Just Like A Pill

In December, we finally made the decision to go on antidepressants. It was a big decision as we haven’t been on them for eighteen years. We couldn’t cope with the side effects so we kept switching tablets, but never found one we got on with. We were on Amitriptyline, Dothiapin, Seroxat and a couple more we can’t remember the name of. We usually self-medicate through exercise and submitting stories, but that’s stopped being effective and doesn’t sustain us for more than a couple of hours now. This was the only option left until we can see a mental health professional. This time, we’ve been given 50mg of Sertralin. This is our diary of side effects.

Day 1 – The doctor warned us we’d feel out of sorts to start with. Currently experiencing dizziness and nausea which ranges from mild to “dear god, might vomit on the laptop.” Combatting it by eating a choc ice and doing shoulder flexibility stretches. Update: been five and half hours since taking them. Lynx feels nauseous. Cat feels horrendous and fell asleep, waking half an hour before we had to leave for our radio show. Now sat in the station not feeling quite human. Luckily Lynx is on controls tonight.

Day 2- Nausea has lessened, though we’re feeling a little spaced out and become aware that we’re just staring into space or rocking back and forth. Fighting it and forcing ourselves to write and do flexibility. Going to switch to taking them in the evening so the nausea will hopefully hit when we’re asleep.

Day 3 – Taking them at night. Nausea and dizziness has returned, with feeling weak and a bit shaky. Lynx has abdominal pain, Cat has an ache in both sides of her jaw. Struggling to write due to the antidepressants making us feel weird and also affecting our eyes’ ability to focus on the screen. However, our anxious brains can’t cope with finishing work early so we’re doing flexibility instead.

Day 4 – Woke feeling horrendous. Lynx felt very sick, Cat was weak and shaky. Had to get up early to walk Bandit before going to work in a print company. Now in work and Lynx has a terrible headache and felt on the verge of fainting. Cat is utterly exhausted and extremely dizzy. Glad we’re not writing today as our eyes can just about cope focusing on our phone screens. Wouldn’t be able to write today.

Day 5 – Feeling nauseous from the minute we wake up seems to be our new normal at the moment. Christmas poledancing routine in advance class tonight. Yes, we’re dancing to Mariah Carey. Amy played Papa Roach and Marilyn Manson after to make up for it. Thanks to our tablets, Cat did the routine feeling horrendously sick.

Day 6 – Spent the afternoon trying to finish our new story. Quite hard when your eyes can’t focus on the screen and you can’t stay awake! Still feeling nauseous.

Day 7 – 🎵On the seventh day of Sertraline, our tablets gave to us, 1 nasty headache, horrible exhaustion, never ending nausea and sometimes feeling dizzy!🎵

Day 8 – the nausea wasn’t as constant today and we could actually focus on the laptop screen. Managed to do our radio show, but pulled out of a social event as the nausea started to worsen again. Hoping this is the beginning of the side effects wearing off.

Day 9 – 🎶On the 9th day of Sertraline, our tablets gave to us: waking weak and shaky, teeth hurt when eating, never feeling hungry and the nausea can just fuck off! 🎶
Though our eyesight is back to normal and the exhaustion has gone 👍🤘

Day 10 – Woke feeling nauseous, but it went by 2 p.m., which was nice. Maybe the side effects are lessening.

🎶On the 11th day of Sertraline, our tablets gave to us: waking feeling normal, no fucking nausea, still looking shitty but we have no side effects! 🎶

So far, there hasn’t been any improvement to our mental health, but we’re not expecting that to change for at least another week. Feeling physically ill never helps with mental health at the best of times. At the moment, we just feel nothing. Went to the supermarket and didn’t feel like going postal with a box of cat food, so the rage has been subdued. Unfortunately, every emotion is subdued. Anger is what motivates us, so without that, we have no drive to really do anything.

Day 15 – Cat woke in the night and heard a loud bang inside her head. She attributed this to her hypnopompic hallucinations, but they’re always visual so we now think it was the tablets.

Day 17 – Took the tablet much later than normal. Cat woke up so dizzy she couldn’t move and spent all morning lying on the settee, unable to even sit up. By two o’clock it had eased. At three o’clock, we went to a yoga workshop and didn’t fall over.

Day 18 – Lynx experienced the loud bang in her head during a dream. This is why we now think Cat’s was tablet related, as Lynx doesn’t tend to have the hypnopompic hallucinations as often. If she does, she always sees spiders.

Week 3 of Sertraline. Holy fuck Batman, is this how it feels to be “normal”? These past few weeks, we’ve isolated ourselves from everyone (don’t worry newer friends, you’ll get used to this :p) and honestly, it’s been amazing 😀 We needed to be alone in order to heal. Masking was exhausting. We were very conscious that we weren’t good company, that we were boring, because it took so much energy for us to hide the darkshines that we had nothing left to act social. Our control was slipping. Rage outbursts were happening frequently. These past 14 months, depression has taken away everything that it means to be us. We haven’t done ghost hunting, urb exing, random day trips or adventures. We’ve felt lost. We hated the people we became. We reached breaking point many times. And now…we feel like we’ve reclaimed everything we once were. We’ve reconnected to our witchy sides. We’ve tackled things that were overwhelming us, we’ve thrown out or recycled a lot of things we no longer need, we got the council to empty the bins at the wenallt, we’ve submitted more stories, worked harder on our flexibility. We’re planning day trips we want to take, we’ve started a savings scheme so we can do more travelling. We feel happier and more enthusiastic than we have done for over a year. We feel like us.

We’re not naïve enough to think that this is it, that we’re cured, or it will remain like this. The darkshines is like Jason Voorhees. We can chain it to the bottom of a lake, or bury it and when we think we’re safe, we hear ‘cha cha cha’, turn around and it’s peering in through the windows at us. After three days of sorting through boxes and clothes, we’re already losing the motivation. It was making us feel good, now we’re bored and it’s starting to feel overwhelming. We feel constantly exhausted, which is demoralising us somewhat. We’re also struggling to focus on working, which is frustrating. Being productive is essential for our mental health. But we are trying to learn that taking days off isn’t us being lazy (which the anxiety tells us it is), that spending the day reading is good for us. We’re also reconnecting to our witchy sides. We used to do candle work, buy crystals, study astrology, but over the years, we stopped. We’re now starting to study witchcraft, and learn its different ways. We have an affinity with animals and nature – when we’re away from nature for more than a couple of days, we feel starved for it. We need it. And right now, studying witchcraft is helping us. We love learning and educating ourselves and it’s given us something to focus on. The kind of ‘high’ we were experiencing during the first five days of January – we had a story accepted on day 2 – has worn off and we feel…disappointed. Like we’d had a massive breakthrough and have now gone backwards. We know that’s the exhaustion – slept for most of the afternoon today – and now feel guilty about that! So we’re sorting through boxes in the attic crawlspace. Regretting that now…

It’s difficult when the two issues – anxiety and depression, are in constant battle for dominance. The depression feels overwhelmed, unmotivated and lethargic. But the anxiety is desperate to be productive, which then changes the depression into guilt. We then feel paralysed by indecision. We hate feeling guilty, so the anxiety eventually wins. Hopefully the Sertraline will help with this, but at least it’s taken away the emptiness. We don’t want to put people off trying anti-depressants, (the side effects don’t last forever) but we just wanted to give an honest account on what they’ve been like for us. Some people manage without them, others need them. When it comes to mental health, you have to do what’s right for you.

