Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review: Batman: Arkham Origins

The Batman: Arkham series has received praise of the highest order for it's portrayal of the dark knight and the enemies and plots he has to deal with. Currently, the line-up includes Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and the recently released Arkham Origins.

The interesting thing to note is that while the first two games are fairly linear, with City following not long after Asylum, Origins is a prequel. Set two years after Bruce Wayne first takes up the mantle of the bat. (I doubt it, but if the fact that Bruce Wayne is Batman is a spoiler for you, you may want to go ahead and close the window now.) Origins details Batman's first encounters with such enemies as The Joker, Killer Croc, and the Mad Hatter.

The story is fairly straight-forward to start with. The mob boss Black Mask has hired eight of the top assassins in the world to come to Gotham City and whoever kills the Batman wins 50 million dollars. Not only is this the perfect introduction to the characters of Killer Croc, and Bane, staples of the Batman universe, but it also introduces several other DC villians, including Copperhead, Shiva, and the popular Deathstroke. 

The story is original, and fairly impressive in its scope, spanning a much larger area than either of the two games before it. As you explore the city to follow the storyline, there are also several side quests which you can pursue, from stopping common muggings and solving random crimes, to tracking down the ever elusive Riddler. 

The Good

Throughout the whole series, you ARE Batman, and Origins is no exception. From the gadgets to the detective work, puzzle-solving, to combat, everything feels just right. Given that this is a prequel, and it's set early in Batman's career, the character himself is a little rough around the edges to start, but you get to see him grow throughout the story. Applaud to that, as properly showing growth in such an iconic character is very hard to do properly and very easy to screw up. 

The setting is beautiful. A large section of Gotham city on Christmas Eve, covered in snow. A big winter storm is expected to hit, which, as far as reasoning go, is a very good one for keeping civilians off the street. You have buildings, sewers, streets, and rooftops to run around and explore, providing plenty of opportunities to play the predator of evil, or just run up and beat the crap out of thugs. You even have the real batcave to go play around in, if you choose. 

This is without a doubt, a perfect prequel to the other two games.

The Bad

At some point, the game was taken from Rocksteady, the company which made Asylum and City and handed over to WB Montreal. That caused a few concerns when the information first came out, and it seems to have been for good reason. 

My biggest issue with Arkham Origins are the controls. They are mostly lifted from the previous games. I say mostly because it's nowhere near the same quality. Hit detection isn't as precise and moves are executed slower, creating more openings for your enemies in combat. In a game where combat is based on chaining beatdowns without getting hit yourself, that creates a very real problem, and one which was not present in the first two games to anywhere near this degree. As well, it would seem the previous games had some version of auto-targeting which the developers of Origins decided to leave out. In combat, you have the ability to use your gadgets and a fair bit of the time, they work alright. If your camera happens to be just a little at an angle though, you can easily find yourself hurling batarangs into the wall instead of into the thug who is currently unloading his clip into you.

The only other thing that bothers me, is that there's no mention of other characters or villains that I can find. The previous games had different things you could scan around the environment to create a more or less full list of Batman's rogues gallery. Outside of the characters you meet through the course of the game, there doesn't seem to be any such easter eggs in Origins. 

Those are fairly minor issues though, all things considered. They don't really impede enjoyment of the game, even if the controls do make things a bit more difficult than intended. If you enjoyed Asylum and City, or if you're any kind of Batman fan at all, you'll enjoy Origins, if nothing else, for the chance to see some of your favorite characters again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Have a blog? Sure, why not?

As this post goes up, it is literally a week before Christmas. And, since Christmas and New Year's Eve both fall on a Tuesday, this year, I figured I'd give myself a little bonus and take the rest of the year off from the blog posts. Also, with it being the end of the year, I figured it was a good time to go over my blog and how it's worked out for me since I started it.

So, I figured the best place to start, is by the numbers, which (and I have nothing to compare these to, so bear with me. :-P ), I think aren't too bad, all things considered.

To start with, this post here marks my 80th post. I think that in itself bodes well considering I've already seen other people start blogs only to have them die months later. As I write this, of those 80 posts, I have a total of 8,028 views. That's over 100 views per post if I spread them out evenly. 

Of course though, the views don't go evenly, which is why I've sorted through my posts and made a label, which you can click on the right side of my page, called Top Posts. Everything under that label has picked up at least 100 views. But the grand prize winner of this past year is my post on Two-sentence Horror Stories, which is currently just shy of 300 views and is a prime example of hitting the right note at the right moment, as it was posted during the Halloween season.

Other labels you'll see are Cryptids, where I tried to do a post a day for an entire month and fell a bit short, Rants, Writings, and Reviews. Surprisingly, a lot of my Cryptid posts, are also around the 100 view mark, but I figured that, for now, I would limit myself to one label per post. I mean, it's not like they're hard to find. 

Ah, the majestic winged Jackalope. One of the cryptids I didn't go over.

Now, all that is well and good, and to go from 0 to over 8000 views in a year is nothing to sneeze at as far as I know, but what does this all mean? Honestly, I don't have any numbers or anecdotes that show that my blog has led to book sales or anything of the like. Really though, I'm not all that concerned about it either. What I can tell you is that my blog is helping to get my name out there. I know that much because when I check the stats on my page here, I can see that people are coming to my blog by searching for or typing in the address specifically, and that is a very good feeling. 

So, I suppose the most pressing question is "What's next?". Well, more of the same is the obvious answer, but there is a lot more than that to try out as well. 

As late as it is, I'm still trying to power through the work I started for NaNoWriMo, and as I finish the first draft and go through the process of editing and everything, I'm going to continue my Building a Book series, up until the work is either self-published or accepted by a press. 

I plan on continuing to keep my blog readers up to date on my latest works, as well as occasionally putting up roughs as samples.

I plan on continuing discussing the writing process, hitting on topics like Writer's Block, and Twisted Scenes.

More reviews of horror/sci-fi books and movies will be in the future. I may even start accepting review requests at some point. (AT SOME POINT! Don't start rushing to make inquiries or anything, lol. I'll put it in a post and make some noise for it when I'm ready.) 

I may even fill out the Cryptids section or attempt some other silly blog challenge. It's really hard to say exactly what the future holds. 

One thing I do know the future holds, is a sale on my book Class 5. I'll be trying out Kindle's new countdown deal after Christmas. What the countdown deal is, is when you start with a discount, and instead of the sale just ending, the discount steps back up to the original price a little at a time. I'll explain how this is going to work with my book. 

