Game On

We’ve been infected. No, not by the Z virus, but by a fever. Board game fever. It’s sweeping across the nation and nowhere is safe. Ok, that may be exaggerating. So far the fever has only hit two places – Cardiff and Pontypridd, but it is contagious and nobody is immune. We’re not talking of playing board games, oh no, we’re talking of MAKING them. This is our mate, Rich’s fault. He is Patient Zero.

It all started when we played Atmosfear for the first time. Somehow, we managed to miss out on this as kids and never even heard of it. But Ryan had found the original game in a charity shop a few years ago. It’s so old it comes with a VHS tape and guess who has a working VCR player? Yes, us. So we played it. And loved it. Then we bought the modern, DVD version. A couple of weeks later, Rich found Atmosfear The Harbingers in a charity shop in Ponty, so we went round his and his girlfriend, Hannah’s to play it and Key to the Kingdom. We’ve owned that game since we were kids and it’s still in great condition. Then we found out Atmosfear IV, the Elizabeth Bathory one, was in a charity shop in Ponty. Two days later, Rich and us went scouring the charity shops of Ponty. Yes we spent a couple of hours raiding every charity shop in Ponty town, when it was pissing down. We are dedicated hunters. We bought Atmosfear IV and it sparked off a need to find the others. Preferably in charity shops, as they’re nice and cheap.

That’s how we were all infected with board game fever. But then Rich’s developed into a more serious case – he started planning to make his own. He told Ryan, who instantly went down with a serious case of the fever. As soon as he read Rich’s text, he was infected. He has  a  very weak immune system. Then Ryan told us. Our first thought was – ‘Bleeding Empire – the board game!’ but we’re stronger than they are. We watched them get swept up in the fever, all the while feeling the infection, but not catching it. We’re used to Ryan becoming geekily obsessed with something for a few weeks, only to abandon it & move on to something else. We’ve seen it happen over and over, so we wait until the latest obsession dies down. But this time, he was geekily obsessed with something we wanted too.

Then Rich emailed us his game for us to print out. It’s called Twelve Dragons and in a word, it’s brilliant. As this is a prototype, there are a few bugs, but not enough to spoil the game. We loved it.

On Saturday, we went out to Hobby Craft so Ryan could buy things for his game – Death or Glory. Hobby Craft is filled with shinys. Expensive shinys. After being cleaned out by the opticians, we watched Ryan with the shinys, fighting the fever. By Sunday, we succumbed. We ordered beautiful pearlescent red dice (they come in a pack of 50, so we’re sharing them amongst our infected) and we planned our board game – Bleeding Empire. Based on our newest novel. There will be all 5 horsemen, plus Drew, the fallen angel and the objective will be to break the seals and end the world. The board will be double-sided, for if Drew stops the Apocalypse, the horsemen end up in Purgatory and have to fight their way through Heaven.

We have one problem – our talents never match our ideas. This is why we’re writers, not artists. We can only create with words. But we have a secret weapon that Rich and Ryan don’t have – our mate, Neen. She’s a set painter for TV and film and she’s fantastic at making little models. There are only two rules – it has to be cheap and it has to be awesome. 3D awesome with a city scene on one side, Purgatory and the treacherous path to Heaven on the other. Yesterday we went round Rich and Hannah’s and spent all evening playing board games. Some we played several times. We also played Rich’s game and it was even more awesome, especially as Cat and Hannah became a co-op team & kicked everyone’s arses. And we were all VERY excited about the new dice. Oh no! It appears…are we becoming…geeks?

This afternoon, as we were in the dentist’s, awaiting Cat’s wisdom tooth extraction, we took a notebook and planned our game, including character cards, and made notes on what needs to go into it. It’s not fully fleshed out yet, but it has a skeleton we can build on. But we are WAY behind. Rich’s game is complete, save for a few kinks. Ryan swears he’ll have a prototype by the weekend. Ours hasn’t even made it out of the notebook yet. But with an artist on board, we know ours will be stunning. The greatest board game ever! We think. We just hope the obsession hasn’t died by the time it’s made.

The fever is spreading.

Bleeding Empire

We won the book trailer contest! To prove it, click here. We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote us – we couldn’t have done it without you. We’d also like to thank Ryan Ashcroft of Fireclaw Films for making our fabulous trailer. Anyhoo, we promised you we would post the opening chapter of one of our novels if we won and the people have chosen Bleeding Empire.

