Write Stuff

It’s been a while since we blogged about anything writing-related. Mostly because it would be boring for us to tell you how we spent several minutes rearranging a sentence to cut one word, or how we used ‘find and replace’ to make sure we hadn’t used the same adjective too many times. Not to mention getting rid of framing and passive voice. We save that exciting talk for each other.

But we have been busy. Mostly waiting for news of rejections or acceptances. Ok, let’s be honest, rejections. In January, we’d submitted Soul Asylum and Bleeding Empire to Gollanzc, and Silent Dawn to Angry Robot – two publishers that had rare open submission windows. We probably won’t hear about Silent Dawn  for another couple of months. Soul Asylum was rejected in February, but we haven’t heard back about Bleeding Empire. We’re trying to pretend no news is good news, but in reality, we’re convinced they didn’t receive it and we’re waiting for news that will never come. Like casting a message in a bottle out to sea, not knowing that it was found by a diver who was then eaten by a shark. In a way, it’s frustrating, because we’d planned to release Bleeding Empire in June/July but can’t until we hear back. We plan to work on it and get it ready for publication so if/when it’s rejected, we can release it ourselves.

The past couple of months we’ve been entering lots of competitions. We entered five last month and eight this month. Though we’ve also submitted two stories to magazines this month, taking our submission count to 10. May has a further 10 competitions we’ve marked to enter but they’re not ’til the end of the month so we might take a break to edit Bleeding Empire before the panic sets in.

Our Twlwyth Teg story, Exchange Rate was shortlisted in the Flash 500 competition. We were thrilled because we wrote it five years ago, sent it out twice, it didn’t get anywhere, so we left it alone until last year when we reworked it and submitted it once. Again, it didn’t get anywhere. We edited it again this year and it was shortlisted. We found out it didn’t get placed on Sunday, so entered it into another competition which was closing Monday. We’re the kind of writers who enter competitions either on deadline day, or the day before, maximizing the amount of time we can work on the story. It’s a vast improvement on high school when we just didn’t bother doing our homework – we were too busy writing. And we liked having lunchtime detentions. It meant we did our homework without taking up valuable writing time and we didn’t have to socialise with the twats who made our lives a misery. Win-win!

We got another rejection on Monday then on Wednesday, we were longlisted in the Bath Novel Award! Out of 1,063 novels, there were 39 on the longlist. We didn’t expect to get anywhere and don’t expect to get further than this. We’re not allowed to say which is ours, but you can read the long list and see if you can guess.

Some Calamityville news – we’ve been editing the first of our Woodchester Mansion special for months and on Sunday, the hard drive disconnected from the laptop. As Lynx opened it up again, it reminded her she hadn’t saved the changes. She clicked save. It saved the disconnected version, the blank version, deleting four months of editing. We now have to start all over again. The meltdown was epic. Think Hulk stubbing his toe after a really shit day. So this week has basically been a week of pathetic fallacy – mood matching the weather. Sunshine and showers.

But we have been asked to appear on an author panel at Bristol Horror Con. We probably should’ve asked what it entailed before agreeing. Hoping it’s not some Game of Thrones style death match now. We’ll be dressed nicely and blood leaves a stain.

Theatre of Screams

Cross Hands cinemaDancing, entering forbidden areas and taking part in shenanigans. It can only mean one thing: we were back on the road ghost hunting for the start of season 6 of Calamityville Horror. We’ve always wanted to investigate an old theatre so when Gareth Mates of RIP Paranormal invited us to Cross Hands public hall and cinema, we couldn’t say no. And this was after he’d watched the show…