At 8:00 AM on December 25th, the price of Class 5 will drop down to $0.99 and will remain at that price for 48 hours. At 8:00 AM on December 27th, the price will rise to $1.99 for 48 hours. On December 29th it will go up to $2.99 and at the end of the last 48 hour period, at 8:00 AM on December 31st, the price will return to its starting $3.99. Now, remember, this is only for Kindle, as that is the only place the ebook version is currently available. So if you get a kindle for Christmas, or know someone who is getting one, remember my book will be on sale. 

I may still work another blog post in before the end of the year if the mood really strikes me, but I'm not planning on it, so with that, I will wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday season and a Happy New Year! Check back with me on the 7th for a guaranteed new post. :-) 

~ Shaun

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Personal Rant #4: Like for a Like.

Ugh. Some people.

So. Today, I got this message on my Facebook page. (Names are omitted).
Hi! I saw you on Goodreads and liked your page. Here's a link to my page:
The only other thing in the message was a link to her own page. I checked out her page, and her website. A new writer, who JUST started their page and already has 400 "Likes" even though she has yet to publish a single work. That, combined with the mention of Goodreads, made it clear to me that she was farming in a "Like for a Like" manner. I replied thusly.
  Thank you for your interest, but for the sake of fairness, I believe I should inform you I do not believe in the system of generic "like for a like" as promoted on some websites. I have looked at your page and your website, and I don't believe your interests and posts would align well with what I provide the people who visit my page (my focus being horror and sci-fi currently). Therefore, giving you a "Like" would be nothing more than a meaningless +1 as I doubt your posts would be things I would be likely to share on my page. Once again, I thank you for your interest, and I understand if you would like to withdraw your "like" of my page. Good luck.
I personally do not go for the whole "Like for a Like" trade-off. I will like people's pages because I enjoy what they post, support them, or support their works. Apparently, I am in the minority, because there a threads on Goodreads whose whole point is people listing their Facebook pages begging for "Likes". I would much rather prefer people to like my page because they like my work, like me, and/or they enjoy what I post. People who "Like" your page for those reasons are more likely to comment on and/or share your posts. People who "Like" your page simply because you "Liked" theirs are generally much less inclined to do so. About four months after I started my page, I was involved in a discussion on Goodreads which included one author asking how to get more interactivity on their page. He had around 200 "Likes" and said he was only getting between twenty to thirty people seeing his posts. At the time, I had around 45 "Likes", and I was commonly getting that much attention or more.

I then received this reply to my response.
 Thank you for the message. I looked at your page and read some of your blog. I loved the picture of Voldemort and Harry Potter from one of your November blog posts. Even though I wrote a memoir, and am writing in the genera of mystery/suspense doesn't mean I don't like other genres. I read every genre - yes EVERY genre. Steven King's "IT" is one of my favorite books of all time. Since I joined linkedin and Good Reads, I have ordered 23 books from authors I have never heard of and recommended them to my friends on FB and followers on Twitter. I believe in supporting other authors and the power to network. Maybe next time, you should remember the old adage, "Never judge a book by its cover" because you certainly were wrong when you judged me and now you have lost a customer and a recommendation.
 Ugh. Just...ugh. She did however take me up on the suggest that she un-like my page. Someone look at my above post again and point out where I was judging her? After all, nothing on her Facebook page or website indicated any interest in Horror or anything else and the best she could comment about my blog was that "I liked that one picture."

Ugh. Look. If you want to support other authors. Do it. Don't attach riders to it such as "Like for a Like". That's not supporting people. That is merely a high-school attitude where the number of friends you have is all that matters and not whether most of those friends honestly give a shit about you. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't care less if I never get more than 100 Likes on Facebook as long as those people who have Liked me actually enjoy my work, enjoy my posts, and support me. I don't want 1000 Likes of people who are just going to hide my posts and are only going to adhere to that as long as I also returned the favor and boosted their little people count by one.

Anyway, whether or not she saw it, I followed up her reply.
If I may make a suggestion. You may wish to learn to separate yourself from your author persona. My decision was based on posts on your page and your website and had nothing to do with you personally or your interests. It would be my advice that you not take such things so personally. It is simply a personal policy that I don't "Like" other pages just because they "Liked" mine, nor do I expect it of any page I choose to "Like". I personally feel that attaching such a rider to any show of support cheapens that support, however I am aware that many do not share that opinion. You may find this post helpful in your search though.

Good luck in your future endeavors.
Of course, she took to her page to copy/paste my initial reply to her page, sparking the expected rage and cries of "What an idiot! They need to stfu!"

* Rant begins now * 

Excuse me?! You came onto MY page and made a show of Liking it, then bitched about being judged when I replied that I would not be returning the favor? Not even in a private message but ON. MY. PAGE! In no way have I ever, at ANY point, invited people to come like my page for any reason beyond liking what I post. I'm sorry, I believe in actually earning my fans instead of splitting likes with a bunch of other random people who probably won't give a shit what I post, if they even look at any of it. 

Likes on Facebook aren't a contest. There are no prizes for reaching 100, 500, 1000 Likes. If you feel so insecure that you need some huge number to be proud of, fine. More power to you. I suppose it's healthier than stress eating. I don't need a huge number of fans to take pride in what I've done, and if I manage to build up a fan base into the hundreds or even higher, I'll take pride in THAT because I will have EARNED each one of those Likes, as opposed to simply going around begging and trading for them. 

She came unbidden and posted on MY page. She made a show out of Liking my page. Then, when I didn't return the favor and tried to politely explain my stance on the subject, she ran back to her page and had to immediately post about it. I'm sorry, how fucking immature are you? You want to be an author, grow the fuck up. If this is how she acts when someone denies to accept her "Like for a Like" attempt, I fear for the day she gets her first bad review. 

Now, let's be honest, I could have accepted the Like, said nothing, and just not Liked her back. I chose instead to respond to what was obviously her game in the interests of being honest and straight-forward. The fact that she promptly un-liked my page only further proves what the aim was. She is the one who viewed that as some kind of attack and personal judgement. If anyone wants to point out how any sane person could view my initial reply as a personal attack, feel free.

Seriously, some people...

~ Shaun 

Addendum #1: If you want to talk about networking, ok. If you go carpet-bombing, you might get lucky and hit a few targets, but with today's technology and search engines, it's not that hard to find like-minded people, blogs and websites. Who knows, even if it's a little extra work, it might even be a better use of your time. So shit like this doesn't happen. After all, there's a very good reason a rocket scientist doesn't go to a Peanut convention to network.

