Of Wolf and Man

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

Of Wolf and Man

Razor

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

Of Wolf and Man

Tyler

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

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

We are on Buy Me A Coffee and Patreon

Horror comic

Bad Girls

School’s out forever…

School Hall Slaughter

filming the trailer

This week, we ticked ‘star in a horror film’ off our coffin list. Ok, it wasn’t on our list, like ‘swim with sharks’, ‘learn to scuba dive’ and ‘world domination’ are, but it was a lot of fun. We’re not actors. We’ve never acted, never wanted to act. Drama in school used to fill us with a cold dread usually saved for facing the gallows. Our faces are more suited to radio. We’re far more comfortable in the crew roles but Huw Lloyd (you may remember him from guest hosting on our radio show and us guest hosting on his Undead Wookie podcast) wanted us to be in his film, School Hall Slaughter so we agreed. Who doesn’t want to slaughter a load of people in the name of art? Plus good things exist outside comfort zones. You can still donate to help the film in its post production phase,

School Hall Slaughter

Huw teaching Cat how to kill

The first day of shooting got straight into the death scenes. Always the best part of any horror film and the first death was no exception. Filming is a long process. It takes hours to do a single scene, even if it’s only thirty seconds. Eight hours of working resulted in what will be two minutes of footage. The lighting has to be perfect, camera angles have to be right, sometimes you shoot it from different angles or reverse shots. Add mirrors into the scene and it’s a new world of nightmares. We took our laptop and books with us so while lighting was being set up, we read our books and edited our gothic horror novella, The Curse of Ravenhall. Cat was in the first scene, which we started shooting at 5 p.m., while Lynx wasn’t needed ’til the final scene, which didn’t start shooting til 10:30 p.m. We’re glad we only had two lines each and that was at the end of the film. All we had to do was be creepy. That is as natural to us as our dark hair colour.

School Hall Slaughter

tormenting Boole during rehearsals

We warned Huw that we wouldn’t be able to stop ourselves from taking on crew roles. By halfway through the first scene, we were cleaning up blood, taking behind the scene photos and continuity photos, teaching people how to use the clapperboard and take notes about each board, which take was good and make notes on the bad takes. By the end of the first day, we were also operating lights and holding a strobe light up as it kept trying to kill the DOP, Will Bradshaw. We’d worked with Will on Clownface, where he was Assistant Director, so it was nice to get the chance to work with him again. It took FOREVER to clean up the blood from the girls’ toilets. It looked like a slaughter scene. Which it was. Getting blood out of white grouting is particularly hard. Those toilets have probably never been so clean.

School Hall Slaughter

Lamby ready for his close up

The first death of the day was the Assistant Head Teacher. The blood went everywhere! Why buildings insist on having magnolia walls is a mystery. It just shows all the blood. It was a fun death scene to shoot. People will never look at a pencil in the same way. Anthony Price’s SFX makeup looked so realistic. The last scene was the one in the girls’ toilets. It was a tight squeeze having four actresses; Will; the sound guy, Wayne Bassett; Lynx as the killer and Cat in a cubicle operating the lights. How Will managed to shoot it is an incredible feat of space usage. Full credit to him. We pointed out the toilets were too nice to pass as school toilets. There wasn’t a graffitied penis in sight! And nothing to keep us updated on who fancies who. The teenagers were all really good actors. They were about 15-20 years younger than us and all so much taller. We were old enough to be their mothers and yet there we were, in school uniform, butchering them.

