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Welcome to the July 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

Here’s wishing a festive Independence Day for all my American readers!

I’m thrilled to announce that the Wild Rose Press has accepted my paranormal romance novella “Kitsune Enchantment,” a sequel to “Yokai Magic” (but able to stand on its own). Shannon, a writer of graphic novels, would love a closer relationship with her reclusive artist partner, Ryo, but unknown to her, he’s a fox shapeshifter being stalked by a bungling amateur sorcerer.

An excerpt from the opening scene appears below.

TWILIGHT’S CHANGELINGS, the e-book omnibus of DARK CHANGELING and CHILD OF TWILIGHT, is now available through Draft2Digital from several vendors in addition to Amazon:

Twilight’s Changelings

And here are the URLs for DEMON’S FALL and VAMPIRE’S TRIBUTE, since I think I listed the wrong ones in last month’s newsletter:

Demon’s Fall

Vampire’s Tribute

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES, by Grady Hendrix. STEEL MAGNOLIAS crossed with ‘SALEM’S LOT! Protagonist Patricia Campbell lives in an upscale suburban community near Charleston, South Carolina, with her workaholic husband, his senile mother (“Miss Mary”), and their daughter and son, who grow from children to teenagers over the span of the novel. It’s divided into two principal sections, set in 1993 and 1996, with a prologue and epilogue in 1988 and early 1997. I didn’t mind the shift from 1988 to 1993, although such a long gap seems unnecessary, but I found the time-skip between 1993 and 1996 jarring. For a few pages it felt like having to start the book all over and regain lost momentum. Other than that complaint, its construction and engaging style felt nearly perfect. I remember only one small lapse I would have corrected if proofreading the text, a very unusual reaction for me. Patricia’s viewpoint drew me in so deeply that I didn’t even get impatient waiting for the vampire to show up. Her husband treats her like a nonentity, taken for granted as provider of housekeeping services, which he dismisses as easy and unimportant (although essential). Her children become more difficult, naturally, as they get older, and the boy’s preoccupation with Nazi Germany shows no signs of fading. There’s no question of putting her mother-in-law in a “home,” regardless of the burden on Patricia. She finds solace with a small group of friends who read and discuss true crime books. The strangeness begins one night when she comes across an eccentric, crabby neighbor eating a raccoon. When interrupted, the woman bites off one of Patricia’s ears. The woman’s nephew, James Harris, intervenes. Soon thereafter, the aunt dies, and Patricia tries to make a condolence call on the nephew. Finding him apparently dead, she attempts CPR (she’s a former nurse), only for him to spring up, shocked at having his nap cut short. The demented Miss Mary claims to know him from many decades in the past, calling him by a different name. She later dies in a grotesquely gory way. When Patricia begins to suspect the newcomer’s true nature, nobody believes her, even though she has toned down the accusation to a charge of dealing drugs to children (rather than trying to describe what she really witnessed). Mrs. Greene, Black former caretaker for Miss Mary, realizes James is dangerous, but nobody listens to her, any more than to a “mere housewife” with an obvious true-crime obsession. The most gut-wrenching horror of the novel is the way Patricia’s husband and most of her friends dismiss her reported facts and treat her like a deranged attention-seeker, to the point that she half doubts her own perceptions. The reader knows what’s going on, of course, but James wins over Patricia’s son and ingratiates himself with all the neighborhood families, especially the men, who welcome his financial investment advice. James turns out to belong to a different species, maybe its sole survivor, since he gives no indication of knowing anyone else of his kind. Although sunlight pains him, it doesn’t destroy him. He seems practically unkillable, as demonstrated in the gruesome climax when the women unite to dispose of him at last. The story portrays a long, tortuous process of overcoming not only the other women’s understandable disbelief in the paranormal and their suspicions of Patricia’s mental instability, but the barriers of class and race. I have only two quibbles with the novel, one relatively minor and one larger: Why does James hide the body of one victim in his own house? Is this blunder supposed to demonstrate his arrogance, his complacent assumption that nobody would consider investigating him? More importantly, the women’s lifestyles and the dynamics of their marriages feel more like products of the 1950s than the 90s. A book no vampire fan should miss, although it’s often painful to read.

