Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Happy New Year 2016!

Whew. Another year come and gone. I hope you all had a great Christmas!

It's been a long year on the blog here. With a large variety of posts covering a slew of different subjects. My blog got a long-needed facelift and a few new pages. We also hit a major milestone this year, with over 30,000 views!

Let's start with the changes to the blog here. We got a new background, one more befitting a Horror blog. You can now click directly on my books on the left side there. The "Reviews" page became "Reviews By Me" to make it clear what was going on, and I consolidated all my monsters posts onto one page for Cryptids.

Speaking of Cryptids, I added to my list this year, starting with the Ropen, then adding Giant Spiders and Sea Serpents. Bringing my list of 31 Monsters up to 22. We will continue to add to that list in the coming year as well.

One thing I stepped up on this year, was sharing my writing here on the blog. It includes my short story Collaboration, as well as the multi-part serials Class 1: The Delivery, and Walkabout. I must admit that I liked doing the multi-part stories, so keep an eye out in the coming year for more blog exclusive stories. 

Where I really stepped up this year though was reviews. Mostly of video games. The Witcher 3, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Five Nights at Freddy's have all been done. I plan to continue doing reviews into the new year, but probably not as many video games. I plan on going back to look at a few TV series, and I may start posting some book reviews to the blog itself. We'll have to see how that goes though. 

I've really fallen behind on discussions of writing and Horror itself though. Truth be told, I've had trouble thinking of things that I haven't already gone over. True, some stuff bears repeating, and I have a few things boiling up to a couple rants, but it feels like a waste of time to just go over a subject again with only a few snippets of new info. I plan on going back and looking over some of my old posts though, see what needs updating and keeping my mind open to questions I need to answer. 

In the meantime, if you have a Horror or Writing related question, leave it in the comments, or you can find my email on the Biography page and send it to me directly and I'll do my best to answer it. If I get enough questions, I'll likely devote an entire blog post to them. Now that would really be something! 

In the meantime, I hope you all have a good and safe New Year's Eve, and we'll see you next year! 

~ Shaun 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review: Lost Tapes (TV show)

So, there's a lot more Horror out there than just movies, books, and video games. There's also TV series. While Horror television shows are somewhat of a rarity, there are a few out there, many available on DVD. (Mostly available on DVD, they don't typically seem to last too long, although there are definitely exceptions.)

Lost Tapes was a series that aired on Animal Planet from 2008 - 2010. It was fairly short-lived, with only 14 episodes in its first season.

The premise of the show is pretty simple. Each episode looks at a cryptid or monster of some kind in a "found footage" type of storytelling. The first episode, for example, is effectively an encounter with a Chupacabra, as seen through the video camera of a Mexican girl sneaking across the border into the US, and then through the body cameras of the border patrol officers that find her. 

Interspersed between camera shots, there is typically narration or a factoid which gives insight into current theories about the creature or the area it inhabits. 

(This one refers to the journey on foot of illegal immigrants from Mexico to the US.)

Unfortunately, which the episodes are a list of the most well-known and popular cryptids, this is mostly an entertainment show, good for creeping you out and a few jumpscares. It's not any kind of real investigation, or even summation of these creatures. Most episodes are only around 20 minutes long too, so it's not hard to blow right through an entire season in a day. 

The first season was also the best, delving into such staples as the Chupacabra, Bigfoot, Megaconda, Thunderbirds, and Megalania. Unfortunately, over the second, and especially the 3rd season, they had to reach for monsters people would recognize. The 3rd season falling prey to zombies, poltergeists, and even the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl. 

Still, the show has a fair bit of entertainment value, and would fit right in for an October marathon if you can find it on DVD. 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holy Plot Holes, Batman!

Sometimes, it just happens that we miss something. A paragraph, or even a single sentence which makes no sense given what happens throughout the rest of the story. These are commonly called Plot Holes.

A perfect example of this would be Buzz from the movie Toy Story. Basically, if he really didn't believe he was a toy, he wouldn't have acted like it when Andy (or his parents) entered the room. Kinda throws off the whole movie, huh?

These things do slip through the cracks though. It's to be expected when you have a novel of 60,000, 70,000, or 100,000 words. Plot holes in books usually only last a single sentence or a paragraph, even if their repercussions span the entire work. In the Toy Story example above, Buzz pretty much does that through the entire movie. Pretending to be a toy whenever any human enters the room, even though he swears he's not one. Effectually, the whole movie falls apart if you think about it too long.

Of course, this is one of the things a good developmental editor looks for. Although, for holes that span the entire book, there's not much that can be done. Still, the more consistent you can make your work, the better it'll be. A big enough plot hole, even an irrelevant one, can pull the reader out of your story and that's the last thing you want.

If you have mind-control slime that takes people over at the slightest touch, your heroine can't take a bunch of it in the face without effect or explanation

If you establish that your town has a single road in and out, you can't set up a military roadblock and then have a character from out of town just show up in town like nobody's business.

I'm certainly not going to claim my own works are hole free. I had a minor one in my book Class 5 that I actually had pointed out to me in a few reviews. I took advantage of it being self-published to fix it though and upload the new version, but it was there, and I'm sure there's a few more that I still haven't caught.

My own plot hole that I fixed was simply not explaining the reasoning behind my character's actions, which didn't make much sense otherwise. It didn't help that the character in question wasn't in his right mind, so his actions weren't exactly a logical leap for most people. The fix was easy though, a couple sentences where someone questions his actions and he mentions his thinking. Problem solved.

So how to avoid plot holes? That's easy, just keep your eyes and your mind open during the multiple revisions your work should go through before it's published. Hire a good editor to go through your manuscript. Have beta readers give your work the once, or twice over. Basically, do everything you should normally do to make your work the best it can be.

Of course, some things may still slip through the cracks, and some things that are technically plot holes will be the axis upon which your story rotates. In that case, you just have to explain it away as best you can and/or hope nobody notices, like the Toy Story example.

Except everything's going to be noticed eventually, so it may be best to just not worry about it.

Don't worry. Be happy.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

31 Posts of Monsters: Sea Serpents

The oceans of the world are deep, dark, and have been terrifying people for as long as mankind has known about them. While we've always known they were full of tasty fish and clams, we also know there are things in there that don't mind making meals out of us if they get the chance.

