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Archive for May, 2020

A midsummer sailboat race is coming to Annapolis, and Celia Rossi’s 1950s-themed ice cream parlor will have a booth at the waterfront celebration. To keep her business flourishing, she needs to impress both locals and tourists on the festive day. But how? She receives unexpected help when she hires a part-time worker who pops up out of nowhere. Suzie Conroy proves to have an almost magical gift for the craft of artisanal ice cream, yet she acts clueless about some ordinary details of everyday life. And why is she so determined to churn up the perfect batch of tutti frutti?

Welcome to the May 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

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, now that the Yahoo group is useless for that purpose, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):

Newsletters

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store:
Barnes and Noble

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

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

I’ve started releasing some of my self-published e-books through Draft2Digital, so readers can buy them from outlets other than Amazon. First, DEMON’S FALL, a steamy paranormal romance novella in which a rebel angel, assigned to tempt the heroine away from her destiny as a force for good, falls in love with her instead. The Universal Book Link (UBL) leads to a page listing all the retail sites where the work is sold.

Universal Book Link for DEMON’S FALL:

Demon’s Fall

Also VAMPIRE’S TRIBUTE: TWO ROMANTIC TALES, featuring a vampire hero in a novella and a short story set in the same location about a thousand years apart. UBL for VAMPIRE’S TRIBUTE:

Vampire’s Tribute

My lighthearted ghost story “Spooky Tutti Frutti” releases May 25! It features an ice cream parlor in the Annapolis historic district and unfinished business from the 1950s. Here’s the Amazon page:

Spooky Tutti Frutti

Part of the opening scene appears below.

No original interview this month, but here’s a link to “Monstrous Voices,” a LOCUS magazine interview with Theodora Goss about the background and writing of her delightful historical dark fantasy / Victorian SF “Athena Club” trilogy, starring the daughters of the major nineteenth-century fictional mad scientists:

Monstrous Voices

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE PURSUIT OF THE PANKERA, by Robert A. Heinlein. This posthumous novel constitutes the original, previously unpublished version of Heinlein’s 1980 NUMBER OF THE BEAST. That universe-hopping adventure introduced the concept of “multipersonal solipsism” and postulated a total number of alternate dimensions so great that any imaginable world actually exists somewhere in the multiverse, including fictional worlds. According to the “Publisher’s Note,” the entire text of POTP, aside from standard editing touch-up work, is Heinlein’s, pieced together from recently discovered fragments. The Note doesn’t mention when this version is assumed to have been written. The book also includes an introduction by David Weber, a general appreciation of Heinlein’s work rather than a commentary on POTP. “Pankera” (collectively “Panki”) turns out to be the official name of the “Black Hats,” the alien invaders. Approximately the first third of the book virtually duplicates the opening of NOTB, aside from minor dialogue variations. Zebadiah John Carter meets Dejah Thoris (Deety) and her father, mad scientist Jacob Burroughs, at a party given by Hilda “Sharpie” Corners. After a mysterious attack, the four of them flee in Zeb’s ground-and-air car and promptly get married, Jake to Hilda (a lifelong friend of Jake’s late wife) and Zeb to Deety (even though they’ve just met, but, after all, John Carter and Dejah Thoris are already married). These typical super-intelligent, highly articulate, resourceful Heinlein characters end up at Jake and Deety’s high-tech mountain hideaway. After Jake installs his dimension-hopping invention in Zeb’s car, they clash with another “Black Hat,” whom they kill (after which Hilda dissects it, a scene I found fascinating, and I wish we were told more about the aliens’ anatomy and physiology). They then commence their multi-universe odyssey. The point of divergence from the 1980 book, on page 152, is helpfully marked. I definitely like this version better. NOTB is a clever romp, but it abandons the initial premise—the alien invasion—midway through and never resolves it. I found that lapse quite disappointing, despite the excursions to other universes. In addition to the foursome’s quest for a safe world wherein to settle down and hide while Hilda and Deety have their babies, POTP does follow up the war against the aliens rather than simply forgetting about it. Its conclusion feels much more like vintage Heinlein than that of NOTB. To my delight, this version includes the stops in Oz and Wonderland that also appear in the 1980 publication. The longest sections cover visits to Barsoom and the Lensman universe, and for my taste they feel just long enough. I see the absence of the Lazarus Long subplot as a decided improvement. His presence in NOTB sucks the whole rest of the story into the black hole of his dominant personality. He appears at the end of POTP under an alias, but only devoted Heinlein fans are likely to notice. That subset of readers will definitely want this book. While it’s certainly not a novel with which to introduce a new reader to the whole science fiction field, it would also be fun for most SF fans.

