Tag Archives: #NewRelease

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!

The Creative Nook with Dan Stout

by Zachary Shiffman

Dan Stout is no stranger to THE DARK SIRE. He has served as a judge for THE DARK SIRE Awards for two years now, providing us with his invaluable perspective on submissions. So we were excited to get that same perspective into THE DARK SIRE’s Creative Nook on YouTube, where I sat down with Stout to discuss a range of topics surrounding the April release of his latest novel, Titan Song.

Titan Song is the third installment in Stout’s The Carter Archives, a noir-fantasy series that blends magic with mystery, murder, and disco. In the interview Stout and I discussed the series and his various balancing acts within it. How do you write an overarching narrative while maintaining a standalone quality to each book? How do you blend mystery and fantasy? And how did these two concepts come together in The Carter Archives? Stout delved into his interweaving of disparate ideas into the final (immensely entertaining) product.

Further into the interview, Stout talked about The Carter Archives’ social themes, such as the depiction of the working class and how that compares to other fantasy media. We also discussed his take on magic (“manna”), his perspective on research, his own personal process for writing, and Stout’s other passions.

We ended the interview with a brief discussion of Stout’s future works and how to stay up to date with them via the Campfire, Stout’s monthly newsletter that you can join on his website.

You can watch the whole interview on THE DARK SIRE’s YouTube channel!

https://youtu.be/g5du2Cgz-mo

Issue 7: Spring is in the Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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


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

Enjoy Issue 7!

The 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.