Archive for January, 2023

Welcome to the January 2023 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

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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):


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Barnes and Noble

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Carter Kindle Books

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The Fiction Database displays a comprehensive list of my books (although with a handful of fairy tales by a different Margaret Carter near the end):

Fiction Database

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Happy New Year!

My erotic paranormal romance “New Flame” was re-released in December. Judy, owner of a struggling bookstore, considers giving up the business after a frightening confrontation with a burglar. Then she receives a strange Christmas present, an antique oil lamp, inherited from her deceased great-aunt. An excerpt appears below.

New Flame

Our first guest of 2023 is mystery and romance author Laura Freeman, writer of the Wild Rose Press Christmas Cookies story “Tackling Molasses Crinkles.”


Interview with Laura Freeman:

What inspired you to begin writing?

When I was twelve, I read “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” and wanted to create stories about friendship and adventure, especially for girls. I had four brothers, and they always seemed to do the “fun” stuff.

What genres do you work in?

I have written a six-book historical romance series, a holiday supernatural romance novella, and a female detective mystery scheduled for release Jan. 30. I like to mix two genres like a romance within a mystery or a mystery within a romance.

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

I begin with my main characters’ names and keep a character list going. Then I write a rough draft of the action and dialogue to form a series of events broken into chapters that make up the story which is around 100 pages. I create a formal outline from those chapters and adjust it as I add details or move scenes around. To help build tension, I’ll edit the last chapter and move backwards through my story so I know where the story is heading. This allows me to reveal clues later in the story and remove them from the beginning or replace a clue with a subtle hint. This is a must for me because I initially reveal too much too soon and this forces me to move important details to a later chapter and create suspense.

What have been the major influences on your work?

My favorite authors have been J.D. Robb, Sue Grafton, and Janet Evanovich, who have strong female characters. I was a reporter for 16 years and covered events, politics, and crime which I draw from for ideas. I also worked in a hospital and use that setting in “Raining Tears.”

What effect did your journalism career have on your fiction writing? And what would you say are the principal differences between those two types of writing?”

Reporting requires research and interviewing others which helps with background and historical data for my fictional writing. News writing also limits how long a story can be which makes me choose my words wisely. Fictional writing allows more flexibility to convey meanings and share the thoughts of a character to explain behavior or the why of a crime.

Please tell us about your Impending Love Series. Also, how did you research the historical background?

Each book is about a different Beecher sister and begins in 1860 with a runaway slave and ends in 1866 with the last villain stalking the youngest sister. I researched my family tree and used family names but placed them in different time periods. I made Sterling Beecher the father of the six sisters in the books. He was my great-great-grandfather with a long family history back to New Haven, Connecticut. Set during the Civil War, I read books, visited battlefields, and interviewed reenactors. I used real historical figures sparingly but researched them to make sure they would act the way they did in my books.

What inspired your Christmas Cookies novella “Tackling Molasses Crinkles”?

I wrote a column under Freeman of the Press, “The unopened gift on Christmas morning” about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on Dec. 14, 2012, in which parents had bought presents for their six-year-old children, but they would never be opened. The gifts represented a child’s unfulfilled life and inspired this story. I wanted to give hope to those who have lost a child and imagine their angel watching over them.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

My next book is “Raining Tears” due out Jan. 30, 2023. It is a female detective mystery that is told from the viewpoints of four women connected by the death of an innocent man. I attended a Citizens Police Academy, and my brother was a police officer and detective which helped with the technical information. I enjoyed writing the villain because she could say and do outrageous things.

What are you working on now?

I am working on two stories. One is a cozy mystery where a woman finds a body in the park and discovers later that her co-worker’s husband was having an affair with the victim. She tries to help her friend and uncovers important clues that put her life in danger and angers the handsome police officer investigating the case. The other story I’m working on is a historical romance set in 1774 where the heroine tries to figure a way out of a forced marriage and uncovers the hidden reasons for the union.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

You can have lots of ideas in your head but until you put them in print, you aren’t a writer. And your writing requires a goal, problems, and resolution to be a story. Learn the basics of writing, the expectations of a genre, such as a happily ever after in a romance, and study other authors. Writing can be time consuming and challenging, but if you love creating characters and putting them in danger, you need to write. It makes you happy. At times developing a story will drive you crazy, but don’t quit.

