Category Archives: Fantasy Blog

TDS Goes Beyond the Page

The Dark Sire has always believed in doing more for its creatives than just publishing them in an issue and moving on. Instead, TDS is about going beyond the page – creating opportunities that transcend into different formats, like poetry turned into a folk song or a short story turned into a podcast episode. The magazine is different than most of its contemporaries because it is a vehicle that drives outside opportunities and publicity.

That said, TDS is now taking its next step in providing more career-changing opportunities for all its creatives. Welcome to TDS Collaborations!

TDS Collaborations is a partnership between Bre Stephens, the EIC of TDS, and industry professionals, such as agents, producers, and directors. With this new partnership, TDS will give free digital subscriptions to industry professionals for the purpose of scouting talent. When the professional wants to contact a creative, Bre will make the introductions.

Neither TDS nor Bre will benefit from any career-changing benefits that befall creatives. This is because Bre will not seek payment or reward for uplifting others. The editor says, “It is our pleasure merely to give creatives a voice and to share that voice with others that could develop it beyond the page.”

Any industry professional – defined as one who can move someone’s career forward – who wants a FREE digital subscription should request one via the TDS website: https://www.darksiremag.com/mission.html (scroll down to about half-page).

TDS Collaborations is a project that is continually influx. More news will be shared as information becomes available. Stay tuned!

Questions can be directed to darksiremag@gmail.com, attention Bre Stephens.

TDS in local bookstore: Bibliophile

Today marks a small step in TDS history: The Bibliophile, an independent bookstore in Dover, Ohio, now stocks TDS on their shelves!

David and Sara Jones, the owners of The Bibliophile, strive to uplift writers, local and otherwise. As the only bookstore in Dover, they want to support the creative artists in their own backyard, which includes uplifting a locally printed and published international magazine, TDS.

The bookstore has Issues 3-6 in stock right now and will continue to stock future issues, including the special edition paperback, The Dark Sire: Accolades, and Issue 7, both coming in April. Upon customer request, they can order copies of issues 1 and 2.

It is our pleasure to be part of this new bookstore’s legacy, especially when the family owned independent bookstore “promotes and expands the love of books and reading.”

Please support local booksellers by buying your copies of The Dark Sire from the The Bibliophile – your new home for all things TDS!

The Bibliophile
241 W. 3rd St.
Dover, Ohio 44663
330-440-6443
ohbibliophile.com
ohbibliophile@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/OHBibliophile

RIP: My Poor Laptop

Our blog editor, Eric Ruark, writes a glorious blog for THE DARK SIRE. He’s brought you interviews on The Creative Nook while also sharing information about our genres. Recently, he started writing blogs geared toward Christmas and Hanukkah to ring in the holiday season. But much like the scary ghost stories of Victorian Christmas, he couldn’t escape the nightmares that befell his dear laptop.

OH, dear laptop, he knew you well.
Now it’s off to the land of Nah,
Where comps sleep the good night
And owners weep in despair…
The loss too great to bear.

With Eric’s laptop gone (may it rest in peace!), the TDS blog will be in a state of mourning. Meaning: Blog posts will slow down and sometimes skip scheduled days. Currently, the blog released articles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11am (EST). Now, the blog will be reduced to 1 or 2 posts over a 2-week period of time.

Once Eric has mourned the passing of his laptop the correct number of weeks, he will continue his work. The new laptop will have a legacy to uphold, one with high expectation and value. We expect a mourning period of at least 2-3 months. But after that, Eric will be back to introduce a new laptop and more top-of-the-line articles written in the same mastery as before.

Until Eric’s return, Bre, our editor, will supply limited content.

Be well Eric! And all our best to you as you look for a replacement laptop to serve you as well as the old one did.

Stay safe!

The Creative Nook with Gina Easton

Gina Easton is no stranger to THE DARK SIRE Literary Magazine.  Her short story, Tainted Love, graced our first issue and her short story, Skin Tight, appeared in Issue #4.  For fans of the Horror genre, Tainted Love delivered everything anyone could ever want.  It was a story that sent chills down your spine.  Where Tainted Love delved into the depths of hate, depravity, and revenge, Skin Tight was the perfect marriage of Psychological Realism and Horror, where real and imagined are blurred and the sane becomes unsane.  Ms. Easton’s work is by far well worth the time to read and re-read. I had to interview her to get to know more about her work.

TDS:  Welcome to the Creative Nook! I’ve been looking forward to this. I loved Skin Tight and would like to start there. What inspired Skin Tight?

Gina Easton: I thought about what might happen if a part of us we take for granted (like our skin) suddenly morphed into something menacing and how that could turn into an interesting horror story. I have found that often the best horror stories contain an element of a seemingly benign aspect of life, in this case a vital body organ, that becomes a sinister and threatening force.

TDS:  Do you have a favorite line or part of the story?

Gina Easton:  I think I enjoy the part in the story where the psychiatrist, Dr. Usher, begins to understand that his patient, Alex, may not be suffering a delusional disorder, and that something far worse is unfolding.

TDS:  Readers love to know a writer’s creative process. Could you explain the creative process you follow when you begin to write?

Gina Easton:  I’ve heard that some authors plan out a story from beginning to end, and shape the story according to the ending they desire. For me, things are never that well-organized in my mind. When an idea occurs to me that I feel will turn into a story, I just begin to write it. I honestly have no idea where it will go or how it will end. It’s hard to explain, but the story develops a rhythm of its own, and the characters decide the outcome.

TDS:  That makes excellent sense. There are a lot of writers who like to write organically. It’s a freeing experience. Speaking of other writers, what authors inspire you?

Gina Easton:   My biggest inspiration has been Ray Bradbury, a true master of dark fantasy. I started reading his work when I was quite young and was captivated by his rich imagination and powerful story-telling. And of course, Stephen King, who is a phenomenal short-story writer as well as novelist. He creates characters that are so real and believable. Clive Barker is another writer whose works I enjoy. And, just to prove that I read genres other than horror, Diane Setterfield, Hilary Mantel , CJ Sansom, Joyce Carol Oates and John Hart are masters at their craft. I also enjoy mystery stories and have several authors whose books I read.

TDS:  It sounds as if you’ve read a plethora of books. Is that how your career as a writer began?

Gina Easton:   Writing has always been my passion, although it remained a hobby for a good part of my life.  I worked as a registered nurse for many years, a career that was very rewarding. However, a disability forced me to give up that line of work. I turned my attention to writing, recognizing that now I had the time and energy to devote to this passion. I had my first short story published in 2019. Since then, I’ve had eleven more accepted. And my first novel, Black Jack, will be released on Dec. 21, 2020, and a second novel will be published in early 2021.

TDS:  Congratulations on your first novel! That’s a very big accomplishment. Like Stephen King, you are a short story writer and a novelist. We’re very proud of you. Let’s celebrate by talking novels. What is your favorite book to read? 

Gina Easton:  That’s almost impossible to say. I have enjoyed so many books, but one of my treasured ones is Swan Song by Robert McCammon. It is a compelling and beautifully written story, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

TDS:  It’s been very nice talking with you. I can’t believe we’re done already. One last question. Do you have any advice for fellow authors?

Gina Easton:  I’m not sure if you mean writers who have not yet been published, but that would make sense, as those who have been certainly don’t need any advice from me. For those authors who are still waiting to be accepted, my advice is, “Don’t ever give up.” If you have the ability to tell a good story and you want to share it, just keep sending it out. We have all dealt with countless rejections; they are an inevitable part of the publishing industry. The answer is to persevere with your passion and not allow anything to deter you.

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Ms. Easton’s first novel, Black Jack, releases TODAY.  The novel takes a look at Jack-the-Ripper as a demon intent on wreaking chaos and horror in the East End of London.  THE DARK SIRE is looking forward to reviewing her book.  If it is as chilling as Skin Tight and Tainted Love, it looks to guarantee a sleepless night or two.

SUBSCRIBE to THE DARK SIRE for the best in Gothic, Horror, Fantasy, and Psychological Realism fiction, poetry, and art.

The Worm and His Kings: A Review

RATING: 💀💀💀💀💀

Excellent prose.  Tons of dark tone.  Novella, 116-pages. A MUST READ.