Name: Sea Monster, Sea Serpent

Size: Variable. Reports can be as small as ten feet, to hundreds of feet long.

Appearance: Long, serpentine bodies with dragon or horse-like heads.

Threat: Medium. Many sea serpents could crush ships just by sheer size, and huge jaws lined with sharp teeth means predators that would likely not pass up the chance to devour some hapless sailors. There are almost no actual accounts of such creatures actually attacking ships or people though. It could simply be because there are no survivors.

Reports of sea serpents have dwindled since we've filled in most corners of the map. That doesn't mean there aren't any though. The news usually has three to four stories a year about unusual creatures washing onshore or a strange shape seen in the water from a ship.

It's been said we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the depths of our oceans. Even the giant squid was just a myth until several years ago, and there's hints of even bigger versions down there. Squid up to 120 feet long. So it's not at all unbelievable that a 60 - 75 foot serpent could be gliding through the water out there, preying on sharks, or even small whales.

Many things are probably just being misidentified though. A giant squid close to the surface could
easily give the impression of a single, or even several long, snake-like creatures. Especially if one tentacle lifted up out of the water, it would certainly look like a long neck with a small head at the end. A lot of times, storms or catastrophic events can drudge up deep sea creatures and toss them on the beach. To an untrained eye, a 20-foot oarfish is easily a sea monster. Not to mention the rotting carcasses of whiles that wash up every so often, giving the appearance of something entirely different.

One of the things that's always struck me is how much many reports sound like creatures we know used to exist. Even reports that date back to before we knew of them. Plesiosaurs for one example, the sea-going reptiles that swam alongside the dinosaurs and that are commonly pointed to in claims of lake monsters. Long neck, dragon-like head, humps. Ocean species may have developed leaner, more snake-like bodies as well, especially in tropical waters.

Plesiosaurs are relatively small fry though. The real sea monsters would be Liopleurodon or one of the Mosasaurs.

Sea monsters are a staple in movies, such as Deep Rising, or Predator X, and Books abound as well. Tim Curran's Leviathan, Max Hawthorne's Kronos Rising, and others are relatively easy to find. Once you expand into sharks, there are literally hundreds of choices in movies and reading to keep a sea-fearing mind busy.

Perfect entertainment if you're planning on taking a cruise.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Birthday to a Blog

So, it was three years ago on the 8th of this month that I published my first post on this blog. That's a lot of words put down, and a lot of different posts.

This blog has seen the publishing of two books, one novelette, and one short story sampler. It's also seen me reach finalist in a short story contest for a local Horror convention. It's also seen the writing of a third book, and the posting of several more short stories on this very blog.

In honor of that, you may have noticed the blog here has gotten a shake-up. A new background, links to my books on the left side of the screen, and a whole separate page dedicated to Cryptids. Some changes which were a long time coming.

There are some issues when viewing the page on a mobile device, I am aware of and working on that. Sorry. :-/

Now, I'll admit, when I started this blog, I had some rather lofty aspirations of moving over to a full website of my own after a year or so. Obviously that hasn't happened. Best laid plans, and all that. However, sometimes the best thing is for things to not go quite according to plan. I like the way the blog is looking now, and even though I'm still not quite back to a regular weekly schedule yet, things are looking up.

I'm purposely keeping this particular post pretty short. I've got things to work on this week and I just wanted to point out the changes here.

I also want to thank all of you that have followed me along on this journey so far. Your support means a lot to me and I wouldn't even be where I am now without it. So, thank you.

Next week WILL have a real post to keep up on, and I might even have a giveaway or something special. As I write this, my blog is just 50 views shy of 30,000. So, let's hit that milestone and be on our way to the next one!

Feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line letting me know what you think of the new look and/or suggestions!

~ Shaun

Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015

November means NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. A time for aspiring authors around the world to gather and support each other in their attempts to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.

Now, if you're not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it may seem like it opens the door to a bunch of hacks, giving hope to people that can't actually write, and the opening of the floodgates to a tidal wave of badly written, self-published junk.

On the contrary. Some New York Times Bestsellers have been born of NaNoWriMo.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Wool by Hugh Howey

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough.

There's likely hundreds of other novels out there that have seen some level of success that all started as NaNoWriMo projects. They may not necessarily have finished in a month. (The Night Circus was written over two separate NaNoWriMo challenges.), but they were all started during the challenge, and for many writers, both established and aspiring, getting started on a piece can be the hardest part.

Of course, there's more options than simply writing a novel. Writing comes in many forms, but they all start the same. Words to paper (or to screen as the case may be) on a daily basis. As I've said before, writers need to write.

The challenge for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in 30 days. That boils down to just under 1,700 words per day. Now, even that can feel pretty daunting, but once you get started, it's an easy mark to reach if your idea stretches that far. (As of the end of this sentence, this blog post is currently at 284 words for example.)

So, depending on your preferred style, you could accept a variation of the challenge. A poem a day. A novella a week. A short story every 3 days. It really is up to you.

I'm not officially taking part this year. (Officially is signing up on NaNoWriMo.com and keeping track of your progress there.) I am taking advantage of the opportunity to get my ass in gear and get started on a few different ideas I've been batting around for a while. I don't really know how long any of them are going to be, which is one reason I'm not keeping an official NaNoWriMo tally. It's also easier on me to have a few stories I can bounce back and forth between, as opposed to slogging through a single long piece. Considering the difficulties I've had getting anything written for the past several months, any start is a good day.

So if you're taking part, congratulations and good luck. Feel free to refer to my post about Writer's Resources. Don't get discouraged if you don't make the word count every day, and don't even get discouraged if you don't finish in a month's time. The hardest part is getting started.

This blog post has a count of 500 words. Doesn't really seem like much, huh?

~ Shaun

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Walkabout: Part 4

Walkabout: Part 1


The pain was excruciating. As Carol regained consciousness, she had to fight against passing out again. Tears squeezed out of her shut eyes. She couldn't feel her left leg at all. The one the reptile had bitten. Her nose was filled with the scent of blood and she raised her hands to cover her face in a useless attempt to block it out as she started to sob.

"Easy, now. Easy."

