Archive for December, 2019

Welcome to the December 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!

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:

My Goodreads page:

Happy winter holidays to all!
My one Christmas story, “Little Cat Feet,” appears in my collection DAME ONYX TREASURES. Only $3.99 in e-book format!

Dame Onyx Treasures

My tale was inspired by the legend that animals can talk on Christmas Eve (as immortalized in the song “The Friendly Beasts”). A teenage runaway and a stray cat help each other. There’s an excerpt below.

Herewith I’m interviewing Colleen Driscoll, author of children’s books and romantic thrillers.


Interview with Colleen Driscoll:

What inspired you to begin writing?

That is an interesting story. Ten years ago, I was bed-ridden with a terrible stomach virus on Christmas Day. By the time I felt better two days later, I was upset because I had missed having Christmas with my husband and four children. My mind wandered and I began imagining what the elves did at the North Pole. The idea of writing my first children’s story struck me. I was fortunate to find a publisher for the book and the book was published two years later. When I was launching that book, I met other authors and decided to write a novel.

What genres do you work in?

Besides my children’s books, I wrote my first novel—a romantic thriller.

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

For my children’s stories, I think about the idea and then I start writing. For my first adult novel, I started out “winging it,” writing out scenes that I thought played important parts in the story. Then I filled in the empty holes. It was a learning process and I wouldn’t recommend it. Currently, I’m writing the second book in the Euphoria trilogy and I have an outline. I have learned from my mistakes from the first book and have a better idea of what publishers and editors want.

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

My children have influenced my children’s books, and my life experiences working in the clinical laboratory certainly have a major influence on my writing. Barbara Parks was one of my favorite children’s authors. In the adult circle, I love reading Robin Cook’s medical thrillers and like the idea of introducing controversial medical issues into writing.

What do you think are the particular challenges of writing for children?

The biggest challenge is writing topics that are unique and interest large groups of children.

Did you deal directly with the illustrator(s) of your books, or did the publisher make the arrangements? How does the process work?

When my publisher contacted me regarding my first children’s book, she said I could use the company’s illustrator, but I would be in the queue behind the other authors under contract. The publisher gave me an option to use my own illustrator if I didn’t want to wait. I am a very impatient person, so I contacted an art teacher whom my sister recommended, and he turned out to be an illustrator! After some necessary paperwork, the illustrator sent me the first sketches after two months. Five months later, he completed the illustrations. The experience was wonderful and exciting. He was great to work with and I met him a year after my book was published; I conducted an author visit at the school where he worked. It was a cool experience for the students that day to meet the author and the illustrator of a book.

Did you have direct involvement in the production of the audiobook versions, and how does that work?

Two of my children’s books are in audiobook. I went to a recording studio and recorded the story using my family as the voices of the characters. For the first book, Piper the Elf Trains Santa, I also used the recording studio to record the Piper the Elf Theme Song, in hopes that the story will be made into a children’s Christmas show someday. When the second Piper the Elf book was released, I learned more about the requirements needed to put the audiobook on Amazon. My publisher was very supportive. The recording studio followed the required specifications, and my family recorded the voices in the story Piper the Elf and Santa’s Rockin’ Band. I also recorded three additional original songs that related to the story. Then I submitted the recordings and the publisher did the rest, making it available on Amazon. My newly released thriller, Finding Euphoria, just had an audiobook version released last month. The publishing company submitted my name to the pool of narrators and someone auditioned for the book. After the contract was signed, the narrator taped the audio version of the story. The process took a few months for the narrator to record the story and then I had to review the recording and request any changes. Once that step was completed, the audiobook was accepted on Amazon.

What is your latest-released or soon-forthcoming work?

My latest released book was Finding Euphoria, a romantic thriller, which released this past March. I also have an illustrator working on illustrations for my next children’s book.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the second story in the Euphoria trilogy—Losing Euphoria, Trust No One.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Join a writer’s group and don’t get discouraged with writing. There is always a home for your story.

