Category Archives: Horror Blog

The Door: A Review

Rating: 💀💀💀

Alfred Hitchcock, the unequalled master of suspense, defined suspense this way:  You have five people playing cards on a train and suddenly a bomb goes off under their table – that’s surprise.  But you have the same five people playing cards and the audience knows that there is a bomb under their table and the audience can see the timer counting down – that’s suspense.

In The Door, Boris Bacic has constructed a masterful story in the best Hitchcockian tradition.  His preamble sets up Hitchcock’s ticking bomb for his readers.  There is something evil behind the door of the apartment.  In fact, there is another world back there.  We are swept along as a young woman is trapped behind the closed door and then attacked.  The readers know that.  Nathan, the new occupant of the apartment, does not. 

Nathan lives in a rat trap apartment with a do-nothing landlord who won’t even fix a broken toilet.  Looking for a new place to live, he comes across an apartment that is too good to be true.  The place is stunning and it’s well within his economic reach.  Nathan immediately jumps at the chance to rent it.

While the rental agent is checking on his credit, Nathan notices a door and tries to open it.  It won’t budge.  When the agent comes back, Nathan asks what’s behind it.  The agent doesn’t know because that door has never been opened.

We follow Nathan’s angst as he waits to find out if he has been approved and we follow his continuing battles with his landlord.  Then comes the great news.  He has been approved.  Nathan moves in as quickly as he can.

Despite the grandeur of the apartment, things don’t go right from the very beginning.  Nathan has nightmares.  He thinks he hears scratching coming from somewhere.  He tries to open the so-called storage door, but it resists his every effort.  He even hires a door-opening specialist who also can’t make a dent. 

While the door is the focal point of the story, Mr. Bacic peoples his apartment house with an assortment of characters that pleasantly flesh out his novel.  He even brings in Nathan’s close friend, Sam, making Nathan a sympathetic character.  You can’t help but like him and the people around him.  As things grow darker with the door, Nathan discovers that several of his newly made friends know more about the evil than they were willing to tell him when they first met.  When the door opens of its own accord, Nathan sets out to explore what’s behind it.  His exploration leads him down an even darker path.  But despite his own fears, he goes. 

Nathan is a heroic character.  He overcomes his personal fears to attempt to overcome and rid the world of the evil that exists behind the door.  It costs him dearly.  But that is exactly what defines a hero in the classic sense, and Mr. Bacic has created such a sympathetic protagonist. 

Had this book been presented to me as an audio file, I would have no problem giving The Door 4 or 4 ½ skulls.  It is a great story.  It contains all the darkness and horror that readers of THE DARK SIRE enjoy.  But… it wasn’t presented as an audio book.  It was presented as a print book and as such has numerous problems.  When you ask a reader to buy what you have written, you have effectively raised the bar.  You are no longer an amateur but are entering the ranks of the professional writer and as such, you have an obligation to make your book as professional as possible.  Unfortunately, that’s where The Door falls short.  It is not professional.  It is not ready for publication.  The story is ready, but the mechanics of it – unfortunately – are not.

Maybe the trouble is due to language barriers, as the author is not a native English speaker. Though I applaud his efforts and encourage him to continue writing, studying the English language a bit more would serve him well. At the moment, the author doesn’t seem to know basic conversation punctuation.  He also has trouble with when to use had and has.  And there are several places where he has chosen the wrong word, indicating that English is a definitely struggle. 

This book needs to be professionally edited for an American audience so that grammar and mechanics do not distract from the quality of the writing.  The story is too good and the characters too real for anything less.  In short, this book needs a professional presentation that mirrors its actual high-quality of the story itself.

Bottom line: If you are the kind of reader who is more interested in the story than in the presentation, by all means, buy this book – you will enjoy it tremendously.  However, if you are the type of reader who gets distracted by mistakes or insists on a professional presentation, you will quickly be disappointed and should buy with caution.

The Door is available on Amazon.com in paperback, hard cover, and ebook formats.

UPDATE: The version presented in the paperback versus ebook formats seem to use different formatting and spacing. The ebook formatting is much more reader friendly, as the paperback has spacing issues that make it hard to read.


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!