The voice was James, bringing a small sense of clarity to her distraught mind. She finally realized she wasn't in the tree where she had passed out. Carol dared to open her eyes.

James was kneeling over her, the sky a reddish haze behind him. She was on the ground, which felt strangely warm compared to the chill which ran through her body.

"Okay, Carol? Carol. It's alright. You're safe for the moment. I put a tourniquet on your left leg, it's slowed the bleeding a lot, but I can't get it to stop."

"Oh God. Oh God. Idon'twanttodieouthere. Godpleasedon'tletmedieouthere."

"Carol. Carol! Listen to me! You need to calm down. You're in shock. There's an airlift on the way, but it'll take them a little time to get here. You need to hold on until then. Can you hear me?" James had his hands on her shoulders, jostling her, but she barely registered it.

"Carol." Daryl's voice cut through the fog, pausing her mind enough for her to turn her head and look. Her husband was laying there next to her, his one leg badly mangled through the rudimentary bandages James had made out of his shirt. It still continued to bleed through the fabric, pooling underneath his leg until it spread enough to roll down the rock their guide had pulled them both up onto. The sun was setting on the horizon, making the sky match the blood-stained sandstone underneath them.

"Is it...is that animal gone?"

"I haven't seen it for a while, it wandered off into the brush after the attack. Considering that I can't stop either of you from bleeding, I have to guess it was venomous and now it's waiting for you two to die." He leaned in to Carol again. "But I'm not going to let that happen. I've got my mobile and I called in a medical emergency, they have an airlift on the way."

She nodded slowly in understanding, the pain still throbbing through her body. She still wanted to close her eyes, just sleep for a while. Carol knew that was just the shock. To fall asleep now was risking never waking up.


"Yeah, honey?"

"Are you happy now?"

She smiled as she heard a week, wheezing laugh at her question. She busted his ass on these trips a lot, but they made him happy, and that was usually enough for her.

"Okay smart guy. What was that?"

"...Lania...Megalania...I would have to guess. I just saw a little bit on a program about Australia's extinct animals."

"Yeah, extinct. There haven't been any Megalania in Australia for ten thousand years." James almost spat at the suggestion.

"Well, I think we found one." Daryl said, wincing at the pain of his broken leg and the multiple puncture wounds from the animal's teeth. James didn't have another response, he just looked out into the wilderness around them. Whatever it was, it was close by still. Waiting for its prey to die. He estimated the airlift was still between ten to fifteen minutes out.

Off to his right, about thirty yards out, he saw the bushes shaking. The animal's head stuck out from between the leaves. He still wouldn't have seen it if it hadn't stuck out its tongue to smell the air. Just like a goanna. It made no sign of coming for them though.

There was usually some kook or other claiming to have seen one every few years, most were just ignored or blown up into a joke. Most sightings were also usually down south, and out in the bush. but James couldn't doubt his own eyes. This was a lizard, bigger than any croc he had ever seen. Whether it really was or not, he had no idea, but the name stuck to it in his head. Megalania.

Daryl had closed his eyes and passed out again, and Carol's eyelids were fluttering as she struggled to stay conscious. James was used to stupid tourists getting themselves in trouble. Getting bitten by a funnel web, or stung by a bullet ant or jellyfish was more common than anyone wanted to admit, so he was used to seeing people going into shock. This felt different though. Between how rapidly and strongly this couple went into shock and how he couldn't stop the bleeding, he was sure the lizard was poisonous somehow.

He remembered back to the attack, watching from the tree he had escaped into, watching the reptile gnaw on Daryl's leg rather than just try to rip it off. Most poisonous lizards didn't inject their venom like snakes did, they had to work it in. He reckoned that was exactly what he had been watching.

Now how long would it wait?

Almost on queue it stepped out of the bushes, it's long, forked tongue flicking in and out. Its body waved from side to side, and James could hear every step as the massive body slowly started heading towards them. Megalania. The Giant Ripper Lizard.

Somehow the slow advance was more terrifying than the initial charge had been. It was deliberate, like it knew there was no escape. This massive lizard, easily a thousand kilograms, held up its head as the tongue tasted the air.

James hoped the height of the rock outcropping would offer some protection, if just for a few minutes, long enough for the chopper to show up and scare it away with its noise, but he couldn't believe that as liesurely as the animal looked while it approached. The fear in his chest was palpable, something he'd never felt before, not even facing down the salties. He was staring into the face of something that looked back at him and saw nothing but prey. Food. James would've given anything to have his rifle with him, but he had assumed this would just be a quick trip up the trail and back. It should've been as safe as any trip he had made into the park.

The couple laying on the rock behind him were both unconscious now as he risked a glance over to them. He couldn't be sure Carol was still breathing. He only knew Daryl wasn't dead because his body was trembling as he lay there.

How much longer before the airlift? Five minutes? Seven? He couldn't fight it off, and he couldn't escape with the older couple. If they moved now, there was also the chance the airlift wouldn't be able to find them.

It was now at the base of the rock, looking up at him. That tongue flicking in and out.

He ran for it. Leaving the old couple to their fate as he jumped down from the opposite side and took off through the grass. James cursed himself as he ran, feeling the weight of the couple's deaths dragging on him, threatening to slow him down.

Then he cursed himself more for not being smarter.

He heard the sounds of it crashing through the brush as it chased after him. Running had made him the target, and this was a patient predator. It knew the bodies of the others would still be there after it chased this prey down.

He could hear it behind him, clawed feet pounding the ground as it charged. It's open mouth hissing, ready to grab onto any limb that fell within reach. Then he felt its sheer power as it plowed into him from behind, sending him through the air and sprawling into the dirt. Its weight was on top of him, crushing one leg as he felt it sink its long, thin teeth into his side, gnawing into him. Working the venom into his flesh. James screamed at the pain, lashing out with one arm, pounding against the side of the beast's head. It completely ignored him as the dirt sucked up his blood as it poured out of the wounds.

Then the weight was gone, and he was laying there bleeding out in the grass. His breath came in short, quick gasps as he slowly turned his head and found himself staring into the reptile's face.

It regarded him silently, it's long tongue slipping out, flicking in his face. The breath was foul, reeking of the blood which covered its mouth and dripped down to the ground mixed with thick strands of venom-laced saliva.