Welcome to our black parade

We’ve been speaking on social media recently about our depression and how bad it’s got. Churchill called it his black dog that followed him around. Sometimes it was small and he barely noticed it. Sometimes it was big. Right now, it’s about the size of a horse and it’s sitting on us. We can’t move or breathe. We call ours The Darkshines, after a Muse song.

For a year, we’ve been struggling. Really struggling. What’s surprised us though, is how very few people noticed. To us, it was obvious. We’ve been moody, angry, confrontational, quiet, unable to have fun and quite frankly, unpleasant to be around. At first, we thought that maybe our masking skills were pretty good. Then we thought “is this how people see us? To them, have we not changed?” Because we no longer recognise ourselves. Maybe The Pretenders were right. Maybe we’re only human on the inside. Whoever these people are that look like us, it’s not us. And we’d like them to leave.

We’ve suffered from depression and social anxiety for twenty years. We’re so used to it, we don’t remember the people we were before it. We sometimes wonder about the people we could’ve been without it, but those people will never exist now. Oh well. They would probably have been dicks anyway. But for the past year, the slide into the worst side of the Darkshines has been rapid and all-consuming. We normally have bouts that will last anything from a few days to a few months. But never an entire year. This is not normal for us. In fact, our depression hasn’t been this bad since we were teenagers. Back then, we were suicidal, self-harming, had a breakdown, and gave up everything we loved doing so we could live in a void of emptiness. It hurt less.

We’ve been living in that void for a year. We recognised the signs and hoped they would go away. We know the Darkshines. If we wait it out, it eventually retracts its talons. We’ve carried on, hanging out with friends, going to exercise classes, doing our usual daily routine, hoping it would pass. Hoping that if we acted like it wasn’t there, it would leave. We self-medicate – exercise is what works for us. Being out in nature, submitting work and doing everything we can to further our career. It all backfired. Cat tore her ankle ligaments in gymnastics and seven months on, it hasn’t properly healed. Our work continuously got rejected. At the beginning of the year, we were getting acceptances. Well, three. That stopped in April.

It got worse. Our therapist died earlier this year from an aggressive form of cancer that took her within four weeks. We thought “everyone else we know can live without a therapist, we’re clearly weak cos we can’t, we’ll prove we can do it.” Forgetting of course that the people we know who live without a therapist don’t suffer from chronic depression like we do. And this angry, empty void is a really shit place to live. We know it’s not weakness to have a therapist, but the Darkshines likes to make us think it is.

We don’t really enjoy anything. We no longer look forward to anything. There was a time when we’d excitedly plan adventures or ghost hunts or even the smallest, random thing would make us happy. Knowing we had a pole lesson coming up would make us happy. It’s gone. We’ve been desperate to travel since last year. We were supposed to be in Rome for our birthday in February. That was the only thing we wanted. And it couldn’t happen. It still hasn’t happened. We now can’t face it. We spend time with our friends and don’t feel like we belong any more (best friends aren’t included in this). We go out after gymnastics and sit there in silence, uploading our videos to social media. We don’t belong there either. We leave feeling empty and wishing we’d stayed at home. Our gymnastics friends have only known us 19 months. So for most of the time they’ve known us, they’ve had to know these horrible imposters. They probably think that’s who we are. Polefit has been the only thing that has brought us a measure of happiness.

And two weeks ago, we couldn’t even face going to class.

That’s when we knew something had to change. When we were kids and teenagers, we were obsessed with horse riding. You know our love for pole. That was our love for horse riding. We were going to be professional riders. And the Darkshines made us give it up. The crash after the high was unbearable. We haven’t ridden since. So when we didn’t want to go to pole, we realised it was time to get help. We’ve come so far, we cannot walk away now. We are not giving up pole.

Unfortunately, we have to wait a month for a GP appointment. This is a big thing for us. We’re not good at asking for help. We’re even worse when admitting how bad we’re feeling, because we don’t want people to know. Hence the masks. We can always tell when we’re not in a good place because we don’t wash our hair. We have short hair. It takes like five minutes. After around three weeks, we will then force ourselves to do it. But depression isn’t about feeling sad. It’s also not being able to do simple tasks. It’s feeling worthless, helpless, angry, tired, overwhelmed, and so fucking guilty about everything. Sometimes, like now, it’s feeling nothing. Then throw in anxiety to the mix. Depression is not wanting to do anything. Anxiety is finding lack of productivity unbearable. Depression is feeling there’s no point submitting work because it will only get rejected. Anxiety is the gnawing feeling that you’re not helping your career goals. Depression is not wanting to go to exercise classes. Anxiety is screaming at you that you won’t be good at pole if you don’t work hard at it. The two sides fight constantly.

Around the time we were told our therapist had died, so did our beloved cat, Spectre. She was 19. She’d been with us through the worst times of our lives since we were 16. And then she was gone. We needed to see our therapist. The hospital didn’t tell us she had died. We’d been trying to get hold of her for a while and it wasn’t like her not to return our phone calls. We only found out because our sister went to the physio department where she worked and at first, they tried to fob her off, until she told them we were her mental health patients, not physio patients. Then they admitted she’d died. That hit us harder than we expected it to and all of a sudden, we felt very alone. We would’ve liked to have gone to her funeral, to say goodbye, to say thank you for helping us. We never got the chance. We don’t even know where she is buried.

There’s been a few times recently where we’ve had enough and can’t face the thought of carrying on. But we’re too fucking stubborn to quit. Our stubbornness is what kept us alive when we were suicidal. People will tell us others have it worse and they do. But depression doesn’t care about that. Also, that sentiment is bullshit and all it does is make depressed people feel even guiltier. It’s like telling people they can’t be happy because others have it so much better than they do. Depression is a disease. It whispers to you, tells you people hate you, tells you you’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough at what what you do, you’ll never be good enough for people, you’re a failure, people only put up with you cos they have no choice, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re boring, everyone will be better off without you and they won’t even notice you’re gone.