School Hall Slaughter

cramped filming conditions

Day two started earlier, with copying footage over from the SD card to the hard drive. We took over that duty while Huw and Will set up scenes. We took our resistance bands and did glute exercises and flexibility work while the footage transferred then continued editing our novella. By the evening, we were having our hair and makeup done. This was a new experience for us. We cut our own hair rather than face the awkwardness of going to a hairdressers, and having someone close to our faces is incredibly uncomfortable for us. But Rhiannon (makeup) and Hollie (hair) were so lovely that they put us at ease and we were happy for them to do it. And we looked so different!School Hall Slaughter

School Hall Slaughter

Rhiannon doing makeup

We’ve had the same hairstyles for years now. In our younger days, we could age our photos by our hairstyles as they changed every year. Hollie combed it all back, pinned our fringes to the back of our heads then backcombed it. Rhiannon did beautiful dark eye makeup and was excited she finally got to use her red lip pallet. She successfully managed to make our 36 year old faces look 16. People have told Cat that she looks like Fairuza Balk (Nancy from The Craft). We’ve never seen the resemblance. But after the hair and makeup were done, she was almost the spitting image of her, even down to the wide demonic grin. So if Hollywood is reading this and you want to scrap The Craft remake and do a sequel with Nancy’s younger twin sisters, we are available. We also practise witchcraft, so y’know, we got this.

School Hall Slaughter

Hollie working her magic

Despite getting to set at two p.m, we didn’t start filming until 7:15 p.m. Our first scene of the day was the last scene of the film where we sit there looking all innocent after we’ve just slaughtered six people. There wasn’t a dolly on set so Will was bundled onto a trolley and wheeled back and forth to get the smooth zoom in shot. That scene took so long to light due to daylight coming in through the glass doors and windows as it was shot in the building’s foyer. It was probably the most awkward scene, lighting wise. It took hours to set up and about ten minutes to shoot the scene! Lynx’s eyes reacted to the smoke and watered the entire time. It’s so hard trying not to blink when your eyes are stinging and weeping. It was the only time they reacted to the smoke.

School Hall Slaughter

Cat tormenting Boole again

The final scene that day was one of our favourites to shoot as it involved action on our part. We’d actually rehearsed this scene a few weeks ago to make sure we got the timings right. Lynx stabs the victim in the back while Cat leaps on his back and savages him. The actor, Bool, is a lot taller than us, so she needed a run up. Cat had to have a blood-soaked sponge in her mouth to emulate blood seeping down her victim’s wound then smear it all over her face, psycho style. Sitting in blood wasn’t overly pleasant. It was sticky. Her fingers got stuck to her face every time she touched her cheeks on the drive home. When filming, you get used to scenes being cut, changed, added and you just wing it. That is how we like to work, so it suits us. And films never run on schedule. Two of the three days overran by an hour and a half, which isn’t bad. We didn’t get home each night til 1:30 a.m. and got to bed around 2 a.m after cleaning all the blood off and feeding our cats.

School Hall Slaughter

Lynx waiting to torment Boole

Day three was a 9 a.m. start. Full credit to Rhiannon for managing to hide the fact we’d been running on about three hours’ sleep each night. We were surprised when we found out it was the first time she’d done makeup on a film set, as she was so good and professional. Hollie tweaked our hair, which had managed to stay in place. That’s impressive. Our hair is wild and does what it wants but she managed to tame it.

School Hall Slaughter

deadly reflection

The first scenes of the day probably took the longest. They were classroom scenes and we were shooting in an actual school. Cat amused herself by reading dinosaur books in between takes. Pretty sure they drew the raptors wrong. This day, we were fully immersed in the crew roles. We were on clapperboard duty, note taking, holding reflector screens, cleaning up more blood and we provided fruit for the cast and crew. It was the longest shoot day – thirteen hours in total. During a break, Will found exercise equipment in the yard so we abandoned our squats and dashed out to do some pole poses on the high pull up bars. We weren’t in a lot of the scenes until the end, which is why we took on so many crew roles.

School Hall Slaughter

behind the scenes

One scene we’d rehearsed weeks ago, was an action scene involving a sledgehammer. Cat broke her finger when she accidentally slammed it against the wall. That was on the very first practise. She had to redo the action over and over. A month later, she can’t bend the top knuckle. On this day, we were meant to be shooting that scene, but due to previous scene changes, the sledgehammer scene got cut. But at least she has a memento of filming, even if it is a permanently misshapen finger.