Then there was finally a sound to pierce the otherwise silent bush. The familiar whop-whop-whop of a helicopter as it approached. James felt his eyelids getting heavy, even against the pain of the gaping wounds in his side. He bit his tongue against a fresh wave as the animal, having also heard the sound, grabbed onto his arm and started dragging him off into the brush. In his last thought before he lost consciousness, he hoped the old couple would be found in time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Walkabout: Part 3

Walkabout: Part 1
Walkabout: Part 2


When Carol caught up, she turned and looked down the hill to the riverbank. They could just see underneath the overhanging branches where the croc had crawled out. Indeed, there were obvious footprints and drag marks in the mud where it had come up onto land, but it must not have stopped just out of the water like they had been expecting. It must have crawled up further among the trees and the bushes.

That meant it was now somewhere back along the trail they had just run down.

"Hold on now. Something ain't right here..."

James waved for the couple to stay put as he walked back along the trail, crouched down, scanning down the hill and into the trees and bushes that obscured the view from the trail to the riverbank.

"James? That looked like an awfully big croc. Maybe we should just continue down the trail a bit, wait and see if it crosses behind us or heads back into the water?" Daryl's excitement was suddenly gone. The only sound was the guide's shoes on the dirt as he picked his way slowly back along the trail.

Animals dealt with predators on a regular basis. On a trip to Africa several years ago, Daryl and Carol had witnessed a small pride of lions share a watering hole with gazelle, hyenas, and even a giraffe with no problems. The prey could sense when a predator was on the hunt and dangerous, as well as when it wasn't. The silence of the park around them, combined with the knowledge that there was indeed a large predator nearby, wrapped them in a thin veil of fear, which threatened to thicken and smother them at any moment.

Carol slipped behind her husband as she watched the guide quietly search for the animal.

"I'm honestly not sure that was a saltie, mate. No ridges on its back. Looked more like a large monitor lizard."

"Monitor lizard? They don't get that big, do they? I mean, that thing was huge!" Daryl's voice wavered.

"Dunno, to be perfectly honest with you. I just know that wasn't like the salties I'm used to out here. Ah, there it is. Okay, you two, stay here. I'm going to see if I can get a better look at it."

"Are you crazy? Can't we just wait until it goes away?" Carol continued trying to squeeze herself behind her husband. Her sense of fear only increasing.

James worked his way carefully around the edge of the trail, keeping his eyes trained on the animal in the brush as he stepped down. "Just, stay there!"

James made his way down the hill, keeping his eyes on the shape which remained motionless in the bushes. He knew it was watching him as much as he was watching it. This was a massive animal, and an extremely dangerous predator if it was the reason all the other animals cleared out.

The coloring wasn't too far off from a saltwater croc. A mix of dark browns and greens, making it near invisible in the brackish water or the low brush. Even in the tall grass it would be hard to spot. It stood taller than a crocodile though, its head lifted high, with a much shorter snout. The scales were smooth as well, not the rough armour that the salties had.

James nodded to himself. It looked more like the biggest goanna he'd ever seen. If he had to guess, it was easily six meters long. He picked up a small rock and tossed it over into the bushes. The animal didn't move. He backed up slowly, his feet finding the way back up to the trail, eyes locked on the animal almost entirely hidden in front of him. Looking right at it, watching, it still seemed to vanish with the distance as he stepped back.

He didn't turn his back until he reached the trail again, then he hurried back to the couple.

"Yeah, that ain't a saltie. Looks like the biggest damn goanna in the world though."

"Goanna?" Carol asked, peeking over her husband's shoulder.

"Lizard. A really, REALLY, big lizard."

"Is it dangerous?" Daryl continued the line of questioning.

"Well, yeah. I imagine it is. Something that big could take down damn near anything it wants."

"You don't know what it is though?"

"Nope, never seen anything like it before."

"Can we sneak past it? Get back?" Carol's voice trembled.

As if to answer her question, the bushes shook, and then the beast charged up the hill and at them, the ground shuddering under their feet. It was absolutely a massive lizard, and not a crocodile. Its open mouth hissed at them, baring sparse, pointed teeth.

The couple turned and ran down the trail. James followed a ways then darted off into the bushes. The reptile chased after the older pair, its tail waving side to side.

Daryl stumbled.

Before she could do anything, the beast had clamped down on his leg several times, almost gnawing on it, shaking its head, the old man flung around like a dog's toy. There was a distinct snapping sound as Daryl's leg gave to the motion, breaking, and the air filled with the smell of blood and the old man's screams of pain.

Then he was laying on the dirt, blood pooling around his leg from several deep puncture wounds. The animal left him there and continued on, chasing after Carol now.

"The tree! Get up in the tree!" James screamed at her from his own perch, some twenty feet up off the ground. Somehow she heard the command over the sounds of her own screams and its mass pounding the ground as it pursued her.

She made it off the trail to a tree, scrambling up, but not making it high enough in time. She gripped the branches as sharp teeth dug into her ankle. The pain was excrutiating as she screamed at the top of her lungs. The reptile didn't bite down and hold on. It almost seemed to try to chew while attempting to pull her down from the tree.

The flesh of her foot gave before her grip did. The teeth dragging down through her foot and ankle, the lizard tearing huge gashes and ripping off half her foot before it slid back to the earth, swallowing the small chunk as it looked up at her. Tears streamed down her face as she tried to force herself to climb higher. The beast just looked up at her, a long, forked tongue flicking out between its closed lips. It somehow looked satisfied.

She managed to work herself up into a fork in the tree and hung there, blood streaming out of the mangled strips of flesh that used to be her foot. She watched the huge lizard circle the tree she was in before turning back down the trail. Daryl was gone though, the blood marking where he had fallen stretched into a trail off into the bushes and grass.

Her eyes grew heavy and her breath came in quick, short gasps. Carol had spent fifteen years as a nurse. She knew she was going into shock. The wound on her foot was bad enough that if nothing was done she would bleed out in short order anyway, and there was no real way to get proper help in time. She let her eyes close, hoping it would just be quiet and peaceful.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Walkabout: Part 2

Part 1. (For those of you who haven't read it yet.)