Addendum #2: Yes. Going off like this doesn't exactly paint me in a much better light than it does her. But after all this BS today, I just wanted to get it off my chest and it gave me the opportunity to publicly state my opinion on Like for a Like. Which is, I won't do it. Not here, not on Facebook, and not on Twitter.

Addendum #3: People want to talk about giving away "Likes" like it's the only way to show support. I'm sorry, I didn't know your giving away "Likes" to people ranks right up there with giving tips on how to format for Kindle, explanations on the importance of editing, and how you shouldn't let worries about originality get you down, with regards to how much you support your fellow authors.

So bite me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rewards and News.

Hi everyone. So, today, rather than going into a long and boring tirade about any one subject in specific, I have several things I want to share with you all. And yes, all of them will probably have links to check out when you're done here. Or maybe before you go through everything here.

There should be none of these.

It was a good weekend for my book Class 5. I offered it up for reviews to a handful of websites and bloggers over the past month and this weekend I got two rewards for my efforts. First, on Saturday, was this recommendation for my book and me from
"Scary creatures going bump in the night...yes please! Class 5 brings fright to a quiet desert town and to all of its readers. While Shaun Horton isn't on the map of well known authors of the horror genre yet, we have a feeling he will be one day!"-Surprise-a-book Club Critics
Then on Sunday a review went up on the Ravenous Reads website, which you can read here.  In addition, it went on the to-read list of another review blog, The Bookie-Monster. If any of you, my visitors, are interested, Bookie-Monster is currently looking for people to help with reviewing so check out the website and apply if you are so inclined.

So now that I've posted a few things for readers, how about a few things for writers? I've found an anthology and a contest which are both open for submissions at the moment. I plan on working out a few pieces for each of these, so feel free to join in the fun.

The Anthology is being put out by Great Old Ones Publishing, who earlier this year released a collection titled Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies and Mummification. The new book is tentatively called Bugs and Creepy-Crawlies, and is looking for works between 3 - 6,000 words featuring just about any kind of bugs you can think of. Though i don't think they're going to take anything about your annoying little brother. Check Here for more information on this opportunity. Better get cracking though, submissions close January 31st.

The other opportunity, if you live in the Seattle area, is that the writing contest for Crypticon Seattle 2014 is now open. They are taking anything between 500 - 10,000 words and are even accepting graphic novel submissions this year. They encourage writers of any skill level to submit and you can find more information here. My own short story "On Tonight's Edition" was an honorable mention last year and should be part of another short story collection of my own by the end of 2014 (since it's a little late to do by the end of 2013).

Last but definitely not least, I leave you with this. Brand new as of this morning.

Just don't offer him tuna.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reading list: 2013

As I've mentioned previous, reading is something I slacked off on a lot in the years prior to this one. It's not that I don't like to read or anything like that, I just found I didn't really want to make time for it, preferring video games and the internet over such pursuits.

This past year though, I've started to make up for it. Reading more books in 10 months than I did the entire 10 years previously. I've already talked about some of the best of them. With the end of the year creeping up, though, and people starting to do their "best of 2013" lists, I thought I would go ahead and share the full list, along with which ones I recommend, and which ones I don't.

Now, before I start, there are two books which I will admit that I started, but never finished. Pines by Blake Crouch, and Crogian by John Leahy. Personally speaking, I would not recommend either one, but my main issues with these books are the story-lines and the way they are presented. People that can look beyond such concerns may enjoy these. Still, I suggest paying for either one at your own risk.

  • I started the year with Afraid by Jack Kilborn, AKA J.A. Konrath. Now, I will never stop singing the praises of Mr. Konrath and the advice and information he puts up on his blog. I don't think this was really one of his strongest works though. It is good, no doubt, but in the realm of horror, it falls more on the side of the gore and slasher sub-genre than being truly suspenseful. It also lost a point from me for disbelief at one event. If gore, human-on-human violence and torture-porn is your thing, you'll probably love this. Three stars. 

  • After being a little disappointed by Afraid, I still wasn't ready to give up on Konrath so I picked up his book Origin. This was a much stronger work. More along the lines of suspense, while still giving you a healthy dose of gore. It's sci-fi/horror, but easily one of the most original stories I've seen in a long time. A few parts felt like filler, but they didn't detract from the main story and the twists and turns keep coming right up to an ending which begs for more. Four stars out of five.

  • Next was The Jigsaw Man by Gord Rollo. This is a modern take the the tale of Frankenstein and is a medical suspense horror. This was a hard book for me to get through. Medical issues aren't really interesting to me in just words. I also felt like far too much time was spent trying to build up and explain what was going on, leading to a surprisingly short action sequence and a final ending which was less than satisfying. If you like medical-intensive stories though, you'll probably enjoy this more than I did. Two stars. 

  • Taking a little break from fiction, I picked up a book I'd eyed before. Wisdom from the Batcave by Cary Friedman. This is basically Chicken Soup for the Soul, but every story is lifted from the fictional life of Bruce Wayne/Batman, with explanations of how we can take lessons from such events and apply them to our real lives. As a huge fan of Batman and having enjoyed some of the Chicken Soup books in the past, I probably enjoyed this a bit more than I should have, still, I would definitely recommend it for those curious. Five stars.

  • Turner by Karl Drinkwater. This book currently has 4.16 stars out of 5 on Goodreads with 37 ratings, and it absolutely deserves it. This has a bit of everything, from suspense, to gore, to medical, supernatural, and psychological horrors. Many parts of the book will make you think of such greats as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and even Poe. It pays homage to the many horror stories which have come before it, while presenting itself as an original work, expertly told. Another book I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in horror. Five stars. 

  • The Haunted Halls: Volume One by Glenn Rolfe. I must admit I've only read volume one and we're currently up to four. Volume one is a very good start, though, reminiscent of James Herbert's The Fog and a slight reminder of Stephen King's The Shining. If I kept up on the volumes, I would probably rate this higher, but as a stand-alone work, this is merely setting the scene for what is to come later and while it stands alright on its own, you do have to wonder why the author is taking the serial route with this work. Three stars.

  • A Plague of Dreams by John Gregory Hancock. The main problem with short story collections is that, by their nature, you'll get some hits and some misses. This is no exception, with some stories that I loved, some I didn't care for, and the majority that I liked, but I didn't think were anything special. Still, as far as collections go, this is a good one, most stories are just right for the ride along to work or while you're waiting in line somewhere. You could certainly do worse than this, that's for sure. Three stars. 

