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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.

Boring, not dark, not interesting. Do not recommend.

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday the 13th: Another Day to Celebrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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