Issue 7: Spring is in the Air

THE DARK SIRE Issue 7 is hot off the press with cutting-edge stories and poems in gothic, horror, fantasy, and psychological realism. They run the gamut of subgenres from Edgar Allen Poe-like period pieces to modern-day nail-biters. And let’s not forget our artists; their eerie and sometimes provocative renderings will guarantee a second look.

David Gibbs’ DEVIL’S ACRE leads the fiction of this new issue. This story provides a touch of the paranormal and questions reality to keep the reader guessing. Mr. Gibbs’ is a former winner of Fiction Magazine’s Story of the Year award, with work appearing in dozens of magazines.

Christopher Hall’s THE TIDE could easily have come from the pen of Edgar Allen Poe. The tale of horror has a touch of gothic nuances while endeavoring to discern the true nature of what’s evil.

RATTLING by Kolby Diaz is a wonderful flash horror story in which the hunter learns how his prey must feel. Mr. Diaz is a published author with stories in the magazines Thriller, Grotesque, and Sanitarium.

HENRY JEKYLL, PM by Sean Fallon takes us back to the mid-1880s and provides a new twist on the Jekyll/Hyde story that would have made Robert Louis Stevenson proud. Mr. Fallon is a UK ex-patriot living in Australia where he is currently working on his first novel.

THE APARTMENT ON WINTERVIEW AVENUE by Amy Elise Lyon rounds out our fiction offerings with an eerie taste of psychological realism. What’s real – what’s not? And do memories make it more so? The story leads the reader down a twisted path to the subconscious.

If you like psychological realism, you will love TDS‘s first poetic offering of Issue 7. MIRROR by Reagan Volk is a poem that explores the difference between thoughts and nightmares… and turning into the person you fear the most. Ms. Volk is a sophomore in high school whose work seems to flow from her pen without resistance.

In case you’d be interested in more gothic poetry, SATIS HOUSE by Joanie Elian explores the concept of a sentient house that seeks justice. Originally from the UK, Ms. Elian now lives just outside of Tel Aviv, close to her five children and seven grandchildren.

To continue the gothic tone, SCORCHED BY THE RAIN, BURIED BY THE FLAMES, and SIRED BY THE DARK by S. M. Cook is a trilogy of poems that tells a continuous story of the damned and depraved. Ms. Cook is a reader favorite and the award-winning author of KYUUKETSUKI, a serialization that ran from Issue 1 through Issue 6.

Issue 7 doesn’t stop there! In fact, it also contains two vampire-based serializations.

THE LAST SUMMER by Frances Tate finishes the tale of a Tutor vampire who discovers the glamour of vampirism isn’t the fix-all he’d hoped it would be. From the UK, Ms. Tate’s work has been published in the magazine for the last year.

In VAMPYRE PALADIN by Brenda Stephens, readers come to the end of Chapter 3 to witness the doctor’s confrontations with his own past fears and demons. Ms. Stephens’ work has been an addition over the last 7 issues.

And that’s still not all! The works of Shaun Power and Jennifer Macintyre are guaranteed to make you look twice and fire up your imagination.

On the cover of Issue 7 (above) is Jennifer Macintyre’s SOLITUDE, a 26″x16″ oil painting on canvas. Ms. Macintyre is a self-taught artist whose early years in Scotland influenced her interest in dramatic landscapes and the contrast of light and dark.

As always, Shaun Power’s artwork graces the pages of this issue, with three new works presented. Mr. Power hails from the UK and uses pastels as his chosen medium.

TDS Issue 7 is packed full of content for any discerning reader who loves the gothic, the surreal, and the macabre. You’re not going to want to miss it!

* * *

Get your copy of Issue 7 today!
Digital copies are available on the TDS website.
For paperbacks, contact The Bibliophile – your new home for all things TDS!


And remember: We always like to hear from our readers. So be sure to let us know your favorite stories, poems, artwork, and serializations. Simply email us at: darksiremag@gmail.com.

Enjoy Issue 7!

The Dark Sire presents The Jon Meyers Dark Humour Prize for Gothic Literature

New Philadelphia, OH— Tuesday, May 4, 2021 — The Dark Sire Literary Magazine (TDS) has been in search of ways to further uplift writers, poets, and artists. More than just a publish-and-done process, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Bre Stephens, wishes to do what most magazines do not: go “beyond the page.” This motto has transformed the magazine into a beacon of opportunity for creatives, and thus Stephens continually searches for ways to uplift creatives beyond the black-and-white page.

