Sunday, December 11, 2016

Video Game Review: DOOM (2016)

So, first person shooters (FPS) really aren't my thing without a damn good reason. (Destiny has a pretty good story, Turok had dinosaurs!) The 2016 reboot of DOOM, though, just begged to be picked up as a Horror game and something that I always wanted to play when I was younger but never had the opportunity.

So, the basic story is pretty simple. You play as "DoomGuy", you're immortal, super-human, and are perpetually super-angry. When Hell invades Mars, you're awoken and you pretty much take it upon yourself to fist all the demons you find to death, smashing your way through the complex and stopping the attack of Hell.

Seriously. I mean that when I say "fist". One of the most entertaining things about this game is weakening enemies with firepower before running up to them to finish them in a gory "glory-kill", where you punch through their chests, rip out their spines, tear off limbs, and other cinematic ways to defile your enemies. That's pretty much the main appeal of the game; killing monsters in bloody ways, either through your fists or any of the multitude of weapons you pick up throughout the game. Which does include a chainsaw.

The controls are pretty standard for FPS games, and are pretty clean and bug-free. I haven't had any problems with the graphics as far as bugs go. Granted, this is really a pretty simple game, so there's not much to screw up.

The graphics are great. About as one would expect with the current technology level of systems. Levels are detailed, backgrounds are cinematic, and enemies are complete. Even the glory kills are thought out and detail oriented, most of them having just the right about of splatter and viscera depending on what angle you hit the enemies from. For all the blood and violence, it really is a visually appealing game.

As far as gameplay though, be prepared. Despite not being my preference, I'm not a FPS noob. I've played my fair share, so when I started up DOOM, I figured I didn't have to go the baby route of the easiest difficulty. I was wrong. This isn't just a FPS. It's very fast paced. You have to keep track of your health, your ammo, your enemies, and your environment, all while constantly moving to avoid being shot, burned, slashed at, and managing to return fire so you don't get overwhelmed by numbers.

The game also includes a multi-player mode, but it's honestly a bit lackluster compared to the rest of the game, likely added in to give the game a little more longevity and for the players who live for player-on-player action (PVP). There is talk of some downloadable content coming for it, but I'm not sure if that'll be more levels or PVP stuff.

Overall, this game appeals to fans of the originals, Horror fans, and will serve as a good, quick distraction for PVP players who burn out on the latest COD or Battlefield. If it sounds like fun to you, don't hesitate to grab it if you can get it used or on sale. Definitely a fun shock to the system, especially for a game you're really only likely to play through once.

~ Shaun

Monday, December 5, 2016

Facebook for Authors: Optimizing your page

Back to Facebook, once again. This should be the last one for a while though, so buckle in, and for everyone else, I hope to have something more literary/horror related next week.

So you have your page, you have followers, now what?

To start with, Post. Post daily. The more often, the better. Reviews, genre news, funny (but RELEVANT) pictures and meme's. Just remember to stay on target for your page. If you're running an author page for your books in the romance genre, don't blindly share stories of zombies, or news of the latest celebrity meltdown. That's why I prefer the author page over a book page. 

As an author page, I have my entire genre open to discussion. Books, movies, video games, discussions of the genre in general, in addition to the specific themes of my latest book or piece. Since my main bread and butter is Horror, I can touch on all of it. Action-Horror, Romantic Horror, Gothic, Paranormal. 

That being said, coming up with two or three posts a day is not easy, even for me. As hard as it is, though, you don't want to spend an hour or two a day sitting there looking for stuff to post when you could (and should) be writing. 

My answer to that, and one of the ways you can optimize your page AND your time, is to devote just one day a week to posts on your Facebook. Use the option to schedule your posts, so they pop up throughout the week. 

This way, you can also organize your posts a lot better, like if you have a specific order you want to post things in, or have some posts that actually refer or respond to previous ones. 

Scheduling your posts ahead of time ensures you have stuff to go up, without having to worry about finding stuff the day of, and if you can just devote a couple hours a week to that, it will save you a lot of time as well.

What else can you do with your posts? Hashtags. Or pound signs, whichever you grew up calling them. True, they are mainly a Twitter thing these days, but Facebook actually makes use of them as well! You can add them to the end of your post so that it will crop up when people go searching for those subjects. Use them for promotional tools, for example, when the post for this blog entry goes up on my Facebook page, I might add on #Blogging, #Marketing, #SocialMedia hashtags. Don't go too crazy though. The consensus seems to be that hashtags on Facebook have a "sweet spot" where too many of them actually seems to drive people away, even if they searched for one of the words you used. Maybe it comes across as desperate? I'm not sure, I'm simply helping to share what I've learned in my time around the internet. I'm not a marketing guru.

However, one thing I do know is that constant experimentation, education, and work are the keys to the kingdom of being a success in any kind of business, and whether you're an author, an artist, a craft-maker, or just silly; if you have a Facebook page to promote yourself, that's what you need to do.

One last piece of advice, connect your Facebook to your other social media. You can set it up so that when you post on your blog, it automatically uploads to your page, and when you post to your page, it automatically posts to your Twitter, or Instagram, or whichever. Take advantage of that! Especially if you have scheduled posts. Because then you're keeping all your accounts busy and active, with the time investment of just one. Just make sure you check those other outlets from time to time to make sure things are posting correctly.

Hope this little series was helpful to you all. We'll be back next week with something more writing/Horror related. I promise. Have a good week!

~ Shaun

Monday, November 28, 2016

Facebook for Authors: Release Parties

So, in the past six months, I've had the pleasure of taking part in two separate release parties on Facebook.

First was in July for my friend Karl Drinkwater's new release They Move Below.

Second was in September for Helen Treharne's release Hostile Relations.

Both events were fun and pulled in some new Likes to my own Facebook page as well as a few sales. They were a little different from each other though. Karl's was organized by himself, while Helen's was organized by a marketing company.

Karl's event was smaller, with only a handful of author's participating over the course of three to four hours. Everyone was present in the event, topics were chosen ahead of time, and full discussions continued for the entire event.

Helen's was a much larger event, stretching over 12 hours with almost a dozen different authors. Though, not every author was actually present for the release party, and instead scheduled posts through the PR company. Topics were more convoluted, and it was hard to come up with conversations starters, as there was no way of knowing if someone else had already planned to discuss a particular subject. Some of the authors who weren't present also scheduled posts that were nothing more than ads for their own works.

Now, I had a good time at both events, and I would encourage other authors to try one or two, whether you schedule it yourself, or work with a PR/Media company. It's a great way to bring different groups of fans together to discover new works from authors they might never had heard about otherwise and depending on your level of involvement, it can be a lot of fun.