  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. There's a reason this book has stood the test of time. It is legitimately one of the best horror books ever written. That being said, I had a few issues with it. You can tell it was written in a different time, as the pace is much slower than most books you'll find these days. In addition, a lot of the scenes, while they remain unnerving and frightening, are almost tame by today's standards. The Exorcist will always remain a classic, joining the ranks of Frankenstein and Dracula as THE book of demonic possession. Three stars.

  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher. The first book in the Dresden Files series is just about everything you would want the first book in a series to be. It establishes the characters, the setting, and the rules they live by. That being said, there is nothing really remarkable here. While I think Butcher can claim to be at the forefront of the modern fantasy movement with this series, I've never been particularly drawn in by the sub-genre. This was an entertaining read, but not much else. Three stars.

  • The Fog by James Herbert. James Herbert passed away earlier this year and a group I joined chose this book to read in honor of him. The Fog is supposed to be one of his best works, and it is a good horror novel. My only issue with the novel is that the main story itself is only between 50-60% of the book. The rest is visceral action scenes of violence, blood, and gore as its namesake travels the countryside. There are several truly disturbing episodes in it that would probably make less squeamish people close the book and walk away, but this is a good read nonetheless. Three stars.

  • The Wildman by Rick Hautala. This book was not what I expected. Another book chosen to honor an author who recently passed, it was picked in a group focused on horror and this novel is an action/mystery/thriller. Even with that in mind, it is poorly written and very loosely plotted. Several questions, including the one that you start the story with are never answered at all, and a lot of the book is overly-detailed and redundant. You feel like one of the group, a bunch of people just trying to reconnect after years of silence, occasionally bringing people up to date on your life, and occasionally reminiscing over the past in an almost random pattern. The rest of the time, it's just awkward. One star.

  • Worm by Tim Curran. This book is just fun. Not an intricate plot to follow. No worries about explaining where things come from or why. Just a nice little action/horror story with several vignettes showing how some people eat it. Or get eaten. Both, actually. Don't come here looking for something deep, suspenseful or that's going to keep you awake. This is just good entertainment. Three stars. 

  • Hell House by Richard Matheson. As The Exorcist is to possession stories, Hell House is for haunted houses. One of the oldest books on the subject, it brings you right in with the characters as they figure out, explain, and experience what the house has been used for. You can't help be feel the trepidation as they enter it and explore. This is another classic, which I should feel ashamed for not having read sooner. If you have a house older than twenty years, this book will probably reach in and keep you up at night. Four stars.

  • That Which Should Not Be by Brett Talley. This is his first novel, and it's already been offered up for a Bram Stoker Award. It is very well deserved. As a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, it is very difficult to find people who can properly continue the Lovecraft mythos with the proper ability and respect. Mr. Talley does it all in a way that I think even Lovecraft himself would have appreciated. This is one of the books that reiterates and gets stuck in your head the idea that there are more things in Heaven and on Earth than are dreamt of in philosophy. If you're not already a fan, this may not be as good for you, but if you're a fan of Cthulhu, you'll love this. Five stars.

  • A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson. Most people will know this based on the movie starring Kevin Bacon. Honestly, I haven't seen it. For most of the book, I really didn't know what was going to happen. It was slow and boring until the last 30% or so, when an actually story-line appears. To a degree, this book is similar to Carrie, in that it looks more at living with psychic powers than following a set plot and the horror only occurs when other people make problems of themselves. Two stars. 

  • Below by Ryan Lockwood. I guessed what this book was about just by the cover, and that may be why it didn't have much of an effect on me. A lot of what this book explains were things I'm already aware of and taking the predator's point of view when they're really just animals doesn't add a lot to the story. As a book that was touted as the next Jaws, it falls woefully short to me. I would say it's closer to Sharknado than Jaws. Two stars.

  • Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. Book two of the Dresden Files. The further adventures builds on what was laid down in the first book. This book is a good example of a writer that knows how to do research, how to use that research, and how to impart that information to the reader without a boring information dump. Again, though, there is nothing really here to elevate this into anything more than an entertaining read. Three stars.

  • Pavlov's Dogs by D.L. Snell and Thom Brannan. Werewolves vs. Zombies. A great idea, but I felt it was rather sub-par execution. I was confused for a fair bit of the book about who exactly was supposed to be the main characters. I also found the writing fairly simple and a few spots in the book occur without any real explanation as to why. The grand finale also included a sudden twist of character which seemed completely out of place given what we had previously been told. It still manages to be entertaining, but given the premise, I was hoping for better. Two stars. 

  • The Descent by Jeff Long. I've heard this touted as one of the best "hollow Earth" stories ever written. I may avoid similar works in the future if this is true. To be fair, it is a good book, which keeps you interested through most of the work. My only real complaint is that the book takes place over a year, and at times it really feels like it. I found myself not being very willing to pick it back up close to the end, despite being interested in the story. Three stars. 

  • The Shining by Stephen King . Yeah, I know, how dare I call myself a horror fan and author without having this read by the time I was ten. This is THE haunted house book. A haunted hotel, a man's decent into madness and possession until he finally turns on those closest to him, and a young boy with a special gift all combine to make this a book which will keep you up at night and leave images in your mind for months and even years afterward. If you're a horror fan, you read this book eventually. Period. Five stars. 

There you have it. 20 books over the course of the year. I could probably have managed more, but the last few months it's been hard to find anymore interest in reading among the other draws on my time. Are there any books I rated that you disagree with? Or agree with? Or maybe you just want to throw a shoe at me. Do so in the comments. 

Also, if you've enjoyed my posts over the year, hit the top right corner and leave your email. I promise, it's easier to get an email when I do a new post than to search my blog up every week. 

Thanks for stopping by and keeping up over the year. Happy Holidays! 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Building a Book: Part 4, The End

So here we are, at the very end. The last 25% of your novel. Congrats to everyone who's made it this far, whether it was for NaNoWriMo, or has been years in the making. So, in the first three parts of this little series so far, we've gone over the introduction, and we've split the middle into the first half and the second half. This part is going over the very end.

The nice thing about reaching this point, is that compared to the rest, this should be easy. At this point there are three main sections to fill out.

First is the last burst of rising action. By now, your characters know what they're facing, have prepared for it, and baring a few attempts to slow them down by the malign force, they're on their way to confront the villain. In Fantasy, this is usually where the last big battle with the monster army starts. The heroes have to fight their way through all the small fry to get to the mastermind. Or maybe they have to storm the castle-base. You get the idea. There's no reason to jump right to the climax right at the 75% mark.

We've been over rising action and escalation in the previous two posts, so I think you know the routine by now. Top what happened last, but make sure you're not overshadowing the climax itself. Easy-peasy.

Is everybody here? Let's get this over with, then.

