Tag Archives: #newblogpost

Finches: A Review

by Kausambi Patra

Rating: 💀💀💀💀

Release Date: October 1, 2021

AM Muffaz started writing this concise novel 15 years ago to process a different trauma. She is facing difficulty in accepting that the beloved country of her childhood has changed into a problematic place that is not easy to question. The author deals with intergenerational trauma and the danger its poses. She wants to celebrate diversity, inclusiveness and cultural understanding. In the Introduction, she notes that Charles Darwin wanted to be a parson. But after his journey, he altered his and peoples’ thinking “to see change as beautiful.” The author aspires for that. The novel ‘Finches’ is strewn with quotes from Ayats and ‘The Origin of Species.’

Restless spirits flit around within the novel seeking something. Grandmother Jah deeply resents her husband Ghani’s second marriage, which is legal in Malaysia. She hates the couple with vehemence even after their unnatural deaths. She goes back to live in their family’s old home, claiming it as her own. She experiences ‘cold spots’ in the house and the unquiet spirits. She beats up her dead husband’s spirit and is spitefully uncivil to his wife’s spirit. During an exorcism, she stops the bomoh from forcing a ghost out of a room and locks the door.

The story follows a nonlinear narrative. It moves from one character to another and comes back again. In Rahim’s chapter, he faces the spirits in the old house. His meetings are terrifying, and he narrowly escapes violent harm.

From time to time, the story moves back to the past. The author paints beautiful images of a warm and cosy family enjoying themselves in their flowering garden with abundant refreshments and supporting each other. The children of the first wife seem to share relationships of trust and nurture with the second wife. But the fractures get exposed at times. The author stresses that the granddaughter and the new wife, Aisya, are the same age. Aisya is very good-looking and delicate, in sharp contrast to the granddaughter Khatijah. She is beautiful even more after her death.

The author has vivid flowing portrayals of the physical surroundings and poetic descriptions of everyday mundane activities and objects within the house. She goes into minute details and piques the interest of the reader –

There, the jars had clouded over, some bloodied red, the others opaque white. Her eyes were drawn towards a particular jar in the middle of the rack, whose curtain of white cleared when it had her focus. Inside, a milky-coloured mass curdled upon itself like a clot of grubs, wriggling limbs, she thought, as it rotated in place. From the centre of this clot, wrinkles unfurled like a flower, until, in the depths of its heart, it flicked open an eye. (Page 63)

The pickle jars were Grandmother Jah’s precious possession. The ‘cold spots’ manifest there and respond to her hatred. All the characters sense the ‘cold spots’ and the restive spirits as they gradually become violent and malicious. But the surviving family members are not scared. Instead, they grope for answers. They remain calm and composed and try to piece together their broken fragments.

Reading Muffaz’s words, one can almost see and touch the spirits and inhabit that house. But it is what they have left behind that the living is forced to deal with. Even when these people were living happily, there was the case of the chickens metamorphosing. This mirrors the undercurrent that erupts at the end. When Fatimah is forced to visit the house, the bougainvillaea claws her car.

The scratches ran as deep as the awful sound they’d made, making five broken lines from the side mirror to the handle, their ragged path edged with fine silvery powder. (Page 90)

The spirits, too, answer her hate. 

Ghani and many of the characters are unable to accept the change around them, which pushes the gradual unfolding of the incidents. The house and its environment has soaked it all and rushes to its revelation in the climactic ending. The concluding chapters are left open for the reader’s interpretation.

I found the novel unsettling and the ghosts terrifying. I was scared for the family members living in that old haunted cottage. The narrative is about people trying to understand their past and surroundings and the resulting frictions. The author strongly feels that unless one adapts and faces reality, they face destruction. This short novel is wrapped in the author’s emotion.

Finches is available from Vernacular Books and comes out October 1, 2021. Purchase a copy wherever books are sold, including on Amazon.


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!

Reality Meets Fiction: Voodoo Dolls

What do Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Target have in common? They all sell Voodoo Dolls! And they’re not the only ones. You can buy Voodoo dolls and kits from hundreds of online vendors, and browsing through the many different types of online Voodoo dolls is quite entertaining. There’s the “Mini Office Voodoo Kit” that you can use to put a curse on your boss or co-workers; the “Happy Couple Voodoo Doll Kit” to cast love spells; the “Passion Masters Sex Voodoo Doll” to ‘attain massive, animal-like sex stamina’; and my favorite–the “Photo Revenge Voodoo Doll” where you send a photo of your ex, wait for the doll to arrive, then go to town sticking pins in the doll that has your ex’s face on it.

Those who use dolls in Voodoo-type rituals swear by them, but do they really work? Apparently so. In Connecticut, a Voodoo doll was used to cause the death of two people.

In 2008, John Brightman of New England Paranormal Research was contacted by a woman named Amanda in Westport who was experiencing paranormal activity in her home, such as objects moving on their own, and doors opening and slamming shut. In addition, a deceased family member was reportedly seen in the home.

During the investigation, Brightman learned that three people who had been living in the house had died several months earlier–Amanda’s mother, Esther, her brother, Roger, and her younger sister, Vivian. After the deaths, Amanda inherited the home. When she arrived to clean the house, she discovered a hand-made altar in Roger’s room. Four candles were on its surface, and in the center was a box about eight inches long and four inches wide. Inside was a stuffed doll, and tacked to it were three photographs. One was a photo of Amanda’s younger sister, and the other was of her mother. The third was of a man Amanda did not recognize. Small pins had been inserted into the doll in various positions, and it was charred in several places. The box also contained herbs, and small bottles containing oils and ointments.

Amanda told the investigator that Roger discovered that his sister Vivian had convinced their mother to cut him out of his inheritance. Apparently, he used the doll to put a curse on his mother and sister, and it worked. Esther died shortly after Roger found out about losing his inheritance, and two months later, his sister Vivian died of a ruptured spleen. But it seems that Roger’s scheme backfired because he died a few months later. So, in the end, three people died as the result of using the Voodoo doll.

In order to understand the use of dolls in ritual magic, it’s important to understand the concept of sympathetic magic whereby a magician believes that he can produce any desired physical effect merely by imitating it. In addition, there is the belief that whatever is done to a material object will also be done to the person that it was once in contact with. This is why dolls used in magic rituals are often constructed or decorated with hair, nail-clippings, or pieces of cloth once owned by a person.