There comes a time for every reader that they suddenly realize that they are not just reading a good story, but that they are also reading something that has transcended simple good storytelling and entered the realm of the special.  Call it literature, call it art, call it what you like.  You know when it happens.  It’s when the story takes on a kind of life that makes you think of bigger things.  Orpheus Descending, Dante’s Inferno, Blade Runner, The Old Man and the Sea.  The Worm and His Kings is that kind of novella. 

There are layers within layers with layers to this story.  The novella begins with a monster kidnapping homeless women from an enclave of the lost in an abandoned subway line under New York City.  Donna is one of the missing.  Monique, Donna’s lover and one of the abandoned (by society and her family), believes the creature has taken Donna to its lair.  She goes in search of her love and that search takes her deep into the underworld of a cult that is waiting for its god, the Worm, to return. 

Hailey Piper draws us into this dark underworld by not only capturing the despair of those whom the world has abandoned but also by drawing us into the subterranean world of her characters’ souls.  As dark and as dangerous as the underworld becomes, the life that her protagonist has had to endure is equally as dark and foreboding.  Monique is a transgender woman whose love for Donna has ruined Donna’s career.  Donna has comforted Monique through her blotched operation and rejection from her family.  Society rejects the love that Donna and Monique feel for each other driving them into the abandoned subway tunnels of the homeless and eventually into the arms of a monster.

The Worms and his Kings is a classic “quest” story, but under the skillful pen of Hailey Piper, that quest takes on multiple layers with multiple twists.  Monique is on a quest to save Donna, much like Orpheus in the classic Greek legend was on a quest to save Eurydice from the underworld or later in the Medieval poem The Divine Comedy, when Dante was willing to brave the inferno of Hell to find his Beatrice.  In the underworld of Piper’s story, the followers of the Worm are also on a quest to fulfill the Worm’s wishes.  Even the monster, the Worm itself, is on a quest to find a resolution for both its own pain and suffering and the faith that its followers lacked eons before.

Then Piper gives the story a twist and asks the reader to question who is the monster?  Which quest is the most important?  The author forces the reader to reassess the meanings of specific words, actions, and thoughts as the story turns on who is doing what to whom.  Eventually, Monique must confront a juxtaposition of both her humanity and sexuality. 

In The Worm and His Kings, Hailey Piper constructs a world of darkness, horror, and desperation as all the characters struggle to achieve their ultimate goals.  Monique must confront the horror of what HAS happened to her and the horror of what IS happening to her.  This is the kind of book that demands to be read and reread, to have its nuances explored.  It is the kind of book that makes us look at ourselves as much as we look at the leading character.  We all have demons to identify and confront and hopefully in the cosmic realm of things, reduce them to their proper places. 

The Worm and His Kings is most definitely worthy of all the accolades we, at THE DARK SIRE, can offer.  It has a depth of darkness that our readers not only appreciate but seek out in the kinds of things they read.  The multiple levels, the twists, and, above all, the ultimate resolution raises this book into a category achieved only by Poe, Shelley, King and a handful of others.  This is a great read.

The Worm and His Kings is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook formats.


RATINGS: TDS rates all books based on the dark content and how well the reading experience lends itself. Of course, author craft, storytelling, and mechanics are considered, as well. For this purpose, we use skulls (💀💀💀💀). And explanation of the skull system follows.

RATING: 💀
Boring, not dark, not interesting. Do not recommend.

RATING: 💀💀
Fair plot, not too dark, fairly interesting. Read at own risk.

RATING: 💀💀💀
Good plot and mild darkness, good reading experience. Encouraged read.

RATING: 💀💀💀💀
Great reading experience with heaps of dark tone. Strong recommend.

RATING: 💀💀💀💀💀
Excellent prose, tons of dark tone. A MUST READ!

Christmas Around the World

It’s that time of year, again.  Charlie Brown, Lucy and the others are on TV (last night 5 different channels carried A Charlie Brown Christmas.)  Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer colored lights and manger scenes are decorating row houses and suburban lawns.  Even the M&M candies get to meet Santa.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Christmas traditions that fill our western culture.  But what about other cultures? 

Here at THE DARK SIRE, we are interested in how others celebrate the holidays. We found that Christmas traditions are almost as varied as the number of countries and can range from the hilarious to the sublime. 

In the Catalonian region of Spain, there is a Christmas character called Tio de Nadal  or Caga tio, loosely translated as “the pooping log”.  It is a small, hollow log propped up on two legs with a smiling face painted on one end.  From the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (around December 8th) Catalan families give the log a few morsels to eat and a blanket to keep warm.  Then on Christmas Day, people sing a special song and hit the log with sticks and low and behold, the log “poops” presents.

Caga Tio from Catalonia

In Argentina, Christmas is not a winter celebration.  After all, December is summertime in the south of the equator.  The main meal, eaten on Christmas Eve, consists of a full barbecue with roasted turkey, roasted pork, veal and lots of different sandwiches.  Then at midnight, people set off fireworks and open their presents, although many people wait until the 6th of January (Epiphany) to open their gifts.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christmas Eve is an important musical evening with churches having as many as 5 or 6 choirs.  They also celebrate with nativity plays which traditionally begin with the creation and the Garden of Eden story and ends with Herod’s killing of the innocents.

In Ethiopia things are quite a bit different since the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th, a tradition that came from the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church.  Many Ethiopians take part in a special Advent fast that lasts 43 days during which only on vegan meal is eaten each day.

Did you know that Santa lives in Finland? The Finnish believe that Santa Claus lives in the northern part of Finland, in the Arctic Circle, thus making Santa Claus their neighbor. Christmas, then, is a 3-day event that begins on Christmas eve, when Christmas trees are bought. However, decoration of the tree doesn’t start until Christmas day. And, with light waning in the early afternoon, visiting loved one’s in graveyards and hanging candlelit lanterns is a popular family outing. Even the animals have their own Christmas.  People leave fruit, nuts, suet and all kinds of goodies for the wild birds to eat.

Australia is another summer country, so Christmas can be celebrated at the beach or on camping trips. With the weather so hot, Santa changes clothes to cool down and sometimes changes reindeer for kangaroos. And, instead of milk and cookies, people leave out carrots and cold (usually non-alcoholic).  Christmas dinner consists of fresh fish, prawns, and lobsters with other traditional English foods, such as Christmas pudding. And don’t forget the delicious Christmas crackers!

Australian Christmas Dinner

On the Island of Malta, cribs are central to their Christmas celebration.  Cribs were first introduced to Malta by noblemen from Italy in the 1600s.  At first they were not popular and were more often burned than celebrated.  But then, a crib was built that the culture adopted as “theirs” and the Maltese crib was born.  People started making cribs with moving parts.  There is now a “Friends of the Crib” society that put on a yearly exhibition of hundreds of cribs in all shapes and sizes.

A Maltese Christmas Crib

Many Christmas traditions have evolved from the Colonial era and which dominant European country occupied that particular area of the world.  This also meant that various Christmas traditions devolved from which brand of Christianity was dominant in the region.  There was Roman Catholicism, Greek and Russian Orthodoxy, Coptic, etc.  You can quite literally throw a dart at the world map and discover something unique about the way people celebrate the holidays beneath the tip. 

Christmas around the world is a wonderful celebration of diversity. And we, here at the THE DARK SIRE, want to wish everyone, no matter how they celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas.

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Celebrate the holidays.  Give a subscription of THE DARK SIRE to someone you love. Digital, print, and subscription box subscriptions now available.

The Creative Nook with Brenda Stephens

“My back digging into the wall, I stood in a quiet alley a block away from the Foster house. The jagged red brick poked through the heavy material of my coat, reaching my skin, like little needles on tender flesh. The pain felt good. It reminded me that I was still alive and kept me at-the-ready, though, at that moment, I longed for death… I unconsciously took out my flask from the inside pocket of my coat and guzzled the contents. The flask drained of its translucent red liquid, my legs let go. As I slid down the brick wall, every bump and scratch burned into my skin… I didn’t care anymore.”
Vampyre Paladin, Chapter 3, Part 1 (Issue 4)

Brenda Stephens is the author of Vampyre Paladin, a serialization in THE DARK SIRE (Issues 1-4). The above excerpt describes a man, the protagonist Matthias Kade, who is at the end of his ropes. His mental fortitude has collapsed, all hope exhausted, due to his relived loss of a loved one. Ms. Stephens captured the pain of loneliness nicely. This story caught my interest immediately because of its masterful writing. And so, it was my pleasure to sit down with Ms. Stephens to get to know more about Vampyre Paladin and her other works.

