Archive for April, 2024

Welcome to the April 2024 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

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

A joyful welcome to the northern hemisphere spring!

Below is an excerpt from my “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” story from last year, “Bunny Hunt.” At the neighborhood Easter egg hunt, Melanie’s nephew’s dog, Kiki, runs away to chase a rabbit, and Melanie hurries to catch her. You can find “Bunny Hunt” here:

Bunny Hunt

This month’s interview features another “Jelly Beans and Spring Things” writer, multi-genre author (and trained belly dancer) Sonya Rhen.


Interview with Sonya Rhen:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve always loved stories since I was little and my parents would read to me. I think I wrote my first story when I was around six about two lion cubs. I’ve written short stories and poems ever since. It wasn’t until I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2008 that I actual wrote my first novel, and I’ve been writing more seriously since then. I find that writing really feeds my creative spirit and allows me to process events and situations in a positive way.

What genres do you work in?

I mostly write humor, but I’m fairly eclectic. My writing tends to be all over the place. I write a humorous SciFi Series about a seismic rock band, the Shredded Orphans, who travel in space. I also write poetry, romance and whatever strikes my fancy. I have an unpublished paranormal mystery series I’m writing with a friend.

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

I’m mostly a “pantser” and wing it while I’m writing, but sometimes I outline or at least have a rough idea where I’m going with the story.

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

I read a lot of different genres, but my favorite authors are Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Terry Pratchett, P.G. Wodehouse, Penny Reid, Julia Quinn, T. Kingfisher and Jessie Mihalik. I think these authors all have a pretty good sense of humor as well as telling a good story. For my science fiction influences, I have to say those are primarily television shows. I grew up watching Star Trek and the original Battlestar Galactica with my dad. I also really like Far Scape, Red Dwarf and Firefly.

What sparked your Jelly Beans and Spring Things book, “Waiting for Spring”?

“Waiting For Spring” was written out of my love for belly dancing, my local belly dance community and my love for Kirkland. While there is no actual Kirkland Crocus parade, there is an annual 4th of July parade. When my kids were little, we walked the parade route in the Kid’s Parade that happened just before the main parade. Though I didn’t put it in my story, I did have a motorized kiddie car run over my foot!

Do you practice belly dancing yourself? If so, what can you tell us about that experience, e.g., how long did it take to learn?

I practiced belly dance regularly for about fifteen years. I loved it, but sadly our troupe and classes came to an end during the Covid shutdown. My teacher, Athena, used to dance with the famous Greek belly dancer in Zaphara’s Middle Eastern Dancers and also danced at several local restaurants. It took a few years, but we finally convinced her to start her own troupe and The Habibi Nile Dancers was born. We danced quite a bit in the Seattle area at events, restaurants and haflas. Though, we never danced in any parades.
My parade belly dancing experience was with the renowned Egyptian-Cabaret belly dancer, Delilah (who was in the movie “The China Syndrome” as a Belly Gram dancer.) I danced with her group in two of the Fremont Solstice Parades. (The first time doing the parade I had only been taking lessons for about six months.) It was tiring, but so much fun!

As far as how long it took to learn belly dancing, I’m still learning! The last workshop I took was a Saidi cane dance from the Egyptian musician and dancer Karim Nagi. (You can watch his TEDx Talk on YouTube.) The basics of belly dancing are pretty easy and you can be belly dancing in a matter of months, but there are so many advanced techniques and also a wide variety of dances, that you can always be learning!

Please tell us about the making of the holiday anthology you edited.

The holiday anthology I edited called “Holiday Sampler” was a labor of love. I had this idea of making an anthology for the writer’s group I was in at the time. It was a way of helping us all promote each other’s writing. A lot of people helped contribute to the book of short stories, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Tell us a bit about your “Shredded Orphans” science fiction series.

My first book in the Shredded Orphans series is “Space Tripping With the Shredded Orphans.” The inspiration for the book came partly from a dream I had and a short-lived TV show called “Space Rangers.” By the time I got around to writing it, I think it was influenced a lot by the show “Firefly.” Someone from my critique group referred to my novel as “Firefly,” but with a band. The band consists of Lix, the guitarist and lead singer; Chitto, the sitonitar player; Mac, the drummer; Ophelia, the backup singer and trapeze artist; and Justice, the roadie and pilot. It’s an intergalactic road trip with a seismic rock band!

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

I have book three in the Shredded Orphans series nearly complete, so that might be the next book I have coming out. I had put it on hold to deal with family things and haven’t gotten back to it yet. In the meantime, I’ve been working on short stories, but have yet to have any of them published (other than “Waiting For Spring”.)