FINAL CUTS, edited by Ellen Datlow. Datlow previously edited a reprint anthology of horror stories about movies, THE CUTTING ROOM. Now she has released a companion anthology of eighteen original works on the same theme, subtitled “New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles.” In addition to motion pictures on the big screen, some stories deal with indie films, obscure straight-to-video movies, or digital-only productions. And of course there’s the ever-popular lost movie that may or may not have even existed, until an intrepid researcher unearths the truth. Some distinguished horror authors in the volume include Christopher Golden, Gemma Files, Garth Nix, Brian Hodge, and Kelley Armstrong, among others. At least three of the selections feature snuff films, although one would have been enough for me. My favorite of those is “Exhalation,” by A. C. Wise, in which a protagonist with hyperacute hearing analyzes sounds on death-scene films to help his lifelong friend, a police detective, identify a serial killer. One recurring trope is the interview with a veteran actor or director about a production or celebrity with an ominous secret. Since the theme of the buried past impinging on the present is one of my favorite plot premises, I enjoyed many of these. Of particular interest for vampire fans, “Altered Beast, Altered Me,” by John Langan, traces the history and destructive influence of a ring worn by a succession of actors who played Dracula, beginning with Bela Lugosi. Narrated in the form of e-mails between two writers, the story builds to a satisfying payoff in the Lugosi reminiscence but, for my taste, has a succession of surreal flights of fancy in the middle that go on far too long. The most unusual piece in the book, “The One We Tell Bad Children,” by Laird Barron, takes place in either a post-apocalyptic or an alternate-universe America and centers on a boy captivating his younger siblings with a forbidden magic-lantern show in the absence of their parents. Like all Datlow’s anthologies, FINAL CUTS offers something to entertain almost any horror fan.

GOD AND THE PANDEMIC, by N. T. Wright. This brief (76 pages) but content-dense trade paperback was released earlier than its originally announced July publication date, to my great delight. It expands upon Wright’s essay in TIME magazine about the optimal Christian response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The first chapter, “Where Do We Start?”, touches upon the reactions of early Christians to past epidemics and other disasters. Wright lays out the ancient world’s principal beliefs about such disasters and how we should deal with them. Foremost was the concept that plagues, earthquakes, and other calamities showed that the gods were angry, and humanity should repent and atone. The Stoics maintained, “Everything is programmed to turn out the way it does,” and we simply have to endure it. Epicureans held, “Everything is random,” so we should stop worrying and seek whatever happiness we can find in life. Platonists taught that this world is merely the “shadow” of a higher reality, and we are destined for a better existence after death. Wright points out the modern equivalents of these positions. Some Christian groups hold the first or last position, both of which Wright deconstructs as mistaken. Although occasional passages in the Old Testament do appear to endorse what Wright calls a “vending machine” doctrine of sin and retribution—transgression in, punishment out—many other parts of scripture interrogate or outright contradict this simple approach. Chapters Two through Four of the book cover the Old Testament, Jesus as presented in the Gospels, and relevant texts in the rest of the New Testament. The final chapter asks, “Where Do We Go from Here?” Particularly interesting is Wright’s statement that our response should begin with “lament.” That’s only the beginning, of course, with much more complex discussion to follow. GOD AND THE PANDEMIC presents the lucid, rational, compassionate analysis of the present crisis that one would expect from this author.

THE IRISH ROOTS OF MARGARET MITCHELL’S GONE WITH THE WIND, by David O’Connell. I ordered this unusual little book (published in 1996 by a small press in Georgia) expecting literary criticism or social commentary. Instead, the author has a PhD in French, and the book’s emphasis is biographical and historical. Of course, it’s practically impossible to discuss Irish Americans in the nineteenth century without some degree of social commentary, and O’Connell does analyze issues related to the status of lower-class Irish immigrants versus black slaves. Most of the book, however, deals with how Margaret Mitchell’s Irish Catholic background on her mother’s side is reflected in GONE WITH THE WIND. Since I didn’t know much about Mitchell before reading THE IRISH ROOTS…, most of the information was new to me, presented engagingly by an author who clearly has a warm affection for his subjects (both Mitchell and her novel). I was surprised to learn how much of Scarlett O’Hara’s family history is directly based on Mitchell’s. Also, I hadn’t noticed the extent to which allusions to Catholicism play a continuing role in the story. Although Scarlet as an adult shows no discernible devotion to her religion, she often thinks of it at fraught moments in her life, mainly in the context of realizing how disappointed her mother would be in her behavior. Not that this realization has much concrete effect on Scarlett, usually ending in the familiar refrain, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” O’Connell enhances his discussion of Irish and Catholic culture in the nineteenth-century American South with extended quotations from poems referenced in the novel. Occasionally he makes unwarranted assumptions in connecting historical and fictional threads, such as his confident statement that early drafts of GONE WITH THE WIND (all of which Mitchell destroyed) “must” have contained allusions to a certain well-known priest that were removed before publication, simply because he seems to think Mitchell “should” have referenced that historical figure. Not by any means unbiased, this author shows clear sympathy for the old South. Although certainly not pro-Confederacy, much less pro-slavery or pro-Klan, he makes assertions such as declaring Sherman guilty of “war crimes.” Most oddly, O’Connell devotes a chapter to proving Rhett Butler not only symbolizes but almost literally IS Satan in human form, ignoring the complexity of the character, Rhett’s devotion to little Bonnie, and his genuine, though deeply flawed, love for Scarlett. THE IRISH ROOTS… is inexpensive enough to be a worthwhile purchase for devoted fans of GONE WITH THE WIND.