Now we get to the final battle. The inexorable question. Who wins, and who loses. Now, in some genre's it's almost a foregone conclusion, but I write horror, so it does apply. The hero doesn't have to win every time, you know. There is one major problem that occasionally happens though with the grand climaxes in a good novel. 


Yeah. It can sometimes be over that quick.

All that work leading up to the grand finale, the final confrontation, the apocalyptic battle. And suddenly, it's over in one page, maybe two. Sometimes it happens. I mean, in Fantasy it happens that along the journey, the heroes discover the villain's weakness and embark on a quest to obtain the one item which will defeat them. Then, at the end, all they have to do is use it. The villains powers are nullified, he becomes mortal, and off with his head. Of course, things don't necessarily have to be, or generally are that easy, but it does happen. When it does, don't panic. After all, this is your book, and it all comes down to what you want to happen. Maybe the item they quested for doesn't actually work, and the heroes have to try to win the hard way. Maybe the quest to get the item was a ruse all along and the point was to make the heroes stronger on their own to overcome the villain. Maybe the heroes or the villain makes an escape, setting up a sequel. You're a writer, you're creative. YOU figure it out. 

Now, I'm not actually against plotting, per say, but I greatly prefer letting the characters lead the way. When this happens, you may not reach the climax exactly how you envisioned it to begin with. If you had previously envisioned your finale working out a certain way, it can cause havoc when your characters arrive in better or worse shape than you had planned. In my current work "Hannah", I envisioned the beginning of the climactic scene, where the beast returns to the family's house in the middle of the night. I honestly have no clue what happens next. Already the story has surprised me with the additions of characters I hadn't planned on and twists that weren't in my list of scenes to write in. It also allows me to enjoy writing it more, as I get to find out what happens as I write, instead of having hoops set up and knowing who does what, when, and how effective it is.

In my opinion, the climax should come somewhere between the 80 to 90% of the book. After all, people generally wouldn't appreciate it if you chopped off the monster's head and then had "The End" as the next two words. After all that time getting to know the characters, we want to know how things work out. How do they deal with those lost along the way? Do their relationships remain strong? Does Uncle Benny move to Alaska? That kind of stuff. People want to know if there is the final, happy ending.

There are two types of endings, really. The immediate, and the Epilogue. The immediate ending is the conversation between the characters about what happens now, as they walk through the castle back out the front door and travel home again. This is the ending which follows the climax without a break and is mostly telling the reader what the character's plans for the future are now that this villain has been vanquished. It commonly includes taking home their treasure, and settling down.

The other ending is the epilogue. Usually, with one of these, there is also a short immediate ending, to let you know that, yes, the main story is over and there's no more big monsters in the way. The meat of the epilogue happens a fair bit of time afterward. Anywhere from weeks, to months, or even years later. It shows the lives the characters are living now, along with commonly having them looking back on what has happened since as well as plans for the future, and it is generally a more satisfying ending.

Now, at this point, I have to face reality and realize that there's no way I'm finishing "Hannah" on time for the end of the month. If I can get up the gumption to get back to work on it, I could probably get up to 40,000 by November 30th, but I'm not really all that concerned. Over half a book in one month is still a heck of an accomplishment and I should easily get the first draft done by the end of the year. So, expect this series to continue once I get to that point.

Anyway, my fellow writers, and anyone who likes this month's posts. Add in your email in the top right to get a notice and a link for when I do a new post. So keep writing, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

~ Shaun

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Personal Rant #3: Support

In Stephen King's book On Writing, he talks about the early days, when he was still a struggling English teacher and his most lucrative work was a short story sold to Playboy Magazine. He talks about his wife, who also worked full-time and the glamorous trailer, dying car, and pile of bills they shared. He says at one point "If she had said to me, Steve, it's time to put the writing aside and take a position that can support your family, I would've put away the typewriter right then and there. But that statement never came." Of course, one thing that can be proof of is that if you love someone, then nothing else really matters as long as the bare necessities are covered. The other thing that is proof of, is how important it is to have people that approve of and support you in what you want to do.

I'm not talking about financially, although at the worst times, it can come down to the choice between keeping a roof overhead and food on table or chasing a dream. After all, unless you're a pokemon, you can't eat dreams. I'm talking about support emotionally and mentally.

Specifically, I'm talking about writing, but this applies to anything you want to do. A lot of things can be done solely on your own back, but a lot of things aren't that clear-cut. Writing is a very solitary business. Sitting at the computer, typing away for hours every day, sacrificing time that could be spent with friends, family, relaxing, or even at another job. For weeks, then months, it can drag on. And despite that it's not particularly physically demanding, it can be a very draining experience. People aren't meant to be solitary creatures and when doing something like that, they need the support of those around them. They need to be assured that the sacrifices will be worth it and that the parts of the life being sacrificed stand behind you to help you do what you want to do.

When you don't have support, it makes things that much harder.

When you turn down hanging out with friends to write. When you sit at home instead of going out to ensure you can afford the cover, editing, and marketing that your work will need to be professional. When you take your work with you to family gatherings to do. When you do all those things and people tell you that you need to put it all away and get a "real job", it is an incredible weight on it's own.

Now, I'm not talking about constructive criticism. Sometimes, people will want to do things they just aren't good at, and nor will they ever be. At some point, someone who is aware of the sacrifices made and that has objectively looked at the end result should probably sit down and talk to them about it, but honestly, and because it's true. Not because they just don't believe in them.

But when people who haven't looked at your work, who either aren't aware of or care about the sacrifices already made are saying things like "Get a real job" and "It's nice, but how long until you start making money?", it's more of a burden than having people say nothing at all. They might mean well enough, but all they're doing is making an already difficult task even harder with their own ignorance.

Three guesses which end of that spectrum I'm at, and the first two don't count.

My family isn't exactly the best at being supportive. Often they do it at the wrong times for the wrong reasons, and then don't when it is actually appropriate. Those comments I listed above: "Get a real job" and "You need to make some money" are both things I've been told multiple times, by people who have no idea how much effort, money, or time has gone into this. Nor have any of them actually read any of my work, despite a few of them buying the books. I can't even ASK them to support me, by something as simple as sharing posts to let their friends know my latest book is out or offer my book cards at their meetings or what-have-you. I tried that twice. Once, I was told sure they would and I gave them a small stack of cards. That stack was sitting untouched exactly where I had put it a month later. The second time, I got the full eye-roll.

So for those of you that are so oblivious, I suggest the next time you're going to whine about someone following their dream, do it in a mirror first. See how you look when you say it, and if you can, try to imagine what that might feel like to be on that other end.