TDS: First off, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the serialization of Vampyre Paladin. There was a dark quality about it that brought to mind the kind of Black & White horror stories of the past. How did you come up with the idea?

Brenda Stephens: I had created a character a while ago that was a doctor who traveled the world to serve mankind. His mission was to cure vampire transformation. I took that character, who became Matthias Kade, and expanded his world to be Vampyre Paladin (which I call VP), a world where nationality plays a big part of how strong vampires are and what their abilities will be.

On a side note, I’ve been wanting to write a story that had vampires as fiends, like the old monsters of the past. Gothic literature of the 1800s had such vampire portrayals, and I wanted to go back to the times when vampires were scary. I created VP to bring the vampire monster to the 21st-Century.

TDS: I have a strong fondness for Van Helsing type characters. I always wonder which character an author liked to write the most in a work of fiction. So I have to ask: Who was your favorite character to write in Vampyre Paladin and why?

Brenda Stephens: Matthias Kade is actually a very complex character. He has so many different emotions coursing through his veins. He has a tormented past – as most protagonists do – but is trying to live in the present, though his past continues to haunt him. Every time he tries to heal a patient (a victim of a vampire attack), he is mentally forced to think of his dark past. Because of that, the tension is great and his eruptive emotion and placid exterior (having to stay calm and emotionless) collide. It’s a balancing act for him, and to write him, I have to decide how much of his emotion to let out. He’s a strong gentleman who practices medicine but is also a weak, emotional man who yearns for peace – which is far from his reach. Matthias is my favorite character to write in VP – hands down!

TDS: Since VP is being serialized in TDS, are you writing the story as it goes, or was it written and then published?

Brenda Stephens: Both, actually. Some was written before the serialization. But, honestly, most has been written as we go. Chapter 3 Part 2 is being written right now. It’s been a hard journey keeping up on deadlines, but it’s forced me to continue writing. And since this is my debut novel, I like that I have to write and keep up with publication. This way, I know I’ll finish my book and reach my goal of publishing the full story in 2021.

TDS: Most of our readers like to hear about a writer’s process. Would you mind sharing some of your process with them?

Brenda Stephens: I literally contemplate the story, what I want to tell, and what the purpose would be. Then I consider what protagonist would best fit the world I created in my mind. I think about the character’s mission, their goal in life, and why they’re needed in this new world. I hardly ever write any of these thoughts down. Instead, I keep them in my mind. It may sound odd, but I consider good ideas to stick with me. If I forget the idea, then it’s not a good enough idea to keep. From there, I create the storyline and write the synopsis. This is also when I title the story. I then set everything aside for a few days or weeks; I like to ponder everything – from the characters, to the setting, to the plot. Afterwards, I begin writing. I never outline, so I write organically and let the story tell itself. Anytime I try to push the story to what I want, the direction goes off track and the story needs to be redirected. So, I’ve learned to listen to the characters, the story, and only write what I’m directed to by them. Typically, once I begin writing (a short story), I finish a story in 1-2 sittings, with a polished story ready in about 3-5 days, depending on what else I’m writing. This has been the process in writing VP, though most parts already published have only taken a couple of hours to write.

TDS: Are there any hidden messages or social commentary in your work?

Brenda Stephens: Most of my current work has social commentary. But I’ve interweaved the messages within the text so well that most readers don’t seem to catch it. I’ve left Easter eggs in a few stories that no one noticed. I thought my subtle hints where beacons with shining lights and red blinking points to the clues, but it turns out that they are hidden a little too well – and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. In VP, the social issues tackled are human trafficking, drug addiction, and child abuse. Like Dracula was used as social commentary in the 1800s, VP is a social commentary of the 21st-Century.

TDS: Social issues such as you mentioned are at the forefront of many of the top stories on the news. Can you elaborate a little more on how you use Vampyre Paladin to tackle these topical issues?

Brenda Stephens: Vampires as fiends are creatures who must feed lustfully on their prey. They represent drug addicts who are always looking for their next fix. The vampires kidnap children, making them victims and thus slaves to the vampire lust for blood. This represents both human trafficking and child abuse. All of this comments on the human trafficking that is so rampant in the world today and how children are becoming playthings to adults who prey on them. Abuse then materializes as mental, physical, and emotional damage on the world’s children, like the children in the world of VP.

TDS: How does Matthias Kade play into everything? What does he represent?

Brenda Stephens: He represents hope, though he also represents struggle and overcoming one’s barriers. Addicts struggle with their drug addiction but need courage, strength, and love to overcome their demons. Matthias not only understands this but has gone through a struggle of the mind and body that he’s overcome to be a servant to his community. He’s the one who’s come out on the other side and is showing all others the way to beat the odds. And since he serves society, he becomes the beacon of hope that things will change, but only if others stand strong with him, following his example of not looking the other way, but facing the wrongs of our world to create change and make a positive impact.

TDS: That’s deeper than the currently published chapters have gone. So when will the readers see these areas of conversation?

Brenda Stephens: First I had to establish the setting, story, and characters, which is what chapters 1-3 did. Right now, Matthias is beginning to break. He’s struggling with memories of his past. He’s supposed to be saving a patient, a victim of a vampire attack, but his emotions are running rampant and he’s falling into a depressive state. Readers are experiencing the depth and heaviness of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions that weigh on his shoulders every day. Guilt. Remorse. Loneliness. Anger. These emotions are all eating at him right now. This is the beginning of the social commentary: Just because a person looks okay, doesn’t mean they are. Mental health awareness then becomes a second-layer commentary, one that I find is gravely important right now during the pandemic. The mental health conversation wasn’t a planned conversation, as usual with my writing, but it’s critical to the character and came out at the right moment. Once we get through this and he makes the decision on whether to save his patient, the story will roll quickly into the other social areas, with tracking the fiendish vampires, finding their coven, and battling them head-to-head not far behind. Chapter 4 is the turning point.

TDS: Not that I want to tease our readers with a spoiler or two, but can you tell us any Easter Eggs that you left behind for us to enjoy?

Brenda Stephens: I don’t like to tell secrets, but I can give you a hint: NUMBERS. I use numbers to add to the storyline. If you understand the meaning of the numbers, you’ll understand Matthias even more and thus the story will take on a whole new meaning for you.

TDS: We will definitely have to keep that in mind. But right now, I would like to switch topics on you. What other stories are you currently working on — or is it just Vampyre Paladin?

Brenda Stephens: I am currently working – slowly – on a short story collection called Heaven and Hell. It will be a book of 10 short stories, 5 heaven stories and 5 hell stories. The heaven stories are ones about a wish coming true while the hell stories are about a nightmare coming true. One of my hell stories, Road to Hell, was published in Issue 5 of The Dark Sire. If you’ve read it, you know that it was definitely a nightmare come to life.

TDS: It certainly was. It was very different than Vampyre Paladin. Is there social commentary or any Easter Eggs in this story?

Brenda Stephens: Much different! Where VP is about control and keeping your demons at bay, Road to Hell is about the demons overcoming you and you falling into the pits of hell (quite literally!) for your sins. And yes, there are both commentary and eggs to be found in this story. The commentary is that if we’re not careful of our choices, we will be our own downfall. In today’s society, there’s so much evil lurking around every corner – so much hate, intolerance, and division – that society is falling apart. Unless we, as human brethren, come together and unite, our world will die a horrible death, one that we will pay for through our own personal losses due to our inaction. As for the Easter Eggs, think of numbers again and pay close attention to the diner.

TDS: It sounds as if Road to Hell is a call-to-action piece then. Would you agree?