*****

Excerpt from “Kitsune Enchantment”:

As usual, holding human shape for an entire day in the near-constant presence of other people had strained Ryo’s control. He didn’t bother changing out of the slacks and polo shirt he’d worn to work but hurried out back as soon as he got home. Alone in the tiny yard behind a six-foot, wooden privacy fence, he unlatched the gate so he’d be able to push it open without hands to go for his evening run. At last he allowed himself to relax. His ears lengthened and perked up, pointed and furry. His teeth sharpened into fangs, while a plumed tail sprouted from his backside. He crouched on the ground. A familiar voice shattered his focus.

“Ryo? You back here?” Footsteps paced around the outside of the house. “I rang the bell, but I guess you didn’t hear it. I came by to drop off your courier bag. You must’ve accidentally left it in the office. I don’t live that far out of the way, and I figured you might need it between now and the next time you come in.”

Damn. Joel Brady. Can’t let him see me. Joel occupied the cubicle next to Ryo’s at the company they worked for, Delmarva Game Galaxy. Since Ryo mostly telecommuted and wasn’t scheduled to be on site again for almost a week, he couldn’t deny bringing him the bag was a nice gesture. Still, damned inconvenient timing. Shapeshifting in this sheltered spot had always been safe enough that he’d obviously become complacent. He forced his mouth to form intelligible words. “Thanks. You can leave it on the front porch.”

“What the heck, I’m here now. Let me just give it to you.”

The latch clicked, and the gate started to open. “No need.” Ryo’s voice came out as more of a growl than human language. He struggled to wrench his half-transformed body back into man shape.

“You okay, Ryo? You sound sick.” The gate swung ajar. About the same age and height as Ryo, but huskier, the unwanted visitor had a mop of sandy hair trimmed to just above his collar and wore wire-rimmed glasses. Ryo froze and stared up at him.

The blue eyes behind the glasses widened in shock.

The change swept over Ryo like a gust of wind. His clothes vanished to wherever they went on such occasions. He shrank from man-size to twenty pounds as his face became a muzzle, his hands and feet morphed into paws, and a reddish pelt covered his skin. Stunned, both he and the intruder gaped at each other for a second.

Joel broke the silence. “Good God, this is actually happening. You really turned into a fox.”

Ryo sprinted for the open gate, tripping Joel in the process. The other man dropped the black courier bag and yelled after him, “Hey, wait, I won’t hurt you!”

In blind panic, Ryo rushed around the house with Joel lurching after him. From the corner of his eye, he glimpsed Joel getting into a car and starting it. Ryo ran up the street, pursued by the vehicle—a two-door compact of some light color, his animal vision couldn’t distinguish exactly what.

After running two blocks through the quiet neighborhood of sixty-year-old houses similar to his own, he gathered his wits enough to think of leaving the street and cutting through yards instead. Can’t go home now. Need a safe place. Where?

He zigzagged under trees and through hedges, abruptly shifted course whenever he hit a fence, put on a burst of speed when a dog barked as he ran past its yard, and skidded to a halt at an intersection with a four-lane road blocked by speeding vehicles. Glancing behind him, he didn’t see Joel’s car. Fragmentary scraps of human thought reminded Ryo to wait until the light changed to let him cross without getting flattened. He imagined drivers and passengers exclaiming to each other, “Wow, look, a fox in broad daylight,” and snapping photos with their phones.

-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

Welcome to the June 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

The Wild Rose Press has released my lighthearted ghost story “Spooky Tutti Frutti” in its summer reading “One Scoop or Two” ice-cream-themed series:

Spooky Tutti Frutti

Here’s a spreadsheet displaying all (or most) of the covers and blurbs of e-books in the “One Scoop or Two” series:

One Scoop or Two Spreadsheet

And the page for the series on the publisher’s website:

One Scoop or Two Overview

Another snippet from the story appears below.