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on finishing a handful of short stories as well as a paranormal mystery series that I’m writing with a friend. Writing is really difficult and when personal things come up and things go wrong with the house, it really puts a damper on writing. So when I can write, it’s just to try and finish up writing projects I’ve already started.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

My advice for aspiring authors is that writing is hard. If you think writing is a good get rich quick scheme, then you’d be better off getting a different job. But if you have a compulsion to write and you love playing with words, then go for it. Also, if there’s something you really want to write as a legacy, like your memoir or family history, then now is a great time for writing. There are so many resources out there for you in terms of writing tools like software, computers, tablets, dictation software and affordable self-publishing options, so you can be holding a physical copy of your book without having to buy 10,000 or so copies. If you are seriously thinking about becoming an author, then I recommend two things. First, try NaNoWriMo. It has great resources and is a great way to get a lot of words down in a short amount of time. Then you can see if this is really something that you want to be doing. Second, join writers’ groups, either in your area or online. Making writer friends is a great way to get support and advice. And then, just keep writing!

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

You can find me at the following places online:

Author Website
Twitter @SonyaRhen
Threads sonyarhen
TikTok @sonyarhen


Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

LEGENDS & LATTES [sic], by Travis Baldree. In addition to the cute title, I was intrigued by the numerous favorable references to this novel I’d come across. After reading its blurb, I couldn’t resist buying it. Good decision, especially for a longtime Dungeons and Dragons player. The opening scene reads like the climax of a D&D campaign. Veteran orc freelance fighter Viv slays a monster called a Scalvert and takes a stone with rumored magical powers from its head. The rest of the book, however, doesn’t follow the D&D action-adventure pattern. Labeled “A novel of high fantasy and low stakes,” that’s exactly what it is. Nobody is trying to save the world or even a threatened homeland. The personal stakes are high for the protagonist, though, as they should be. A retired orc warrior who loves coffee and books, starting a new life as proprietor of a coffee shop in a city where nobody outside the gnome community has ever heard of that beverage? Irresistible. Foreswearing violence and hanging up her sword (literally, on the wall), Viv dips into the fortune she won as a mercenary and dungeon-delver to buy an abandoned livery stable. She buries the Scalvert Stone under the floor, hoping it will bring good fortune as its legend claims. In the course of remodeling the premises and opening the shop (like a tavern, she explains, but with “bean water” instead of alcohol), she gains employees and other helpers who soon become allies, friends, and eventually partners. Most notably, Viv grows close to Tandri, a succubus with a flare for art. Just as Viv refuses the stereotypical role of a barbaric orc, Tandri resists the one-dimensional image of seductive demons imposed on her species. Aside from harassment by a gang running a protection racket, after a rocky start Viv’s enterprise prospers. Coffee, pastries, a strange product called “chocolate,” and the music of a timid bard prove to be big hits with the customers. Viv even manages to handle the gang without resorting to the violence she has renounced. Unfortunately, one of her old adventuring comrades covets the Scalvert Stone and has no scruples about how to get it. I found the dark moment when all seems lost, and its aftermath, truly moving. The characters are totally engaging, and the quirky interactions among different fantasy-world species are fun to read. The awkwardly tentative relationship between Viv and Tandri is touching, as the reader waits eagerly for them to admit their feelings to themselves and each other. As a bonus at the end, the book includes a prequel story, revealing Viv’s first encounter with coffee (unconnected to the prequel novel, BOOKSHOPS & BONEDUST).

BOOKSHOPS & BONEDUST. As in LEGENDS & LATTES, the characters in this prequel don’t face a world-destroying threat, although the stakes are a little higher than those in L&L. In B&B, Viv, still an active mercenary fighter at this point, battles the minions of an evil necromancer, whose menace lurks in the background throughout the novel. Nevertheless, the tagline of L&L does fit this story, too, which might be described as another “cozy” fantasy. After getting severely wounded in the opening scene due to her impulsively aggressive fighting style, Viv stays in a tiny seaside town to recover while the mercenary company moves on without her. They’ll theoretically swing by to pick her up after she heals, but doubts on that point trouble her. Frustrated by her limitations on training effectively while convalescing and bored with inactivity, she wanders into a dilapidated bookstore deserted except for its rattkin proprietor and a pet owl-canine creature named Potroast. (Despite the plural in the title, it seems to be the only bookstore in town. To paraphrase a line from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, they don’t have a lot of town.) After the shop owner talks Viv into accepting a novel on a bet, she not only turns into a compulsive reader but gradually becomes determined to spruce up the shabby establishment and enliven its almost nonexistent cash flow. In this eclectic community of species such as dwarfs, gnomes, and elves, including at least one other orc, Viv hesitantly makes friends, although reluctant to grant them that label. After all, she’ll be moving on soon, an understanding that influences but doesn’t prevent a romantic fling. She also clashes with a suspicious elvish constable, finds an ominous magical tome, and develops an alliance with a skeletal golem who doesn’t really want to return to its necromantic creator. The bookstore gets rejuvenated, bonds are formed, and the looming evil is confronted. Travis Baldree’s delightful narrative voice manages with apparent ease the daunting task of making an orc fighter a sympathetic character. The events of this book foreshadow Viv’s activities and growth in LEGENDS & LATTES without, however, undercutting her warrior persona in the present. The epilogue skips ahead to a scene taking place soon after LEGENDS & LATTES but doesn’t contain any significant spoilers. These two books could be read in either order, although I would recommend the publication sequence (LEGENDS & LATTES first).