The next step in going “beyond the page” is creating an opportunity for creative writers, poets, and screenwriters to join a professional writers association by way of winning a major writing contest. Any horror writer who wins a $25 cash prize and publication from a writing contest is eligible to join the Horror Writers Association (HWA; horror.org). Although TDS already runs a small all-encompassing free contest, Stephens wanted to introduce a much bigger contest that would center on one particular genre. The first of four writing contests to be introduced is the Gothic.

After deciding on the Gothic genre, Stephens then searched for the right candidate to be the face of the contest, and by being the face would give the contest its name. “I wanted someone with the respect of his community and preferably an educator with a literary background. The ideal candidate would be able to contribute to the judging of the contest, as well, so a creative writer and/or screenwriter was a must.” According to Stephens, it was not difficult to find the right person with the right heart. “Jon Meyers embodies everything that this contest stands for: equality, inclusion, advancement of literature, the uplifting of creatives, the progression of careers. He is an educator who has the respect and loyalty of his students and colleagues and thus understands the true meaning of selfless giving and leading by example. It was icing on the cake that Jon also had a keen literary sense.” In fact, Jon Meyers not only is a screenwriter but also a US Moderator at Into the Script, UK’s foremost online screenwriting advice/writing craft hub. In addition, he is a screenwriting panelist for LitCon in New York, where he has been named the 2022 Literary Fiction Genre Manager.

The new writing contest will take Jon Meyers name, officially called The Jon Meyers Dark Humour Prize for Gothic Literature (The Jon Meyers Gothic Prize, for short). Meyers was humbled by his selection as the face of the contest. “What an honor it is to be asked to judge at an annual literary contest named after me. I’m actually amazed we were able to work out an agreement in one day. Bre Stephens handled the entire process smoothly and professionally. It’s an interesting choice to have me judge. Gothic Lit isn’t known for its comedy, but I guess I am. I’m fairly well-known for my upbeat positive energy, not normally traits ascribed to Gothic Lit. Must be all the black I wear.” The humour Meyers touches on comes from the 18th and 19th centuries when Gothic authors crafted literary works by using aspects of the comedic fool and, in greater extent, the art of wit. It is the latter that will be emphasized in the works submitted for the Jon Meyers Gothic Prize.

The Jon Meyers Dark Humour Prize for Gothic Literature will officially open for submissions in September, running the whole month, with the winners announced in October – just in time for Halloween and The Dark Sire’s 2nd Anniversary celebration. Winners will be awarded a cash prize (1st place – $60, 2nd place – $25, and 3rd place $15) and publication by TDS; the top winners will be eligible for HWA membership, a step in advancing their professional writing careers. In-depth submission guidelines will be announced in August. However, writers can begin crafting their gothic tales now. The contest will accept adult short fiction (500-7k words), poetry (1-3 pages), and short scripts (5-12 pages). Works must use dark humour and Gothic storytelling devices/elements and can include monsters, creepy crawlers, werewolves, vampires, supernatural phenomenon, ghosts, and castles; witches, sci-fi, cosmic, or weird elements will not be considered at this time. Those who wish to delve deeper into what dark humour in Gothic literature is can read Amanda Drake’s 2011 dissertation for University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the brainchild for this contest: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=englishdiss

To stay informed about The Jon Meyers Gothic Prize, follow @DarkSireMag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as save the TDS contests page. More information coming in August.

Reality Meets Fiction: Shadow People

by Barry Pirro

There is a paranormal phenomenon known as shadow people, and the sightings people have of them are often terrifying. Shadow people are humanoid figures that witnesses describe as looking ‘blacker than black’ or ‘totally devoid of light’. Unlike a real shadow, shadow people look solid.

While some appear to be bulky and muscular, others have been described as being incredibly thin. The creepiest sightings are those of inky black, paper-thin figures that bend around objects as they navigate their way through rooms. In all cases they are solid black, and they are often accompanied by a feeling of negativity or even evil.

The following story comes from a woman who contacted me about a shadow person she saw when she was a young girl.