Maybe it’s right.

Maybe it’s wrong. And it doesn’t matter what others say to contradict those thoughts, their voices will never be louder than the Darkshines’. Because as they’re saying this, the Darkshines is whispering in your other ear ‘they’re only saying this to make you feel better. They don’t mean it.’

We find ourselves crying over stupid things. We don’t cry. We’ve never been ones to cry over anything unless it’s the death of one of our animals. We don’t want to hang out with our friends and the Darkshines tells us they wouldn’t miss us if we cut off the friendship. The temptation to withdraw from everyone and revert back to our reclusive selves is getting harder to resist. We don’t have to wear masks when we’re alone. We find ourselves pushing people away. We came very close to quitting writing. When the Darkshines isn’t that bad, rejections don’t bother us, it’s part of a writer’s life, but when the Darkshines is drowning us, each rejection is more proof that we’re shit and quitting will ease the pain. But there’s nothing else we can do. Writing is our life and if we can’t even bear that, something is very, very wrong.

Our warrior trainer, Si, has been really good for us. Despite the abuse we shower him with, we’re so glad he’s in our lives. He understands us. He understands the Darkshines. We signed up because he said it would improve our pole. And it has. But warrior training is more than just hard, physical exercise. It’s about building a mentality for when you’re on the battlefield, and it seems you’re about to be defeated, you have the strength to pick up your sword and keep fighting. We don’t have that strength at the moment, and we really want to drop that  sword, but we know we can’t walk away. So we’re calling in reinforcements.

We’re going to ask for a new therapist. They give you six weeks with one. We don’t trust people easily and it will take longer than that to build a relationship with someone new. But six weeks is all we’ll have, then they’ll cut us off. Yes we can pay for a private therapist, but with what? Tokens from a cereal packet? We doubt they accept Clubcard vouchers. We got lucky with our other ones. We’ve been in therapy for 15 years. We’ve been toying with the idea of going back on antidepressants. We haven’t touched them since we were 17 as we hated how they turned us into zombies. But they don’t prescribe those any more. Coming to that decision has been tough. But right now, we feel there’s no other option. We cannot go on like this. What always worries us is how much will they change us? Will they help us or make us worse? Will they make us even angrier or even more numb? Or will they bring back the version of us we like? We don’t know. But what we do know is we can’t live like this any longer. We do not like the people depression has forced us to become. So in a few weeks, we will ask for therapy and hope they give it to us. And we will ask for medication. It takes around 3 weeks to work. So we’re stuck like this until January or February probably. And they might not even work. It can take months or years to find the right medication.

Then hopefully we’ll be different people.

We don’t know those people yet but we hope they won’t be dicks.

See you on the other side.

Fan Fare

Brecon BeaconsRaising money for charity could be as easy as asking people to donate. But where’s the fun in that?

Brecon Beacons

the top of Corn Ddu

One of our gymnastics friends, Lloyd Bowen, works for Kidney Wales. They support families and people with kidney disease, raise money for research and help out with dialysis machines. Every year, they organise a Walk for Life. This year, our warrior trainer, Si Dwyer, would be leading it. So we knew he wouldn’t do something easy. We were right. It was a 12 mile hike around Pen Y Fan.

Naturally, we signed up. You’d think after falling for his ‘sign up to the Wolf Run’, we would’ve learned our lesson. Apparently, we still trust him when he says things will be fun.

Brecon BeaconsWe did it for one of our best mates, Andrew, who had a kidney transplant last year after suffering kidney failure four years ago. We knew nothing about kidney failure and poor Andrew was grilled about every aspect of it so we could understand what he was going through. So when the walk was suggested to us, we instantly accepted. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for him – we were even planning on harvesting some cheerleaders in the bid for the perfect kidney. But apparently that is ‘illegal’ and ‘morally wrong’. So we did the walk instead.

We had no idea how tough it was going to be.

Brecon BeaconsIt was originally scheduled for July but an electric storm cancelled it and it was moved to November 18th. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t moan about how cold it would be. A week before the walk, we had to buy walking boots, waterproof trousers, a base layer and a hat. Trousers caused an issue what with us being pixies. Apparently, 27″ is ‘short’. *Stares at our 24″ legs* We don’t think so. We insisted on buying Avengers hats in the kids section. No-one would out-hat us! We were all given a list of essential items to pack and suggested items. We packed everything on both lists and wore five layers plus our huge winter coats. We would not die of hypothermia on the Brecon Beacons. Not today.

Brecon Beacons

looking at the top of Pen Y Fan

We showed up with bulging rucksacks filled with all our kit, including first aid kit and ice/heat patches should anyone (ok, us) get injured. And also three skulls bags filled with snacks, ice blocks and drinks. They were heavier than our rucksacks! Brecon BeaconsThe Scouts would’ve been proud of us. As the wonderful philosopher, Fin Sheppard (from Sharknado) says “semper paratus.” Always be prepared. We were prepared for everything. Except bears. No-one expects bears. Especially in a country that doesn’t have them. Everyone else except Si and Bryn, travelled light, their tiny rucksacks looking like they only contained their lunch. It was a 9 a.m. start. We hate mornings. We hate people. There was about 17 in the group. We went and stood by ourselves.

Brecon Beacons

view from Pen y Fan

Then it began. Uphill, from the very start, all the way to Corn Ddu. Dear god that was tough. Thigh burning, breath stealing, chest tightening kind of tough. We regretted packing for the apocalypse. Part way up, our coats came off, but not for long. The higher we climbed, the windier it became. When you only weigh seven stone, being in high winds isn’t particularly safe. We kept getting blown over, even having to put our hands on the mountain to save ourselves. And we weren’t even at the top yet. Never mind dying of hypothermia, the winds threatened to throw us off the mountain to die in a broken heap and get eaten by sheep. That would be a low end for lives that haven’t seen many highs.

Brecon BeaconsWe reached the top and the views were spectacular. Si said this was the hardest part. Thank god. These are not mountain climbing thighs. They used to be – we climbed Pen Y Fan and Snowdon twice each before we were 12. Then we began the walk to Pen Y Fan. That was much easier! Still a bit of a climb to the top but nothing like what we’d just done. Half the group turned around at this point. We had no intention of turning around. Even if we had, Si had probably packed Scorpion’s (Mortal Kombat) Kunai, to drag our escaping arses back. People were having their photos taken by the sign at the top. Everyone crouched by it. We did one of our acro poses and other hikers were impressed. We would’ve done a more impressive one, but it was very cold and windy at the top and we didn’t want to risk being knocked down like a Jenga block. We stayed away from the edge.