ROSES IN AMBER, by C. E. Murphy. “Beauty and the Beast” is my favorite fairy tale, and of all the adaptations I’ve read or viewed, this is one of the most unusual. The basic plot and characters of the traditional tale form the framework, but with fascinating variations. Although we’ve seen other proactive Beauty figures, e.g,, in both of Robin McKinley’s novelizations and in the Disney animated film, Murphy’s Amber beats them all. The youngest of three sisters, unlike Beauty in the familiar story she also has three younger half-brothers by a stepmother, far from cruel, who has been a loving mother to the girls. After the family loses their home and possessions to a fire in the opening scene, their previously wealthy father learns of the loss of his ships. Faced with unpayable debts, they leave town by night to retire to their distant hunting lodge (which the children have never seen before), accompanied by only one faithful servant. The battered but plucky characters and their sad plight kept my interest fully engaged until the encounter with the Beast finally occurs, over one-third through the book. Unlike Beauty in any other version I’ve read or viewed, Amber travels back to the city with her father to reclaim their single salvaged merchant vessel and settle their debts. Therefore, she’s with him during the first night at the Beast’s palace, and she herself plucks the fateful rose. The story takes place in an alternate world, similar but not identical to our Renaissance or early modern Europe. Instead of practicing Christianity, the inhabitants revere the sun, moon, and stars. Everyone acknowledges the existence of faeries, witches, and magic, although few people expect to witness them in daily life. Same-sex marriage is accepted as routine. Class distinctions, however, hold sway just as in our history. Most readers, knowing from the cover blurb that they’re reading a “Beauty and the Beast” adaptation, will guess the Beast’s true identity long before he’s even introduced in person. That fact doesn’t function as the big secret reserved for a climactic revelation; the Beast tells Amber about his origin and curse midway through the novel, as soon as they develop a friendly relationship. Magic, though, prevents him from speaking of the details of the curse or possible ways to break it. Devastating revelations about the royal family’s tragedy, the Faerie War, Amber’s parents’ long-buried secrets, and the girls’ own latent magic culminate in a fight for the lives of Amber’s sisters as well as the Beast. The breaking of his curse plays out to a shocking, unexpected, but satisfying conclusion.

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


Excerpt from “Bunny Hunt”:

She raced along the narrow trail. Judging from the volume of the barking, the dog hadn’t gotten far yet. Melanie sprinted toward the noise, hoping to sight the runaway around the next curve in the path. What if she chased the rabbit into the underbrush?

No need to worry about that problem until she caught up with the animals. Rounding a bend, she forced herself to a burst of speed. She didn’t see her quarry, but the yapping grew still louder. After the second loop in the trail, she almost tripped over Kiki’s leash and skidded to a stop.

Not far off the path under the trees, the dog stood with her front paws pinning the rabbit to the ground. She kept barking but didn’t move otherwise, as if she had no idea what to do with her thrashing, kicking prey. The wild animal appeared to weigh at least ten pounds, barely smaller than the dog herself.

Panting and sweating from the run, Melanie lifted her ponytail off the damp nape of her neck while she seized a loop of the leash with her other hand. If one of those kicks connected, Scott’s pet could get seriously hurt. “Kiki, drop it!”

The pup didn’t even glance at her. That must have been a command she either hadn’t learned yet or chose to ignore. Melanie gave the leash a firm jerk. Startled, Kiki tumbled off the flailing rabbit and struggled to land on all fours.

The rabbit sprang upright. Melanie retreated a couple of steps, hauling the dog with her. To her surprise, the rabbit turned its head and gazed up as if assessing her. Kiki, already recovering her balance, strained at the leash.

“Well, what are you waiting for, bunny? Get out of here.”

I’m talking to a wild rabbit. Unless maybe it’s an escaped pet? That possibility would account for how little fear of humans it showed.

Staring straight at her, it reared up on its haunches. Its amber eyes gazed at her with an expression of unnerving attention.

What’s it thinking about me? Melanie shook her head. Whoa! Now I’m giving it credit for human intelligence.

A bright shimmer dazzled her vision. When it faded, the animal was standing on its hind legs—and growing. It expanded to person-height. Kiki emitted an alarmed yip and huddled against Melanie’s leg. Melanie simply froze, her mouth gaping open.

When the glow faded, a human-size bunny stood before her. It—no, she—displayed the same cinnamon-brown fur and long ears. Her face had the general shape of a woman’s, but with whiskers, amber eyes, a button nose, and rabbity incisors. Her leg joints bent at an angle suitable for hopping. Most striking, two vertical rows of nipples, four and four, adorned the front of her body, and her belly bulged with an obvious pregnancy.

-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, visit the Dropbox page below. Find information about the contents of each issue on this page of my website:

Vampire’s Crypt

All issues are now posted on Dropbox, where you should be able to download them at this link:
All Vampire’s Crypt Issues on Dropbox

A complete list of my available works, arranged roughly by genre, with purchase links:

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

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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

My Goodreads page:

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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