Review: Deadlock, by Tim Curran


About Deadlock

Charlie Petty is a man known for having ice water in this veins. He never backs down and is never shaken but unfortunately stirred up into the wrong crowd. As a degenerate gambler, his luck has run out and his debt has now come due.

Charlie is offered a chance to clear his tab: simply stay alone on a ship overnight to prove to its owner and potential crew that it’s not cursed nor haunted. Never mind the ship’s history of suicide, violence, mutiny and murder. Or how the ship’s past crews have gone missing or insane. The fact that no one has set foot on deck in darkness for years doesn’t phase Charlie one bit. It sounds like easy money to bust up a superstition or two.

Charlie thinks his luck is returning. Little does he know it’s about to run out completely.

About the Author

Tim Curran lives in Michigan and is the author of the novels Skin Medicine, Hive, Dead Sea, and Skull Moon. Upcoming projects include the novels Resurrection, The Devil Next Door, and Hive 2, as well as The Corpse King, a novella from Cemetery Dance, and Four Rode Out, a collection of four weird-western novellas by Curran, Tim Lebbon, Brian Keene, and Steve Vernon. His short stories have appeared in such magazines as City Slab, Flesh&Blood, Book of Dark Wisdom, and Inhuman, as well as anthologies such as Flesh Feast, Shivers IV, High Seas Cthulhu, and, Vile Things. Find him on the web at:


My Thoughts

Charlie Petty is a degenerate gambler, in over his head fifty-large to a gangster named Arturo. Arturo is the owner of the Yvonne Addams, a freighter ship that he cannot find a crew for. Sailors are scared to board her and rumors persist that the vessel is haunted. Crewman have hung themselves, captain’s have committed suicide, and, once, everyone on board disappeared, leaving the ship adrift until it was discovered by a fishing boat. All Charlie has to do is stay aboard her, alone, for one night, and his debt is forgiven.

Petty is a tough guy, a nerves-of-steel sort. To him, this haunted ship is a joke. Nothing to worry about.

Yet, almost as soon as he’s on board, things start to go wrong. He begins to see things – at first, a brief apparition out of the corner of his eye, and then the ghosts of murdered crew members and visions of their final moments aboard the Addams. He starts to question his own resolve, half-convinced by the horrors creeping up around him, and half-sure that it’s all a prank being played on him by Arturo.

Over the course of only a few works, Tim Curran has become one of my favorite horror authors. He has a knack for generating scares quickly, yet in a deceptively subtle way. He wastes no time cutting to the chase, laying out this novella’s premise in the opening chapter and sketching in the scaffolding that will support this hauntingly effective ghost story. Within only a few paragraphs, we’re primed for the scares and the stage is set.

Charlie is an effective protagonist, and his own doubts echo those of the reader. After all, how many times can a ghost story be told effectively and still generate chills? Although I was happy to return to the field of maritime horror after Curran’s Dead Sea,  a niggling part of me doubted the needfulness of Deadlock‘s premise in a similar way that Petty doubts the superstitions surrounding the Addams. Of course, it’s a stupid doubt, for both us readers and for Petty himself. The final result is proof that there is always a need for more well-told ghost stories, regardless of how well trodden that particular field may be. As for Petty, well, we know what’s in store for him well before he does, yet Curran is able to take such conventions and make them work, and they work quite well, lest there be any doubt.

Curran’s world-building and character development skills are ripe, effective lures. We can feel the chilly fog of the sea and the dank, oily smell of the freighter that’s been dockside and unmanned for several years. Charlie’s fears quickly grow contagious, and Curran has a few sick twists up his sleeve along the way. I, for one, may never look at a hairball quite the same way.

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Review: Blackout, by Tim Curran


About Blackout

In the midst of a beautiful summer, in a perfectly American suburban middle-class neighborhood, a faraway evil is lurking, waiting to strike the unsuspecting residents.

First come the flashing lights, then the heavy rains, high winds, and finally a total blackout. But that’s only the beginning…

When the whipping black tentacles fall from the sky and begin snatching people at random, the denizens of Piccamore Way must discover the terrifying truth of what these beings have planned for the human race.

