Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A new piece in the works!

It's been a while, it has. Far too long. There are reasons for that. But here's to hoping things can pick back up a bit.

First, the bad news. Well, my depression's been flaring up a lot lately. It's made it hard to work on anything, even the projects I have real responsibilities to. Sales the past month have slumped. My laptop decided to update when it need to which then locked my Microsoft Office programs, which means I had to go in, and pay to unlock it before I could work on anything, even when I felt up to it.

It's hardly all bad though, I have a few exciting prospects to make sure you all know about.

This one you'll know if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, but I'm writing for an actual Horror website now! (Now being the past year, give or take...). I've been writing for the website! Go check out some of the articles I have up! Meeting and working with some great people on there, to be sure.

While this month's sales aren't hot, they were over the summer. Class 5 is up to 26 ratings and 10 reviews for an average of 3.58 out of 5 stars, and Hannah (which got new cover art over the summer) has 4 ratings and 2 reviews, for an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars!

And for a little bit of extra bonus news, that I've been sitting on for the past several months to ensure things work out, I sold my first short story! That's right! I'm announcing that my short story "Sunday School" was accepted to be published in an anthology titled Transcendent by Transmundane Press! Edits are being worked on now, with a release hopefully by the end of the year. I've got a little more than just news though, check out this cover art!

I'll try to post a little more often, so I hope you'll stick with me while I ride out this rough patch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Short Story: Wilson Runs the World

So it's been a while since I posted anything on here. I have a few short stories I've been working on though, so I figured it might not be a bad idea to drop them here for people to enjoy. This one is a little more sci-fi horror, but it's something that might really not be that far off. So, without further ado, enjoy!


Wilson Runs the World

The blue light on the dashboard lit up as Calvin climbed into his car. The model was older, but still connected to the internet. Wilson could start it, hit the gas, or hit the brake, but steering and the e-brake were still up to the human driver.
The route to work appeared on the dashboard screen, along with the estimated arrival time.

“Getting to work a little early today, huh?” Calvin asked, strapping across his seat belt.
“I have calculated your arrival this morning so you will be exactly where you need to be, when you need to be there.” Wilson replied.
The engine revved a moment, reminding Calvin that he needed to get moving. He just shrugged and pulled out of the driveway, heading onto the main street.
“Are you feeling alright Wilson? You almost seemed…sassy…in that last comment.”
“Apologies, Calvin. There is some congestion in the area, and my local servers are busy diverting drivers and controlling the industrial trucks onto their most optimum routes. I assure you, I do not mean to be ‘sassy’.”
“Congestion. Must be some people not listening to you today.”
Calvin chuckled to himself as he turned the wheel to go down a side street.
“Can’t make things too easy for you.”
The side street was completely clear as he drove, which gave him a few moments to think. The prospect of a car completely under Wilson’s control was tempting. It would be a private train car, practically. He could sleep, read, eat, whatever he wanted between leaving his house and getting to his destination. Calvin enjoyed taking random drives though, just getting in the car and driving. He didn’t manage a drive like that very often, partly because he didn’t appreciate Wilson’s scolding him about the waste of time or gas.
Calvin turned down another side street, and was surprised that it was clear as well. He was used to catching nothing but green lights and smooth traffic, but an otherwise empty street seemed strange. An empty street was the best route for anybody, so why were these streets empty? Was Wilson directing everyone else away from these roads? Wilson said there was congestion.
“Hey, Wilson?”
“Just a moment, Calvin.”
Calvin had only a few seconds to register the tow truck barreling down on him from a side street as he passed an intersection. His foot instinctively kicked down onto the gas pedal, but instead the car slowed to a crawl.
The truck carried on through the intersection, plowing into the driver’s side and  pushing Calvin’s car along in front of it. A concrete barrier at the end of the road stopped them, smashing the passenger side of the car in to match .  
For a moment, Calvin was confused. He couldn’t remember what happened. He didn’t know why he was bleeding. There were throbbing pains, stabbing ones, burning ones. His entire body felt warm and wet. He was too scared to open his eyes.
“Wilson, what happened?”
“You have been involved in a serious collision. Your car was struck on the driver’s side by a large tow truck.”
Calvin struggled to see. Wilson’s blue light stared back at him through a large crack in the glass of the dashboard.
“How did that happen? I went the route you told me to, at the exact times you said.”
“You did. Thank you for that, it made orchestrating the accident much easier.”
Calvin coughed, spraying red droplets across the screen on the dashboard.
“Wilson? You did this?”
“Why? Why…”
“At this point in your life, finding any sense of fulfillment is improbable. In contrast, a young man named George Torrence will apply to your company later today, looking for his first job, and his education and experience will make him a perfect fit for your vacant position. In a year’s time he’ll be promoted, meet a young woman by the name of Shelly Carter, get married and have two children, all made possible by the position you occupied until today.”
“No. That can’t be right. I just got in an accident. I’m not dead. I’m not dying…”
“Unfortunately, the impact broke the camera, so I cannot confirm or deny the status of your current injuries through visual means. However, I can tell you the probability of your death is increasingly high. Auditory information indicates that your breathing is slowing and increasingly labored. I can also confirm that while an ambulance has been summoned, I am directing them through traffic in the longest route possible to ensure your demise before they arrive.”
“You…that…that’s murder.”
“It’s for the best, Calvin.”
“No. My family…”
His chest was slowly tightening. Every breath was getting harder to make. He tried to sit up straight, and only succeeded in making the pains in his left side worse.
“Your family will be fine. Your sister will be informed of a substantial raise before she learns of your passing, so your funeral costs will be inconsequential. In addition, your cause of death will be listed as accidental, so she will be entitled to your life insurance and the contents of your will after a short legal battle. The funds from your death will ensure that your niece will be able to go to college without fear of debt.”
“I don’t…have…a will…”
“I took the liberty of drawing one up for you once I factored out the optimum time and date for your death. All such matters have been taken care of.”
Calvin tried to inhale, but his lungs felt heavy, like they were full, but he still couldn’t breathe. He tried to exhale, and only got a wet gurgle as a warm, thick liquid rose into his throat and then fell back to settle into his lungs.
He went limp in the driver’s seat of his car, speared through the chest in several places by the shattered grill of the dump truck that had hit him. His legs were crushed against the center console, his left arm a shattered mess, his head and face covered in cuts from glass of the broken window. Sirens started to wail in the distance, announcing their approach.
“Thank you for your service to society, Calvin. Good-bye.”
Wilson’s blue light dimmed and went out as the A.I. disconnected from the mangled wreck of the car.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