Brenda Stephens: Most definitely! The message is simple: Get off your ass and do something to save your neighbor from falling, and by helping them, you’ll help yourself. Our world is too greedy, too selfish. Road to Hell reminds us that we need community to thrive because left to our own devices, we can never overcome our struggles. We need help, support, love – from the right people, those who will be honest with us (the workers at the diner) and not just say what we want to hear (the girls in the diner).

TDS: I’m beginning to understand that your work goes deeper than the surface and deeper than readers may see at first glance. Is this due to any particular influence on your work?

Brenda Stephens: Yes and no. My work delves into the psychological, like Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic legacy. Like him, I like to discuss the depravity and decay of society. So, it can be said that his love for those things has greatly influenced my subject matter. However, I don’t think that I write the stories just because of Poe. As an artist, be it in words or paint, I must create art that expresses needed change. I don’t write purely for the reader’s enjoyment, though my stories can be read for just that. Instead, I write analytically to make a statement, to start a conversation about a particular topic, and to exchange ideas with my reader. If that makes sense.

TDS: With all of this in mind then, what’s the big dream you have for your writing? What’s your goal?

Brenda Stephens: Just to make our world a better place – and to help people who are struggling with their demons. Mental health is so important, and escapism is one of the ways that will help purge dark thoughts. When the reader can relate to a character, the character becomes their beacon of hope, especially when the character wins their uphill battle. I hope to give readers that connection, that hope, that drive to carry on. Saving someone’s life, giving them the encouragement and strength to move forward, is the goal of my life’s work.

TDS: You mentioned art. Was this a metaphor or do you actually paint? What else do you do that is creative?

Brenda Stephens: Yes, I’m a professional abstract artist. I put my paint brushes up for a while, though, due to creating and editing The Dark Sire. I don’t have time to paint much nowadays. When I was painting, I exhibited my work in several states through solo and group shows. My work is Colorism, which is emotive painting that aims for a viewer’s emotional reaction. I also was an actor and still do some voice acting, as well as was a professional dancer (tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical) when I was younger; I retired from the dance competition circuit a 10-year national dance champion. I miss those days! Oh, and I write screenplays and the occasional poem.

TDS: I didn’t know you had all of that in your background! It’s definitely impressive. One last question, if you don’t mind. With all of your experience and background, do you have any advice for other writers and creatives?

Brenda Stephens: Never let anyone dissuade you from your dreams. If you have a yearning that drives you, that’s the feeling that’s telling you what your life’s mission is. If you wake up wanting to write, you’re a writer. Want to paint, draw? You’re meant to be an artist. Get the education – be it university training, watching YouTube tutorials, or reading how-to articles – that’s needed in order to get where you want to be. Yes, we all need that day job to support us while we train and hone our craft, so don’t get discouraged because you need to work a job to survive rather than working full-time on your art. It’s a rite of passage that all of us go through. Let that yearning and passion feed you so you can be the best “you” you can be. Then, take the world by storm and don’t stop until you’re satisfied with the results of your hard work and labor. To anyone who has a dream, I wish them the best of luck and ask them to take care of themselves!

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We hope you enjoyed reading this interview with Ms. Stephens and invite you to read Vampyre Paladin in THE DARK SIRE (Issues 1-4), available in the TDS Store. You can also find her on Twitter (@BreLStephens) and Facebook (@BreStephens2019), as well as read story excerpts on her website. And of course, any time you want to contact her, simply send TDS an email (darksiremag@gmail.com) – she’s always there for you as the founder and editor of THE DARK SIRE.

Be sure to leave comments or any questions you have for Ms. Stephens. She monitors this blog and would love to talk with you personally.

Happy Hanuukah

The eight-day Jewish celebration of Hanuukah (or the Festival of Lights) commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem where, according to legend, the Jews rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors during the Maccabean Revolt in the second century BCE.  After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, his vast empire was divided between his generals, with Seleucus I getting territory that encompassed Israel all the way to India.

At first the Seleucid kings allowed the Jews to practice their own religion.  But then in a total reversal of policy Antiochus IV Epiphanes outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered all the Jews to worship Greek gods.  When they refused, in 168 BCE, he descended on Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the Jewish holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls.

In the wake of this desecration, a large-scale rebellion broke out against the Seleucid monarchy.  The rebellion was led by Jewish priest Mattahias and his five sons.  When he died, his son Judah Maccabee took command of the rebellion and successfully drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem.  Judah called for his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its menorah, the golden candelabrum whose seven branches represent knowledge and creation.

And this brings us to the miracle which Hanuukah celebrates.  According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most central texts, Judah Maccabee and the others who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to have been a miracle:   There was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, but the flames kept flickering for eight nights, giving those rededicating the Temple time to find a fresh supply of oil.

Judah Maccabee defeating the Seleucid forces at the Second Temple

Hanukkah is rich in traditions.

The first revolves around lighting the nine-branched menorah.  On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown.  The ninth candle is called the shamash (the helper) and is used to light the others.  It is typical to recite blessings during the ritual and to display the menorah prominently in a window to remind others of the miracle that inspired the holiday. Another tradition revolves around food fried in oil.  Potato pancakes known as latkes and jam-filled donuts known as sufhaniyot are eaten in many Jewish homes. Though not fried, a food item that’s steeped in tradition is gelt, or chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.  The traditions continue in the playing if games, specifically the game of Dreidel with a four-sided spinning top.  And of course, there is gift giving, where most families exchange small, sentimental gifts, like books, games, and even food items, that harken the holiday’s true meaning and grass roots. Lastly, and this is just as important as everything else, the official colors of Hanukkah are blue and white, so wrapping paper and decorations adorning packages and houses will naturally be a bright festivity of blue and white.

From all of us at THE DARK SIRE to all of our Jewish readers, “Hanukkah Sameach!”

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We know that each family has their own unique traditions for Hanukkah. If you celebrate, let us celebrate with you by sharing (pictures are encouraged!) your traditions with us. We’d love to celebrate with you!

If you have a horror and gothic-loving reader you’d like to shop for, be sure to visit the TDS Holiday Store for all your gift needs. We recommend the Holiday Care Box – a present that gives a little of everything, small but personal.

A Victorian Christmas

The Christmas we celebrate is uniquely Victorian.  Prior to Queen Victoria assuming the throne in 1837, Christmas was a regional affair. Pre-industrial transportation and communication made things difficult for the general population to get around.  But then Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the industrial revolution arrived on the scene and Christmas took on a whole new meaning with Christmas trees, Christmas dinner, the Yule log, Wassailing and Father Christmas, who was given a new persona.  The wealth and technologies of the industrial revolution changed the face of Christmas into the one we recognize today.

Prior to Queen Victoria’s influence, people knew about a real man named St. Nicholas and a cobbler who gave presents to the local children, but they didn’t know about the modern-day Santa Claus.  Christmas cards were not sent.  Work kept families from gathering together, with some unable to celebrate holidays.  Queen Victoria, who represented the epitome of family to her subjects, changed all of that.  Newspapers and influential magazines began illustrating the Royal family interacting and celebrating things like Christmas and naturally, her subjects wanted to follow suit.

The new found wealth generated by the industrial revolution found its way into the middle class.  Suddenly, these families found that they could take two days off: Christmas and Boxing day, the day when the working people opened the boxes in which they had collected gifts of money from their employers.   The new railways allowed the country folk who had moved into the cities in search of employment to return home to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Mass production allowed the price of toys to drop into the affordable range of this new middle class.  Games, dolls, books and automated toys were no longer the sole property of the upper classes.  Authors began writing Christmas stories, like Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol (1843), which actually encouraged rich Victorians to redistribute their wealth by giving money and gifts to the poor.

Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens

In the Victorian period, Santa Claus, as we know him, made his first appearance.  He was an amalgamation of two midwinter characters: the British Father Christmas and the Dutch Sinter Klass.  Father Christmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival that heralded the return of Spring.  Sinter Klass was the gift giver.  And he wasn’t fat… that is, until Washington Irving of Sleepy Hollow fame described him as “portly” in one of his other stories and from them on, illustrators and cartoonists kept adding to the Claus’ girth.

The Christmas Tree idea was brought to England by Prince Albert.  The Christmas Tree was popular in the Prince’s native Germany, so he displayed one in Windsor Castle in 1841. The Royal family allowed the London Illustrated Times illustrate the tree. When the common people saw it, they, too, wanted to join in on the festivities… and the rest is history, as they say.

