Archive for December, 2020

Welcome to the December 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, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):


This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!

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:

My Goodreads page:

Best wishes to all for your favorite winter holidays!

As you probably know, Yahoo Groups will cease to exist in mid-December. Therefore, this will be the last newsletter distributed through the mailing list. It will continue to appear on my website every month here:


I’ll announce the release of each issue on my author Facebook page, cited above. Please “Like” it so you won’t miss any announcements. Thanks!

Speaking of the holiday season, I haven’t written any specifically Christmas-themed novels, although my vampire novel CHILD OF TWILIGHT (now incorporated in the self-published, two-novel omnibus TWILIGHT’S CHANGELINGS) is set in December. My one actual Yuletide story, “Little Cat Feet,” inspired by the legends of animals talking on Christmas Eve, appears in my story collection DAME ONYX TREASURES: LOVE AMONG THE MONSTERS:

Dame Onyx Treasures

In the excerpt below, the teenage runaway protagonist has just saved a stray cat from a pair of hoodlums.

This month’s interview brings a delightful blast from the past for me, a discussion with fantasy author Katherine X. Rylien, who had several stories in my long-ago fanzine, THE VAMPIRE’S CRYPT. To download a free copy of her story collection, VAMPIRE DREAMS, visit here:

Vampire Dreams


Interview with Katherine X. Rylien:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I write for the same reason I read—to visit a world that’s more interesting, more satisfying, than everyday life. For escape and adventure. When I was a kid, I used to read paperbacks in class. They were usually confiscated by the teacher. I found that if I scribbled in a notebook instead, I could get away with that, especially if I glanced up occasionally with a thoughtful expression.

What genres do you work in?

Most of what I write falls into the fantasy category. I love writing about vampires, and they tend to creep into storylines that didn’t originally include them.

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

Definitely wing it. When I get to the end of a longer work, I have to do an after-the-fact outline to figure out what the book is about. Inevitably, I have to cut scenes that I love but that don’t contribute to the plot, which is where some of my short stories come from.

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

I’m going to focus on the writers who formed my thinking about vampirism. Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula series made a big impression on me. He writes about a vampire who is neither good nor evil, a mostly sympathetic character who follows his own moral code, but is capable of violence when he deems it appropriate. I also loved Anne Rice’s vampire books, particular the early ones, and George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream.

What kind of vampires do you write about?

My vampires were once normal human beings, before being converted through blood intimacies. They can’t turn into bats, wolves or mist, although they are able to enter locked buildings by melting through a wall or door (there’s no supernatural force preventing them from entering a dwelling without invitation). They have their own culture and laws, which differ from one group to another. Subsisting mostly on animal blood, they feed on humans in two distinct circumstances; gently and with restraint, as their primary form of lovemaking—or as a blood sport, in which a group of vampires chases down a warmblooded enemy, draining and then decapitating their quarry to prevent any unintended conversion.

How did you become interested in vampires, and what about them particularly appeals to you?

I can remember being around ten years old and seeing a black-and-white Dracula movie at the Little Art Theater. Walking home in the darkness, I decided I wanted to be a vampire. I used to walk past an abandoned house at night in the hope that one might come out and bite me, and I made a coffin out of an old banana crate which I lined with a cut-up sleeping bag. I liked the idea of staying out all night and doing what I pleased. Immortality, that’s a big selling point, along with strength and speed and supernatural abilities. Once I hit adolescence, the erotic aspect helped maintain my interest.

Please tell us about the contents of your story collection. Also, why did you decide to release it as a free e-book?

Vampire Dreams consists of eight short stories, six of which involve vampires. The other two, I’d describe as dark fantasy. I mostly want people to read it! I’d rather have a hundred people download it for free than sell half-a dozen copies and end up with lunch money.

What do you see as the particular challenges in writing short-form fiction?

I find short stories much easier than a novel, but they require discipline and attention to detail. A clumsy line in a three-page story does more damage than it would on page 152 of a novel. If you’ve made it that far into the book, you’re probably caught up in the story and might not even notice. Or so we hope.

Did you have help with formatting, etc., or do it all on your own? What advice do you have on this and other issues for authors who consider self-publishing?

I love Smashwords, which is where I published Vampire Dreams. They have a style guide which makes the formatting requirements very clear. Fair disclosure, I work in IT, so I’m used to parsing instruction manuals. My advice is, download the style guide and give it a shot, but if it gets too frustrating and you’re not having fun anymore, pay someone to do it for you. The site maintains a list of people who do that, mostly for under $100. One reason I love Smashwords is that they clearly want you to succeed.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my book, Blood Relations:

Renee lives surrounded by ghosts that are produced by a cotemporal field—an invention of her ancestor, Larson, who vanished over a hundred years earlier. This technology encompasses a limited form of time travel, allowing Larson’s descendants to visit alternate versions of the past or future, often without realizing it. Exploring the strange properties of her ancestral home, Renee learns to travel between timelines by an act of will, which leads her to develop other unusual abilities.