We wrote this in November as part of NaNoWriMo and only finished its second draft yesterday. So it’s as raw as an open wound. It follows the offspring of the four horsemen of the Apocalpyse as they set out on their mission to end the world. Death screwed up the numbers and had twins – Morgan and Aeron, Conquest and War combined their DNA to form Marsden, Famine produced ultra-bitch Demi and Death donated his Pestilence to create Mac. Then there’s Drew – a disgraced angel kicked out of Heaven and forced to serve his time on Earth in a shitty pub. Oh and they’re based in Travelodge.

Here it is:

Chapter 1

 

Ash covered the desolate city in smoky kisses. Scarlet electricity pulsed through the clouds’ open veins. Thunder pounded like a desperate heart as night swept down on funereal wings to steal the light, and with it, all hope of redemption.

The ash spiralled faster, the city shaking as a delicate hand picked up the snow globe, running her black nails across its smooth surface. A smile crossed her violet lips then she hurled it. The glass shattered, the city exploding from its spherical prison as Hell arrived on earth.

 

***

     A black clad figure stood silhouetted on the roof of a car, the alarm wailing like a banshee foretelling a death. But no-one was listening. His hand held the black guitar neck, carved into a snake, its ruby eyes glinting in secret knowledge. The guitar body was a black skull, streaked with his own blood from when he carved it. The soundtrack to the city was silent, like it was waiting for him to hit Play. He raised his head then strummed the guitar. People stopped. He waited then played the note again. They moved forwards, a crowd surrounding the car.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath then played their pain back to them, resurrecting the hidden desires they concealed from society’s judging eyes. He knew their inner turmoil better than their most intimate journal. His fingers moved faster, his plectrum plucking their nerves and playing them to the beats of their hearts. A fight erupted over some long ago misdemeanour involving a broken lawnmower and missing gnome. Two friends who’d been playfully shoving each other started kissing as the passion they’d been harbouring became too powerful to control. A long married couple began a war of words, their pent up frustrations becoming hollowpoint bullets that gunned down their marriage in the dismal street beneath the scattered ash that fell from the sky.

Raw emotions bled into the night. The figure watched his crowd, bringing the song to a final angry chorus. The married couple traded wounding words. The fighters wrestled on the floor, the attacker delivering one final blow to his friend’s bloodied face. The kissing friends’ clothes lay torn beneath them, bloodied scratches a souvenir on their backs as they lost themselves in ecstasy.

The song died.

The married couple stepped away from each other, swallowing the hurt that still burned inside. The attacker hugged his lifeless friend, his tears streaking through the blood and the damage he’d inflicted. The two friends shared one last lingering kiss then self-consciously dressed in their ripped clothes and went back to playfighting, smothering the fire that danced in their eyes. The rest of the crowd moved away, their gazes lost and empty.

“Marsden De’Ath. The one and only.”

The figure turned. “If you start singing that Chesney Hawkes tune, I’ll use your vocal chords to re-string my guitar.”

A man stood in the shadows. Stubble kissed his cheeks. A silver choker burdened his neck. He smiled, his face illuminating, like a beautiful statue beneath a Museum’s spotlights.

“Drew!” Mars leapt off the car. They hugged then winced as their bodies scorched. They pulled away, their skin healing.

“I was about to file a missing persons’ report for you.”

“I was lying low to avoid the pre-Christmas sales. Shoppers bring me out in a rash.”

“It happened then.” Drew nudged the fallen man with the toe of his boot.

“We all knew it would. It was just a matter of when.” Mars slung his guitar around his back. “There was nothing else pencilled in the diary for today.”

“Are the others here?”

“Somewhere. They’re probably trackable through GPS. Why are you here?”

“Damage control.”

“You can’t stop it.”

“No. But I can stop you.” They stared at each other, choking on every word they longed to say. “Or at least, try to change your playlist.” Drew grinned and poked Mars’ shoulder, grimacing when his fingertip burned.

“Sorry, I don’t do requests.”

“Yeah I didn’t think you were the Karaoke type.”

“That hurts. You haven’t heard my Gloria Gaynor.”

Drew laughed. “Promise me one thing – once a day you’ll play a happy song. Give them a chance of salvation.”

“I play what’s inside them.”

“Yes but you can control what surfaces.”

