Dark Desire

By Alexis Duran


“Love is giving someone the power to destroy you but trusting them not to.” Unknown.

Sex and violence. Love and hate. Trust and fear. Protagonist and antagonist. Hero and villain. When opposites collide, sparks fly. All we have to do is look at two of the most popular TV shows of all time, Game of Thrones and The Sopranos, to see how popular those conflict-generated sparks are. There’s no arguing that these elements are intricately entwined within the human soul and so naturally, they make their way into our stories. As a writer of erotica drawn to explore the dark side of desire, I’ve occasionally questioned the value of such stories.

As early as my pre-teens, I remember flinging my sister’s Harlequin romances and “bodice-rippers” against the wall in disgust when the so-called “heroes” forced themselves on simpering heroines who then promptly fell madly in love with their abusers. Rubbish! Crap! Horror!

Imagine my embarrassment when the editor of my new novella Touch of Salar informed me that one of my sex scenes was actually a rape, and that Loose Id prefers their romantic heroes not to be rapists. Apparently no does mean no. A few subtle shifts of language and voila, acceptability is attained. But how in the world did this come about? Why did I write my characters into such a situation? Why would a writer who should know better feel compelled to send her characters into the murky realms of sexual violence?

I decided it was time to take a look at the role of villainous lovers, submissive heroes and what happens when combatants fall in lust.

Dark Fiction takes us into the breach and over the cliff on our own writer’s journey through hell and damnation. Others here on ShadowSpinners have explored the function of horror, mayhem and death in fiction (here, here and here). They found value in the impulse to endanger lives, threaten comforts, kill off gods, upend reality and kick over rocks, and so too have I found rewards in the risky behavior so often present in dark erotica.

In fiction we can safely press beyond the confines of reason, rationality, common sense, political correctness. We can send our characters back into the haunted house or into the arms of Mr. Oh-So-Wrong. What if the protagonist falls in love with the antagonist? Now there is some delicious conflict.

When I first allowed myself to write about terribly flawed characters with a penchant for dangerous partners, I discovered that the challenges of loving a villain, of forcing my characters to the edge of reason, is every bit as compelling as threatening them with death, loss, and destruction in other areas of their lives. There’s no scene quite so intimate, so revealing, as a sexual encounter that challenges everything a character believes about themselves and the other person. They know it’s “wrong” and they do it anyway. Through this self-sacrifice and self-abandonment, perhaps the hero will learn the truth and come out stronger.

And what about the villain/lover? Is she a flawed hero? A wounded aspect of the protagonist? A dangerous other who threatens to bring out the worst in everyone they encounter? The Dark Man or Dark Woman does not have to be a malevolent outside force but a catalyst, a key to unlock passions buried within, a mirror of repressed longing. The dark lover might be the one person who can help the hero experience a sexual freedom they cannot achieve themselves.

And so we conscript our characters to wrestle with deeply buried desires that can’t be acknowledged by the rational mind. There are a hundred reasons not to give in to the dark lover, but reason has little to do with the decision to risk everything. Our characters can be stupid. Our characters can be scandalous.   Our characters can embrace vulnerability and overcome fear. Usually it is society that must be defied, along with constraints of fear, shame and propriety, but often it is one’s very own demons blocking the road to liberation and any author worth her salt knows the benefits of confronting those bastards.





In Search of A Proper Villain

by Christina Lay

As the insightful writer of horror Liz Engstrom often says, “Your story is only as strong as your antagonist.”  It’s been my tendency to concentrate on non-corporeal antagonists, such as the hero’s fatal flaw, or undefined fears that lurk in the dark, or a dysfunctional culture.  I often prefer to set my protagonist up against herself and the pitfalls of her own personality.  Naturally there are always alarming circumstances and challenges to deal with in a good story, conflict galore, and the occasional Demon, body-snatcher, or ghost, but rarely have I deployed the knife-wielding, mustache-twirling sort of bad guy that actively interferes with the hero’s hopes, love life or regular breathing patterns.

I recently sought to remedy this oversight.  Faced with an annual challenge to write a ghost story in 24 hours, I decided to focus on creating a strong antagonist in the most straight –forward sense of the word.  A true villain.  There is no shortage of role models in this area. We all have our favorites in fiction:  Professor Moriarty, Hannibal Lechter,  Annie Wilkes.  The question isn’t really why these villains are frightening but rather what it is about them that makes them memorable and draws us to them even when we want to run away screaming.