Half an hour, they trudged through the trees before the trail finally wound back around to a hill overlooking the river again. The two men had continued discussing the merits of random tourists seeking out deadly animals while Carol dragged her feet behind them, trying to think of ways he was going to pay her back for dragging her all the way out here and wasting a full day of their vacation.

"Huh, well, that's odd." James had his hands on his hips as he turned first one way, then the other, scanning the river as far as he could see in both directions.

"What's odd?"

James didn't answer right away. He continued scanning the river, then turned and looked off further down the trail. The trees thinned quickly at this point, opening into a grassland with scattered trees and red stone hills and outcrops.

"Still don't see any crocs in the river. Don't see any roos or anything out in the grass either. It's weird. We should be able to find something."

The three of them scanned the area. The riverbank still had tracks and drag marks in it. There were signs of life, just nothing moving.

James held up his hand.

"Listen. You can't hear anything. It's like everything's cleared off."

"So all the animals are gone?"

"Well, I dunno that all of them are gone. But you can't even hear any birds."

Daryl didn't know what to say to that. Carol only knew it meant they had trudged all the way out into the bush and wasted a day of their trip for nothing.

"Daryl. You owe me a night at the bar when we get back if you dragged me all the way out here for nothing but the heat."

"James? What does this all mean?" Daryl did his best to ignore Carol's aggravated tongue, though he knew he would pay for it more later.

"Well, could be just about anything. Could be a bad storm moving in tonight. I'd 've heard about it though so I don't think that's it. Could be a particularly nasty saltie has chased everything away." He smirked and glanced over at Carol. "Or, could be someone was noisy and sent everything scurrying."

Carol crossed her arms over her chest, and huffed. She could hardly argue that though, as much as she avoided brushing any of the plants, she hadn't exactly tried to keep her voice down.

"Yeah, that's it, blame me because you can't find your stupid crocs."

"Look, we'll head a bit further down the trail, keep our voices low, and maybe something might come out, okay? Easy peasy."

Carol huffed again, and Daryl's shoulders slumped. He was disappointed and would be ready to head back if something didn't show itself soon. Then it would be down to the bar for likely the rest of the night.

Carol wasn't really a drinker, or a dancer. She liked to swirl a drink around with a straw and take her time with it. The punishment was that Daryl had to stay with her the whole night while they watched the younger crowd get blitzed and dance until the bar closed. On nights where he 'owed' her a night at the bar, she made sure they were the last to leave, with only the employees getting home after they did. Then she would wake him up bright and early. She really was a stickler about her time being wasted.

Which was exactly how this whole trip was turning out.

"There! Look down there!" James pointed excitedly down at the river as he started to run down the trail. There was something there, mostly hidden under the brackish water. The undulating 'S' shape was indicative of a large reptile swimming across to their side. As they ran to catch up with James, it disappeared into the undergrowth along the side of the river.

"Alright, alright, keep your distance now. It must just be like I told you, just a big saltie scaring everything else away. Keep your eyes open now, the trail comes around a little bend and he should be just up on the bank under the bushes where we should be able to get a good look at him."

Daryl's enthusiasm quickly returned as he raced to catch up with James. Carol hurried along at her own pace, falling behind the two men by several steps. Not that they got too much further before stopping at the bend the guide had mentioned.

"Well, shit. Where did he scurry off to?" James stamped his foot.


Walkabout: Part 3

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Walkabout: Part 1

Carol fanned herself with the wide brim of her hat. How she had let Daryl con her into a vacation in Australia of all places in the world, in the middle of summer, she couldn't recall.

"Daryl! Have you seen any crocs yet?" She yelled from the sweltering shade of the trees she had taken cover under.

"No. Dear."

He had been adamant about seeing all the dangerous animals the smallest continent had to offer. Saltwater crocodiles were at the top of his list. He was a camera hunter, although he was slow on the draw and missed twice more shots than he caught. He said it was enough for him just to see the animals with his own eyes, though. Memories to carry the rest of his life. Nevermind that his memory had been fading fairly significantly the past several years.

"Oy! You can wander up the trail over here!"

Daryl had hired a guide to take them into Rinyirru National Park for the day in order to check off his list of critters. Carol, in the meantime, was simply along for the ride, trying to mete out whatever enjoyment she could out of the trip. She enjoyed a good sunny spot as much as the next lady, but over a hundred degrees was too much of a good thing.

"Carol, come on, we're heading up the river a bit further."

She groaned, standing up and looking around. She wished she'd stayed at the hotel. Her hat replaced on her head, she headed after them down a small trail.

The park was an interesting mix of mangroves, swamps, and rainforest, quickly transitioning to grasslands and hills as you went south. Carol had initially been surprised at the variety, but in the heat of the day even that little interest had evaporated.

Now she didn't bother trying to hide her irritation as she followed them down the trail which meandered alongside the river, just far enough up the bank that a croc couldn't lunge up and take someone without warning. Carol watched her steps, being careful not to brush against any of the grass which hung over the edge of the trail. Daryl had made her watch enough nature shows on Australia before announcing the trip for her to be wary of the smallest bug.

Daryl's list of animals to see included the funnel web spider, and while it didn't make the list of critters to hunt down, the documentary which covered the spider also devoted time to bull ants and other insects. As far as Carol was concerned, everything out here could be hiding some deadly bite or sting.

The idea didn't scare her, so much as it pissed her off that he had insisted on coming out here. Daryl was wearing shorts, daring for some little thing to stab, sting, or bite him.

She caught up with them at the crest of a small hill, overlooking a wide bend in the river.

"Found your croc yet?"

"No. Nothing yet."

Their guide, James, pointed out the mud on the opposite bank before speaking in the thick Australian accent Daryl had insisted their guide have, though Carol thought James was playing it up for him.

"Look there. See the lines in the mud? Those are drag marks from a saltie's tail. They're around here somewhere. Or at least they were not long ago."

"Can we keep going inland? How much farther does this trail go?" Daryl sounded worried, completely oblivious to his wife's quickly fouling mood.

"This trail? It goes on for Kays still. Common for backpackers to head up this way for a weekend camping trip. There's any salties though, they'll be in the next click. I haven't seen them much farther in than that around here."

"Well, what else might we find if we keep going? Anything else on my list, here?"