Brecon Beacons10 miles left. We descended Jacob’s Ladder, which was very steep, so we took it carefully. Once we were down the bottom, the hike became incredibly easy and we strode along at a blistering pace, pausing only to take photos. We stopped at one bit to let everyone catch up and it was just as well because we were about to turn off. We had lunch at a beautiful reservoir, wishing we had paddleboards with us. It wasn’t windy in the valleys of the mountains and we relished the warmth and easy trekking.

It was about to come to a mountainous end.

Brecon BeaconsWe now had to climb back up. We were expecting the rest of the hike to be easy, like this part had been. We were at the bottom of the Beacons, so we just had to hike to the car park. We were in for a steep awakening. Rocky steps led up the next mountain. They were a bit too high for our tiny legs and we found this bit almost as tough as Corn Ddu. Brecon BeaconsAt the top, it was extremely windy and we had to walk along the ridge of the mountain. We are terrified of heights and the wind made it worse, though luckily, it was blowing us away from the edge. And onto the slight embankment. Si had Bryn stay behind us to look after us. This was definitely the most mentally challenging part for us. We really didn’t like it. But we eventually got to a flatter, grassy part, which was more pleasant to walk on. Though it was a slight incline that never seemed to end.

Brecon BeaconsThis final part we found very tough. We were tired, our shoulders burned from our rucksacks and lunchbags, our feet were sore and it felt like we had been walking for hours. Well, we had. Then we finally began the descent down Pen Y Fan. And that wasn’t easy! Walking downhill is hard on your feet and knees and it seemed to take forever. Near the end, we decided to run, as Si said it was easier. It was. And it meant we got down quicker.

Brecon BeaconsWe finished at around 4 p.m. We had been hiking for 6 and a half hours. Everything hurt. Si gave us all medals and we trudged back to the car park, which was quite far away, stopping to pick up litter other people had dropped. We’d brought a bag with us for this purpose (we do this every dog walk) but the mountain trails were remarkably free of litter and Si kept reminding people to leave the area as we found it.

Brecon Beacons

with the phenomenal Si Dwyer

We got back to the car exhausted, aching but with a sense of achievement. That was one of the toughest physical challenges we’ve ever done (second only to the Wolf Run) and we raised money for a good cause, which you can donate to here. Thank you to Si, Bryn and Lloyd for organising it. We highly recommend hiking around the Brecon Beacons. It’s brutal, but beautiful. And the views are absolutely worth it.

medals!

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.”

Sisters of Spin

After the disaster that was the Horror Cons collapsing, which you can read about here, a lovely guy named Chris, who runs the Liverpool Horror Club, emailed us, offering us a free table at a horror event he was planning at the end of September. He wanted to do something to restore faith in the horror community. There are still good people in the world. Then he saw we do polefit and invited us to perform after the horror event was over. Hyped on excitement and pole addiction, we agreed. We’d been considering entering doubles pole competitions, but chickened out, so this would let us know whether performing was for us. We like challenging ourselves and this certainly counted.

What usually happens after we’ve been brave, is that the anxious brain wakes up and asks: what the hell have we done?

We’ve never performed. We’d never even SEEN a pole performance that wasn’t on Instagram. Luckily, we had tickets to the Welsh Pole Championships and Bristol Pole Championships, so we went, hoping to be inspired. It worked. And raised the nerves a little. But at least we wouldn’t be doing this in front of knowledgeable pole fans. And we had about three weeks to choreograph a routine. No pressure.

We spent those weeks in the pole studio we use, KT Wild’s vertical Fitness, choreographing a routine. KT let us have unlimited use of the studio, whenever we wanted it, for which we are eternally grateful. We’ve never choreographed a routine before. This whole thing was so far outside our comfort zone, it needed its own postcode. We feel awkward when we film sexy pole routines in front of other polers in the class! How the hell could we perform in front of a room full of strangers? This was a bad idea. But backing out never crossed our mind. We wanted to do this.

We instantly knew what song we wanted – Cry Little Sister by G Tom Mac. The song from Lost Boys. We were in the pole studio three, sometimes four days a week, sometimes for two hours at a time. Weirdly, we never got sick of that song! We even decided to throw in a bit of chair burlesque, just to make it a bit different. We thought a chair spin from standing on the chairs would be cool. It was. It was also ridiculously scary at first but we didn’t die on our first attempt so figured it would work. The last third of our routine was changed so many times, it’s wonder we learned it at all. But four years of zumba had prepared us for learning dance routines and we barely forgot a single move. Our last practice in the studio went really well and we were ready. We deliberately didn’t do anything stupid in gymnastics so we wouldn’t get hurt.

Our teacher, KT, kindly lent us her stage pole for the performance and allowed us to borrow the chairs we’d been using.

And it all started to go wrong.

We’ve never used a stage pole. It’s a foot and a half off the ground. It’s high and the pole wobbles and dear god it was terrifying. Even doing basic moves on this was scary. Doubts pummelled us like a furious boxer. We had two days to practise our routine. Two days to conquer our fear and sudden inability to pole. In one part, Cat jumps down from near the top. She was too scared to do it on the stage pole and kept bailing and sliding down. Lynx was too scared to sit and lean around right at the top as we could see our entire street from up there. Other parts needed altering to fit into the much smaller space we now had. And the chairs slipped on the stage’s metal plates. As Cat jumped off the chair, it fell, hitting her leg and gouging a deep wound into her shin, leading to a swelling and tender bone. Remarkably, her leggings were undamaged. A month later, the scar and swelling are still there. Then during a reverse grab spin, Lynx kicked one of the chairs, leading to a bruised and swollen toe. We behaved in gymnastics, only to injure ourselves practicing the routine. Every practise went wrong on the Thursday. By now, we regretted agreeing. We couldn’t do it. We were going to fuck it up and it would look awful. Our confidence was taking a battering. Annoyed, we went to a pole lesson then returned to practise in the dying evening light. Those two rehearsals went ok.

In one part, we cartwheel off the stage. Due to our sloped garden, we didn’t have room to practise this part together. We only hoped it went alright on the night. On Friday, it all kept going wrong. Again. The reverse grab spin just wasn’t working and it was one of the coolest parts. Cat’s arm ended up scrammed, either by her or by Lynx, and Lynx’s little finger got crushed in a spin. The final practise on Friday was the best one we did and even that wasn’t perfect. But we’d run out of time. We had to drive to Liverpool.

On the way up, we tried to think up a stage name. We couldn’t use our writing name, but wanted something that combined our love of horror and pole. We thought of Pole’s Ravens, or Sisters of Spin. Dave suggested Slutty Little Midgets and that became our unofficial name.