I confess I’m not much drawn to the serial killer sort of villain.  I’d rather not take my imagination down those dark and twisted passageways.  It takes a true master of horror to create an Annie Wilkes and still be okay in the morning.  I’ve also grown weary of the phenomena of the psychopathic killer in movies and television, where the goal of each story seems to be to invent the most perverse and sickening way that one person might decide to cancel out the life of another. I prefer my villains to be a tad more subtle, so naturally I turned to the middle ages, to excavate an antagonist most enduring, intriguing, and with the heavy dose of the gravitas that comes from being real.

Oil painting of Vlad Tepes, or Dracul, Prince of Wllachia

Oil painting of Vlad Tepes, or Dracul, Prince of Wallachia

Vlad Dracul was a real person, a prince of sorts in 15th century Romania.  Though Bram Stoker never copped to it, it is blatantly obvious that the historical Dracul was the inspiration for his Count Dracula.  Why has Dracula been one of the most enduring villains in all of modern literature?  Stoker did an amazing job of creating an alluring, powerful-yet-flawed monster, but I believe that the historical reality behind the monster is what really gives him his depth of character and his mystique, another great quality for a villain to have.

Here’s another great bit of writing advice from I know not where:  “The antagonist is the hero of his own story.”  This has helped me tremendously while trying to create a villain who is not a cartoon. Who is believable, with motivations to which the reader can relate.

So you might ask, how could I possibly relate to a mass murderer whose claim to fame is his penchant for impaling his victims on stakes?  And I might answer that Vlad Dracul is a hero in Romania to this day. Why? Because he was the only princeling in Eastern Europe with the cajones to stand up to the invading Ottoman Turks.  Pretty much everyone else either colluded, or rolled over, or ignored the threat, or even worse, stole the money that the Vatican raised for a proper crusade.  At the edge of Christianity on a battle-torn frontier, Dracul waged a war that, even in those vicious times, stood out as particularly brutal.  Chivalry was dead, the times were desperate (have they ever not been?) and Vlad attacked his life-long enemies with an effective vengeance, gaining notoriety for his excessive ways and being proclaimed abnormal and a monster by his contemporaries, while at the same time being hailed as the lone defender of his faith and his people. What a great guy.  And by great, I mean in the sense of possessing “an intensity considerably above the normal or average” and “very skilled or capable in a particular area”.

The very qualities we like in our heroes are also necessary in our villains.  Vlad Dracul, besides being conveniently situated in a misty, mysterious and dark corner of our history, was intense in his passions, skilled in the execution of his plans and conflicted enough to build churches and monasteries to buy his way back into God’s good graces.  What more could a writer want? Of course, with such a great antagonist, the protagonist must rise to the occasion or sink into the realm of hapless victim.  And that, I suspect, is why a story is only as strong as its antagonist.

My Hero’s Journey between the Coffee Pot and the Keyboard

Eric M. Witchey

Every writer is at one point or another exposed to these two things: Joseph Campbell and resistance to writing. Is it surprising at all that instead of actually writing fiction I’m scribbling about two concepts I wrestle with every day? After all, isn’t talking about doing something very nearly the same as doing it?

My World of the Everyday

This morning, the alarm didn’t go off.

I should be so lucky that I sleep until my alarm actually goes off.

You see, in my tribe of one, I’m dissatisfied with my world. My restlessness gives me fitful dreams and early mornings.

Ah, but there are good things, things that represent home and hearth to me. One is my morning cup of steaming, Italian Dark Roast espresso. In spite of my dissatisfaction with my lot amid the familiar things of life in my small village, I take pleasure in my skill in grinding, measuring, pouring, boiling, filtering, smelling, and sipping my dark elixir.

I lift my mug to lips, savoring the aroma and anticipating my first sip.

The Call to Action

Then, up in my bedroom, the Marvin the Martian spaceship alarm clock explodes into its 90 decibel, digital simulation of lift-off.

My promise to myself is that today I will move beyond my own boundaries, failed attempts at eloquence, and cyclic, self-defeating thoughts. Today, I will leave my village of one and enter the dark woods of creativity where none but those who dare to venture forth know what might await.

I gulp down my magic elixir, forgetting to savor because I’m already seeing the future greatness that shall be me once I leave this wretched village and pen a deathless tome.