The use of dolls in sympathetic magic goes back thousands of years. The melting or burning of ritualistic dolls was written about in great detail in some ancient Greek texts. In ancient Egypt, enemies of Ramses III used wax images of the Pharaoh in rituals to help bring about his death. Greek dolls, known as Kolossoi, were used for various ritual purposes, such as to restrain a ghost, to ward off an evil entity, or as a way to bind lovers together.

Voodoo dolls are the most familiar type of doll used in casting spells and curses, but there are actually a number of different types of dolls used in ritualistic magic and witchcraft. The oldest examples of dolls stuck with pins and used in ritual magic don’t come from Africa or the Carribean, they originated in Britain where during the middle ages, practitioners of magic called ‘cunning folk’–also known as wizards, wise men or women, or conjurers– would make cloth dolls made to resemble a person in the community who was thought to be a witch. The doll would be stuck with pins to do the witch harm, and to help break any magic spells she may have put on anyone. 

If you ever get a chance to visit England, be sure to visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, England. Among the museum’s many interesting artifacts is a curious figure–a small, crudely formed female clay doll stuck with four pins. This type of ritualistic doll is known as a poppet, and this particular one appears to be blackened in places as if it had been charred by fire.

Poppets are made to represent a person and they’re used to cast spells on that person for good or for evil, or to put a curse on the person. They can be made out of a number of different materials such as carved roots, corn husks, a piece of dried fruit, wax, clay, branches, or cloth. Dolls made out of cloth are often stuffed with herbs or other materials thought to have magical properties. Poppets that have a curse on them would be hidden in a home to make sure it is close to its intended victim.

Now let’s get one thing straight, Voodoo has very little to do with so-called Voodoo dolls. In fact, the name Voodoo isn’t even the actual name of the religion. Vodou (the proper spelling and pronounced VOO-dow or VOE-do) originated in the 17th century French colonial empire among enslaved West Africans. An 1685 law required all slaveholders to Christianize slaves within eight days of their arrival, and this was often Catholicism. Over time, the slaves combined elements of their religious beliefs with Roman Catholicism. Because they were forced to adopt Catholic rituals, slaves gave them double meanings and in the process, many of their African spirits became associated with Christian saints.

Vodou is a fascinating and complex religion, and although dolls are used in Vodou, they are usually used for good, or for protection against evil, similar to the use of religious statues in churches and homes. Dolls are used for a variety of purposes such as love, healing, guidance, fertility, and empowerment.

When West African slaves were brought to the United States, they retained their religious practices of using dolls. One type of doll that they made was called a fetish which was thought to be possessed by spirits connected to the doll’s owner. The fetish would be worn for good luck, or to access magical powers. Fetish dolls are also used to create a bond between the physical and spiritual worlds. They are also known by the names ‘juju’ and ‘grisgris’. The term ‘grisgris’ also refers to charm bags filled with magical powders, roots, herbs, bones, spices, stones, feathers, and so on. So, grisgris bags are actually a type of magic potion–a combination of ingredients designed to produce an intended outcome. The bags are usually worn by a person, but they are sometimes tied to fetish dolls as part of a spell.

Psychologists say that Voodoo dolls work only if you believe in them, and that there is a real psychological benefit to getting your frustrations out on another person by sticking pins in their effigy.  But as we’ve seen, you don’t have to believe in a curse to be affected by it. In fact, you don’t even have to be aware that you’ve been cursed for the curse to take its toll.

If you’re interested in experimenting with Voodoo dolls, I would advise you to keep the Wiccan “Rule of Three” in mind. The rule of three states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it for good or bad, will be returned to that person three-fold. So, using a doll to help heal or to bring joy and happiness to someone should bring you a handsome reward. But be warned–before you go sticking black pins in a doll made to resemble your worst enemy, keep in mind that, in the end, the person you’ll be hurting the most is yourself.


UPDATE: Due to lack of reader interest, Reality Meets Fiction will be ending in two months. That means, just two more stories will be published (October and November). If you’d like for the series of paranormal investigation stories to continue, please let us hear your voice in the comments.

“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 on September 24th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: Have you used voodoo dolls or have heard stories about them? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Voodoo Dolls). 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 using voodoo dolls and then submit it to us 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 AmazonThe Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio), and now Poe’s New & Used Bookstore (New Berlin, Pennsylvania).

Until we meet again, take care!

The Creative Nook with Corey Nyhus

by Zachary Shiffman

A red-skinned demon. A winged abomination with a curved blade. An insect – wide-eyed and dying – ripped from the pages of Kafka. These are images that can only come from the mind of an artist. I wanted to gain a glimpse into that mind, so I invited Corey Nyhus, an artist currently living in New York, into THE DARK SIRE’s Creative Nook on YouTube.

We started by discussing some of the images mentioned above — such as Redboy, the demon who acts as a sort of mascot to Nyhus’ works, as well as the blade-wielding Corvian and Nyhus’ Metamorphosis-inspired piece, “Kafkaesque.” We discussed the tools used to create these characters and pieces and how they relate to Nyhus’ vision, along with the relationship between handwriting and art.

Nyhus and I also talked about the dynamic between himself and his art — how the mind can affect the artistic and vice versa. Then we discussed Nyhus’ recommended readings, including the web comic Kill Six Billion Demons by Tom Parkinson-Morgan and surrealist novel The Vorrh by Brian Catling.

I had a blast interviewing Nyhus. If you like horror and gothic art as much as I do, then you’ll love this interview!

https://youtu.be/cxboVaL3JHM

September New Release Books

It’s time to look ahead and see what the publishers are offering in our favorite genres. What mouth-watering, mind-expanding delights are awaiting us in the up-coming month? There are a few on this list that I, personally, can’t wait to sink my teeth into. How about you?

GOTHIC

September 21th

The Bronzed Beasts by  Roshani Chokshi. This is the third book in The Gilded Wolves Series. After Séverin’s seeming betrayal, the crew is fractured. Armed with only a handful of hints, Enrique, Laila, Hypnos and Zofia must find their way through the snarled, haunted waterways of Venice, Italy to locate Séverin.

Meanwhile, Séverin must balance the deranged whims of the Patriarch of the Fallen House and discover the location of a temple beneath a plague island where the Divine Lyre can be played and all that he desires will come to pass.

With only ten days until Laila expires, the crew will face plague pits and deadly masquerades, unearthly songs and the shining steps of a temple whose powers might offer divinity itself… but at a price they may not be willing to pay.

September 28th

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by  Christina Henry. In this atmospheric, terrifying novel, everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play Sleepy Hollow boys, reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?

