Of Wolf and Man

Shock value LegacyWe have finally achieved one of our goals: Hellbound Media has published our first comic! We couldn’t be more excited. It seems so long ago since they asked us to contribute a story to their latest Shock Value anthology, which was originally titled Shock Value Silver, then Shock Value Black and White, before it settled on its name Shock Value Legacy. Each short story is inspired by the monsters of the silver screen, so your classic Universal/Hammer Horror monsters. We already had a short story in mind – Of Wolf and Man. It’s the only werewolf story we’ve ever written. They said we could just have it as an illustrated story, but we wanted it to be a comic, (this was a our chance to start a global writing empire like Neil Gaiman) so with Mark’s help, we learned how to write a comic script.

Of Wolf and Man

Razor

Of Wolf and Man was reborn. We went through a few artists before we found one that us and Hellbound agreed on. We’re very particular when it comes to artwork. We knew how we wanted the comic to look so after turning down two artists, then the third one couldn’t do it, we finally agreed on James Gray. And we couldn’t be more proud of how our comic turned out. He’s brought Razor and Tyler to life. We have been waiting so impatiently for this to be released! Sadly it’s come at a time when all conventions have been cancelled, but you can buy it online at www.hellboundmedia.co.uk or you can message Hellbound Media on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Of Wolf and Man

Tyler

You can find James Gray on his website www.quigonjim.co.uk Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Since then, we’ve written two full comics and plan to do many more. We’ve also been working on our epistolary novella, The Curse of Ravenhall, which we hope to release this year, and issue 2 of our poledancing magazine, When In Chrome. Now lockdown has eased slightly, we’ve partially reopened our mobile pole studio and are teaching in our garden, maintaining social distancing.

We are on Buy Me A Coffee and Patreon

Horror comic

Live from Lockdown

It’s April. APRIL. How the hell did this happen? January lasted for about ten years, February came with bush fires in Australia and floods in Wales, we turned 37 and boom! March had a global pandemic up its sleeve. When we wrote our SWOT analysis and business plan for the magazine and our studio, we failed to foresee a global pandemic as a threat. We have been forced to temporarily close our shiny new pole studio, but it means we have reverted back to being full-time writers.

Laughing at ShadowsWe have a few stories being released right now. Three in fact. Our horror erotica, Touch of Death, was released in the Deranged anthology. Our story, Dying Art, about a man who fully employs the zero waste policy when making furniture, was released in Laughing at Shadows anthology and our true crime article, About a Boy, about teenage Welsh child killer, Harold Jones, is being released in the True Crime anthology by Mitzi Szerto. And we’ve had several rejections. Just to keep us grounded.

Deranged anthologyWe have started a new novel, The Eden Project, which is actually an adaptation of our short story of the same name. It won third place in the British Fantasy Society short story awards in 2016, and has since been published by Bards and Sages Quarterly. It’s set in future where natural beauty has been eroded by years of unhealthy living, so a retreat was set up to protect the ‘beautiful people’. The Eden Project now has retreats all over the world and regularly runs tours so the regular people of the world can visit the residents. Think safari park of beautiful people. It’s a partial satirical swipe at the beauty industry, Hollywood, and celebrity culture.

The best New true crime stories: Small townsSeeing as this lockdown is due to continue for a few more weeks (and probably til the end of summer) we plan to use this time to get our writing projects back on track. We WILL release The Curse of Ravenhall, although sadly in won’t be in Sweden. Unless the travel ban is lifted before the end of the year. We’d like to start writing the next book in our Edinburgh City of the Dead series, which will be based on the Sawney Bean legend. We may end up writing the two novels side by side, which isn’t something we’ve done before. But the rules have changed.

As we can’t visit our Silent Dawn: Asylum co-creator, Steve, we’re taking the opportunity to playtest the game so there will be less to do when the game is finally finished. We may end up adding to it then poor Steve will have to implement the changes and do the coding.

At the moment, Wales Comic Con has been postponed until 22nd & 23rd August, and Leicester Horror Con has been postponed until 2021, so you won’t be seeing us at many conventions this year. It’s a shame, because that’s where about 80-90% of our book sales come from, but it can’t be helped.

Oh we’ve been interviewed by journalist Mark Bestford for issue 47 of Devolution Magazine. You can sign up for a free digital copy here. Out end of May.

We’ll see you on the other side. Stay safe.

When In Chrome Magazine

New Direction

*Blow dust off blog. Gets dust in the eye. Regrets our life choices.*

We hope you haven’t forgotten who are. We do, often. We haven’t blogged since August! It’s been an absurdly busy time, hence our absence from here, however, if you follow us on social media, you’ll see us all over there like the Black Plague. Let us take you back to August, when the weather was warmer, Christmas was a dirty word and we still had red hair.

