College of Knowledge

As the sweet woody scent of burned heather seeps through the house, we realise that of all the things we’ve tried in our pursuit of knowledge, this one is actually one of the least craziest.

burning heatherPerhaps we should explain. We’re redrafting our plague doctor novella, The Malignant Dead, which we hope to release sometime in 2014. One of the methods the clengers used to cleanse a house after the occupants had found new homes in Greyfriars Kirkyard, was to burn heather. They believed the plague was airborne, so burning plants, herbs and brimstone were believed to prevent the plague. So we wanted to know what burned heather smelled like. We turned to Google. Google was about as helpful as an invisible map. All it came up with was ‘burned heater‘ and some woman called Heather who was burnt on a cookery show. And not because she was the main course. Technically, we didn’t have to describe the smell, but we wanted to add flavour to the scene. There was only one thing for it: we collected some dead heather from our garden, set it alight, dropped it into a bowl and stood over it like Macbeth’s witches.burning heather

That got us thinking of all the other things we have done for writing. See the funny thing with fiction is that although you can convince people to believe in things like aliens, vampires and happily ever afters, if you get a fact wrong, your readers will let you know and you’ll lose credibility. When we were teenagers, we read a lot of crime fiction, so we wrote crime fiction. We had a detective each and both wrote 7 novels with them. They were about serial killers (shock horror) and the murders were all wildly creative and gory. Don’t worry, they’ve been given life sentences and will remain imprisoned on our hard drives forever. But we wanted to know about crime. So we enrolled on adult learning courses. We have 50 credits for Law and 50 for Psychology, a Psychology A level and a self-taught Law AS level. We also took a ten week forensic science course. It was a little too sciency for us, but 2 weeks of it were dedicated to forensic pathology. We were so enraptured by the lecturer, Stephen Leadbeater, that we didn’t take a single note. Needless to say, we described the post mortems in our books in every gloriously graphic detail.

Boys Village

exploring Boys Village in East Aberthaw

A few years later, we wrote a novel about 3 ghost hunters – fraternal male & female twins and their geeky friend who have their own internet ghost hunting show, The Other Side. The novel was called Raising the Dead and the characters actually feature in one of the short stories in Deadly Reflections.  So we bought a book on haunted places in Cardiff and started visiting the places in the book. We even convinced our mum to drive out to an abandoned petrol station miles away because this book said it was haunted. She also joined us in a pitch black country lane somewhere between Caerphilly and Rudry. Then three years ago we met Ryan and Calamityville Horror was born. An internet ghost hunting show where the 3 hunters are twins and their geeky friend. We probably will never release that novel now, in case we’re accused of basing it on ourselves when the novel actually came first.

Then there are the usual things like scouring for good places to dump a body and visiting those places to see how accessible they are and how plausible it would be, taking into account whether vehicles could gain access. We always take our mum on these excursions because she is very logical and can point out errors we haven’t considered. Trust us, it’s far more fun than taking your mum shopping. Apart from that one time when we went to Garth Woods on New Year’s Day and it was 1 degree C.

Denbigh Asylum

original photo of Denbigh Asylum

Soul Asylum was the next novel to inspire us on a crazy adventure. Soul Asylum book cover by Fireclaw FilmsAfter writing the novel and doing several redrafts, we actually decided to see if there was an asylum set in north Wales. There was – Denbigh. Full of excitement, we wanted to visit it. Then we heard there were plans to demolish it. So we decided the sane thing to do was to take an 8 hour road trip to see it. You can read the full adventure here. Basically, we left at 3 a.m., got there at 8 a.m., the gates were locked so we took a photo of it from the gates then drove to Denbigh Castle. That was closed. We drove to Ruthin Gaol. That was also closed. So we drove home. But we did have a photo for the front cover of the novel.

So setting fire to some heather is definitely not the craziest thing we’ve done for writing. If anyone has any stories of the peculiar things they’ve done in their quest for knowledge, let us know. There are bound to be great stories out there.

Creepy Christmas

SA-xmascard1Many thanks to all our followers and readers for sticking with us and to our talented artists, Ryan Ashcroft from Love Your Covers and River Rose for making our books look beautiful. Also thanks to Ryan for designing this card for us.

 

Master of Puppets

On Friday, we finished editing one of our older novels, Legion of the Damned. We wrote it in 2008 (we think) but after writing Bleeding Empire, thought it would be a good idea to release it as Bleeding Empire’s sequel. Legion features demons that have escaped from Hell and have cool powers. Think evil superheroes but without the capes and their own action figures. The problem was, it was 162,000 words. It needed to go on a major diet. So we starved it, forced it into a gym and cracked the whip until it broke into sweat and begged for mercy. When we were close to the end, we realised the document was missing 6 chapters. The novel was in fact 185,000 words. After a brief swearing fit, we carried on hacking through it with our machete. Also known as the delete button. In the end we managed to cut 63,000 words. So it’s still too long and still needs a lot of work. Probably a major rewrite in some parts. We used to like this book.

