Archive for January, 2020

Welcome to the January 2020 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 New Year!

One of my favorites of my own novellas is “Fantasia Quest,” in which the heroine and hero get trapped inside the beta test of a hyper-realistic computer roleplaying game. Fortunately, when I wrote the story, I hadn’t viewed or read any of several anime and manga featuring “stuck in a game” premises, such as the excellent SWORD ART ONLINE. If I’d known how often that plot premise had been used already, I might not have dared to write it myself. But, then, as often pointed out, there are only so many plots in the world. I’m currently following the novels, manga, and anime of RE-ZERO, whose hero isn’t literally stuck in a game, but he’s trapped in a predicament reminiscent of game-death outcomes. So “Fantasia Quest” came to mind. It’s in the collection DAME ONYX TREASURES, which you can find here:

Dame Onyx Treasures

In the excerpt below, Rolf, Carrie’s partner, is one of the game designers; Graystreak is her flying-squirrel familiar; Zack is a rival at the game company; Rolf’s “singing sword” plays show tunes.

Our first interview of 2020 features romance and mystery author Sadira Stone.


Interview with Sadira Stone:

What inspired you to begin writing?

Even as a tiny child, I entertained myself by spinning tales in my head. Most kids do, I’m sure, but mine were elaborate fan fic epics based on TV shows like Batman and Star Trek. I’d fill my school notebooks with scenes and doodle illustrations in the margins. Eventually, I started writing stories based entirely on my own characters. I wish I’d kept those early scribblings.

What genres do you work in?
I’ve published two contemporary romance novels and one horror short story. I have a couple still-unpublished cozy mysteries.

Do you outline, “wing it,” or something in between?
With each project, I become more of a plotter. I’m still trying out different techniques, from sticky note collages to scene cards to beat sheets. However, I always end up revising the outline as I write, since the characters insist on having their say.

What have been the major influences on your writing (favorite authors, life experiences, or whatever)?
Joining the Romance Writers of America was the best investment I’ve made in my writing career. Romance writers are a generous bunch, and through RWA I’ve learned so much about the craft and business of writing. Of course, I read top sellers and award winners in my genre to learn what works and what readers enjoy. Also, listening to romance reader podcasts teaches me about how readers react to various tropes, styles, subgenres, etc.

How have your experiences with serving in the Army and living in Germany affected your fiction?
I wish I had some warrior-woman tales to tell, but I was an army legal clerk working in the JAG office. After my enlistment ended, I returned to the U.S. to get my teaching degree (English, French, German, theater), then went back to Germany where I taught high school to the kids of U.S. military families. Thus, I’ve travelled more than most public-school teachers simply because I was stationed there. Working with military families introduced me to people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Perhaps this helped me craft believable characters who don’t all look and sound alike.

What kinds of research do you do in writing mystery?
Poisons, car chases, how to escape when bound with duct tape, rigor mortis, firearms, arson, police department hierarchy and jurisdiction…I’ve found cops to be very generous in sharing their experiences and correcting my misperceptions.

Please tell us about your new book.
Runaway Love Story, Book Two in the Book Nirvana series, takes readers back to Clara’s bookshop in Eugene, Oregon, where we meet Laurel, her newest employee.

Chasing a big-city art gallery job, Laurel detours to Eugene, Oregon to help her spitfire great aunt. An eccentric, ninety-year-old artist with day-glo hair, Maxie is the only family member who supports Laurel’s artistic ambitions. But Maxie recognizes early signs of dementia and makes the tough choice to move into assisted living.
While on a run, Laurel is harassed by a group of teens until a tall, broad-shouldered hottie rescues her by pretending to be her boyfriend–with a kiss that makes her wish it were true, even though Doug seems to be the opposite of what she’s striving for— no flash, no glamour, just a solid, kind, generous guy who teaches high school and coaches cross country. Turns out, his mom, who suffers from dementia, lives in the same retirement village as Maxie.

Their surprise connection sizzles, but Doug can’t leave Eugene, and Laurel can’t stay without surrendering the career dreams that have sustained her for so long.
Doug’s only hope: To convince Laurel those big-city lights have nothing on her inner sparkle—a task that gets more complicated when a viral Twitter post about their love story spirals into Crazy Town.