I just want to drop a few tips if you want to set-up a party yourself, or if you get invited to one.

Check with the organizer about whether or not other participants have specific subjects they plan to go over. Then you can choose subjects yourself which aren't already going to have been discussed, or even talk to the other participant to see if there's a sub-topic they don't plan on touching, so you can have some overlap without reusing an entire subject.

Have your posts planned out ahead of time, if not written out entirely. Time is generally limited, with participants granted about an hour. Four posts is reasonable, giving 15 minutes for people to comment and discuss them before the next subject pops up. This should include an opening, and a closing post, which will likely include a quick bio and links to more information about you.

Take advantage of the different kinds of posts Facebook allows, including images, polls, and links. Granted, this may require the event organizer to give you permissions on the page, which is another reason to let them know what topics and posts you're planning ahead of time.

Choose topics and posts that invite discussion. Don't just drop in a meme promoting your own work with review quotes. People get bombarded with ads all over the place. This is a good chance to interact with people, so don't waste it. They're more likely to give you a chance if they see you making an effort to get out there and being personal, not just dropping ads for your own work and bouncing.

Stick around and participate. Just because your hour is up, doesn't mean the fun is over. With other authors sharing stories, links, and ideas, you might learn something you didn't know before, or get hit by a feral plot bunny. You might even make some new friends, opening the door to participating in more release parties or other events.

So definitely jump into one of these if you have the opportunity. They're usually free unless you hire a media company to run one for you.

Also, feel free to check out both Karl's and Helen's works! Click on the links to their pages at the top of this post, or click on the pictures of their covers here!

~ Shaun

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Facebook for Authors: Author Page vs Book Page

Facebook is easily the biggest social media website available these days. Some people eschew the place as a complete waste of time and energy, which, it can be if you're not smart about how you use it.

One of the first questions a lot of authors have when getting on Facebook is what kind of page to make. Some people prefer making pages for their specific books, while others make pages identifying themselves as writers or authors. To be honest, there are pros and cons to both approaches, which I'm going to go over here.

Book page

So, what are the pros of having a Facebook page specifically for your book?

Having a page for a specific book gives the page a specific focus. If your book is about demonic possession, you don't get distracted and post things about aliens, bigfoot, or serial killers. You post things about demons, possessions, hauntings, ghosts and the like. You post excerpts and reviews and sales for that specific book, or if you have other books in the same vein, or even in a series, you post those.

If you have multiple books, you have multiple pages, which means more ways for people to come across your work.

If people are looking for your book, they can search up your book. Many people remember book titles before they remember authors, and so when they tell their friends about this great book they're reading, they tell them the title, usually. So having a page for your book means it will come up quicker when people go to look for it. You don't have to worry that a search will bring up your name, which might be skipped over as they look for the specific word or phrase that is your book's title.

There are cons to a book page though as well.

A specific focus means other subjects would be out of place. This means a short list of subjects available for content without deviating from the subjects your book is about.

A book also gains age over time. After a while, it becomes harder and harder to find fresh content to post on a regular basis. Wait long enough and all you'll really have to share are bits of new reviews, if you're that lucky.

Author/Writer page

The pros to an author/writer page mostly address the cons of a book page. Since the page is about a person, not a specific book, everything about that person is up for discussion. Genre news, anecdotal stories, new releases, short stories are all clear for the page, along with all the news you would post on a book page. So excerpts and reviews are all okay too.

There are cons to an author/writer page.

Having only a single page for all your stuff means less ways to find you than if you had multiple pages. As well, you're relying on people enjoying your writing enough to make sure they note your name, as well as the book. As I said above, people will usually remember the book before they remember the author, and it takes two or three good works before people start looking for you specifically.


Now. Looking at the lists above, it certainly seems like there are more pros to a book page than an author one. It's important to remember though that the pros and cons are not equal. It doesn't matter if you have multiple pages that can lead people to you if those pages are updated infrequently, or are even inactive. Whether author or book pages, they need to be active, the more the better. A good page should have a post at LEAST once a day, if not two or three. After all, if your pages slip due to inactivity, it's more likely your post won't be added to people's feeds. In the meantime, the more posts you make, the more likely you'll get Likes, Comments, and Shares, which is how people get led back to your page.

You should also take into account your time constraints. It takes time to find content and post it, even if you take advantage of the ability to schedule posts ahead of time. If you're scheduling two or three posts a day, expect to spend more than a few hours searching up and aligning stuff, and that's just for one page. It can really turn into a full-time job just keeping your social media up and running, and that's a lot of time which can be better spent writing your next book, or short story.

So I personally think an Author/Writer page is the better choice, just in terms of time needed to keep it active, and flexibility in posts. After all, it's going to be pretty tedious if you have to create a new page every time you release a new book.

But that is just my opinion. Feel free to look at my page and decide for yourself! 

~ Shaun

Saturday, July 30, 2016

HANNAH is loose!!

HI EVERYBODY!! Been a little while, but I've not been idle! Well, not TOO idle, anyway. Some nine months after my last post on the subject, my next book, Hannah, is finally out and available on Amazon!

This has been a looong time coming, and if you want the whole story, I explained it throughout my time on the blog here through my series "Building a Book". There's a blog post re-walking the whole path here. 

Nevertheless, releasing a new book is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It's such a relief to be done. Yet, now comes the public feedback. The reviews, the ratings, the "OMG! DIS BOOK ROXXS!!" and "OMG!! DIS BOOK IS DA SUCCCKKK!!" 

And, of course, there's the whole "What do I work on next?" Well, we'll see. In the meantime, hop on over to Amazon and grab a copy of Hannah!  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Turning Down the Blog

So, it's been a few weeks since I posted on here. That was a conscious decision to start with, and now I've got a few more things weighing heavily into my time.

I'm writing this post basically to say that I'm not going to be posting regularly on here for a while. I wouldn't say I'm burnt out, particularly, but I've kept this going for about three years fairly regularly, and topics I haven't already covered are getting pretty thin and I don't feel like enough time has really gone by to revisit a lot of them. Meanwhile I don't want this blog to turn into a more writing business or review blog.

I want to make it clear though, I'm not planning on letting it die. I still plan on doing reviews as I play games, see movies, and read books, and when a particular subject pops into my head I'll do posts on that too. As well as letting everyone know when I have new works out or I feel like dropping a new short story for all you lovely people to read.

This is just the way life is sometimes though. What you really want to do just has to fall to the side for the things you have to do. The bright side is that the other drains on my time right now will be giving me a better chance to improve my writing and get more of it out to the reading public.

So, fret not! I'm not going anywhere, I'm just turning down the volume on my blog here for a while. New posts will still pop up occasionally, so feel free to make sure you're following me on my Twitter and my Facebook so you'll know.