Most people, after finishing a novel edit would probably take a few days off. On Saturday, we were at a loss of what to do. So we wrote the final story for Romance Is Dead, the final part of the anti-Valentine’s trilogy. This story (unnamed) will conclude the Trey and Sol story. If you haven’t read Gunning Down Romance and Bad Romance, you have until February 14th. They’re only 77p/99c. The title Master of Puppets would’ve been perfect but that’s a story in Disenchanted, so like most of our stuff, it will probably remain title-less until near publication. They are our nemesis.

We were discussing Trey’s progression from mannequins to paralysed models and wanted to continue the trend. We both said “puppets” at the same time. When the Twin Power is switched on, it really is useful. Today we read through ‘Til Death us do Part and Still Life, which feature Trey and Sol, to make sure we had Trey’s narrative voice right. Turns out, puppets are mentioned in both stories. It’s like past us planted Easter Eggs to hint at things to come. It would’ve been nice if past us had told future us about this. We’ve been trying to think up a plot since August. But still, it makes us look clever. Even if it was by accident.

Power of Three

You know your ghost hunting trip to Stratford is going to be a disaster when your friend says she’s refusing to use her Sat Nav because she enjoys our meltdowns when we get lost. But we’d printed out directions and we were leaving 2 hours earlier then necessary. We were confident.

We were wrong.

We’re not entirely sure where we went wrong. We’d like to blame it on the road closure but we were already lost by that point. We could say travelling in the dark in an unexplored area of England played a part, but previous getting lost excursions have taken place in the day. In reality, we just suck. Then as Cat was driving through traffic lights, it was decided we should go right, not straight ahead. So she turned right. Realising too late that the right lane had a red light. But she was committed. And there was traffic. Cue action film stunt driving and small shrieks of terror and Mickey the Mini Cooper lived to drive another day. Until she nearly ran another red light when reading road signs. This is what happens when functioning on only one Red Bull all day. The world is safer with us caffeinated.

The College Arms, Lower QuintonWe arrived at the meeting place with one hour to spare. Us being…early? Angels gasped, Santa fainted and somewhere in the world a dinosaur egg hatched. The meeting place was the College Inn car park. So we took the opportunity for a chip and vodka & lemonade break to set us up for a night of ghost hunting. Then Cat got lost on her way back from the toilets and alerted some dogs to her wanderings. We did our usual set piece about what we’d discovered through research for our first location, Meon Hill. Except despite reading the info in the car on the way down, Lynx completely forgot it and had to do the talk whilst reading from Neen’s phone. In 1945, a man named Charles Walton was found murdered on the hill, with his trouncing hoook embedded in his throat, his pitchfork in his stomach and a cross carved out from his chest. To this day the murder is unsolved and rumoured to be related to witchcraft. The bar staff overhead our spiel and one of them revealed her grandfather was actually interviewed at the time! We were gutted we didn’t have time to conduct a proper interview. We’d parked round the front of the pub ‘cos we couldn’t find the car park so we jumped in Mickey and drove. All ten feet of road before we reached the car park. And we were the last to arrive, despite having been there an hour. Ryan was at his work’s Christmas meal in Bridgend so we didn’t have a patsy to lay blame on. And people think Calamityville is a professional outfit! *disclaimer. No-one has ever said that Calamityville Horror is in any way, professional.*

Meon HillWe got back in our car to drive to Meon Hill in a convoy. Driving right past where we had been previously parked. We were last in the convoy, which included a transit van, a Land Rover, a Range Rover and Mickey. We had to park in a layby to get to Meon Hill and Mickey’s arse was sticking out in the road. Who brings a transit van ghost hunting? People really need smaller cars. Us and Neen were the only ones who thought to bring wellies for the trek and smugly trampled through the boggy pathway while the rest of the group did their best to avoid the mud. The two mediums from Dusk Til Dawn events were Sue, a witch, and Michael, her husband. Sue conducted a seance at the base of the hill. We were hoping to climb the hill to see the scene of the murder but this was as close as we would get.

old funeral parlour, EveshamThen it was on to the next location, an old funeral parlour that is now a tattoo parlour. Conducting a ghost vigil in a tattoo parlour was a first for the Calamityville team. Lynx sat next to a cheery looking skull wearing sunglasses. We would’ve invited him to join the team but he looked busy. A doll was used as a trigger object for a girl called Alice but Alice didn’t seem to want to play. Apparently interesting EVPs have been captured here so when we review our recordings of our DVRs, we’ll hopefully have caught something. Though judging by previous recordings, we probably won’t. The vigil was interrupted by phantom voices during the silence, but this wasn’t paranormal. In the dark, Cat accidentally PLAY on her DVR, not REC. Whoops. Then Lynx dropped her Canon camcorder. Remember what we said about being professional?