For those of you who have to deal with family and friends that aren't supportive, remember, you're not writing for them. You're writing for yourself. You're writing for the people that actually READ your works. And, you're writing because for one reason or another, you just have to. Power on through it regardless, and all on your own if that's what it comes down to. The only person you should care about letting down in this situation, is yourself.

I'm willing to bet more people fail to achieve their dreams because the people that should have been supporting them turned their backs on them instead, more than any other reason.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Building a Book: Part 3

Congratulations, if you're working on a book for NaNoWriMo or just as you read along with my series here, you should be at the halfway point, or just past by now. To remind you of where we are and how a book generally goes, I'm going to start with this image again.

Now, as we discussed last time, the middle of the book is usually the hardest part to write. The first 25 - 50% being the worst of the section. Now that we're getting into the meat of the story, things get a little bit easier. From 50 to 75% is where things start to get fun and hell starts breaking loose.

Now, to start, part of this is a continuation of what you did in the first half, with rising action, and worldly and character reactions. However, a lot of what came before should be done with unless you're aiming for some unexpected twist.

Characters that we first met in the introduction should be fully fleshed out by this point, with backgrounds explained, as well as character flaws, hopes, dreams, and partially why they find themselves in such a predicament as the story suggests. Minor characters that we met later on, can have a bit of time devoted to them to help explain their impact and so that we care when something happens to them, but that should be kept to a minimum for the most part. After all, characters we're meeting this late are likely to be victim fodder or there to give us an insight into how the main characters are starting to appear to the outside world. Things akin to "Oh my, Anne said something living under the Rhododendron bushes ate her dog. I think she's going crazy."

The main focus at this point is the rising action and the escalation. It's generally about this point that the main characters start putting two and two together as things get more and more out of hand and the story almost changes to a race to reach the climax. Now, while, depending on the story, this can be fairly smooth sailing at this point compared to the first half of the book, it can also get confusing and often, things fall short of what we expected. When it happens that scenes don't seem to stretch as far as we want, it can be easy to get lost and not know what else to add. Also, escalation can become an issue when you have between several to over a dozen separate scenes to add suspense and move things along.

Pictured: One form of escalation. (Ok, break's over.)

Now, for a suggestion of how to tackle these issues. I'm going to talk about how I tackled the issues for my work for the month. Before I even started to write, I made out a list of a dozen scenes and ideas I could incorporate into the work. I then organized that list into the order I thought worked the best in terms of escalation (and there were a few that were pretty close in terms of the suspense and fear they provoke), and then had a few friends look it over and put them in the order they thought the list should go in. Now, granted, most of them were looking at the list with no idea what the characters were like and had little to go on other than the very basic ideas on the list, but most of them came out the same I had envisioned, so I'm pretty sure I got the order right. 

You'll commonly find though, that things change as you write, and that tends to be a good thing. It's one thing to have a plot and pre-set events, but forcing characters along from one to the next just to jump through the hoop usually leads to characters making unbelievable choices given what we know about them and how much they're aware of the situation. (Really, is there anyone out there who hasn't watched a horror movie and screamed "Don't go in there!!" at some point?) I've found in the writing that while the order of some things are intact, some have been switched up as the story progresses more organically. It's also something to keep in mind that the story usually lends itself to suspense when done right, and it's not just an issue of "How suspenseful is this scene?" but an issue of "How suspenseful is this scene in the current context of the story?". When things take off on their own, it can occasionally happen that by the time you reach a certain scene, the suspense has already been ratcheted up so high that the scene doesn't add anything more to it. When that happens, you need to look at it objectively and ask if you can change things realistically so that it works, or whether the story is better off without it. For NaNoWriMo though, we're focused on quantity over quality, and cuts like that are made for revisions anyway, so for now, add it all in, figure out what works and what doesn't later. 

Then there's the climax. The ultimate high point you've been reaching for this whole time. You have to make sure every scene escalates, and reaches for it, but that nothing eclipses it before you get there, or gives away a final plot twist. While some would include the climax at the tail end of this section, I think if your story maxes out at 75% or less, you're probably moving too quickly. Despite the graph above, the falling action and resolution shouldn't take up another 25% of your book. If things need that much explaining after the final confrontation/reveal, it's another hint that you might need to go back and take another look. That's more a topic for next time though. 

In the meantime, keep writing, let Hell slowly break loose in your world, and enjoy the ride, because if you aren't enjoying it while you write it, chances are readers aren't going to enjoy it as they read it either. 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Building a Book: Part 2

So you've got your characters, you've got your ideas, and you've done introductions all around.

Hi. My name is Jared, and I'm the antagonist. Although none of you know that yet.

This is where things start to get tricky. That funny little space between the beginning and the end commonly known as, The Middle. 

Now, for the purposes of this discussion, (and to make this little series last the whole month.), we're going to focus on the front half of the middle. Let's say, from 25% to 50%. A normal story, works like you see below. You have the exposition, or the introduction, where you introduce the characters, setting, and occasionally the beginning of the conflict. In a novel, you have a lot more space to work with, so you'll generally go about, allowing the readers to get a feel for the characters, while still trying to drop a hint here or there to keep things interested and to provide a little bit of foreshadowing. In current novels, this introduction section should never be more than 25% of the book. Older novels might stretch that to 35 or even 50%, but that's asking a lot from today's audience who are used to 15 second commercials, 24 hour delivery, and 2 gigabyte download speeds.

After the introduction, is the rising action part of the story. In a novel, this section can easily stretch upwards of 25,000 words by itself. This can also be the hardest part of a novel to write. After all, you've introduced the characters, the setting, maybe the start of the conflict, but it's nowhere near time for the bad stuff to happen and you've got a long ways to go to get to that point. So what do you fill the time with so that you can hold your reader's attention and lead them along without getting bored? 

Well, as the graph says, this is the start of the rising action. It's not like you can't do things here and there to keep things moving. In a horror movie, this is the point where you get the little things, like lights flicking on and off, maybe a door opens and closes when nobody's watching. A little further up the hill, the characters start to notice things themselves, but either nobody believes them, or they don't connect what happens to any impending sense of peril. 

This is also the part where you fill in the world around your characters, and you delve into any needed back-story. Things which are important to understanding the characters, but which weren't necessarily Introduction material. After all, on a first date, you wouldn't try to impress someone with stories of your weird uncle who keeps over 100 named cockroaches as pets in his bedroom, or that your ex got a two-year prison sentence for assault just under two years ago. 

