Book Giveaway – Mark Lein’s An Emerging Threat

Mark Lein’s new book, An Emerging Threat, sounds fantastic, an you can win it for free at Goodreads. Here is the synopsis:

An evil stirs, casting a shadow across the Islands. Two men begin quests to find the source of the darkness. One is a young scholar, given no choice but to follow the path ahead. Tragedy shapes him, nearly driving him to despair; an inner struggle pervades his journey. The other is a warrior forced to the task through a sense of responsibility. His royal blood and his knighthood drive his course. Their searches, though separate, have the same goal: to find whatever or whoever may be responsible for the darkening of their world. This book tells the story of their journey and the creatures, both friend and foe, that they meet along the way.

Review of William Meikle’s Broken Sigil – 5 Stars!

A well-written, well-crafted tale about loss, guilt and finding purpose, but not in that sappy inspirational sort of way. No, Broken Sigil is a haunting, devious little tale that blankets you in its macabre.

When I started ready it, I thought, “Hmmm. A detective murder mystery. I can dig that, but I thought this was horror?” I had forgotten the synopsis and just knew I had wanted to read it.

After a coffee and a bowl of chili that I didn’t even realized I’d eaten because I was so immersed in Meikle’s tale, I finished. And what a perfect ending – short and punchy, not overly explained but explained enough, letting readers grapple with conclusions, all the while knowing there can be only one.

Meikle’s writing style sucks you in and doesn’t let you go. He relies on prose and craft, rather than cheap gimmicks, foul language, and shock value, which are all excellent in the in-your-face sort of horror, but not so much in Meikle’s sort of humble perfection.

Mixing a classic tone with real modern-day goth (not that emo punk wannabe knockoff), Meikle creates an atmosphere with minimal description and maximum effect. The story is not horrifying, but rather haunting, subtle and infectious in its horror.

Random aside – Excepting the Madam, his characters may have the most generic names in anything I have read ever. I am sure that is intentional, and I understand the theory behind it. But instead of standing out for their uniqueness, they stood out to me for their collective plainness. If there is a link to classic film, gum-shoe lit, etc, I missed it.

But I digress. That has no impact on the story. I give Broken Sigil 4.5 stars, rounded up for a random fact that did work for me – his lead character’s impeccable taste in alcohol. Highly recommended.

Review of Tim Curran’s Dead Sea – Spoiler Alerts!!!

This book was difficult to review. Many of Curran’s skills are beyond masterful, with his descriptive talents and his ability to create and atmosphere of horror so overwhelming that it leaves his readers choking in tension and desolation topping the lists. This guy know horror – no doubt about it.

Plus, he has written a book that takes place at sea, generally not a favorite setting for me (and a somewhat limited setting at that – despite the wide expanse of ocean, humans are generally confined to a boat). Yet he keeps it interesting and fresh, except in the instances of repetition (discussed below).

Dead Sea reads like The Mist meets Event Horizon on the ocean. I would not be surprised if either of those films influenced the work. This book would make a fantastic movie in its own right, with some fantastic visuals if true to Curran’s description. Curran really builds up the tension to you feel like your out on that water with the characters, maybe even going a little insane. Expertly done. And man, I never ever EVER want to go near the Bermuda Triangle again.

Now for the specifics: SPOILER ALERT!!!!

[ Curran creates a mix of personalities, some of which are one-dimensional, but some others who have more to them and even surprise at times. The characters I cared about or liked were: Cook, Gosling, Marx and Cushing. Unfortunately, they died in that order, leaving me with fewer people to cheer for and only assholes remaining. I guess George was supposed to be likable, too (and maybe Menhaus), but I just didn’t feel for them. Cook died well, but for me, too early. Marx wasn’t given much of a life expectancy, and he died well, too (a great visually descriptive death). Gosling faded with no fanfare, and Cushing was taken out in what was probably intended as an “oh shit!” moment but came across rather blehh and uncalled for. And if the spider=like creatures that vanquished him are up in the mist with webs apparently connected to nothing, why didn’t they take the whole group out long before? Instead they yank a guy from a moving speedboat.

Nevertheless, I liked these creatures. In fact, I liked all of Curran’s creatures. He creates an ocean filled with monstrosities like you wouldn’t believe, yet you do believe in them and they are downright terrifying.

There were scenes that blew me away – the worm fight early on, the Cyclops scene and Cook’s demise ranking highly. The Cyclops scene, pure fantastic horror, was absolutely gripping and deserves 10 stars on this 5 star ranking system. The disjointed hodgepodge of animal terrors, psychological terrors, supernatural terrors, and alien terrors was a bit vexing. I think Curran is such a fantastic writer and builder of tension that if he focused all his ability toward the approaching of one or two sources, this book would have been downright terrifying. The novel seems to switch back-and-forth between survival horror and something more Lovecraft-like.

I wasn’t big on the over-explained pseudo-science used to explain certain aspects of their inter-dimensional travel but not to explain, for example, Lydia’s transformation – if we are in a whole new dimension where anything is possible, then fine, I can accept anything as possible until science is pushed on me to make just some aspects seem possible (does that make sense?). Too much explanation took away from the horror and diluted a creature Curran spent so much time building (and building well).

Dead Sea could have used a more thorough edit. Curran’s DarkFuse stuff is much cleaner. Here, Cushing magically switched groups at one point. Point of view switched often, even mid-chapter, yet I really don’t think the average reader cares about that. I didn’t, but as an author, I notice it. I actually think it added to Curran’s novel here. Repetition, both of one character’s internal thoughts and of subjecting us to similar point of views of similarly situated characters, made the book needlessly longer, but perhaps added to the build of tension. (hide spoiler)]

But that makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy it. I did. A lot. That’s merely why for me, it wasn’t perfect. But Curran’s description was top-notch and to use two words I’ve seen in the reviews of others that I think are absolutely perfect, his work is both “atmospheric” and “claustrophobic,” creating a sense of dread in me that very few books can manage these days.

This book is 4.5 stars, so I will give it 4 stars here and five stars on Amazon, given the different ranking systems.

Best Books I Read in 2013 – One Author’s Opinion

Well, 2013 is drawing to a close. I thought I would take this time to honor my four favorite reads this year (books I read, not necessarily published in 2013). I have no negatives to say about these books, each a perfect reading experience. In no specific order, they are:

1. George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords,

2. Jonathan Janz’ Savage Species,

3.  Evans Light’s Screamscapes: Tales of Terror,

4. Greg F. Gifune’s Dreams the Ragman,

Sanitarium 015, featuring “Depths,” now available in Paperback for under $5

Elizabeth’s and my story, “Depths,” is now available in paper form. If you’re like me, still split between the paper and the electronic world, you may want to pick up this version for only $4.74.

And if you haven’t looked at Elizabeth Los’ work yet, you should.

My co-authored Short Story, Depths, is now published in Sanitarium Magazine Issue 015

I have a number of short stories on the way, but Sanitarium Magazine was first to set one to print. “Depths,” which I co-authored with the talented Ms. Elizabeth Los, is available from Sanitarium’s website, and for Kindle on Amazon,

Paperback copies will be available shortly through Amazon!


I received some good news (believe me, it’s needed). What Hides Within is a finalist for horror in the EPIC competition.

Now if only I could get that next book published…