Category Archives: Magazine Blog

!!! GIVEAWAY !!!

 

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

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

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

Win a signed copy of Rami Ungar’s ROSE

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

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

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

Gothic Style Christmas

“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edgar Allen Poe wrapping paper

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

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

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

An Interview with Author Rami Ungar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rose: A Review

RATING: 💀💀💀💀

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novella — Not Just A Short Novel

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

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

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

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

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

The Creative Nook with Book Reviewer Kami Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

TDS:  What did you think or our serializations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                      

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

Changing Paradigm: How the Fear of COVID Is Rewriting the Publishing Industry

Remember the good old days, when you could walk into a bookstore and browse?  Remember walking up to the magazine rack, looking for the latest issue of a particular journal, then retiring to the bench facing the rack and reading the key stories just to see if you wanted to buy it?  Remember walking up and down the mystery aisle, or the romance aisle, or whichever aisle your favorite literature inhabited and taking a book off the rack, reading the back cover blurb, then putting it back and taking down the next one?  Well, in most locales, you can’t do that anymore.

Whether we like it or not, the fear of Covid-19 has changed the way we do almost everything in our lives.  That little ubiquitous mask has become the new “no shirt, no shoes, no service” emblem. The “new” normal is still in the process of developing around us.  One of the ways it has changed us is in the way be buy books.  Bookstores are closing all across the country.  Continued lockdowns are bringing foot traffic to a screeching halt.  According to the American Booksellers Association, 20% of independent book stores are shutting their doors. That’s roughly one store per week.  The independents are doing everything they can to stay alive, though, because they know that people need books for escape as much as they do for general information. 

But there may be a little light at the end of an otherwise bleak tunnel: A new paradigm is emerging. 

Since people cannot go to bookstores, bookstores and other literary venues have enhanced their online presence to meet their costumers head on.  Some stores who were not online have expanded their stores online to reach their customers; libraries have released more online versions of their catalog so readers do not have to venture far from home. The potential customer may not have been able to pick up and handle the book, but they were able to access books nonetheless, reading the back cover and perhaps a sample chapter or two online at their favorite stores – and not just on Amazon.  Booksellers also took advantage of an Amazon marketing decision:  They are not prioritizing their book sales and deliveries.  Books have not been considered “essential” during Covid-19, but that did not stop booksellers from stepping up to serve their readers.

And since they have, overall, online sales have skyrocketed.  This online presence, in many cases, has saved some independent bookstores from going completely out of business.  This “new” model is the antithesis of what bookstores used to be.  Creating and old-store feeling of community – spaces where people could come face-to-face with others and talk about ideas – is giving readers exactly what they need, a feeling of belonging and companionship that takes them out of isolation and depression. Online gatherings of reading communities is the new safe space for readers. 

This pandemic has also affected how books are marketed.  Before, most authors marketed face-to-face at events, book signings, book fairs, workshops, lectures, and other public-centered events. However, with the pandemic, people are not allowed to congregate for these type of events. This has left authors in a world of insecurity. Luckily, new found ways of marketing to the public emerged, with authors turning to “stay at home” book tours via video conferencing.  Now, more than ever, it is imperative for the author to engage readers online through video conferencing, which includes Zoom gatherings or LIVE videos on social media. Though free on some accounts, it is a slight hassle for anyone who is not tech savvy. Those who have the knowledge of video conference will be able to reach their audience but those without that knowledge will slow to a crawl in sales. This is the bane that marketing faces. How do books – and independent authors – reach their readers now that public, real-life events are down? 

There may be hope on the horizon! E-book and audio book sales are on the rise. If authors can reach their audience through the online means of marketing, and thus create a community of readers, they just might land themselves in this nice medium. But, of course, that would mean that authors create e-books, not paperbacks or hardcover books, and hiring a narrator to produce an audiobook. For the Big 5 publishers, this is not new business, but for independent authors of self-published books, this is a giant leap, especially for those who have never created an e-book before. An e-book through Amazon is not completely difficult, but on other platforms, it can be a hurdle so high that some cannot manage. Creating a paperback on Amazon, however, is easy. So the premise again is for independent authors to learn more online forms of book selling. According to the American Booksellers Association, bookselling sites have seen 250% increase in traffic since the shutdown began.  Publisher’s Weekly reports that most e-book distributors and publishers have seen sales rise by, at least, double digits since the stay at home orders have gone into effect. This is the changing paradigm in large view.

Yes, e-books have been a mainstay for a while, but the difference is that their sales are up to an all-time high. Authors (and publishers!) must answer that increased call for merchandise, and must create safe communities for their readers. Will the paperback or hard cover disappear? Not likely, but it is definitely more convenient in today’s world to reach for a digital book than a tangible one.

The point of the matter is that reading and storytelling are not going away.  Neither is Covid-19. So, we need to figure out how these two entities will co-exist.  We need to step up to the challenge of finding a new “norm” for how authors and readers will communicate and network. And now’s the time to react. With Covid-19 cases currently surging, it is likely that normal life will not emerge in early 2021 as everyone had hoped. Who knows when the lockdowns will end? An action plan of how to navigate the rest of the down time is upon us – and we must answer that call.

What will the new world look like post Covid-19? It’s unsure at this point, though we can predict some of the possibilities. Book trailers are an absolutely need, and they must be circulated on social media for a long-range reach to readers. Authors must use live videos for book tours or Zoom for opportunities to communicate with their readers. Self-published authors need to think beyond Amazon and connect their books to new formats, which includes audiobooks; in fact, they should create a reading series where they read their book to listeners in live videos on social media and YouTube (THINK: listening to Tolkien or King read their stories live). And most importantly, authors need to work with other authors to uplift each other – and not compete for sales. If authors worked together to create a venue for readers to come together, all authors would benefit, which would also give readers a place to gather in a safe community. A win-win for everyone involved. 

Times are changing and we will have to change with them. TDS is on the job and will help our authors, poets, and artists navigate this new world of publishing. Stay tuned as we put our plans into action and answer the call with our paradigm answer to the bleak darkness ahead.

Art and Horror: How TDS Artists Epitomize the TDS Brand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday the 13th: Another Day to Celebrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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