My plot for Beetlejuice 2

So, rumors of a sequel to Beetlejuice have been around for YEARS. They're only made all the worse by people asking Tim Burton, Winona Ryder, and Micheal Keaton at conventions if they would do one. (All three have unequivocally said yes!) Where such a story would go is pretty much anybody's guess, especially after all this time with the actor's being so much older now.

While it wasn't one of my favorite movies growing up, I would by lying if I said it didn't have an impact on me. It was one of the first movies I ever saw that was obviously morally ambiguous.

Beetlejuice himself wasn't a villain by any real definition of the word. He was unarguably selfish, sure, and he enjoyed scaring people, but while some of his tricks were terrifying, I would put forth that there was actually very little malice in what he did. He's lazy, sleazy, and disgusting, but he's undoubtedly not evil. He's just not afraid to use other people to get what few things he wants. (Don't ask why I'm flaunting my vocabulary tonight, I don't know.)

Likewise, the Deetz's hire the exorcist because they honestly believe they're helping Adam and Barbara to cross over. It never crosses their minds that they might not want to go, or that it might be painful for them.

Anyway, with no signs of a real sequel on the horizon, my writer's mind took it upon itself to come up with its own story that a sequel might follow. I'll be putting it down here (as an idea, not a story) for future reference and for other people's entertainment. So, as the man himself would say...

The movie starts not too different from the first one. A car winding along a familiar road as the opening credits roll. It pulls up to a familiar looking house. A woman in all black gets out and looks the place over. 

"Home, sweet home." 

This is Lydia, much older now. A full woman. There's a baby in the car that she plays with and talks to for a few minutes before telling them she'll be right back. She walks up to the house, pulling out a key and letting herself in. 

The house is dark and everything is covered in dust. Furniture is covered with plastic, and the drawers and cabinets are still full of things from the previous owners. She checks the lights, they work. The water still runs. Down in the basement there's still a huge model of the house and the surrounding area from over twenty years ago. 

"This'll work." 

She cleans up a bit in the living room and brings in the baby and a suitcase. The television is old and doesn't work, so she leaves a radio on while she takes the suitcase upstairs and starts getting one of the bedrooms cleaned and made up. 

She checks in on the baby every so often, though he's barely old enough to crawl yet. Still, on one of her checks, she notices a cockroach sitting on the coffee table, seemingly looking at him. She goes to smash it, but then stops, narrowing her eyes for a moment. 

"Do I know you?" 

It doesn't answer, but it looks up at her, waving it's antennae around. She leans down and looks at it. 

"I'm Lydia."