What’s the URL of your website? Your blog? Where else can we find you on the web?
Colleen Driscoll
C. Becker

I’m not a big blogger. Between my other life’s duties, I have to give up certain aspects that some writers do. All of my books can be found on Amazon. My Christmas children’s books can be found in the Headline Books website:

Headline Books

My novel is found on The Wild Rose Press and all the major retailers, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, B&N.


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

GWENDY’S MAGIC FEATHER, by Richard Chizmar. This sequel to GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX, written by Chizmar and Stephen King, returns to Castle Rock when Gwendy, now age 37, is a Democratic Congresswoman from Maine and married to a photojournalist. The story takes place in December 1999, building up to the Y2K millennial turnover, with brief flashbacks to catch up on how Gwendy got to her present status. It’s told in the present tense (even the flashbacks), annoyingly, since there’s no apparent narrative justification for that choice, but I got used to it quickly enough to enjoy the novel. Gwendy has had a very successful life, for the most part. As an author, she has enjoyed excellent sales and lucrative movie deals. She finds her service in Congress fulfilling and lives happily in her home town when not required to be in Washington. At present, her mother is in recovery from cancer, while Gwendy’s husband is working in a war zone and may or may not make it home for Christmas. Meanwhile, the U.S. is embroiled in a crisis with North Korea. This novel takes place in an alternate America with a President clearly modeled on the Current Incumbent. At this point, the button box Gwendy has managed to keep out of her mind for the past couple of decades inexplicably shows up again. She fights the temptations to eat the magical chocolate candies it dispenses or push any of the buttons. Even so, the box seems to grant her some sort of clairvoyance that either didn’t exist before or remained latent. That’s where her personal story intersects with the local mystery of three girls who’ve disappeared, with no indication of whether they’re alive or dead. I quickly got emotionally involved with Gwendy, and the other characters, major and minor, are vivid and engaging. Like the previous book, GWENDY’S MAGIC FEATHER has an intimate, gentle tone despite the backdrop of various crises. The titular feather makes only a few brief appearances but does play a pivotal role. I still haven’t decided whether the mysterious “Richard Farris” is an incarnation of Randall Flagg or just an in-joke allusion. His role as tempter would suggest the former, yet he seems far more benign than Flagg in his various appearances throughout King’s canon. Farris’s reassurance to Gwendy that her accomplishments and choices are her own, not engineered by the button box, hints that both the “magic feather” and the button box itself may derive their energy from some innate psychic power she unconsciously possesses.

ANNO DRACULA 1999: DAIKAIJU, by Kim Newman. Coincidentally, the latest novel in Newman’s long-running alternate history series also takes place at the end of 1999, in this case entirely on New Year’s Eve as the world anticipates a Y2K catastrophe. While I don’t consider any of the later installments in the series up to the high standard of the first two, ANNO-DRACULA and BLOODY RED BARON, I’ve enjoyed reading them. This one, for my taste, suffers from consisting of nearly nonstop violent action. I skimmed a lot of the scenes for that reason. Nevertheless, it does perpetuate the fun of spotting pop culture references and contemplating how the twentieth century would have developed differently with vampires as an openly embraced feature of the zeitgeist. Doubtless I would have appreciated the book more if more of the allusions had been familiar to me, but the ones I did get were entertaining—for instance, the passing mention of “Hamish Bond,” a British secret agent who, as a drunken womanizer, is assigned to missions where he can do the least possible damage. Vampire princess Christina Light (aka the Henry James character Princess Casamassima) throws a lavish New Year’s Eve party in the titular Daikaiju, a skyscraper in Tokyo shaped like a giant dragon. Hint—its resemblance to a gargantuan monster from a Japanese SF film isn’t accidental. We also get references to the Bund, a vampire enclave within the city, a clear allusion to the manga series DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND. Principal characters include, among others, an amnesiac man with a cybernetic left hand that talks back to him (surely inspired by VAMPIRE HUNTER D), a human agent of the Diogenes Club, and a katana-wielding Japanese schoolgirl who’s actually an ancient vampire but still thinks and behaves like a schoolgirl. A mysterious terrorist organization drives the action, and secrets are revealed as the hours advance toward midnight. Fans of this series will want to add this novel to their bookshelves.

