived at 1:30 p.m. on the Thursday, ready to dress the set for a party scene. Unfortunately, as the fairy lights kept getting moved around, nobody knew exactly where they were supposed to be and nobody had taken continuity photos. (That was one of our jobs on the August block but we couldn’t make it to the block at the beginning of October.) We used footage from the film to guess the location and exact angle of hanging and we think we got it right. We also spread sequins everywhere, hung silver shredding from light fixtures and lamps and covered a table with empty bottles and cups. For people who have never been to a house party, so got our ideas from TV, we think we did ok.

We reprised our role of second assistant camera (operating the clapperboard) and also our least favourite role of guarding the floodlight. This time, it was out in a dark country lane. Standing a goth in a dark lane was never going to be a good idea, but luckily Rich had a high-vis jacket so Lynx wouldn’t be run down by passing motorists. Our mum’s Mini, Mickey, was parked outside the cottage’s front door so is on screen for most of the exterior shots. He didn’t complain about the length of shooting time, and didn’t once demand makeup. He was a true star. The lead actresses, Hannah and Abi kept everyone entertained between shots by doing a brilliant rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody in the back of the car.


guarding the light

Then we had our first experience in front of the camera – as extras in a party scene. So as Cat was operating the clapperboard, she had to wait outside, shivering in her finery, work the clapperboard then run in and take her place as an extra. Then the director, Alex, asked for volunteers to do stunts. Naturally, we volunteered, as did a couple of extras. The producer, Mark, chose us because we do gymnastics and as Mark put it, we’re great at falling over. You only have to watch our Calamityville episodes to know we’re well practised in the art of tripping. The scene involved party goers fleeing the house and we’re so drunk, we trip, landing on a crash mat. Abi then helps us up and half carries us out of shot. Alex wondered if they should get Phil (who plays Clownface) to teach us how to fall, as he’s a stunt guy. Mark assured him we knew what we were doing. We did it perfectly. Apparently, it looked very realistic. There was one problem:

Short dresses and fishnet tights.

Yes, the rest of extras ran out to exposed arse cheeks and lacy unmentionables, take after take. It’s a good job we’ve been keeping up with our squats. Then the scene had to be shot from behind. We tried to argue that it was unnecessary, but we were outvoted. This time, our arses would be immortalised on camera. Even worse, was when they shot a close up. Fortunately, we started off lying on the mat, so Abi kindly adjusted our dresses to make sure there was one shot where our dignity wasn’t sprawled onto the gravel next to us. Luckily, we only got minor injuries – Cat consistently landed on her pre-injured scaphoid bone (she kept falling over in woods and landing on it. Proof we were perfect for this role) and Lynx took the skin off her elbow in the same place every time and finished the shoot wearing a Paw Patrol plaster. But it shows our falls were identical in every take. You usually have pay a lot of money for that kind of professionalism.


Cat with her sound equipment

The next scene was shot outside, so Lynx was again on light-guarding duty, operating a large LED light. It was freezing, so between takes, we wrapped the actress, Leah, in our coats so she wouldn’t get too cold. Clownface kept us entertained by doing impressions of Mark Hamill as The Joker. As we were working through the night, lunchtime was 11 p.m. As there were no runners, we had to fulfill that role so spent our breaks doing all the washing up and constantly sweeping up all the grass that got tracked in from outside. With about 16 people on site, there was a lot of washing up.

We were extras again in the next party scene. Mark asked us what we usually do at gatherings. Our answer of ‘sit in the corner with the home owners’ pet’ wasn’t helpful. There were no pets. Instead, we stand in the doorway, blocking it, then walk in front of the camera. Alex wanted us on screen quite a bit. So not only did we get to work on our first horror film, we got to be in it too. And we feel it adds a bit of realism to it. All the actresses are stunning so the film needed some regular looking people to balance it out.

We finally finished filming at 5:30 a.m. and set up our airbeds on the living room floor among the camera equipment and cases. All the beds were taken. We had a good five hours’ sleep and were up at 11, cleaning the cottages with Mark and doing yet more washing up before everyone else got up. Lynx made a trip to the co-op to buy more Red Bull then we started preparing for filming. We covered windows in tin foil, as the scenes were meant to take place at night then we got to stand in for Hannah and Clownface, by Cat chasing Lynx up the stairs, so Ben could get the lighting and camera angle right. That was a fun piece of unexpected exercise. Again, we spent our time between scenes washing up.

Most of the shooting took place inside, which was nice and warm. Although the small bedroom provided some filming problems. The scene there between Hannah and Clownface was incredible. It was so realistic. Hannah is an fantastic actress and it really showed in this scene.