The trading event at the Sanctuary Bar went really well. Us and Dave were together and Neen travelled up with us to help out and film our routine. We did a reading from Silent Dawn and hadn’t even practised as all our attention was on the routine. All day we were nervous. Breathless, heart pounding, unable to eat type of nervous. We didn’t want to do it. The two other poledancers had performed or competed before. We were complete newbies, so asked to go first. We didn’t want the audience to feel let down by ours if we went last. We strongly considered backing out. The anxiety was overwhelming. It would go wrong, like it had in every practise with the stage. We’d hoped to be able to put the stage up and have one practise beforehand. All the performances were taking place in one room. We couldn’t put the pole up until it was our time to perform. So no last minute practise. The performances were then pushed back. We were meant to be on at 8:30. Think it was around 10pm we finally got on. Except fake blood needed to be cleaned up from the gorelesque girls before us. And tables and chairs needed to be moved out of the way. There wasn’t a lot of space. We didn’t even know if there was room to cartwheel. We didn’t have a backup plan. We hung out in what got dubbed the Strip Loft with the two poledancers, Lou D and Alabama Whirley, and the Enchantico gorelesque girls, Lex Cole and Kitty Massacre. That actually helped ease our nerves. That and the raspberry vodka and lemonade Neen made us drink.

Putting the stage together killed our nerves, as we became very stressed about it, conscious of time, speed and the audience watching our every move. Then some audience members refused to move. Neen told one woman that we needed to practise a kick out and she was in the way. She didn’t want to leave her friends. Neen kept insisting she moved. She wouldn’t. Cat told the woman we would be kicking out and she might get kicked in the face. She still wouldn’t move. So Cat high kicked inches from her face. She fucking moved then! Listen love, if a performer tells you you are in the way, you do not get to decide that you’re not. Take your drink and move the fuck away! Cat then warned two men she would be cartwheeling off and they may get kicked. They stepped back. She did the cartwheel and landed right by them. They were scared and impressed and agreed not to move even a step forward.

Then it was time. Oh god.

Our timing was a bit fast at the start but we compensated for it. And we did the reverse grab spin! That was the bit that was causing us the most anxiety. People were whooping and clapping in parts, especially when Cat stands on Lynx’s shoulders and Lynx stands up. Cat did the jump from the top without holding on. And Lynx did the lean around. We both did the cartwheels at the same time, even though we hadn’t practiced it! Yep. The first time we cartwheeled together off the stage was during our performance. That got a big cheer.

When we bowed, there was a big sense of “thank god that’s over!” And “Yay it didn’t go wrong!” The audience seemed to really enjoy it. Afterwards, people came up to us to tell us how much they loved it. One of the other pole dancers, Alabama Whirley, told us we need to compete. We’re probably not at that level yet! Once the adrenaline of finishing was over, we were starving, relieved and in desperate need of a drink. We were glad it was over and thankful we didn’t fuck up in front of a crowded room.

Would we perform again? Probably. But we’d give ourselves longer than two days with a piece of equipment! And maybe we’d be more forgiving of ourselves and not expect perfection. After all, the audience doesn’t know our routine.

And our injuries still hurt.

Here is our performance.

Author Interview: CL Raven – Part I

Interview we did with Matt Doyle

Matt Doyle Media

Welcome, one and all, to the first part of two-day interview with the horror writing twins, CL Raven. Now, this is a special run, because I went a bit overboard and sent them more than seventy questions … and they answered every single one! So, we’re splitting it up over a few days. Today, we’re talking about their latest title Bleeding Empire, and their other novel and novella length works.

Welcome to the site! For those unfamiliar with your work, can you readers a quick introduction to yourselves and what you write?

Hello! We’re C L Raven, we’re identical goth twins from Cardiff and we write horror short stories and novels.

CL Raven Bleeding Empire Book Cover HorrorWe’re going to talk a little about as many of your projects as possible, but we’re going to start with your latest novel, Bleeding Empire. Now, this is a darkly humourous take on the apocalypse, and features…

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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.

Snowbeasts

snowboarding

Cat’s first run

First off, some good news. We’ve had two short stories accepted for publications this week. One we can’t talk about and the other one we can. The Eden Project, which won third prize in the British Fantasy Society award 2016 has just been accepted by the Best Indie Speculative Fiction anthology! And we’ll get paid, plus get a copy of the anthology. We’re not sure when it will be out yet, but we’ll keep you updated. And don’t forget, our Horsemen of the Apocalypse novel, Bleeding Empire, will be out this Saturday! Its official launch will take place in Wales Comic Con, but you can pre-order it. UK. USA. Although we’ll be too distracted embarrassing ourselves in front of Pink Power Ranger Amy Jo Johnson at the con to properly launch the book. If you hear news of people being banned from the event because of asking her to do balance tricks, that will be us.snowboarding

snowboarding

Lynx learning to front side slip

And on to more exciting stuff. On Sunday, we went snowboarding for the first time. One of our gymnastics friends, Becky, wanted to do something fun for her birthday and put it to a vote – trampolining, swimming or snowboarding. Snowboarding won. We were excited. We’ve always wanted to try it. We’ve never even been skiing before. Our parents couldn’t afford it when we were kids and we can’t afford it now we’re adults. Plus we hate the cold, so a skiing holiday has never appealed to us. We can stay at home and be cold and save ourselves a lot of money. But this would be a group lesson and was surprisingly affordable.

snowboarding

Lynx making it to the bottom

We showed up at Cardiff Ski and Snowboarding Centre in more layers than an onion. It’s a dry slope centre, so we were worried about getting hurt. Plus, Cat tore her ankle ligaments last week, falling off the gymnastics floor, so we wanted to limit further injury. Yes. She tore them falling off a floor. Last week, we did the Wolf Run and only got a few bruises. Two days later, we did two hours of gymnastics. No injuries. At the end of session, she helps to put a block away, falls off the floor and tears her ligaments. Fortunately, she managed to get the swelling down enough to get a boot on, and once the boot was on, it acted as a brace, allowing her to walk without crutches. The sensible thing to do would have been to not go snowboarding, but it’s something we’ve always wanted to do and we didn’t know when we’d next get the opportunity. Besides, her ankle was fine, proving it was the right decision. Plus, it couldn’t get any worse!

snowboarding

Lynx doing a side slip

The instructor handed out boards by sizing them against us. He put one against Cat then gave it to Sarah C (you may remember her from our last post about the Wolf Run.) He returned with shorter boards for us. Cat “are we getting children’s boards?” Yes, we did. 35 year old women on children’s boards. We all headed out to the slope and had to decide which leg would go forward. It wasn’t about being left or right handed, but which leg was dominant, like which one you jumped off, or which one was forward in a boxing stance. Our fighting stance is left leg forward so we went with that. Having the left foot forward is known as snowboardingregular, having the right foot forward is known as goofy. Sarah C was

snowboarding

Cat doing a front side slip

the only goofy one 😀 No-one was surprised.