            Like most people, I don’t remember many details about my early years. I don’t remember how I learned to tie my shoes, or when I first learned that blue and red paint mixed together makes purple. I don’t remember a lot of things about my childhood, but there is one thing I vividly remember. The night of my seventh birthday. What’s more, I’ve thought about it every night for the past thirty-one years.

All the kids in my class had come over for my birthday party that day, and by bedtime I was really wiped out. Sleep came quickly, and I slept soundly until around 2 AM when I awoke suddenly. At first I thought that a bad dream might have woken me up, but that wasn’t it. Something just wasn’t right. It felt like someone was in the room with me, and that they were standing there in the dark just staring at me.

My room was dim, but it wasn’t totally dark. I looked to see if my mom or dad had come in for some reason, but the only things I could see were the shadows of discarded clothes on the floor, and the pile of presents that sat on my chair. The room was deadly quiet, but the feeling that something was watching me grew by the second, and mixed with it was another feeling; whatever was watching me was bad–very, very bad.

My eyes scanned the room. The farthest corners were lost in murky shadows, but the area near my window was fairly light. Next to the window was my dresser, and next to it stood something tall and dark that at first puzzled me, then terrified me. It was a deep black shadow, blacker than the blackest black, and it was in the shape of a man. This shadow man stood in front of my dresser, and even though I couldn’t see his eyes, I could feel him continuing to stare at me. I’m telling you, this wasn’t just a child’s imagination, this was real.

My dresser had a mirror attached to it, and the shadow figure blocked both the dresser and the mirror. It was very human looking. It stood about six feet tall, and apart from the fact that it was completely black, there was nothing unusual about its appearance. It had a normal sized head, arms and legs.

The thing moved its arms ever so slightly, as if it was becoming impatient from trying to stand still. That’s when I noticed its hands and the thing it was holding–a “shadow knife” about the size of a large kitchen knife. He was holding the knife in his right hand and holding it down on his right side so that it was close to his thigh, and the tip was pointed down toward the floor. The hand that held the knife moved up and down, ever so slightly.

This pitch black figure continued to stare at me, and it seemed as if it was trying to gauge the best time to spring at me. That was one thing I wasn’t going to let it do, so I called out as loud as I could to my mother.

“Mom! Mom! Come in here quick!” I shouted. The hall light came on, and my mother rushed into the room to see what was the matter.

When she came into my room I became even more frightened because she didn’t see this figure standing there. She walked right past it as if it wasn’t there at all! The dark figure never moved, even when she walked right in front of it, which I found terribly scary at the time. Now that I’m older it makes me wonder why this thing stayed so still.

Seeing how frightened I was, my mom stayed in the room with me, and all the while she was with me I could see this black figure standing there. I never told her what I was seeing because I was so scared I couldn’t even get words out of my mouth, and I thought that if I did tell her it might attack us.

Despite how young I was I could tell that it was very negative. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, the way that it made me feel only caused me to be more afraid of it. As best I can remember, it took about an hour and a half for the shadow figure to leave. It either faded out into the air, or it ran out of the room – I can’t recall which.

Years later, I came across an article that talked about the paranormal phenomenon known as shadow people. I was amazed to read that many people have seen these things, and that they described them as looking exactly the way the man in my room looked. I didn’t read about anyone seeing these creatures holding knives, but they’ve seen them moving around rooms, and they sometimes leave by walking right into walls.

I know now that what I saw the night of my seventh birthday was a shadow person, and to this day it’s something I wish I could forget.


The shadow person the little girl saw that night was clearly trying to intimate her. The knife it held was most likely something it manifested in order to appear menacing. But why would it do this? Why try to scare a little girl? What threat could she possibly pose to this incorporeal being?

I think that this particular shadow person was there as an observer, a type of alien or interdimensional being sent to gather information for some unknown purpose. It had probably been in the girl’s house for an extended period of time, and its “mission” was to simply watch the family going about their normal routines. When it was spotted by the little girl, it borrowed a symbol from her mind that it knew she would be terrified of–a knife. It knew that she would be too frightened to tell her mother about it that night. It also knew that no one would believe her if she told them about a dark shadow man holding a knife, so it would be free to continue watching the family for as long as it needed to.

