Cover Story

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

It looked no different.

Bandit holding Cat's hand through the Photoshop ordeal

Bandit holding Cat’s hand through the Photoshop ordeal

There was only one thing for it: change the black background. We found a misty one on 123rf.com and thought it would be a simple case of swapping the black for the new background. It took us two friggin’ hours! For a start, we couldn’t just swap it – no, we had to resize it to match the covers and spine. Then it didn’t fit on the print template – it was too small. For the other one, we cheated and filled the background in black. We tried this, continuously having to delete and resize the misty background to fit, and you could clearly see the cover on top of the background. We obviously weren’t going to be able to cheat this time. So we had to resize the cover. Several times. We probably should’ve asked someone who doesn’t hate Photoshop to do this, but we are so pushed for time, we can’t ask someone to drop everything they’re doing for us. We finally beat Photoshop into submission and sent the cover off for review.

They rejected it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Night Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cast

Sam Vimes/John Keel – Jez Hynes

Young Sam Vimes – Craig Harper

Carcer – Tyron Sullivan

Fred Colon – Matthew Hitchman

Nobby Nobbs – John Simpson

Snouty – Pete Belson

Lu-Tze – Howard Dickins

Ned Coates – Jamie Gibbs

Lady Roberta Meserole – Katya Moskvina

Havelock Vetinari – Harry Spencer

Dr Lawn – Loz Shanahan

Reg Shoe – Nick Dunn

Snapcase/Tilden – Stuart Moss

Dibler/Selachii – Matt Burnett

Lord Winder/various – Joshua Flynn

Captain Swing – Michael Dickinson

Mrs Rutherford/various – Sarah Pruett

Rust/Dr Follet – Terrance Edwards

Supple/Young Sybil – Sarah Burrow

Wiglet – John B. Dent

Captain Wrangle – Tony Beard

Sergeant Knock – Matthew Fisher

Major Mountjoy Standfast – Edward Duke

Slant/various – Ben Wilson

Sergeant Dickens – Matthew Edwards

Hepplewhite/various – Luke Belson

Dotsie/various – Zoe Azzopardi

Solider – Sam Steele

Sandra – Isabelle Burman

Leggie/Gabitass – Richard McReynolds

Various – Mikey Wickham

Rebel – Lowri Belson

Waddy – Dan Collins

 

 

 

 

Puppy Love

rescue dog

Bandit within an hour of coming home with us.

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

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

our boys. L-r Jack, Bru

our boys. L-r Jack, Bru

Misty and Google

Misty and Google

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

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

rescue dog

With his first toy we bought him.

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

And damn it, we did.

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

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

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

rescue dogs

Bandit and baby Axel

rescue dog

Bandit and Speccy

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

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

rescue dogs

Bandit and fully grown Axel

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

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Bandit and Kyler

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

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Bandit and Ebony

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

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

rescue dog

Happy adoption day, Puppydog!