School Hall SlaughterHuw wanted Lynx to twirl her machetes while walking down the corridor. Unfortunately, she completely failed at it, whereas Cat was really good, so we switched roles. Cat would twirl the machetes, Lynx would use the sledgehammer, but that scene was then cut due to timing.

School Hall SlaughterThe final scene was our fight scene with lead actress, Amber. Again, we’d rehearsed this one and it hadn’t gone too well. Cat got backhanded across the face for real when she didn’t duck in time. So for this one, she and Amber were very conscious about it. Cat felt her performance was awful in that scene, but hopefully it looks good on screen.

School Hall Slaughter

Anthony and Rhiannon doing Boole’s makeup

We finished on time on the final day then spent a while touring the school, scouring for any blood that needed to be cleaned up. We loved every moment of the shoot. The cast and crew were all lovely and we’d love to work with them again. We’re a lot more comfortable and confident being on a film set now. When we first joined Clownface, we had no idea what we were doing and spent our free time sitting far away from everyone. Now, we know what to do and just get on with it. Though admittedly, we do still spend our breaks on our own. Our first time in front of the camera went smoothly, though we’re glad we got to play creepy killers, as it was an easy role for us. Have we got the acting bug? No. We’d still much rather be crew but if needed to don the role of murderers again, we would say yes.

After all, we are the weirdos.

School Hall Slaughter

The makeup and hair team. Fiann, Anthony, Izzy, Hollie and Rhiannon

Acting Up

Continuing our New Year’s resolution of doing something different, we’ve really thrown ourselves into the challenge this year. By agreeing to act in a short horror film. We are not actors. We are far more comfortable being behind the camera where our creepy faces cannot scare the general public. Unless you’re watching our ghost hunting show, Calamityville Horror, where we want to scare you. We…we make small children cry.

Our friend, Huw asked us to be in his film. Remembering our resolution, we agreed. Our acting experience is best described as ‘standing around looking creepy’. In the past, we have been the Snake Twins in Witches Abroad play (non-speaking, just being creepy), extras in Clownface (non speaking, only face planting), murder victims and newborn demon in our friend Dave’s film (non speaking, only dying) and…that’s it. Not exactly IMDB worthy. We feel slightly guilty as there are a lot of people who want to be actors and don’t get the chance. We don’t want to be actors yet have been asked to be in people’s indie films. It’s all about who you know.

On Saturday, our acting debut began. Huw wanted to film the trailer for his upcoming short horror film, School Hall Slaughter. Check out its Facebook page here. Think 80s style slasher without the big hair and terrible fashion. We play rebellious high school pupils. We’re 36. We were worried there was no way we would pass for 16 year olds. The deepening frown lines and wrinkles under the eyes, the jaded, cynical view of the world and humanity show a maturity we do not feel. However, we are short. Once we were in the uniform, standing next to the taller cast, we did look like teenagers. For once, being the height of twelve year olds is an advantage, and not just for going down mines.

For the main film, our hair and makeup will be done on set. So we showed up for the trailer looking au natural. There was no hair and makeup for the trailer. So our debut for this film is us looking our absolute worst. Hair is a mess, we’re not wearing makeup and we’ve had a lot of early starts over the past week. Yeah…we make small children cry. We’d been cleaning out the animals and walking our dog before we got to set, so we’re just glad we didn’t have hay and sawdust in our hair too.

The building we were filming in was freezing. We kept our beloved hoodies on, which actually helped make us look more like teenagers. Luckily, we were allowed to wear thick tights. Not only did this keep us a bit warmer, it also hid the multiple leg bruises from polefit. Though we hope the camera isn’t amazing quality HD, because we forgot to lint roller the cat hair off. We’re not used to the glamorous life. We filmed for about three hours and did 26 takes. We warned Huw that we were so used to being crew that we would probably just become crew anyway. We kept our promise, taking behind the scenes photos, operating the clapperboard for pick up shots and reminding the lead actress of her lines. Once crew, always crew.