Romance Is Dead burlesqueThe pole dancing studio we practically lived at, closed. We were bereft and drifted around other pole studios, travelling to Swindon, Salisbury, and three others in Cardiff, looking for a new home. We had a pipe dream that we would one day open our own studio and suddenly finding ourselves without a regular one, the idea began to grow. We started looking at rental properties. Too expensive or unsuitable hours. We drove around industrial estates looking for empty units then contacting the letting agent. Too expensive. We’d been doing our instructor course. We wanted to teach. Then somebody suggested we teach out of community halls instead.

burlesque

Photo by Dave Purcell

The Pole Vault was born. We bought three XStage Lites, which are ridiculously heavy portable poles. They’ve been living under our stairs since September. We had no idea how to start a studio. So we joined Business Wales, did their Starting Your Own Business course then met with a business advisor. They all loved the idea and believed it would succeed. Everyone we spoke to was very enthusiastic about it. This isn’t the usual response we get to our ideas. The Narrowboat of Terror is apparently ‘unworkable’. We’re normally the ones full of enthusiasm while everyone else drags us back to reality. We were scared. This was starting to feel too real. So we put it off.

Then we decided we wanted to write for a poledancing magazine. There are two that we’ve found. One in Germany, one in Australia. There goes that plan! Except…we wanted to write for a poledancing magazine. There isn’t one in the UK. What if…what if we started our own? We began putting the idea out there to people at poledancing events. They loved the idea. This could work! We started contacting people asking if they would do interviews for us or write articles for the magazine. Everyone we contacted agreed and was really excited. We started writing articles for it ourselves and collecting bios and photos of our team. We were scared. This was starting to feel too real. So we put it off.

Gothic City SirensIn November, we entered our first poledancing competition under our stage name, Gothic City Sirens. English Riviera pole comp. We’d put together a doubles routine to Smooth Criminal. The journey there was fraught with road closures, detours and an escaped horse. We arrived at 2pm. Doors opened at 3:30. The competitors were all upstairs, chatting, doing their makeup and stretching. We sat in a corner with our mum, eating vegan smarties. At 3:30, we were allowed to go and try out the poles. Ah. They were much closer together than we’d rehearsed. A LOT closer together. This would throw out our entire floorwork, which as a doubles act, is hard to adjust. We had about one go on the poles as there were loads of competitors. We would pretty much have to wing it when it was our turn.

Doubles was the last category. We watched the entire competition except doubles. Our nerves couldn’t take it. We finally got to perform at 10 p.m. Eight hours after arriving. By now, our nerves were so bad, we were shaking. Everyone seemed so confident, excited. We wanted to be sick and go home. We got out there, the music started and we began. Our nerves affected us quite a bit. The smaller space meant we collided doing our gymnastics kick over move. We forgot some bits, rushed others, weren’t in time with our meticulously planned timings. However, the judges seemed to love it and we were given a standing ovation by Andi Active Cherry. We escaped as quick as we could and sat back with our mum, shaking, hearts pounding and feeling a bit deflated. It had gone so much better in rehearsal. There were two more doubles competitors after us. They seemed so self-assured, like they’d done this a million times.

Then came the awards. There were 6 pairs in our category and only two prizes. We were certain we wouldn’t place. We didn’t expect to. It was our first competition and we screwed it up. Rather than feeling proud of ourselves for doing it, we were disappointed we’d done it wrong.

We came second.Gothic City Sirens

Second place. In our first competition. We were given engraved trophies. One of the judges, Zorena, picked us both up for a photo. We were in shock. We’re still in shock. All the way home, we were convinced the judges had got it wrong. We screwed it up – how could they reward us second place? Our joy was swiftly overshadowed by the feeling we didn’t deserve those trophies. Aren’t the Darkshines fun? We got back at 1 a.m. and showed our sister the video. We didn’t want to watch it cos we were convinced it would be terrible. It wasn’t as bad as we feared. The cockups weren’t too obvious (apart from the collision) and at least we laughed when it happened. We then felt a bit better and not quite so undeserving. Watch our routine here.

Fast forward through December, the norovirus, the raging disappointment of not releasing a book this year for the first time since 2012, a hairstyle and colour change, new tattoos on our fingers and finally getting our shit together to finish what we’d started.

The Pole VaultThe Pole Vault is now open. We had a trial lesson last week and we’ve booked two regular halls, who are excited to have us teaching there. We did it. The thing that absolutely terrified us, the thing we put off cos we have no idea what we’re doing, we did it. We have our own mobile poledancing studio. Whether it becomes successful remains to be seen. It will probably be us and the Sarahs, who have been with us from the start. We honestly couldn’t have done this without them.

Our poledancing magazine, When In Chrome, launches in February. We had no idea how to put together a magazine, until we asked Tom to do the front cover, then we forced ourselves to sit down and fucking learn how to use Publisher. It’s easy. We should’ve started this months ago. We have print quotes, a website is being built and we have 23 pages so far, including interviews, strengthening exercises, advice on pole and hoop moves, adverts, competition dates. It actually looks pretty cool. People are excited.

