Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lots of news.

Yay! I've got a lot going on this week, so lets get to it.

My first short horror novel, The Unknown Neighbor, is almost ready to be published. Cover art was finished this past weekend and now it's just waiting for Amazon's approval before they send me the proof for my approval and then I can hit the big, glowing Publish button. If you want to know more about this work, there's this:


Carla Carvine is a typical single mom, working full-time and carefully managing her money. She gets along well with her daughters and most of her neighbors. Her life may not be perfect, but her street and home are nice, quiet, and most importantly, safe.

When she wakes up late one night, all that changes. She discovers news about a murder on her street, shaking her world to its foundation, making her question the safety of her daughters, and the truth of the neighbors she thought she knew. As she struggles to hold herself together amid her fears and confusion, she starts to wonder if there might be even more going on that she's unaware of.

The truth she finds is worse than even her fearful imagination could have envisioned and as she is pushed to her limit, she wonders if she will have the strength to protect her daughters...


And then there is this:


Very exciting stuff for me, and for those of you who have kept up with me since I started working on this seriously. But that's not the only news I have. 

Since I decided it was time to start working on my stuff as a professional writer, there's two blogs I've been following for advice, information and ideas. One of those is A Newbie's Guide to Publishing written by the very knowledgeable and experienced Joe Konrath. The other is My Name is Not Bob written by Robert Lee Brewer a professional poet and editor. It was in fact a series by Mr. Brewer on his blog about building your writer platform (So far, I think all I've managed is to build a soapbox, but I digress.) that led to me starting this very blog. As it happens, Mr. Brewer put out a call on his blog for guest posts talking about how his plan for working on a writer's platform has worked for people. I answered, wrote up a short post and as I sit here typing this out to you, I have a reply and a tentative date set for April the 8th for my post to go up. Of course, I'll be posting reminders on my Facebook page as it gets closer to the date, since that is two weeks out still and it could change, but still, that is some great news in and of itself.

I even have one more project in the pipeline that I still can't tell you all about yet. Very exciting stuff. 

On top of that I'm already about thigh deep in two more books that I'm working through and hope to get out before the year is out. On top of that I have several short stories already finished and I'm looking at a short story collection before the end of the year too. Lots in the works, fingers crossed it all works out and this is my year. 

Rather surprised at how much space I've taken up with just all my news. So I won't go on to a whole other subject after you've read that much. Short and sweet this week. (Comparatively). So everyone take care this week and hopefully everyone else will get a little good news too. 

~ Shaun 

Space Corps Directive 349: Any officer found to have been slaughtered and replaced by a shape-changing chameleonic life-form shall forfeit all pension rights.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It takes a village...

...to raise a child. So the saying goes. I don't know, I don't have any kids myself.

So there's a lot of things that remain the same between most horror worlds and our real one. They typically follow a lot of the same scientific laws that ours do, seem to be populated by most of the same people and include a lot of the same places.

(Everyone knows Metropolis is actually New York, right?)

One major difference between the real world and the world of most horror stories is the effectiveness of teamwork. 

Working with other people is generally accepted as one way we make the world better. We get more work done in a faster time and can even accomplish tasks which nobody could accomplish on their own. As the saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." If you really want to look, it's not hard to see that everywhere you go. Generally speaking, the more you need people's help, the more are willing to come together.

 As an example, a good friend of mine found out at the beginning of the year that her 8-year-old daughter had a rare and very serious type of cancer. The treatment needed was immediate and expensive and they reached out to their friends and community and the response has been nothing if not impressive. In a matter of weeks their facebook page alone had over 500 Likes. (I'm still waiting for #50. :-P ) Local businesses and even friends from out of state have worked together to donate to her cause and arrange events. If you have time and want to read more they have a website set up, complete with blogs written by the young lady and her mother to read at www.caringforcarmen.com. So wander over once you're done here, or go now if you want, I don't mind, I'll wait. 

Back? Ok, I'll continue. So in the real world, teamwork works. People can do amazing things working together. How is that different in most horror worlds? 