Most of our role involved walking around being creepy. We were surprisingly good at this, even managing to unsettle the other actors a little bit. The minute we spied the prop sledgehammers, that was it. We claimed them and pretended to bludgeon our fellow cast members. We’d done arm day in warrior training the day before, so told them our muscles were primed for bludgeoning. How to win friends, Raven style. We were so worried that we would be terrible at acting. Everyone else on the cast are experienced actors, except us. We know how important this film is to Huw and because he asked us to be in it, we didn’t want to let him down with bad performances. Luckily, he was pleased with what we did. It seems being creepy and vaguely threatening is our forte.

The filming for School Hall Slaughter is in July and we’re really excited about it, especially as we get to do some fight scenes. We just have to make sure we maintain our youthful appearance, so we’ve been stocking up on facial toners and anti wrinkle cream so all of our 36 years don’t start showing on our ageing faces. We need to stop glaring at people. Apparently swapping out our blood for teenagers’ blood is a step too far. We disagree. They should suffer for our art.

If you want to contribute to the making of School Hall Slaughter, please check out the Go Fund Me page.

School Hall Slaughter
Team Slaughter

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.”

That’s A Wrap

ClownfaceIt’s a wrap! Complaining about the cold, sleeping on the director’s floor and managing not to yell at anyone for not washing up. We were back on Clownface! Like the Facebook page. Follow the adventure on Twitter Watch the trailer and the Kickstarter preview scene.

Filming on Clownface finished on Friday, after a final two days of shooting. There’s just pick ups and a final scene left. And we’re sad it’s over.

We drove up to West Bromwich Wednesday night to stay with the director, Alex. Producer, Mark, actors Hannah and Phil and runner, Razz, were also staying in Alex’s one bedroom flat. On the first block of filming, there were eight of us staying so we got used to the cramped conditions. We got there about 9:30 p.m. because we wanted chips before we left. Priorities. It was an early start the next morning as unit call was 8 a.m. and the location, an airbnb house, was 35 minutes away. Desite leaving slightly late, we were still the first to arrive and sat in our car, worried we’d got the wrong house. We went to the front door and creepily watched the owner making sandwiches. Fortunately, the others turned up 15 minutes later before we were arrested for prowling. Not sure Clownface’s budget covers bail fees.

It was a lovely house, if a little small. We thought filming in the cottage was squished, but this was even smaller. One of our jobs on Clownface is set dressing. It’s been our favourite job, apart from working the clapper board. Two days before we were due to be in Birmingham, Mark asked us to gather props to dress Hannah’s character, Jenna’s bedroom. Us “we’ve got nothing.” Mark said it just had to be normal stuff you find in a bedroom. Us “dragons and swords. That’s what is in ours.” Not quite suitable for an ex party girl in her twenties. So we failed in that aspect. We’d used all our non-gothic ornaments to dress the B&B in block one so couldn’t reuse them. Luckily Hannah had brought some old photos of herself so we used them to dress the sets. It was made difficult by the lack of nails in the walls, so some of the photos were stuck up with tape. Sorry Josh!

Cat was on clapper board duty so Lynx took continuity and behind the scenes photos. We also reprised our role of sticking foil to the windows to make it look like night. Hey, you can’t choose the talents you’re given. It was a long day with filming continuing til gone midnight. We haven’t worked on Clownface since November so we forgot how tiring 15 hour shoots can be, especially as we were recovering from a horrible virus that’s been wiping people out. We got quite a bit of reading done during set up times and food times. This time, however, we had no washing up related meltdowns, as a guy called Gene was on hand to do all the washing up. He quickly became our favourite person on set. We didn’t realise we’d be filming outside, so we dressed for indoor filming. It was so cold, we quickly stopped feeling our feet and fingers and threatened to quit. Then when we were back inside, the front door kept being left open, allowing the cold to invade the house and torment us all over again.