We’ve entered more pole competitions. Just waiting to hear back if we’re successful. We didn’t get in to two, but we didn’t expect to as they’re the top ones. We’re working on more routines.

Romance Is Dead burlesque

Photo by Dave Purcell

Oh. And we’re now burlesque performers. We joined FooFoo Labelle’s Cardiff Cabaret Club in September and did our first class performance in October with Sarah F from gym. After the performance, the mayor of Penarth’s right hand woman approached us and asked us to dance at their charity night in November. So we did. We didn’t know anybody there and it was terrifying! But the audience loved it, even if they weren’t expecting us to take our clothes off. We did another class performance in December and us, Sarah F and Sarah C, formed our own burlesque troupe – Romance is Dead – and we choreographed and performed our first group routine to Lady Marmalade. Watch the video here. We’ll be performing again on Valentine’s day, doing Halestorm’s Bad Romance and a chair dance routine with the class. It’s at Whitchurch rugby club. Tickets are available here.

It’s still January. And we’ve opened a poledance studio, started a poledance magazine, become burlesque performers and started training for more pole comps. We’ve been editing our next release, a gothic epistolary novella called The Curse of Ravenhall and we’re currently working on a serial killer article. We have also set up accounts on Buy Me A Coffee (or Red Bull) and Patreon, to help us fund the magazine. Six months ago, we did not see any of this coming. Now we just have to make it work…Romance Is Dead burlesque

Fame and Good Fortune

Sign outside Soderkoping BokhandelSaturday 16th May – book signing day – the reason for our visit to Sweden. Surprisingly, we weren’t at all nervous. For our signing in W H Smith’s in Cardiff, we were terrified and wanted to cancel. We’re so much more relaxed in a foreign country. We should do all our signings abroad! Also, we didn’t have to do anything other than show up. Christina and Anders had arranged everything. We should employ them as our agents and managers! Pelle came home in the morning with the morning’s newspapers. We were on the front page! It was obviously a slow news day in Söderköping. Front page of the Norrkoping newspaperWe had a huge article in the paper. We never get this much attention back home. This may be the pinnacle of our career. Clearly, we’re in the wrong country. Move over, ABBA, Sweden has new icons. We dressed in our finery and arrived at Söderköping Bokhandel at 10:45. We found a sign outside, advertising the signing. A daughter of Christina’s friend collects autographs and wanted ours. She’d printed off a photo of us so we signed that. Christina bought her a copy of Silent Dawn.

full page article in Norrkoping tidningarWe’d barely put our rucksacks down when the first of the customers arrived. We cracked open a Red Bull and were ready to face the world. Fortunately, everyone spoke perfect English, so communicating wasn’t a problem. Everyone was lovely and impressed that we had learned to write our ‘darkest wishes’ signature in Swedish. Our written Swedish is so much better than our spoken Swedish. One woman saw the article in the paper and was curious, so came just to meet us. She bought a book. People seemed very excited to have us there. One man also saw our article and although horror scares him, he wanted to meet us. He was interested in hiking, so we were telling him all about our beautiful mountains in Wales. Everyone was fascinated with our stories about Wales and its mythology, the way we are with Swedish mythology. When we did the signing in Smith’s, only our awesome friends came to it, but here, we met so many new readers. To think, we thought no-one would come! For three hours, we barely stopped. We ended up staying an hour past our allotted time, and we sold more books than we did in Smith’s and way more than we usually do in cons. We bought another book, a beautiful one about myths and monsters, but this one is in Swedish. We’d spent the past two days in a book shop. It would’ve been rude to leave new friends behind. We’re now planning to have some of that artwork tattooed on us to remember our time in Sweden.

pushing a planeWe got back and were preparing to go exploring the nearby mountain, Ramunderberget when Christina got a message from Anders. A man named Michael had seen our article, where it says that we want to visit Stegeborgs Slottsruin. He came to the bookshop, but we’d already left. Anders told him that as Pelle’s car was in need of new brakes, we couldn’t go to the castle. He offered to drive us. Christina rang him and he arranged to meet us at the library. Most of our adventures start off like horror films and always turn out well, so we accepted. Meeting a complete stranger and travelling to castle ruins with him is how all good adventures start.

stegesborg slottsruinOn the way, we saw an unusual sight – two men pushing a small plane. We expected to see new sights in Sweden, but that wasn’t one of them. We also saw horses, cows, calves and alpacas. No elks,  wolves or bears. Duolingo made it seem like they were everywhere. Duolingo is a liar.