THE IMMORTAL CONQUISTADOR, by Carrie Vaughn. This spin-off from Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, about a werewolf who hosts a late-night radio talk program, surveys the life, or unlife, of good guy vampire Ricardo de Avila (Rick). You don’t need prior acquaintance with Kitty’s world to appreciate this collection, although knowing about Rick and Kitty would enhance your enjoyment. It’s a mix of reprints and original tales, only one of which I’d read before. The frame story brings Rick back to Europe for the first time in five centuries, to report to the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows, “a holy order of vampires,” about the death of a vampire priest. The opening scene, in the present, is followed by “Conquistador de la Noche,” introducing Ricardo as a nineteen-year-old soldier under the command of Coronado. Ten years later, jaded and weary of violence in pursuit of nonexistent gold, he encounters an old comrade who lures him to an isolated village where easy wealth can allegedly be gained. Instead, a vampire attack transforms Rick into one of the undead. When he learns what he has become, he rejects his new companions and the evil deeds they want him to participate in. He refuses to reject God, even though he can no longer touch holy things. Instead, he exterminates the other vampires and takes over the estate and its village to rule them benevolently. Many years later, in “El Hidalgo de la Noche,” for the first time since his transformation he meets other vampires, who fill some of the many gaps in his knowledge of their kind and the workings of their society. They’re shocked to find him leading a solitary existence with no master and no desire to become one himself. In “Dead Men in Central City,” he meets Doc Holliday. The final story, “El Conquistador del Tiempo,” picks up with Rick’s visit to the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows in the present, where he’s initiated into further complications of undead society and clashes with a powerful, legendary vampire. Vaughn concludes the book with an Author’s Note in which she explains a bit about how she developed Rick’s backstory. Fans of Kitty, the radio-hostess werewolf, will definitely want this collection, and most vampire fans should enjoy it.

SUMMERWOOD / WINTERWOOD, by E. L. Chen. This pair of YA fantasy novels, bound in trade paperback format back-to-back and upside down relative to each other like the vintage mass market Ace Doubles, comprises an anti-Narnia saga with some heart-wrenching moments. Asian-Canadian teenager Rosalind Hero (who likes to be called by her middle name) and her older sister Juliet are dropped off to spend a few weeks at their grandfather’s house in Toronto while their parents ostensibly deal with their father’s forthcoming art show. In fact, the true purpose of the trip is a last-ditch effort to patch up their marriage. Hero can hardly wait to explore her grandfather’s house, because he wrote books about the magical land of Summerwood. Convinced the Summerwood is real (the child protagonists have the same names as her grandfather and his siblings), she’s determined to find her way into it. Juliet, at the age where she has no patience with her annoying younger sister, scorns the idea. Their mother cautions Hero that she shouldn’t want to find the Summerwood, because it “tears families apart.” Staying with her grandfather doesn’t live up to her expectations. His disapproval of her parents’ marriage hasn’t softened over the years, and far from welcoming Hero as the logical heiress to his adventures, he wants nothing to do with the girls. In fact, they seldom even see him. The housekeeper, who serves unappetizing vegetarian meals, doesn’t seem to like them either. Still, Hero is determined to find her way to Summerwood and perhaps become the heroine who saves that world as her grandfather’s generation did. Her exhaustive search through the house doesn’t uncover the door into Summerwood until she has almost given up. Finally, of course (or there wouldn’t be a story), she walks into a broom closet and emerges in a country where animals talk. She promises aid to the family of her new rabbit friend, Thaddeus, but first wants to go home and bring her sister to Summerwood. Naturally, as any reader of the Narnia series would expect, the portal has vanished when she tries to return with Juliet. When both of them later stumble through a portal together, Hero becomes aware of the darkness at the heart of Summerwood. The Lady who rules the country isn’t the benevolent monarch she first appears; she forces the animals to wear clothes, live in houses, and walk upright like humans, all to fulfill her concept of what a magical land should be. In a reversal of the plight of Narnia in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, the balance of nature in this world is out of joint because it’s perpetually summer. Who is the Lady, really, and what happened to the immortal evil queen the previous heroes allegedly defeated? When Julie gets either captured or enticed by the Lady, Hero must try to save her. Setting forth through the forest with Thaddeus as her guide, she finds her image of herself as a heroine relentlessly eroded and finally destroyed. In the sequel, WINTERWOOD, when, several years later, she’s a damaged young adult calling herself “Lindy” instead of “Hero,” she’s drawn back into Summerwood. In a world now shrouded in endless winter, she must undo the damage she unwittingly inflicted during her original quest. Any fan of portal fantasies should find this duology an enthralling read, provided you’re prepared for tragedy along the way. Hero/Lindy grows into her role, though, and the power of story triumphs in a satisfying conclusion.