We left at 12:15 a.m. as us, Mark and Gene were returning to Alex’s flat, while everyone else was staying on location. There was nothing for us to do, as they were filming a fight scene in the living room and we’d been locked out due to lack of space. Unfortunately, Mark’s SatNav is a complete dick and the 35 minute journey took an hour. It didn’t help that Mark ignored two road closure signs then we ended up heading towards London for ten miles. We resigned ourselves to the long drive and slept through the rest of it. We got back to Alex’s flat at 1:15 a.m. There was no heating on, as the flat had been empty all day, so we slept in our coats. Cat’s air bed had deflated and our pump mysteriously stopped working, so she slept on the floor.

It was another 8 a.m. unit call on Friday, but first the four of us fetched Leah, who’d played Charlotte, from Walsall, as she was helping out for the day. We arrived at half 8 but everyone else was still in their pyjamas so we tin foiled windows and prepared the sets. While Cat operated the clapper board, Lynx spent her time resetting the house to its original condition so it would look like we’d never been there. We only had the house until lunchtime, after which we moved to a street location from the first block. Again, we managed to get to location first, swiftly followed by the DoP, Ben. Because our teams used Google maps on our phones and not SatNav. We had time to eat a yoghurt, some chocolate and settled down for a nap by the time everyone else arrived.

Again, we weren’t dressed for filming outside. This time, while Cat operated the clapper board, Lynx loitered behind a tree with a walkie talkie so Barry the sound guy could capture the clapper on it. We were so glad that Alex only wanted one shot on that scene. Freezing to death before Birmingham Horror Con would’ve been mildly inconvenient. After that, it was back to Alex’s flat for the final scene. Abi, who plays Amy, had brought a whole load of set dressing stuff so we could transform Alex’s bedroom into her room. We also taped one of our skirts to the wall, as it’s a lovely purple satin skirt, so added some colour to break up the plain wall. Again, we put foil on the window.

The final scene was a montage scene and Abi kept everyone amused with a rubber chicken. It was a great way to end the shoot. We left at 6:15 p.m., drove all the way back to Cardiff, saw our animal army then packed our stuff for Birmingham Horror Con. We picked our mate, Dave, from the valleys, played with his dog, Phreak, for a bit and drove back to West Bromwich. We got to Alex’s at 12:15 a.m., quietly dragged our sleeping bags into his bedroom and slept on the floor. Our mum had bought us new batteries for our pump, but we still couldn’t get it working, so Cat slept on cushions. The glamorous life of film making.

The hours have been long, and there were times it was frustrating and cold, but it’s been such an amazing experience. We went from being completely inexperienced, to learning lots of different roles. It was hard at times, being around so many people for so long, but we coped by eating by ourselves and reading, and fortunately, nobody seemed to mind that we needed to be alone in order to keep functioning. When we started, we only knew Mark, Jack and Laura, so found it extremely anxiety-inducing being trapped with a massive group of strangers. But they were all so lovely, that we started feeling comfortable around them. Working on Clownface has been one of our best experiences. We have so many good memories, we’ve learned a ton of new skills and made new friends. And we look forward to many more film projects. As long as we don’t have to do the washing up…

Literary killed the horror genre

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

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

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

Where is the horror?

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Days

Eight Maids MilkingWe have exciting news – our short Christmas horror story, is out now! Eight Maids Milking is part of a charity Christmas horror anthology, edited by Matthew Bob, with all proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Each of the 12 days stories are being released individually as ebooks (you can buy ours here for the UK and US) then they’ll be put together with Christmas carol inspired stories in the 12 Days anthology, which will be released in both ebook and paperback.

Blurb:

Everyone craves the perfect Christmas.
No-one’s prepared to make sacrifices for it.
Except eight sisters who work hard every year to give people the Christmas they see in TV adverts. The world doesn’t appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go in to making Father Christmas’s suit and sleigh every year. Of course, it’s not the sisters’ blood, sweat and tears, but their victims. One kiss under the mistletoe and their chosen men become unwilling sacrifices to the ancient festive god, who looks nothing like children’s books depict. At least, not until he uses his magic to transform himself from a nightmare into the fat, drink-driving present-giver children love.
And the typical jolly little elves are false advertising compared to the miserable, hideous, Christmas-hating elves employed in the workshop. Their faces are enough to curdle the eggnog. But secrets are what make this time of year special. And no-one can ever guess the special ingredient in Mother Christmas’s Secret Santa Pies. But it’s definitely not turkey.
This December, be careful who you kiss under the mistletoe. Or this Christmas, you may jingle your bells for the last time.