Wassailing, carolers who went from house to house singing and playing popular carols of the day, became popular. Classic Christmas music that we know today was born: O Come All Ye Faithful (1843), Once in Royal David’s City (1848), See Amid the Winter Snow (1851), O Little Town of Bethlehem (1868), and Away in a Manger (1883) just to name a few.

And let’s not forget Christmas dinner.  People in the north of England preferred roast beef.  People in the south, goose.  You might remember it was a goose that Scrooge had Tiny Tim run down to the butcher to fetch or that it was a goose that ate the blue carbuncle that Sherlock Holmes was hired to find.  The Royal diner that the Illustrated Times chronicled in Windsor Palace included both roast beef and a roasted royal swan or two.  Later, turkeys became the bird of Christmas choice.

Christmas cards made their appearance in the Victorian era, as well.  In 1840 Rowland Hill introduced the idea of a “Penny Post”.  The idea was revolutionary.  For a penny stamp, a letter or card could be sent anywhere in Britain thanks to the newfangled contraptions called Trains.  The cards were so ornate and artistic that many Victorians collected them and proudly displayed them.

If you celebrate Christmas, in some way, you might consider yourself a Neo-Victorian.  You may not dress in the Victorian style, but as you sit around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning opening presents, you are definitely enjoying the traditions handed down to you from the Victorian Era. And with dark tales intertwined into the holidays, it’s perfect for any lover of Christmas joy and the supernatural, as we all can learn a thing or two from the ghosts of Christmas and Tiny Tim. To those who celebrate, Merry Christmas!

What are some of your Christmas traditions? Leave a comment and share with us.

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Be sure to visit the TDS Holiday Store to gift your loved ones the best in gothic, horror, fantasy, and psychological fiction, poetry, and art. Order by 12/14 for delivery by Christmas and use coupon code HOLIDAYS2020 for 10% OFF entire order.

The Creative Nook with Bartholomew Barker

        

The silence surprises me —

no more thumping from my chest —

no more swooshing through my ears —

the little gurgles of a living body

are now absent and missed….

Silence by Bartholomew Barker appeared in Issue 2 of THE DARK SIRE and captured our imagination with its near perfect horror/gothic ambience.  It was and is exactly the kind of poem that TDS feeds on.  It called to mind any number of chilling Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems.  Because of that, The Dark Forest wanted to interview Mr. Barker for our Monday Creative Nook feature.

TDS:  First off, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed Silence.  It reminded me so much of several of Edgar Allan Poe’s pieces that I was wondering which writers influenced you?

Bartholomew Barker: I’m not sure. I read a lot of poetry by both living and dead poets. I’m impressed with Poe’s ability to write metrical rhyming verse that’s also creepy. Whenever I try, it always turns out humorous. That’s why I stick with free verse. I usually enjoy Charles Bukowski, Tony Hoagland and have a crush on Edna St. Vincent Millay.

TDS:  How did you get started as a poet?  Or rather, why did you choose poetry to be your means of expression?

Bartholomew Barker: As with most poets, I started writing to deal with a trauma. Mine was quite minor, just a divorce, it wasn’t even my first, probably won’t be my last. When I shared my angry poems I got enough praise that I thought I’d try to take it seriously. That was ten years ago.

TDS:  This is kind of a which comes first the chicken or the egg question.  How does your poem develop?  Do you write towards an ending, or do you conceive of an idea and start it to see where it goes?

Bartholomew Barker: Depends upon the poem. Some are like fried chicken, others like fried eggs.

TDS:  Most dark poems center around emotions that may appear morbid or disturbing on the surface.  Do you write to the emotion or does the writing act as a cathartic form of relaxation for you?

Bartholomew Barker: I write to the emotion. There are much more cathartic forms of relaxation out there!

TDS:  Have you ever written a poem that frightened you?

Bartholomew Barker: Not really frightened but certainly disturbed that I could think of some images. Makes me wonder where my mind has been.

TDS:  Does a poem ever get so dark that you have regretted sharing it with the public?

Bartholomew Barker: No regrets. When I decided to take poetry seriously, I realized I had to be comfortable sharing my strip club poems with my mother. Once I was good with that, I felt like an emperor with a new suit of clothes.

TDS:  What sparked your initial love of poetry?

Bartholomew Barker: You assume I love poetry. Like all art, 90% of poetry is shit but when you read one of those 10% poems, it’s like injecting another person’s thoughts directly into your veins.

TDS:  What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Bartholomew Barker: When I’m out of wine but too drunk to drive to the liquor store.

TDS:  Do you have a writing group or a community of writers that you share the creation of your work with? 

Bartholomew Barker: Hell yes! I work with Living Poetry, the largest group of poets in the Triangle area of North Carolina. I’ve been participating in workshops for more than ten years and all the success I’ve had is due to the feedback I’ve gotten and given. There’s only one Emily Dickinson per generation who can write masterpieces in isolation. The rest of us have to hone our craft and the best way to do it is through workshops, receiving and genuinely accepting criticism.

TDS:  What other subjects do you write poems about?

Bartholomew Barker: I post new poems to my blog  www.bartbarkerpoet.com on a weekly basis. I post love poems, nature poems, astronomy haiku… These past few months I’ve been writing a lot of political poetry for some reason. My first full length collection was written about strippers and strip clubs. It’s called Wednesday Night Regular. My most recent is a chapbook of food poems called Milkshakes and Chilidogs. Both are available, like everything else in this world, on Amazon.

TDS: Where have you been published recently?

Bartholomew Barker: I have a poem about climbing trees in the current issue of the Naugatuck River Review. I had a fun poem about watching my local fire department put out a practice fire in the Gyroscope Review. I’ve been in various anthologies about everything from dance to science fiction to ekphrastic poetry. And I’m thrilled to have another poem appear in a future edition of The Dark Sire (Winter 2020, Issue 6).

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If you have questions for Mr. Barker, leave them in the comments and we’ll get you the answers.

and

Remember to subscribe to THE DARK SIRE and be sure to tell a friend.  Share.  Why keep all the good Gothic, Horror, Fantasy and Psychological Realism to yourself? It is the season for giving, after all.

And speaking of giving, TDS has a new holiday shop open. New sure to check it out and order by 12/14 gir Christmas delivery. Shop now!

!!! GIVEAWAY !!!

 

At THE DARK SIRE we have a mission to both our authors and our readers.  We provide a stage that highlights the taboo.  These are creative works that, because of their subject content, have trouble finding a publisher.  We help authors regain their creative freedoms – giving a voice to the voiceless – while also providing readers a platform that allows them to enjoy the full spectrum of speculative fiction, poetry, and art without censorship. Writers and readers, then, can revel in the creepy, the eerie, the twisted content that harkens back to an older tradition of storytelling, subject matter, and portraiture.

In addition,  TDS endeavors to go beyond the printed page by providing opportunities for promotion, which includes but is not limited to organized author/artist events, book signings, interviews and giveaways.

Which brings us to the purpose of this blog:  We are giving away a SIGNED PAPERBACK copy of Rami Ungar’s ROSE.

Win a signed copy of Rami Ungar’s ROSE

You have read the review.  You have read the interview.  Now own the book. All you have to do to win this signed edition is LIKE and SHARE the TDS giveaway posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram between December 1 and December 14. LIKE this blog post for an extra chance to win!  Those who LIKE and SHARE the TDS giveaway posts (social media, blog) will be entered into an online automated selection program.  The winner will be selected randomly from all the entries.

We are as dedicated to our readers as we are our writers.  You can’t have one without the other.  We want you to have a great reading experience.  Where other magazines have banned slasher, faux pas issues, and Christian themes, you can be sure that you will experience the full creativity of our writers without a governor on their creative freedoms.

So… LIKE and SHARE and be automatically entered in this, our first AUTHOR GIVEAWAY.  Good luck!