Daryl dug the piece of paper out of his pocket, handing it over to their guide. Carol shifted her weight onto her left leg, crossing her arms across her chest and letting out an indignant sigh. She had her hat, and a bag with a couple bottles of water, but they hadn't actually planned on being out here all day. James had assured them it wouldn't be hard at all to actually see a croc, or a saltie as he called them. Carol was seriously considering demanding a refund of his fee when they got back to civilization.

James looked over the list and glanced back up at Daryl with a cocked brow.

"Mate, you'll be lucky if you don't see most of these your whole trip. Seriously, you want to find an eastern brown?"

"Well, I don't want to hold it or anything. I just want to get a picture, or see one at the very least."

"Ya know, there's a world-class zoo just up in Beerwah."

"Yeah, I know, I want to see them out in the wild though. Just a quick glance if that's all I get. I don't even need to take a picture."

"Mate, you're a weird one. We can go up a bit farther though, see what we can find. You see something move though, you tell me and I'll let you know what it is. Last thing I need under my belt is a dead tourist."

James sighed, his shoulders slumped as he turned and led the way further up the trail.

Daryl folded his list up and tucked it back into his pocket. His face scrunched up in the way that Carol recognized as his expression of "Nobody understands me." It was true too as he followed up the trail and she brought up the rear. Twenty-three years of marriage and she still couldn't understand his desire to see all these animals.

The trail wound away from the river and inland into the rainforest. The two men continued tromping, while she ducked her head under every branch, and shied away from leaf and blade of grass reaching out from the shade. She expected things to be cooler, even if just a little. It certainly didn't feel like it. Probably due to it being more humid underneath the canopy. She wished she was in Ireland, or Canada, or somewhere not known for its heat. At least where it was cold, you never heard people making excuses about it being dry or wet.

She felt something plop onto the brim of her hat and she quickly pulled it off to look. A leech. Lovely. She flicked it off her hat and back off into the undergrowth before hurrying after James and Daryl.


Click here for Part 2 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

31 Posts of Monsters: Giant Spiders

Maybe it's part of being a mammal, but it's odd how anything outside of the usual head, body, and four limbs becomes something frightening. It doesn't seem to matter if it's no legs, like snakes and fish, to multiples, like most insects, squid, and, of course, spiders.

Name: Giant Spider

Size: To some people, any size is scary. For the purpose of this post though, we're talking anything from one to hundreds of feet across.

Appearance: A spider. A bulbous abdomen, small thorax, small head. Two fangs, eight eyes, and eight legs. They can be almost any color of the rainbow.

Threat: Variable. Small spiders can have deadly venom, while larger spiders may be harmless, or able to impale people on their fangs. The largest spiders may even be able to swallow people whole.

Spiders are just plain unnerving to, let's just say, the vast majority of people. Crawling along on eight legs, venomous, leaving webs everywhere, why wouldn't they be? They are probably the closest we can get to an alien species. Spiders are just so different from practically every other type of creature on the planet. It's a good thing most of them are so small.

Every so often though, a story comes out of a sighting of a spider of massive proportions. There is a legend in the Congo of the Jba Fofi, a spider with a leg span of at least five feet. It creates a home almost like a trap-door spider, although it's the size of a mud hut and is said to prey on antelopes.

Recently, legends of giant spiders, or whole hives of them, have been further strengthened as weather in various places has forced spiders to collect together. These communes can span an entire tree, or even a full acre of nightmare fuel that not even fire can cleanse.

Being such fear-inducing creatures, it only makes sense that spiders would get picked up in fiction as antagonists. One of the earliest movies being Tarantula, released in 1955. Godzilla had a giant spider as an enemy in a few movies. All leading up to the present day with movies with such imaginative titles as Big Ass Spider, and Eight-Legged Freaks. It seems like they're everywhere.

All the more reason to squash anything that comes within reach. Or not. They do eat mosquitos, flies, and the occasional scorpion

~ Shaun

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Writer Resources

So you want to be a writer. Well, as solitary as the act of writing is, you're going to need some help. But, where to find it? The internet is a huge place, and some of it is conflicting information, so what's an aspiring writer to do?

Yeah, he NEEDS some help there.

Well, I'm going to share with you all today, a few places and things on the internet that I've found particularly helpful. After all, the more places that can lead you to where you can find help, the easier it'll be to find them. 

AbsoluteWrite is a website for authors, but the real help is in the forums on this page. We're talking a forum full of published authors, people that have worked in the publishing industry, and experts from many different fields. So there's lots of advice to be found here. Ask about things you're researching for your next story. See if anyone knows anything about that publisher you were considering. Even post small bits of your writing for feedback! Really though, the best thing here is how supportive the people on this forum generally are. If there's anything that'll help you on your way to being a published author, it's being cheered on by people that have already done it. 

So, you now have a piece written up, beta-read, edited, and ready to send out into the world. For God's sake, don't submit your work in Comic Sans font. 

There is a standard format for your work to follow before you submit it somewhere. It is recommended that people follow it, or you could find your work rejected without even being read. 

This is the best guide that I've found around the internet to what the standard format is. 

Of course, now that you're all set to submit, you need to know where to go, what markets are open, and what they're looking for. 

They have a lot of articles and although you have to pay to access it, they have the Writer's Market, which lists places you can submit to. 

The Submission Grinder is better, I think, for finding markets to submit to. It's completely free, for a start. It also allows you to track your submissions, where you sent them to, and how long it's taken for them to get back to you. It also tracks statistics for a lot of markets, so you can see what their average response times are. You can also search for markets by story length, style, genre, and even pay rates. 

Well, those are the most useful sites that I've come across. If you know of others, feel free to drop them in the comments and I hope you find these as useful as I have. Good luck in your writing! 

~ Shaun

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: The Five Nights at Freddy's Series

I figured it would be better to do one review for the whole series, since these are comparatively short games, with a complicated, over-arching storyline and fairly similar controls/set-ups.

As I start with that though, don't think that I'm putting down any of the individual games. Every one is terrifying, intense, and horrific fun like we haven't had in a video game since the original Resident Evil.

Five Nights at Freddy's

The first game is our introduction to the world. The set-up and game-play is about as simple as it can get.