Buy links:
Barnes and Noble
Apple Books
Google Play Books

What are you working on now?

Love, Art, and Other Obstacles is the working title of Book Three in the Book Nirvana series. This one features my youngest couple yet: Margot, twenty-two, is a senior in graphic design at the University of Oregon and has worked at Book Nirvana since the beginning of the series. In Runaway Love Story we meet Elmer, age twenty-six, a buff, tattooed, ginger-bearded ceramics artist. Great-aunt Maxie arranges for them to compete for the same art grant.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Learn your craft. No need for expensive courses if you’re a beginner—just check out the many excellent craft books and blogs available.

Read widely in your genre. Learn the rhythm of that type of story, and what readers expect.

Get other eyeballs on your work before submitting or publishing it. You’re too close to the story to see all the problem areas.

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

Visit Sadira on All the Socials!

Amazon Author Page
Author Newsletter


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE CASE OF THE SPELLBOUND CHILD, by Mercedes Lackey. In this new installment starring psychic warriors Nan and Sarah (with their ward, Suki) Sherlock Holmes is still presumed dead. Aside from Dr. Watson and his wife, with whom Nan and Sarah continue to work on paranormal cases, they are among the very few people who know Holmes is alive. The Great Detective, however, doesn’t play a major part in this novel, in which the Watsons, Nan, and Sarah investigate the disappearances of children in Yorkshire. First, however, the book has two bait-and-switch opening episodes. In the first chapter, a sociopathic petty crook named Alf gets murdered by an accomplice. Discovering himself to be a ghost and learning his powers and limitations, he plots revenge. The two heroines don’t show up until a supposed fellow ghost, really an ally of theirs in astral projection form, tricks Alf into appearing to Sarah in her role as a medium. One of her gifts, as readers of the series know, is to help or force ghosts to cross into the next world. The next incident, which also looks as if it might be the main plot but isn’t, involves a young woman committed to a mental institution. Suspicious of the circumstances that brought her there and wondering whether she’s being mistreated, the Watsons investigate with the help of Sarah and Nan. Finally, the story proper begins with two Yorkshire siblings, Simon and Ellie, whose frazzled, enraged mother reacts to their rambunctious behavior by throwing them out on the moor with orders not to come home until they’ve collected enough food to make up for what Simon accidentally spilled. They stumble upon a tempting cottage in the middle of nowhere, like Hansel and Gretel. Along with a handful of other children, they become captives of a terrifying figure they call the Dark One. It turns out the victims have been chosen for their magical potential, and the Dark One preys on them by draining their magical energy to fuel his or her own powers. Like Gretel tricking the witch, Ellie ingeniously works toward her escape, determined to bring help and free the other children. Meanwhile, the Watsons, Nan, Sarah, and Suki, along with their preternaturally intelligent pet birds, follow a convoluted web of clues to discover the fate of the missing children. Robin, aka Puck or the Oldest Old One, lends his help, naturally. The investigation proceeds plausibly and suspensefully, and the true nature of the Dark One is piquantly surprising. The heroes are delighted to have saved a group of children while bringing to justice a slimy energy-draining magician who used stolen powers for such mundane crimes as stealing jewelry. Not every case, as they agree at the end, has to involve saving the world.

THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL, by Laura Ruby. Set in Chicago during World War II, this novel tells the story of Italian-American teenager Frankie, her sister Toni, and their brother, consigned to an orphanage for several years even though their father is alive. When he remarried, he left them there, supposedly temporarily. Although the Guardian Angels Orphanage doesn’t treat the children like Oliver Twist in the workhouse, Frankie’s day-to-day existence is dreary enough to engage the reader’s sympathy. With boys and girls segregated, the sisters see their brother only once a week. Their father moves out west with his new family, and their brother eventually joins them. The book begins with a 1946 framing scene, when Frankie has won her independence, holding a job and moving into her own place (however cramped and poor) with Toni. It then follows her life at the orphanage from 1941 through 1945. The novel’s fantasy dimension comes from the narrator, a ghost haunting the orphanage, observing the girls while unable to interact with them. Few living people sense her presence, and she has very little power to affect physical objects. For a large part of the story, it might as well be a realistic historical novel aside from the unusual narrative perspective. Later, the ghost’s own past plays an important role, as she begins to remember her earlier existence while developing the power to move things and actively haunt some individuals. After leaving the orphanage and attempting to live with her father and his second family, Frankie, with the ghost’s help, has a violent confrontation that leads to her and Toni’s climactic flight from their toxic home. This emotionally harrowing but ultimately uplifting story conveys a strong sense of its historical milieu—not surprising, in view of what the author reveals in the afterword: The book is based not only in broad outline but in many specific details upon the real-life childhood and youth of the author’s mother-in-law.

THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ITS WORLD, by N. T. Wright, with Michael F. Bird. I’d been awaiting this book for a long time. I’ve often wished Wright, a distinguished New Testament scholar, former Anglican bishop, and now a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, would publish his theories about the authorship and dating of the Gospels. Well, this overview does that for every book in the New Testament, along with a detailed summary and analysis of each one, accompanied by sections on the life and theology of Paul in connection with his epistles. That project, however, comprises only three parts of this nine-part volume. The book also covers how to read the New Testament, its historical Greco-Roman and Jewish background, the life and mission of Jesus, the Resurrection in its cultural as well as theological context, the making of the New Testament canon, and a final section (specifically directed to practicing Christians) on “Living the Story of the New Testament.” Although much of the content reprises material from Wright’s SURPRISED BY HOPE (on Christian teaching about the afterlife) and his monumental, four-volume “Christian Origins” series (which begins with THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD), THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ITS WORLD brings together Wright’s work on those themes in one convenient location, written in a more popular style than the weighty “Christian Origins” tomes. The present book also includes a lot of additional material that makes it definitely worthwhile for anyone interested in first-century Christianity. In short, in my opinion this is the most comprehensive, readable overview of the New Testament one could ever hope for. Unfortunately, the availability and pricing have already gone wonky since the book’s publication only a few months ago. Granted, it’s a huge volume (almost 900 pages not counting bibliography, etc.) lavishly adorned with illustrations and maps, so no wonder it originally cost over $40.00 on Amazon. Now, though, the hardcover version is available only from third-party sellers, admittedly at more affordable prices. But the cost of the Kindle, which was reasonable on release date, has risen to the $40.00 range. Still, if you’re interested in the subject matter, do get a copy if possible. There’s always the library.


Excerpt from “Fantasia Quest”:

They hardly needed the map on this stage of the journey, with only one trail through the forest. The horses’ hooves left prints in the damp loam, and sparkling raindrops dripped from the leaves overhead. She felt the solid bulk of her mount’s torso under her and the leather of the reins in her grasp. To make the scene fully lifelike, the program needed only woodsy aromas, which she missed, and sore muscles from riding the whole day before, which she didn’t mind doing without. When they’d traveled two or three virtual miles, Carrie worked up the nerve to question Rolf. “You really didn’t have a clue they were canceling the beta test?”

“You said they postponed it, not canceled, right? Anyway, like I said, your message was the first I’d heard.” He stared straight ahead at the path rather than looking at her. Not that a computer-generated face would necessarily reveal a lie, anyhow.

“What if those twinges of pain were signs of an underlying problem in the code?”

“They’d have caught it at a way earlier stage.” A hint of impatience tinged his voice. “There’s nothing to worry about. If I’d thought there were, I would have canceled our session myself.”

“Fine, you’re the professional here.” Still, she mentally reserved the right to bail out if anything more serious went wrong.

After a clash with a pack of wolves, which Rolf’s bladewarden gift persuaded to accept a truce, Carrie’s acid darts made quick work of clearing a cluster of bushes that fired thorns. While the adventurers paused to pluck out the handful of thorns that had lodged in their clothes, Carrie said, “Would it be tempting fate too much to point out we’re getting challenges way below our level?”

“Yeah, it would. Trying to throw us off guard for something tougher, I’d say.”

Something tougher confronted them shortly afterward. The path narrowed, funneling them toward a rocky outcropping with a jagged hole opening into it.

“Another cave?” she said. “Or tunnel? Do we have go in?”

“What do you have in mind?”

She unrolled the map. “It seems the path continues in the same linear mode on the far side of this patch of forest. Is there anything in the program that would stop us from cutting through the trees?”