Also, Silent Dawn’s ebook is now available for pre-order! You can pre-order it in the UK and US.Silent Dawn

Con Artists

We spent our weekend watching serial killers roam free, taking photos of zombies  and strangling Jason Voorhees. No, we weren’t living the horror movie dream, we were selling our books at Horror Con UK in Rotherham.

Horror Con UKThis was the con’s second year of running and our first of attending. We picked up our mate, Dave, who was trading under his prop/SFX company, From The Shadows, at midday on Friday. Satnav said it would take three and half hours, leaving us plenty of time to get there by 5 p.m. The hall was open until then for people to set up the night before. We were so confident we’d be there on time that we actually stuck to the speed limit. So Fate decided to punish our good behaviour (as she always does. Bitch) by providing plenty of traffic jams and 40 mph zones. We pulled in to the Magna Science Centre at 4:52 p.m. Some speed limits may have been…ignored.

Horror Con UKWishing all sorts of unholy hell on the god of traffic jams, we hurried in and tried to find our tables. The woman at reception directed us to the big hall, as we didn’t even know which hall we were in. After wandering for a bit, trying to spot our names or someone in charge, Dave asked a trader who pointed us in the direction of Gill, who was running it. She led us to our tables and let us bring our stuff in.

Horror Con UKWe’d originally planned to just dump our stuff and find a pub, but decided we’d rather have longer in bed in the morning, so set up our tables. Everyone else had covered their merchandise with cloths. As this was only our second con and our first two day one, we didn’t think to bring cloths. Safe in the knowledge nobody would ever want to nick our books, we left to check into our Welcome Inn. It turned out, a lot of people from Horror Con were at the Welcome Inn. After such a stressful drive, the only way to save the evening was to find a nice pub. Lynx found one called The Droppingwell three minutes down the road. It became our local for the weekend. Dave’s friend, Sam, joined us.

Horror Con UKFor once, we decided to behave like adults and left the pub at 10:40 to get an early night. Then ended up watching horror films until gone midnight. Best intentions and all that jazz. We stumbled into the Magna Science Centre at 8:45 a.m. and were bored by 9. The doors didn’t open ’til 10. Another author came over to chat to us to see if we had the traders passes we were supposed to. We didn’t. We then spotted a guy with a bunch of them and plotted to mug him. Several hours later, we realised we actually knew this author on Twitter – Mark Cassell, who wrote The Shadow Fabric. Plotting to mug a man for lanyards is probably one of the milder things we’ve done when first meeting someone.

Horror Con UK

Jack and James

Jack and James, who are two thirds of our favourite ghost hunting team, had a table in the Red Hall. Jack was selling his first book, Winter Smith: London’s Burning, a zombie novel, which is excellent. The guys from Hellbound Media were also there. We first met them in Bristol Horror Con in October and lured one half of them, Mark, into friendship with Love Hearts.

Horror Con UK

with Mark Cassell

Things were slow at first, but the crowds soon arrived. There were so many fantastic costumes, which made us realise how lazy we are. They put all that effort into it and we admire them for it. We can’t be arsed. We barely bother putting makeup on, let alone all the makeup effects they went to. Some days, for us, making an effort means lint rollering the pet hair off our clothes. At the end of our row of tables was a bar, so we were hoping for drunk purchases the customer would regret in the morning. Sadly it didn’t happen. We also had a bowl of sweets to tempt people to our table. Most declined and it felt creepy offering them to kids. We almost felt like we should have had the Child Catcher van behind us and adopt witchy voices: “want some caaanndy little child?”