Renee’s extended family seldom leave their property, with the exception of Uncle Wilbur, a vampire. Inspired by his example, Renee visits Abbey Keep, a vampire enclave, where she finds it difficult to resist the seductive allure of the inhabitants. When the Keep is threatened by vampire hunters, she’s recruited by Lord Stephan Kiernan to use her unique talents in its defense. It gets personal when Larson escapes the cotemporal field and joins the battle on the side of Abbey Keep’s enemies.

Blood Relations will be released as a free e-book, sometime in the next few months. If you’d like be notified when it’s available for download, make a free account on, and subscribe to updates on my author’s page. Or you can contact me at

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read. Write. Then read some more. I’ve been inspired by excellent writing, and also by questionable prose that left me thinking, “I can do better than this.” Sometimes by the same author, and even within the same book.


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN, by C. L. Polk. This fantasy novel takes place in an early-industrial world reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel. Upper-class characters are preoccupied with making ideal marriages for their offspring, for the social and financial benefit of the family. The heroine, Beatrice, knows about the financial troubles arising from her father’s speculative investments. Her awareness of the family’s need for her to marry well becomes urgent when she learns her father has mortgaged their estate to finance her first “bargaining season,” the social whirl in which men seek brides. Young women have to be shown to their best advantage while navigating excruciatingly complex etiquette standards. Her younger sister’s future, too, depends on her performance. All this tension is exacerbated by the importance of magic, which in this world is accomplished by making bargains with spirits. Only men and unmarried women can practice sorcery, and women are allowed to bond only with lesser spirits. In Beatrice’s country, all married women wear collars to suppress their magic, because a spirit can enter an unborn baby. Such a child is born essentially demon-possessed and can’t be cured but must be destroyed. Women are valued not for their own magical talent but for their capacity to bear sorcerer sons. Beatrice doesn’t want to get married and lose her magic to a collar. She wants to remain a spinster, helping her father with the financial side of his business. Having learned to read the cryptic codes in women-authored grimoires, she has been collecting them in secret, hoping to forge a pact with a greater spirit. When she meets a foreign visitor, Ysbeta, in the city for the bargaining season, Beatrice learns both of them have similar dreams. Ysbeta wants to travel the world seeking out occult knowledge and promulgating it to women everywhere. At first rivals in the quest for a certain tome, they become friends and covert experimenters together. Beatrice summons and bonds with a lesser spirit as a preliminary to the greater conjuration. At the same time, however, she meets Ysbeta’s brother, Ianthe (didn’t the author know that Greek name is feminine?), the one man Beatrice realizes she could love. In his country, women wear collars only when pregnant or trying to conceive. She can’t imagine accepting even this limitation, though. Meanwhile, other young gentlemen pursue both her and Ysbeta. Beatrice becomes fond of her spirit companion, but that doesn’t alter the inconvenient fact that the entity is capricious and impulsive. One social faux pas and near-exposure after another ramps up the tension, while Beatrice is ever more intensely pressured to choose a husband. The conflicts rise to a cumulative disaster both magical and familial. The worldbuilding is fascinating, and Beatrice’s plight kept me riveted as the author creates mounting suspense about how she could possibly reconcile ambition with love. The parallels to restrictions imposed on women in our culture not so long ago (and to some extent still) are obvious. In the epilogue, we see Beatrice and Ianthe leading a movement reminiscent of the real-world campaign for women’s suffrage.

A DOG’S PERFECT CHRISTMAS, by W. Bruce Cameron. To appreciate this novel, there’s no need to have read the author’s prior dog books. This feel-good family story stands alone, unrelated to other works such as A DOG’S PURPOSE. There’s less dog-viewpoint content than in the other two I read (told entirely in the first person by a dog), and it may be stretching a point to claim the puppy saves the family, as implied in the cover blurb. The puppy, however, does serve as a catalyst to stir the human characters out of their near-despair and set them on the path to renewal of loving bonds despite the adversity they face. Widower Sandor Goss and his elderly wolfhound live with Sandor’s son’s family. Mired in depression, Sandor does little except sit in his room, having no meaningful interaction with his son Hunter, his daughter-in-law Juliana, or their children, eighth-grader Ello and twin three-year-old boys (who converse in their private gibberish that only Ello can translate most of the time). Hunter confronts a disaster at work when his pet project goes wrong in a darkly humorous way. Overwhelmed by the twins and missing her career as a trial attorney, Juliana announces she’s unhappy in the marriage and wants major changes. Ello has entered the adolescent stage of fraught relationships with both her parents and her classmates. At one point, Sandor contemplates suicide. All these troubles build to an acute crisis when Juliana falls critically ill and has to be hospitalized. Around the same time, Ello picks up an abandoned puppy whom she names Ruby. In the midst of the havoc, the obvious step of taking Ruby to the animal shelter keeps getting put off, until it’s tacitly accepted that she will stay. The necessity of keeping the household functional, with the addition of a new pet, the absence of the mother, and Hunter constantly at the office, forces the family to work together. Sandor emerges from his isolation and bonds with his granddaughter. He even takes the two dogs to the dog park, where he meets a bevy of widowed ladies who show inordinate interest in him. The canine-viewpoint scenes, although occupying far less space than the human-centered passages, are warmly engaging. The author allows ample space to explore every human character’s perspective (well, except the three-year-old boys), so that we sympathize with all of them even while they clash with each other. The story concludes, of course, with Christmas and a sentimental yet realistic and well-earned happy ending. For readers who can’t stand to see animals die in fiction, I’m happy to report that the old dog survives the book, contrary to my apprehensions.