The House of Dust by Noah Broyles. Deep in the heat and silence of rural Tennessee, down an untraveled road, sits the forgotten town of Three Summers. Mere miles away, on an overgrown river island, stands the house that once presided over the grand plantation of Angel’s Landing, moss-draped, decrepit. Waiting.

Failing crime writer Bradley Ellison and former prostitute Missy Holiday are drawn to this place, fleeing a world turned against them. For Brad, it is work—he must find a compelling story before the true-crime magazine he writes for judges him expendable. For Missy, it is recuperation—four years at “the club” have left her drained.

But the price of peace is high, and soon Brad and Missy discover that something hides behind the quiet. Something moves in the night. Something that manifests itself in bizarre symbols and disturbing funeral rites. Something that twists back through time and clings in the dust of the ancient house. A presence they must uncover before their own past catches up with them.

The Liar Of Red Valley by Walter Goodwater. Don’t trust the Liar. Don’t go in the River. Do not cross the King. In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But even that isn’t enough to protect Sadie now that she’s unexpectedly become the Liar: the keeper and maker of Red Valley’s many secrets.

In a town like this, friendships are hard-won and bad blood lasts generations, and when not everyone in town is exactly human, it isn’t a safe place to make enemies.

And though the Liar has power—power to remake the world, with just a little blood—what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley?


HORROR

September 7th

Certain Dark Things by  Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?

Empire Of The Vampire by Jay Kristoff. Twenty-seven years have passed since the last sunrise, and for almost three decades, the creatures of the night have walked the day without fear. Once, humanity fought bravely against the coldblood legions, but now, we exist only in a few scattered settlements—tiny sparks of light in a growing sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is the last of the Silversaints, a holy order dedicated to defending realm and church, now utterly destroyed. Imprisoned for the murder of the vampiric king, Gabriel is charged with telling the story of his life.

His tale spans years, from his youth in the monastery of San Michel, to the forbidden love that spelled his undoing, and the betrayal that saw his order annihilated. Most importantly, Gabriel will tell of his discovery of the Grail—the legendary cup prophesied to bring an end to the eternal night.

But the Grail was no simple chalice; and its secret was held by a smart-mouthed teenage urchin named Dior. Their journey with a band of unlikely allies would see Dior and Gabriel forge an unbreakable bond, and set the broken paragon on a road to redemption.

But now, the Grail is shattered. And with the cup of the Savior destroyed and the last Silversaint awaiting execution, what can bring an end to this unholy empire?

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull. One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark? The world will soon find out.

The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley. As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly a strange sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…​ She cannot die.

Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives…and who doesn’t.

To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.

If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.

The Haunting of Leigh Harker by Darcy Coates. Sometimes the dead reach back… Leigh Harker’s quiet suburban home was her sanctuary for more than a decade, until things abruptly changed. Curtains open by themselves. Radios turn off and on. And a dark figure looms in the shadows of her bedroom door at night, watching her, waiting for her to finally let down her guard enough to fall asleep.

Pushed to her limits but unwilling to abandon her home, Leigh struggles to find answers. But each step forces her towards something more terrifying than she ever imagined.

A poisonous shadow seeps from the locked door beneath the stairs. The handle rattles through the night and fingernails scratch at the wood. Her home harbours dangerous secrets, and now that Leigh is trapped within its walls, she fears she may never escape.

Do you think you’re safe? You’re wrong.

The Summoning by J.P. Smith. When it comes to contacting the dead, it’s easy to go a step too far. Every year, as the anniversary of 9/11 inches closer on the calendar, Kit Capriol scans the memorials published in the New York Times. It’s a simple thing to look up a name and phone number, to reach out to surviving family members who might still be yearning for connection with their lost loved one… to offer assistance. After her husband went down in the north tower, Kit scraped by as an actress, barely supporting herself and her daughter. But now Zoey is in the hospital, bills are due, and the acting work has dried up. Becoming a medium is almost too easy for someone used to pretending for a living—and desperate clients aren’t hard to come by.

Now, though, something has changed. The seances Kit holds in her apartment are starting to feel unsettlingly real, and the intriguing man she met at a local bar could be more complicated than he seems. As the voices of the dead grow louder in her head and the walls of her apartment close in, Kit realizes that despite her daughter’s absence, she hasn’t been quite as alone as she thought…

September 28th

Court by Tracy Wolff. This is the fourth book in the CRAVE SERIES. This series is a TWILIGHT-like YA series written especially for modern youth and filled with your typical brooding teenagers both vampire and normal. The series follows the adventures of Grace who, after the death of her mother, moves to a small part of Alaska where her uncle and cousin run a boarding school which is not your normal boarding school.

The Ex Hex by Author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling. Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik. Book 2 in the Scholomance Series. A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .

September 30th

Shaula by A.M. Kherbash. The second book in The Stringer Series. The sight of the body did not sicken Ben. Not right away. Guilt was what got him: the mounting consequences rising in his throat, and the truth which would inevitably come spilling out.

Sometime after the events at Duncastor (See Lesath), two men are dispatched to make a delivery. It was a straightforward assignment: take the sealed cargo—a container roughly the size of a child’s casket—and deliver it to a reclusive specialist residing in a lakeside cabin. What this specialist did or specialized in was never mentioned. Not that it mattered, when the task was simple—simple enough that even a young and inexperienced bureaucrat like Ben could handle it. If only he weren’t charged with keeping an eye on his wayward senior.

The lakeside cabin was the last remnant of a closed down resort, which Ben guessed was bought by a dummy corporation belonging to their employers. All the other cabins were torn down, leaving them with an empty property that served to distance the lakeside cabin from public grounds. Something about it reminded Ben of the horticultural practice of pruning spent flowers to further enhance the beauty of the crowning blossom. Not that it did anything to improve the cabin’s appearance he observed, as they stood in front of the stocky wooden building, sheltered under interlacing branches of towering evergreens. Much like the faded photos, an eerie hush permeated the place: no breeze ruffled the reflected image on the lake’s surface, nor whispered through the green needles above. It was all very quiet.


FANTASY

September 14th

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell, When her siblings start to go missing, a girl must confront the dark thing that lives in the forest—and the growing darkness in herself—in this debut YA contemporary fantasy for fans of Wilder Girls.

Defy The Night by Brigid Kemmerer. A fantasy about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

September 21th

The Leopard Behind The Moon by Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev. There are three important laws in Ezomo’s village: Do not go to The Valley, do not go out at night, and never, ever, ever open the magical door that protects them all. But when Ezomo encounters the leopard believed to have killed his father, he and his two best friends embark on a journey that leads them past the boundaries set by their elders.