Horror Con UK

with Roger

Our Twitter friend, Roger came all the way from Liverpool to meet us, which was brilliant. He bought us a drink, so thanks Roger! We met a guy called Steven from ASSAP (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena). We probably should’ve tried to impress him with our ghost hunting expertise. Instead we told him all about Calamityville Horror and uttered the words “Worst. Ghost hunters. Ever.” But he bought a copy of Deadly Reflections so he obviously wasn’t put off.

Horror Con UK

Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Aka Phil and Steve

Two photographers came to our table while Lynx was absent and they asked if they could photograph Cat. She agreed and after quite a few photos were taken, one of the photographers showed her a photo. Cat “That’s a rare decent photo of me!” Then she noticed her corset had slipped down a bit and some cleavage had made a bid for freedom. A red leopard print bra is not the best thing to wear under a black corset. She also got yoghurt in her eye in front of a customer. It seems our Calamityville level of professionalism stalked us to the con.

Horror Con UK

Jigsaw

We’d hoped to spot Kane Hodder walking around, but sadly didn’t. At 6 p.m., we went to snag him for a photo, only to see him disappear out the back. There was only one way to end a day of selling – in the pub. This time, Jack, James and Mark Cassell joined us. It’s surprisingly exhausting standing behind a table all day being sociable when you’re used to sitting in a shed not speaking to anybody. The six of us were all knackered in the pub and called it a night at 10:30 p.m. We then watched another horror film.

Horror Con UK

con artists

After another bad night’s sleep, we shuffled into the hall at 9 and were ready for a nap at 9:30. Sunday was much quieter. We didn’t sell anything for the first two hours and trade barely picked up. It wasn’t just us who weren’t selling anything. A lot of traders seemed to have the same problem. We kept ourselves amused by minding Dave and Mark’s tables and drawing penises on guitar plectrums for Dave to sell – dick picks. One guy wanted a pick with shaved testicles on it. Cat happened to draw manscaped testicles on her picks. It was a proud moment when he bought her pick. The Red Hall was in the main entrance, so while on the Saturday it got the crowds coming through, on Sunday, the crowds were let in through a different door, so the Red Hall was dead all day. We would’ve moved all the traders into the one hall for that day, or at least into the corridor outside the big hall.

Horror Con UK

from The Conjuring 2

We’d spotted Kane Hodder walking back to his table so scuttled after him, only to see him disappear out the back. Cursing the fates, we returned to our table. At 4ish, we hadn’t sold anything for a couple of hours, so went to queue at Kane’s table, taking our Friday the 13th box set for him to sign. We were so nervous – our hearts were pounding, our mouths were dry. We’d already met Freddy Krueger and now we were finally about to meet the longest running Jason Voorhees. Luckily, the couple in front of us eased the tension with dick jokes with Kane, so we joined in. Yes, we made dick jokes with Kane Hodder. We are absolutely not sorry about this.

Horror Con UKWhen we got to the front, Kane asked if we were underage, what with all the dick jokes. He didn’t believe us when we said we were 33. He was wearing his Hollywood Ghost Hunters T-shirt so we told him about Calamityville and said we’d seen the episode of Ghost Adventures where they teamed up, and mentioned the time we met the Ghost Adventures Crew in Vegas. Kane “Did Zak hit on you?” Us “No.” Kane “You’re kidding? Really? He didn’t hit on you?” Us “Billy chatted to us for ages.” He seemed shocked. As Cat lined up the camera, Kane had the back of Lynx’s neck in his trademark grip. He usually strangles people in photos, or does the Jason head squeeze. So we pretended to strangle him while he hugged us. After the photo, he squeezed us tight and wouldn’t let us go. The people queuing laughed the longer it went on. Bear hugged by Kane Hodder – what a way to end the weekend.