BECOMING C. S. LEWIS, by Harry Lee Poe. This in-depth work on C. S. Lewis’s early life, from 1898 through 1918—with occasional brief passages glancing ahead at future developments—is best suited for hardcore Lewis fans. I hesitated on whether to buy the book, wondering whether it would mostly duplicate information found in Lewis’s spiritual autobiography, SURPRISED BY JOY. On the contrary, Poe seems to presuppose the reader’s familiarity with SURPRISED BY JOY and touches only lightly upon many incidents and conversations narrated in detail by Lewis. Poe maintains that Lewis’s childhood and youth haven’t received adequate coverage in earlier biographies. That period deserves deeper exploration because of the groundwork it laid for CSL’s later intellectual and spiritual growth. According to Poe, virtually every important facet of Lewis’s mature career and beliefs is foreshadowed in his early years. Poe often defends this claim by connecting poets, philosophers, and novelists young CSL read and studied to the adult Lewis’s writings. Sometimes this procedure stretches a little too far, in my opinion, as when Poe speculates that the sacrifice of Iphigenia at the start of the Trojan War inspired the sacrifice of Psyche in TILL WE HAVE FACES. Doesn’t he know that incident comes straight from the original myth of Cupid and Psyche? BECOMING C. S. LEWIS, drawing extensively upon letters and diaries, goes into background details about people and events that Lewis as a child wouldn’t have known and therefore didn’t include in SURPRISED BY JOY. Other elements appear in Poe’s biography that didn’t interest Lewis or didn’t fit into his plan for SURPRISED BY JOY; for instance, we learn a bit about his father’s political viewpoints (CSL detested politics). Lewis’s essential Irishness comes out more clearly than I’ve seen it revealed anywhere else. I was disappointed to find not a single mention of the 1916 Easter Rising; regardless of how apolitical young Lewis tried to remain, surely he must have had some reaction to that pivotal event. One thing that struck me was how unlikeable Lewis must have been in his early teens. He himself acknowledges that fact in SURPRISED BY JOY, but it shows up much clearer from the perspective of a biographer. By the end of the book, he has survived wartime service and begun to transform into the adult we meet in his mature writings. In short, the devoted Lewis fan will find BECOMING C. S. LEWIS highly illuminating. The author hopes to produce two more volumes covering the rest of the subject’s life.

*****

Excerpt from “Spooky Tutti Frutti”:

Just as Celia Rossi turned the placard on the door of Sugar and Ice from “Open” to “Closed,” Blair O’Neill strolled up the brick-paved sidewalk. She held the door ajar to let him in.

After a light kiss on the cheek, a gesture still new enough to make her pulse flutter, he asked, “What’s with the Temporary Help Wanted sign in the window?”