In any world in which a horror story is set, teamwork is likely to get you killed. In fact, most horror stories start off with a small band of people: friends, family, or just a handful of people who all shared a craving for cinnamon-swirl ice cream at three am. 

(I swear, I did not know this was actually a thing when I wrote that.)

Typically, working together at first means unleashing some demonic cursed alien beastie which promptly kills two or three members of the group. More attempts at teamwork tend to fail and/or make things worse, at which point people start thinking "You know, maybe we've got too many people working on this." and they break up into smaller groups, typically couples or a trio while one unlucky bastard is left on their own. 

Now, people are still working together, just in smaller groups, spread out to cover more ground. So even apart, they're trying to work together. Unfortunately, now the smaller groups get picked off two at a time when the demonic cursed alien beastie comes back and usually stumbles upon them getting it on. 

Oddly enough, in this situation, it's usually the person all on their own who actually ends up surviving the whole ordeal. This makes sense, as it is much easier for one person to hide by themselves, than it would be for two people to hide together. 

The demonic cursed alien beastie is only one scenario though. What if there is no obvious monster trying to eat everyone? Well, two other main options are a biological contaminant, in which case everyone is much better off staying away from everyone else to prevent spreading the disease; or the killer is one of the group, in which case, the only safe and smart thing to do is to trust nobody, go off on your own and hide until the police show up. (Even then, you should probably steal a gun and one of the police cars and hightail it back to civilization and spend the rest of your life ready to run in the opposite direction if you ever bump into any other survivors.) 

But, Shaun, I hear you cry, aren't there ANY examples of where teamwork is the way to go? Yes, sadly, I'm afraid there is. 


Ah, the zombie. Always moving around causing problems. Out of most horror stories, the zombie invasion is the only one during which people seem to be able to pull their shit together and actually pull off a little successful teamwork. Boarding up abandoned houses, covering the exits, making forays into town for supplies. All the kinds of things you would expect people to accomplish while working together in the face of the apocalypse. Granted, you're still going to run into problems if the group gets too big. (There's always the one guy who wants to be in charge that nobody wants to listen to.) For the most part though, it's nice to think that when the dead rise up, you can count on people to watch your back and step in for you if you just can't shoot the still-warm corpse of your ex before she takes a bite out of you. 

So let's all remember which world it is we really live in and try a little teamwork now and then. Hmm? 

~ Shaun

Space Corps Directive 5796: No officer above the rank of mess sergeant is permitted to go into combat with pierced nipples.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An update and a mixed rant.

Disclaimer: This is probably one of the worst posts I'll ever write, so you may want to just move on after these next three paragraphs. Just saying. You were warned.

So. Time for a little update on my writing life. My first book is pretty much ready to go, I'm still waiting on a cover and hoping I can get a preview copy before I hit that big Publish button. I don't expect that to take more than a few weeks or so depending on how long it takes to properly finish the cover.

In addition to that I'm plodding along on two more books at the moment, both of which already getting good encouragement from the people I've shown it to. Who knows, at this rate I may even build up enough self-confidence to write an entire book with the "door closed" so-to-speak.

One book almost done and two more in the works, yeah, that sounds like a Writer. But that isn't the reason I think I might actually be a Writer now. The real reason I feel like I might actually be a writer is that I have a few things in the pipeline that I can't talk about yet. :-D Yay! Wasn't that irritating after that nice little build-up?

I want to take this time to just speak my mind on a few things. First off, deciding to write isn't a choice to be made lightly. You're not likely to jump into the money and it's a very isolated profession for a lot of people. Gone are the days of hundred-thousand dollar advances from the major publishing companies and despite the better pay you make off of being self-published, expect years and multiple books before you're making any real kind of income. Some people might get lucky, lightning does strike people after all, but those are few and far between and if you think you're going to be one of those without putting in a massive amount of effort you might as well save everyone else the bandwidth and just go buy a lotto ticket. I knew this full well when I sat down and started writing my first novel and I'm willing to part with what little money I have to try and make my book the best it can be. If you want to be a writer, more power to you, but be realistic about your odds and don't give up the day job.