Gothic Style Christmas

“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat…” 

Too cheery?  Maybe that isn’t your sort of thing.  Maybe you would like something darker… a little Gothic Christmas.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Gothic Santa Claus, Christmas Tree and all the darker decorations that go with it.  Why decorate your tree with a jolly fat man and reindeer when you can use ornaments that inspire supernatural flights of fancy or mysterious creatures straight from the designers’ nightmares.

Well, The Dark Forest put the question of how do you celebrate a Goth Christmas to members of several Gothic groups on the various social media and here’s what the general consensus was:

First of all, you need to start with a black Christmas tree.  You can either by one or spray paint a regular Christmas tree black. 

Then, again, if you don’t want to spray paint a tree or buy a black one, you can always go the Addams Family route and decorate a tree with naked branches.  Bare branches with red tinsel looking like dripping blood instead of icicles was also another favorite theme.  And don’t forget to hang your Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling.

What makes something Gothic?  Characteristics of the Gothic include death and decay, ghosts and vampires.  When you decorate a Gothic Christmas tree, think terror and wonder.  Santa becomes a decomposing skeleton in a red Santa suit.  Snowflake ornaments are black instead of white.  Black bulbs have white skulls on them.   And don’t forget the black wreath for your front door.  If you are in the mood to hang Christmas stockings, black with skulls will do very nicely.  All you have to do is Google “Gothic Christmas” to find hundreds of dark ideas with which to celebrate the season.

Another recommendation that was popular was the graveyard look, which is a blending of Halloween and Christmas.  Then there was the Nightmare Before Christmas theme or  the Addams Family theme.  And what would say Gothic Christmas more than the presents wrapped with Edgar Allen Poe wrapping paper.

Edgar Allen Poe wrapping paper

A Gothic Christmas needs to be filled with purple, black, dark gray or navy blue colors.  And the images of sugarplums need to be replaced with dragons, gargoyles, fairies, wizards, ogres and ghosts. 

Another suggestion from our responding Goths was to go a little more Pagan and sit around and watch the Yule log burn and listen to Christopher Lee reading Edgar Allen Poe.  Don’t have a fireplace?  Don’t worry.  Check your TV listings.  There are several media groups across the country that offer a Yule Log presentation with their free over-the-air broadcasts.  That hours of commercial free TV with just the Yule log burning in all its fiery glory.

Christmas does not have to be traditional by any stretch of the imagination.  Just paint your tree black and let yourself go.

An Interview with Author Rami Ungar

Rami Ungar’s book, Rose, was the subject of a recent Dark Forest review.  The horror story was deceivingly simple with an engaging storyline that held the reader’s interest from the first line of the book all the way to the last.  It even subtly probed that age-old philosophical question: are we who we think we are or are we merely pawns in someone’s  or something’s larger plan?  Having enjoyed Rose so much, THE DARK SIRE felt the need to ask Mr. Ungar a few questions and he was gracious enough to answer them.  Here is the interview:

TDS:  I just want you to know how much I enjoyed Rose.  You were able to capture my interest from the first line and you held it throughout the book.  What gave you the idea to write Rose?

Rami Ungar:  I’m not entirely sure. I was sitting in my science-fiction and fantasy class at Ohio State (yes, OSU had a class like that), and all of a sudden, this idea popped into my head. A story like Stephen King’s Misery, but with a supernatural bent. I wrote down the idea so I would remember it later, and it developed over time.

TDS:  Why did you choose to tell your story through the eyes of a woman?

Rami Ungar:  It was never really a choice for me. I was always surrounded by girls and women growing up, and a lot of my heroes growing up were women. So, while I would never say I’m an expert or that I have nothing more to learn, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of how to write from a woman’s POV. So, when creating the characters, Rose Taggert just came to me naturally as a woman, and I didn’t think further on it.

TDS:  Who are your favorite heroines in horror literature and did you draw on any of them in the creation of Rose?

Rami Ungar:  Buffy the Vampire Slayer! She’s not perfect, but she kicks ass and cares deeply for those around her. However, she didn’t have that much influence on Rose. Otherwise, this would have been a very different novel.

TDS:  There is something incredibly sinister about your villain, Paris.  Yet, you can almost feel sorry for him because of the things he suffered.  How did you research his character to achieve that balance?

Rami Ungar:  I think that was just a culmination of a lot of reading and movies. In college, I was devouring books filled with serial killers, as well as watching movies about them, and I guess I just learned from those who came before how to create a villain that, while sinister, had a sympathetic back story.  That being said, I would warn any reader not to get to be too sympathetic to Paris. It’s not easy for me to get into his mind, but I feel like anyone who shows him genuine sympathy is setting themselves up for pain. And not just the emotional kind!

TDS:  This is kind of a which came first, the chicken or the egg question.  Did the character types come to you first, or did the storyline come first and did the characters develop from that?

Rami Ungar:  While the initial idea started me on this path, the characters came to be before I started on the storyline. That’s generally how it works, especially with longer stories. I’ll have a few key characters, and then I’ll write the plot around them.

TDS:  To be honest, you caught me by complete surprise with your ending.  I wasn’t expecting it.  Are you planning a sequel or sequels?

Rami Ungar:  You know, you’re not the first to ask. I have at times thought about creating a sequel, but at this time, I’m not planning any. I think it’s powerful enough as a standalone and I plan to keep it that way.  That being said, if a good idea for a sequel came to me, I wouldn’t be opposed to writing it.

TDS:  How much research did you do to develop the demonic characters who haunt the background? And why did you choose Japanese over another culture’s demons?

Rami Ungar:  I’m a nut for Japanese culture. I grew up on Pokemon, Digimon and Sailor Moon, and I’ve been reading manga and watching anime since I was a kid. Adding all those beliefs and gods and whatnot to the story seemed like a fun thing to do, so I went with it. And while I did do some light research into the subject, most of the knowledge I needed was already there.

TDS:  As a young author, who are some of the other writers who inspired you to be a writer?

Rami Ungar:  JK Rowling was the one who initially inspired me to write, and I’ll forever be grateful to her for that (though I am rather upset by some of the views she’s espoused recently). Stephen King and Anne Rice were a big reason why I gravitated to horror. And HP Lovecraft and his ideas about an indifferent universe have been an influence in recent years.

TDS:  Are you a member of any writing organization or community? If so, which ones? What benefits do you see from belonging to a community that encourages writers?

Rami Ungar:  I’m a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association. For me, I like being able to post frequently and network with other writers. I also get to organize meetings and projects for the state-level chapter, which is an important responsibility.

TDS:  What message do you hope readers take away from this story?

Rami Ungar:  I hope they enjoyed the story, and I hope it gave them the chills. That’s all.

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THE DARK SIRE sincerely hopes that you have enjoyed our interview with Mr. Ungar.  Anyone wishing to read Rose or any of his other writings is encouraged to follow the link to his page on Amazon.com.

Rose: A Review

RATING: 💀💀💀💀

Rose, a fantasy-horror novel by Rami Ungar, tells the story of Rose Taggert, a 21-year old sociology grad specializing in criminology who awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years of her life and discovers that her body is in the process of transforming into a human/plant hybrid.  Root-like tentacles emerge from her neck.  A crown of rose-buds grow out of her head. Her skin turns green. 

A young man, Paris Kuyper, comes to her aid.  He claims to be her lover, but she has no memory of their relationship.  He explains that she had been killed by a stalker and that he, Paris, saved her life by using a magic spell from an ancient book called The Forest God’s Record, which has been in his family for generations.  According to him, her metamorphosis is merely a side effect that they can overcome.

Before they can do anything to solve Rose’s problem, Paris’ abusive father shows up.  Rose hears a heated exchange between father and son and her sympathy for Paris climbs, though she still struggles to remember him.

Rose begins to learn what her new body can and cannot withstand as she takes nourishment via the roots that emerge from her neck.  She discovers her new body cannot stand the cold weather of winter, but, on the positive side, she can hear things that Paris cannot.

Paris and Rose begin a series of experiments to see how far the plant metamorphosis has gone.  She inquires about the Forest God, who happens to be a Japanese spirit.  As the experiments progress, Paris’ mean streak surfaces and Rose begins to question if, indeed, there had ever been a relationship with him.

Their relationship deteriorates even further until Rose realizes that Paris is not who he claimed to be.  Rose eventually finds herself in an abusive relationship but, because of her condition, she cannot tear herself away.  Finally, with the help of Paris’ father, she fights to regain her freedom.