Catch ya'll soon, people!

~ Shaun

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

31 Posts of Monsters: OOP Monsters

This post isn't about a singular creature, or even a singular place. OOP stands for Out Of Place. The cryptid application is mostly of creatures that are not known to live in an area, but are seen with some frequency. These differ from regular invasive species in that OOP animals generally are never caught, or verified outside of infrequent eyewitness reports.

Name: Various. All OOP animals are real, known animals, just in places they're not supposed to, or known to live, in. See also Alien Big Cats.

Size: Per the animal seen, though sometimes species are said to be bigger than normal, which is attributed to large amounts of food and a lack of predators or competition.

Threat: Again, per animal. Many of the OOP animals commonly seen though are predators, and/or dangerous to people. This includes large cats and primates.

Indeed, large cats are one of the most commonly reported OOP animals. This includes panthers and cougars in the UK, and lions in the US. Cats are known to be resourceful, and quite good at hiding, so it wouldn't surprise many if they elude capture for quite some time. The infrequency of the sightings would also indicate individuals much of the time, as opposed to breeding populations.

Much of the evidence is through blurry photos, eyewitness sightings, and half-eaten corpses of prey animals. Traps set out catch nothing, and even methods that are tried and true for the species don't seem to work. So the animals remain a mystery.

The other commonly reported OOP animal is primates, specifically chimpanzee's, which have been reported in the Everglades, in New York, and the mountains above Hollywood. (Why isn't THAT surprising?) Keep in mind that chimps may not be as smart as we are, but they are much stronger, and more vicious. They can easily kill a human if the mood strikes them, so are every bit as dangerous as a rogue cougar.

This even extends to the popular Alligators in the sewers myths, where animals have sometimes actually been caught.

Let's not forget the always terrifying Sharks in a narrow hallway.

Movies and books have used this trope quite a bit, as well. Lake Placid is about a crocodile that ends up in New York. Alligator is about a reptile in the sewers of Chicago. It's the basis for the episode Devil Monkey in the series Lost Tapes. Many stories go horribly wrong when they put an animal in an environment it's not supposed to be in. Like when King Kong breaks loose from his bonds in New York city.

So, there you go. Just keep in mind, absence of proof is not proof of absence.

~ Shaun

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Game Review: Until Dawn

Just to give fair warning, it is very hard to talk about this game without major spoilers. I'll do my best though.

As video games progress, many of them strive to create a more cinematic feel. They want to immerse the player to the point that they feel like they're controlling a movie, with real people, more than just playing a game.

Until Dawn makes a significant leap toward the cinematic experience. You're not so much playing a game, as much as you're experiencing a "Choose your own adventure" movie.

If you're familiar with slasher flicks, much of Until Dawn will be familiar to you. A group of nubile teens, heading up to a remote mountain cabin for Christmas break, where just the year before a few of them disappeared. An abandoned asylum, a psycho with a flamethrower, much of the game will seem old hat; but that doesn't stop any of it from being effective on the player.

The other aspect of Until Dawn, and a theme they literally beat into the ground, is the Butterfly Effect. Which basically says that the smallest of actions can have the most dire consequences. This takes effect through the choices you make during the game, and results in who survives and who doesn't at the end.

The story is excellent, with twists you certainly won't see coming, even with the hints the game tosses your way through clues to be found scattered around. It builds up real tension, leading to actual scares, and never lets up. There are almost no moments of levity once the action starts. It really is a "buckle your seat belt" ride.

Even being a Horror afficionado and having prior knowledge of some of the games twists and turns, I was on the edge of my seat. I can only imagine how much more it would've gotten me if I'd gone in blind.

The characters are excellent as well, they're stereotypes, to be sure, but each one is an individual, with none of them actually falling into the pits of the dreaded cliche`. Some you will love, some you will hate, but there really isn't any one hero or villain of the group.

The artwork and backgrounds are just as well done, giving you scenes of exquisite natural beauty, and horrifying terror. Many times, the only difference between those two extremes is lighting and atmosphere. In one moment, the cabin looks cozy and inviting. Later on, it becomes foreboding, with God only knows what ready to leap out at you from around the corners.

It's not a perfect game though. Honestly, the game aspect is where it kind of falls apart. Your time is split between slowly wandering around looking for clues, making decisions, and fast-paced quick-time sequences where you literally have seconds to push the right button, or a character could die.

The exploration scenes are long, slow, and generally fairly boring. The controls are also definitely not optimized, with the direction you need to push your characters in changing with the camera angles, one of my biggest complaints about the early games in the Resident Evil franchise. In the quick-time scenes, you lose all control of your character, outside of making choices like "Hide" or "Run", and hitting the button that pops up on the screen.

Once you've played through and been exposed, you'll probably find the game also doesn't have a lot of replay value. While the plot twists are pretty surprising, they lose a lot of power once you've seen them, and the ability to go back and make different choices doesn't seem to impact the main story all that much, in spite of the game's insistence that the butterfly effect can create drastically different outcomes.

This is still a hell of a Horror game, and if that's what your appetite is for, Until Dawn is easily a game you'll want to play at least once. If you can't play it yourself on PS4, Xbox, or PC, you can go on Youtube and find someone who has. Multiple Youtubers have played through it, and given how cinematic the game is, you don't lose much by just watching someone else play. It might even help you get through the game where you otherwise might not if you were playing alone. It's really that good and scary.

Overall, I'm giving Until Dawn 3.5 out of 5 stars. It is worth playing, but it's much more of a movie than a game, and since it is a game, that's a pretty big hit.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Short Story: Deadline

Welcome! I've got a fun little jaunt of a story for everyone this week. I hope you enjoy it! 


Karl rolled his eyes and did his best to tune out the blaring alarm. Just a few more minutes was all he needed to verify the numbers on his report and send it off to the analysts. The building wasn't going to come crashing down that quick.

"Four, Nine, what's this three doing over here?" he mumbled to himself.

Someone ran down the hallway, screaming. Bob, from three cubicles over it sounded like; It was hard to tell when people were half-crazed with fear. Karl only huffed and continued scanning for numbers that didn't look right.

He didn't know what all the fuss was about. Seattle was a big city, after all, and their office building wasn't near the docks. The monster would take some time to crash its way up the hill, and there was no way to tell which way it might turn. It made no sense to him to panic and dive down into the bunkers the moment the beast made landfall.

One more page. Bob ran past again, still screaming. Apparently he had lost his mind, otherwise he would've been hopping down the stairs two at a time, or more, considering the frenzy the man was in. The pull of the alarm automatically locked down the elevators and unlocked all the stairwell entrances and exits. Stairs could almost always be safely used. As opposed to elevators which had a tendency to speed up obscenely going down during building-breaking emergencies.
Bob again.

