Monday, March 20, 2017

State of Horror: 2017

A little late to the show, I know, considering we're already moving up to the end of March, but there's still sooo much more to come this year.

Without getting political, Horror has always been one of the great genres of escapism. It reminds you that things could always be worse, helps you experience that, and then brings you back safely home again. Thus we continue on with the days and weeks of our lives a little more grateful, no matter how difficult things may sometimes seem in the real world. And with the roller coaster that things are shaping up to be the next few years, we're going to need a steady stream of exactly that.

So far, 2017 has not let us down.

Movies started us off with the dark thriller Split by M. Night Shyamalan. That led us into Get Out, and The Belko Experiment.

Video games have kept up as well, with the incredible Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

And we're just getting warmed up. 

Movies continue throughout the year with a slew of high-profile Horror movies. Including Alien: Covenant, A new version of The Mummy, It Comes at Night, and returns to Amityville and Annabelle. We also finally get to see the remake of Stephen King's IT

Video games are a bit harder to pin down, as many of them don't set release dates in stone like movies do. (Trust me, that's for the best. Games shouldn't be released if they're not ready.) But we still have a lot of games to keep us busy in the meantime that have Horror elements, even if they aren't specifically Horror games themselves. 

The big thing here though, is VR. Many, many Horror games seem to be planning to take full advantage of the ability to truly immerse a player in situations you would be insane to enjoy. Which is exactly why we enjoy them.

Of course, one of the games most being looked forward to is Outlast 2. There are a lot of others though, including a game based on the Friday the 13th movies. Other games to watch for are Perception, where you play as a blind person, tapping your cane and using a kind of echolocation to "see", and Visage, a game trying to pick up where the sadly dead P.T. left off.

Last, but certainly not least, (And I fully expect this one to be absolutely terrifying in VR), we have The Hum: Abduction. The title should give it away, but check out the trailer.

So never fear, Horror fans. There's going to be a lot of (fake) Horror to keep you up at night this year. 

~ Shaun

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