With his friends by his side, Ezomo chases after the leopard, certain that it has the power to cure all, and in the process he discovers the true history of his village, and that cautionary tales exist for a reason.

The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis. Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed a Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence. They navigate their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death.

September 28th

Beasts Of Prey by Ayana Gray.

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand–and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century–but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon–each keeping their true motives secret from the other–form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.


PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM

September 7th

The Final Child by Fran Dorricott. Erin and her brother Alex were the last children abducted by ‘the Father’, a serial killer who only ever took pairs of siblings. She escaped, but her brother was never seen again. Traumatized, Erin couldn’t remember anything about her ordeal, and the Father was never caught.

Eighteen years later, Erin has done her best to put the past behind her. But then she meets Harriet. Harriet’s young cousins were the Father’s first victims and, haunted by their deaths, she is writing a book about the disappearances and is desperate for an interview. At first, Erin wants nothing to do with her. But then she starts receiving sinister gifts, her house is broken into, and she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After all these years, Erin believed that the Father was gone, but now she begins to wonder if he was only waiting…

The Magician by Colm Toibin. An epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II. The novel opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.

In a stunning marriage of research and imagination, this novel explores the heart and mind of a writer whose gift is unparalleled and whose life is driven by a need to belong and the anguish of illicit desire. The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived—the first world war, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile. This is a man and a family fiercely engaged by the world, profoundly flawed, and unforgettable.”

September 9th

Keep Me Close by Jane Holland. Someone is hurting the most vulnerable person in your life, but they can’t tell you who it is. What would you do?

When shy publisher Kate Kinley finds mysterious bruises on her mother’s arms she assumes the worst. Suffering with early onset dementia, her mother insists that nothing is wrong; it was just a clumsy accident. But was it an accident, or has her mother’s illness made her forget what really happened?

In desperate need of someone she can trust, her isolation and paranoia grow as the closest people in her life become key suspects.

With each heart-stopping revelation, Kate begins to realise that the perpetrator is no longer interested in inflicting bruises; they want blood.

Keep Me Close is a compelling story of gross immorality, a cautionary tale of how easily wicked people can take advantage of the vulnerable elderly people in your life.

September 14th

Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari. A Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.


So many amazing books coming out next month!
Which will you be reading?


TO OUR READERS: Do you have a favorite author that you would like THE DARK SIRE to keep track of? Or did we miss a title that came out that should have been listed? Let us know in the comments. We love to uplift amazing writers. In fact, if you drop the name of an author for us to include, we will add them to our future new release lists – which are now a MONTHLY staple of The Dark Forest. Check back at the end of September for our late Fall and early Winter new releases.

And don’t forget to ORDER TDS’ DARK SUMMER Issue 8. More details available at darksiremag.com/issue8.html.

Camelot’s Reckoning: A Review

Rating: ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️

If you are fans of the Arthurian legend, you are sure to get a kick out of Caleb Kelly’s CAMELOT’S RECKONING.  It’s a new twist on the legend and the characters will keep you turning the pages.  In fact, when you get to the end, you will be shouting for more.

This is a high fantasy story that doesn’t start off like one.  It starts us off at an archeological dig as Oliver is on his quest to find Excalibur, the fabled magic sword of King Arthur.  In fact, the legend and search for the sword has consumed his life and practically ruined his reputation in the archeological world.  However, this time he is on to something, and he needs his twin brother to help him continue the search.

Which brings us to a small problem:  Oliver’s brother, Roland, is a lawyer in a high-profile law firm who is bucking for partnership, while sleeping with his boss’ trophy wife.  Roland has problems that don’t include his brother, and a life that couldn’t be more different than his archaeologist brother.

In order to get his brother to accompany him to Scotland in pursuit of the sword, Oliver has to sabotage Roland’s life and get him fired from his job.  In Scotland, Oliver finds Excalibur AND its sister sword.  The brothers are swept into an alternate dimension, a magical one set up by Merlin where they learn that the two swords were wielded by Arthur and Sir Kay.  Kay and Arthur were of one mind and accord and worked in tandem with each other.  Oliver and Roland learn from Garrison, a shape-shifting apprentice to Merlin, that for the magic to work, they, too will have to work together.  And that’s a major problem because Oliver and Roland do not think alike, and thus they disturb the swords’ magic.  Things that are supposed to happen don’t, and vice verse, causing all kinds of chaos to ensue.

As I read this story, one thing really caught my attention: Mr. Kelly’s attention to detail. This book is the first in the Primis Vipris Saga (series). I appreciated that the author spent the time needed to really introduce his characters to the readers.  He methodically charted Oliver’s and Roland’s lives in such a way that I understood them, knew them. These characters were real.  We see Oliver working through the puzzle that is an archeological dig:

“Oliver wiped his brow with the back of his gloves, took them off, and
hurled them against the toolbox across from him.  He got up from the
dirt and brushed away the loose soil from his brown khakis and sweat-
stained tee shirt.  He grabbed hold of the edge of the pit and hoisted
himself out and on to the edge…”

We follow Roland on an intricate court case, one that Oliver sabotages in order to get his brother to accompany him:

“Roland flipped through the files in his lap as the lead prosecutor of
his firm marched back and forth at the front of the courtroom.  He
stopped for a moment to listen to what was unfolding.  The room
was drenched in palpable tension as the veteran lawyer paced in
front of the witness stand.  He stopped and thumbed through the
layers of documentation inside the manila folder.  Anticipation of
the trial had left the entire city of Greenville on edge as the
proceeding unfolded.”

I felt like I was right there, witnessing the events unravel firsthand. With this kind of detail, Mr. Kelly takes us into his magical world; into Merlin’s magic books; and into the confrontation against dragons.  Will Oliver and Roland be able to defeat the beasts? Only if they can manage to come together, strengthen their bonds, and act as one – like Arthur and Kay before them. Their adventure, humanity, and brotherly struggles make this book a page turner.

Be forewarned, however! This book ends at a cliffhanger, one that will make you scream for Book 2. That’s not a bad thing, but there is no information for when Book 2 will be released, so try to remain patient as you wait for the Saga to continue.

Because this story is cleverly written and delves into wonderful characterization, with great attention to detail, I give it a four Fleur de Lis.  If you are looking for a different take on the Arthurian legend in a high fantasy story, you will thoroughly enjoy CAMELOT’S RECKONING. I highly recommend it!