"Would you shut the hell up out there!" Karl hoped the guy would just trip and curl up under some desk. "Where was I? Fuck. Oh, right here. Okay..."

The report had to be in by the end of the day, giant monster or no. He had a reputation to uphold. Out of everyone on the 19th floor, he was the only one to go an entire year without turning a report in late, or asking for an extension. A stupid little paper award they'd given out at last year's Christmas party.

"This is good. This is good. Annnnd....this is good. There. All done." He smiled and sat back, zooming out on the document and giving the whole thing another once over. Attaching it to the waiting email was quick and easy, and it was off. Right on time.

He leaned out of his cubicle. The floor was quiet.

Karl stood up and stretched. He was going to take his time collecting his things and heading down to the bunker. No reason not to, with everything looking like yet another false alarm.

His computer powered down, overcoat pulled on, and briefcase in hand, Karl finally headed towards the staircase to join the rest of the office in the basement.

The building shook, a very slight tremor that only lasted a few moments. He paused at the exit and looked back across the floor and out the windows that faced toward the water. The building shook again. Harder. Longer.

Karl couldn't help himself, he'd never seen one of the monsters in person. His curiosity pulled him over between the cubicles to stare out the window. The building shook more, once for every four steps he took himself. The windows rattled in their panes and some of the cubicles started to lose the knick-knacks their users had spread around. He watched a Richard Sherman bobble-head bobble right off a desk.

He pressed his face up against the glass. The waterfront looked pristine, no toppled buildings, no fires raging out of control, no giant reptile looking for snacks. The shaking intensified, until with one heavy boom, every chair on the floor rattled. Then the impacts stopped. He peered out the window, straining to scan every bit of the horizon.

"Wonder if some dumb bastard got himself seen."

He shrugged and turned away from the glass.

The giant eye looking in the windows on the other side of the building blinked, its slit pupil widening as it took him in.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Don't be seen. That was one of the basic tips. The monsters were predators, looking for food. If everybody stayed quiet and out of sight, they might wander through the city and wander right back out again leaving nothing but some slight damage. If they found people though, the hunt was on, and they would smash buildings to rubble trying to get at the soft little rice grains.

Karl froze. The reptilian head spanned the whole width of the floor, taking up every window. The eye watched him, blinking; the nictitating membrane sliding across it. Maybe if he just didn't move, it wouldn't recognize him as food. The beast might just walk away.

Bob streaked through the office. Karl stared as the naked man ran up to the window in front of the giant eye and slapped the glass, yelling incomprehensible noises at it. The head turned, looking at the strange man straight on. Even facing the building, it spanned at least six of the window panes. Nostrils big enough to walk into flared, steaming up the glass before the mouth opened and Karl found himself staring down its throat. The opening was lined with teeth bigger than he was, and the resulting roar the creature loosed was enough to crack the glass and drown out even the roucous alarm.

Then the head rose up out of sight, quickly replaced by a massive clawed hand that swung towards the windows. Bob answered it with both of his middle fingers.

"Bob! You're a fucking asshole!" Karl could barely flip Bob off himself before the monster's claw gutted the building. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Are You Writing Good Reviews?

Now, just to get this out of the way, I'm not asking if you're writing all four or five star reviews. I'm asking if your reviews are any good. Sure, the main point of a review is to share your opinion on a particular thing, be it books, movies, art, whichever, but how well does your review really do that?

But first a little rant.

Ratings are NOT universal. The ratings shown here are from Etsy, and are pretty close to what you'll find in most places. Three stars is the middle with "It's okay". Less than three stars are varying levels of dislike or hate. More than three become Like and Love.

However, then you have ratings like on, which puts the "It's okay" bar at two stars. Three stars becomes "I liked it", while four and five become Love and Praise Be To God This Was Written! The only negative rating is less than two stars and is limited to "I didn't like it". So, please, be aware of what the rating system on the site you're using means.

Back to the scheduled post. To start, I want to point you back to my review of Fallout 4 that I posted last week.

To be sure, this isn't exactly a bad review, but it's not a good one. I have a synopsis of the game, which is good, and I make sure to cover things like graphics and controls. I have a few things that didn't work for me, and the rating I would personally give it as a sit-in for my opinion on it.

I'm missing some important details though. There's no mention of the things that I really liked or enjoyed, and in spite of the high review I gave it, a reader of my review would not get the enthusiasm I have for the game, or the reason behind my review.

If you look through almost anything that can have reviews, most have a curve that either tops out at 4+ or 2-. Very few things have a high point of a review at the "It's Okay" point. That because if you think something is just okay, you're not really going to care enough one way or another to tell people about it. People generally leave reviews to encourage people to buy something or to warn them away from it, and that is the purpose of reviews, as much as just letting random people know your opinion.

So, here's my little list of the requirements for a good review.

1. A brief synopsis of the product. Keep in mind though, that for a good review on something like a book or a movie, you want to either avoid spoilers, or give fair notice. Like usually when I'm posting a review, I'll give a spoiler warning followed by a picture, to give people a chance to stop if they want to.

2. Talk about what you liked about the product. If there is nothing you liked about it, then say that.

3. Talk about what you didn't like about the product. Again, if you loved it 100% say that.

4. Include an overall opinion on it, including who you would recommend the product to or who you would warn against getting it. For instance, at the end of my Fallout 4 review, I recommend it for people who like RPG's, and some people who like FPS's.

5. Make people feel your enthusiasm/hate. Remember, you're sharing your opinion to help other people make an informed decision about whether or not to get this product. If you loved the product, but don't convey that to people, you're not writing a particularly good review.

6. Rate the product. Now, on some sites, this will be separate to the review, so you don't have to worry about it, but if you're posting on a blog or something, make it clear, because people like visual aids. Also, make sure you're aware what the ratings you're using mean.

So, what did you think of this blog post?

~ Shaun

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Video Game Review: Fallout 4

Dystopian futures are one of the bigger things at the moment. What with The Hunger Games, zombie apocalypse, and multiple other movies and book series out there. But, what if you could pretend you were actually in one?

Fallout 4 is that game. Set in Boston, Massachusetts after the world has been ravaged in a nuclear apocalypse, Fallout 4 puts you in the body of a survivor of a "Vault", a place where people fled when the bombs fell. Of course, the vaults weren't just bunkers, but I'll leave that for you to discover.

As you wander the wastes, you encounter allies, enemies, monsters, settlements, and ruins a-plenty. There weapons from handguns, to miniguns, to plasma and laser cannons. (And an actual cannon!). There's robots, androids (synths), and suits of power armor aplenty.