About the Author

Tim Curran lives in Michigan and is the author of the novels Skin Medicine, Hive, Dead Sea, and Skull Moon. Upcoming projects include the novels Resurrection, The Devil Next Door, and Hive 2, as well as The Corpse King, a novella from Cemetery Dance, and Four Rode Out, a collection of four weird-western novellas by Curran, Tim Lebbon, Brian Keene, and Steve Vernon. His short stories have appeared in such magazines as City Slab, Flesh&Blood, Book of Dark Wisdom, and Inhuman, as well as anthologies such as Flesh Feast, Shivers IV, High Seas Cthulhu, and, Vile Things. Find him on the web at:


My Thoughts

I became acquainted with Tim Curran’s work last summer after seeking out recommendations from a Goodreads group for some good marine-based horror. I was thinking something along the lines of the movie Leviathan, which attempted to be Alien at the bottom of the sea. When a few readers recommended Dead Sea, I took a chance on it and found myself immediately engrossed.

Directly after finishing Dead Sea, I bought a number of his other works and impatiently waited for my pre-ordered copy of Blackout to release. I also came to a central conclusion, based then on nothing more than that single book, and am none the least bit dissuaded in believing upon finishing this latest: Curran, who hails from the Upper Penninsula, is Michigan’s answer to Maine’s Stephen King. He’s got serious horror chops, sure, and that intimate campfire voice, the kind you really don’t want whispering in your ear long after night has fallen. More importantly, he’s able to draw relatable, recognizable, ordinary people locked in a struggle against the extraordinary. He takes impossible situations and grounds them in characters that could easily be your boss, your friends, or your neighbors.

And Blackout certainly gets to the heart of the extraordinary, by waking up the folks of Piccamore Way to a series of timed, repeating strobe lights and an impenetrable blackness. The stars are hidden, and the night is darker than normal. It shifts as something massive and unseen hovers above. Long shiny, black cables drop from the sky, leaking a sticky goo that traps any who touch it and hauls them back up into the belly of the great beast overhead.

Told in first-person and with short, punchy chapters, Curran wastes no time cutting to the chase and diving right into the horror. Blackout is a rich nod to The Twilight Zone, sufficiently so that the mental movie playing in my head as the story unfolded was in the good and proper black-and-white film-stock.

This novella is a grisly first-contact story, War of the Worlds by way of The Mist, and Curran plays the familiar tropes with fun finesse. The read is easy and briskly paced, with the pages practically turning themselves. It’s the perfect story to indulge in during a dark and stormy summer night, with a beer in hand, the lights turned low, and the doors locked. Maybe keep a flashlight handy, though. Just in case.

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Reblog: Author Wednesday – Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks:

Many, many thanks to Patricia Zick for the wonderful interview as part of her on-going Author Wednesday series!

Originally posted on P.C. Zick:


Welcome to another installment of Author Wednesday. Michael Patrick Hicks joins me today to talk about his first novel Convergence. This science fiction technothriller features Jonah Everitt as your everyday drug addict, memory thief, and killer. There’s bound to be an edge-of-your-seat story in the telling of his journey! convergence-800-cover-reveal-and-promotional

Hello Michael! Your book sounds exciting and chilling at the same time. Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer before we delve into the plot of Convergence.When did you first discover your voice as a writer?

Probably in high school. I always dabbled with writing as a hobby, but in my senior year of high school–way back when now–I decided to get a little bit serious about it and took a creative writing course. I wasn’t quite prepared for the worlds it opened up for me, and I completely fell in love with the art. I’ve…

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Kobo Reviews Needed For CONVERGENCE

As some of you may know, Kobo is now taking customer reviews. You may have noticed this, either on this blog, or on Kobo Writing Life, when news broke back in May, or came upon the news in their latest newsletter.

I, for one, think it’s a tremendous decision and I know first-hand as a reader how valuable customer reviews are. They help facilitate purchase decisions and can make or break those on-the-fence customers into clicking the buy button. As an author, I value reviews because it could (hopefully) draw in more new readers.

Kobo didn’t think it was enough to just open the doors to customer reviews, though. Nope, they are sweetening the deal a bit further. Write a review and get 20% off select eBooks! How cool is that?!

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Now, you don’t have to review Convergence, obviously. But, it sure would be appreciated! And I certainly hope you will. I know there’s a good number of Kobo readers out there who have bought and read my book, and if you’re one of them, please consider this offer and know that you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. In face, you’ll get a lovely little reward out of this! A bit of quid pro quo, eh? I’ve currently got 8 reviews on Amazon, all 5-stars, and I think it’s high-time my Kobo readers start getting in on the act!

