Archive for April, 2023

Melanie, a professional doula struggling to conceive a baby of her own, has a strange encounter at a neighborhood Easter egg hunt. After she rescues a wild rabbit from a runaway dog and the animal seemingly changes into a heavily pregnant, human-size rabbit woman, Melanie convinces herself she saw only a woman in a costume. But that same night a desperate plea for help sounds inside her head. In response, she undertakes a trek that feels like a dream—until it becomes urgently real, forcing her to stretch to the limits of her training and beyond. What reward will she win if she succeeds?

5 Stars from N. N. Light’s Book Heaven!

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Welcome to the April 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.”

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

You can subscribe to this monthly newsletter here:


For other web links of possible interest, please scroll to the end.

Happy spring holidays! “Bunny Hunt,” my story in the “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” line from the Wild Rose Press, will be published on April 10. The Amazon preorder link:

Meanwhile, below is an excerpt from TENTACLES AND WEDDING BELLS, a pair of humorous, steamy Lovecraftian paranormal romances in which the heroine learns her fiance’s family secret. In this scene, he takes her to meet his twin brother, who looks more like the father than he does.

Kindle edition:

Tentacles and Wedding Bells on Amazon

Versions from other retailers:

Tentacles and Wedding Bells on Draft2Digital

This month I’m interviewing a fellow “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” author, Vicky Burkholder.


Interview with Vicky Burkholder:

What inspired you to begin writing?

My father. He wasn’t highly educated, but he was never without a book in his hand or nearby. And he was a poet—always writing something.

What genres do you work in?

Futurist Romances, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romances. There’s always something “out there” in my books.

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

Something in between. I know where my story starts and ends, and do a very loose outline to make sure it gets there. I create my main character, then treat her as an interview for a newspaper article and her answers become my outline.

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

Favorite authors? There have been so many over the years. Too many to really put them all down, but I will say Anne McCaffrey, Vonda McIntyre, David Eddings, Nora Roberts all had some sort of influence. I have to have a HEA in my books, but adding in something not necessarily of this world is what makes it exciting for me.

How have your other writing-related jobs (for newspapers and magazines, writing policy manuals, editing textbooks, etc.) affected your fiction writing?

Long ago, I wrote human interest stories for our local newspaper so I learned quickly about the “who/what/when/where/why/how” questions that get asked and I use them to help plot out my stories. Writing Policy and Procedures manuals for businesses help me keep everything logical, and being an editor for various publishers for thirty years has helped me improve my own writing – in correcting others, I (sometimes) see my own mistakes.

Please tell us about your series.

Right now, I have one series called “Galactic Danger” which are futuristic romances. There are currently three books in that series with a fourth coming next year. “Revenge Among the Stars”, “Lost Among the Stars”, “Searching Among the Stars”, and to come “Found Among the Stars”.

What inspired RAINING JELLY BEANS, your “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” book for the Wild Rose Press?

Actually? A rainstorm and a bag of jellybeans! Honest! Plus, this is a connected book – it’s connected to my “The Gingerbread Lodge” that came out last Christmas – same setting and some of the same characters. I just took the setting and put it in spring in the mountains where my family is from and thought “what if…” and it went from there.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

“Raining Jelly Beans” will be out in April but later in the year, “The Cane, the Puzzle, and Magic” will be coming from The Wild Rose Press – an urban fantasy set in rural Pennsylvania.

What are you working on now?

The next book in the Galactic Danger series “Found Among the Stars”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Two things: Grow a thick skin. This is not a career for someone who can’t take bad news like bad reviews or rejections. It is definitely not easy on the ego. Also, learn the business end of publishing – marketing, promoting, etc. That is essential these days.

What is the URL of your website? What about other internet presence?