She sighed. “Tanya had her baby early. Oh, they’ll be fine, but I was hoping she’d be around until after the sailboat race. I could manage without her on any normal weekend, but on race day I’ll need enough people to hold down the fort here and help at our booth.” Tanya’s absence left the shop with only two part-time employees instead of three. Having owned the ice cream parlor for less than a year, Celia counted on strong sales at the climax of the coming weekend’s race to augment her fledgling reputation as well as her bank account. Contestants would sail from Delaware down the Chesapeake Bay to the Severn River, then up Spa Creek into the Annapolis harbor. After taking off her apron and hanging it behind the counter, she locked the door and followed Blair onto the brick-paved sidewalk. “I can break for dinner the way we planned, but I have to come back right afterward to finish cleaning up and prepping for tomorrow.”

Blair shook his head in commiseration. “Okay, but at least stop and take a breath. I’m glad I decided to be a vet, not a retail businessperson. Except for random emergencies, when the clinic closes we go home on time every day.”

At seven p.m. in late June, the sun hadn’t set, and the downtown historic district was still thronged with tourists. The two of them strolled from the dead-end side street where Sugar and Ice was located to the foot of Main Street, also surfaced with red brick. Walking past the traffic circle adjacent to City Dock, Celia noticed a young mother and her two small children tossing bread crusts to the seagulls and mallard ducks, despite the sign sternly admonishing people not to feed the birds. Cars crawled around the circle trying to push their way into the stream heading one way on the narrow, half-mile Main Street. In other words, a totally normal summer evening.

A gentle breeze off the water relieved the humid heat and ruffled Blair’s thick shock of sandy hair. “Crabs okay with you?”

“Sure.” Celia absently replied, her mind on the upcoming event rather than dinner. She lifted the French-twist braid off the back of her neck to cool her damp skin. “We’ve got less than a week until the celebration. I have the permits, and I’ve rented the booth and equipment for the day, but I’m still trying to come up with a new flavor to make us stand out from the other downtown ice cream parlors.” Her store’s location away from the principal tourist magnets of Main Street and Maryland Avenue allowed her to pay less exorbitant rent, but with the drawback of less foot traffic. Well, the former owner, her employer for almost a decade, had warned her of the pitfalls, so she just had to deal with them.

She and Blair reached the entrance of the crab restaurant across from the traffic circle, and he held the door for her. “How about Rossi’s Rocky Road? Rossi’s Regatta Raspberry Sherbet?”

She laughed. “We already have a rocky road, I don’t do sherbet, and anyway I have no intention of tacking my name onto a product. That sounds a little too egocentric.” Like most ice cream shops, Sugar and Ice mainly stocked varieties of a national brand, aside from four flavors of her own creation. She wanted to add another in honor of the occasion, but so far inspiration hadn’t struck. The few ideas she’d tried hadn’t worked out.

On a Monday evening, she and Blair had no trouble getting seated in the restaurant’s second-floor dining room. Their window-side table gave them a panoramic view of the inlet known as Ego Alley, crowded with sailboats and motor craft. That coming Saturday, at the culmination of the race from Delaware to Maryland, the dockside parking lot would be roped off for speeches, awards, food stalls, and a local band. Sharing a platter of steamed crabs, Celia and Blair continued their conversation about her part in the event. “Summer’s make or break time for this kind of business,” she fretted. “If it doesn’t turn out make, I’ll be letting down Dan, not just myself.” Her cousin Dan, an accountant who served as silent partner in charge of the partnership’s finances, had pooled his share of their late grandmother’s legacy with Celia’s to buy out the retiring previous owner of Sugar and Ice.

“Not to mention your parents,” Blair said.

She’d discussed the situation with him multiple times, grateful for his continued patience in listening to her worries. “Yeah. They think Dan and I were crazy to pour our inheritance into what they call a black hole, and they say so every chance they get.” She pounded a claw with her wooden mallet for emphasis.

“You’ll prove them wrong. I have faith in you.” He raised his beer glass in salute.

-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: MLCVamp@aol.com

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