Cross Hands cinemaWe left early and arrived at the Travelodge exactly when we were supposed to. Is that what being an adult feels like? For the first time ever, Travelodge let us down – they didn’t have a fridge! Luckily we’d brought extra ice packs for our soya milk and Red Bull. Having warm milk for breakfast would be bad enough but no-one should have to suffer a warm Red Bull. Life is cruel enough. As we loitered outside Starbucks, stealing their WiFi, Laura joined us and we made our way to the cinema. It was about two minutes down the road but we have to lug a lot of equipment and we didn’t fancy the trek back at 4 a.m. We got to the cinema early. What’s with this? Being responsible doesn’t sit well with us. Jack and James arrived a few minutes later then the natural order of things was restored when we got locked out. We knocked on the front door. No answer. We ventured to the side door and Jack knocked. Nothing. Jack continuously knocked. The lights were on but there was no-one home. This was more like the Calamityville we know and love. Eventually, Gareth heard us and let us in.

Cross Hands cinemaEveryone else was due to arrive at 9:30 for the 10 p.m. start but we got there at 8 cos we wanted the place to ourselves for a bit. That and we like to get settled in before a load of people come. We feel more comfortable with people arriving after than us arriving with a crowd. After claiming the table in the furthest corner, the five of us then hid in the library, stealing the WiFi. Such sociable beings.

Cross Hands cinemaWhen RIP Paranormal had finished fiddling with their cables, Gareth took us on a tour and told us about the ghostly goings on. The manager heard someone knocking on the wall in the day room which was base camp. The knocks travelled across the wall then the door opened. In the library, books have been found on the floor. Knocks are heard from under the stage but although we were allowed to open the access door, we weren’t allowed to go under there. Shadowy figures have been spotted in the projection booth and in the main theatre, a little girl haunts the aisle and tugs on people’s clothing.

Cross Hands cinemaBuilt in 1906 as a public hall to improve the community’s quality of the life. One of the stonemasons was Eddie Wilkins, a gifted stonemason who was involved with many of the better stonework buildings around Cross Hands and the Gwendraeth Valley. Miners contributed 1p a week from their wages to help with the hall’s upkeep. In 1932 it was extended, incorporating many ancillary centres at the rear of the building. The hall’s French façade design once graced the auditorium ceiling, but it no longer exists.

Cross Hands cinemaThe hall was one of the finest in south Wales with top actors and orchestras. It was the main attraction in the area. The combination of the coal industry’s demise and the popularity of TV contributed to the hall’s decline. It fell into disrepair and closed in 1984. In 1991, the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Bryn Davies fought to keep the hall open, eventually securing a £640,000 grant from the Welsh Office, Llanelli Borough Council and Carmarthenshire District Council to restore the hall. It reopened on 26th April 1996. It is run by volunteers from the community and is now mostly used as a cinema.

Cross Hands cinemaWe then waited for everyone else to arrive. It was meant to be a public event but in the end, it was only going to be investigators. We were a little relieved. We’ve had our fill of public events now and prefer exploring alone. There’s always one person in a public event who winds us up. By 10 p.m., only one investigator, Tim, had arrived. We waited. And waited. And waited. By 11, it was clear the others weren’t coming. Eager to get going, we could’ve contemplated the meaning of life but instead, the five of us amused ourselves by sending each other photos of our cats in a group message. Despite all sitting at the same table. Socialising at its best. To be fair, between the 5 of us, we have a LOT of fabulous cats. 8 of the furry beasts. 5 are ours.

Cross Hands cinemaJust as we were about to start napping, we were allowed to investigate. We chose to have the theatre first. Even though the other rooms had activity, we get bored investigating rooms that look like ordinary rooms. We can sit in those anytime. Plus one room had comfy chairs and if we sat in them, we didn’t rate our chances of staying awake. We entered the theatre and the lights went out. The performance was about to begin. Jack and James returned for a memory card. Before you could say ‘opening credits’, us and Laura were under the stage. The boys returned to find the theatre empty. They soon found us and joined us for selfies and exploring, rather than proper investigating. But hey, knocks are heard from under the stage, so maybe this is where the ghosts were hiding, like spectral trolls. We were the only two short enough to stand upright, providing we stood between the beams, which looked creepy when Cat’s head disappeared from view.