You play a night security guard for a Chuck-E-Cheese type establishment called Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. The place comes complete with security cameras and animatronics. You never actually move from the security office, you just watch the cameras as the robots mill about. You're given a power allowance for the shift though, so you have to keep an eye on its usage.

The thing is, the animatronics are somewhat faulty. As far as they know, there aren't supposed to be any people in the building after hours. So if they see you, they think you're a robot without a suit, so they take you and stuff you into one. Which results in a very wet, squishy death. Your only way to protect yourself is to keep an eye on where they are, and if they get too close, close the doors to your office. Just keep in mind keeping the doors closed uses power...

The game is very intense between checking the camera's, checking the doors, and listening for sounds which could let you know you're about to die. All this sets you up perfectly for the scenes where you fail and the animatronics lunge at the screen, prompting some genuine scares. As you might expect, the game proceeds over five nights, each night moving faster and increasingly intense.

Definitely an A+ start to the series.

Five Nights at Freddy's 2

As in the first game, you're limited to your office, using security camera's to keep an eye on who moves where. Power is less of an issue overall, but there is still a flashlight that can run out if you overuse it.

The second game also adds a lot onto the formula for the first game. There are more animatronics, and more ways for them to reach you. There is also a music box that must be kept wound, or it releases another entity which kills you no matter what you do. 

Five Nights at Freddy's 2 also introduces mini-games occasionally after you die, which explains some of the backstory which, up until now has only been a collection of theories pieced together from things in the background of the first game. 

The second game continues to be intense and frightening, even for those who grew immune to the first game's tactics. Rarely will you see a sequel as good as the original in any series. This one is.

Five Nights at Freddy's 3

While the third game holds onto the security guard in one spot formula, it continues to mix up everything else. 

In addition to watching the building's rooms, you have a whole second layer to keep an eye on in the AC vents. The issues with power are completely gone, replaced with an unstable system of ventilation, sound ques, and camera feeds that need to be rebooted periodically. 

While many of the old animatronics are back, they are just hallucinations, caused by the faulty AC in the building. There is really only one animatronic in this game which can kill you. 

The third game also continues the mini-games, showing you things that happened between games and imparting even more of the story of the history of Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. 

The series continues to be good and intense, keeping the formula close to the original, but mixing things up with new and innovative ways. 

Five Nights at Freddy's 4

Now things have actually changed drastically. No longer are we a security guard at the pizzaria, but a young boy at home. Doors are also far enough apart now that you have to run back and forth between them, peeking out, and pulling them shut before some nightmare beast grabs you. The animatronics are now as terrifying as ever. (Minor spoiler: the nightmare animatronics are the young boy's imagination.) 

The gameplay is different as well, focusing much more heavily on sound to determine where the monsters are and when you need to shut doors, as opposed to security cameras. This actually leaves you even more vulnerable to the jumpscares when they burst through the door. 

The story of this game is actually the explanation of why one of the specific animatronics at Freddy Fazbear's Pizzaria is possessed. (Oh, yeah, that is the actual reason why the animatronics roam and kill night guards. All the animatronics are possessed by dead kids.) 

Still, even with the differences, this game has that distinct Five Nights at Freddy's feel to it, and it continues to scare people every bit as well as the other three. 

So there you have it, the Five Nights at Freddy's series. There's DLC scheduled for October, and then we'll see if any more games are added to the line-up. It's just a little sad that these games are only available on PC and not on any consoles (yet!). But if you can get the chance to play any of these fright-fests, definitely do so.

If you can't play it, I would definitely suggest you at least watch someone else do so. It's funny as hell watching them jump, and you can still try to piece the story together as they go. I would personally recommend Markiplier on Youtube. 

So check it out!

~ Shaun

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The End of the Horror (?)

Just fair warning, this blog post is going to be discussing the endings you commonly see in Horror stories. As such, expect more than a couple spoilers.

(That's Blade in the background.)

It can be quite a journey from the start of a Horror story to the end. People die, pain and suffering is endured, and fears can be faced. But just because you've made it to the end doesn't mean it's over. In a proper story, the rest of the book is just a build-up to the final battle. It may be a challenge of lasting through the final assault, or finding a way to kill or drive off the beast. 

However, one of the things I enjoy most about Horror, is that the ending, commonly isn't the ending. Even when it is, it's rarely happy. I think that makes Horror fiction a closer representation to the real world more than any other genre, even taking into account the hideous monsters that roam about.

Even after the "Good" ending, in a horror movie, friends and family (and housepets) likely need to be buried. The next stop after the credits finish rolling is likely to be the nearest hospital. Houses and vehicles will likely need repair or replacing. And you can't leave out all the blood that probably needs to be cleaned up. That's not even discussing the years of therapy and anti-depressants any survivors will undoubtedly need.

(Cabin in the Woods)

And that's the best possible ending. Second to that is the survivors just managing to drive off the horrors for a while, or just being lucky enough to escape it's path. The Friday the 13th series is the perfect example. While the body count might be up into the double digits, the main character manages to avoid, escape, or even kill Jason long enough to get out of town. There is no way to permanently kill Jason though. Inevitably, he rises up to torment a new group of nubile young teens. 

A lot of Horror stories end with the victims merely escaping the monsters that plague them, not necessarily defeating them. Even if there isn't a sequel, the movie ends with the monsters still out there to continue indulging their dark appetites. While the survivors simply try to heal, forget and live out their lives. If they can.

(Stephen King's The Mist)

Then you have the true Horror ending. The one where everyone dies, the monsters rule the Earth, and nothing will ever be the same. The kind of ending where even if one of the character's survives, death would be kinder. Stephen King's The Mist is one good example. Escaping the town, only to find the Mist covers farther than they can travel, the father makes the ultimate sacrifice, being the one to take the lives of his loved ones, and then finds he doesn't have a bullet left for himself. He falls out of the car and screams to the Heavens, only to watch the army finally roll by. 

Nightmare on Elm Street does this every time as well. Although they put a twist on it, letting you think the kids have won a reprieve before revealing there is no escape from Freddy's blades. Freddy Vs. Jason pulls the same trick, with Jason walking out of the lake with Freddy's severed head, only to have Freddy wink to the camera before the credits roll. 