Fallout 4 is a role-playing game, in that you choose your armor, weapons, and you decide whether to hurt people or help them. When you come across a new settlement, you can help them rebuild and craft defenses, food and water stores, buildings, call more decent people to the settlement. Or you can murder them all and be on your merry way after looting everything they own. This even pertains to conversations you have with people. You typically get four choices of replies, ranging from kind, to blunt and cruel. Just be aware that while there is no specific endings for being good or being evil, your choices do have repercussions.

You also get companions throughout the game, like this handsome fellow here. This is one reason to be careful though, Many companions will have different moral compasses than you, and may leave you or even outright attack you if you do things they won't tolerate.

Finally, while there is a fairly intriguing main storyline to follow, it's not time based, and you can honestly spend HOURS just building settlements, exploring ruins, and doing side missions.

The controls are pretty standard, and you can switch back and forth between First and Third person point of view, which helps the game appeal to those who like a more traditional RPG, or those who like FPS more. The graphics are fairly standard for the current generation of consoles and PC as well, with backgrounds that stretch off into the distance and detail abounding in the environments, equipment and characters.

Of course, no game is flawless. Fallout 4 suffers mainly from the same problem as many other large, open-world games. There's just too much. Too many textures, too many options, too many chances for things to cross unfavorably and create glitches. This is just something we have to live with as games get more and more complex. Textures bind up and don't load, figured get trapped in loops or in places they're not supposed to be. It's not even uncommon to get caught between two textures like land and water, and end up falling out of the world. (How's that for surreal?)

My biggest personal issue with the game was its auto-save feature. The fact that it's there lets you get complacent with making manual saves, however when shit goes down, (and it will) the effort of going back and forth trying to figure out what went wrong means you're likely to trigger the auto-saves before realize you need to go back to a previous save, and when you go to use it, all of them will be after the point that you need to go back to. I lost multiple hours of progress SEVERAL times due to this. I was not a happy camper.

Still, this game will keep you occupied for weeks or months if you let it, and with DLC coming out in the coming months, dedicated players may want to put extra padding on their couch. You won't be getting up for a while. Definitely worth getting for fans of RPG's, Dystopian futures, and story-centric FPS players.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Horror Series

One thing I keep hearing from people is that I need to write a series. That's where the real money in writing is at. While I do plan to dip my toes into Fantasy or more into Sci-Fi at some point, my preference is still Horror. And in Horror, it's very, very difficult to do series.

There are some very good reasons for that. To start, a series is about the continuing experiences of a specific character or group of characters. Occasionally, you will find a series which revolves around different characters in the same world, but those are infrequent at best, and questionable in their success. So in a series, you need to have a set world, with set characters.

Then you have Horror. Horror is all about tension. It's about caring about the characters you read about, hoping they survive the monsters they have to face. It's about people experiencing Hell, and whether they come out the other side in one piece, as better or worse people, or even if they come out the other side at all.

Now, if you think about it for a moment, it should be easy. After all, obviously if a series is working, it means we care about the characters, right? We want to read more and more about them and their interactions with the events and environments around them. What makes it difficult, is that if you have a series with set characters, than no matter what happens, it's hard to make them feel like they're in real danger, because if something happens to them, BOOM, no more series. So, that kills a lot of the chances for tension in a Horror series. Especially if you happen to know there's more books after the one you're reading.

Of course, there's nothing saying it CAN'T be done. It's just very, very hard to do properly. And it tends to upset people. Just ask any fan of The Walking Dead.

This is just about the only Horror series I can think of with success. You have a group of characters having continuous experiences in a set world. They manage to keep the tension high through the constant threat of the dead, as well as the machinations of the living. And also because NOBODY is assured an appearance in the next episode, let alone the next season. The Walking Dead takes full advantage of there being a group of characters by being completely willing to kill people off. Even characters which are loved and that you would normally expect to survive. Which usually creates a bit of an uproar, as people don't really care for getting attached to a fictional character only to have their head blown off (or bitten).

Of course, The Walking Dead isn't the only series. The X-Files, has several Horror themes running through it, in spite of having a large portion of episodes having a lean more towards Sci-Fi and/or even Comedy. Even though we never really felt concerned for Mulder and Scully, there were times we weren't sure. Both of them disappeared for whole episodes at a time for various reasons throughout the series. Mulder was even gone for almost a full season later in the show's run.

So a Horror Series is certainly doable. It takes some real skill to pull off successfully though, and not a small amount of risk. After all, if you plan out and work on a whole series and it doesn't catch, that's a lot of work, not quite down the drain, but for a meager return and a lot of writers just don't have the time and resources to spend on such a major undertaking.

Still, maybe some people will be happy to take up the challenge. There is certainly a lot of room, and no small amount of call for it. Might even have a go at it myself someday.

Did I miss any good Horror series?

~ Shaun

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Are You Image Aware?

Even though authors tend to paint with words, and a lot of us delegate the needs of cover art and advertising to others, our profession and professionalism does require us to at least be aware of the images that are used with our work.

Images have copyright. While you can look up just about anything in Google and save the pictures you want to your computer for later use, you need to be aware that if the wrong people find out, you can be opening yourself up for some very costly consequences.

The most recent example that I can think of, is the controversy over the "Obama Hope" poster. The artist created a version of the poster with marked differences, and yet, because he didn't get permission to use the image from the photographer who took the picture for the Associated Press, he ended up with a $25,000 fine, and 300 hours of community service. And that is actually getting off lightly. He could have ended up with very real jail time.

There's two main areas where authors need to be aware of image copyrights. Cover art, and advertising.

A lot of us hire people to do cover art for us, but that doesn't let us off the hook. A lawsuit can claim multiple defendants after all. Of course, most presses have artists that work for them, so you don't usually have to worry about cover art if you have a publisher. If you're a self-publisher though, and you commission your own art, you have to make sure the art you get isn't some doctored piece lifted from Google.

I dealt with this myself. When I was looking for art for my book Class 5, I had a pretty vague description I passed along. I was looking for a crashed spaceship in the Arizona desert.

One version I got, in response to that description, included the ship Serenity, from the television series Firefly.

Yeah. THAT Firefly. The one with that huge cult following. I don't know if the artist just isn't a fan of Sci-fi, and thus didn't recognize the ship himself, or if he just thought I wouldn't recognize it, but I returned that version of the art with the comment that I couldn't possibly use it with such a well-known ship on it. My reasoning at the time was that readers would recognize the ship and then tear me apart, as my story had nothing to do with the Firefly universe. Then, there is also the problem of using a trademarked image, such as that of the ship without royalties or attribution.