Lynx in her high vis vest

The sound guy had to leave at 7:30 p.m. which meant we had to take over sound. He gave us a crash course but had to leave before supervising us. We panicked and didn’t want to do it, but we had no choice. There were no other crew members. It turned out to be easier than we feared – like the clapperboard was. The final shots were outside. It was freezing! As Lynx was put on light guarding duty in the middle of the lane again and Cat was on sound, there was no-one to operate the clapperboard. In the end, we roped actress Leah into using it and Cat taught her how to do it. We were glad our mum insisted we take our big coats, even though there wasn’t room in the car.

We wrapped at 11:45 p.m. and helped Ben and Mark load their equipment into their cars. We cleaned one of the cottages and did the last load of washing up before heading to bed. We had to be up at 6:30 a.m. for Birmingham Horror Con and managed to clean the other cottage before we left. We had to make a quick stop to buy Red Bull as ours had vanished. We got to the horror con at 8:20 a.m. The security guard said “you’re a bit late aren’t you?” Us ” we had to buy Red Bull.” Yes, that is more important. Never mind Clownface killing people in gruesome way, us without our morning Red Bull is true horror. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

If you want to hear us recount our adventures and talk about all things horror, don’t forget to tune into our radio show, The Graveyard Shift, every Friday 7-9 p.m. on Vitalize Radio.Clownface

All Aboard!

paddleboardingWe’re always up for new challenges so when our polefit studio owner KT invited people to a paddleboarding session, we signed up. And then googled what it was. Basically, it’s a cross between kayaking and surfing, where you stand on a board and use a paddle. Our first thought was ‘this will be so much fun.’ Our second thought was ‘we’re going to faceplant in the water.’ Our third thought was ‘we’re going to faceplant, smack our faces on the boards and the rapids will carry our unconscious bodies through the kayaking course’. (For non-anxiety sufferers, this is known as catastrophizing – always imaging the worse case scenario for every activity.) Despite us being utterly convinced this would end badly, we paid up. Though when the health and safety forms mentioned the possibility of death, images of our unconscious bodies floating downstream seemed suddenly plausible.

paddleboardingWe were excited. And then nervous. We met KT, her hubby and three other polefit ladies in the Cardiff International White Water Centre, ready for our session. We were a little concerned that the women’s wetsuits didn’t go small enough and hoped they wouldn’t put us in kids’ ones. Fortunately, they didn’t. But the wetsuits were too big for us. Cat had to roll up her sleeves into cuffs so they wouldn’t cover her hands. The good thing about the wetsuits was that they were plain black. The worst thing about the wetsuits was that they were wet. And the boots were wet. The suits we could cope with. The soggy boots was not pleasant.

paddleboardingWe squelched our way outside to retrieve our lifejackets then headed down to the cage. Sadly it wasn’t a cage for seeing sharks, but was where the boards and paddles are kept. Our guide, Dan, lined everyone up on the deck, shortest first. That’ll be us then. We practised paddling on our left side (straight stroke to go forward, semi circle to turn, forwards to reverse) then side stepped to the right and practised paddling on our right. It was really tough and we doubted our ability to move the boards. We were then taken to our inflatable boards. Dan said the guys needed the bigger boards and the smaller women needed the smaller boards. Unfortunately, some other women from another group who were bigger than us took the smaller boards, so we had to have regular ones.

We pushed the boards into the water and carefully climbed on. At first, you start off kneeling then once your confidence builds, you stand up. Dear god, your thighs get a good workout! We paddled around the small area, crashing into the sides, boats and other people. But we didn’t fall in. Though Cat inadvertently made someone else fall in. They were heading for a collision and she managed to turn at the last moment. He crashed into kayaks and fell in. LOL.


the swan is watching us

Then it came to standing. This is it, we thought. This is the moment we get dunked like apples at Halloween. We placed our hands on the boards, got to our feet and slowly stood. We wobbled, but didn’t fall in. The trick was to drop to your knees if you lost your balance or were heading for a collision. Again, we paddled around the small area, crashing into boats and other people. But we didn’t fall in. Our mate, Bryn, who was our photographer, was very disappointed.

paddleboardingThen Dan asked if we wanted to go out on the river. Why the hell not? So we left the training area and picked up our boards. This is where having the smaller boards would’ve been nice. We have short arms and legs. Having to carry the board under our arms meant they were almost trailing on the ground. And they were heavy. We lugged them to another area, carefully climbed on then paddled our way down the River Taff. It was really relaxing. We’d completely got the hang of it and felt totally safe and confident. Until a boat came and the wake unbalanced us. But we didn’t fall in. Lynx was almost knocked off by some floating plant, but swiftly dropped to her knees and avoided a dunking. If there’s one place you don’t want to swim, it’s the Taff. Rats frequent it then have showers so they feel clean.


future olympic paddleboard champions

We then started dreaming of doing this regularly. Or even buying our own boards and paddles and cruising down any water way we can find. They inflate so we could take them travelling. Hell, we could even form an Olympic team! We could be the first Olympic paddleboard champions. Turns out the boards are expensive and paddleboarding doesn’t seem to be a competitive sport. Yet…