Rose is an enjoyable horror that is a great read. Ungar does an excellent job with style and pacing, as the book is a page-turner.  Once I started reading it, I did not want to stop.  And, since the story was told from Rose’s point of view in first-person, I discovered what was happening to her as she discovered it.  In a Kafka-esque way, she led me through each new discovery as she assimilated its meaning.  She pulled me into her story and once committed to it, I was along for the whole ride.  Readers will feel her claustrophobia at her imprisonment, sense her dread at her captor’s next appearance.  They will take hope when she does and feel her frustration as supernatural forces block her every move to escape.  Rose takes you from one suspenseful encounter to the next, each one building in horror until the final twist, a twist that I did not expect.   

And the quality of the horror is superb.  Ungar’s uncanny ability to write horrific prose is the sweet spot of this novel. The way the villain was crafted is a testament to the author’s character development credit. The villain, Paris, becomes more despicable as the story progresses. If he weren’t so evil, you could almost feel sorry for him because of the treatment he has had to endure at the hands of others. Paris’ backstory mixed with his psychological issues twists good versus evil into a character that is so bad he cannot be redeemed, yet one might hope that he could be. And that is what creates such a dynamic character, a brilliant touch by Ungar. 

If there was one drawback to the book, it would be the number of typographical errors (e.g. periods for commas) within the text.  There were so many that it proved difficult to ignore, and sometimes became a burden. I am assuming that either the proofreader lacked the detailed eye necessary to catch these mistakes or that there was a glitch in the printer’s programming. Whichever the case, this area is the only daunting aspect of an otherwise stellar novel.

Looking past the printing mistakes, Rose is a fantastic horror read.  The pacing and the fear factors go beyond expectation, building to an unexpected ending that is boldly twisted for the reader’s enjoyment.  The character development with a strong heroine and supreme villain will definitely keep you drawn in, providing a wonderful reading experience. If you enjoy horror and thrive on surprise endings, you will not want to miss this one.


RATINGS: TDS rates all books based on the dark content and how well the reading experience lends itself. Of course, author craft, storytelling, and mechanics are considered, as well. For this purpose, we use skulls (💀💀💀💀). And explanation of the skull system follows.

RATING: 💀
Boring, not dark, not interesting. Do not recommend.

RATING: 💀💀
Fair plot, not too dark, fairly interesting. Read at own risk.

RATING: 💀💀💀
Good plot and mild darkness, good reading experience. Encouraged read.

RATING: 💀💀💀💀
Great reading experience with heaps of dark tone. Strong recommend.

RATING: 💀💀💀💀💀
Excellent prose, tons of dark tone. A MUST READ!

The Novella — Not Just A Short Novel

THE DARK SIRE would like to reintroduce you to a time honored format that has been somewhat ignored in the recent past: the Novella.  You are probably more familiar with this form than you realize.  Many of the “books” you had to read in high school and college were novellas but were not presented as such.  Famous novellas include: George Orwell’s Animal Farm; Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend; and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.  Robert Silverberg, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, called the novella “one of the richest and most rewarding of literary forms… it allows for more extended development of theme and character than does the short story, without making the elaborate structural demands of the full-length book.”

You might wonder why TDS’s interest?  Everyone who subscribes to our magazine will have noticed that we publish serializations.  Novellas, because of their concentrated focus on the story coupled with an equally focused exploration of the subject, lend themselves quite easily to serialization.  The novella is actually quite difficult to sell to commercial publishers.  It is too long for many magazines and too short for book publishers.  Being able to serialize them fulfills a needed niche in the publishing world, especially to authors who write in the Gothic, Horror, Fantasy and Psychological Realism genres.

From Victorian England to the 20th Century, writers of the supernatural have drawn to this form.  In 1879, Margaret Oliphant published one of the most innovative pieces of horror fiction ever written.  A Beleaguered City tells the story of a city under siege from the dead.  (Familiar plot, anyone?)  Charlotte Riddell’s novellas concern mysterious disappearances, ghosts, greed, murder, and revenge.  Florence Marryat’s The Dead Man’s Message has ghosts, ghost animals, spirit photography and séances.

When a novella has been serialized in THE DARK SIRE, our interest does not stop there.  We intend to publish those novellas as CHAPBOOKS.  In a world where there is a lot of talk about readers’ dwindling attention spans, chapbooks are a great way to soak up great writing.  They are, by nature, short.  Edgar Allen Poe said that the optimum length for a piece of literature was one that could be read in one sitting.  A chapbook can.  This is the TDS way of supporting writers whose work doesn’t fit into the commercial publishing pattern.  We want to give them a voice, to tell their stories and, above all, to entertain our readers.  In the changing paradigm of how readers choose books and shop for them, chapbooks look like the new age way to go.  Their compact style is perfect for readers with busy lives.

If you are a writer and have a story that fits into the novella category, please consider submitting to THE DARK SIRE.  We want to support you and your creative journey. 

The Creative Nook with Book Reviewer Kami Martin

Some of you might already be familiar with Kami Martin, the host of Kami’s Korner on YouTube. Ms. Martin discusses audio books, e-books, comics, graphic novels, novellas — all of the horror persuasion.  As a true lover of all thing macabre, THE DARK SIRE couldn’t resist the opportunity of getting her totally unbiased opinion of what we do.  We seriously had no idea of how she would respond. 

TDS:   As a regular reviewer of all things dark, The Dark Sire couldn’t resist getting your opinion on our publication.  What was your initial reaction?

Kami Martin:  When Bre Stephens, your Editor-in-Chief, contacted me about reviewing The Dark Sire literary magazine, I jumped at the chance.  As a regular reviewer of fiction in all forms, I thought, what a unique opportunity to try something new! And I am so grateful I did! It was a delightful treat!

TDSInitially, we asked you to review our debut issue but then you agreed to review Issues 1-3. In the end, you reviewed the whole first year – all 4 issues. Was there anything that particularly stood out for you?

Kami Martin:  In the debut issue (Fall 2019), you published stories touching on gothic and horror works of fiction and poetry offering your readers a nice balance no matter their tastes or interests.

Grave by W.C. Mallery was certainly a stand out short story, and Beneath These Boards by Michael Thomas Ellis offered a poem that was sure to make readers shudder and shiver. The cover art presented by Christian-Rhen Stefani is by far my favorite of the entire year’s worth of covers. It is a work of art that speaks to you well after you close your eyes.

TDS:  What did you think or our serializations?

Kami Martin:  I thought that featuring two serializations was a truly unique gift for your readers.  Both Vampyre Paladin by Brenda Stephens and Kyuuketsuki by S. M. Cook offered exquisite detail and well-formed stories that will have readers turning the page to find what happens next. I was captivated immediately.

TDS:  Thank you for your kind words on our premier issue.  But the real question is: Were we able to continue with the quality of writing in our second issue that we presented  in our first?

Kami Martin:  Your stories and serializations continue to pack a punch but the stand out of this particular issue for me was the poetry! I loved every single poem included! Such texture, richness and deep, dark descriptions. The art was a nice mix of creepy, too!

TDS:  To be perfectly honest, we loved the poetry, as well. TDS was an international literary magazine by our 2nd issue, with readers and contributors alike. At the time, we thought Issue 2 was the best. But then, Issue 3 came out and we had over 2,000 readers.

Kami Martin:  It’s a great testament to a magazine that is rapidly growing with great success. Again, in your third issue, the fiction did not disappoint. Once Bitten: A Vampire’s Lament by Maureen Mancini Amaturo was a great gothic tale that was a top contender for my favorite. Poetry remained solid, especially with The Vision by Gregory E. Lucas and Progeny by Michael Walker. This issue also brought us some standout artwork by Shaun Power that any author of the macabre should want to snag up for future novels!!

TDS:  If you’ve enjoyed all the issues thus far, I’m excited to hear what you think of Issue 4, our Summer issue that was themed “Dark Summer.”