Vicky Burkholder
I also have a spot for reviews and writing tips: Sparkling Book Reviews
Amazon Author Page: Amazon
Goodreads Page: Goodreads
BookBub: BookBub


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

ONE EXTRA CORPSE, by Barbara Hambly. Sequel to SCANDAL IN BABYLON, with the two novels featuring doppelgangers of the major characters from BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD, but in non-supernatural mysteries. In the silent film industry of 1920s Hollywood, young, English war widow Emma Blackstone serves as paid companion to her charming, generous, but flighty sister-in-law Kitty Flint, known to her fans as movie star Camille de la Rose. Emma fetches and carries, cares for Kitty’s three Pekinese dogs, and tries to keep her out of trouble, usually in vain. On the side, Emma writes scenarios for movies, struggling without much success to avoid blatant historical errors (for instance, informing the director that Christian martyrs didn’t exist in Julius Caesar’s lifetime). Kitty parties all night (with numerous men besides her official lover, the studio owner), drinks copiously, takes cocaine, and yet manages to maintain a grueling film schedule, regardless of her limited acting ability. Level-headed Emma, an Oxford graduate and daughter of a classical scholar, occasionally wonders what she’s doing in this modern Babylon. Although she still grieves for her late husband, brother, and parents, she has fallen in love with kind, steady cameraman Zal. ONE EXTRA CORPSE begins with her acceptance of the temporary gift of a diamond bracelet and rejection of a marriage proposal from actor Harry Garfield. This very public drama, staged for the benefit of the media to deflect attention from Harry’s same-sex relationship, sets the tone for the glamorous, fantastically artificial milieu of the cinematic subculture. In a classic mystery trope, director Ernst Zapolya phones Emma, insisting he must speak to Kitty about a confidential matter that may put many lives at stake. Naturally, he’s murdered before he can reveal the secret. His body turns up on the set of an adventure movie, in the kind of situation—with live ammunition and many other hazards—where injuries are common and deaths not unknown. However, the bullet that killed him isn’t the type fired by the professional sharpshooters on the staff. Who wanted to eliminate him? His estranged, soon to be ex-wife? Her mother? A romantic or professional rival? Stalinist agents? (Surprisingly, communists do come into the story near the end.) Zany predicaments alternate with potentially lethal chases and confrontations. Emma and Kitty narrowly escape death more than once. Are they targets because somebody mistakenly thinks they have incriminating knowledge? Emma and Zal display courage and resourcefulness, while at crucial moments Kitty proves less featherbrained than she seems. The murderer and his or her thoroughly credible, poignant motive, for me, came as an unexpected yet logical revelation. From the beginning, foreshadowings—hints, but not exactly clues—twine through the action and dialogue. In my opinion, few or no readers are likely to unravel the solution before it’s revealed, since we don’t learn about the critical puzzle piece until Emma does. Yet when the truth comes out, one is likely to think, “Oh, of course.” Like SCANDAL IN BABYLON, this novel vividly portrays the physical and social landscape of Los Angeles in the 1920s, when the famous Hollywood sign still read “Hollywoodland,” the FBI was called simply the Bureau of Investigation, and bootleggers and their customers openly defied Prohibition. As in SCANDAL IN BABYLON and the Benjamin January series of antebellum Louisiana mysteries, Hambly’s witty style is delightfully on display. I only wish she’d included an afterword elaborating on the historical background of the story.

A SPINDLE SPLINTERED, by Alix E. Harrow. A contemporary, metafictional take on “Sleeping Beauty.” The narrator, Zinnia, suffers from a chronic, ultimately fatal disease caused by industrial pollution local to her home town. Despite intensive treatment, no victim has survived past the age of twenty-one. Zin has a best friend, Charm (Charmaine), who doesn’t treat her as pitiable, fragile, or impossibly brave. Zin embraces self-imposed “dying girl rules”: (1) If you like something, like it hard, because you don’t have much time; (2) move fast (she graduated from high school early and attended college at an accelerated pace); (3) no romance (although Charm would have happily violated that rule with her). On Zin’s twenty-first birthday, Charm and some of her friends throw a party in the watchtower of an abandoned penitentiary decorated like Sleeping Beauty’s tower bedroom, complete with an antique spinning wheel, in homage to Zin’s lifelong obsession with that tale and its numerous variants. At midnight, alone with Charm, on a dare Zin pierces her finger with the tip of the spindle. At this point, the story crosses over into fantasy. Falling through an interdimensional warp, Zin finds herself in the superficially Disney-perfect castle of Princess Primrose, cursed to prick her finger and sleep for a century. The princess, too, has just reached her twenty-first birthday. The lethal spinning wheel has mysteriously appeared, bearing a fate she considers hardly grimmer than marrying the conventionally heroic but boring and rather dim prince to whom she’s betrothed. Determined to save Primrose and perhaps herself, Zin persuades the princess to seek the wicked fairy who cursed her. They flee the royal palace and head for the villainess’s dark castle, while Primrose fights against the force trying to lure her to her doom. On the quest, Zin comes to realize Primrose is more than a stereotypical Disney-style princess. They find the “evil” fairy also to be not what she seems, and the prince’s single-minded insistence on “saving” Primrose backfires. Each turn in the plot comes as a surprise and yet perfectly right. When Zin reaches across worlds, with her cell phone (which still works until its battery runs out) as well as a magical meeting of minds, she makes contact with not only Charm but potential Sleeping Beauties from multiple dimensions. In the midst of the climactic scene, romance ensues, but not the kind ordinarily expected in a fairy tale, while Zin gets an ending that’s satisfactory but far from unrealistically ideal. She also matures through the ordeal of her quest, as a coming-of-age heroine should. In the sequel, A MIRROR MENDED, Zin has become an interdimensional rescuer of innumerable Sleeping Beauties throughout the multiverse. She’s getting tired of the role, however, as well as troubled by an inexplicable—from her viewpoint—coldness on the part of Charm. When Zin gets pulled through a mirror by the Witch Queen from “Snow White,” a fresh cycle of adventures ensues. In this tale type, also, the villainess reveals unexpected dimensions. I find the exploration of folklore variants in these books delightful and Zin’s own personal growth absorbing (even though she does constantly pepper her first-person narrative, to a tedious degree, with words that used to be labeled unprintable).