SpiritusFinally we headed to our final location, Spiritus, the shop owned by Sue and Michael. We were split into two groups, with the Calamityville team joining three other people – Mel, Tracy and Lyndon. Being the only man, Lyndon took Ryan’s place as the one getting picked on. In order to incite Colin the poltergeist, the group got creative. Never before has anyone behaved so inappropriately towards a poltergeist. Anyone walking in would’ve have thought they’d stumbled across a sex chat line. We’d like to state, we did not start this. But we did join in. When in Rome and all that jazz. As you know, we’re not fans or believers of table tipping. However there were interesting knocking responses on the table and Cat had her night vision camera trained on the scene the whole time. The knocking was not caused by anyone in the group and  during some of the times when the table was rocking, the camera showed Sue had removed her hands from it.

We then headed into the back room, which is apparently haunted by a doctor. As we held hands in the circle, Mel started to sway. She said she felt a magnetic force pulling her backwards. After a few minutes, Cat switched places with her. At first nothing happened. Then Cat felt it. A definite force making her sway backwards. It started gently then built up. It was bizarre. Lynx tried it and felt nothing. Then we did a ouija board. To his credit, Michael did not participate, which we were very impressed at. We always suspect that organisers who participate in ouija boards influence them. The planchette did move a bit and rotated but offered nothing intelligible other than H. Maybe it was a massive STEPS fan. Then we tried our hand at mirror scrying. Again, we’re not believers in this but it was pretty cool to try. Lynx went first, holding a red light under her face. Even though her eyes were closed, it looked like we could see open eyes. It was so strange, a really creepy effect that we attributed to her glittery eyeshadow. When Tracy tried it, she also closed her eyes and it looked like there were a different pair of eyes on her face, slightly higher up and looking in a different direction. Lyndon had a go and appeared to have the shadow of crab pincers on his forehead. We told him Colin had given him crabs after that amorous table tipping. When Cat tried it, it also looked like her eyes were open. Unusual effect but really cool. We moved to the cellar for a brief vigil involving a doctor’s bag but think he’d gone home for the night.

We left at one a.m. and again got diverted because of road closures. For the first time ever, we had printed out reverse directions. Except we didn’t use them because we wanted to avoid the Severn Bridge toll. And as what usually happens when we don’t sleep and are then awake all night, we become horribly sick. Got home at 3 a.m., but because of feeling so crappy we were still awake at 6. Bleurgh. The general consensus is we start staying somewhere overnight. We have a better idea.

A hearse.

With CALAMITYVILLE HORROR painted on the sides in white. Then we can just park up somewhere and sleep in the back. A ghost hunting team with their own camper hearse. You know this has to happen. Now if can we can just put some funds together…*dons balaclavas.* Be right back, we left our wallets in the bank… Calamityville Horror

Afterlife of the Party

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. We’d like to blame it on being swept up in NaNoWriMo madness, but we finished our NaNo story on 19th November. This year was different for us. This year we only wanted to write a novella, so aimed to write the 50,000 words required, rather than trying to beat last year’s target of 95k. The novella, The Malignant Dead is based on a short story we wrote about a plague doctor in Edinburgh in 1645. It’s actually inspired by the true story of Edinburgh’s plague doctor, George Rae, except with added horror. It’s not our first historical book, but it is our first historical horror. We haven’t read a lot of historical fiction of the 17thC because it mostly seems to be historical romance (if written by a woman) or about battles (if written by a man) and we wanted to do something different and recapture the love we had for history when learning of the gruesome tortures during the Tudor period.

We now have a taste for it and have decided to write a historical horror novella for every NaNoWriMo, as it combines two of our favourites things – horror and history. The next one will be about witchcraft and we might do one about the Resurrectionists. We haven’t thought that far ahead.

There is one disadvantage to finishing NaNo so early – you spend the rest of the month feeling left out. At least with our novels we had our own targets to beat so we could empathise with the pressure. This year, as we knew we were only doing the 50k, there was no pressure at all. We worked at our normal pace.

But as it turned out, there was a massive advantage to finishing early. The day after we finished, (Wednesday) our grandfather (Grampy, we called him), was taken to hospital.

He died the next day.

At 92 years old, it shouldn’t have been a shock. He’d been ill since the Saturday but showed signs of improving on the Tuesday. On the Wednesday he’d deteriorated. But we thought he’d recover. We were already arranging shifts with our sister and mum so he would have 24 hour care. Then on the Thursday, the hospital rang us, telling us he’d taken a turn for the worse and we should come down.

He died before we got there.

There aren’t enough adjectives to describe what a wonderful man he was. One of the things we loved most about him was that he accepted us the way we are. He never once asked when we were going to meet nice men and settle down with 2.4 children. (Never!) Or asked when we were going to get ‘a proper job’ (Never! Wonder if anyone asks J K Rowling this). All he cared about was that we were happy. He’d often joke about getting piercings and dyeing his hair to look like us. One of our favourite memories is of him doing an impression of his friend trying to talk after toffee had stuck her false teeth together 😀

So that’s why we haven’t blogged. Because we’ve had nothing to say. We’re no strangers to grief. In fact, we know it so well we could enter a Mr and Mrs contest and take home the cash prize for charity. Though we have no mantlepiece for the carriage clock. The hole Grampy has left behind proves how much he was loved. 92 years wasn’t long enough. The world is a darker place without him.