After that, we practised moving the boards in a circle, bending them and jumping. Except the bindings on Cat’s board were broken so she couldn’t join in as her board was being replaced. Then we headed up the small red slope at the bottom of the dry slope. You had to walk with one foot on the board, dragging it behind you. That was tiring work! Never mind Cat’s torn ligaments, this action caused immense pain to her bad knee (it’s had 3 operations), as it twisted it. Sarah C had the same problem with her bad knee too. We all lined up and the top…and refused to go. Nobody wanted to be the first down the slope. We were all terrified! Eventually, someone volunteered and we all reluctantly took our turns. Our hearts were pounding as our anxiety went into overdrive. Would we fall? Would we go too fast? Would we be able to control it? The only thing we weren’t worried about was making fools of ourselves. These guys see us make fools of ourselves in gymnastics every week.

snowboarding

Cat landing on her arse

After we’d been down once and didn’t fall, we were slightly less scared the second time. That was until the instructor, Guto, said we had to stamp our back foot as we went down. Why? We’re not rabbits warning the warren of danger. Again, everyone was reluctant to go first. The third time, he wanted us to jump the board slightly. What? We were barely confident going down flat! Save the tricks for another day, sir! This time, Cat did fall, but not badly. She ended up sliding backwards down the slope like a starfish. Guto then said we were heading up the slope. Uh, no, we were just getting used to the little slope! We went up the slope and sat on the prickly white brush. We didn’t wear enough layers for that.

snowboarding

Lynx going backwards

We had to do what’s called Side Slip. Stand sideways on the board and go down the slope. This was it. This was where we would die. The younger instructor, Dom, told us all to show enthusiasm. It’s hard to be enthusiastic when you’re staring death in the face. Guto warned if we caught our toes, we’d somersault. We’re a group of gymnasts. Somersaulting would be the one thing we could do. Well, except us. We can’t land them. Again, no-one volunteered to go first. Luckily, Lynx had her phone with her and was able to capture all the falls. She was one of the few who didn’t fall.

snowboarding

Cat was better going backwards

Lynx went down really well, looking confident. At the bottom, Guto turned her and pushed her forwards. This was far less scary now we’d done the red slope. Then  it was Cat’s turn. She went too fast and nearly took Dom out, who was guiding her. Then she fell on her arse. She got back up, again nearly took him out and again fell on her arse. He eventually got her down the slope. We had another go. Lynx’s run went smoothly. Sam was really good at it. Sarah C fell over. Lloyd and Sean also kept falling over. Cat warned Guto she nearly ran Dom over. Then promptly ran into Guto, nearly sending him down the slope. He turned and pushed her at the bottom. She fell on her arse. As he helped her up, she assured him she was already injured and explained about the ligaments. Him “Should you be doing this?” Cat “Yes.”

snowboarding

how to get around

Then we did the side slip backwards. Lynx reckoned Cat would be better going backwards. We work weirdly that way. We had to roll over with the boards attached to our feet and shuffle into position. That was dignified! It was much less scary going backwards! Mostly because we couldn’t see the slope. Sarah C mysteriously managed to tumble over backwards. We each had two turns of this. And Lynx was right. Cat was much better going backwards and didn’t fall once. Becky and Sam proved to the best at snowboarding and even managed the backwards side slip unaided.

snowboarding

how not to get around

We now want to go again. At first we were terrified and going forwards in the side slip was even scarier. But then we got used to being on the boards and the balance and we really enjoyed it. We want another lesson now before the fear returns! This is definitely a tick on our New Year’s resolution of ‘Try Something New’. So far, we’ve done an online Anatomy and Physiology course for aerial fitness, taken part in the Wolf Run, got cartilage piercings, tried a new gymnastics club (where Cat did her ligaments on our first night there) and have now gone snowboarding. And it’s only April!snowboarding

Wolf Run

The Wolf Run

l-r Lynx, Sarah C, Sarah F, Cat

We spent our Sunday cold, wet, muddy and smelling like a duck pond. No, we hadn’t been bog snorkelling. We completed our first ever 10k muddy obstacle course called The Wolf Run.

In November, we started warrior training with Si Dwyer, which is basically an hour of relentless exercise (weights usually) accompanied with colourful language and abuse. And that’s just from us. Si pushes us beyond where we feel we can go and he proves we can do it. So as his warriors, Si invited us to take part in The Wolf Run. As our new year’s resolution is always ‘do something different’, we agreed. Plus we’d seen the medals and Si said they were dressing as superheroes. We love challenges and obstacle courses, so this sounded like fun. There was one drawback – we hate running.

When we say we hate running, we mean that given the choice between running and being water-boarded, we would be offering our faces up for torture before a runner had finished tying their laces. But we agreed to do it so we forced ourselves to go out jogging two or three times a week. Our running friends said we would grow to love it. This isn’t like a marriage of convenience. The love didn’t grow. Our social media was filled with statuses about how much we hated it. We bitched, whinged and selfied our way through our torment. We mean training. We posted about how we were looking forward to completing the Wolf Run just so we could give up running. Si took us on a 3 mile run around Carleon to train us. We passed a cemetery as they were lowering a coffin into the grave and at that moment, wished we could change places with the corpse. Corpses don’t have to run. Si warned us about an oncoming car, but to be honest, getting hit would mean we’d have a rest if we were sprawled on the tarmac. We had to take a month off due to illness, so by the time the Wolf Run came around, we could only run for two miles without stopping. 10k is about 6 miles, so we were well off our target, but we’d run out of time.

Wolf Run

Lynx escaping the ash hole

We bought costumes – Lynx was Black Widow and Cat was Catwoman (the one from the comics). We decided to see if we could run in them before the big event and got some stares. The Catwoman hood with ears and goggles was a bit hard to hide. And the zip undid every time Cat ran. So a safety pin would needed for the event, or the poor runners would not only have to endure mud, but unimpressive boobs jiggling beside them like peaches in sack.