It turned out, Michael is a guide at the castle and a descendant of the Vasa Royal family who lived there. We got a special private guided tour. His brother built the herb garden behind the castle. So we were mixing with someone of royal heritage. That’s a first. The castle is beautiful. stegesborg slottsruinThe oldest part dates back to the 13th century. The top half of the tower was added in the 15th century and the king imprisoned his two daughters in it. Unlike Rapunzel, they didn’t have long hair to lure a brave rescuer, so they escaped using ropes from a wooden beam, then made their getaway by horse and cart. But the horses wore their shoes backwards, so it looked like they were going the other way.

stegesborg slottsruinThere are plenty of interesting stories with the castle, such as King Birger. When King Magnus Ladulås died, his three sons divided the country into three. King Birger got Stegesborg and Östergötland. In 1317, he invited his brothers, Duke Erik and Duke Valdemar to his palace in Nyköping for a banquet he threw in his honour. However, he imprisoned them in the dungeon then tossed the key into the river. They went there expecting a feast and died of starvation. His hospitality clearly needs work. Next time your siblings invite you round for tea, maybe claim you’re busy.

We found vegan sorbet in the gift shop, as well as a model of the castle how it used to look. And we befriended a small black dog. We came to Sweden with a lot of Kronor, as people warned us it would be expensive. So far, all we’d bought was ice cream and books. This is how life should be.

Day: 3 Number of elks seen: 0. Number of alpacas: 2

soderkopings bokhandel

with Anders, the bookshop owner

Press Start

She’s coming…

What do you get when you put horror writers with a game developer? Silent Dawn: Asylum.

maja 3Back in January, our friend, Steve, asked if we’d like to work on a project together, creating a choose your own adventure game. Intrigued, we agreed. We’re always up for new challenges. If Neil Gaiman can be known for multiple creative outlets then damn it, so can we. We used to love playing Granny’s Garden on the BBC computer when we were kids, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, so to be given the chance to make our own was something we couldn’t turn down. In April, we finally got round to starting it. Steve showed us the programme – Twine – and how it worked. You could create different paths and have them link back up. Or not. You could have different endings, choices. And in ours, you can die. We are horror writers. If you were expecting a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.

bubblesWe sat there for a while trying to think of a setting that would make for a great game with plenty of paths and choices. It had to be dark and creepy. We came up with several then discarded them for not being complex enough. Then we realised we had one: Silent Dawn. In the book, the characters play a game called Silent Dawn: Asylum, where they have to find missing kids, while avoiding Silent Dawn. We thought it would make a great game. Why come up with a new idea when we already had a game written out, begging to be played? We’ve always wanted to create the game, but we know nothing about coding or game development. Even the sight of code sends our brains into a panicky meltdown. Luckily, Steve likes coding. Some readers had mentioned to us that they would like to play the game from the book. Your wish is our command! This is the opening scene:

            The legend of Silent Dawn dates back centuries. It changes over time and in different countries, but one thing always stays the same: wherever she appears, children go missing. Some say they become her puppets, others say she kills them and feeds off their life force to sustain her immortality. But whenever she takes them, they’re never found. Silent Dawn has returned, but this time, she has a helper.
Children have gone missing and clues lead you to the woods surrounding Nightshade Asylum. One of the patients is being controlled by Silent Dawn and has taken the children. You must collect all the patient records and work out which patient is her puppet. Find the children. Before it’s too late.

majaWe now go round Steve’s every week to add to the game. It’s taken several three hour-long sessions and we’ve barely begun. It took two or three weeks to get the character out of the woods to the asylum! That’s probably about 15 minutes of game play. There are different paths, dead ends, multiple deaths and so many variables, depending on the character’s actions. The list of variables grows every week, including character injuries and whether or not they try to mess with the game. We feel sorry for Steve having to code them all. The game starts off fairly linear, but when you reach the asylum, dear god does it go crazy. It will allow for multiple play-throughs, where you can take a different path every time.  There are checkpoints, so you don’t have to go back to the start every time you die. But…you have to find them. You didn’t think we’d make this easy for you, did you? We’ve even hidden some traps that will allow players to try to break the game. And get punished for it. Lynx is even getting the hang of some of the coding. Cat keeps accidentally putting YouTube links in. None of us know how she does it.

maja 2We’re really excited about it. It’s refreshing to do something creative that isn’t writing short stories or novels. It’s different. It’s also nice to work on a creative project with someone else, where we can share ideas and feed off each other’s creativity. Steve comes up with some of the ideas when our brains misfire. It’s given us something different to focus on, to look forward to. We don’t know when we’ll be finished yet – we’ve just got the character into the asylum – but it will be available on Twine. And it will be free to download, or with an option to make a very small voluntary donation. Steve’s cat, Maja, and his fish, Bubbles, are project managers. Bubbles doesn’t contribute much, and Maja is more intent on sitting on the router and standing on the keyboard, but we appreciate their support. 