All you have to do to review Convergence is follow this link (you’ll be taken to Kobo’s partner site, Evocalize), click the big blue RATE THIS button, and then rate and write a brief review. After that, you’ll get a coupon for 20% off a select eBook that’s valid until October 4.

If you leave a review, drop a line here and let us know!

(And, if you haven’t bought Convergence already, you can do so at the link above.)

Review: Consumed, by David Cronenberg


About Consumed

The exhilarating debut novel by iconic filmmaker David Cronenberg: the story of two journalists whose entanglement in a French philosopher’s death becomes a surreal journey into global conspiracy.Stylish and camera-obsessed, Naomi and Nathan thrive on the yellow journalism of the social-media age. They are lovers and competitors—nomadic freelancers in pursuit of sensation and depravity, encountering each other only in airport hotels and browser windows.Naomi finds herself drawn to the headlines surrounding Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy, Marxist philosophers and sexual libertines. Célestine has been found dead and mutilated in her Paris apartment. Aristide has disappeared. Police suspect him of killing her and consuming parts of her body. With the help of an eccentric graduate student named Hervé Blomqvist, Naomi sets off in pursuit of Aristide. As she delves deeper into Célestine and Aristide’s lives, disturbing details emerge about their sex life—which included trysts with Hervé and others. Can Naomi trust Hervé to help her?Nathan, meanwhile, is in Budapest photographing the controversial work of an unlicensed surgeon named Zoltán Molnár, once sought by Interpol for organ trafficking. After sleeping with one of Molnár’s patients, Nathan contracts a rare STD called Roiphe’s. Nathan then travels to Toronto, determined to meet the man who discovered the syndrome. Dr. Barry Roiphe, Nathan learns, now studies his own adult daughter, whose bizarre behavior masks a devastating secret.These parallel narratives become entwined in a gripping, dreamlike plot that involves geopolitics, 3-D printing, North Korea, the Cannes Film Festival, cancer, and, in an incredible number of varieties, sex. Consumed is an exuberant, provocative debut novel from one of the world’s leading film directors.

About the Author

David Cronenberg is a Canadian filmmaker whose career has spanned more than four decades. Born in Toronto, Canada, Cronenberg was inducted onto Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1999. In 2002, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2006 he was awarded the Cannes Film Festival’s lifetime achievement award, the Carrosse d’Or; he is also an Officer in France’s Order of Arts and Letters (1990), and a Chevalier in its Legion of Honor (2009). Cronenberg’s many feature films include Stereo, Crimes of the Future, Fast Company, The Brood, The Dead Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch, M. Butterfly, Crash, A History of Violence, and A Dangerous Method. His most recent film, Cosmopolis, starred Robert Pattinson and was an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel. Consumed is his first novel.

My Thoughts

 (This review is based on an advanced review copy obtained through NetGalley.)
I’ll preface this review with a small word of caution: I am not nearly as up-to-snuff on Cronenberg’s film work as I should be. The man is a heralded director, yet, sadly, I’ve only seen a few of his films. Most of his best-known and most well-regarded films, such as The Fly, Scanners, and Videodrome came out well before I was of-age to watch them and I’ve yet to actively seek them out for viewing. I have seen and absolutely love The Dead Zone, and A History of Violence and Eastern Promises are up there, too. Those two latter films, however, are among his more mainstream efforts and did little to prepare me for the darker, more psychologically and physically horrifying nature of Cronenberg’s storytelling oeuvre as he makes his literary debut.

According to IMDB, Cronenberg is known as the King of Venereal Horror, or body horror, which usually involves the destruction of the body. Both The Fly and Videodrome are celebrated classics of this horror subgenre, along with John Carpenter’s The Thing. It is this genre that Cronenberg gravitates toward with his novel, Consumed (as well as the 9-minute short film The Nest, which was released at the end of June as a bit of a prequel/teaser to this novel).

Assembled here is a hodgepodge of philosophy, psychopathy, cannibalism, self-mutilation, and physical disfigurements. The book covers the gamut, from sexual promiscuity and STDs, to Peyronie’s Disease and apotemnophilia, and wraps it all in a puzzle-box that’s equal parts riddle and Chinese finger trap. Consumed is an erotic thriller that revels in its utter lack of sexiness and obscure fetishes before devolving into a roughly hewn conspiracy.