You can find Caleb Kelly’s Camelot’s Reckoning on AMAZON.


RATINGS: TDS rates all books based on the dark content and how well the reading experience lends itself. For fantasy, the craft of world building and the story’s classification (high, epic) is also of interest. As always, author craft, storytelling, and mechanics are considered, as well. For this purpose, we use Fleur-de-lis (⚜️). An explanation of the Fleur-de-lis system follows.

RATING: ⚜️
Boring, flat fantasy elements, not interesting. Do not recommend.

RATING: ⚜️⚜️
Fair plot, below average fantasy elements but fairly interesting. Read at own risk.

RATING: ⚜️⚜️⚜️
Good plot and average fantasy elements, good reading experience. Encouraged read.

RATING: ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️
Great reading experience with heaps of wonderful fantasy elements. Strong recommend.

RATING: ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️
Excellent prose, amazing fantasy elements, well-written. A MUST READ!

The Creative Nook with Richard Chizmar

by Zachary Shiffman

Odds are, you’ve heard of Richard Chizmar. The horror giant is the editor of several anthologies, the founder of horror press Cemetery Dance, and the author of multiple works, including the book The Girl on the Porch and the novella Gwendy’s Magic Feather (the sequel to Gwendy’s Button Box, which Chizmar co-authored with Stephen King). What you may not know is that Chizmar is no stranger to THE DARK SIRE literary magazine; he played a role in THE DARK SIRE Creative Awards Ceremony in February 2021, presenting the award for Best Fiction. And so, it was the natural next step for me to invite him into THE DARK SIRE Creative Nook on YouTube for an interview.

Our first topic of discussion was Chizmar’s next book, which will be released on August 17th, 2021: Chasing the Boogeyman, a small-town thriller surrounding a serial killer. In the interview, Chizmar delves into the backstory of the novel—its inspiration, how it developed, and the intriguing quasi-autobiographical elements to it. Chizmar described the book as a sort of “campfire story” that any reader will be able to have a good time with. And if his previous works are any indication, then he’s correct and you should add Chasing the Boogeyman to your TBR list today.

We moved on to talk about horror and writing in general, from Chizmar’s process to the disparate experiences of writing his various projects (including those conjoined with Stephen King). We also delved into his role at Cemetery Dance and how Chizmar balances writing and publishing. Finally, we closed the interview with Chizmar’s advice to emerging writers and anyone attempting to enter the publishing industry.

This interview is chalk full of great information that will entertain readers and writers alike. You’re not going to want to miss a single second of it!

https://youtu.be/YvQbIBsaWU0

Psychological Realism and the Art of Knowing

I have saved talking about one of THE DARK SIRE’s favorite genres, Psychological Realism, for last, partly because I consider it one of the most difficult genres in which to write.  The genre focuses on the mental processes of the characters, which includes their inner thoughts, feelings, motives and behavior.  In other words, to write in this genre, you have to know people, really know people – and delve deep into characterization. 

Unlike the genres of Fantasy, Horror, or the Gothic, this genre literally deals with how people react to everyday life.  Now, their reactions are predicated on the psychological make up of who they are, which is why a good Psychological Realism writer has to be a student of human nature.  The writer needs to show not only what the characters do but also explain why they are taking those actions.  When you examine Crime and Punishment by the god-father of the genre, Fydor Dostoevsky, you meet characters who are engaged in distasteful and illegal acts motivated by their desperate financial situations.  Dostoevsky uses their motivations to examine the conditions of poverty. 

American writers took a slightly different tack with this genre.  They began to examine the question of the duality of a man’s nature.  Melville has a superlative chapter in Moby Dick on this topic:  Is Ahab, Ahab?  It was a question that even the Native Americans of the Northwest explored with their masks and totems.  Are we really who we think we are or is our external persona merely the mask for our real inner personality?  Other American authors continued with this theme.  The works of Henry James, Arthur Miller and Edith Warton look at the inner workings of their characters and the duality of their motivations.

Therefore the thing that makes Psychological Realism novels different is that their plot revolves around the emotional aspect of the story. The PR novel is internal. It deals with the perceptions of your characters. Is the character disturbed in some way? How does the character perceive reality? Does their emotions get in the way of their perception or does it dictate their perception?

When writing a PR story, you have to create strong characters who have strong emotional issues. Remember, most of the action is going to take place in your characters’ heads. The emphasis in this kind of story is not so much on action as it is on turmoil. You will have to create your suspense in unpredictable ways. This leads to major plot twists. Is one of your characters an unreliable narrator and if so, why? Why does your villain do what he or she or it does? Why does your protagonist respond in the way he, she, or it does? To write a good PR story, you have to be a student of human nature. You have to understand peoples’ flaws and how those flaws make them react.

Here are some things to consider to create a strong PS story:

Characterization. When writing a PR story, you have to create strong characters who have strong emotional issues. Remember, most of the action is going to take place in your characters’ heads. The emphasis in this kind of story is not so much on action as it is on turmoil. You will have to create your suspense in unpredictable ways. This leads to major plot twists. Is one of your characters an unreliable narrator and if so, why? Why does your villain do what he or she or it does? Why does your protagonist respond in the way he, she, or it does? To write a good PR story, you have to be a student of human nature. You have to understand peoples’ flaws and how those flaws make them react.

To understand your character, think of their family structure, who their parents are, what they and their family do for a living. How old are they? What schooling have they had? What struggles have they braved? What relationships have they experience? Married, divorced, kids? Do they like or hate their daily life? What do they do to relax? Simply put: Get to know what your character’s favorite things are, what they like and dislike, and what their deepest, darkest secrets are. Build a character that could live and breathe in the real world – even if their world is fantasy. Meaning: The character, be they hero or villain, should be 3-dimensional and alive, someone readers can relate to and connect with. To do this, you, as the author, need to know every bit about the characters you create.

Inner dialogue. If the character’s thought are to be revealed, inner dialogue is key. Yes, your character can convey their thoughts aloud, but, more often than not, he or she will express them though inner thought – which is called “inner dialogue.” This type of dialogue is written in italics to differentiate the story (action, description) from dialogue. When a reader reads inner dialogue, they need to understand the character’s thoughts. An example of this is:

Sheila runs and never looks back, tears lining her cheeks. Why am I running? I should be standing my ground! Shoving the backs of her hands into her eyes as if to command the rivers to cease, she plants her feet and halts. Her body lunges forward before it whips back, knees tight, core engaged. Enough! I’m not running anymore. It stops here, right here. If not now, then when? She gulps in a lung-full of crisp air and wipes the remnants of wetness from her cheeks. With a shallow sigh, she pauses for a brief moment, only to turn around and walk back the way she came.