There have been a few mini meltdowns, which happens when we work with technology. Mostly, the keyboard has a mind of its own and it seems to hate Lynx. She’ll be merrily typing away and then it’s like someone’s holding down one key. She tries to delete it and it deletes everything she’s written. We figured out Cat’s phone was causing some of the problems – it’s a wireless keyboard, and if Cat was on her phone, the keyboard would go crazy – but it’s not responsible for every hiccup. Steve’s going to buy a new keyboard and mouse before we launch his out the window. He’ll keep the current one for coding. It obeys him.

You can keep up with weekly developments on our Instagram Stories. If you want to know what the game is like, you can buy Silent Dawn.

If you go into the woods today, you’d better make sure you don’t die…

twine

SILENT DAWN TAKES YOU

Empty Graves cover reveal

We can now reveal the cover for our next historical novel, Empty Graves. It was done by the talented David V.G. Davies of From the Shadows. 

 

Pre-order the ebook here: Amazon UK Amazon US

Blurb:

1828. The year the dead rose.

Edinburgh’s medical schools hide a dark secret. There is only one way students can learn to save lives: by practising on the dead. However, the law only permits them fifteen murderers’ bodies a year from the hangman. With five schools, supply is in high demand and there aren’t enough murderers to meet it. But there are plenty of graveyards. In the city of the dead, the resurrection men are kings.

How many graves held bodies? Or did nobody sleep in the city of the dead? Were the gravestones now empty masks, hiding the city’s shame?

Lachlan Ketch comes from a long line of hangmen, who take pride in the role of Edinburgh’s executioner. Some people he’s hanged haunt his dreams, others torment his waking hours. They were always depicted as monsters in the songs. Lachlan had never hanged monsters, only men.

But when you’re alive, Hell seems so far away.

One night, he hears voices in Greyfriars Kirkyard and finds resurrection men digging up a grave. He tries to flee but is captured by Rab, the leader of the Greyfriars Gang. In exchange for his life, they hand him a spade.

But they’re not the only resurrectionists in Edinburgh and the other gangs aren’t keen on sharing the dead. When Lachlan discovers the malevolent method of how two of their rivals – Burke and Hare – are obtaining bodies, he must find a way to stop them. Or he’ll end up on the doctor’s table.

“Doctors’ careers are built on Edinburgh’s empty graves.”

Con-demnation

Sings Stain’d “It’s been a while…” Not even sure where to begin other than with the words “what a shit show.”

Yesterday we found out that all the horror cons we were booked at have collapsed. Completely, utterly crashed and burned and in the process, taken out the traders with it. We rely on these cons for sales, for meeting new readers and for meeting friends. We’ve built up a lot of friends at these events, people we would never have met otherwise. And it’s not just us. It’s the customers too. People like us, who don’t fit in with normal society, who have found friends and acceptance at horror cons. Horror people are the most accepting, non-judgemental people. They’ve now lost out and are as gutted as we are.

We’ve already paid out for four tables at four events: London, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. London got postponed three weeks before the event and we had to cancel our AirBnb, losing £16. We were lucky it was that little. We’ve opened claims with Paypal but we don’t know if we’ll get the money back. One was done through bank transfer and there is no protection that way. So that’s at least £90 lost for the table and parking at the London event. If we can’t get the other table money back, that’s a total loss of £276. Unfortunately, our Liverpool Travelodge is non-refundable so rather than lose that money, we’ll be having a random staycation in Liverpool.

But it’s not just the tables. It’s the sales. Horror Cons are where we sell most of our books. So loss of sales is what’s going to hit us hardest. And loss of readers. Loss of new readers. Our online sales are appalling: we average between 1 and 5 sales per month online and that’s for both print and ebooks, whereas at cons, we’d average between 9 and 20 sales. We’re now quite established faces in horror cons. People we don’t know personally now come to horror cons to buy our latest book or one they haven’t got yet. Or they come to meet us because they’ve talked to us online. We now know a lot of traders and returning customers. Horror cons are where we meet up and hang out and get to be surrounded by the one thing we all love – horror. We do interviews, we’ve done readings and a dead author panel. We adopted traders and took them on a tour round Edinburgh. We adopted the first Jason Vorhees and took him on a tour around Liverpool Horror Con. We have so many great stories from these events.

Unfortunately, it leaves only one horror con – HorrorCon UK in Rotherham. And we got ourselves blacklisted from that for daring to complain about their ridiculous £45 charge for the second trader. We can’t afford that and their response was “if you don’t like it, there are plenty of other people who want your table.” We said we didn’t like it, they sold our table to someone else. We don’t want to back down and go crawling back to them when that is their attitude so we now have to decide whether to give up sales or our principles.

They say bad luck comes in threes. First there was this. Then on the same day, Lynx’s phone got run over. And today Working Tax credits are demanding £1700 back. On Tuesday, we went to a casino for the first time and won £34 on roulette. It looks like we might have to give up writing and become professional gamblers.

