Archive for March, 2019

Welcome to the March 2019 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

The long-time distributor of THE VAMPIRE’S CRYPT has closed its website. If you would like to read any issue of this fanzine, which contains fiction, interviews, and a detailed book review column, e-mail me to request the desired issue, and I’ll send you a free PDF of it. My e-mail address is at the end of this newsletter. Find information about the contents of each issue on this page of my website:

Vampire’s Crypt

A complete list of my available works, arranged roughly by genre, with purchase links (gradually being updated as the Amber Quill and Ellora’s Cave works are being republished):

Complete Works

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. These items include some of the short stories that used to be on Fictionwise:
Barnes and Noble

Go here and scroll down to “Available Short Fiction” for a list of those stories with their Amazon links:
Kindle Works

Here’s the list of my Kindle books on Amazon. (The final page, however, includes some Ellora’s Cave anthologies in which I don’t have stories):
Carter Kindle Books

Here’s a shortcut URL to my author page on Amazon:
Amazon

In March, The Romance Reviews website is celebrating its eighth anniversary with contests and giveaways. I’m participating, and my featured day will be March 19. I’m giving away a PDF of my vampire novel DARK CHANGELING:

The Romance Reviews

The excerpt below comprises the opening scene of “Cracked Portal,” one of the fantasy stories reprinted in my collection HARVEST OF MAGIC:

Harvest of Magic

This month I’m interviewing mystery, suspense, and paranormal author Julie M. Howard.

*****

Interview with Julie M. Howard:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I started reading very early and just absolutely, completely and fanatically fell in love with stories of all types. At first, it was fairy tales and Dr. Seuss, then the Brothers Grimm, and then onto all genres, from memoir to horror to historical fiction. I was jealous from the start that people created these stories, and knew I wanted to do this too. I became a reporter and editor for a career, and so wrote lots of non-fiction per se, but my first love has always been fiction. I feel so incredibly lucky I get to spend my time writing books now. It’s the best job in the world!

What genres do you work in?

Primarily mystery, but I do have an unpublished historical fiction manuscript in my desk drawer. My first two books are mystery/suspense and the most recent book, Spirited Quest, is a paranormal mystery.

Do you outline, “wing it,” or something in between?

I start with a good outline, so I have the general plot and story arc in place. I’ll jot down some key scenes I want to cover. From there, I basically wing it. My outline changes and stretches in places, but I don’t stress out about that. Once the characters come alive on the pages, I let them direct the story.

What have been the major influences on your writing (favorite authors, life experiences, or whatever)?

One of my favorite authors is John Steinbeck. I love how he could take a serious subject and create interesting characters to teach readers about it. Good and evil. The haves and have-nots. Human frailties. In the back of my mind, I’m always wondering “What is it I’m trying to say with my story?”

You’ve ghost-written a nonfiction book—what was that process like?

Ghost-writing “Making my Own Luck,” a memoir by a Hewlett-Packard executive, was amazing for a couple of reasons. First, I was able to spend time with Ray Smelek, who knew both Bill Hewlett and David Packard. He was one of the early employees with HP and later started HP’s printing business. So, from a historical perspective, the project was fascinating. I also had a great time learning how to build a story over the course of a book – quite different than writing a newspaper article. I learned a book is not just a longer story – there’s a story arc to be developed. That’s when I decided to take a couple of classes to hone my book-writing skills.

Please tell us about your Wild Crime series. Your website mentions “domestic suspense”; how would you define that subgenre?

Ah, aren’t all relationships a story of domestic suspense? Love me, don’t love me? Who’s making dinner? Will we make it to twenty years?
All kidding aside, my books take on the marriage of a woman who comes to realize she’s in an abusive relationship. Not all abuse is violent or overt. Her abuse creeps up so slowly until, one day, she starts fantasizing about killing her husband. Things get worse from there.
The series picks at the scab of a wounded marriage, and brings healing to my main character.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the last book in the Wild Crime series. This one is simply called “Wild Crime.” I hope to send it to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, sometime this spring. I’ve also started developing a new mystery series that I’ll start just as soon as my current project is finished.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never give up. And never stop believing in yourself. This is a competitive business, but that has nothing to do with your value and the value of the story you want to tell. Keep at it. Expect rejection. And write some more.

What’s the URL of your website? Your blog? Where else can we find you on the web?