KITTY’S MIX-TAPE, a collection of short fiction by Carrie Vaughn. Readers can appreciate many of these stories set in the world of Kitty Norville, werewolf late-night radio host, without having read the novels. The tales cover a wide range of locations and eras. The side adventures about secondary characters—vampires, werewolves, selkies, magicians—don’t require any background to understand, although of course past acquaintance with some of them would enhance one’s enjoyment. Even the pieces featuring Kitty herself include enough context to enable a new reader to understand what’s going on. Although I haven’t read several later books in the series, I didn’t have any trouble following the plots and characters. In fact, after finishing the collection I was inspired to buy the final novel, KITTY SAVES THE WORLD, which I found thoroughly absorbing. The works in this collection, the majority of them new to me, are mostly reprinted from a variety of sources; however, four are original to this volume. So fans of Carrie Vaughn will definitely want this book, while new readers might find it an accessible, intriguing introduction to Kitty and her companions and foes.

THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS, by Katherine Addison. This very unusual variation on Sherlock Holmes takes place in an alternate Victorian England where supernatural creatures such as angels, demons, and vampires, among others, live alongside ordinary people. There’s no hint that the angels are celestial beings; they seem more like an alien species. Angels in good standing, so to speak, have ties to particular places. Their less respectable kin, the Nameless (who belong nowhere and therefore have no names) and the Fallen (self-explanatory) provoke wariness and, in the case of the latter, justified fear and revulsion. Angels don’t eat, drink, excrete, or sleep, and they don’t share most human emotions. The Holmes character, an angel called Crow, formerly Nameless, channels his insatiable curiosity about the human condition into investigating mysteries and helping the police at their request if an offered case interests him enough. The Watson character, former military physician Dr. Doyle, narrates in first person. His given names remain unrevealed until well into the story. He has secrets quite apart from his difficulty in fitting into normal society after the harrowing experience in Afghanistan that has left him partially disabled. He moves in with Crow to share lodging expenses, as Watson and Holmes do in the original. Although human feelings remain largely opaque to Crow, whose personality echoes the classic Holmes’s arrogant confidence in his own intellectual superiority, he and Doyle gradually form a close bond. The various episodes of the novel comprise variations on the best-known Holmes stories, beginning with “A Study in Scarlet” and including the tale featuring Mary Moran (which doesn’t end the way a devoted reader of the original work would expect). Paranormal and preternatural creatures and phenomena transform the plots and pervade the world of the novel. Crow and Doyle, while reflecting the traits of their prototypes, come across as deeply engaging characters with their own personalities. At least one Amazon reader review complains this book is too blatantly a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. That’s a feature I love about it. In my opinion, most fans of both Holmes and urban fantasy would agree.


Excerpt from “Little Cat Feet”:

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.

“You should be able to fit through this hole, just barely,” the female voice said.

Not the cat. Definitely not. There must be some crazy bag lady ventriloquist hanging around.

The cat disappeared into the house. Kneeling on the stoop, Lauren stretched one arm through the gap. Maybe she could squeeze in there. Just barely, as her guide had said. The sound of the boys’ voices, louder and closer, made her decision for her. She pulled on the splintered plank to widen the hole. After pushing her backpack inside, easing the door open farther in the process, she lay on her stomach and wiggled through the narrow space. Once she turned on her side to fit her shoulders in, she didn’t have much trouble getting the rest of her body through. The boards closed on her like pincers. Luckily, she had layers of clothes to keep her from getting scraped raw. Her heart raced in panic when her hips got stuck.

“Faster,” the guiding voice hissed.

She held her breath and scrambled faster. At last she got her legs and feet inside. She pushed the door closed and lay, panting, in the dark on a gritty, musty-smelling floor.

“Those filthy males won’t suspect you’ve hidden here. They’ll hardly notice an opening much too small for them to use.”

Lauren sat up and braced her back against the nearest wall. Dainty paws walked across her legs to her lap. She reached out and ran her fingertips over the cat’s wet fur. “I can’t imagine how you knew to lead me here, but thanks, I guess. I wonder how those guys ever managed to catch a smart animal like you.”

The cat snorted. “They tricked me with food. I should have known better. Their scent is so foul I should have run the moment I smelled them. I’ll never be so foolish again.” A lapping sound suggested she was grooming herself. “By the way, you don’t happen to have any food, do you?”

Lightheaded, Lauren shook her head and blinked a couple of times. In the pitch dark, that gesture didn’t accomplish anything. “You’re really talking, aren’t you?”

“Do you see anyone else here?” The cat’s dry tone had a sardonic edge. “Oh, I forgot, your human eyes can’t see anything at the moment. At any rate, thank you for rescuing me.” She stretched, her front claws kneading Lauren’s jeans. “Not that I wouldn’t have escaped on my own eventually, of course.”



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