So if you want to meet us, you know where to find us. We’ll be the stylishly dressed twins crying into the roulette wheel.

Here’s the updated list of where you can find us.

Here is our Etsy store if you would like signed books or merchandise.

The Devil’s Servants cover reveal

The Devil's Servants C L Raven

Here it is – the cover for our next release, The Devil’s Servants. Unfortunately, a lot of events conspired against Team Rose Raven and River Rose sadly couldn’t do this cover. But we’re very fortunate to have another talented friend – David V.G. Davies, better known as From The Shadows indie film maker, horror prop maker, our fellow con buddy and all-round awesome guy. So check out his website and buy some cool models. Here are links where you can stalk him: Facebook  Twitter Instagram.

pre-order The Devil’s Servants UK US. Release date will be 1st July at Swansea Horror Con.

  1. The year Edinburgh burned.

Scotland was cursed by witches and in 1649, the witch panic was at its peak. No-one was safe from the executioner’s flames.

Below the imposing behemoth of Edinburgh castle, nineteen year old Nessie Macleod is forced to watch her mother, Isabelle, burn to death for witchcraft. Her mother’s crime stains her more than the ashes that scatter across the Esplanade. Shunned by Edinburgh’s townsfolk, she’s also hounded by the witch pricker, John Brodie. Brodie killed her mother and now he’s coming for her.

The daughter of a witch is always a witch.

When old Annie Dickson is accused of cursing the flescher’s pigs through witchcraft, she suffers for days at Brodie’s hands before betraying three women and starting a witch hunt that sees one woman killed and another executed before the baying town.

Nessie is lured to Greyfriars Kirkyard, where she’s haunted by the ghosts of the women burned for witchcraft. They want revenge on Brodie and his men. Nessie learns her grandmother was executed during the North Berwick witch trials in 1597 for conspiring to kill King James VI. She left behind everything Nessie needs to stop Brodie and lay the witches’ ghosts to rest. But using objects to harm people is witchcraft and there’s only one penalty the courts will impose:

Death.

“Never wish for the flames.”

Whitby Goth Weekend

Leaking tent, fabulously dressed people and befriending as many dogs as possible without resorting to kidnap. It was our first ever Whitby Goth Weekend. And we forgot our sodding makeup.

General Pinkinton was packed full of books and other con gear as well as all our camping paraphernalia. Turns out, this does all fit in a Smartcar. Trust us, when you’ve had to squeeze 20 hexagonal tubs of ice cream into a freezer, you can pack a Smartcar. We were halfway to Whitby when we realised we’d left our toiletry bag back at home: shower gel, hair wax, moisturiser, eye gel, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, body spray, facial wipes. And makeup. We were going to the most important event in the Goth calendar. And we had no makeup. A cloud of silent rage descended upon General Pinkinton. The toiletries we could replace in Sainsbury’s but very few places sell vegan makeup. The places that did would be closed when we arrived and would only be open during the hours we would be trading. Our eyelids would have to remain distinctly un-black.

We got to our campsite, Broadings Farm, to find chickens, a dog, sheep and lambs! We pitched our tent then wandered the farm to meet our furry neighbours. The sheep seemed suspicious of us. Like they knew we wanted to pat their babies. The chickens had no trust issues and came over for a chat. The campsite had a lovely heated toilet and shower block, a pot wash area and a laundry room! No more peeing in bushes for us! (We mastered that art last week when camping with our mates, Bryn and Jo.) We went to Sainsbury’s to grudgingly replace our toiletries and buy a tub of vegan ice cream then spent the evening watching The Addams Family TV series on our portable DVD player. Turns out, camping in Whitby is cold. So very, very cold. We had thermals on under warm pyjamas, blankets, coats and sleeping bags. And we still froze. We even wore gloves. The only way we could keep our faces warm was to sleep with the blankets covering our heads. Like what they do to dead people in hospitals.

We got up early and arrived at the pavilion at 8:30. Our pitch was in the Spa Theatre. Near the doors. The outside doors and inside ones were open to allow for easy access. We’re cold blooded, hadn’t warmed up from the night in the tent and can’t seem to regulate our own body temperature, so we froze. Though it was warmer than the campsite. We regretted our fishnets though. And our lack of layers. We only had 4. Whitby AbbeyWe kept our hoodies and big coats on. Our carefully selected Burleska dresses were covered by coats, which ruined the look. And we had no makeup. Least glamorous goths ever. Nobody else seemed to notice the cold, but most traders seemed relatively local. We travelled up from Cardiff. It’s a lot warmer down south! We managed to get all our books, jewellery and merchandise on our three foot table. Hell, if we can get all our gear in General Pinkinton, we can get all our merchandise on a three foot table.