Julie M. Howard Website,
Blog

I’m also on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter

Goodreads

Facebook: @JulieMHowardAuthor

Twitter: @_JulieMHoward

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

MISTRESS OF THE WIND, by E. Rose Sabin. Book One of the Arucadi series. Kyla, a windspeaker, serves her fellow townsfolk by communing with the wind to predict weather and warn of dangers that might threaten the village. The most dire of those are mindstealers, quasi-humanoid monsters that leave their victims mindless or dead. At the age of twelve, Kyla lost her parents to these creatures. Now, as a young woman, she receives only grudging respect from her neighbors, who often express doubts that the service she performs justifies the material support they give her. Her life changes when she rescues a man who has been attacked by mindstealers and left mindless. With the coerced help of a mindstealer she captures, she restores the victim to his senses. The magnetically attractive young man identifies himself as a famous mage, Alair. He seems strangely ungrateful for his rescue and impatient to find someone called Claid. Claid turns out to be his capricious familiar, in the form of a preteen boy. As a “reward” for Kyla’s help, Alair gives Claid to her. Her troubles begin when she takes the boy home with her. Misfortunes befall her neighbors, for which they blame Kyla. It doesn’t help that Claid seems to think she’s a mage, although she insists the windspeaking gift is not magic. He keeps referring to a “chain” that binds him to Alair and expects Kyla to free him. His only redeeming trait seems to be his reverence for the books she has inherited from her father. When Kyla and Claid are driven out of the village, they go to Alair’s home. At first Kyla thinks of the mage as a cruel master mistreating Claid, although Alair repeatedly tells her the boy is not what he seems. Unwillingly fascinated by Alair, despite the fact that (according to the tradition she has been taught) a windspeaker should have no lover but the wind, she wavers back and forth between distrust of Alair and uncertainty about Claid. When she eventually leaves the valley with Claid, she discovers the outside world to be radically different from her home. They find themselves in a sort of Victorian-level, nonmagical steampunk world. Kyla gets picked up as a vagabond and sent to a Dickensian workhouse, with Claid (now shapeshifted into the form of a baby) consigned to an orphanage. Kyla makes a friend at the workhouse and eventually learns secrets of her world, her own heritage, Claid’s true nature, and the value of her father’s books. Other than a feeling that the people outside the valley are overly quick to condemn Kyla on little evidence, I found the story engaging and satisfying. The author skillfully keeps the reader uncertain, for most of the book, whether to trust Alair or Claid and which one (if either) is more or less telling the truth. While this story reaches a conclusion with no frustrating cliffhanger elements, it has a strong sequel hook.

ORIGINS OF THE SPECIOUS, by Patricia O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman. An exploration and debunking of “myths and misconceptions” about the English language, published in 2009. The first chapter begins the book with an overview of some ways British and American English differ, the reasons for the divergences, and evidence that American English may legitimately be considered the “purer” of the two. Chapter Two, “Grammar Moses,” deconstructs “rules” that are no longer valid, many of which never were, such as the taboo on splitting infinitives. Other sections expose allegedly French-based words that aren’t and tackle the supposed origins of various proverbial expressions such as “the whole nine yards.” The authors discuss changes in pronunciation and the furor over words that have been condemned as ugly innovations (even some that have been around for centuries). The text unfolds the history of “ain’t,” which fills a need with a contraction that, unfortunately, has no grammatically “correct” equivalent. Widely believed linguistic “facts” are disproved (e.g., the vulgar term for excrement isn’t an abbreviation of “Ship High in Transit”). Chapter Eight, “Sense and Sensitivity,” delves into politically correct and incorrect vocabulary. The chapter on “Sex Education: Cleaning Up Dirty Words” debunks many erroneous beliefs about words that used to be designated as unprintable. No, the F-word, actually of venerable antiquity, does not derive from “Fornication Under Consent of the King” or any other farfetched acronym. O’Conner and Kellerman advance reasons why some fights should continue to be fought, such as reserving “unique” to mean “one of a kind” (no “quite unique” or “most unique” allowed). The book supports its points with exhaustive footnotes and includes a two-and-a-half-page bibliography. Very entertaining and informative.

SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT, by Theodora Goss. A collection of thirty-one stories and poems based on or inspired by fairy tales, some reprints, most original to this volume. All these works question “What if. . .?” or “What comes next. . .?” They make the familiar tales new and strange by switching viewpoints from “hero” to “villain” or changing time and/or place to a different milieu. To mention only a few: The poem “The Ogress Queen” offers the perspective of the prince’s cannibalistic mother from the second part of “Sleeping Beauty,” the follow-up that never seems to get into children’s books and movies. “The Rose in Twelve Petals” explores “Sleeping Beauty” from a variety of viewpoints, including that of the witch who casts the “curse”; beginning in what appears to be a nineteenth-century setting, it concludes a century later, when the “prince” breaks through the thorn hedge on a bulldozer instead of a horse. The poem “The Clever Serving Maid” reflects on the exchange of identities between the princess / goose girl and her maid from the viewpoint of the maid, who doesn’t want to marry a prince anyway. In “The Other Thea,” the heroine has to visit the castle of Mother Night in the Other Country to reunite with her lost shadow. The poem “Goldilocks and the Bear” portrays Goldilocks and the young bear as childhood friends who grow up to get married, while “Sleeping with Bears,” a comedy-of-manners story, features a wedding between a human girl and the scion of a wealthy bear family. In the poem “The Gold-Spinner,” the miller’s daughter, who actually spun straw into gold on her own, makes up the tale of a strange little man to get out of marrying the king. In the story “Red as Blood and White as Bone,” set in an imaginary central European country in the first half of the twentieth century, the narrator, an orphaned kitchen-maid in a nobleman’s castle, befriends a strange woman she believes—under the influence of fairy tales—to be a princess in disguise. The “princess” turns out to be something quite different but equally mysterious, on a mission that doesn’t involve marrying the prince. A witch tells the heroine of “Seven Shoes” that she will get what she wants after wearing through seven pairs of shoes; the poem follows her through successive stages of her life to the point where, having worn out many types of shoes, she attains her dream of becoming a writer. A must-read for fans of re-imagined fairy tales.

*****

Excerpt from “Cracked Portal”:

A pale glow from no visible source etched the silhouettes of gnarled, leafless trees against a silver and steel-blue landscape. Glenys trudged through an earthbound cloud of gray mist that swirled around her bare feet and ankles. What she glimpsed of the dark sky showed neither moon nor stars. Something shrieked in the distance.

From above, a winged creature with a barbed tail swooped at her. She crouched, covering her head. The flying thing’s talons clawed her arms, and its tail whipped her in passing. Rolling away from the attack, she cast a lightning bolt at the flyer. With a shrill cry, it veered skyward. Glenys scrambled to her feet and staggered toward an oval of violet light she could barely see between the trees. Vines looped around her legs and scratched her with their thorns.

The same as the night before, she reached the violet beacon just as a hot blast of wind with an odor of charred meat hit her from behind. A high-pitched whine drilled into her skull. She glanced back to catch sight of a smoke-hued, serpentine form as big around as her own body and so long she couldn’t see its other end. It charged toward her. She plunged through the portal…

#
Glenys slammed onto the workroom floor. Sitting up, she saw by the moonlight shining through the window that she’d again landed inside the ritual circle painted on the polished wood. She brushed at her dust-streaked night shift and rubbed the fresh bruises on her knees.

I never sleepwalk, and these are definitely not dreams. I’ve been…elsewhere.

She shoved herself upright and limped into the bedroom where she’d lain down to sleep a few hours earlier. After washing her scrapes and cuts, she spread healing salve on them, augmented by a murmured spell. If nothing else, the wounds proved the reality of her experience. She stretched out on the bed, drawing slow, deep breaths to force herself to relax.

No wonder the town council of Willowford had offered her the old wizard’s vacant house during her visit. Doubtless nobody else would want to spend a night here. Why would he have cast a portal spell and left it running wild? Something must have gone wrong with his magic. Whatever it was, she’d have to fix it or cut her stay short. She’d come here to treat injuries and ailments beyond the scope of the village healer, scry for lost trinkets or wandering livestock, and predict the chances of success for harried business-folk or desperate lovers. She hadn’t counted on getting repeatedly dragged into a pocket dimension infested with monsters.

-end of excerpt-

My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
Hard Shell Word Factory: Hard Shell
Whiskey Creek: Whiskey Creek
Wild Rose Press: Wild Rose Press

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

“Beast” wishes until next time—
Margaret L. Carter