So you've got relevant back-story, a few creaks and groans in the night, that isn't enough by itself to fill the space, so what else? Well, actually, that should do it. Remember, you're not just showing how the characters are reacting to what happens to them, you also need to establish the world around them and how the world reacts to the characters reactions. This goes a long way to making the story more believable, allowing it to better draw emotions out of the reader. For example, zombies are slowly making their way into a small town. The main character finds and kills one outside a local store. Obviously there are going to be witnesses, as well as no small amount of blood on the character's hands. The question is, if the rest of the town isn't aware of the zombies, how would they react to this otherwise bloody murder that just happened in front of them? Assume there was a good reason and go back to their business like nothing happened, or are they likely to call the cops? If they don't call the cops, either because they knew it was a zombie or some other reason, it better be explained and believable, and not something like; "Oh, the guy was a prick anyway, he had it coming."

The last bit I want to go over is escalation. Remember, this is rising action. Things need to be progressive. If you have a massive first scene followed by a long period of quiet, it better be explained and for a good reason. Having things escalate helps to create a sense that things are getting worse, as opposed to getting better. There's a reason you see movies like Paranormal Activity start with rattling pots and pans, move up to doors slamming, and then we see the characters getting flung through the air. If it went in the opposite order, it would be calming down to nothing, and there would be no final climax to worry about.

Sorry about the mix-up, I'll be back later, say, around 3 AM. 

With all that, you shouldn't have any real trouble keeping things interesting for the second quarter of your book. And, if done right, you'll have characters that are fully fleshed out, believable, and that the readers care about by the mid-point of your story. At that point, as the author, you should be ready for all hell to break loose. 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Building a Book

It's November, which means National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. To jump right to more information on what that means, click here.

The jist of it is this. You have the month of November, or 30 days, to write a minimum 50,000 word novel. It means writing every day and has become a fairly widely known challenge that amateur writer and professional novelists alike step up to. I signed up last year, but was distracted by too many other things to really take part, so I'm giving it a go this year and through my blog here, I'm inviting you all to follow along. Hopefully this won't get too boring and will eventually go through the entire process of writing and publishing a novel, as I go through the writing, revising, editing, cover art, formatting, and finally, uploading and publishing to Kindle, Createspace, and/or Smashwords.

So, where else to start but the beginning?

When you sit down to start a book, it's a good idea to have a few things lined up already.

1. An idea. This seems obvious, but it is probably the most important thing. If you don't even have an idea, you probably don't have any business sitting down and starting a story. A basic idea doesn't really count either. You need something that will create conflict, and that will actually last and be entertaining for the length of story you want it to be. While it is possible to stretch a short story into a novel or compress a novel into a short story, the works will usually suffer for it, by focusing on things that don't matter, or by not giving people enough time to care about the characters, and thus, the story. Now, that doesn't mean your idea can't be simple. Lots of simple ideas have plenty of depth to them. For instance, the dead rising and attacking the living. It's a simple idea, but once you get into the real connotations of it, and what it means, you find there is so much more going on. The idea of the dead rising up and attacking the living is a simple idea, but in the writing of a story about that, you get into such themes as how people react to that in general, how they react to seeing dead family members, how they protect themselves and how they stop/survive/or die in the ensuing chaos.

2. Characters. Obviously, if you have an idea, you need people that that  idea happens to. The more fleshed out those characters are, the better. Even in short stories, caring about the characters means caring about what happens to them, which equals caring about the story, and that is how a lot of the best stories are made. So whether you have one character throughout the entire piece, a family, or even the population of an entire town, you need to show that these are real people, worthy of compassion. They need to have strengths and weaknesses, flaws, pasts, and hopes for the future. One point I want to make, when you have multiple characters introduced, you need to make sure they are all included in the story. If you have a family that all lives together, you can't get away with focusing on one member of the family and have everyone else walking around like everything is normal. Even if they aren't affected directly by whatever is influencing the main character, they will react to the changes in the main character, despite the way the world is sometimes shown these days; most people will not just accept the statement that nothing is wrong from someone they care about when there is obviously a change in their behavior, demeanor, or look. So even when a story is focused around one character, keep in mind there are people around him, reacting to what he does and however he expresses what's happening to him.

The Beginning 

The first chapter is one of the most important. First impressions matter, and in telling a story, it's no different. You need to establish the quality of your writing as something worthy of the readers time, in addition to introducing the major characters, what they look like, a sense of who they are and setting up the story to come. Then there is the Hook. 

The Hook is what gets people to read past the first few pages or the first chapter. It is the very beginning of the story, told in a way that makes people want to read more. It is the hint that things are about to go very, very wrong for the people you've just introduced. (Or, at the very least, that things are about to change for them, if you're not writing horror or some kind of action/thriller story.) This is important, people are used to instant gratification these days and books which take more than 25% of their length to really get in gear are going to lose a lot of readers before anything good starts. 

So, how is my progress coming along? 

My idea is basically Cujo meets The Exorcist (Horror, surprising, I know). Before November 1st, I sat down and hashed out a general outline, with a dozen plot points to hit through the story, in addition to the order I wanted them in. My main characters have been named and described, as well as some of their good points and their flaws. My hook is in place, and while it hasn't been set, I am comfortable the bait on it so far will tempt more people to bite than to not. This is still only the 5th, though, so there is still a long way to go. Hopefully you'll all keep up with me. 

~ Shaun

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Human Monsters

While there is always a lot of talk about the supernatural creatures of the night, and the abominations from outer space in horror, there is one beast that a lot of people don't like to talk about or admit exists, and that is the monster inside each and every one of us. We make light of them and try to understand them in the forms of Normal Bates, Hannibal Lecter, Dexter, and Jigsaw. We cheer as they get hunted down and brought to justice in movies like Se7en, Red Dragon, and Zodiac.

As you're watching Marathons of Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and any of dozens of other horror movies this halloween, keep in mind that a lot of these human monsters you're seeing dash and stab across your television screens are based on real events, or at the very least, what they do pales in comparison to things people have done to each other.

The character of Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre is loosely based on one Edward Gein. A Wisconsin man who dug up bodies from the local graveyard and fashioned them into macabre trophies and keepsakes. These included skulls used for bowls and set on the posts of his bed-frame, a belt made of human nipples, several masks made from corpses faces, and even a lampshade. On top of the bodies dug up from their graves, he also killed two local women for some projects which required "fresher" parts. He was caught, tried, and declared legally insane. After that he spent the rest of his life in a mental institution.