If you want to publish a book just because you think it's "cool" or something, here's a tip. Don't. Please, just don't. One of the weaknesses of the self-publishing industry is that everyone has access to it. A lot of books are getting published which don't even have proper editing, let alone a decent cover or even a good story. You might think it neat to publish a book with your name on it to wave under your family's collective nose and maybe even milk a few unsuspecting saps out of a few bucks, but you're actively harming the rest of us who put forth real effort to create works that people not only want to read, but which are worthy of reading. If you're not going to put real effort into the book you're trying to write and you're not going to go through the effort of multiple revisions, paid editors, cover art and everything that makes a good book good, I implore you, go play a video game instead.

 I've seen more than a few people on several forums that not only seem to think that because they're self-published as opposed to going through a traditional publishing company, they deserve extra slack. I'm sorry. You don't. You deserve less slack. Those of us who chose to self-publish are going up against books which comparatively get the royal treatment and we have to work that much harder to make sure that in some way or another our books can compete. We're not going to pave the way with sub-par books and whining about the breaks we didn't get because of the way we published. We're going to pave the way by showing that self-published authors can create books which are every bit as good as those published by Penguin or Random House.

Thus, I implore you, if you want to write, great. But don't come lightly to the pen and paper (or word processor as the case may be.). As harsh as it sounds, (and trust me, this is nothing compared to the first several drafts I typed up.) take writing seriously or don't even step up. This is really one of those things where just because everyone can do it, doesn't mean just anybody should.

Also, I wanted to share this review that was brought to my attention. It's an absolutely hilarious review of what sounds like a supremely bad book.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1LPA5YOND6TGD

~ Shaun

Space Corps Directive 98247: No officer should be left behind on an inhabited planet unless he is missing two or more limbs.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The State of Horror 2013: Monsters

This is the first post for a little series I'm going to write about the current state of the Horror genre in both books and movies.

Monsters in General

I would like it to be clear to start with that I'm using the word "Monsters" currently as a blanket term, under which I am shoveling everything; from Godzilla to Gremlins, Zombies to Werewolves, and Frankenstein to Hannibal Lector. I am talking about all the evil creatures and villains that make horror movies horrifying. Some specifics types I'll go into more detail further on. For now, this is where I'm starting though.

The Horror genre in general, has lost a lot of it's main monsters. Some have passed away from age, as the fears they engendered have given way to a better understanding of the way the world works, or they were passed up by things even more frightening. The age of the giants is long past as well as the fears of the atomic age. We are no longer frightened by the lack of understanding we have of nuclear weapons, we know we are not going to be mistakenly creating colonies of giant ants or turning iguana's into hundred-meter tall monsters.

Another trend which seems to be stealing away a lot of the power of Horror's most basic tool is the trend toward the Young Adult demographic. This group isn't interested in reading or seeing things that scare them. Anyone who has talked to a teenager for any length of time is well aware that their whole lives revolve around the drama of relationships, their own, their friends and those of the people they like or are interested in. Thus, a lot of the power our monsters had is getting toned down for this demographic or in some cases, even taken away entirely and then romanticized! One of the bigger problems with this is that as people move out of the YA category, they have already come to expect that of the monsters they may see in later books or movies and thus they dislike it when the "true" monsters come out.

Vampires




Vampires are one of the oldest monster tropes we have in the Horror genre. They have also grown to be among the weakest ones still shuffling along. While they survive in adaptations such as 30 Days of Night, Blade, and Underworld, the damage they have suffered in the past several years has been truly appalling. Gone are the days when a single one of these lords of the undead could send shivers down your spine and cause you to check the doors and windows before bed. Their strength has been weakened by such creations as the Twilight series, Being Human, and The Vampire Diaries; now they only cause fear by running in packs and acting like savage predators. It is telling though, that as a society we no longer fear seduction by these creatures, which was always an allusion to the sexual repression of the victorian era. So it has to be said, as much as we have outgrown this classic monster, it is a testament to it's power and adaptability that it remains such a common trope, whether or not it is portrayed as the monstrous villain or the courageous hero.