There are many theories about what shadow people may be. These include aliens, ghosts, interdimensional beings, djinn, sprites, fairies, and demons to name just a few. Whatever they are, have no fear. Shadow people are harmless. They can intimidate by sending out feelings of fear and evil, but they can’t do any physical harm. They are literally ‘no body’, and nine times out of ten they’ll literally run away when spotted.


“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article, Demon Encounters, on May 28th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: If you have personally had a real-life encounter with Shadow People, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Non-fiction Shadow People Story). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story on Shadow People and then submit it to us online for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting The Dark Sire! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through Amazon and The Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio).

Until we meet again, take care!

The Creative Nook with Barry Pirro

by Maureen Mancini Amaturo

The Dark Sire has paired up with Barry Pirro, ghost hunter and paranormal investigator, to bring you a new series of articles, “REALITY MEETS FICTION.” Barry will be sharing his real-life paranormal stories with you every 4th Friday of the month. His first story is on Shadow People, coming this Friday, April 23. But for now, it is our pleasure to introduce you to the man behind the real-life stories, through an interview with the paranormal expert. Sit back and relax as we delve into the investigative world of the paranormal.

TDS: What attracted you to collaborate with The Dark Sire literary magazine?

Barry Pirro: I’m a paranormal investigator, so I’ve been to every type of haunted location you can imagine–private homes, historic buildings, businesses, cemeteries, outdoor locations, you name it. I’ve seen ghosts with my own eyes, seen objects move of their own accord, and I’ve recorded the voices of spirits on my digital recorders. But my experiences pale in comparison to those of the people who actually live in a haunted house. Their experiences are ongoing, and while some of them might sound downright bizarre–they’re true.
            I’m really excited to be collaborating with The Dark Sire because these stranger-than-fiction paranormal experiences that I write about are the perfect source of inspiration for horror fiction writers. Some of the best fiction is based on fact, so I’m sure that horror writers will have a field day incorporating some of the more unusual paranormal phenomena into their works.
            The Japanese, for example, believe that there are different classifications of ghosts. There is the Funayūrei, the ghosts of those who died at sea. These seabound spirits are often depicted as scaly, fish-like humanoid creatures who sometimes resemble mermaids or mermen. Or take the Zashiki-warashi, the mischievous ghosts of children. Just imagine the horror stories that a writer could build around these mysterious entities.

TDS: What does “Reality Meets Fiction” mean to you?

Barry Pirro: Reality meets fiction is obviously not a new style of writing. There are countless examples of authors who have based their main characters on real people. Oscar Wilde based the character Dorian Grey on a real person, John Grey who was a poet, translator, and priest. Truman Capote practically invented the genre of the nonfiction novel when he wrote In Cold Blood. So why should horror fiction be any different?

TDS: How do you think the real experiences you’ve encountered can inspire writers, artists, and photographers?

Barry Pirro: I’m sure that horror writers are hungry for unusual topics, and true paranormal stories can provide an almost endless source of macabre material. People have reported seeing mysterious doppelgangers, inky black shadow people, unspeakably horrific looking demons, and the ghosts of loved ones. They describe seeing floating apparitions, solid looking people who suddenly vanish into thin air, and ghosts who leave a room by walking straight into walls. My clients have reported seeing cryptid creatures skulking in the shadows of their backyards, and black apparitions with red, glowing eyes roaming the hallways of their homes. There are chilling Ouija board stories and tales of haunted objects being brought into homes that end up causing havoc. In the hands of a skilled writer, any one of these topics can be woven into a truly terrifying horror story. I can’t wait to see the horror fiction that contributors to The Dark Sire come up with after reading my true paranormal stories.

TDS: Do you think your experiences with the paranormal are effective examples of “Reality Meets Fiction?”

Barry Pirro:  My own experiences are the perfect example of reality meets fiction. The saying “you can’t make this stuff up” really applies to most of the cases I get involved in.

TDS: What can you share that could help/inspire others to be more receptive to the spiritual world around us?