Resisting the Call

But first, I’ll clean the kitchen, which amounts to resisting the call, which is never, ever a good idea. Everyone knows that resisting the call means immediate deterioration. I know it. I do it anyway. I wet the sponge. I swipe at the counters. I sweep the floor. I face the crud-caked microwave.

The clock on the microwave counts f***ing seconds. Seconds! Who the hell needs to know what time it is to the f***ing second?

Apparently, Mennonites think I do. I don’t know any Mennonites, but they know me. Mennonites. Minions. Is it coincidence that I think of dark Sunday coats and muse on the idea that the two words could be modified slightly to make them near rhymes?

I think not! There is darkness in the world.

I can feel my coffee buzz rising to a crescendo as I wipe away last night’s bean and bacon soup explosion from the inside of the microwave. By the time I’m done, my buzz is fading. The self-loathing is growing. The clock is counting the seconds of my mortality off with annoying precision in digital block numbers that remind me that I’m dissatisfied with the tribe of one and its limitations. I must take action if I want to stop my own deterioration.

The Wise One and Magical Potions

Memory, ghostly and strange, brings me the voice of the sister-in-law I once rented a room from, who tells me in her most wise, sepulchral Japanese voice, “Go, Eric! Go! Only doing gets it done!”

Spurred on by my memory of the wise one, I make a new cup of coffee and head for the archway into the hall that leads through the shadowy back of the house and toward the…

Threshold Guardian

The sphinx holds the archway, blocking my path to my path.

Okay, not so much a sphinx as a pug-sized, 14 year-old mutt of mixed origins, profound deafness, near blindness, and extreme wobbliness. I try to step past, but he senses me and stumbles to the side, placing his frail, pathetic body nearly under my foot.

Very clever.

He knows that every writer knows that you can’t hurt the dog.

Catching myself, and protecting the newly brewed elixir I carry from sloshing over onto the frail guardian and my village’s symbolically overloaded now-soiled-but-once-upon-a-time white carpet, I step back into the kitchen and ponder the guardian and how to vanquish it.

My life reading mythopoeic tales is not wasted. The answer comes to me as if by magic. Guess its name.

That often does the trick. I’ll start with an invocation. “Thy name is Zeke,” I say.

No response.

I pull out the big gun magic word. “Tuna?

Ah, now I have his attention. I have answered his riddle before it has been asked.

Did I say he’s really, really old in dog years? As if to warn me of terrible things to come, he squats like a little girl dog and pees, further soiling the symbolically overloaded carpet.

Tuna, indeed! In my mental notebook of vanquishing spells, I make a notation. Do not overexcite the frail threshold guardian.

I clean the carpet and feed the guardian, thus vanquishing him and learning that beyond the archway await trials and tribulations too terrible for him to speak.

The Dark Woods and Learning the New Rules

Stepping over the wet spot, I enter the dark dinning nook.

There, I must pass traps set by minions—or perhaps Minionites. Who can say what true Minioinite-owned parent corporation controls the Time Magazine left open on the dining room altar? Like a siren’s song, pretty pictures beckon. Jennifer Aniston got a haircut. Jeff Bezos now owns the Washington Post. A drone killed someone who was not in the NSA skimming through this blog to find out what I’m up to.

Foul spell! Evil tempter! Archaic media format! Begone. Leave me be! Leave me be!

I shake off the darkness that settles slowly over those who read news before writing fiction. I sip my elixir of clarity and motivation, and I consider returning to the kitchen to let the Mennonites reheat the elixir to a reasonable temperature for quaffing.

The Minionites nearly had me, but my encounter with my first trial has made me wiser, stronger.

Staggering away from the breakfast nook, I set my course for the stairs on the other side of the living room.

Yes. If I can make it to the stairs, I may be able to rise above the trials of the shadowy living room, move beyond the soul-tugging shelves of books I have collected but never read, slip around the sudden, mystical need to dust tchotchkes and alphabetize by author.

My elixir is nearly gone, but it has served me well. I swallow the last. I am now alone with myself—with whatever innate powers I was born to and whatever knowledge I have gained along the way.

Encounter with the Minionites

The Minionites call my name.

No, it’s my ringtone. My cell phone is in the bathroom off the short hall at the bottom of the stairs.