On Sunday, we got up at 6 a.m. and picked up our two friends from gymnastics – Sarah F and Sarah C. Sarah F was doing it with us, while Sarah C was there for support and to take pictures off us face planting in the mud. Sarah F was running as Supergirl, Cat was Catwoman and Lynx was Black Widow, which everyone at the run mistook for Catwoman. We got there at 9:40 and went to register. Our anxiety was now in overdrive. This was completely new and terrifying. And there were so many people! As one member of the team had dropped out, they allowed you to substitute a runner. Luckily, Sarah C happened to be wearing running gear and the next minute, she was signed up with an hour to go. Crazy woman.

wolf runThere was another team all dressed as superheroes, so we weren’t the only ones. Lots of people thought we were mad and that we’d get hot in our outfits. They were wrong. So very, very wrong. Everyone running at 11 had to do a warm up then we all crowded at the start line. And Lynx immediately had a panic attack. Thanks, anxiety, not being able to breathe right at the start of a 10k race is super helpful. Fortunately, having had panic attacks for 20 years, getting out of them is no longer a problem. We didn’t expect to hit the first obstacle so soon, but happily clambered over the hay bales. That’s where we lost the Sarahs, after helping them over. Then there was thigh deep water. That was it. We hadn’t had the chance to even build a sweat and we were already cold and wet. We stayed that way for the entire run. We didn’t warm up once and by the time we left the water, our fingers already hurt from the cold. It was not the start we’d hoped for.

Wolf run

Where we nearly drowned in the ash hole

We ran on, keeping to our pace, as Si had advised. He’d warned us that we may start running faster than normal, as we’d be all hyped up on adrenaline and excitement. We were feeling dread, not excitement, but we managed to stick to our slow jogging pace and for once, didn’t feel the need to race against alpha males. Thirteen minutes after we’d started, there was a muddy pond called the ash hole. We’d promised our sister that we’d stick together and twins don’t let twins drown alone, so we linked hands and waded in. It was a good job too, because the muddy ridge Lynx was on disappeared and she would’ve gone under, had Cat not been holding on. It was meant to be waist deep. Everyone else waded across, no problem. We quickly got out of our depth and had to swim. Si had warned us that when we got to the big lake, get in and when the cold hits, don’t panic and stay there for 15 seconds then swim. Because if the cold hits when you’re out of your depth, that’s when you get into trouble. But this wasn’t the big lake and we were already out of our depths. And the cold hit. Hard. We couldn’t breathe and couldn’t put our feet down. Honestly, we were scared. We’re very good swimmers but this wasn’t something we were used to. We had no choice but to swim as fast as we could for the shore, whilst feeling like we were suffocating. This was worse than panic attacks. Fortunately, there were ropes to pull ourselves up the other side. Then we ran across a field to get warm, but as the temperature was 10 degrees C, we couldn’t get warm.

There was a log wall which had a foot hold at the bottom and one near the top. When we stood on the bottom one, only our hands reached the top one, so we had to pull ourselves up and climb, which isn’t easy when it’s covered in wet mud. We hate heights. Our fear of heights is genuinely crippling. We can’t go above step 3 of a step ladder without going rigid. And this wall was high. Cat boosted Lynx and Wonder Woman from the other group of superheroes. We got to the top and a steward asked if we wanted help. Yes. This was fucking scary. He guided Lynx’s foot to the gap at the top then she climbed down and helped Cat and Wonder Woman. We then stayed to help another woman.

wolf run

water slide

We were so cold, wet and miserable that when we saw the 4k mark, we were disheartened. We thought we’d be at least over halfway. We were ready to quit. At 5K, there was another deep muddy lake called the mud sucker with a tree trunk in the middle to climb over. This water was up to our armpits. Then came more running, up a inclined field. We actually considered skipping the water slide because despite running for most of the way, by the time we reached it, we were shivering. You know that point of cold, where your teeth have chattered so much, your jaw locks. And we were only half an hour into the run. Cat’s broken finger was now in agony, due to the bandage being cold and wet. She couldn’t move it. By this point, we’d already decided we were skipping the lake, so we wanted to limit the amount of obstacles we missed. Wonder Woman advised us that as we were already frozen, it might be worth missing it, but if we’d regret that, then we should do it. She was actually concerned by how cold we were. We didn’t want to do it, but we didn’t want to feel any more like failures than we already did, so we went up. It was horribly high and you had to go down face first. We hate going down things face first, but there was no choice. Everyone else jumped on with glee. We stood there staring at it, wondering why the hell we were doing this. Suddenly, the medal and the free t-shirt didn’t seem worth it. We climbed up and slid down at terrifying speed. We crashed into the water at the bottom, totally blinded then ran like hell. Fuck pace, we had to get warm. We sprinted across the fields, overtaking all the other runners.

The Wolf RunOne of the obstacles we’d been looking forward to, was a rope up a slatted wall. We can climb poles easily, so figured it wouldn’t be a problem. It would’ve been fine, but rope burn on freezing hands was torture and we almost couldn’t do it. Not being able to bend a broken finger also added to Cat’s challenge. We forced ourselves to climb and we scaled the other side, our hands on fire. There were more muddy ponds and ditches filled with water to go through. There was probably about 1k woodland that we walked through. Not because we didn’t want to run (we were so cold that running became our favourite part), but because we couldn’t physically run in the mud without slipping. Everyone who was with us also walked, so we didn’t feel so bad. We saved a few people from falling over. When we got to the halfway point, people were standing around drinking and chatting. We ran on. If we stood still, we would’ve frozen to death. We had fun on a giant cargo net. The man beside us said “you really are Catwoman.” No, sir. Catwoman isn’t scared of heights.

We ran around the big lake. We couldn’t bear the thought of more cold water. We were gutted because we love swimming and thought this would be one of the easier aspects of the run. It would be a break from running.

wolf run

Cat escaping the ash hole

There were a set of tunnels under a log entrance, some of which had water in them. One didn’t. We queued for the one that didn’t. We love water, but we were sick at the sight of it. By those tunnels, a woman was sat to the side in a foil blanket. We weren’t the only ones struggling with the cold. One of the tunnels was full of water. A runner said someone had gone through that one. Cat “bet it was Si.” Fortunately, we were small enough to waddle through the tunnel, saving our knees from the stones that lined it.

Cat discarded her bandage, her finger now slightly blue. Wonder Woman had given us tips on how to warm our hands. We reached the monkey bars and Cat stood on a crate to reach them. And still couldn’t reach them. After trying, we gave up and ran on. When we envisioned issues we might have with the monkey bars – we’ve done them once in our lives – being too short to get on them, wasn’t one of them. There was a slatted wall that had no footholds. You had to jump, grab the top and go over. We watched people do it with ease. Cat ran, jumped, grabbed the top and slithered down. The wall was about five foot five. We’re five one. The steward took pity, came over and told us to stand on his thigh. Next was giant tyres you had to run over. We loved those. We also jumped a tyre wall. Then we were faced with hills and more

wolf run

final lake

muddy ditches and hills. Those we could do no problem and helped pull others up.