Werewolves



Werewolves are another Horror classic, and they have remained largely unchanged since they first appeared.  The werewolf was always used to represent the duality of the human condition, the difference between the intellectual and the beast. They aren't as common on their own and usually when they do show up, as in the Underworld movies, they are second string to vampires. Werewolves, however, remain one of the most consistent monster tropes that we still have. The human 'beast' who has no control over his transformation and joins with others of his kind to roam in packs for strength and protection. The point being, human beings are pack animals and as long as we strive to maintain our intelligence, there will always be the struggle between the brain and the animal instincts inside us.

Zombies




The zombie didn't become a horror trope in and of itself until the 1968 film The Night of the Living Dead, though several books and films did mention them in previous years, such as Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I am Legend. The idea of the zombie, a person who is dead moving around actively looking for live flesh to feed upon, hits upon several things that scare us; such as a loss of identity and cannibalism. Unfortunately, the zombie trope has been somewhat overdone in the past decade or so and has lost a lot it's ability to frighten us. There are many ideas as to why that is. Commercialization for a start, but I think it's more to do with the fact that you can have too much of a good thing. Zombies have been featured so heavily over the past several years that it's almost become a common part of the normal world. Movies like Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies make light of the zombie as a monster and even in shows that take them seriously as in The Walking Dead make them almost secondary to the drama of the survivors. Zombies will continue to stick around, but I expect them to further degrade as the years continue, not because we no longer fear what they represent, but because we have more or less given in to it.

Ghosts and Demons




It's rather sad to me that these are almost becoming mixed. Interest in these things has spiked, due in large part to the show Ghost Hunters and movies such as Paranormal Activity. These tropes as monsters offer a look into some of the greatest fears we have; the unknown and what happens to us after we die. The idea that we can only see what they want us to see, whether it's a door moving or pans rattling feeds a sense of paranoia that they can be all around us at any given time and at their will could grab us and throw us against the ceiling or drag us down the hall. Unseen spirits are one of the most enduring tropes in the horror genre and despite the passage of time have lost none of their ability to frighten. In some ways their ability has been strengthened by the jump in interest through the tv series and movies I've already mentioned, which have allowed everyone to see what these things could be capable of. It gives me hope that as long as the question of what these things really are remain unanswered, these will remain capable sources of frights, for books and movies.

Aliens




We have come a long way from fearing the silver space suits of the 1950's, and despite a seeming wane of interest these ideas continue to cause fear. It is a fear that has matured since it was first used, and no longer do we fear simply seeing the ships in the air as we did during the days of the cold war. Instead, we discovered what to truly fear, which is what they can do and why they're here. This is evident in movies such as The Fourth Kind and the older Fire in the Sky. As what it is about them that scares us has solidified, so has the level of terror they can bring us to. They have become the proverbial 'monster in the closet', waiting for us to go to sleep and sneak into our bedrooms. They have come to embody our fear of the dark and of what is out in the vast emptiness of space. They are currently taking a break, stepping aside for the uprising of the demons and spirits which are occupying the main stage of the horror genre currently, but they remain a powerful source of fear and frights and will likely see another resurgence in the years to come.

Last Rites

Those are the main monster tropes available in the horror genre currently. There are others of course, there has been a slight resurgence of the classic fairy tales, updated for the modern age and returning to their darker roots in the shows Grimm and Once Upon A Time. Giant monsters still pop up from time to time like the forthcoming movie Pacific Rim, as well as the monsters created by science be it Jurassic Park, or Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There are also the human monsters, reveling in the horrific acts that people can inflict upon each other. Rarely, a brand new abomination will rear it's head. The point of all these monsters and beasts though is mere allegory. No matter what repulsive forms they take, they are manifestations of the things we fear the most. Not everyone is scared of these things equally and some might fear other things entirely, but that is the truth of what these creatures are, and until these fears are conquered by the collective human society, they will continue to roam, terrorize and kill in books, movies and television. And I for one, don't think that's a bad thing.