THE IRON PRINCESS, by Barbara Hambly. I haven’t read much of Hambly’s high fantasy, in contrast to her vampire series and her mysteries. This new novel, though, struck me as gripping and ultimately satisfying despite its dire premise and tragic elements. On a mountaintop in another world, constant screams of agony reverberate, rumored to be the cries of a god in eternal torment. Like Prometheus, he’s chained to a rock where birds of prey tear his body to shreds all day. During the hours of night he heals, only to face the same torture after the sun rises. He’s not a god, however; he’s an old wizard, Ithrazel, sentenced to this punishment for destroying an entire city in an instant, although his own wife and son lived there. For seventy-five years he has suffered, not aging any further and apparently immortal. As the story begins, Clea, the “princess” of the title, arrives through a portal from the wizard’s home world. With the help of Graywillow, a member of an order of Sisters serving a goddess, and Hamo, a local shepherd enlisted as a guide because he has visited and tried to help the wizard in the past, Clea frees Ithrazel from his chains—all except the wrist shackles that largely suppress his magic. Given his resistance to her demand that he return with her to their world and aid her self-appointed mission, she naturally doesn’t trust him. Since his banishment, the ruin of the land by intensive mining for adamis, a substance that enhances magic, has accelerated. Clea, daughter of a noble house, has a love-hate relationship with her father, who has disowned and reinstated her twice. She’s determined to discover why the magic of all the wizard orders except the Crystal Mages is failing and overthrow the tyranny of the latter. She also wants to rescue her little half-brother so that he won’t be forced into the role of a mage while a mere child, as so many highborn boys are. Furthermore, strange monsters have been emerging from underground and under water to attack people and devastate the land. The Sisterhoods retain some of their divinely bestowed powers, and Clea has other allies among the underworld denizens who taught her the arts of a thief and assassin during her periods of disgrace. Hamo, sticking with her because a love spell (cast by Graywillow) binds him, offers additional help. Ithrazel’s support for her world-saving project shifts from grudging to merely reluctant to wholehearted as he realizes the grim condition of his former home and starts to regain nightmarish memories of what actually happened when he cast the lethal spell that doomed him to perpetual torture. All the seemingly unrelated elements of the story come together by the end, revealing the dark secret of the Crystal Mages’ power. Both Clea and Ithrazel change in the course of their battle against the evil forces. Her “heart of diamond” softens, beginning with repentance for having a love spell inflicted on Hamo. The old wizard, although a flawed person who has made grave errors, turns out not to be the wicked sorcerer rumor claims. Few, if any, characters are wholly good or wholly evil. One refreshingly different aspect of this book, in contrast to many high-fantasy novels, is that the protagonist has no magic of her own. Dungeons & Dragons would probably classify her as a multi-class rogue and fighter. In another realistic touch, breaking the power of the Crystal Mages doesn’t grant the world instant healing. Scars remain on the people and the land, and some characters can’t be saved. The conclusion, however, includes enough hope and reconciliation to presage fulfilling lives for Clea and her companions.