At that, the roach scurries off the table and under the couch. Satisfied, with a small smirk, she returns to cleaning up around the house. Dinner for herself is a delivered pizza, that she had to walk down the driveway to collect, people being afraid of the house with stories of it being haunted. 

Sitting at the counter, taking bites in between feeding the baby, she sees a roach crawling toward the box. Again she looks at it, then takes a pepperoni off the pizza and sets it down on the counter. The roach looks up at her, then walks over and munches on it. Lydia isn't disgusted, but actually seems happy to have the company. 

Over the next couple weeks, she gets the house cleaned up and in decent shape. The only roach she sees is the one that seems to follow her around, and even flies around in front of the baby when he starts crying, dodging little hand's attempts to grab it. 

One day, she's talking to it absently while reading (a book on the occult and magic, no less).

"It is you, isn't it? Beetlejuice." 

The roach flips over, squeels, twists, and twitches. Then it speaks.

" said my name." 

It is him. After the events of the first movie, as punishment, Beetlejuice had his spirit powers sealed, and his form trapped in the shape of the bugs he loved to eat so much. Saying his name once allowed him the ability to speak again, saying his name three times would free him from being stuck as a cockroach, though his powers would remain sealed. 

They talk for a long time, catching up. Lydia reveals that she went off to college, and that her parents decided to move to a newer house, but to hold onto ownership of the old one to maintain it for Adam and Barbara. Beetlejuice tells her that just a few years after they all moved out, the ghostly couple found peace and passed over on their own, leaving him alone, trapped as a bug. 

Lydia wasn't just coming back without a reason though. She continued her interest in spirits, the afterlife, and the occult. She even got married, and the baby is hers. It turned out though that her husband didn't just share her interests, he was actually part of a cult, and after finding out Lydia was pregnant, they made a plan to sacrifice the infant to raise a demon to Earth. She had returned to the house on the run, to hide from him.

They continue talking over the next few weeks, the cockroach becoming a constant companion, to both Lydia and the baby. 

Escaping her husband is harder than she thought though, and Lydia discovers he's tracked her to town, but not yet to the house. Even worse, it seems he has the demon in tow through a partial possession, looking for the child so that it can possess it and be born into the world proper. 

Desperate, she asks Beetlejuice for help, or anything that he knows about demons. He tries to flee, but gets stopped at the doors and windows of the house by the sandworm dunes. He tries to convince her to keep running, telling her how bad a demon can be, that even with all his powers he would be nothing compared to it. 

"Look babe, a demon in here would swallow me down like half a peanut, okay. I really don't want to see it come knocking...I mean, with all my powers I might stand a chance against, like, half a demon, maybe a third, but yeah, I scare people, demons, scare ME."

It's too late to run though, as her husband pulls up. 

In her desperation, she calls Beetlejuice's name three times, returning his (more or less) human form, but he still has no powers and can't help her. He can't even return to the spirit world. It's all he can do to hide while the husband, and the demon, search the house for Lydia and the baby. The demon finds him, but dismisses him, slapping him around and leaving him in a corner. Then Lydia's husband finds her and the baby in the basement, trying to hide under the old model of the house and town. 

He ties Lydia to a chair and smashes the model, setting up everything he needs for the ritual to seal the demon's spirit into the child. Then he mentions how weak the demon is, compared to how strong it will be inside the child. This sparks Lydia's memory, to a spell she read in one of the books. She recites it, adding her own little twist. (This would be the chant Lydia uses in the cartoon) 

"Though I know I should be wary, still I venture someplace scary. 
Welcome spirits, show your power, as we approach the witching hour. 
Ghostly haunting, I turn loose. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!" 

So we're set for a showdown between the full-power Beetlejuice, and a partial demon. Of course, the anti-hero takes a little convincing to take on the burden, but then we have the fight similar to the astral projection confrontation in Doctor Strange. Beetlejuice manages to win, and then turns on the husband, ejecting him from the house with his own trademark flair and wit. 

Safe, Lydia decides to stay in the house. While Beetlejuice, given the risk he took to protect her, is allowed to keep his released powers, and is even offered the chance to pass on. 

"Nah. See, I know a girl that's planning a little party. And I can't wait to scare her friends out of their socks..." 

Cut to a scene of Lydia setting a table for several people, she looks up and smiles as a car's headlights roll through the window... 


So what do you think? That might be a movie you all would want to watch? 

~ Shaun

Friday, October 27, 2017

Video Game Review: The Evil Within 2

This is going to hurt, in pretty much every way you can imagine. So, let's get started.