Whitby Goth WeekendOur aim when doing these events is to make back what we paid for our table each day, but now we had a new goal – pat 10 dogs a day. And we succeeded. To be honest, we made more of an effort to speak to the dogs and get their attention than we did with potential customers, but that’s true in our non-working lives too. Striking up conversations with dogs doesn’t seem creepy. Neither does offering them the dog treats you forgot to take out of your pocket.

Whitby Goth Weekend

badges of honour

Although we did make friends with two of the traders – Andrew who owns Cave Crafts and Stuart who was raising money for Tees Valley Guinea Pig Rescue. As we have rescue piggies, it was fitting to be beside his stall. We made our table money back for the day so we were happy. It was a good start! We loved seeing everyone dressed in their gothic finery. Though only 50% of the customers were goths or steampunk. We expected a much higher number. Even kids were dressed up, which was awesome. We inspected the lovely clothing stall that was there but being only 5’1 works against goths. The skirts’ waistband came up to our armpits! That would not be a fetching look.

Robin Hood's BayIt rained on Friday night, which showed us that our 20 year old tent leaked. And that we should have bought the Anne Stokes umbrellas we’d been eyeing up on a nearby stall. Considering how much it rained, the leak was fairly minimal and it was in the porch area, so we didn’t mind. Again, we watched the Addams Family and made a trip to Sainsbury’s to buy a tub of ice cream for our tea. Much cheaper than eating out and it meant we avoided the hassle of parking in the town. We also did our flexibility stretches in the tent – becoming flexible won’t happen by magic.

Robin Hood's Bay

Not your usual beachwear

Saturday’s trade we did about the same as Friday’s, except what sold really well on Friday, barely sold on Saturday. Though more books sold so we were happy with that. It’s not always easy making your table back when your most expensive item (Soul Asylum) is £7! And we bought those umbrellas. We noticed all the traders had changed their clothes. Our dresses didn’t allow for more clothing space in our bags. Whitby AbbeyThough under our coats, no one would have noticed. We didn’t smell so it was all good. We chatted to a lot of people who bought books. Everyone was so nice and seemed genuinely pleased when we complimented their outfits. Saturday night we decided to explore Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s beautiful and there happened to be a ghost walk in an hour. Naturally, we joined it. Even when we’re working we can’t keep away from the paranormal. We were the only goths in Robin Hood’s Bay. So the only goths in the village.

Whitby AbbeySunday morning we packed up our tent, got temporarily adopted by the farm dog and still got to the pavilion an hour before everyone else. Sundays in cons are normally slow and we take a third of what we take on a Saturday. Not this time. Sunday was our best day. We sold two books in the first 15 minutes! It was definitely a day for book buying. Whitby AbbeyOne man, Ash, who bought a book on Saturday, bought another one on Sunday. Weirdly, our book customers were all non goths and mostly older. Though we hopefully now have some younger fans too. Providing they don’t have nightmares. We’re gutted we can’t make the winter Goth weekend as we’re booked in for Birmingham Horror Con’s Halloween Special but we definitely want to return in April. We love Whitby and we had so much fun trading.

Whitby AbbeyIt finished at 4, which gave us enough time to pack up and head for the Abbey. General Pinkinton looked tiny among the hire vans in the pavilion car park! A bit like our tiny stall among everyone else’s massive towering pitches. But it meant we could do a three point turn to get out while everyone else would either have to reverse, or wait for other traders to leave. We reached the Abbey an hour before closing. The guy at the ticket office was fascinated with us. Considering how many goths he must have met over the weekend, we were surprised. Especially since we weren’t that dressed up on the Sunday. And we still had our big coats on. The Abbey is stunning. It was originally built in 1250, replaced in 1500 and inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Going to the Goth Weekend and not visiting the Abbey would’ve been an insult to both the Abbey and to Stoker. When we were in Whitby in November for the comic con, it was closed by the time we packed up so we’d wandered the outside and got photos of it lit up. This time, we could actually be inside it. We didn’t want to leave. But we had a five and a half hours drive home and that bag of popcorn wasn’t going to eat itself.Whitby Abbey

Literary killed the horror genre

Can you smell that? That fetid odour of decay seeping into your nostrils, coating your tongue? That’s the death of horror. And our career. Seeing as they’re linked, it’s only fitting they die together.

We used to blog regularly – once a week at least – but lately months will pass without a blog post. There are no excuses, we just have nothing to say. We’re finding it hard to keep motivated when we’re failing at the only job we love. Writing advice often tells you to enter competitions because they’re a great way to teach you to work to deadlines, they help get you noticed by agents and publishers, and they can be a great boost to your career and bank balance. But that’s if you win. We’ve been shortlisted and longlisted in various competitions and has it boosted our career at all? Has it fuck. Things is, many competitions are expensive – novel ones are easily £20 per entry. Short story ones range from £5 upwards. Poetry ones usually start at £3. Over a year, it mounts up. For this tax year, we’ve spent £285 on competition entries. One win would make that worthwhile, but when that win never comes, all you’ve done is spent money with nothing to show for it.

