Halloween Treats

As Halloween is galloping towards us like the headless horsemen, it’s time to go trick or treating. Except the only trick you have to do is find the answers to the following questions then protect your sweet bucket from any ghouls who may try to steal it and run down the long, dark path to Ravens Retreat (here) to leave your answers at the door. As it’s Halloweek, we’ll also be giving away a copy of our ghost story collection, Deadly Reflections. So you get to win four books!

First, go knock on Reece’s door and search his crypt for these answers:

Reece’s blog

  1. What is the final book in the Buan trilogy called?
  2. What is Reece’s secondary career outside of writing?
  3. How old was Reece when he started writing?

Now creep over to Jeremy’s and rummage around in his creepy basement to find these answers:

Jeremy’s blog

  1. What are Razorbacks?
  2. What does Jeremy have in common with Orion?
  3. What is the name of the board game in The Orion Chronicles?

Time to brave the dank corridors of Ravens Retreat (don’t mind the patients; they’re already dead) and search for these answers:

C L Raven’s blog

  1. Which company did C L Raven threaten to invade with glitter guns and make them sparkle like a Twilight vampire?
  2. In Soul Asylum, in what year did the East Wing burn down?
  3. What did Calamityville Horror do when they were meant to be doing a vigil in the Skirrid Inn?

Did you survive? Post the answers in the comments and the first 3 correct answers will win. Happy hunting!

Release the Ghosts!

Deadly Reflections C L Raven, Lizzie RoseDeadly Reflections is out now! It’s available on Amazon and Smashwords . For once the launch has gone smoothly and there hasn’t been a single meltdown from us. Which is rare on launch days. If you want to see the trailer for Deadly Reflections, check it out here.

In true gothic style, the heavens opened, accompanied by atmospheric thunderstorms. Unfortunately there was no lightning.

It will be out in print, probably next month.

Here’s the blurb:

Death is only the beginning…

You’re born, you live and you die. And sometimes, you come back.

When the veil between life and death is torn down, the darkest souls crawl from the shadows to wander the world that rejected them.

But these are not the restless spirits that haunt the pages of folklore, or the childishly gruesome tales whispered over torchlight. These are the ghosts that dwell in the deepest dungeons of your imagination and prey on you when you think you’re alone: bored ghosts trapped in the monotony of office life at the Scare Department; a haunted jail where the prisoners believe in revenge over rehabilitation; a mirror that steals the souls of whoever falls under its spell; and a ghost bride who makes sure the wedding vows are never broken.

Thirteen stories that prove the monsters in your mind might just be real.

The past is no longer a nightmare.

Deadly Reflections Cover Reveal

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to witness the unveiling of Deadly Reflections’ cover! *insert applause* It gives us great pleasure to share our beautiful cover. It’s a combined effort of stunning artwork from Lizzie Rose (check out her page here) and typography from Ryan Ashcroft from Love Your Covers. *tugs rope to part curtains.* *smiles nervously. Tugs harder. Pole falls down to an embarrassed silence.*

We give you Deadly Reflections!

Deadly Reflections C L Raven, Lizzie Rose

Trick or Treat

Halloween is galloping towards us like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and as excited as we are about the best day of the year, we’re trying to focus on Deadly Reflections. It will be out soon and if you’re a subscriber to the Ravens Retreat newsletter, the ravens should have delivered the scroll containing the opening 600 words of Paranormality, the first story in the collection. If you’d like the ravens to deliver you that same October treat, sign up here.

But we thought it would only be fair if our faithful blog followers also got a spooky treat, so here in keeping with our recent ghost hunting expedition where we tried to find the Gwrach y Rhibyn, here’s an extract from The Witching Hour, where you’ll get to meet her in all her fleshy glory.

The Witching Hour

Something stirred in the water. My K2 meter bleeped once, its red lights flashing. I pressed record on my digital voice recorder.

“EVP at Caerphilly Castle waiting for the moat hag.”

