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.

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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.

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.

D-Day

Lately we seem to be aiming for extremely tight deadlines. When we say tight, we mean one week. One week to come up with a story, write it then edit it to death. The first story we did this for was BlackJack for Rebecca Fisk’s blog. In case you missed it, click here. We didn’t have a deadline for it, but we wanted to get it to her as quickly as possible, because we were already working on 5 other short stories. The second story that had the short deadline was Memento Mori, for Elena Jacob’s blog. You can read it here . This one actually had a deadline of 5 days. Both of those stories are 1000 words, so they didn’t take long to write or edit. But they were a challenge – we’d never written flash fiction and now we had 2 of them. Challenge accepted!

This new one is different. We’ve only just found out about an anthology, Black Apples, which wants gothic fairytales, with edgy fairytale princesses, 3000-10,000 words. Our first thought was ‘Once Upon a Nightmare’, our horror Red Riding Hood story from Disenchanted. Then we read the dreaded words ‘no reprints’. Bugger. We desperately wanted to get in the anthology. We belong in gothic fairytales! But we had 8 days, no story and no idea what to write. And we’d struggled filling the 10 slots in Disenchanted. So what did we do? We decided to write another fairytale. We figured Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast would be the most popular as they are princesses. So we picked Red Riding Hood. We’ve always preferred this one. Maybe ‘cos her happiness doesn’t involve marrying a prince. But could we do something different to ‘Once Upon A Nightmare’? Within five minutes we decided she should be a witch, the big bad wolf is her familiar, a she-wolf named Solstice and the wood cutter is a witch hunter. Boom. Then Cat switched on the laptop and started the story.

In just under two hours, we’d written 1200 words then stopped ‘cos it was getting late. By late afternoon yesterday, after the iguana had his bath, Lynx finished the story, at just over 4000 words. We squeezed in two edits before Zumba last night and another one this morning. Now the story is 5000 words long. We have 6 days ’til the deadline. Our biggest obstacle? The damn title. And as soon as that deadline hits, we have a month to polish and format the stories for Bad Romance. And start on the trailer. Ooh there’s another deadline for the end of the month. And we turn 30 3 days after Bad Romance is released so really need to look in to hiring a bouncy castle. We’re also in the middle of writing our next article for Haunted Magazine and have to squeeze in a 10 hour round trip to visit the location…

Hello, Tesco? Red Bull to go please.

Short and Sweet

We’re pleased to announce the writer’s block we suffered from has lifted! We have NaNoWriMo and Bleeding Empire to thank for that. Since finishing Bleeding Empire, we’ve been working on our short stories again. We’re releasing Bad Romance, the follow-up to Gunning Down Romance, on Valentine’s, so we figured we’d better get cracking with the stories. We’d already written two – one about a troll who targets dating sites and one about a ghost bride, but they were written during our block and are quite frankly terrible. So bad, we had two choices – rewrite them or chain them up on in a box and bury them in rock salt. And we need to save our rock salt for when the demons come. So we’ve rewritten the ghost bride one and are shelving the troll one for Romance is Dead. Now to think of the third one…must contain horror and humour. Because we find gore amusing 😀 We’re twisted like that.

We’re also trying our hand at YA. Dark Moon Digest, who published The Ferryman in January 2012, emailed asking if we’d be interested in writing a YA story for a special YA issue of their horror magazine. We said yes and immediately had one in mind. Has anyone played the horror game Slender? It’s free to download and well worth a go. It’s scary. Basically you’re in the woods at night with a torch and you have to collect 8 pages whilst avoiding the Slender Man, a creepy faceless man in a suit who stands there looking terrifying. Oh and partway through, your torch dies. So far, our highest page count is 4. We tend to get lost in the woods. But if you’ve seen Calamityville Horror, that won’t surprise you. Our plan of action with the game is to panic when we see him, run in the opposite direction, get lost then accidentally run into him. Like. A. Boss.

Then we were challenged by Rebecca Fisk to write a story that had to include 3 words she gave us – blackjack, braid and cistern. Totally random. But we love a challenge and within a few hours, had a 1000 word story. We won’t spoil it by revealing what it’s about, you’ll have to wait for her blog. We had no idea what we were going to write, even up to the point where we’d opened the Word document. Staring at the blinking cursor kicked the muse awake and the story was born. Then on Sunday one of our Tweeps, Elena Jacob asked us and some other people to write a 1000 word ghost story for her blog. The deadline is Friday. Most of them said they didn’t have time. We said “we’ll do it!” And we did. In fact, within 2 hours, we’d written it. It’s a crossover of two very old Welsh ghost stories involving sunken villages. Usually we like to do several redrafts and give a story time off so we can come back to it objectively, but at least at 1K it doesn’t take long to redraft so we should have it whipped into shape by Friday. And if it sucks…we’ll just change our name 😀