Mars wiped ash off Drew’s forehead, leaving behind a charcoal smear and line of blistered skin. “Put it in my suggestions box.”

“You don’t pick up phone messages, you’ll never empty your suggestions box.”

“People thrive on misery. That’s why Jerry Springer was so popular.”

“The world can’t exist on pain alone.”

 

***

     Demi moved through the packed club, Salvation. The music thrashed a heartbeat against her chest. Girls looked her up and down, their faces contorting as her supermodel frame slipped past them. They adjusted their clothes, holding in their stomachs until she disappeared then bitching behind her back. She climbed the stairs, her movements portraying the grace theirs lacked, her dress shimmering under the pulsating lights.

She moved onto a raised platform and danced. Other girls moved away from her, whispering together, their revealing outfits suddenly feeling too tight. They watched her then caught glimpses of themselves in reflective surfaces and looked away, their bodies which earlier had looked sexy to them, now looked two sizes too big.

Demi smiled down on them, her slim limbs matching the rhythm of the music as she sashayed her body.

“She looks like a skeleton,” one girl murmured to her friend.

“At least I don’t look like I was made with self-raising flour,” Demi retorted. She nodded at the girl. “Get a bigger top. The only place I want to see muffins, is in bakeries.”

The girl fled.

“You bitch!” Her friend tugged Demi’s hair.

Demi backhanded her, knocking her to the floor.

“Touch my hair again and you’ll lose your fingers. Some Romanian girl was paid adequate money to provide me with these extortionate extensions. She’d be devastated to learn you used her hair as a tug toy.” She adjusted her dress then moved to a different spot.

“Nice moves!” A guy approached her. “Fancy practising some with me?”

“The only move I want to do with you, is one that takes your head off your shoulders. Come back to me when you’ve lain off the pies and learned to take a bath.”

His mates whistled and shouted as she strolled to a group of girls who were dancing provocatively, trying to catch the attention of nearby men.

“No wonder they call it belly dancing – your bellies are big enough to dance by themselves.” Demi pushed her way into the centre of their circle and swayed her hips, the lights casting shadows under her sharp cheekbones. “It’s supposed look sensuous, not make them feel nauseous.”

“Skinny bitch,” one girl snapped.

“You say skinny like it’s a bad thing. I could get two of me in your clothes and still have room for that guy you’re eyeing up. He wouldn’t suffocate in my cleavage.”

“Only ‘cos you don’t have any.”

“At least guys want me for my personality – you’re just a pair of talking tits.”

In the corner, Mac watched Demi, his hood concealing most of his face. She caught his eye and smirked then gestured towards the opposite side of the club. He moved away from the wall and passed through the dancers to where a man lurked.

Mac grabbed him and pushed him through the fire exit into the dank alley behind the club. Stale urine, tobacco and the sickly sweet smell of marijuana assaulted his olfactory senses.

“Hey! What are you doing?” The man stumbled but saved himself.

“Putting you out of business.”

“Fuck off.” The man flicked out a knife.

“Sorry pal – a new corporation has moved into the area and we’re closing you down.”

Mac nodded at Mars, who leaned against a black wheelie bin then Mac disappeared into the club. He heard the first chords on Mars’s guitar before the door shut, drowning him out with the beat from the club.

He shoved his gloved hands into his hoody’s pockets and watched the dancers for three minutes. He backed out the fire exit and saw the man sprawled on the wet floor, a gaping wound in his throat, his bloodied knife lying beside him.

Mac rifled through his pockets, taking his mobile, cash and several sachets of pills before returning inside.

“You seen Vinny?” A man asked.

“He’s taken early retirement. What can I get you?”

“Two pills.”

Mac handed over the pills and took the cash with a handshake. He glanced at Demi, who winked then continued dancing. Mac worked his way through the dancers before getting lost in the throng.

 

***

     Morgan and Aeron crushed the broken glass they walked over as they headed into the street. Their PVC outfits were almost as identical as they were. They stopped by a car, where a bloodied man lay in the road, his battered face swollen beyond recognition.

“Do you want the honours?” Aeron asked.

“It’ll be my pleasure.”

Morgan crouched beside the man and produced a snow globe from his pocket. She rolled it around her fingers, the glass chinking against her Gothic rings then she gazed into the glass at the tiny graveyard beyond. She shook it, watching ash spiral around the peaceful scene. When the ash settled, a new headstone grew from the ground.