Character focused. As the above states, think of your story as being character focused. The story is the character’s motivations, the character’s emotions, the character’s wants and desires. What drives the character? How is the story going to advance on the character’s goals? What will they encounter based on their drive, emotional pull, and flaws? Instead of being story-driven, with a lot of action, your PR story will be character-driven, which is why PR is classed as literary fiction rather than genre fiction. Keep in mind what your character wants, what they’re going through, what they are struggling with emotionally and psychologically. And make the story wrapped securely around the complexity of their human nature.

Explanation and motivation. Your character has to have motivation and a reason for why they are doing what they are… and your reader needs to understand that reasoning. That means you have to explain the reason, answering the magical question of “why.” Though you can explain the reason through other storytelling devices, the most natural way of doing so is through inner dialogue. For example:

“Why are you being so difficult, Sarah?!”

Rubbing her fingers together, Sarah gazed out over her glasses with half-open eyes. Like you don’t know. Last time we met, you demanded I give in to your whim, do what you say or else. And now that you’re not in charge, you expect me to be kind, benevolent, caring. Well, today’s the day you learn humility, Madeleine.

“Company policy is all. You understand. Surely you’d follow protocol if you were in my position.”

Just remember: You should not explain everything all at once. Instead, sprinkle in the explanation throughout the story so that your characterization builds from beginning to end. The reader will continue to learn about your characters and their complexities, making the read all the more sweeter.

Complexity. And speaking of complexities, because the PR story is built on characterization, not action, you should be thinking of your story in layers, like an onion. Once you peel back the surface or superficial aspects of the story – what starts the story, the inciting action, you need to slowly peel back the other layers of the story through exploration of the deeper character traits, motivations, and setbacks. Once the reader knows about the desires of a character, they need to slowly get to know the reasons behind those desires; this is where and why complexities are born, a must in PR. Nothing should be “as is seems” or predictable, and your character can’t be one-dimensional in that they have no depth of character. Thus, the story must then weave together to create complex situations, struggles, near misses, and triumphs. In this way, story then takes center stage to put your characterization to work.

Planning. Psychological Realism requires planning. Though some may be successful at writing a PS story in pantser or planter style, many writers will find planning more suitable for this subgenre due to its required complexities. Creating outlines of chapters, linking plots through notecards, and completing character charts are all ways to help design a complex story that interweaves story, character, and plot beautifully. Use the tools that best help you create the necessary planning you need for your story. You can manually create the tools (documents, notecards, outlines) or use storytelling apps and software (Google: storytelling tools for creative writing).


Since PR is more difficult than other subgenres, I’ve put together some prompts to help you build your skills – and confidence!

Prompt 1: Pick a character flaw and give it to a character (be sure to name the character!). Then create an every day scene; maybe a first date, a conversation with a boss, or a fight with a neighbor. Think of the location, too, say at the library, at the office, or in the park. Now, write the scene focusing on the flaw in two different ways: predictable and unpredictable. What’s the difference between the two scenes? What made the character act unpredictably? How did the flaw help create depth? How much did you need to know the character in order to create the scene? How much deeper do you need to go in order to bring in more complexity?

Prompt 2: Outline the above scene. What are the main points of plot, subpoints? How does plot inform the story? What connections do you see within the scene, between character? Now, create a whole new scene, outlining it first – before writing it. Find ways to connect the scene, story, and characters to create a compelling scene. Once you have an outline you’re happy with, dripping with complexity, write the scene using the outline as your guide.

Prompt 3: Create a character profile by using either the Gotham or Marcel Proust Character Questionnaire. Type your answers in a document or write your answers in a notebook. Ponder the questions before you decide on the final answer. Then, when finished, write a paragraph describing your character. What is the person like?

Prompt 4: Using the character profile, write the plot of a scene that would use the character’s motivations and emotions to progress the story. What does your character want/need? How will they get it? What will stop them? Then, write notes on how you will explain the reasons behind the character’s choices. Now, write the scene, using your notes and planned storytelling devices.


It may be difficult, be I know you can write psychological realism stories! If you’d like some feedback or help in practicing the above, leave a comment for me. I’d be glad to help.

And, if you have a story, poem, or screenplay in this genre, please consider submitting it to THE DARK SIRE.   We would love to read your work, which includes artwork that holds the essence of the psychological and emotional. To submit, visit darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

The Creative Nook with Villimey Mist

by Zachary Shiffman

Vampires prowl the night in the Nocturnal series by Villimey Mist; fearsome and glitter-free, just how Bram Stoker envisioned and how we at THE DARK SIRE enjoy them. When I read the first book of the series, Nocturnal Blood, I fell into its world of deadly sharp teeth and complex character dynamics, and I wanted to speak to its author as soon as possible. Enter: The Creative Nook on YouTube with myself and author Villimey Mist!

We began by talking of Mist’s series and her ambitions for it. Mist admitted that it didn’t begin as a series. Nocturnal Blood was supposed to be a standalone novel, but sometimes stories and the worlds within them don’t die easily. There are currently three installments of the Nocturnal series: Nocturnal Blood, Nocturnal Farm, and Nocturnal Salvation, with more to come. We also discussed the intentional absence of romance in the Nocturnal series and how that relates to Dracula, the patriarch of vampiric and gothic texts, as well as the series’ portrayal of mental illness through its protagonist, Leia Walker.

We moved on to discuss Mist’s writing process (which includes a lot of notebooks), as well as her other projects, one of which includes the short story, “The Banquet,” with proceeds from the sale of which go to supporting survivors of sexual assault.

If you have any interest in vampires and gothic literature, which – if you’re a reader of THE DARK SIRE – is likely to be the case, this interview with Villimey Mist is a must-watch!

https://youtu.be/uxiLJw6G5io

World Building and the Art of Fantasy

All of us have our favorite fantasy novels, both High Fantasy and Low Fantasy.  Here at THE DARK SIRE, our favorite, go-to High Fantasy author is J.R.R. Tolkien for his body of work which includes The Lord of the Ring series, the Simarillion, and the Hobbit (just to name a few).  Low Fantasy would definitely include the Harry Potter series, Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series.  As diverse as all these books are, they have two things in common: 1. Great characterization and 2. Unique worlds in which those characters live.