Now, it may be that you just aren't aware that your art was stolen. That's more than likely. There's a ton of it out there. That doesn't get you off the hook though. To be honest, there's not much you can do if you're not familiar with the depths of the genre (although, if you're writing in that genre, I don't know what your excuse of that would be). The only thing I could suggest would be to take your cover, and plug it into a Google Image search. Otherwise, just try to make sure your familiar with as much work in your genre as you can.

The other thing is advertising. This is one of the things that really irritates me to see and that self-published authors have the most control over. This is also what I think can get you in the most trouble.

Specifically, I'm talking about people photo-shopping their books into the hands of celebrities, or onto billboards and such. Seriously, people, go back up and click on that link I posted to the "Obama Hope Poster controversy". Sure, you might slip under the radar with your little book, but what happens when a celebrity finds you're claiming their approval for something without their knowledge? What happens when you cut a still out of some movie? This is one reason celebrities and companies keep lawyers on retainer.

All that risk for an attempt at advertising which is, in most cases given the quality of some of the photo-shops, laughable. I saw one posted, which was Spock from Star Trek, holding some book and being quoted as saying "Loving this book is only logical". Honestly, rather than wanting to buy that book, it went on my shit list as a fan of Star Trek and given just how recently Leonard Nimoy passed away.

Also, there's a reason most big publishing companies don't hire celebrities to endorse books. It's likely either because it's not cost effective, or it just plain doesn't work. Go up above to the link and look again. That was a $25,000 fine for using that picture of President Obama, plus community service, plus probation. And there could have even been jail time attached to that. So, is it worth the risk?

I kinda doubt it.

There's a ton more information and examples out there about why you should be aware of image copyrights. Go look it up. Being a self-published author is hard enough without opening yourself up to lawsuits worth thousands of dollars.

~ Shaun

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Movie Review: The Hollow

Recently added to Netflix, The Hollow (2015) is a creature feature/town overrun movie starring Stephanie Hunt, Sarah Dugdale, and Alisha Newton.

I don't really do a lot of movies reviews, considering how many sites and blogs focus exclusively on such things, but this movie just kind of screamed to me to write one up.

The Hollow is pretty standard SyFy channel fare. Pretty low budget, kind of made to be cheesy.

Except it's not.

Now, in no way am I going to claim this is equal to any mainstream movie. Certainly not equivalent to a big-budget Horror film, or even to the low-budget theater flicks like the Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity.

But this isn't anywhere near the camp of things like Sharknado and the like. The Hollow harkens back to an age where SyFy tried to make legitimate Horror movies, even with low budgets and poor CGI.

SPOILERS start below the picture!

The basic premise is pretty familiar. Girls burned at the stake as witches curse the land with their dying wishes, and now every so several decades or so, on the anniversary of their deaths, a vengeful spirit rises up and slaughters everyone in reach.

Now, I'm not going to fault any story on how old and/or cliched it's plot is. Regardless of the plot, a lot of whether a story does well or does poorly is in the execution. The Hollow, actually, doesn't have a bad execution. I was curious what direction they were going to take in the plot up until the end, whether the girls all die, all survive, or even if they turned out to be related to the women burned as witches all those decades ago. 

Honestly, the main reason I wanted to write a review is to express that I think this could rather easily have been a very good Horror movie. The acting is very good, the monster fairly original, and the plot is pretty well executed despite being almost a cliche at this point.

I want to start with the title. The only thing that makes sense to me is that the title "The Hollow" refers to the fact that the monster burns people out from the inside. I pretty much have to infer that because there's nothing else about a hollow anywhere in the movie. I'm sure with a bit of thought, they could have come up with a better title.

As I said, the monster is pretty original, a golem of branches, vines, and roots, that is permanently burning at its core. It kills though a mix of stabbing people and burning them out from the inside. It's pretty well known that usually in good Horror movies, less is more. "The Hollow" pretty much ruins this by showing you the monster in full right at the beginning. If they had actually kept the majority of the monster off-screen until the final chase/battle it would have raised the suspense dramatically.

The movie also contains multiple sub-plots which could be cut as extra, or expanded upon. The character of the youngest sister especially could have been given more screen time to expand on the themes of her prophetic dreams, her guilt of surviving while watching her parents die, and her moment of change when she stops blaming herself for people dying around her and goes back to save her sister. There is also a subplot created by the monster "saving people for later". Technically, this is just a mechanism to explain why the youngest isn't automatically dead when she runs off, but this could easily have been expanded upon into an actual plot point with a little effort and imagination.

It also might have made it more than just a cliche story to have some of the other characters be more than just cannon fodder between the monster and the MC.

All that considered, "The Hollow" is just an okay movie, but it has just enough under the hood to make you wonder what might have been, in the hands of a better script-writer and director.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Third Type of Horror: The Terror

So, the last look at the three types of Horror brings us to The Terror.

The Terror is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest of the three types of Horror to describe.

(Click the links to see the first two if you haven't read them already.)

The gross-out was the stuff that makes your stomach churn and look away before you hurl your lunch across the ground.

The Horror was the monsters that devour us and evoke our primal fears of dangerous things. 

The Terror is the unknown. Now, that may seem like a bit of a cop-out, because that could mean so many different things. Like I said, though, this is the easiest and the hardest to describe at the same time.

Well, let's start with what The Terror isn't.

The Terror is not the Gross-out. It's not looking to hit your gag reflex and make you spew your lunch across the yard. You're not usually (USUALLY) going to find The Terror in descriptive scenes of copious spouts of blood, splattered viscera, and jellified bones and organs. You may find The Terror alongside such things, but that doesn't make them part of what makes The Terror work.

The Terror is also not The Horror. The Horror lives in the known. It's the giant monster that just wants to eat us. It's the psychopath that, in spite of all his nefarious motives, fetishes, and twisted goals, remains nothing more than human. It's the danger that we're aware of, and yet can't escape with ease or without a fight.

That just emphasizes, once again, that The Horror is based on the unknown. The things we can't understand or even be fully aware of. As Mr. King said, "It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there..."

Of course, that means the wealth of the Paranormal can be found in the files of The Terror. After all, we can never really be sure what exists beyond the veil of death before we cross over ourselves, that alone puts it beyond our understanding, so anything from that side will almost instantly put us on edge. Even though some entities have become well known enough for us to understand what they do, poltergeists, for instance, and thus lessen their grip down to The Horror.

I believe The Terror also applies to things in this world that we can't understand, as well. Aliens fall under The Terror, because we have no way of knowing what they're capable of with their technology, and we can have no real understanding of what they want or why they do what they do. Even though they exist in the same world, on the same physical level, they are beyond us so far, and in so many way, that they are all but incomprehensible to us.

Now, I want to finish out by saying while none of these are really inclusive of each other (barring phobias and personal fears which may elevate or demote a subject through the levels), none of them are really exclusive in the boundaries of a good story.