Beginning with the discovery of the murder and cannibalization of Célestine Arosteguy readers are taken on a multi-layered mystery that ties Naomi’s search for the missing Aristide Arosteguy into the secondary narrative thread surrounding her sometimes lover Nathan, as he becomes embroiled with the Riophe’s after catching a rare STD.

The story that unfolds then becomes a cross-country narrative filled with narcissists, sexual libertines, and the mentally unhinged. Unfortunately, while Cronenberg’s storytelling skills are top-notch and he’s crafted an absorbing and compelling page-turner, the result is unbalanced. Persistently interesting and uncountably strange, the final turns of the premise upon which it all hangs feels terribly disconnected and fruitless.

Ultimately, it’s a story of nothing more than pure voyeurism. Both Naomi and Nathan are photojournalists, and their affection for technology borders on the obscene, with photographic minutiae, like ISO settings and Speedlight specs, a fetishistic obsession. They see the world through a lens, their perspective and views limited to only what resides opposite the thick black bodies of their DSLR Nikon cameras and iPhones. It’s a limitation that carries over to the dual narratives, as we only ever see things through their dual viewpoints, with rare exceptions, and their depths of field come armed with armchair pop psychology.

Consumed is a challenging read, one that requires full investment, but which offers little in return. Closure is as hard to find, and absolute answers as rare, as Riophe’s STD. The ending offers only more questions and concerns, and, as a climax, packs little in the way of power. It’s a twisted, bent tale, the narrative itself a version of Peyronie’s Disease, and manages to be both obliquely satisfying yet intensely empty.

While I found myself dissatisfied, I can’t help but think that I’ll be examining the structure and roles of this story and its characters as time goes on, and I can’t help but think that the disturbing nature of the work as a whole has left a bit of a mark in me. I suspect Consumed will gain a cult following amongst Cronenberg purists, but personal satisfaction in the story may depend on your familiarity and enjoyment of the author’s filmic narratives.

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Review: In The Kindgom Of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides


About In The Kingdom Of Ice

New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age

In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained a verdant island at the top of the world. National glory would fall to whoever could plant his flag upon its shores.

James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world’s attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of “Arctic Fever.”

The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship. Less than an hour later, the Jeannette sank to the bottom,and the men found themselves marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia with only the barest supplies. Thus began their long march across the endless ice—a frozen hell in the most lonesome corner of the world. Facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they desperately strove for survival.

With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth.

About the Author

A native of Memphis, HAMPTON SIDES is editor-at-large for Outside magazine and the author of the international bestseller Ghost Soldiers, which was the basis for the 2005 Miramax film The Great Raid. Ghost Soldiers won the 2002 PEN USA Award for nonfiction and the 2002 Discover Award from Barnes & Noble, and his magazine work has been twice nominated for National Magazine Awards for feature writing. Hampton is also the author of Americana and Stomping Grounds. A graduate of Yale with a B.A. in history, he lives in New Mexico with his wife, Anne, and their three sons.

My Thoughts

(Review is based on an electronic advanced reader’s copy of the book and was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.)

With works of historical non-fiction, it’s important to contextualize the narrative within the broader scope of the era being discussed. While a journey to the arctic is all kinds of riveting, there still needs to be some semblance of motivation, either on a personal scale or for larger reasons. Author and historian Hampton Sides reflects wonderfully on these aspects in the book’s early chapters. Readers get a sense of not only the main players and peripheral characters, but of a divided nation that is recovering from the Civil War and seeking a rallying point to unify under, while also still growing thanks to Manifest Destiny and the purchase of Alaska from Russia. It’s a period of nationalistic pride, despite the still-young nation having a laughable Navy in comparison to European countries, and the Arctic Circle represents the “final frontier” of discovery. Rumors and educated guesses abound at what would be found at the North Pole, with much of the speculation and hope revolving around the discovery of a warm oasis, a dream fed by Viking and Greek myths that were immortalized by mapmakers, and, ultimately, the spirit of these hazy, safe concepts captured in the first modern rendition of Santa Claus by American cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 1860s. The US, and, in fact, much of the world, were caught in the grip of Arctic Fever.