Characterization deserves a blog all its own and it will get one in the near future.  But, today, I want to delve into the concept of World Building, the chief cornerstone of both High and Low Fantasy.  It’s what makes the genre work.  Without it, your story will crash on the rocks of the readers’ disbelief. 

Simply put, World Building is creating a locale where your story takes place.  A locale that your readers MUST believe in if they are going to believe in your characters. The challenge with World Building is recognizing that your world must function by a specific set of rules.  It is your task, as the author, to establish those rules and map out how your characters will follow them.  The secret is in the details.  Everything – person, animal, or creature – you write about must follow those rules down to the last letter.  This is key in giving your characters a landscape in which to develop. 

Your characters cannot exist in a vacuum.  They have to move, eat, sleep, and perform all the functions that their kind of character must perform to live.  They must have some place real to live.  Not real in our every day existence, but real to them.  And since your story’s world may be different than your readers’ world, it is your job to make the reader understand how your characters can function in a realm that the reader could not.

Think about questions that could guide your world building:

What are the conflicts in your created world?  Does it only rain once every six months?  Are there other species of humanoids and do they require a special environment to survive and if so, can different kinds of humanoids survive in each other’s environments? How do your characters communicate?  Are there different languages?  What do your characters need to do to understand one another?  What is the landscape in which your characters live?  Do different characters need different landscapes? 

Then, set up the boundaries.  Who is in charge?  Do they use magic like in Harry Potter?  And if so, who gets to use the magic, and can others see it?  What is the tone of the atmosphere?  Is this a dark and stormy place or bright and sunny; or is it a landscape covered in ice? 

Define the culture.  What do your characters believe in?  Is there a religion?  Are there several religions? What are the sacred customs?  What is the history of your characters’ interactions? Is there war, peace, tension between peoples? What is the culture’s folklore and mythology?

Don’t forget to use all five of your senses when creating your world.  You need to make your reader feel as if they are right there standing next to your characters – experiencing everything, feeling what they feel, smelling what they smell.  They need to viscerally inhabit your world no matter how fantastical it is.  Your world needs to feel real and functional to someone who could literally not function in it.

Remember, this is a fantasy world created by you, the author.  You need to know how it all functions and be able to pass that knowledge on to the reader without being didactic. Most importantly, you will have to guide the reader seamlessly through your world without breaking the tone or pace of the story. Any note of straying from the story, just to explain an aspect of your world (exposition) will distract the reader – and that’s game over for your story.


Here are a couple of exercises to help you along the creative way:

  1.  Interview your main character.  Ask them questions.  Get to know how they will react to the environment/problem that you have created for them.
  2. Map out your world. What does everything look like? What is where in this new world?
  3. Write a paragraph on each type of being used in your story. List the attributes of the peoples in each group: appearance, language, fighting abilities, magical abilities, spiritual abilities, clothing, food, shelters/lodgings.
  4. Describe the places in your world either to a friend or in a journal. What’s the scenery, weather, animals like? Be detailed in your descriptions so that a person can imagine it in their own thoughts.
  5. How will your story end?  Write the final page.  What are you going to have to do in this created universe of yours to get your main character to that point? Who or what will your character have to face? Are these obstacles part of the world building? Describe them in detail.
  6. Now that you know how your story will end, how will it begin?  What incident starts your main character on his/her/its path of self-discovery? What will your main character reveal on page one that will make your reader want to turn to page two? And most importantly, how will you convey your world building without heavy-loading exposition? For help on this one, read the first few pages of Tolkien’s The Hobit.

We would love to see what you can do.
Show us your world building in the comments!


We’re always looking for good, high-quality fantasy short stories, novellas, poems, art, and screenplays. If you have a piece ready for publication, please submit it. 

Reality Meets Fiction: A Demon in Upstate New York

by Barry Pirro

Of all the paranormal cases I’ve been involved with, the following is one of the most disturbing; not only because of the bizarre and frightening nature of the activity reported, but because I discovered that this was not a haunting–this was a demonic infestation. 

Demonic infestation often begins with the typical innocuous haunted house stuff, such as the sounds of mysterious footsteps and disembodied voices, the sighting of ethereal figures, and the movement of small objects. But unlike a haunting, the activity doesn’t end there. It quickly escalates and transitions into physical and mental attacks; bizarre and grotesque hallucinations; the smell of rotting flesh; cuts, bruises and burn marks on the skin; horrific nightmares and sleep paralysis; severe illness; and suicidal thoughts. And, once a demon enters your life, it is very, very difficult to get rid of.


When Claire and her sister Linda moved into their charming two bedroom apartment in Upstate, New York, it seemed like the perfect place. The apartment complex was quiet and meticulously cared for, and the property had a sweeping lawn that overlooked a small river. But a few months later, out of the blue, all hell broke loose in the sisters’ apartment. 

It started when Claire woke up one night with a feeling that something just wasn’t right. She looked over at her window and was gripped with fear as she saw thick red blood dripping from the shades. Claire stared in amazement at the horrifying sight, then watched it slowly fade away. The vision left her terrified and confused, and she spent the rest of the night trying to figure what she had just experienced. Coincidentally, Linda woke up one night to see her sister Claire slumped over in a chair in the corner of the room. Claire’s lifeless body was riddled with gunshot wounds which soaked her nightgown with blood that ran into puddles on the floor. Linda was terrified because the vision was so real, but after a while it dissipated, then vanished.

Later on that week, Claire and Linda were regularly woken out of their sleep where they would see strange, grotesque objects floating in the room, including knives and axes covered in blood. They would never witness these things together but, in the morning, they would compare notes and were shocked to discover that both were having the exact same experiences. 

A few weeks later the demon finally decided to show itself. It first appeared as a hooded figure dressed entirely in black. The demon came to them in their dreams, and when they woke it would be standing next to their bed, close enough for them to touch it. In another appearance, it showed itself as a monstrous looking creature with a large trunk that seemed to be a conglomeration of a number of different types of animals. And yet another time, it showed itself as a ghoulish looking little creature with rows and rows of fangs in its mouth. The demon kept shifting its appearance, sometimes even taking the shape of a huge spider-like shadow that would crawl up the wall and slowly melt into it. 

The scenes of horror, and the visitations by the hooded man and the grotesque animal creatures, continued nightly for over a year, wearing down the sisters and affecting their health. The demon’s activity increased to the point where it began to enter their bodies when they were sleeping. Both sisters would wake to a feeling of being held down in a state of paralysis; they would have to fight the demon to get out of its hold before they could open their eyes.