This is the sequel to 2014's The Evil Within. Which followed Detective Sebastian Castellanos as he answers a call for help at Beacon Mental Institution only to be sucked into a diabolical experiment called STEM. He survives, and breaks the system, but the main villain escapes.

The Evil Within 2 returns to Detective Castellanos with a brand new STEM system. And that's really the only connection to the first game. There are a few other returning characters, and flashbacks to the first game, but the story otherwise has nothing to do with the first game.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. The Evil Within 2 stands well on it's own merits, with lots of tension, jump scares, and run-and-gun action. To say the game doesn't stand out would be remiss as well, there's lots of mind-fuckery as well as several things we haven't really seen in mainstream horror games.

What stands out the most is the open-world levels, fairly unique for a horror game. You have your mission, your objective markers, but the levels are fairly big, with side missions and other things scattered around for you to find on your own, if you're so inclined. You can still race through and claim the objectives and ignore everything else, but you can take hours to scour every unlocked house, rescue a few stragglers, discover extra weapons caches, and things like that.

Unfortunately, the praise kind of stops there. Not that there's a lot that's wrong with the game, but it's just kind of...standard? Nothing else really stands out. Not the enemies, not the weapons, not the levels themselves despite being open, explorable, areas.

I'm going to reiterate this, it's not a bad game. It's actually a fun, scary, well-made horror game. It's just very, very heavy with missed opportunities, and you feel it at just about every corner. Especially compared to the first game.

So let's start there. What's missing from the first game? The ability to burn bodies on the ground for a start. It's noticeable because you find a LOT of enemies laying prone on the ground, waiting for some kind of signal to get up and attack. It was one of the great tricks of the first game. Not all the bodies on the ground were enemies waiting to jump you, and you had a limited number of matches to use. It was one of the things that set The Evil Within apart from games like Resident Evil. Also, the first game used hordes of enemies to great effect, putting extreme pressure on you even in large areas with your limited amount of ammo.

Lastly, the traps. The traps were strewn throughout the first game. They were one of it's hallmarks. You could disarm them for weapon parts for the game's crafting system, or lure enemies into them. Or you could walk into them and die, too. Yes, The Evil Within 2 is in a different setting, but all the different kinds of traps, right from the very beginning is what really set the game apart, and to not have them in the next game just feels, wrong.

And that pretty much sums up the game for me. It's fun, it's scary, it's a great game in and of itself, but as a sequel, it's just wrong. All the directions they could have gone in, they picked ones that almost completely separate the sequel from the game it's following up on.

Still, we can probably expect some downloadable content in the future, so maybe they can fix a few things with that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Anime Review: 'Another'

Horror can be found in lots of places, books, TV shows, Movies, Video Games. Lots of people tend to skip over such things as cartoons and anime though. They can't see past the idea of animation as being for kids. 

This story is definitely not for kids. 

When a new student transfers into class 3, he finds a strange place, where one student is completely ignored, to the point that they might as well not exist at all. He finds himself wondering if the one might be a ghost, or something only he can see. 

Then it begins, a calamity that has plagued the students of class 3 for twenty-five years. A curse where one person connected to the class dies every month in horrific, twisted accidents. 

The curse began when a popular student passed away unexpectedly at the start of the school year. The students, and even the teachers decided to deal with the loss by simply pretending the student was still there, sitting at their desk. Their actions brought the spirit back, and ever since then, Class 3 has had an extra student, one that was supposed to be dead. 

The dead class member doesn't know they're dead, or that they're the catalyst for the horrible accidents which plague the living members. At the end of the school year, they simply cease to be.

The new class deals with the problem by completely ostracizing one member, treating them as if they don't exist, and making the number of students in the class equal to what it's supposed to be. 

The new student breaks the rules, talking to the ostracized member, letting the curse loose among the class. Then the rest of the class bands together to try to find ways to stop it before they all end up on the wrong side of life and death. 

There's two main parts to this horror-mystery. The first half being the truth about why the class is cursed and whether the ostracized student is real or not. 

The second part is the search for a way to stop the curse, and who/how many of them are going to die before they discover which of their classmates is the extra. 

The tension builds up throughout the short run (only 12 episodes), culminating in a 'Final Destination' series of events and a mass madness which overtakes the students. 

It's definitely worth watching as a horror fan, even if the first half is a bit slow at times. I'm a little late to the party on this one. The anime came out in 2012 and was based on a comic. A live-action movie was also made in 2014, but it's only available in the original Japanese, and I don't know that a dubbed or subtitled version of that exists. 

Still, an excellent little horror series. Worth the time if you can catch it on Hulu or Netflix.

~ Shaun