Many of these endings do set up for sequels, but many also don't. (Or they don't make enough money for the studios to sign off on a sequel.) The best ones plan out a Horror ending, with no intention of continuing the story, because sometimes we just need to know the monsters are out there and what they're capable of. 

Because Horror stories are supposed to scare us, and what is more frightening than to know there really is no stopping the monsters that prowl the darkest corners of our imaginations? 

What are your favorite Horror endings? Cabin in the Woods? Alien? Feel free to share in the comments below! 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sea Monsters

It's the end of July, which means Summer is now in full swing. That means road trips, camping, and, of course, the beach.

Of course, there's no shortage of beach-flavored horror novels to read while you're on vacation. Most of which are of the creature-feature variety. So there's a lot of stuff out there.

If you're a horror author, this can be incredibly frustrating if you want to find something new and frightening to dazzle a reader with. 

Now the sea is filled with predators, terrifying and cute. From seals to sharks. And the vast majority of the particularly nasty ones already fill books. From the sizes they naturally come in, to giant versions capable of swallowing people whole. 

Of course, there's giant sharks of all kinds. Then you have large squid. Even giant crabs have been used.

Reaching back into pre-history is also a wealth of strange and deadly creatures. Most common of these is the giant shark, Megalodon. Also a bit popular are Mosasaurs and Liplurodons. Of course, these aren't the only prehistoric predators which could find a home in sea-based horror. There are creatures such as Dunkleosteus and giant sea scorpions, but as things become lesser known you get more reactions of "Huh?" as opposed to "Oh shit!" 

Not that people are really put off by that. Especially over at the SyFy channel where they're happy to throw up movies about killer Lampreys. You can even find horror based on a parasitic louse that eats and replaces the tongue of its host fish. 

And, I am legally required to mention Cthulhu in a post about sea monsters. 

There are lots of home-made sea monsters you can find as well. Sharktopus is the first thing to come to mind, and a good example of a combo monster. There are also alien creatures, as well as man-made creatures. Some people even count Kaiju such as Godzilla and the beasts of Pacific Rim as sea monsters. 

So what's a horror writer to do? Pump out yet another re-hash of JAWS? Pick some obscure creature from Earth's history such as Livyatan Mellvillei? Maybe play the role of a sea-based doctor Frankenstein and plop down the lobster-shark? 

No idea, to be honest. We'll just have to see what happens when you see a water-based horror novel with my name on it. 

Did I miss any? What are some of your favorite sea monsters? Feel free to drop them in the comments below! 

~ Shaun

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight is the finale of the Arkham Series. 

There's dropping the ball, and then there's DROPPING THE BALL, and then, there's this. So let's get started.

First, the good. 

Visually, this game is Batman. Just like it's predecessors, the atmosphere, the look of the city and the characters are all spot-on. Each game in the series has expanded into a larger and larger area, and this one is no exception, dropping you into a good chunk of Gotham City. 

For the first time in the series, to take advantage of the huge map you get to roam, you also get the Batmobile. Well, Bat-Tank is more like it, but it comes to the same thing. You get to drive around as Batman.

And, of course, you get to BE Batman. Just like in the other games, you're beating up thugs, solving Riddler's puzzles, and you're tracking down Penguin and Two-Face. 

And...that's really all I have to say about it that's good. Sad to say.

I'll start with the newest addition, the Batmobile. Yes, this game is the end of the Arkham series. Still, it would be better to leave us wanting more than it would be to ram something down our throats as full and hard as possible. I expected the Batmobile to be like the gadgets. If you wanted to drive around town, you can drive around town. There might be a few side quests that use it heavily, and a few missions in the main story that you have to use it for, but it's not going to be the focus of the game. I was wrong.

The Batmobile is as much the focus of this game as the story itself is. An enemy in a side quest is fleeing? You HAVE to use the Batmobile. Riddler's puzzles? Race tracks. EVERY. OTHER. TASK. In the main storyline, you're jumping in and speeding through the streets either chasing something, or blowing up remote-control tanks. If I wanted a racing game, I would have bought a racing game. Or Grand Theft Auto. 

Control-wise, the game feels rather sloppy compared to the previous versions. The Batmobile slides all over the place, combat is more difficult as you try to direct yourself to the next henchmen out of a group of 10 and find yourself punching air more often than not, and there really isn't much in the way of tips or instructions when you first start out about what buttons do what. Granted this is the fourth game of a series, but the controls are NOT exactly the same.


Then there's the story. 

Arkham Asylum, City, and even Origins had pretty original storylines to them. While Arkham Knight does take a few loose ends from the previous games, almost anybody familiar with the basics of the Batman mythos will recognize the Jason Todd/Red Hood storyline. So the mystery of who is the Arkham Knight is pretty obvious almost as soon as it's brought up. Once that reveal is done, we're back to chasing Scarecrow, who Batman just surrenders to, unmasks for, and then defeats. After four games, countless puzzles and battles, and gadgets up the yin-yang, Batman just shrugs and goes, "Okay, you got me, guess I have no choice but to give up my secret identity." Really? We're supposed to buy that Batman had no other way to win? I mean...THIS IS BATMAN! 

There is one thing that actually saves this game from being just plain bad. In one of the loose ends from Asylum and City, we find that Joker is actually a virus. (A prion, actually, but I really don't know how many people are going to know what that is. If you don't, go look it up, and then you will have learned something new today!) A virus for which there is no cure and that Batman was infected with. So from about a third of the game on, you are regularly greeted with hallucinations of the (deceased) Joker, chatting away like you're his best friend, and giving his twisted and hilarious input on just about every situation. 

There are other villains in the game as well. Providing fodder for side quests and little else. Two-Face is robbing banks. Penguin is smuggling guns. Ho-hum. And even though apparently every super-villain in Gotham was in on Scarecrow's plans, they have no bearing at all on the main storyline. 

Oh, unless you want to count the fact that the game requires you to complete a certain number of side missions before it actually lets you finish the game. 

I'm not even going to talk about the butchered PC version, that was so horribly done it was pulled from sale days after release and STILL isn't back up. 

The ball was dropped. Honestly, enough said. 

I'm only giving this 2-stars because it is still Batman, and the hard work the Joker put in to try and save it.