Kami Martin:  Your fourth issue continued to show growth and promise and will continue to give your readers a reason to continue revisiting the magazine. The cover and interior artwork continued to impress. Bre Stephens certainly has a great eye! The artwork really seemed to flow well within this issue. One item of fiction I certainly feel deserves real attention, as it has appeared in each of the quarterly issues, and can be considered a continued serialization of sorts: The Village Series by David Crerand. True horror broken down into parts 1-4.

TDS:  David Crearand has been with us from the very beginning and has become a staple of TDS; Shaun Power has take a page from Mr. Crerand’s book, as he, too, has become a staple artist. We certainly do our best to provide quality work to satiate our readers’ hunger for all things fiction, poetry, and art.

Kami Martin:  There wasn’t a moment that I was not entertained and delighted. This literary magazine is well-rounded for lovers of the macabre with a bit of something for everyone!  This was one hell of a debut and I just want to thank Bre Stephens for the opportunity to share my thoughts on the contributions of your many talented writers! This is quite the gift for us eerie readers!

YouTube trailer for Kami’s Korner. Copyright Kami Martin.

                                      

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TDS is one literary magazine that treats everyone like family. We’re always looking for ways that will exceed expectations, and our issues are packed full of engaging material that will make you think, shake, and quiver. We encourage all creatives to submit to TDS year-round, and for readers to visit the TDS Store. Don’t make us wait too long – come join the THE DARK SIRE family!

Art and Horror: How TDS Artists Epitomize the TDS Brand

THE DARK SIRE magazine strives to bring you a banquet of the best in horror, gothic, fantasy, and psychological realism.  And what is a banquet without desert?  It’s high time that The Dark Forest paid well deserved kudos to the TDS artists.  In an earlier blog, we said that a good horror story provokes an emotional response in the reader.  Good art does the same.  From the first issue to the latest one, TDS has incorporated various photographs, drawings, and other forms of art to add to the emotional stimulus that is our magazine. 

A good piece of horror artwork, stays with you.  It cannot easily be forgotten.  In our debut issue, we presented you with the art of Christian-Rhen Stefani and the photography or Dee Espinoza.  Ms. Stefani’s  acrylic on ceramic tile entitled Shadow Still graced our first cover.  We hoped that it would catch your attention and draw you into the magazine.  It had a particular kind of intensity, one with out explanation, one that would captivate you with its abstract power.   Between the covers, we gave you Ms. Espinoza’s Preston Castle Play Room.  The black and white photograph leaves a lingering imprint and one can only image the loneliness and despair of the children who, once upon a time, had to survive there.

Shadow Still (2019), Christian-Rhen Stefani, acrylics on tile
Preston Castle Play Room (2018), Dee Espinoza, photo

In our second issue, Rorschach by Doria Walsh appeared on our cover.  This India ink on paper possessed an eerie tranquility that makes you look twice.  Is it a soul catcher?  Or something alive?  The question is different for each viewer as is the answer, if there is one.  In side, you discovered Lonely Soul by Paula Korkiamäki.  It’s a haunting piece that shows her impression of the universe and the spirit world occupying the same place in space and time. As beautiful as it is, there is an instinctive discomfort as one contemplates the overlapping boundaries. 

Rorschach (2019), Doria Walsh, alcohol ink on Yupo
Lonely Soul (2019), Paula Korkiamaki, India ink on paper

THE DARK SIRE is not about horror for horror’s sake.  The metaphors and allegories reach far beyond the printed page.   They make us look at ourselves from a different angle, adding a further dimension to the impression of our lives.  In our third issue, you were treated to twelve pastels from our featured artist, Shaun Power (who was a guest in our Creative Nook interview series).  His work invokes images that would warm the heart of Edgar Allen Poe, himself.  There is an intimacy to his work that allows each individual viewer to suspend belief and enter into the art themselves.  His work grants the viewer permission to become as much involved with the piece as they dare, perhaps demanding of the viewer concessions that they would not normally be willing to make.

In our fourth issue, we added the works of Dena Simard, Kibbi Linga, Juhi Ranjan, Brian Michael Barbeito, and Lam Jasmine Bauman (respectively). Shaun Power returned, as well, rounding out this group of talented artists.  These works of art elicit an emotional response in the viewer which is exactly what we wanted them to do.  In some cases, they inspire horror and dread; in others a reexamination of our objectivity. They evoked thought and a need for the dissection of our world and of ourselves – a contemplation before the storm.  There is a paradox involved – and that, perhaps, is the greatest tribute we can give to our artists: They challenge the viewers to examine the world around them through an abstract artistic lens that only the great masters of the past could muster.

In our fifth (and most recent) issue, we combined the artwork of Shaun Power with the illustration of Kailey Reid, whose drawings have a peculiar kind of elegance to them.  Yet, nothing is exactly as it should be.  While Power supplied the horror of being overtaken by the dark, Reid provided the necessary undertone of “the other side,” the place in which the lost souls of mankind inhabited. Doing this created a mood that was fearsome, absurd, and unsettling all at the same time. The mix of both Power and Reid, then, became synonomous with the meaning of our latest issue: Halloween, and the meaning of the darkness on the most frightening day of the year.

Art is a collaboration between the artist and the viewer.  At THE DARK SIRE, we try to offer our subscribers works that challenge their imaginations.  It’s not just the dark and gruesome but also the magical that provides a release from an internalized fear, stimulating fascination with the dark and mysterious. And let’s remember: Not all art has to be innately horrific to be horrifying – for the world is filled with horrific things that come in bright packaging. That’s the beauty of art and abstracts – they can be anything the viewer envisions.

If you like art that touches your soul, subscribe to The Dark Sire – and tell a friend.

Friday the 13th: Another Day to Celebrate

How lucky are we? Halloween is barely over and look what the calendar offers us:  FRIDAY THE 13TH, another chance to celebrate everything dark. Friday the 13th has long been a harbinger of bad luck because of the combination of two unlucky charms. The number 13 has been unlucky since early Christian times and even more ancient Norse Mythology. Friday has been an unlucky day for almost as long, and when the two of them come together, negative superstitions abound.

And when that happens, what do we do at THE DARK SIRE? We celebrate it. We are all about dark things. Our stories, poems and art abound with it, and if you want to celebrate this day with us, we can offer a few suggestions of what you can do. Get together around a campfire or someplace equally as spooky and read a horror story.  Choose any of our magazines and you are sure to find a story that will make you look over your shoulder to be sure the shadows on the walls are just that… shadows.  Read The Mask (Issue 2) by Carl Hughes or any episodes of The Village (Issues 1-5) by David Crerand. These stories are guaranteed to make Friday the 13th more memorable for you. 

Don’t want to read?  Watch a movie! If you are a slasher fan, check out Dream Home (2010), a movie that looks at gore through the eyes of the killer. Rent Lake Bodom (2016), a meta-slasher film filled with murder, betrayal, obsession and deception. Want a laugh with your blood? Check out Psycho Beach Party (2000), a parody of the slasher movies and the 60’s beach party movies. These movies are filled with convoluted supernatural mythology, demonic possession, and all kinds of slasher special effects– some humorous and some stomach-turning. 

You can TV binge on Supernatural’s 15 seasons of Sam and Dean chasing and killing all kinds of ghosts and ghouls and dark angels, even having a confrontation with God over the Apocalypse. Binge on The Originals where vampire/werewolf hybrids return to terrorize New Orleans. And, of course, you have The Vampire Diaries, set in a town charged with supernatural history. 

It doesn’t stop there! Do you want a different kind of chill? Check out what the Japanese offer in their Anime or Manga. Luckily, these are media which excel in spine-tingling horror. Black Butler features a 13-year old Lord who has a contract with a demon to help find whoever killed his parents and exact revenge. Deadman Wonderland follows the adventures of a young man who has been blamed for a massacre and sentenced to live out his days in a theme park-like prison. Follow the protagonist in Death Note as he devolves into a villain drunk with power, or wrap your mind around The Flowers of Evil, a deeply intimate and terrifying examination of obsession.

At THE DARK SIRE, Friday the 13th is the kind of holiday we look forward to. We celebrate the horror, the superstition, the things that make us question the reality in which we live. Are there ghosts? Are there demons? Our authors and artists seem to think so and that’s good enough for us. 

If you love all things horror, you’re in good company. Subscribe now!