Barry Pirro: Although I can sense spirits–and I often pick up very specific information while conducting an investigation, such as suddenly blurting out the name of someone who died in the house–I don’t have any special intuitive gifts. Everyone is intuitive, they just don’t know it. Anyone can be more attuned to the spirit world. The secret? Stop blocking it! If you walk into a room and you feel uneasy for no particular reason, don’t push it away. Get in touch with that feeling. Allow yourself to feel it, and allow images to come to you. Don’t consider it as just your imagination. Start to voice your impressions and see if any of them make sense.

TDS: Do you have a sense that more and more people are accepting that the spiritual world is a reality? More believers now than in the past?

Barry Pirro: There are far more believers in the supernatural than there were a decade ago, and people are more open to talking about their experiences. Even celebrities are opening up about their ghostly encounters. These include Keanu Reeves, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Helena Bonham Carter, Kate Hudson, and Matthew McConaughey to name just a few.


We look forward to hearing Barry’s stories unfold in explicit detail. Don’t forget, his first article on Shadow People will be right here in The Dark Sire this Friday, April 23 at 11 AM (EST). Then join us again every 4th Friday of the month for more fun-filled eeriness.

Those inspired to create gothic, horror, fantasy, or psychological realism short stories, poems, and art should consider submitting their work to The Dark Sire for publication. Works based on the “Reality Meets Fiction” series will be given special consideration.

If you have any questions for Barry, please comment them below. But, if you want to learn more about him and his investigations, simply visit his website: ConnecticutGhostHunter.com. Until we meet again, happy hauntings!

Reality Meets Fiction

by Maureen Mancini Amaturo

Introducing REALITY MEETS FICTION, a new addition to The Dark Forest blog.

To kick off our Spring issue (launching April 30) and to honor the lore, legends, and influence of all things gothic, The Dark Sire will spotlight the continuing fascination gothic holds in the contemporary world by sharing experiences from modern life that mirror the haunting nature that defines gothic. To unveil our series of dark, true stories, we are honored to partner with well-established, highly respected paranormal investigator, Barry Pirro.

Ghost hunting since the age of 12, and professionally for almost 20 years, Barry has encountered the unimaginable, unexplainable, and unholy first-hand. “There are particular physical sensations you get when you are in a haunted house, areas that feel off or make you feel ill. Names pop into your head for no reason. You experience sudden pains in parts of your body, or you suddenly feel very hot or cold. The tools I use are for the benefit of the homeowner. They corroborate or expand on what my intuition is telling me.” The tools in his “ghost bag” are remarkably low-tech: digital recorder for EVP (electronic voice phenomena), EMF (electro-magnetic field) recorder, camera, and a vibration sensor, not unlike what pet owners may use to keep a cat off the couch. Barry not only conducts investigations but also does clearings. “A clearing attempts to rid a house of negative energy and encourages spirits to vacate the premises.”

Now, Barry will be sharing true stories from his experiences in all their eerie, mysterious details. Every 4th Friday of the month, one of Barry’s articles will be available to read. He will discuss Shadow People in his first article, out this Friday, and then for May he’ll discuss demons. You’re not going to want to miss it!

Writers and artists: Since truth is stranger than fiction, what Barry has to tell will be as inspirational as it is fascinating. Could reality inspire fiction? We hope so, as that’s the goal of the “Reality Meets Fiction” series. Imagine the stories, poems, and images lurking in the dark waiting for a bite of inspiration. Write a fictional piece based on Barry’s real-life encounters and then submit it to The Dark Sire for special publication consideration. And, if you have a non-fiction story to tell that aligns with Barry’s paranormal series, send it directly to the EIC of TDS by emailing darksiremag@gmail.com. Your story may be published on The Dark Forest blog, too.

Barry’s book on his life as a paranormal investigator that features expanded stories and experiences is forthcoming, and we will keep you posted on when it’s available. Until then, look forward to the articles that Barry will write for The Dark Forest. And if you’re hungry to find out more about this paranormal expert, be sure to visit his website: connecticutghosthunter.com

EXTRA, EXTRA!
As an extra treat, I’ve interviewed Barry about his collaboration with The Dark Sire, which will appear on The Dark Forest blog tomorrow. Watch for The Creative Nook with Barry Pirro beginning at 11 AM (EST).

What supernatural experiences have you had? What subjects do you hope Barry will write about? Have you already written fiction based on reality? Tell us about your stories in the comments below.

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
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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!