Author Website


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE LARAN GAMBIT, by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross. The first new Darkover novel in quite a while (mainly by Ross, of course, unless a séance was involved). Even though it’s set in my least favorite period of the planet’s history, the post-WORLD WRECKERS era, I enjoyed it very much. This novel has one unusual aspect: The protagonist, a Terran woman, doesn’t even get to Darkover until at least one-third of the way through the book. Nevertheless, her plight engaged me and kept my attention riveted throughout. Bryn, a child psychologist, specializes in treating children traumatized by the Star Alliance’s wars aimed at subjugating other human-inhabited planets. Her father leads the party that opposes the authoritarian policies of the current regime. When he broadcasts a speech endorsing a position counter to everything he believes, then vanishes soon afterward, Bryn knows the government must have done something to him. After rescuing him, she finds his mind radically damaged. He fights against the domination of the implanted thoughts, but no technique known to Terran psychology can permanently fix him. Bryn’s research introduces her to the rumored telepathic powers of certain people on Darkover, a world that has broken off relations with the Terran hegemony and withdrawn into voluntary isolation. This information isn’t a spoiler; it’s all in the cover copy. After a desperate race to elude government agents, involving the murder of someone dear to Bryn, she, her father, and her former mentor wrangle transportation to the world of the Bloody Sun. The plot from that point hits all the familiar Darkover highlights—a trek across the rugged landscape of the snow-covered Hellers, an encounter with Free Amazons, Towers and learning about laran, and Bryn’s discovery that the premonitions she’s had all her life hint at latent laran. (Of course they do; as a humorous filk song puts it, “Every Terran who comes to Darkover, as anyone plainly can see, develops the power called laran. . . .”) Some high-status Darkovans are opposed to any cooperation with Terrans, even on a personal level, but the leroni of the Tower in the capital recognize the importance of training Bryn’s newly discovered powers. In the process, a close friendship grows between her and the man designated to shepherd the visitors through the intricacies of Darkovan culture. Can Bryn’s father be healed? And if they return to Terra, is there any way she can ethically use laran to take down the would-be dictator? The incident that explains the book’s title doesn’t appear until the climax. Although the ending feels a little rushed to me, I found it satisfying anyway. Bryn’s ultimate life path makes sense, and her potential new love interest develops gradually and believably in the context of her recent loss.

INTO THE WEST, by Mercedes Lackey. Volume Two of the new “Founding of Valdemar” series. In the first book, Kordas, Baron Valdemar, led 15,000 people through a magical Gate to escape the tyrannical Empire, leaving the capital devastated behind them. At the beginning of INTO THE WEST, however, they know they’ve found only a temporary refuge, not far enough out of the Empire’s reach for safety. Moreover, they need to make a long-term home somewhere they won’t encroach on already inhabited lands. The third-person narrative features two viewpoint characters, Kordas and his wife’s younger sister, Delia, who has a crush on him. While Kordas, plagued by a fear of never getting everything right and a reluctance to delegate, grapples with the burdens of shepherding his horde of refugees, Delia valiantly struggles against her infatuation and seeks useful tasks to perform. Therefore, she’s more pleased than not when assigned to a small party scouting ahead of the main body, even though she suspects Kordas made that decision more to give her time to outgrow her feelings toward him than from a belief that she’ll be a true asset. Of course, she discovers previously latent abilities within herself and realizes her value to the group. Meanwhile, the main community travels by barge through lands still marred by the Mage Wars of a thousand years in the past. They narrowly escape disaster in a warped, quasi-sentient forest and face suspicious locals as well as creatures mutated by Change Circles. Lackey keeps the logistical details and social problems of a mass migration fascinating even during lulls from natural and magical threats. The advantages and limitations of Gates also become clear as the journey proceeds. The Valdemarans receive unexpected help when needed most, always foreshadowed skillfully enough to keep it from feeling like deus-ex-machina intervention. They meet the Hawkbrothers and hertasi (who answer the question many readers have doubtless pondered, why those clever lizard-folk willingly act as apparent servants to the Hawkbrothers). Alas, however, no inkling of Companions yet. I suppose we’ll see them sometime after the Valdemarans settle in a permanent homeland. The book isn’t perfect; in several places, I mentally screamed, “Where was the copy editor?” In at least one instance, two passages a few pages apart relate exactly the same information in almost the same words. And Lackey seems inordinately fond of the word “literally,” which she uses correctly (of course) but often enough to become obtrusive. Regardless, this novel, like the first in the series, is a must-read for Valdemar fans.