Morgan rose when she heard the beating of wings. She held her arm out to the raven and he hopped onto it. She squeezed the globe until it was the size of a marble then slipped into a black pouch that hung around the raven’s neck.

The raven took flight, a stark contrast to the crimson clouds that hovered above the earth like a blood stained cloth.

Aeron squatted by the gutter and picked up a broken guitar string. He held it out to Morgan.

“Someone’s been busy.”

“As least he’s doing his job and not being distracted by that bad influence.”

Aeron pocketed the string and they walked across the road. An ambulance raced past them, its blue lights turning their pale skin into a sickly death hue. They moved through different streets until they heard the beat from Salvation. Ignoring the club, they slipped into the alley, where a man lay surrounded by his own blood.

“My turn.” Aeron freed a snow globe from the corpse’s coat pocket and tossed it in the air. He caught it, watching the ash rest on a new grave.

 

Book Trailer Contest

Faithful followers, we need your help. We don’t ask for much from our dedicated followers – we’ve never asked you to take up arms and go into battle with us (yet) nor have we asked you to sign a pledge to support our world domination/steal Stephen King’s throne plots – though that time will come. So we’re just asking a tiny favour. There’s not much effort involved – certainly a lot less than having to train in swordmanship and archery – see above for why you’d need these skills. Our book trailer for Soul Asylum, done by the amazing Ryan Ashcroft of Fireclaw Films is in a contest for best book trailer. Unfortunately, the trailers aren’t judged by independent judges. They win on votes. Which means it’s basically a popularity contest and whoever has the biggest army of voters will win. We’ve never even come close to winning a popularity contest. We don’t have a huge army of people who are willing to do our bidding at our command (though we have a small band of loyal friends who are invaluable) so we don’t think we stand a chance of winning. Which is a shame, because we truly believe Soul Asylum’s trailer deserves to win. And we’re not just saying that because it’s ours. Hell, we didn’t make it. But we think Ryan is extremely talented and with all the hard work he put into this trailer, he deserves the accolade. He has to put up with us taking the piss out of him on a daily basis, but there’s not a reward for that 😀

If you haven’t seen the trailer, you can watch it here. To vote for it click here then all you have to do is click on the VOTE HERE link, type your name, email and the name of the trailer you want to win – Soul Asylum. Ok, to make it fair, all the book trailers in the contest are on that link too so if you want to watch them then vote, go ahead.

Want a further incentive? *Cue sad music* this is our X-Factor sob story. Kidding! IF Soul Asylum’s trailer wins, we’ll put up the first chapter of one of our unpublished novels. It will either be Scott the Zombie, Bleeding Empire or maybe a totally random novel that you don’t even know about. Is that enough incentive? No? How about a place in our World Domination Government? Yeah, that’s what we thought… 😉

The Ghost Hunters Return

We have another guest! Some of you may know her from her books and some of you may know her as the honorary member of C.A.T.S Calamityville Horror, as she has joined us many times, in Hell Fire Caves, Nottingham Galleries of Justice and Peterborough. But you know that anyone who visits Casa Raven is doomed to wander these gloomy corridors forever, so we tracked her down in one of the catacombs and brought her back up for some wine and biscuits. So we give you… L K Jay!

L K JayThe Ghost Hunters Return by L K Jay

It’s been a while since I’ve been here but the sisters of darkness couldn’t keep me away for long!  I recently visited them at their home in Wales for their birthday party and it was great to be invited.  It was a really fun do, I paid homage to the gothic by dressing up as a middle-aged goth – I even put on black lace gloves.  They looked quite fetching with my rouge-noir nail varnish but they itched a bit – the price one has to pay for fashion.  Couldn’t do much about the hair though, blond highlights do not a goth make!  But C L Raven looked fabulous and they put on a really good spread, which I enjoyed munching my way through.  I wished I could have stayed longer but the stupid day job gets in the way …

Anyway, keeping in with the theme of the ‘fun-gothic’ – I think I’ve just invented a new genre – I wanted to tell you about my new novel that has just been released, and what it was like to write a sequel.  I wrote The Ghost Hunters Club over two years ago and life was quite different then.  I was living in Leeds, I had just been spectacularly let down by a man and it was not long after I had to change jobs and move back to the Fens.  There was a lot of my life at that point in that novel, including the ghost hunting and drinking!