~ Shaun

Saturday, March 2, 2013

So, how good was that movie?

Communication. It is the basis for pretty much everything that has allowed the human race to become one of the dominant species of the planet. Right up there with the wheel, fire, and opposable thumbs. (I would include brains in that, but there is little scientific evidence of brain usage in the average human being these days.) Now, this post isn't about how we communicate through words or the history of it or even the importance of it. This post is about me encouraging everyone out there to try it.

A lot of you are probably thinking. "Hey, I communicate to people every day: family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, sometimes complete strangers. What do you mean when you're telling me to try communicating?"


For starters, we're not talking about communication which is generally expected or required. (Give your significant other the silent treatment for an hour just because and tell me how THAT turns out.) Nor am I talking about simple courtesy conversations such as "Hey, how are you?" as you pass someone in the hall without stopping. I'm talking about real communication with real people for a specific purpose. 

I suppose at this point, I should just lay out what I'm trying to communicate. Specifically, I'm talking about reviews. Reviews of books. Reviews of movies. Reviews of businesses. Most people probably never even give these kinds of things a second thought. They figure "Someone else will do it." or "Why bother?". A lot of reviews are written for specific reasons, such as exceptionally incredible service or the opposite, amazingly bad service. I feel that it's wrong that such an interesting communicative device such as reviews are casually tossed aside so often. 

I was recently involved in a debate on the site www.Goodreads.com about the value of a one-star review. It's true that a one-star review of anything is typically a bad sign, but there is more to it than that. Now occasionally, you'll get people who have a bone to pick with a particular author or who will shun the book because it touches on a certain topic. Those kinds of reviews are typically explained using the phrase "This book is The Suck." Those kinds of reviews help nobody, along with the five-star reviews which only say "OMG!! This book ROXXXX!!" 

Think about it. When you write a review for something, you are communicating your opinion to the people that make the product as well as to everyone who may use it. A review doesn't have to be a page and a half long, but a click of a mouse on the rating you want to give it and a short explanation as to why. It shouldn't matter if your rating is one-star, three-stars, or the full five-stars. Your review could be the deciding factor whether or not someone picks up that item or moves on to a different one. If you think something is great, tell the world so other people can discover it. If you think something is terrible, warn everyone and maybe you'll prevent someone else from wasting money on it. Even if something is ok, hit that three-star button and explain what was good and what was bad. 

T-Rex eats a Lawyer. `Nuff said.

This is a large part of what communication was created for and why it helped propel us to the top of the food chain. We tell each other what is bad and should be avoided while telling people what is good and needs to be shared. If everyone left a review on things they bought or businesses they used, (despite how none of us would have any time left if we reviewed EVERYTHING we did) we could probably force the closure of bad businesses or companies that produce poor products by directing people away from them. Additionally, we could provide support for places that give great service or products but are struggling because they can't afford the massive ad campaigns big companies have. 

So, this is what I'm asking of my readers. Think back over the past year. Think of something that stands out to you, whether it's a movie or a book, a restaurant or a local business. It can be good or bad. This is your chance to communicate and maybe even make a difference for someone else. Think of how you would rate that subject out of five-stars and why. Then go out into the ginormous(Seriously? That's a real word?) internet and post your review. Not only does it feel good to express your opinion like that, your opinion could be the deciding factor for someone who really needs it. If you don't know where to go, I've added some links below. Now, CHARGE! And communicate with the world! 

When you're done, feel free to come back and leave a comment to where people can see your review, or if you're feeling particularly lazy, leave a review of this blog post.

~ Shaun

www.IMDB.com - Movies
www.Amazon.com - Pretty much anything you can buy
www.BBB.org - Better Business Bureau 
www.Yelp.com - Businesses