With 1k to go, we reached another lake. To say we were disheartened was an understatement. We couldn’t run around this one, and if someone had offered to take one of our kidneys without anesthetic, instead of going in the lake, we would’ve asked which kidney they wanted. “It’s only waist deep,” the steward assured people. Yes, it was. For men. It was shoulder deep on us. Boob deep when we stood on our toes. Again, the cold took our breaths. And the lake just didn’t bloody end. Then we came to a climbing wall. It was very high but we found this easy. It was our favourite obstacle. Steward at the top: “careful when you climb over, cos of where the bar might end up.” Cat climbs over. “Yep. Right in the vag.” We jumped down hay bales the other side and slithered over more muddy slides and ditches. We ducked or climbed under tree trunks and went through more slippery woodlands. We could see the start line but the finish line was getting further away.  We swear they were moving it.

Crawling through another set of tunnels was fine. We even picked the smallest ones, to leave the bigger ones for normal sized people. We had to crawl under a metal cage near the end. A steward offered us a hug or a high five. Desperate for body heat, we willingly hugged a stranger. He said we were his favourites. Spectators started cheering us on. Finally, we were faced with the nutcracker. We had to pull ourselves up with ropes, climb a cargo net, crawl across the top and climb down the other side. Dear god it was high. We then had to climb down giant logs. One problem – they were too far apart for our tiny legs. One steward said it was further than it looked and we just had to stretch. Lynx stretched her leg as far as it would go and was still  too far away. Luckily a woman on the ground offered to help and held Lynx’s leg, guiding her foot to the log as she pulled herself closer.

wolf run

Lynx’s face says it all

Wonder Woman met us on the final part. She said she’d been keeping an eye out for us throughout to make sure we were ok. We thanked her for all her help and pep talks. She really was a hero. She even invited us to join their group for the final photo as we’d lost our group. We slithered into the final stretch of muddy water. Everyone else waded through. We had to swim for the finish line. But we did it.

The stewards all loved our costumes. One even yelled “go fight crime!” after us. Even the runners complimented them. We ran it in two hours. We thought we’d finish feeling elated, proud of ourselves and in a fit of euphoria, sign up for the summer run. We didn’t. We felt deflated and vowed never to do it again. We expected it to be a challenge but that we’d enjoy it. We wanted to enjoy it. We were so cold, our hands were extremely painful and this made the obstacles difficult. We couldn’t warm up. We shivered, shook, and some of our muscles were rigid from the cold. Especially in our faces. Our facial muscles seized and we could barely talk. Towards the end, the cold was so bad, our feet felt like we were running on ropes. That was when we could feel them. We spent most of the run forgetting what they felt like. We’ve never been that cold and we went camping in Whitby in three degrees! We didn’t expect to run much but we ran for most of it. We had no choice. The running was actually easy for us, which we never thought it would be. And while we should’ve felt proud for doing high obstacles despite our crippling fear of heights, we didn’t. All we felt was scared. We hated them. But no-one else had a problem with them, which made us feel worse. And we were hugely disappointed with ourselves -and still are- for not attempting the lake. We’d really wanted to do it. But after experiencing the suffocating cold of the first swim, we’d decided for our own safety, it wasn’t worth it. And we haven’t forgiven ourselves for it. Especially cos our friends did it. So we felt weak and pathetic after that.

Wolf run

Swimming for the finish line

We dried and dressed in our car, forgoing the cold hose pipes outside. We’d had enough of cold water. We texted our mum and rang our sister to reassure them we hadn’t died. Dear god there was mud everywhere – even in places mud had no business being. Our new car now stank of stagnant water and was covered in mud. As soon as we were decent, we went to wait for the Sarahs. We took big towels to wrap them up in for when they finished.

The Wolf Run

The rest of our pack. L-r Si, Plum, Lynx, Cat, Alex

Part of us is tempted to sign up for the summer one, either this year or next year. Not because we enjoyed it – we didn’t – but because we feel the need for redemption. We were disappointed in ourselves by how scared we were of some of the obstacles. And we feel we let ourselves down by missing out the lake. We trained hard for this. We took up a sport we detested just to do this. We hated running so much that during training, we would have panic attacks while we ran. We try to tell ourselves that we had to break through some serious mental and physical barriers to finish – hell, going to an event with that many people would’ve been impossible a few years ago – but all we can think of is where we failed. That’s how our darkshines work. Battling our fear of heights and keeping going despite how cold, wet and miserable we were didn’t feel like an achievement at all. It felt like a failure because no-one else had a problem with it. Everyone else finished smiling, laughing and looking like they genuinely had fun. We’ve had more fun during tooth extractions. And it turns out, the medals are only for Alpha wolves – those who do four Wolf Runs in a year.

wolf run

finished!

We are now considering going for the Alpha Wolf. We want those medals. But there’s one issue with doing it – we have to keep running.

wolf run

At the finish line

Bleeding Empire

“Are you ready to end the world?”

Well, not actually end it. We have a new book to launch and an Apocalypse would be really inconvenient right now. Finally, 6 years after writing Bleeding Empire, we are ready to release it. It’s taken us so long because it was with Gollancz for 18 months/two years. They had an open period so we submitted the book to them. They received 1800 submissions. Bleeding Empire made it to the final 100. In the end, they said our writing was genuinely funny and the book was well written, but because they publish Good Omen by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, they didn’t want to published another funny Apocalypse book.

Yes. Neil Gaiman stopped us being published by one of the big publishers.

We can’t even be mad. Good Omens is a funny book. Though it is nothing like ours. But Bleeding Empire is now available for pre-order here. So read the blurb and enjoy the cover reveal. And when the world ends, remember to grab some popcorn.

“Are you ready to end the world?”

It’s supposed to be the greatest Apocalypse the world has ever known. But the death of mankind isn’t as headline-grabbing as who laundered their last load on Celebrity Dirty Washing. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse’s offspring want to tear up the biblical rulebook with style, sexiness and smiley face achievement stickers.

There’s one problem with rebooting legends: nobody recognises them.

Health and Safety forbade horses (and there’s nowhere to park them), so they ride motorbikes. And budget cuts only allow one Travel Inn room between them. Their arrival breaks four seals. And a streetlight. It’s hardly the epic, end-of-the-world entrance they’d imagined. Less ‘world-wide media coverage’, more ‘notice in the personal ads’.

Death excelled at reaping, not reproduction, so there are five Horsemen: twins Morgan and Aeron are in charge but couldn’t lead a conga line; Marsden would be the hero if slaughter wasn’t his favourite hobby; Demi prefers destroying people’s confidence to destroying crops; Mac’s low self-esteem and pacifism hinders his pestilent plans.

Fallen angel Drew fights to stop them. But as usual, love arrives to cock things up for everybody. And what better time to host an Apocalypse than Christmas, while mortals are distracted by the contents of Santa’s sack. Instead of Jingle Bells, there’ll be abject screams. Providing they stop getting drunk on sexually-named cocktails…

 

Bleeding Empire