He arched his slanted eyebrows. “Sneaky. I like it. With luck, nobody thought of preventing that move.”

They turned toward the area where the gaps between trunks looked widest and the undergrowth thinnest. No more than five of the horses’ paces into the forest, the wooded landscape morphed into a solid barrier.

“Obviously somebody did think of it,” he said. “I should have figured they wouldn’t waste code on the chance players might wander off the path.”

“Big surprise. I guess it’s the hole in the rock or turn back.”

“Which isn’t an option.” When they faced the dark entrance again, he said, “We’ll need your mage light.”

She conjured the usual floating globe. They dismounted and led the horses. Just beyond the cave’s maw, the space opened up enough to let them walk side by side. “Looks like a tunnel,” Carrie said. “Would have been nice if the map had told us about it.”

Several paces on, a gossamer veil shimmered across the span. A web. Desiccated corpses of two birds and a bat hung in the network.

Rolf’s fist clenched on the hilt of his sheathed sword. “Damn. If the spider that spun this is hanging around, I don’t want to meet it. This has to be a surprise Zack planted for me.”

The tension in his voice reminded her of the arachnophobia he’d confessed. “I’ll get rid of the web.” Surrounded by rock, the strands could burn without endangering nearby plant life. At her arcane word, flame shot from her wand and engulfed the web. It blazed for a second, then crumbled to ash.

Graystreak volunteered to scout to the end of the cleft. When he glided back to Carrie’s shoulder, he said, “It’s a tunnel, and there’s a spider guarding the other end, all right. A big one.”

His face set in a strained mask, Rolf glanced at her, then back at the web. “How big?”

“You don’t want to know,” the squirrel muttered.

“I’ll find out in a second anyway. It’s not like we have an alternative.” Rolf whispered to the horses, patting their necks and commanding them to stay put. He drew his sword and strode forward.

At his side, Carrie flourished her wand to the sword’s lyrics of a spy thriller title song about a villain with a spider’s touch. Fifty paces in, they glimpsed a multi-legged lump silhouetted against a patch of daylight at the far mouth of the tunnel. It shambled toward them with a scrabbling of claws on rock. Once inside the passage, its eight eyes glinted scarlet in the dimness.

Rolf halted, a visible tremor in his upraised sword arm. The shaggy thing in front of him looked like a tarantula the size of a pony. Venom dripped from its fangs. It headed for the bladewarden, who only stared as if paralyzed.

Carrie cast an acid dart at the spider. It shuddered when the dart sizzled in its bristle-covered torso but turned toward her only for a second before looming over Rolf. He still didn’t move.

It’ll bite his head off for all I know!

“Rolf, do something!”

He took a step backward, his sword arm frozen. Shouting his name again, she charged between him and the spider. She flung a spray of rainbow dazzle at the monster’s head, blinding it. It staggered in confusion, but not before its mandibles nipped her arm. Pain stung her, brief but sharp.

She stumbled and fell to one knee.

“Crystal, no!” Rolf surged into action with a yell of rage. He sliced off two of the spider’s legs before she managed to struggle to her feet. Though he hadn’t stopped shaking, he brandished his sword between her and the monster. In spite of its temporary blindness, it scored a glancing bite on Rolf. With his mouth twisted in revulsion, he cut off a third limb.

She aimed her next acid dart at the thing’s slavering mandibles. In these close quarters, she couldn’t deploy fire or ice without hurting herself and her partner. The half-lamed spider lurched sideways.

Scuttling noises diverted her attention. A quick glance to left and right revealed a pair of four-foot-long centipedes, one on each side. Their pincers looked as lethal as the spider’s fangs. The sight made her skin prickle and her stomach turn queasy. Rolf whirled around to hack at one, then renewed his assault on the spider. Carrie launched a barrage of shadow bolts at the other centipede. The wounds oozed white fluid but didn’t slow down the crawling things.

She switched the wand to her left hand, drew her dagger with her right, and invoked a spell that converted the blade into a rapier that shone with an azure glow. The transformation wouldn’t last long, but long enough to deal with the centipedes and possibly maim the spider. She stabbed one centipede just behind its head. Sparks scintillated and the creature convulsed before shriveling up. With a shout of triumph, she dispatched the other one the same way.

-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