Horror Con UK

Sam from Trick R Treat

And then Cat nearly got locked in the toilets with 70s/80s B Horror movie icon Linnea Quigley. Security were locking up and Cat and Linnea happened to be in neighbouring toilet cubicles. They commented on how fun it would be to get locked in the centre all night and Linnea was all for it. Then she said how much she loved Cat’s outfit. Cat repaid the compliment. Her dress was gorgeous and she has such an amazing figure. And she’s the same height as us! We always think of Hollywood sex icons as being tall but nope. She was lovely. She asked what Cat was selling at the Con so she said we were horror writers and Linnea thought that was really cool. Not as cool as being a horror icon! We just sit in a shed all day making things up between bouts of napping and feeding the cats.

Horror Con UKWe had a fantastic weekend and met loads of great people. Our only criticism is that we had to pay £35 extra to have two traders at our table, whereas at every other con, you get a table and two chairs automatically. We’d argued this when booking and were told we were paying for the extra trader’s pass. Pretty sure the lanyards and laminated passes don’t cost £35. When you factor in two nights’ accommodation and petrol, it makes it much harder to make a profit. And as traffic wasn’t going through the Red Hall on the second day, those traders should’ve been moved. Thanks to everyone who bought a book/pen/jewellery, or who took the time to speak to us. Thanks Roger for the drinks and coming all that way to meet us, and thanks Peter for keeping us company at the end of the event and for helping us load our car. And to Dave for being our awesome travelling companion and con buddy. We get to do it all over again in two weeks time for Sanitarium Horror Con. We’ve only just finished unpacking and now we have to pack again as we leave for Paris on Thursday. The catacombs are calling us.P1170143

 

Romance Is Dead Again

Romance Is Dead C L RavenHappy beheaded saint’s day! Once again we are celebrating/mocking this day of love with our annual collection of anti-Valentine’s stories. Romance Is Dead trilogy is out now! And you can buy it here: Amazon UK Amazon US Smashwords.

Blurb:

Don’t give your lover roses, give them nightmares.

Ten disturbing stories about the dangers of falling in love. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like giving your lover a heart for Valentine’s. Especially when it’s ripped from their body before they’ve drawn their last breath.

“I’d made a terrible mistake. I should have killed him in the shower.”

Gone are the expensive chocolates in fancy packaging, the wilting roses from the petrol station forecourt and the heart-print boxer shorts. Valentine’s is about to get bloody. And some unfortunate lovers will learn the true meaning of ‘til death us do part.’

Real love is worth killing for.

To celebrate we’re giving away a love spoon and a signed copy of Romance Is Dead. The signed copies aren’t here yet but you’ll get them as soon as they’re available. The competition is inspired by a game of Cards Against Humanity we were playing with our mates Tom, Amy & Bryn. All you have to do is finish this Cards Against Humanity card:

‘A romantic candlelit dinner would be incomplete without…’

You can make it as funny/dark/inappropriate as you like. In the game we played, Tom won with ‘oncoming traffic’.

You can comment here with your answers, tweet them to @clraven or comment on our Facebook page. Good luck.

Romance Isn’t Dead

Romance is Dead C L RavenWhether you’re going to celebrate Valentine’s the traditional way by beheading a saint, or the modern way by buying roses, we’re going to celebrate  by releasing Romance Is Dead! Buy it here – Amazon US  Amazon UK  Smashwords

Blurb:

Three dark stories that won’t give your lover butterflies, but nightmares. A fallen goddess enacts gruesome revenge on anyone who wrongs her; an artist turns a romance play into a horror story; and a hopeless romantic ensures his lovers live forever. They all share one belief: real love is worth killing for.

Finally, the last book in the anti-Valentine’s trilogy is out. It’s a sad moment. We’re going to miss our bloody attack on this romantic day. But like all monsters, this might not be the end. We’re thinking of releasing a print version next year with the three books combined, plus a bonus story. Perhaps a Trey prequel.

Siren's CallBut that’s not all. We have another gift for you. No, it’s not someone’s ripped out heart. Strangely, we couldn’t find any willing sacrifices. Our mermaid story, A Mermaid’s Kiss, has been published in Siren’s Call’s Women In Horror issue and it’s FREE to download! Download it here  We love their Miss Voorhees cover.