The women called in a Catholic priest to bless the apartment, but it didn’t do any good. In fact, the activity increased. Attempts to use holy water and prayers seemed to make the demon retaliate, as it would litter their dreams with images of unspeakable sexual acts between animals and demonic looking creatures.


The reason that a simple blessing didn’t work is that getting rid of a demon requires a priest conducting the rite of exorcism multiple times, and it can take over a year for it to be successful. Knowing this, I contacted the Archdiocese of New York to find out if an exorcist could intervene, but their only advice was to have the women contact a local priest. Since that had already been tried, I decided to contact a demonologist. Although this person was not a priest, he had a reputation of being able to help people who were afflicted with demonic infestation, so the sisters agreed to work with him.

The demonologist came to the house and tried to banish the demon with prayer. During a reading from the bible, the demon actually showed itself to all who were present by flying above them, then disappearing into the wall. In the end, the demonologist’s prayers and rituals didn’t work and the sisters moved from their home, hoping that the demon wouldn’t follow them–but it did. 

Today, six years later, the women are still plagued by the demonic entity that entered their lives for no apparent reason. They hope that someday the church will grant them permission to be exorcised of the demon.

Although religious leaders warn that playing with Ouija boards, attending seances, conjuring spirits, or even getting an innocent Tarot card reading is enough to cause a demon to enter your life, we don’t really know why demonic infestation happens. I’ve conducted three demonic investigations in my life, and in all three cases none of the people involved have admitted to being involved in activities that might account for the demonic presence that entered their lives. In his book, Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans Possession, Father Malichai Martin warns, “Possession is not—nor was it ever—some tale of dark fancy featuring ogres and happy endings. Possession is real; and real prices are paid.” Unlike fiction, real life stories are by their very nature open-ended, and life isn’t always fair. Every day, people develop catastrophic illnesses or get into accidents that change their lives forever. In the case of those afflicted with demonic infestation, some are freed from their plight and go on to live perfectly normal, happy lives, while others fight for years to be freed of their living nightmare. For Clair and Linda, the nightmare continues.


“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 on June 25th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: If you have personally had a real-life encounter with demonic infestations, 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 Demonic Infestation 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 Demonic Infestation 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 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!

TDS in local bookstore: Bibliophile

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Creative Nook with author Caleb Kelly

THE DARK SIRE is pleased to present an interview with our first-ever featured author from Issue 5, Caleb Kelly.  Mr. Kelly is the author of Camelot’s Reckoning (Primus Vipris Saga Book 1), an urban dystopian fantasy (based in Arthurian legend) novel that takes twin brothers, Roalnd and Oliver Lockheart, on a quest for the Holy Sword Excalibur – and its twin sword.  Thrust into the past by a wizard’s booby-trapped magic, Roland and Oliver must overcome all kinds of unforeseen obstacles.

TDS: I understand this is your first novel. What inspired you to write it and who influenced you in your writing style?

Caleb Kelly:  When I was growing up I didn’t read hardly at all. I just never found books interesting. I was lost in a world of television shows and video games. It wasn’t until I met my girlfriend, who is now my wife, that I began to read. Rick Riordan is a big influencer on how I write, and I enjoyed Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Saga. However, my favorite books are classics by Alexander Dumas. I love the Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. If I could somehow capture a fraction of his ability to tell a story, I would count myself successful.

TDS: Most writers are taught to inspire people or think of how their writing connects to the world they live in. Are there any hidden messages for your readers to take away from the story? Any lessons to be learned?

Caleb Kelly:  I don’t think there are any hidden messages in Camelot’s Reckoning. At least, I didn’t intend for there to be. The interactions in this novel stem a lot from my own relationships with my older and younger brothers. We have fought and fussed but at the end of the day, we are family and remembering that is more important than anything. I think if there is a message at all, its to understand at any time, we could lose someone important. We should make it a point to tell everyone close to us how much we care about them. You never know when a fantastical apocalypse is right around the corner.

TDSI know this is your first book, but, I also know about others in the making. Can you tell us about your plans for a series and what else we can look forward to, like what the progressed storyline will be or how many books total the series will run?

Caleb Kelly:  The Primis Vipris Saga will have more to come. As of right now, I am sure it will be at least five books long. That, of course, is but an estimation. There is always room to chance and improvise the game plan. I have another urban fantasy series I’m working on that is based in Egyptian mythology. I hope to release it in coming years and do so in rapid fashion. I also have an epic fantasy I have been toying around with. It will take some time to get it going. I have a lot of respect for people who build worlds from the ground up. This will be my attempt at doing the same.

TDS:  There are so many processes to follow when writing a novel. What’s yours?

Caleb Kelly:  I used to call myself a pantser. I told everyone “I let my hands do the writing. My brain is along for the ride.” I cannot say that anymore. I have to have a skeleton to begin putting muscle on. I write out the premise of every chapter and then I begin writing. As always, I give myself room to deviate from the proposed roadmap, but I always come back to where I intended. There are times when new ideas will come to me and I used them if they are deemed worthy. Once I am finished with the initial draft, the word edit cannot be said enough. I find it helps if I take the manuscript off the computer and see it as a book. Reading it as a reader instead of a writer allows me to see it through a different set of eyes.

TDS:  Besides being a published author, what are your goals for your writing? What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years?

Caleb Kelly:  This journey started with me wanting to write video game scripts. I wanted to create worlds and then see those worlds evolve into a character I could control. I am still up to following that passion, but right now, writing books has left me satisfied. I love bringing the readers into my world and sharing my stories with them. If I am still writing books in the next five years and have created a fanbase that enjoys what I have to share, I will not only count myself lucky, but successful as well.

TDS:  If there was one thing that we should know about your work, your new release, your upcoming series or its characters/storyline, what would it be? What should your readers know before anything else?

Caleb Kelly:  I would say be patient. Like most authors, I am still growing in my craft. That being said, my characters are still growing with me. I want to do everything in my power to bring a good story to the readers. I know I will never reach perfection, but I want to get as close as I can to it. My hope is that as I progress, my writing progresses, and my storytelling progresses, that my readers progress with me. I’m here for the long ride, and I hope they are, too.

THE DARK SIRE is proud to help uplift Caleb Kelly and his work because we know that this debut author will bring something special to the literary fold. And his next book, coming Spring 2021, should prove to be his foothold in the genre.

Grab a pre-order copy of Camelot’s Reckoning on Amazon and follow Mr. Kelly on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his creative endeavors.

If you have any questions for Mr. Kelly, please leave them in the comments and we’ll be sure to get you the answers.