That fever, thankfully, extends quite well to the written word and makes In The Kingdom Of Ice a briskly compelling read. Using original sources, in the form of correspondences, ship logs, personal papers, and documents from Jeanette housed in Washington’s National Archives, author Hampton Sides is able to vividly bring to life the central Navy men aboard the ship, as well as the vitally important ancillary characters, such as arctic commander George De Long’s wife, Emma, and newspaper magnate Gordon Bennett, owner of the Herald. Bennett, whose wealth is responsible for the funding of the journey north, becomes a larger-than-life figure, full of vim and vigor and drunken escapades. We get a terrific sense of De Long’s happy marriage, and the affection that Emma has for her ice-bound husband is apparent in her personal letters.

Sides has gone to great lengths to capture the human spirits of those involved, which makes their ordeals all the more difficult to bear.

The historical elements of the narrative, from the Jeanette’s send-off in San Francisco to its final resting place in the Arctic, are candidly reproduced, but never embellished or sensationalized. There were certainly moments that made me squirm, such as the depictions of frostbite and the rotting effects of the constant cold wetness in the Arctic, but Sides handles it with methodical cool. He’s not writing to gross people out, or reveling in the gore. His reportage is precise but still deeply moving, particularly in the book’s denouement when the fate of the Jeanette’s crew becomes apparent.

In The Kingdom Of Ice is terrific account of America’s early endeavors to reach the North Pole and it deserves to find a wide audience of readers. The trials and terrors the crew face, and the uncertain realities that affect their companions at home, make for a marvelous and gripping account. Sides is a masterful historian and a damn good writer. Highly recommended.

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Amazon Adds Pre-orders for All Authors

Michael Patrick Hicks:

Phenomenal news. I cannot wait to give it a test drive later this year!

Originally posted on S.A. Mulraney:

How’s that for alliteration? If you haven’t noticed, or didn’t think to look like the rest of us, there’s a new button on your KDP Direct Reports Dashboard…


You may have to log out first and log back in, in order to see the change. At least that’s what I had to do. Here’s a path to Amazon’s description of the new feature:

And another screenshot of where you actually choose when the book will release…


These images were not so sneakily stolen from the thread over at where heated discussion has erupted as it often does with new Amazon initiatives. :-D You can check out the conversation here.

I know I’ll be using it in the near future for my upcoming release. I’m always willing to give a new tool a shot. I’m hearing both good and bad and the thing has only been live for…

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Reblog: Whisper’s Non-Profit Your Voice Is Now A Digital Platform To Discuss Depression Openly

Featured Image -- 3699

Michael Patrick Hicks:

Reblogging because I think this could be a very valuable resource and merits further exploration.

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

In the wake of all the discussion about depression and suicide this past week, Whisper founders Michael Heyward and Brad Brooks announced they are starting a $1 million endowment for Whisper’s separate non-profit entity Your Voice. Whisper also announced that Your Voice morphs today into a new digital platform for Whisper users and others to share their struggles in the hopes of letting others know they are not alone.

Your Voice launched as an information site for depression and suicide prevention back in 2012. Troubling messages about self-harm and suicidal thoughts kept popping up on the mobile network for sharing secrets. This was a serious concern to Brooks who says Your Voice was created as Whisper’s answer to those types of posts.

“People who call a suicide prevention hotline are more likely to get help. They’ll probably make it,” says Brooks. “We needed to create a way to let…

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Consumption Cover Reveal

Coming Fall 2014…


Many thanks to Debbie at The Cover Collection for her fine work on this one!

CONSUMPTION is about as far from CONVERGENCE as the speculative fiction genre could allow, I think, and the cover does a nice job of capturing that. I’m trying something really different with this short story as I take a very brief break from science fiction to dip my toes into the deep, dark waters of macabre horror fiction.

Read on for the description and request your free eReader ARC below, and stay tuned for more details soon!

You Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.

Consumption will release on all electronic formats Fall 2014, but you can sign up for a chance to read it before anyone else – for FREE!

Just note that Consumption is a short story and will only be available as an eBook. I’ll be mailing out the major formats to you – .mobi (kindle), epub (Nook/Kobo), and PDF – when they’re formatted and finalized.

Fill out the form below, drop a comment in the required text box asking for an electronic Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC), and it’s all yours. If you sign up for an ARC, you’ll get a copy of my short horror story at least two weeks before anyone else.

There’s no strings attached – again, this would be completely free for you – however, I would really appreciate you taking the time to provide an honest review when the title launches. I’ll let you know when and where, and you can revel in the glory of having read Consumption and passed judgement on it well before anyone else in the world.