I checked the video camera had plenty of battery life. I needed backup in case the photos were blurry, although if they were too clear, I would be branded a fraud and shunned. Photoshop would become complicit in my crime.

My hands shook from excitement as I zoomed in, finger on the button like a trigger-happy executioner in a firing squad. I stepped closer, my black fishtail skirt clinging to my legs. The K2 bleeped twice. I hoped this wouldn’t mirror old horror films where you spend the entire film waiting to see the monster, only to find he came from Funzo’s Fancy Dress Shop and not the bowels of Hell.

“Come on,” I whispered. “I’m not catching hypothermia for a rubber mask.”

I had been here every evening of Halloweek. People took one look at my Gothic clothes and presumed I was here to open the gateway to the spirit realm and release the demons to walk the earth so they could feast on the souls of those destined for the fiery lakes. Perhaps I was, but I wasn’t about to admit that. I didn’t want them branding me as a stereotype.

Bubbles popped on the surface. Another ripple distorted the moat. The K2 bleeped slowly, like a life support machine about to die, the needle climbing towards the red zone. This was it. This was the moment that made showering with my clothes on worth it. I hoped the bubbles were from the creature I sought. I didn’t want to spend all night in the rain and catch pneumonia only to find I had photographed a frog.

A shadow crept across the moat then vanished. This was the moment I unveiled the legend for all its brutal reality. This was the moment I brought the dead to life.

The moat yawned, water gushing off the entity that rose from the hellacious depths.

She was real.

And she definitely wasn’t a frog. The K2 responded urgently, its lights staying on red as it bleeped like a TV presenter having a swearing fit. My finger instinctively pressed the shutter button. The flash banished the darkness; a thrown lightning bolt as the storm gods waged war in the skies. Dark hair trailed down her waxy face like matted seaweed. Funereal, ragged robes shrouded her skeletal form, like a supermodel displaying the latest Halloween Collection. Wizened decaying skin caressed her bones. Not even Hollywood could conjure this horror, even after five hours in the makeup chair. Guttural moans escaped her peeling lips. I snapped off photos, praying my camera captured the nightmare. Unfortunately, my Panasonic didn’t have Monster Mode on its settings. But she was real.

The Gwrach y Rhibyn.

She was one tourist attraction you didn’t want your photo taken with.

Unsurprisingly, she didn’t feature in the guide book of Things to See and Do in Wales.

I scanned the stragglers patrolling the castle. Nobody glanced her way. Not even the resident ducks and geese noticed her. I was privy to a private performance. I hoped the after show party wasn’t in Satan’s palace.

Her wails were a siren song of suffering. Piercing eyes were sunken into her repulsive face. Bat wings fanned out, beating the air. Her talons clawed the water, her screeching suddenly dying. She smiled, revealing gruesome razor sharp teeth set in decomposing gums. As she disappeared into her gloomy watery grave, she hissed her next victim’s name.

“Saffron.”

My name.

It’s Only Words

Those of you who follow us on Twitter will already know of one of our most recent epic battles. For once it wasn’t with our regular enemies the tax people, Amazon, Power Director or Photoshop. It was with the blurb for Deadly Reflections. In fact, our struggle to overcome this beast was so epic, that one of our tweeps, Tim, even after taking a week off Twitter, asked us how we we were faring as soon as he came back online. It was that brutal.

We spent ages on Amazon reading the product descriptions of countless short story collections; some by famous authors, some by unknowns. Some were ghost story collections, others weren’t. But none of them shifted the block. We spent hours staring at the blank Word document, trying to force the words from our brains, but it was harder than trying to steal chocolate from an angry badger.

It wasn’t down to lack of experience – we’ve written blurbs for every novel/novella we’ve written over the past 18 years. Most of them are kept in A5 notebooks and never even reached the typing up stage. It wan’t even because it’s for a short story collection – we’ve published three and their blurbs were easy. We think the culprits were our conscious brains. 