I had not considered that the Minionites might be in league with the evil Japanese wizard Sam Sung, a Galaxy III class wizard and master of many apps to beguile me. Who could think of such a union until confronted with it? Who could resist the need to silence Sam’s call? Braver souls than mine have succumbed to the subtle, insidious mental magic and answered the call—lifted, poked, then stared at a fixed point while ignoring all around them. The Lotus Eaters themselves would have risen from their bowers of bliss to answer.

But I have learned! I have grown! I have voicemail!

Ha, Minionites! Ha! I bite my thumb at thee, Sam Sung! Fie, I say! Fie!

The stairs are mine!

Confronting a Lieutenant of the Evil One

I rise upward toward the land wherein the grail hath been hid. There, a framed gateway pours forth beams of ultraviolet, spectrum-adjusted, high luminosity seasonal affective disorder busting brilliance. Just beyond resides The Oak Roll Top Altar of Creation and the rune-etched keyboard through which I will cast my spells upon the hearts and minds of the needful.

I rise and press forward, ever watchful for an attack I feel must come, a…

A spider!

Huge and hairy and spindly-legged, it dangles from the doorframe, challenging me, testing me. This is no mere apparition or household pest. No, clearly the UV, spectrum-adjusted sparkling of its many, many-faceted eyes reveals the true magical nature of the vile beast. This is more than a Minionite! This is more than a guardian! This is a confidant, a true loyal to the desires of the darkness that I now know is named Sam Sung.

It beckons. I can almost hear its Vincent Price voice call to me, “Embrace me! Do battle with me! Show me what it is that makes my master tremble so when your name is spoken.”

The trick here is suddenly clear to me. Battle joined, I would no doubt win. I have size and speed and hard-earned tools. The empty elixir mug alone would be enough to end the existence of this creature, but there is more at stake here than vanquishing a foe.

As with all moments, I live in this moment. It will define me. My actions will name me truly hero or merely another of the many who have fallen to violent impulse and selfish desires.

“No, lieutenant of darkness, I will not fight. I will not raise my hand against thee. My quarrel is not with you, nor is yours with me.”

“Fight, Coward!” He drops to the floor and scuttles, fangs raised, toward my feet.

“I am not like you or your dark lord! I embrace the UV, spectrum-adjusted, mood altering light and will not fall into the shadows from whence you came!”

I choose my action and define myself. I do not kill. I do not capture and release outside. I step over the spider, humiliating him with my demonstration of his irrelevance. I have stepped past the last obstacle.

The Final Confrontation

Into the glow—into the embrace of light, I pass. To the altar of imagination and self-expression, I step. Into the throne, I settle. Incantations and careful hand passes of mystic power bring The Oak Roll Top Altar of Creation to life.

But Sam Sung knows of my victory over his minionites and his lieutenant. He marshals all his powers against me.

His evil corrupts even the altar of creation.

Allison wants to be my special friend, wants me to chat, to share naughty secrets, perhaps to meet and see what comes of it.

Minionite! Begone! Route thee to the garbage files!

Blue pill promises potency beyond my wildest dreams (and hers—probably Allison).

Get thee to Allison’s house!

Sam Sung himself promises me new power, power beyond my dreams, beyond his Galaxy III mastery. I, humble villager that I am, can have Galaxy IV power if only I will click here.

One click.

Only one, and the world will be mine!


I have seen this ruse before—and before, and before, and before. My life has brought me along a twisted path through dark rooms to this moment, and I deny thee and all thy Minionites, Sam Sung!

Not local Milf, nor magic app, nor promise of great power, and not even your offer of great wealth if only I will help you move funds from your Nigerian accounts will stop me this day.

I rebuke thee! NO, I say! Thrice, I say, NO!

Deep within, I find a spark, a need, a moment of purest hope. With all my tested spirit, I fan that spark. I feed it my dreams and nurture it with my hopes. I open a blank file of purest potential, and I place my fingers upon the rune-etched keys.

The Grail is Found!

Free, healed, and in the moment to which I was destined to come, I give my triumph back to the world. I type, “It was a dark and…”


IFD Publishing has just released one of my science fiction novelettes. It’s a scifi romance that proves that even crazy people can make long distance love work. Beware the Boojum is currently available for 99 cents at your favorite ebook outlet. Enjoy, and remember to review.

Amazon: Bewared the Boojum

Barnes & Noble: Beware the Boojum