An alien abduction for example (The Terror) may include graphic scenes of medical experimentation (The Gross-Out). And, in a really good Horror story, you will likely find all three types woven together to varying degrees. A story based on a subject which rests soundly in The Horror, may have scenes which evoke the Gross-Out, while other scenes stretch beyond The Horror and into The Terror, before coming back down again.

So, rather than these being sub-genre's of Horror, I think we should view these as tools. While you can certainly write an entire book under one of these flags, I think it creates better work if you can incorporate two or even all three levels, much like a good description will hit on multiple senses.

Lastly, I just want to point out a story which, I think, successfully hits on all three types of Horror. As this began with a quote from Stephen King, it will end with him as I wave my hand over this work Children of the Corn. The story hits upon the Gross-Out (The brutal murder of the wife), the Horror (The murderous children), and The Terror (He Who Walks Behind the Rows). Definitely worth the time if you haven't read it already.

Anyway, that does it for this little mini-series. Feel free to comment or contact me if you have anything else to add or want to berate me. This is all my opinion after all.

~ Shaun

Monday, February 1, 2016

SPOILERS! And why they don't bother me that much.

So, for those of you who don't know, I've taken to doing some self-advertising by streaming. I try to focus on games that have a powerful Horror, Sci-fi, or Fantasy element, such as The Evil Within, Alien: Isolation, and Outlast. Lately though, I've been spending a LOT of time running around in Fallout 4.

If you're unfamiliar with the game, it's an RPG based in a post-apocalypse where the entire world got nuked. There's monsters, mutants, robots, and giant cockroaches galore. It's also amazingly deep if you don't focus intently on the story missions. If I honestly had to guess, I've easily got between 100 - 150 hours into this game, just doing re-spawning missions and building up settlements. 

Anyway, while I was streaming last week, I had a random asshat pop in, ask how far along in the game I was, and then he proceeded to blow most of the big ending twists. He was banned in short order for such a transgression. 

Honestly, I don't usually mind spoilers. But these were some pretty major plot points, and the way he asked about where I was in the game made it pretty clear he was just looking to be an ass about it. 

But the bigger point I want to discuss here is WHY I don't mind spoilers. 

Part of it has to do with the fact that a lot of times, spoilers are accidental. People just get so excited about a book, a movie, or a game, and they just want to talk about it. They forget not everyone has seen it, and this is only exacerbated by people like me that don't usually mind, or people who don't really care and let them ramble on. 

Those kinds of spoilers can be forgiven, and particularly as a creator, it's exciting to see. That's exactly the response we want people to have when they read our books, watch our movies, or play our games. 

The other reason I don't usually mind spoilers, is that a plot twist such is usually given away as a spoiler, is nothing without the surrounding story. If there's not enough tension, not enough compassion felt for the characters, not enough build-up, then it doesn't matter how great your plot twist is. I appreciate the build-up to the plot twist as much as, if not more than, the plot twist itself, and that is why even when I know what the twist is, if the story is compelling enough, I'll keep going. I may not have that "OMG! WTF?" reaction, as much as a simple smile and nod, but that's okay. 

And even the people in charge of a story might accidentally spoil it if they're not paying enough attention. You can't just assume everyone knows the answer, even if most people do. For example, the cover of the home release of the original Planet of the Apes. Yeah. That's the plot twist. Right there on the cover, the big secret reveal. Nice job there 20th Century Fox. Hell, just look the movie up online. Most of the basic descriptions now tell you the movie is actually ** *** ******.                                                                                                                                             So, there you have it. Spoilers are just hard to avoid, even when you don't have some guy being an ass. Even when something gets spoiled though, you shouldn't let it be the end of your enjoyment of a story. Stories can be appreciated without that total shock value. Just look at how many people have re-watched Star Wars over and over and over again, in spite of knowing that one line. 

Still, if you can help it, don't be an ass, and keep your spoilers to yourself. 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Second Type of Horror: The Horror

So, last week, I went over the Gross-out. Today we'll be discussing the Horror. If you want to know what quote started this, go back and take a look. It's a fair sized quote, so I don't want to take up a lot of space with it three weeks in a row.

This is the point where things start to get a little confusing. First off, I want to make it clear that in any given story, none of these things are exclusive. You can have the Gross-out, the Horror, and the Terror all in the same story, sometimes even in the same scene.

The Horror is different from the other two because it's trying to play on our fears and elevate them to higher levels than normal. For instance, many people are afraid of snakes and lizards. The thought of something scaly just unnerves them. So, what does it do to people who are already afraid of reptiles when they see something like this?

Whereas the Gross-out is going for something to make your stomach turn, the Horror is trying to activate your fears. That's one reason people gravitate towards certain writers and not others. The monster horror grips them in ways the crime thriller doesn't. Or vice-versa if the person is more afraid of who their neighbors might be than of snakes, or spiders. 

This definitely isn't just about creepy crawlies though. It can be any fear. The fear of being alone, the fear of drowning, even the fear of being in a crowd. The Horror is about finding what scares you and shoving it right up into your face.

That makes the Horror very different from the Gross-out. It's not going for the gut-punch that makes you queasy or makes you turn away in disgust. This is going for actual fear.

I think this is the level that most people actually enjoy. It's the fear that's embodied by movies such as Pacific Rim and Godzilla, where there's the "fun" fear of being crushed by a giant monster, or even of some unstoppable predator that's trying to eat us, a fear that used to be very based on reality but that has dwindled over the years.

It's the fear of natural disasters such as tsunami's and earthquakes. The movies that are Horror movies if you actually stop to think about it, (seriously, imagine the sheer numbers of dead people in Pacific Rim), but that Hollywood usually labels as Action or Thrillers.

Aliens has a lot of the same things as Alien had. The claustrophobic setting, the monsters, and yet, while this is undoubtedly a Horror movie, it gets listed as an Action movie first. If anything the sequel is even more of a Horror movie, because it shows all our preparations are for naught.

Still, it's more fun to think we can fight the Horror, than to just sit back and be terrified of it, even if we fail miserably.

And that's why I think this kind of horror is generally the most popular.

But that's just my opinion, I could be completely off base. What do you think?

~ Shaun

Monday, January 18, 2016

The First Type of Horror: The Gross-out

Yeah, don't expect many pictures in today's post.

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there...” - Stephen King

I figured it worth the time to take a look at some of these a bit more in-depth. I'll tell you right now, that was a mistake for this part. Blech.

The gross-out is exactly what you would think. All the most disgusting, revolting things that make your stomach turn over. When a head explodes, a fountain of blood gushes out of a random orifice, someone throws up, that's all going for the gross-out. It's not trying to catch your breath, or send shivers down your spine. It's going for that gut reaction that makes the bile rise up in your throat a little bit.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that. It's even the basis for genre's such as Splatterpunk and Torture porn. So there's certainly a market for it, and there are people that appreciate it.