When we write, we don’t think about what we’re writing. Most of the time we have no idea what we’re going to write; we just put our fingers to the laptop and start typing. Our fingers are linked to our subconscious brains, those shy brains which lurk in the background, keeping notes of everything you see, hear, do, all stored away until you need them. The subconscious brain is a genius. Unfortunately, it’s rarely in charge. But the conscious brain, that’s the one that chatters at you constantly and as every writer knows, it’s impossible to write/edit when someone is talking to you, which is why our family obey the fundamental rule – if we are in the writing shed, that mean we are working. And they do not come in unless absolutely necessary. And that’s what our conscious brains were doing. They were reminding us that the blurb would sell the book, so it had to be good, seeing how much we suck at selling. It had to be enticing, maybe a bit scary, covering every story in the collection without specifically mentioning every one. They told us if we worded it wrong, nobody would buy the book that we’ve spent most of the year slaving over.

The blurb took well over a week to write. It took longer than the two longest stories in collection which are both 7000 words. It was driving us insane. There was only one thing for it – we had to silence our conscious brains. The equivalent of gagging someone who won’t shut up. And when we’re having a hard time, there is always one thing we turn to to help us through the darkshines: My Chemical Romance.

We opened YouTube, blasted MCR songs and waited, fingers poised on the keys. The words began to flow. They didn’t come easily at first, but the more MCR songs we listened to, the easier the words came. But it wasn’t a foolproof plan. The minute the music stopped, so did the words. We had to play the music until the blurb and the longer product description were finished. So if it wasn’t for MCR, the product description box on Amazon would be blank, except for maybe the old expletive.

If you want to read an exclusive extract of the upcoming Deadly Reflections collection, sign up to our newsletter.

This is the blurb and the extra product description :

Death is only the beginning…

You’re born, you live and you die. And sometimes, you come back.

When the veil between life and death is torn down, the darkest souls crawl from the shadows to wander the world that rejected them.

But these are not the restless spirits that haunt the pages of folklore, or the childishly gruesome tales whispered over torchlight. These are the ghosts that dwell in the deepest dungeons of your imagination and prey on you when you think you’re alone: bored ghosts trapped in the monotony of office life at the Scare Department; a haunted jail where the prisoners believe in revenge over rehabilitation; a mirror that steals the souls of whoever falls under its spell; and a ghost bride who makes sure the wedding vows are never broken.

Thirteen stories that prove the monsters in your mind might just be real.

The past is no longer a nightmare.

 

Paranormality – Three ghost hunters exploring an abandoned asylum accidentally awaken it and the ghosts trapped inside its nightmare.

Field of Screams – nobody believes in ghosts anymore. And that’s a problem for the ghosts who work for the Shadow Council’s Scare Department, where Hell is a boardroom run by Jenkins.

The Witching Hour – beneath the moats of Wales, the Gwrach y Rhibyn lurks, ready to whisper the name of those doomed to die, before dragging their souls to Hell.

The Ghost of You – a rock star has a creepy encounter in a graveyard that will haunt him forever.

Fallen Flag – urban explorers investigating an abandoned train station discover it’s haunted by the ghost of a serial killer. And his bloodlust has not been sated.

Memento Mori – the village of Pentref Ysbryd burned down years ago before being flooded. Yet Simeon & Taylor discover that below the lake, the damned village is still alive.

When the Dead Awaken – After a poltergeist vows to kill anyone who enters her house, three ghost hunters try to banish her, only for one them to become possessed by her murderous spirit.

Rest In Peace – Sick of ghost hunters harassing them, two castle ghosts give the Barry Paranormal Group exactly what they want, only to have their plan backfire.

Death Sentence – during a ghost tour of a Victorian jail, the dead prisoners who believe in revenge over rehabilitation awaken to reclaim the jail and execute everyone who disturbed them.

Sea of Souls – a sceptic writer who debunks ghosts waits on lonely cliff for the gruesome ghost of a smuggler.

Deadly Reflections – a haunted mirror sucks the souls from everyone who falls under its spell.

Carnival of the Damned – after discovering tales about a woman being mutilated in an abandoned fairground, uni students decide to recreate it in a film, only to bring the legend to life.