Then, you have tales told of such people as Elizabeth Bathory, the fabled Blood Countess, who supposedly tortured and killed hundreds of young woman to bathe in their blood in the belief such an act would allow her to retain a youthful appearance. And of course, there is Vlad Tepes, the man whom the monster of Count Dracula is based on. Vlad was a butcher on the field of battle and was known to be a fan of torture, in particular, the grotesque impalement. After a battle he was known to not only have every fallen foe lifted up onto stakes, but also the ones that remained alive. Some accounts claim that any of his own men that were wounded in battle were also given the treatment as a punishment. Entire forests would be cut down, and then raised with human bodies, some of them still alive and begging for death as slowly slid down the poles. Among these killing fields, Vlad would often have his victory feast, dining among thousands of the dead.

Of course, those are merely some of the most famous monsters of human history, there are hundreds, possibly thousands more, their names lost to history as people have tried to cover up their foul deeds and grant them the obscurity they truly deserve. People like the unnamed doctor that ran the hospital on the island of Poveglia, who tortured patients, conducting live lobotomies and brain surgeries, before ultimately going mad and throwing himself from the island's bell tower. (Check last week's blog post for a video detailing the history of the island of Poveglia.)

So just keep in mind while you're watching those horror marathons on TV this Halloween. Despite what some of the things those monsters and maniacs do, most of it doesn't compare to the horrors people have inflicted on each other over the centuries.

One other detail I want to add in today. My book Class 5 will be free to download on Kindle all day October 31st. So if you haven't snagged a copy and given it a look, go ahead and do so, and enjoy!

~ Shaun

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween Grab Bag

Yeah. I missed a week. Not that it seems to matter too much, my post two weeks ago about 2-sentence horror stories has over over 100 views since posting, which is a new record for my blog here. It is a pretty good one, so I recommend giving it a look if you haven't yet.

With October, comes Halloween. And with Halloween comes pumpkin carving. With that, comes my first giveaway contest.

I'm challenging everyone who wants to try, to a pumpkin carving contest. Email them to me here, post them on my facebook page. You've already done carving, you've probably already posted pictures, why not try to get something free out of it?

At the end of the month, I'll put up a poll on my facebook page for people to vote on the pumpkin they like best. The winner will be contacted and I'll send them a signed copy of the 2013 Seattle Crypticon Anthology, which includes my short story "On Tonight's Edition...". Note, your pictures will be posted on my Facebook page for people to vote and the winner will also get mentioned on my blog here. So let's see what you've got.

Of course, with Halloween coming up, you have all manner of scary shows coming up on TV. From the classic It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! to the new Toy Story of Terror! featuring the characters of Toy Story.

Some of the best scary shows are the ones not making the rounds these days though. Back in the early 2000's, there was a series that came around every October, showcasing some of the most haunted places on Earth and delving into their back-stories. These included places like the plague-island Poveglia, Chillingham Castle in England, and Magnolia Lane Plantation in Louisiana. Every year, they would take a family of five and dare them to spend the night in these places, to see if they could take it. The series was called, rather unoriginally, The Scariest Places on Earth. I loved this show, and would've given my toes to know when they were doing the casting calls for families to send to these places. It is unfortunate now, that the show never made the jump to DVD, though a few VHS copies can still be found. Still, a few enterprising individuals have uploaded several episodes to youtube, for which I am especially grateful.

If you want to see more, you can hit the Youtube link at the top, go to playlists, and check out the one titled Scariest Places on Earth. You can also check out the other two playlists, which compose the majority of the music I write by if you're curious.

That's it for this week. Have fun, and let's see some pumpkins!

~ Shaun
Email Me!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2 Sentence Horror Stories

So, a while ago, the website Reddit had a little contest or something for its users to come up with two-sentence or less horror stories. The best of this contest hasn't quite gone viral, but it has popped up in several places that I've seen and while they won't keep you busy through the night reading them, there are some very nice little bits in there.

Of course, some have been around for a while now and turned into meme's. Ones which I think a lot of people have probably seen by now. These would be.

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door.
Dude! Where did that spider go?!?

A few are actually really good though, and can very well be considered stories in their own right. There is one that had been almost universally declared the winner of this little contest, as it consistently gets listed as one of the best that was submitted.

Now, I want to go over this short piece, because there are a couple things here which are great examples of what makes a good horror story, of any length. 

1. An unexpected twist. You know this is a horror story. You read the first sentence and you're sure there actually is something under the bed. The monster grabs him and pulls him in, or something along those lines. What you're not expecting, is him to see his son under the bed, when his son just asked him to check for monsters while being tucked in. Which brings us to...

2. The "Oh shit." moment. You know the one. That point in any good horror story when you realize the hero or heroes are in it pretty deep. It could be where they've fallen into a trap or when the villain/monster reveals just how powerful it truly is. That moment in this short piece is right after you read the second line and the realization hits you that whoever just got tucked in is now sitting above the father who is down on the floor looking at (what we presume to be) his real son under the bed. Not only that, whoever (or whatever) is in the bed, asked him to look fully aware of what the father was going to see. There is no doubt in our minds at this point that whatever happens next probably isn't going to be pretty.

3. Not really a third, but just something else I want to point out as a reminder. Characters and Setting. A father, tucking his son into bed at the end of the day. Could there really be a more peaceful, sweet, little family moment? It feels like a very vulnerable moment, where something could easily slip in and strike, but at the same time, the idea that a monster or spirit or what have you would dare to step up at such a point is almost infuriating. 

Of course, there are several others. The original page on Reddit has over 1,000 comments. So, without further ado, here's more of the best. 
My grandmother told me that it was a gift to see the angel of death in front of people's houses, to know that he'd be collecting someone there soon. I thought it was a gift too, up until the day I began to see it in front of every house. ~ Ressurection_man
I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I though it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again. ~ therealhatman
My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help. ~ skuppy
Nurse’s Note: Born 7 pounds 10 ounces, 18 inches long, 32 fully formed teeth. Silent, always smiling. ~ ichokedcheryltunt
 You can find the whole thread here. 

Now, as some of you may have noticed, I fancy myself a bit of a horror writer as well, so I thought I would give this neat little challenge a try.

1. 2:47 PM. The moon set hours ago, but the sun hasn't risen yet.

2. I never swam in the lake. It was always too crowded with the people who lived in it.

3. I came home to find every door in my house shut and locked. I live alone and most of those doors don't have locks.

So there you have it. Now, I challenge my readers to go ahead and leave a comment (or two, or three) with whatever stories they themselves can come up with. Only two rules, it needs to be Horror, this is October after all, and they have to be two sentences or less. Ok? On your mark, get set, GO!

~ Shaun