So we decided to change tactics and spend the next couple of months submitting to magazines instead. You don’t pay to submit and some even pay to publish your work. We’re now avoiding the ones that don’t pay. Publication is brilliant but we can’t pay vet bills with a PDF copy of a magazine. Can you imagine calling in a plumber and telling them you’re not going to pay them, but the work will be great publicity for them? You’d be left with a blocked toilet. Yet people think it’s ok to do this in the creative industry. But that’s a rant we’ll save for another post. In order to try to reduce our vast amount of rejections, we’ve been buying the latest issues of the magazines we want to submit to, to see if our style of work is suitable. And it’s left us feeling despondent and questioning why we’re bothering to write anymore. Because we’re reading these horror/dark fantasy magazines and asking:

Where is the horror?

Horror is about producing emotions – fear, unease, anticipation, an unsettling feeling that something is going to happen. Yet we’re reading these stories and the only thing we’re feeling is bored. And pissed off that we’ve spent money on this tripe. There is no horror. One story had a smidgen of horror in the final few pages, after making us wait 7000 words to get to it. By which point, we didn’t care. We’ve also noticed that some stories are told in a really detached way, so if there is any horror, this way of narrating lessens the impact of it, and makes us not care about the characters. Oh no, something may have possible happened to X, but it’s not explained and the story goes on and…nobody cares. There seems to be this new breed of ‘literary horror’ that just isn’t horror at all. (Don’t get us started on literary work. There is no good reason to leave out speech marks just to make your work ‘experimental’. Why not go really experimental and leave out the words?) It’s like arty films. All pretty cinematography and bugger all happening. This is what literary horror is. All purple prose, characters as two dimensional as a Justin Bieber cut out and about as scary as a blade of a grass in a leafy meadow.

Horror doesn’t have to be about blood and gore. That’s one sub genre of it, mostly in the slasher/spatter sub genres. There are other sub genres, such as: body horror, zombie, psychological, crypto/nature, paranormal, supernatural, gothic, etc. There are sub genres within sub genres and genre cross overs, such as sci-fi horror, (the best example being Aliens) action horror, horror comedy (Tucker and Dale vs Evil. Friggin’ genius). But their main aim is to scare or unsettle you. If they don’t, they have failed.

And yet we’re reading these magazines and wondering when did it become ok to leave horror out of horror fiction? We are rapidly running out of markets that we think would be a good fit for our work. Sadly, we’re spending money to find this out but at least our rejections will be reduced and the magazines are tax deductible. In one magazine’s guidelines it says ‘sci fi, fantasy and horror with a literary slant but if you write what is considered classic in these genres, it’s not for us.’ So do they want sci fi that has no science? Fantasy that is realistic? Horror that isn’t scary? It seems we don’t write what these magazines publish. Maybe we need to rename what we write as ‘the genre formally known as horror.’ We’re from the old school of horror – Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz before he found God. The classic films – Nightmare on Elm Street, Fiday the 13th, Snowbeast, Candyman. But magazines don’t want this. They call themselves horror magazines but don’t actually publish any horror. It would be like us setting ourselves up as window cleaners and refusing to actually clean any windows. Remember that song by Buggles? Video killed the Radio Star? Well Literary killed the Horror Genre. Sing it. The words fit.

So if competitions pick literary stories as winners and genre magazines chose literary over genre, where does that leave genre writers? How are we supposed to get published? The main piece of writing advice given is ‘write what you love’ but if nothing is publishing what you love, what are you supposed to do? Self-publishing doesn’t guarantee you’ll find readers or success, but that may be the only option left. One way of getting readers would also be to graffiti your work on random walls and buildings, but the council frown upon this form of creative expression. So if you see any form of spray painting horror writing on the streets of Cardiff, it wasn’t us.

Horror does have to evolve to stay alive, (not with sparkly vampires please, you’ve ruined it enough) but not to the point where you take the main ingredient – the emotions of fear or unease – out of it. It would be like romance stories where no-one falls in love, crime where no crime is committed, or comedies where no-one dies. No, wait, that’s horror comedy. Horror films are sticking to the right ingredient, even if it is all just remakes for profit, but at least it’s still horror. (Are you listening, Hollywood? Fucking stop it. Start paying attention to Indie films – they have imagination). Horror is finding a resurgence in TV series based on classic horror films: The Exorcist, Wolf Creek, Ash Vs The Evil Dead, Scream. And other series – American Horror Story being the most well known. However in the writing world, it’s getting harder to find horror fiction that actually contains an element of horror.

Horror isn’t dead – especially in the indie film scene – it’s like Michael Myres or Jason Voorhees. It can’t be killed. But maybe it’s waiting at the bottom of the lake, biding its time for unsuspecting campers to revive it from its watery grave. *Does stretches* Fancy a swim?