Escape From Fuck Mountain

So last night, we made Steve, a cleric glow, threw him into a cave where he and a ranger, Pip, got attacked by a fire-breathing beetle then we robbed them, only for the cleric to later be responsible for an orphan burning to death while Lynx lost a jousting tournament and Cat, Jordan and Amy got thrown in jail. Just another Friday night round Tom’s.

No, we haven’t suddenly become a group of outlaws. We’ve started playing Dungeons and Dragons. And we love it! To be honest, we didn’t know much about D & D. We thought it was a game played by men who lived in their mothers’ basements and had trouble getting girlfriends. We thought a game where your fate was decided on a dice roll could not be fun. We were wrong. So very, very wrong. We’re sorry. It is a hell of a lot of fun and out of the group, we’re the only ones who live with our mum. When we announced on Twitter that we’d started a D & D campaign, instead of mocking us, they said “we didn’t think you guys could get any cooler. We were wrong.” Aw thanks. We don’t think we’re cool but we’re glad someone does. We have even taken it to the next level and started dressing as our characters.  We asked our Tweeps if this would be taking it too far. The unanimous answer was: no. In fact, one of our tweeps said it would make us even more cooler. So here we are in our D & D gear. Yes, the weapons are real.C L Raven

This is our cast in Escape from Fuck Mountain: Tom – Dungeon Master. Lynx – Crimthan, a lawfully evil paladin who had a disappointing life and has an empathic link to his warhorse, Hades. Cat – Indiana Raine, a chaotically evil Rogue who keeps failing at sneak attacks and tree climbing. Amy – Vena Owens, a lawfully neutral half-elf waitress with wizard powers and a bat familiar, who joined the party to escape life at the Fuck Inn. Jordan – Lord Wolfy, a chaotic neutral druid who can shapeshift into a wolf and has a deep-seated hatred for wolves. He weighs three and half wolves and looks damn fine in the rain. Pip – Casiel, a Ranger with a hawk who keeps getting robbed and kicked out of trees by the rest of us. Steve – Frank, a lawfully good cleric, who’s supposed to be the good guy of the group but burned an orphan to death and pissed off his god.

The story so far: Day One: We all met in Fuck Inn, where Frank failed to get served and is still bitter about it. A man stumbled in and died in front of us. Indiana Raine stole a map from his pocket but was caught by Crimthan. The map contained mystic symbols, which Vena managed to decipher as being magical and that was it. But it was dark and she was cleaning up blood. After concluding the X on the map meant treasure, we all set off to find it. A visit to Fuck Mountain General Stores led to Lord Wolfy languishing in the sauna for an hour while the rest of us failed to buy supplies for our three day trek through the woods, having been distracted by the sauna. We soon realised our mistake when the night turned cold and we had nothing to sleep in and no fire-starting implements. Lord Wolfy attempted to make a fire using Casiel’s bow. And broke it. Casiel went to sleep in a tree so Indiana Raine attempted to climb the tree to steal the bow. And fell out. After eventually getting into the tree, she then failed to sneakily steal the bow and pulled Casiel out of the tree. After Crimthan eventually started a fire, Casiel returned to her tree. Then we realised she had the food. Lord Wolfy threw a rock at her to wake her up and knocked her unconscious. Crimthan threw the rock and hit her out of the tree.

Half a day trek on, Casiel realised she’d left her bow in the tree and sent her hawk to retrieve it. The hawk dropped it in a tree. Casiel and Indiana kept falling out of the tree in an attempt to fetch the bow so Crimthan tried to chop it down. And got his sword stuck. Then we got attacked by 5 wolves. Lord Wolfy got savaged and lay bleeding out for the entire fight. Vena hit more trees than wolves with her crossbow, Casiel’s arrows hit everywhere except the wolves, Indiana failed in her sneak attack on them but eventually killed one. Crimthan killed 2 and Frank and Casiel eventually killed one each. We later discovered Tom halved their HP. And they were a level 1! This wasn’t looking good. Tom “I’d planned for you to get off Fuck Mountain by the end of the first session. You’re two days behind.”

Who knew dice rolls could be so fatal?

Session 2: Vena read the map and spied a desert village, so we decided to visit it in the hope we could buy some camping supplies. En route, Crimthan spotted circular tracks belonging to a large beetle. Casiel wanted to capture the beetle to use it as a pack mule so we set off in pursuit, tracking it to a cave. Frank was nominated to enter the cave, so Lord Wolfy used his power to make him glow. Crimthan successfully threw him into the cave (don’t ask), where he was attacked by the beetle, which breathed fire. Casiel went in after him because Frank was cutting the beetle’s legs off and she wanted to ride it. The beetle attacked Casiel, who had no weapons. The rest of us stood outside the cave, chatting as the beetle knocked Frank and Casiel unconscious. At this point, Indiana and Crimthan entered the cave, and between them, killed the beetle. Indiana spotted a bag and tried to steal it, but Crimthan caught her and tore the bag in half. Gold coins scattered over the cave, so they collected them. Lord Wolfy thought it would be a good idea to rob Casiel and Frank, as they didn’t need their food or gold, seeing as they were unconscious. Nobody objected, so they were relieved of their possessions and left in the cave to come round while the rest of the party continued towards the desert village.