However, a year later, I had the itch to continue Linda, Karen and Anna’s stories.  I was about as far removed from my previous situation but I woke up one morning and the plot to the sequel just came to me.  So while I was at work, when I probably should have been doing something else, I scribbled the basic plot down and the seeds had been sown.  It was two years after starting the first novel when I began The Ghost Hunters Return – cunning title eh? – but I wasn’t living in the home town of my main characters and two years had passed since I wrote the last one, when only two months had passed for them.  But this was the thing, it only took a few pages to dive back into their worlds.  It was like greeting old friends again and I had so much fun deciding what I was going to do with their lives.  After a while, I stopped writing the story, it wrote itself and the characters stopped relying on me to make decisions for them but they made them for themselves.

There’s a couple of new characters as well: one is good and one is bad, but which one, you’ll have to read to find out.  There’s more ghost hunting, more strange characters and definitely more ghosts!  And needless to say, Anna, has another of her moments …

Many thanks to Ryan Ashcroft for designing the covers: he came up with the concept, shot the pictures himself and then produced two beautiful matching covers for the Ghost Hunters books.  I love them, I hope you do too.

GHRWe’ve just bought The Ghost Hunters Return and can’t wait to get started on it. Buy your copy here.

GHCWe’ve read The Ghost Hunters Club and loved it. If you haven’t read it yet, download it now, here.

Opposites Attract

Lacey WolfeWe’re thrilled to be able to welcome fabulous erotic author Lacey Wolfe back to Ravens Retreat. She has the proud accolade of being the first erotic author we’ve ever liked, which is no mean feat. Today’s doubly special because it’s also her birthday, so penblwydd hapus Lacey. Hope you’re getting spoiled rotten, maybe with some hunky guys bringing you cake. She’s here today to talk about writing a series. The fourth book in her sizzling Hot Bods series was released February 18th and if you haven’t got it yet, shame on you! So we’ll leave you in her capable hands while we bring her some birthday cake and champagne. Sadly we have no hunks on hand to wait on her.

 

First I want to say thank you so much for hosting me today. I have just completed my first series, The Hot Bods series.

To be honest, I’ve never been a big series reader. And now when I sit back and look at my writing, I’ve realized I’m a series writer. I have the Hot Bods series, the Brookfield series, and a new one coming soon, Love Strikes series. The Hot Bods series is the only complete series at this point.

So you may be wondering, is this a series you have to read in order? My answer is no however I think if you did, you’d enjoy it much better. Mainly because of one character, Francesca. You’ll meet her in the first book, Fool Me Once and chances are you’ll dislike her. She reappears in the second book More Than Useful as the hero’s sister, and in the third book Accidental Love, the reader will get to see a whole new side of Francesca and begin to wonder if she is as bad as they thought she was. And finally, Opposites Attract and Francesca gets her story.

Now Francesca isn’t the only character. We have Skylar who is a big part of all the books, as well as Amy and Jane. All four girls will appear in each book and of course if you read it in order, you’ll get little updates on how each of them is doing.

I have found writing series is fun. I get to keep my characters longer and revisit them. And so does the reader. Many times when you put a book down, it’s over. But not with a series.

Opposites Attract, Lacey WolfeOpposites Attract is the only story to include an epilogue and I think I tied the series up with a nice bow. Of course if someone has real all four they may still be left wanting to know more, and hey, who knows what the future holds. Another book could be in store.

To check out more on the Hot Bods series, check it out:

http://www.laceywolfe.com/hot-bods-series.html

Thank you so much for having me on today! I enjoyed being here.

 

As a special birthday present, Lacey has allowed us to give away one of the books in the Hot Bods series, so comment below if you’d like to win one and we’ll select the winner in a week’s time. So click on her link to check out all the books.

St. David’s Day

St. David's Day, Soul AsylumHappy St. David’s Day! To celebrate, Soul Asylum is FREE! A gothic novel set in North Wales, by Welsh authors and a Welsh cover designer. There’s so much Welshness sheep are magically appearing everywhere and dragons are perching on rooftops. So get Soul Asylum exclusively from Smashwords here and enjoy a free entry into a Welsh asylum. If that hasn’t enticed you, watch the trailer here done for us by Fireclaw Films. Still not convinced? Join us at the launch in Cathays Cemetery here.