DRACUL, by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker. I liked this book more than I expected to. I could hardly pass up reading a DRACULA prequel co-written by Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew, although I was skeptical of how well the literary pretense that the novel’s events really happened (and that those traumatic experiences explain the writing of DRACULA) would work. The research into Stoker’s family and early life appears thorough and credible, as one would expect. The framing narrative, set in 1868, begins with Bram Stoker trapped in a tower, struggling to stay awake and fend off the vampire threat lurking outside. We then revert to his childhood, when he suffered from an unidentified disease that kept him largely bedridden until the age of seven. He and his sister Matilda covertly investigate their nanny, Ellen Crone, whose state of health and apparent age mysteriously fluctuate. The reader soon realizes she’s some kind of vampire, although she seems to be a benevolent one, at least to Bram, since she heals him of his chronic illness. After she unaccountably vanishes following several eerie events, the action skips to Bram’s young manhood. He’s working in a civil service position and beginning his side gig as a theater critic, his true enthusiasm (which later led to his lifelong role as actor Henry Irving’s manager). Both Matilda and Bram imagine they catch glimpses of Ellen, who doesn’t appear to have aged, as well as a man they know to have died years earlier. Their brother Thornley’s wife, meanwhile, is deranged and getting worse. The three siblings eventually become aware of the existence of vampires, with the help of distinguished linguist and Eastern European specialist Arminius Vambery (whom, according to Stoker’s real-life biography, he didn’t actually meet until much later, and who is sometimes cited as a possible inspiration for Van Helsing in DRACULA). A wild, suspenseful plot follows, with layers upon layers of dark secrets unearthed. Bram, of course, survives, although the family doesn’t get through without severe trauma and lingering scars. Although I remained emotionally distanced from the characters and the plot, I have to acknowledge the creeping horror and the atmospheric writing. The concluding Authors’ Note maintains the illusion that this collection of documents (journals, letters, memoirs, etc.) constitutes an authentic discovery that reveals the secret biographical sources of DRACULA. While I hope no reader would take this conventional literary device for truth, stranger things have happened. I was mostly able to suspend disbelief in the documentation—I’ve been a big fan of epistolary narrative structure since my first reading of DRACULA, at age twelve—but some aspects strain credibility too far. Thornley somehow transcribes after the fact, from memory, Vambery’s oral translation of a crucial manuscript? Bram’s writing his memoir while trapped in a ruined tower besieged by vampires is also a bit hard to accept. Nevertheless, most DRACULA fans will probably find points of interest in this deeply researched horror novel.


Excerpt from “Little Cat Feet”:
Just as Lauren was working up the nerve to try a door on one of the deserted rowhouses, she heard a noise from the alley next to it. Her first impulse was to run the other way. She definitely had no desire to meet anybody else prowling the night, somebody who might be a mugger or a crazed drug addict. When she heard the sound repeated, though, she paused. A screech…no, more like a yowl. It reminded her of an enraged cat. Another noise mingled with it—laughter.

Lauren tiptoed to the alley and peeked around the corner of the building. The wan glow from a nearby street lamp cast just enough light into the shadows to reveal two dark-haired boys who looked her age or a little older. They stood over a super-size garbage can. The cries came from there. Definitely a cat. One of the boys held a broom, which he kept poking into the can.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” She mentally cursed the way her voice wobbled.

One of the guys, lean and wiry with a buzz-cut, flashed a grin at her. “Who’s asking?”

“What’s in that can?” Glad she sounded a little more confident this time, she marched up to them.

The second boy, taller and broader with his black hair in a ponytail, said, “None of your business. Get lost. Unless you want to have some fun with us.” He made a grab for the front of her jacket.

Dodging, Lauren peered into the can. It was almost full of water. Inside, a cat paddled frantically. An orange tabby, as far as she could make out the color of its sodden fur in the dim light. Its cries drilled into her skull like an ice pick stabbing her eardrums.

A flush of anger flooded her cheeks. A pulse hammered in her temples. “Let it go!” she screamed.