The SAW series is pretty good for an example of the gross-out. While the story itself stands up pretty well, and has an incredible amount of tension, it doesn't look away when the string snaps and people's heads are ripped open.

Of course, with whole genre's based around the gross-out, you also end up with things like COWS (read at your own risk). stories which seem to be written or told just to see how fast or how many times they can make you lose your lunch.

Of course, the gross-out isn't just a genre. It's a tool. It pops up in a lot of great horror. Stephen King himself uses it scattered through his books.

Jack Ketchum's Off Season is rather famous for being "raw, and disturbing", but it's only in the last third of the book, with it's descriptions of cannibalism and perversion that it gets to that point. The rest of the book remains a regular horror thrill ride of a group of friends fending off a savage attack by the cannibal clan.

Even my own work, Class 5, has scenes which go for the gusto of gross rather than the tried and true method of leaving most of the details to the reader's imagination. The scene of a young boy partially devoured, for example.

So what is the difference between a gross-out and just your average violence? It's more than just not turning away at the pivotal moment. It's about taking the moment and reveling in it. Going into more detail than story or description needs. It's when the author gives up on Terror or even Fear and just goes for triggering revulsion.

For example. When the alien grabs your hapless victim by the head, the reader needs to know that it crushed the human's skull like a styro-foam cup, rather than caress the man's hair. The reader doesn't really need to know that its thumb pushed in through one of the eye sockets, mashing the orb like a grape before the rest of its fingers pressed in, shattering the skull like glass, shards of bone sticking out between the fingers as blood and brain fluid ran down the remains of the man's face.

But it is nice to give them that detail once in a while. Just for fun.

Monday, January 11, 2016

31 Posts of Monsters: River Monsters

Human beings are NOT aquatic creatures. That much should be evident in how little we actually know about places of deep water around the world. It doesn't matter if it's the oceans, freshwater lakes, or even deep, murky rivers.

Name: Muskellunge, Piranha, Xiphactinus, Gar, White River Monster

Size: They range from a pound, to several hundred, and mere inches long to big enough to swallow people whole.

Appearance: Mostly excessively large, toothy fish.

Threat: Low to mid. Some freshwater fish could certainly post a threat to an average adult human, but they're generally unlikely to attack without being cornered or otherwise provoked, such as being on the end of a fishing line. And even though some stories report people just vanishing under the surface, most are just going to give you a nasty bite.

While lake monsters are actually fairly common, river monsters are pretty rare. This can easily be attributed to the fact that rivers aren't closed systems. They dump into lakes, larger rivers, and eventually the sea. So many river monsters may simply be temporary visitors, and only swimming through the rivers for short periods.

One of the most well-known river monsters was the White River Monster, which has been reported infrequently for almost 50 years. The creature has even claimed to have had an effect on the American Civil War, being blamed for the overturning of a boat that was carrying supplies.

Many reports of monsters in rivers are just tales of fish that are much bigger than any that people have previously seen or caught. "The one that got away" so to speak.

It's also worth noting that the shark attacks that inspired the movie JAWS actually happened miles upstream from the ocean, and at least one species of shark, the Bull shark, is known to be able to swim inland.

Of course, there are always a few unexplained deaths near water. Like I said, human beings are not aquatic by nature. Many deaths are likely due to people slipping under, drowning, and their bodies getting washed downstream or just getting caught among roots, the stories of river monsters being created in a way to have something to blame. There are certainly stories enough of fish that can do some significant damage with their bite, and it's not hard to believe that some species could kill and eat people if grown large enough.

Unfortunately, there's really not much in the way of books or movies regarding river monsters. Most focus on lakes or the ocean. The Animal Planet series Lost Tapes has an episode about the White River Monster. Also, although not focused on cryptids, the series River Monsters includes several stories of super-sized fish and legends of giants that feed on human flesh.

Seriously, check this show out!

So, if you go out on the river this summer, be careful. You might have more on the end of your line than you're expecting. 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My plans for 2016

Hi everybody! I hope you all made it through New Year's Eve without too much trouble, or pending litigation. Mine was just a quiet night at home, pondering over what I was going to do about the coming year. I've come up with quiet a few ideas and plans that will hopefully keep me busy, and make 2016 my most successful year yet as an author.

This isn't going to be a long blog post, but I wanted give you guys a heads-up on what to expect from me in the coming year.

First off, I slacked off way too much last year as far as writing goes. I had a few short serials on here and wrote up a couple other short stories, but that was it. This year, I'm making writing a daily exercise, a minimum of 500 words a day. Some of them will be for submissions and collections, but some will likely be posted up here on the blog for all of you to enjoy.

I also want to make it clear, I'm going to get this blog back on track. A new post will be up every Tuesday. I've had some issues keeping that schedule the past couple years, but this is one of my goals for this year.

Of course, I have a few series running that are going to continue. My posts of monsters will continue until there's at least 31. Whether we get there this year, that's something we'll have to wait and see.

Reviews of TV shows, Movies, and Video games will continue as well. I may also infrequently post up book reviews on here, instead of just on Goodreads. If anything else particularly interesting and relevant pops up and I deem it worth it, I may even review that too. We'll see.

I plan on looking back over previous posts that I've done, and updating them, considering this blog has been running for several years now. Some of the information in those early posts may need to be updated, or simply be things where I've learned otherwise since then. Part of the reason for this blog was to track and share my own experiences as I wandered through the Publishing/Self-publishing worlds, and I'm learning more on a daily basis. Sometimes I may not even realize how a thought or opinion has changed since I first started, but they're all worth sharing. 

I also plan to continue with new posts on Writing and the Horror genre, so look forward to those as well. 

Now we get to my departure for the year. As I've stated on here previously, in addition to straight Horror, I've also always been a fantasy fan. I've always loved dragons, dinosaurs, Godzilla, etc. etc. And one of my aspirations is to pen a Fantasy novel. I have an entire world, story, and characters drawn up, but it just hasn't felt like the 'write' time. (hehe). Well, to help spur that right time, and with a little inspiration from some current reading, I've decided to do up a few short stories set in that world and post them up here to my blog this year. We'll see how that shapes up and works out, but it's worth a try. 

That brings me to my little piece of advice for today's post. Don't be afraid to branch out, experiment, and try new things. They might work, and they might not, but you can't let fear hold you back. 

And that is the essence of why we enjoy Horror. 

~ Shaun

(And yes, the point of this post is partially to ensure I don't miss the first post of the year, even though I didn't actually have anything good ready to go. :-P Sue me.)