Lord Wolfy angered the DM, who caused a tree to fall in the forest. A lot of time was spent arguing about the best way to deal with the tree, until Crimthan eventually chopped it up. By this time, Casiel and Frank had caught up. Frank believed Lord Wolfy’s lies that their food and gold were stolen by Bandits, but Casiel wasn’t fooled. Lord Wolfy wanted to ride Crimthan’s horse, so they rolled for it. Crimthan lost. Convinced Lord Wolfy would steal his horse, he used his empathetic link to make Hades throw Lord Wolfy. We eventually made our way to the village, discovering there was a festival with different competitions. We spent the rest of the day in the inn before retiring to bed. The next day, Crimthan entered the jousting competition and lost in the second round. Casiel entered the archery competition (after borrowing money from Vena) and was doing well until she insulted the DM’s maths skills. She lost the competition. Note to selves: don’t anger the DM. He is God 😀

Vena visited a fortune teller to make sense of the map while Frank decided to entertain the village children, by regaling them with tales of yonder. The children were so bored, one set fire to the tent. Frank panicked while burning fabric rained down upon him and eventually managed to usher most of the children out. However, one unconscious orphan was accidentally left behind to burn. Frank hid from the angry villagers in the inn. Meanwhile, Lord Wolfy and Indiana hatched a plot to rob the villagers. Lord Wolfy would transform into a wolf and frighten the villagers, while Indiana would step in, offer to kill the wolf for a fee then return with her fur cloak as evidence. The guards who were watching the box of money collected from the competition’s entry fees, were a higher level than us and shot Lord Wolfy with their crossbows. Indiana lured the captain of the guards away and launched a sneak attack to slit his throat. And failed. Unimpressed by Lord Wolfy and Indiana’s antics, the guards threw them in jail. Indiana attempted to pick the lock. And failed. Vena heard the commotion and was able to open the jail with her spells. Indiana attempted a sneak attack on the guard. And failed. The three of them spent the rest of the festival behind bars.

So while we seem to be better at attacking each other than actual enemies, we have been fully converted to D & D and look forwards to every Friday night encounter. Will we get through a day without bickering? Will we ever win a fight? And will we ever escape from goddamn Fuck Mountain?

Backstage Pass

It sounds like the start to a horror film – a stranger approaches you in a chip shop and asks you to act in a play. Luckily this is real life and the person who approached us was Ruby, a crew member from Monstrous Productions. If you remember, we’ve been to see two of the Terry Pratchett plays they’ve performed – Mort and Wyrd Sisters, which we reviewed. And this time, we’re on the other side. We’re being transformed into snakes. Or rather, women who think they’re snakes. Apparently, Monstrous Productions really wanted us to be the twins – they knew about us through our reviews. To be honest, we were reluctant to participate. One, because although most of our social anxiety is gone, our innate shyness means we’re still not great in large groups. And two, because we love going to see the plays and we didn’t want to miss this one. But we went to the auditions anyway and enjoyed them, even participating in the role play. When we decided to stick with our yearly resolution of ‘say yes to things’, being in a play wasn’t something we’d envisioned.

Directed by Amy Davies, this will be the UK premiere of Pratchett’s Witches Abroad. Jason Anthony, who runs the Discworld newsletter with 20,000 subscribers, is coming to review the play. We’re so glad we don’t have a speaking role! Witches Abroad is about the three witches – Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick – trying to stop a servant girl from marrying the prince. Somebody has been turning real life into stories, but real life isn’t fiction and happy endings can’t be forced.

Having been in the audience twice, it’s great to see how things are done backstage. This is our first experience of being involved with a play in any way and we’re really enjoying it. A lot of work goes into these plays. Everyone is really lovely and we love watching people rehearse, because at least we get to see the play, albeit in small sections. Everyone who’s in it is really talented and we’re not just saying that now we’re part of it. Seriously, read our previous reviews. We find the warm up games difficult, due to our social awkwardness and we know we look as awkward as we feel, but everyone else has a lot of fun with them. We can’t wait to see the rehearsals progress from reading off the scripts, to acting it out in costume. As writers, it’s invaluable experience to see it from the inside. We’ve often thought it would be great to either write a play, or turn one of our stories into one, so it’s fascinating to see how it all comes together.