THE GHOST QUARTET, edited by Marvin Kaye. An anthology of original novellas, published in 2008. “The Place of Waiting,” by Brian Lumley: In this atmospheric tale set in Dartmoor, the protagonist, a lonely artist, encounters strange men on the moor, and we can’t tell until near the end who the ghost is and what it wants. “Hamlet’s Father,” by Orson Scott Card, my favorite, since I’m a big fan of retellings of myth, folklore, and classic fiction: The story adheres to the “facts” of Shakespeare’s play but puts a very different, shocking interpretation on them. If the ghost is lying or mistaken about the identity of his murderer, who did kill him and why? “The Haunted Single Malt,” by Marvin Kaye, told in a breezy, colloquial style and set mainly in an Edinburgh pub, therefore basically a “club story”: The narrator and his friends meet regularly to share ghost stories. One such gathering leads to a terrifyingly real incident driven by revenge for long past as well as recent wrongs. “Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata,” by Tanith Lee, set in an alternate-world Russia: A homeless student, rescued from freezing or starving to death by the friendly inhabitants of a sort of tenement-dwelling commune, discovers he’s being held prisoner, albeit benevolently. He finds out why when he meets the beautiful specter who’s bound to the location of the building. Since each story differs from the others in tone, plot premise, and (so to speak) theory of haunting, the anthology offers intriguing variety as well as delightful chills.

For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

For other reviews of older vampire fiction, posted on the fifteenth of each month, visit the VampChix blog: VampChix



“We have to go upstairs.” Blake led Lauren to a door where the hall dead-ended and opened it to show a narrow flight of steps. He flipped on a light switch.

“Your family makes him live in the attic?”

“He likes it up here. It’s arranged to suit his special needs.”

Still barefooted, she followed Blake to the top of the stairs, where a bare bulb on the ceiling showed a long, well-swept room lined with stacks of boxes, miscellaneous furniture, and the gable windows she’d noticed from outside. At the far end a wall with a closed door blocked off part of the space. “Hold on, does that lead to the window that’s boarded up?”


“So you don’t keep a wife locked in the attic, just a brother.”

“Before you go all ballistic about how we’re mistreating him, wait until you’ve seen the whole picture. His room is customized for him, and part of that involves covering the window.” Knocking on the door, he said, “Wilbur? I’ve brought Lauren to meet you, the way I promised.”

A whistling noise, like wind howling through a cavern, emanated from the other side. “Well, here goes.” He clasped her hand and opened the door.

Splinters of rainbow light, like the inside of a kaleidoscope, struck her eyes. After blinking a couple of times, she realized she was seeing the colors through a shimmering curtain of mist. Blake stepped across the threshold, pulling her with him. A chill shuddered through her at the moment she entered the room. The floor tilted, then straightened. She clutched Blake’s arm and waited for the vertigo to fade.

Why did the room seem to stretch twenty feet or more ahead of them? “There can’t be this much space up here. Is it some kind of optical illusion?”

“This room isn’t exactly all here. All in this world, I mean. That’s one reason we covered the window. People got too curious about the weird lights.”

She stared at the—object or creature?—that occupied the other end of the chamber. A translucent mound of rainbow-colored bubbles filled the space, emitting blue and violet sparks whenever its surface rippled. A pseudopod oozed outward for a second, then withdrew into the mass, leaving a glittery trail on the floorboards.

“What is that? Is it alive?” The thing struck her as beautiful in an alien, mind-wrenching way. Maybe the family secret was that the mysterious Wilbur performed mad-scientist illicit DNA experiments.

Blake put his arm around her waist. “That’s my brother.”

“What?” she yelped. “Where?”

The mammoth rainbow-bubble cluster extended six tentacles like the tendrils of a jellyfish, and four eye-stalks popped up at random spots on its surface. “Welcome, Lauren.” The voice vibrated through the floor and resonated in the pit of her stomach like organ music. “I’m so happy to meet my new sister.”

-end of excerpt-


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:

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

My Goodreads page:

Please “Like” my author Facebook page (cited above) to see reminders when each monthly newsletter is uploaded. I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to be shown posts from liked or friended sources in my Facebook feed when I’ve “Liked” some of their individual posts, so you might want to do that, too. Thanks!

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