Cross Hands cinemaAfter ten minutes into our allotted hour, we crawled out and made our way to the projection booth to hunt for the shadowy figures. They didn’t show. We tried encouraging the ghosts to put on a film for us, but maybe the new technology baffled them. We know how they feel. We took our seats in the front row of the balcony and awaited the ghosts’ performance. They clearly missed their curtain call, although we did hear a couple of taps. Two came after Lynx asked if the spirits could name the performance they were in. Cross Hands cinemaCat and Laura ventured down to sit on the stage while Lynx, James and Jack stayed on the balcony. After a few minutes, Cat went to stand in the aisle to encourage the little girl ghost, but like all children, she gave Cat a wide berth. As the other three left the balcony, the motion sensor light was on. It was at the top of the steps, so they hadn’t triggered it and one of the seats in the front row was down. These seats automatically flip up when you stand. None of us remembered it being down when we entered the front row, but we’ll have to double check our cameras. The stills camera shows the seat up on the walk around. What makes this stranger is, we asked the ghosts to lower one of the seats. It didn’t happen again for the rest of the night. And no, it wasn’t filmed.

Cross Hands cinemaIt was time for a break and a switch. We took the day room downstairs, but nothing happened. Gareth mentioned the team in the theatre, consisting of Tim, Hana and Lewis, had contacted a demon on the Ouija board. Not just any demon. Satan himself. You’d think he’d have people to screen his calls. Curious that Satan would take a Saturday evening off to chat, we abandoned our vigil and gathered on the stage to watch. The ‘demon’ apparently turned out to be a serial killer called Frank, who wanted to kill Hana. Among other things. He spelled her name right, despite it not being the common spelling. We were tempted to see if it could spell our real names, which also have unusual spellings, but we don’t like interrupting other people’s vigils. After several minutes of watching, we left them alone and headed up to the library and spent our time looking for funny book titles. We weren’t disappointed.

Cross Hands cinemaConsidering the Ouija board had been so active, we decided to have a go in the hope that the spirits would finally answer us. Our Saint’s Row Wee-Ja board doesn’t seem to work, so maybe someone else’s would. All we got was a hang up tone. Gareth came to watch so got to witness the truth behind when we say “we get bugger all,” we really do get bugger all. As massive serial killer… ‘enthusiasts’ seems so wrong….we felt if anyone should make contact with one, it should be us. But the board was as a quiet as a duct-taped monk in a sponsored silence. We asked if our group’s fabulous sense of style (let’s be honest, we are the most stylish ghost hunters out there) angered them. We took their lack of communication as a yes.

Cross Hands cinemaAs the balcony had proved to be the most interesting area so far, we returned there and again waited for the ghosts to perform. The performance had been cancelled. Cold and tired, we ventured into the ground floor of the theatre and took different rows in the hope a ghost would sit with at least one of us. Not even the offer of applause convinced them to give us something other than the silent treatment. It’s always disappointing when you pay to go to the theatre to watch a performance and the actors decide they have somewhere better to be.

Cross Hands cinemaAfter returning to base camp and sharing more cat photos, Jack and James headed off as they were driving home. Us and Laura decided to give it one last try and as RIP Paranormal were packing up, the three of us headed for the stage. There was only way to end the night – dancing. All week we’ve been promising that we’ll get up on stage and either perform a play or dance. Our Complete Works of Shakespeare could help a Mob victim sleep with the fishes, and improv would’ve been impossible at that time of night so we opted for dancing. Unfortunately, we could only get internet by the library so couldn’t access any music on our phones. Our flip phones saved the day. Cat blasted Muse’s ‘Hysteria’ followed by Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ and we danced our way to the end of the night. Forgetting RIP’s cameras were trained right on us…

The ghosts didn’t even applaud.Cross Hands cinema