Our three scenes involve us standing around, looking creepy. It’s like we were born for these roles 😀 In one of our scenes, we have to maintain eye contact with one of the witches, Magrat. Those who know us in real life, know we generally avoid eye contact as much as possible, so having to hold it is challenging, but that probably adds to our creepy factor. If you come and see it, we’ll be unrecognisable as we’ll be in pretty dresses and long silver wigs. So we’ll be the ones looking like old drag queens. We always go to the plays with our mate, Tom and his girlfriend, Amy. After our first rehearsal, we texted Tom and told him about the dresses and said he wasn’t allowed to laugh when we’re on stage. When we texted him about the wigs, his response was “do you still expect me not to laugh?” 😀

Witches Abroad will run from April 8th – 11th at The Gate Arts Centre, Keppoch Street, Cardiff. Tickets are £8 and are available from here. So please come and see it if you can. Not for us – we’re only in 3 scenes, but come because it’s a brilliant, funny play. All profits go to Alzheimer’s research.

Check out their Facebook page and Twitter

Witches Abroad, Monstrous Productions

Cover Story

Those of you who have been with us for a while will know that every year we like to rip out Valentine’s Day’s heart with our anti-Valentine’s trilogies. When we wrote Gunning Down Romance, it was going to be a stand-alone book. But then we discovered a macabre love of butchering this romantic day and decided to write a trilogy of trilogies. So many people asked if it was in print that this year we haven’t written a new one, but have instead combined the three trilogies into one print book, with a bonus story featuring the only returning character, Trey. Trey was a returning character by accident. When we wrote Still Life in Bad Romance, it was going to feature a character called The Artist. But after we’d finished it, we realised The Artist was Trey. He’d sneaked in without us noticing. And we haven’t been able to get rid of him.

So without further ado, here is the stunning cover *opens curtains with a flourish. Gets tangled.* Bollocks.

Romance Is Dead C L Raven

It was designed by Mark Stone. You can follow him on Twitter here, like his Facebook page here and check out his website here. We only asked him to do the cover on Thursday and he’d finished it the next day so we’d have plenty of time to promote it. You can’t ask for better service than that. We love how he’s incorporated the style of the other covers into a new look. We can’t wait to see it in print. It will be released on Valentine’s Day, so if like us, you enjoy seeing Valentine’s covered in blood, you don’t have long to wait.

Real love is worth killing for.

Dawn of the Dead

Whilst most people herald the arrival of a new year – new beginnings and all that jazz, and they start making promises that this is the year they’ll change, for us, all it does is awaken the darkshines. Since the darkshines first awoke when we were 14, the new year has been nothing but an excuse to say ‘good riddance’ to the old year, whilst dreading what crap the new one has in store. And whilst we’re mostly out of the darkshines’ shadow, this year has been no different, with our Facebook statuses reading: ‘*puts bullet in 2014’s heart. Aim gun at 2015* start running, bitch’. And ‘may 2014 crawl off and die and may 2015 never live to see its first sunrise’.

Positive stuff.

To be fair, we’ve been on a high for a couple of months now, and we were even feeling positive and excited for the future. The future’s always been a big black hole to us with random planned events thrown in to give us something to look forwards to. So we were due to come crashing down. That’s the nature of our darkshines. It’s been worse this time around because the high doesn’t normally last as long as it did this time. But we know we’ll come out of it so we just wait for the dark clouds to pass. Our coping strategies include writing, video editing our ghost hunting show and exercise.

And you probably thought you were about to read another ‘new year, new me’ post. Let’s face it – the world doesn’t change just because we all have new calendars. It sums it up when after spending New Year’s Eve with your best mate playing Cards Against Humanity and The Last Day on Earth, the New Year starts, the fireworks go off and you’re on the bog. Guess it’s the New Year taking the piss. After that ‘unique’ start, you know you’re going to have to face the rest of the year armed with a sense of humour and a sarcastic retort.

But at least this year has started pretty bloody well.

Silent Dawn has been longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize. We can’t believe it either, so read the longlist here. If you remember Bleeding Empire was longlisted for the prize last year and we got invited to the prize giving, which led to us doing a reading at the Salem literary festival. To be honest, we didn’t rate Silent Dawn’s chances at all. For a start, we only wrote it in September and the deadline for the prize was Halloween. We were going to submit The Malignant Dead, but as the short story version was published in October, we couldn’t enter the novella version. Cue a mad edit of Silent Dawn to get it somewhat presentable. So for this reason, we don’t expect it to get shortlisted. We’ll find out on February 1st. But we’re thrilled to be longlisted.

This was the Silent Dawn pitch we wrote for Scardiff: “Silent Dawn isn’t real. She’s a terrifying computer game character who erodes players’ sanities. Just because she’s been linked to disappearances centuries ago, doesn’t mean she’s real. Just because game aspects appear in reality, or because people start vanishing, doesn’t mean she’s real. Just because she’s standing in the corner…”