ILLUMINATIONS, by T. Kingfisher. Not a horror novel like the books that made her one of my new favorite authors, but an alternate-world fantasy for preteens (judging by the age of the protagonist, although readers of any age can enjoy it). It takes place in an alternate nineteenth-century Europe in which the French Revolution, or its local equivalent, seems to have succeeded better than in our history, for the whole continent uses the Revolutionary calendar with its renamed months and days. The heroine, Rosa, dwells in a city resembling Venice, with canals, a Dynast instead of a king, and mostly Italian-sounding names. An orphan, she lives with her eccentric but endearing extended family, one of the most distinguished lineages of illuminators. She’s practicing the art but so far hasn’t graduated to producing actual illuminations. Her favorite things to draw are radishes with fangs. Unfortunately, that image serves no useful purpose. There’s a massive reference tome listing all known illuminations, each of which must be drawn in precise, unvarying detail to be effective. Fanged radishes aren’t among them. Against the background of a major civic project using illuminations to fix a long-term problem with the city’s sewage disposal, Rosa’s own trouble begins when she finds a mysterious box in the basement. She accidentally releases a creature imprisoned in the box, and a crow painted on the lid comes to life. His information about the history of the box and its connection to one of Rosa’s ancestors seems a bit shady, and he’s easily distracted by the urge to pilfer shiny objects. His insistence that she not tell the rest of the family about him gets her into trouble when the diminutive monster starts vandalizing their home workshop and the illuminations themselves. After the nuisance escalates into danger, though, the crow does come clean with the full truth at last. I don’t want to go into spoilery detail about the family’s fight against the creature and its minions, so I’ll only mention that Rosa’s radishes play a surprising role. Meanwhile, the story nicely balances Rosa’s magical woes with her preteen-girl difficult relationship with her best friend, daughter of another important illuminator family, who’s just enough older than Rosa to start making real illuminations for clients. Like Kingfisher’s A WIZARD’S GUIDE TO DEFENSIVE BAKING, ILLUMINATIONS portrays a young heroine whose odd magical talent turns out to be of vital importance. As usual, Kingfisher writes the protagonist’s viewpoint in an irresistibly witty style.

YULETIDE FRIGHTS, edited by William P. Simmons, subtitled “Victorian Ghost Stories for Christmas.” Telling scary tales during the Christmas season was, of course, a longstanding British tradition that peaked in the nineteenth century, with A CHRISTMAS CAROL being only the most famous of such works. This anthology collects over twenty of them by classic authors such as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, Sir Walter Scott, and many writers less known to modern readers. To the editor’s credit, he includes mainly stories not often anthologized, if ever. The vast majority of them were new to me and probably would be unfamiliar even to most fans of Victorian horror other than specialists in the field. For instance, I’d never read the Le Fanu, Blackwood, and Hawthorne pieces before, despite being (I thought) quite familiar with those authors. Of the two Dickens stories, only “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton,” sort of a trial run for A CHRISTMAS CAROL, is likely to be widely known. The other best-known tale, Elizabeth Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story,” also strikes me as one of the few that’s truly scary. Most of the works are, to me, more cozy with a touch of pleasant eeriness than terrifying. Also, the protagonists more often serve as passive observers than take any action in response to the apparitions, so one doesn’t usually feel they’re in real danger. But, then, classic ghost stories have always been a form of literary comfort food for me. Aside from Simmons’s atmospheric and informative general introduction, there’s no editorial material such as introductions to the individual stories and authors. That omission, however, doesn’t lessen the anthology’s fitness for picking up and dipping into whenever one feels in the mood for a ghostly angle on the holiday season. YULETIDE FRIGHTS is an ideal volume for a fan of vintage horror to curl up with on a cold night.


Excerpt from “New Flame”:

Judy lifted the lamp out of its box. The base felt too heavy for brass—bronze, maybe?

She ran her fingertips over the smooth curve of the chimney. It looked like an antique, probably brought from the old country. Old enough to be worth money? Could she sell it for enough to cover one of those pesky bills?

Marta, her mother’s aunt who’d died recently at the age of ninety-nine, had emigrated from Eastern Europe as a girl. Judy remembered her only as a tall, slim woman with steel-wool-colored hair. She’d met her great-aunt at infrequent family reunions. Their unmarried status was likely all the two of them had in common.

Experimentally turning up the wick, she felt a sudden impulse to light the lamp. Why not? Its parts seemed in working order.

She had a bottle of bayberry-scented oil stored with the hurricane lamp she kept for earthquake-related power outages. It took only a minute, rummaging through a cabinet next to the desk, to find the bottle. After pouring a small portion into the lamp, she set a match to the wick. On first try, it blossomed into a clear glow, flooding the room with the sweetish scent.

At the same moment, a bright streak flared at the edge of her vision.

She spun around in the swivel chair, ready to climb the wall. Or run out screaming if the thug had come back for seconds.

In the corner of the room loomed a pillar of fire. A six-foot column of orange-red flame, fading to indigo and violet at the edges. It undulated slowly like a candle in a light breeze.

Oh, Lord, she had set the place on fire! Her books! She leaped to her feet.

The apparition radiated none of the fierce heat expected from a blaze that size. And how could a spark have jumped from the desk to the center of the room without igniting anything in between?

While she stared, the flame’s outline shifted, growing curves and appendages. It took a few seconds for her to recognize the emerging shape as the figure of a man. The fire had all but died away. She saw an apparently solid body, although it still emitted a faint glow.

The naked man, lean and graceful, stood about a foot taller than Judy. He had tawny-bronze skin and an angular, striking face. Coppery hair growing to his shoulders floated as if stirred by a phantom wind. With his every move, his muscles appeared to flow like molten gold.


My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at:

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