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.

Bloody Valentine

Gunning Down RomanceTo celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day on January 25th, Gunning Down Romance is free all week! We started writing anti Valentine’s stories a few years ago, after being sick to death of hearts and teddies and gushing soppy Valentine’s crap that gets shoved in your face every February. Then in 2012 we decided to take the plunge and start self-publishing. We thought what better way to do it than put together our anti-Valentine’s stories and release them as a collection to help those who are sick of the holiday as we are. We only had 2 stories  – The Black Kiss and Til Death Us Do Part, both of which had been previously published. We just needed one more. And so Kiss of Death was written.

St Dwynwen’s Day is the Welsh Valentine’s Day. Dwynwen was the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog in the 5th century. She fell in love with Maelon but her father had already arranged for her to marry someone else. Maelon raped her then left her. She prayed to God for help to forget Maelon. An angel appeared and gave her a potion that would help her forget him and turn him to ice. God then granted her three wishes. She prayed that Maelon be thawed, that true lovers find happiness together and that she never falls in love again. So we’re not exactly far out when we decided to turn Valentine’s Day into a horror celebration. After all, St Valentine was beaten with clubs and then beheaded.

Also in celebration, GDR’s sequel, Bad Romance will be free Feb 3-7th and the final in the trilogy, Romance is Dead will be released Feb 14th. Because real love is worth killing for.

Watch GDR’s trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8BYiu3PRTE

Master of Puppets

On Friday, we finished editing one of our older novels, Legion of the Damned. We wrote it in 2008 (we think) but after writing Bleeding Empire, thought it would be a good idea to release it as Bleeding Empire’s sequel. Legion features demons that have escaped from Hell and have cool powers. Think evil superheroes but without the capes and their own action figures. The problem was, it was 162,000 words. It needed to go on a major diet. So we starved it, forced it into a gym and cracked the whip until it broke into sweat and begged for mercy. When we were close to the end, we realised the document was missing 6 chapters. The novel was in fact 185,000 words. After a brief swearing fit, we carried on hacking through it with our machete. Also known as the delete button. In the end we managed to cut 63,000 words. So it’s still too long and still needs a lot of work. Probably a major rewrite in some parts. We used to like this book.

Most people, after finishing a novel edit would probably take a few days off. On Saturday, we were at a loss of what to do. So we wrote the final story for Romance Is Dead, the final part of the anti-Valentine’s trilogy. This story (unnamed) will conclude the Trey and Sol story. If you haven’t read Gunning Down Romance and Bad Romance, you have until February 14th. They’re only 77p/99c. The title Master of Puppets would’ve been perfect but that’s a story in Disenchanted, so like most of our stuff, it will probably remain title-less until near publication. They are our nemesis.

We were discussing Trey’s progression from mannequins to paralysed models and wanted to continue the trend. We both said “puppets” at the same time. When the Twin Power is switched on, it really is useful. Today we read through ‘Til Death us do Part and Still Life, which feature Trey and Sol, to make sure we had Trey’s narrative voice right. Turns out, puppets are mentioned in both stories. It’s like past us planted Easter Eggs to hint at things to come. It would’ve been nice if past us had told future us about this. We’ve been trying to think up a plot since August. But still, it makes us look clever. Even if it was by accident.