The cat scrambled to the edge of the can and hooked its claws over the rim. The pony-tailed boy jabbed the animal with the broom to force it back into the water. With an inarticulate shriek of rage, Lauren seized the broomstick and threw her whole weight against it.

“Yo, bitch, what do you think you’re doing?” The boy fought to wrestle the broom out of her grip.

From the corner of her eye, she saw the cat scrabbling at the edge of the can again. Meanwhile, the other boy grabbed her arm. Whirling around, she smacked him with the bristled end. He yelled a curse and gave her a hard shove. She staggered, and the hefty guy wrenched the broom out of her hands and tossed it on the ground.

The cat leaped free of the can and dashed out of the alley. The thin boy slapped Lauren across the face. With tears of pain and fury blurring her vision, she faced the two punks, her fingers curled as if she had claws herself.

“That wasn’t nice. We had a bet,” the guy with the ponytail said.

Breathing hard, she glowered at him. “What bet?”

“How long a cat can tread water before it drowns.” His hand shot out to grab the collar of her jacket. “You should pay for screwing up the game. Let’s see what you got for us.” He tugged the zipper down to reveal the sweatshirt she wore underneath.

When she tried to pull free, his friend caught both of her arms and twisted them behind her. The pain forced a scream from her. Why didn’t somebody hear it and come to her rescue?

Come here? Who am I kidding?

The bigger boy clutched her pendant. “Yo, what’s this? Real silver?”

Her heart pounding furiously, she said, “Don’t touch that.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.” He broke the chain with a quick jerk.

Lauren writhed in the smaller boy’s grasp. “Give that back!” she cried. “It’s my grandmother’s!”

“Yeah? What’ll you give us for it?” the boy with the buzz-cut asked. Relaxing his hold, he snaked one hand down her front to squeeze a breast, hard, through her shirt. Her head reeled with fear and anger. She kicked the larger boy in the shin, then wiggled around to face the smaller one. She drove a knee into his groin. He doubled over, groaning.

Hey, that really works!

The hefty guy was reaching for her. She shoved the palm of her hand into his nose. The crunching noise made her stomach lurch, but he stumbled backward. Thank God her mom had made her practice those moves.

Mentally giving thanks for her time on the girls’ cross-country team, too, Lauren bolted for the street. She sprinted around the corner and ducked into the next alley she came to. There, she dropped to her knees behind a dumpster and huddled in the deepest pool of shadow.

Unless she got super lucky, they would find her sooner or later. Probably sooner. The snow wasn’t falling heavily enough to cover her tracks right away. Meanwhile, those jerks had her pendant. Grandmama’s pendant. Fresh tears welled in her eyes. She choked down a sob to keep from making a noise that would give her away.

Now that she’d stopped running, the cold hit her anew. She hugged herself and shivered while the wind spattered her with damp snowflakes. She heard the two punks yelling to each other as they searched along the street. Another sound cut into her misery, a low hiss.

Glancing up and rubbing her eyes with a gloved hand, she found the orange tabby staring at her. Its pawprints lined up beside her own footprints. With a flick of its tail, the cat paced toward the far end of the alley.

A female voice said, “This way. Quickly, before those two catch up with you.”

Lauren looked frantically from side to side, searching for the woman who’d spoken.

The cat trotted back to her and rubbed insistently against her leg. “Get up! What are you waiting for? Follow me.” She headed for the alley’s outlet again.

Okay, that cat did not talk. I’m dreaming or losing my mind.

Nevertheless, the animal acted as if it wanted to lead Lauren somewhere, and it wasn’t like she had a better plan. She hauled herself to her feet and hurried after her feline guide. Around the back of the rowhouse that marked one side of the alley, the cat led her to a stoop and a boarded-up door. Behind the boards, the door stood an inch or two ajar. Picking its way up the three concrete steps, the cat nudged a spot where the planks had been broken to create a narrow opening.

-end of excerpt-


My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
Whiskey Creek: Whiskey Creek
Wild Rose Press: Wild Rose Press

You can contact me at:

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