Whiter Shade of Pale – a ghost bride murdered at the altar waits for the perfect groom to lure him into the land of the dead, and ensures the wedding vows are never broken.

MCR – Thank you for the venom.

To the End

*Stands on Casa Raven battlements with a victory flag and a town crier’s bell* Hear ye! Hear ye! *Drops bell. Watches guiltily as it hits a peasant below* Whoops. Anyhoo, we’d like to announce that our ghost story collection, Deadly Reflections is finished! */* Here’s to never having to read them again! 😀 Though we’re excited about the release now. We think we’ve worked harder on this collection than we have on any other. We started it in March and 8 of the 13 stories were already written. Weirdly, it was the oldest story, which the collection is named after, that caused us the most problems – and that one was published by Dark Fire Fiction a couple of years ago, so technically shouldn’t have needed much work. But now the stories are polished so much we almost blind ourselves when we open them 😀 They’ve also been formatted and are ready to go! The hardest part about finishing them a month early will be stopping ourselves from giving them another edit…

Fans of Calamityville Horror might recognise some of the places that feature in the collection, as a couple of the stories were inspired by our ghost hunting visits. Though obviously they are a fictionalised account – the stories have ghosts in them for a start 😀 As anyone who watches the show will know, ghosts are about the only thing we don’t find. There’s also a strong Welsh link in some of them, which we hope non-Welsh people might find interesting.

We’re bringing them out in print as well. We’ve seen a rough draft of the cover Lizzie’s drawn and it’s just incredible. It’s spooky how in sync our minds are! We gave her free reign on the design and she’s created something that’s perfect. Now that it’s done we’re excited about the project. The trailer’s almost complete *shakes fists at Power Director* The tentative release date is October 13th, as there’s 13 stories and it’s 2013. We like playing with Fate. We can’t wait to see it in print so we can stroke the cover in a totally creepy serial killer way.

Unusually for us, after finishing the formatting, we then took the evening off and chilled out by playing Mortal Kombat 9. Very gory and funny, so it’s the perfect game for us. Anyone else might have taken a break from work in the run up to a release, but  if we’re not working, we’re lost. We got a rejection today – we suspected it would get rejected as there were 1100 entries and the editor had already commissioned some stories so getting in the anthology was slim to start with! But having re-read the story we’re still happy with it so we spent today re-editing it and we’re looking for somewhere else to submit it to. It’s a historical horror and the first of its kind for us. We also found another few horror magazines/anthologies we plan to submit to. And now Deadly Reflections is done we can get back to ghost hunting! Turns out, Pennard Castle in the Gower is haunted by the Gwrach y Rhibyn, who features in one of the stories in Deadly Reflections. We just hope she doesn’t say our names and drag us down to Hell…though it would be warm down there and it’s about time Hell had a new leader…

Ghost Writing

Wow, it’s been almost a month since we unlocked the doors of Ravens Retreat *gets tangled in cobwebs* We’ve been trying to think of something to blog about for a fortnight, but we had nothing to say, so rather than ramble on, we kept quiet. We’re of the opinion, if you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. Boring everyone for the sake of banishing silence is a bad thing. The reason for the silence is the damn ghost stories.  We’d hoped to release the collection, Deadly Reflections this month. We started the bloody thing in March and 8 of the 13 were already written. We even printed out the stories double spaced for their final error check. We were so close to the end, we could smell the freshly bound book. Then we hit a snag:

The stories weren’t good enough.

And we were sick of reading them. There are a couple of stories in there that were written years ago. One is from 2008 and it’s even been published. But we weren’t happy with the ending, so we rewrote it. Some of the stories we were fairly happy with, but the others were really stressing us out. The darkshines were encroaching and we were this close to throwing the whole collection into the nearest fiery lake.

