Write Stuff

It’s been a while since we blogged about anything writing-related. Mostly because it would be boring for us to tell you how we spent several minutes rearranging a sentence to cut one word, or how we used ‘find and replace’ to make sure we hadn’t used the same adjective too many times. Not to mention getting rid of framing and passive voice. We save that exciting talk for each other.

But we have been busy. Mostly waiting for news of rejections or acceptances. Ok, let’s be honest, rejections. In January, we’d submitted Soul Asylum and Bleeding Empire to Gollanzc, and Silent Dawn to Angry Robot – two publishers that had rare open submission windows. We probably won’t hear about Silent Dawn  for another couple of months. Soul Asylum was rejected in February, but we haven’t heard back about Bleeding Empire. We’re trying to pretend no news is good news, but in reality, we’re convinced they didn’t receive it and we’re waiting for news that will never come. Like casting a message in a bottle out to sea, not knowing that it was found by a diver who was then eaten by a shark. In a way, it’s frustrating, because we’d planned to release Bleeding Empire in June/July but can’t until we hear back. We plan to work on it and get it ready for publication so if/when it’s rejected, we can release it ourselves.

The past couple of months we’ve been entering lots of competitions. We entered five last month and eight this month. Though we’ve also submitted two stories to magazines this month, taking our submission count to 10. May has a further 10 competitions we’ve marked to enter but they’re not ’til the end of the month so we might take a break to edit Bleeding Empire before the panic sets in.

Our Twlwyth Teg story, Exchange Rate was shortlisted in the Flash 500 competition. We were thrilled because we wrote it five years ago, sent it out twice, it didn’t get anywhere, so we left it alone until last year when we reworked it and submitted it once. Again, it didn’t get anywhere. We edited it again this year and it was shortlisted. We found out it didn’t get placed on Sunday, so entered it into another competition which was closing Monday. We’re the kind of writers who enter competitions either on deadline day, or the day before, maximizing the amount of time we can work on the story. It’s a vast improvement on high school when we just didn’t bother doing our homework – we were too busy writing. And we liked having lunchtime detentions. It meant we did our homework without taking up valuable writing time and we didn’t have to socialise with the twats who made our lives a misery. Win-win!

We got another rejection on Monday then on Wednesday, we were longlisted in the Bath Novel Award! Out of 1,063 novels, there were 39 on the longlist. We didn’t expect to get anywhere and don’t expect to get further than this. We’re not allowed to say which is ours, but you can read the long list and see if you can guess.

Some Calamityville news – we’ve been editing the first of our Woodchester Mansion special for months and on Sunday, the hard drive disconnected from the laptop. As Lynx opened it up again, it reminded her she hadn’t saved the changes. She clicked save. It saved the disconnected version, the blank version, deleting four months of editing. We now have to start all over again. The meltdown was epic. Think Hulk stubbing his toe after a really shit day. So this week has basically been a week of pathetic fallacy – mood matching the weather. Sunshine and showers.

But we have been asked to appear on an author panel at Bristol Horror Con. We probably should’ve asked what it entailed before agreeing. Hoping it’s not some Game of Thrones style death match now. We’ll be dressed nicely and blood leaves a stain.

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.

We see dead people

Fuelled by our love of ghosts and our ghost hunting show, Calamityville Horror, in March we decided our next release would be a collection of ghost stories. 13, to be precise. It’s our favourite number and one most associated with horror. Even better was we already had 8 stories written. Simple. We would have this collection out in no time!

It’s now the end of July. And we still have one story left to write.

The problem is, after writing 8 ghost stories, we kinda ran out of ideas. This happened with Disenchanted when after 8 stories, we ran out of ideas on how to twist the fairy tales. And one of these ghost stories was entered into Writing Magazine’s paranormal story competition. If it won, that left us with 7 stories for our collection. But it would earn us a lot more money by itself than the entire collection would ever earn us. Yes, we know there’s a romantic notion of starving artists writing for the love of their craft, but this is reality. Romanticism doesn’t pay the bills, or keep us in Red Bull.

The story didn’t win. So we remain poor but at least it gives us one less story to write. Yay. Sort of. Whilst we were waiting to hear if we’d won, we killed time by editing two novels and going ghost hunting.

Our overnight ghost investigation at Rothley’s Edwardian train station gave us one story. A ghost legend about wraiths and another about a ghost smuggler in a British ghosts book gave two more. Then we watched the film Mama. It was based on a 3 minute film of the same title. So we watched both versions and the director said he loved the original film because it was very short and very scary. We decided we should do the same. Write a very short, very scary story. We just needed an idea. We’ve always loved the creepiness of ghost brides; except we created a ghost bride in our Bad Romance trilogy, and really, what else could we do with a dead bride? But we had no other ideas. The tricky thing was making it completely different to Kill the Bride. We think we’ve managed this but we’re so desensitised to horror that it takes a lot to scare us, and we never find our work scary.

But this week we feel we’re finally making progress. We’ve got a collection of images for the trailer and have made a file of potential music tracks to go with them.  8 of the stories have been printed out double spaced – this is our final stage. The error check. We look for mistakes, repetition in words or phrases with all the stories and make any last changes before once again handing them to our mum for an extra pair of eyes. Two of the remaining stories have been subjected to more redrafts this weekend because we’re still not happy with them. Actually it’s very rare we ever feel a story is ‘done’ and these two are actually the oldest in the collection.

We still have one to write. Luckily, we know what this one will be about. So hopefully by Tuesday the final story will be finished then the intensive redrafts can begin to bring it up to the same standard as the others, which are way ahead. We’re aiming for an August/September release and it finally feels like it’s happening.

Two of the stories still don’t have titles. Neither does the last, unwritten one. Did we say August/September? We meant October…

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.

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 😀

Brothers and Sisters

We’re taking a day off our blog to take command of 90 Days Novel’s. You may remember from our Se7en blog that they’re brothers who have set themselves an amazing challenge to write, edit and release their debut novel in 90 days. And for some reason, they’ve decided to take a break from their excellent blog to allow us on as their first ever guests. Seriously, we wouldn’t give us to the keys to a blog 😀 But they trust us not to sink them and we’ll do our best. Though accidents happen 😀 So come over and see us in our new surroundings. *Looking around* it’s rather nice here – friendly, professional, well-maintained. We look more intelligent just sitting here. Think we might stay a while.


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