So in order to save what little remains of our sanities, we’ve decided not to release the collection this month. In fact, it’s not going to be released until October. We’d originally planned October for Scott the Zombie’s release, but that novel needs major reconstructive surgery to get it even halfway decent. October will be a nice tie-in with Halloween – perfect for ghost stories. So we took a two week break and wrote a new story then redrafted two of our favourite stories, which are yet to be published. And during that break, the darkshines descended with horrific force, leaving us in a state of unbearable depression for 7 days that was so bad even the endorphins from exercise couldn’t help us, and hiding in our imaginary worlds couldn’t shake off our demons.

Then yesterday, Cat had a third operation on her knee. Luckily it was only a debridement, where they removed dead tissue, but it means she’ll be on crutches for a few weeks before beginning yet another recovery period. She was more upset at having to give up zumba and squash, but at least we’ll have more time to work on the collection. Half the stories have been redrafted again and we think they’re ready. It’s just the second half that’s causing us problems. Nothing we do to them seems to work. We will never be happy with them, they’re just not good enough. We can’t face writing several new ones, we’ve run out of ideas for ghost stories. Even after a 2 week break, the thought of editing those ones is putting us off working. It’s felt like running on a treadmill – you’re doing all the hard work and getting nowhere but the timer’s counting down and you can’t get off.

It’s the creative person’s worst enemies – doubt and fear. Creative people are always critical of themselves, their work, it doesn’t matter how many times people tell them it’s good, they only remember it when it was bad. Then there’s the fear it will never be good, that what you release will never be as good as your previous work, even though you secretly believed your previous work was also crap. We never read our work once it’s been published, mostly because we can’t bear to, in case it’s as bad as we remember it being during the redrafting stages. Or in case we spot mistakes.

We haven’t set a date in October yet, but it will definitely be that month. If it isn’t, you’ll know the collection is sinking into a fiery lake somewhere.

Thirteen Ghosts

In the aftermath of finishing Bleeding Empire, we had a couple of days of not writing then immediately got bored. We’d been planning our Bleeding Empire board game, beta reading and editing our Calamityville Horror episodes, but we weren’t working. Boredom does terrible things to us. If we’re lucky, we just feel frustrated. If we’re unlucky, the darkshines descend then we spiral into a pit of hating our work, feeling despondent, despair and utterly hopeless. So boredom is a bad thing. Ryan said to us “why don’t you relax? Read something, or watch TV?” Our response – “we’re like sharks. If we don’t keep moving, we’ll die.”

The idea of spending the day watching TV when we could be working fills us with horror. Actually, time spent not working, caring for the pets or exercising feels like time wasted. So we did the only thing that would keep the darkshines at bay – we wrote two new ghost stories. One is written for Writing Magazine and is about a woman who’s waiting for the ghost of a headless smuggler and the other is about two guys in a band who stumble across creepy wraiths in a graveyard. Then our mum reminded us of an idea she had a couple of months ago – to put all of our ghost stories into a collection. We liked the idea, but didn’t think we had enough for a collection. Turns out, we have 11. We’d like to have 13, so need to write a couple more. There’s only one problem – so far, all the stories only add up to about 30,000 words. Half the length of Disenchanted. As we’d like to bring this out in print, it needs an injection of words. We haven’t yet set a date for when it will be released, but it will probably be around June/July, which is when Disenchanted was released.

So this week we’ve been redrafting all the stories we’ve earmarked for the collection (which is going to be called Deadly Reflections). We’ve already added 1000 words to two stories and redrafted two more. One of them, Deadly Reflections, was published by Dark Fire Fiction two years ago. We’ve always liked that story. It’s one of our oldest and we thought it was as good as we could get it. We were wrong. Two years has taught us a lot more and when we read it, we were disappointed. It wasn’t as good as we remembered. There was too much telling rather than showing and it just didn’t feel right. So it’s been put under our surgical knife and had an overhaul. It’s not ready to have its bandages removed yet, but when it is, it will be completely transformed, whilst retaining enough of its original features that it will be recognisable.

Then we started to panic. In another two years’ time, we will have learned even more about writing. So will we look back at our collections and novel and think “how the hell could we let them go out looking like that?” Probably. But we can always rewrite them in two years. That’s the beauty of self-publishing.