I’ve started posting some of my self-published works on Draft2Digital, in case readers want to acquire them in formats other than Kindle. The two so far:

DEMON’S FALL:
Demon’s Fall

VAMPIRE’S TRIBUTE:
Vampire’s Tribute

On the release date of “Spooky Tutti Frutti,” I was interviewed on the Wild Rose Press blog:

Carter Blog Interview

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

IF IT BLEEDS, by Stephen King. A collection of four new novellas. The title story, the one I was most eager to read, measuring about 190 pages, could qualify as a stand-alone novel. It’s a sequel to THE OUTSIDER, with Holly Gibney as the central character. Observing one particular TV news reporter who covers an abnormally high number of disasters, she becomes suspicious of him and gathers evidence that he’s a type of creature related to the shapeshifting “Outsider” she helped to destroy. Not quite the same, this entity feeds on pain and suffering without necessarily causing it. In that role, he’s not unlike a natural scavenger surviving on roadkill, like a vulture. Lately, though, he has become greedy. Now that he has the potential to turn into a serial murderer, Holly feels compelled to track down and eradicate him. Meanwhile, her beloved uncle’s Alzheimer’s has progressed so far that he has to be committed to a nursing home. The crisis forces her to deal with her mother, who dominated Holly for decades, crushing her spirit and keeping her dependent until the events of MR. MERCEDES changed her life. I love reading about Holly, whose non-neurotypical quirks are an intrinsic part of her personality and contribute to her strengths as an investigator. Combine this delightful character with a psychic vampire, and what more could I ask for in a short novel by Stephen King? In his concluding Author’s Note, he doesn’t mention the possible source “If It Bleeds” immediately brought to mind for me, a classic story by Ray Bradbury about certain people who mysteriously appear at the scene of every fatal accident. My second favorite story in the book, which I’ll definitely reread, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” draws upon King’s strengths in writing about children and adolescents. The first-person narrator reminisces about his odd friendship with the title character, beginning when smart phones were new and exciting. Mr. Harrigan, fabulously rich yet frugal and reclusive, hires young Craig to read to him and perform other incidental chores. He sends greeting cards to the boy on major holidays, with lottery tickets enclosed as gifts. After an astonishingly large win, Craig gratefully presents the old-fashioned, technophobic millionaire with a smart phone. Initially skeptical, Mr. Harrigan comes to appreciate the gadget’s advantages (for instance, up-to-the-minute stock market reports). After Mr. Harrigan’s death several years later, Craig sentimentally slips the phone into the old man’s pocket in the coffin. When Craig calls the number to listen to the voice mail message one more time, he gets a cryptic text response. There’s no doubt Mr. Harrigan is dead, so is the reply a software glitch or a supernatural phenomenon? Various events over the years hint at the latter, yet they could be coincidence. This being a Stephen King story, I prefer to believe in the supernatural explanation. This story reminds me of a TV episode (from THE TWILIGHT ZONE, maybe?) about phone calls ultimately traced to a fallen wire hanging over a grave (probably not the same program King mentions as an inspiration). I also tend to embrace the supernatural in the story “Rat,” one of King’s fascinating glimpses into the workings of a writer’s mind. The protagonist, a modestly successful short-story author, has failed several times to finish a novel. Now he has a new idea that he’s sure will flow to a successful conclusion, and he retreats alone to the family’s vacation cabin in the Maine woods to work on the projected book. Unfortunately, a major winter storm closes in, and he comes down with a cough and fever. On the bright side, the novel progresses brilliantly—until it doesn’t. The writer finds a dying rat at the door and brings it inside to perish in comfort beside the fire. Instead, the rat revives and talks to him, offering a devil’s bargain as a reward. After agreeing to the proposal, the protagonist does triumphantly finish his novel. Or are the conversations with the rat the product of a fever-dream and the subsequent events purely coincidental? The dilemma remains unresolved. In addition to the insight into the author protagonist’s process, the glimpses of life in the wilds of rural Maine also make this novella memorable. My least favorite of the four, “The Life of Chuck,” is still worth reading. Its experimental structure presents its three “Acts” in reverse order. The first act, the longest and (to me) most interesting of the three, portrays a world in the process of disintegrating into a gradual yet apocalyptic collapse. Billboards and other media begin to display the message “Charles Krantz. 39 Great Years! Thanks, Chuck!” whose meaning nobody seems to know. At the end of that section, we meet Chuck, dying in a hospital of a brain tumor. The other two sections narrate earlier episodes from his life. The novella turns out to be an extended development of the metaphor that every person contains an entire world. Since this point becomes clear fairly early, I don’t feel I’m giving away a major spoiler here. As always, I enjoyed King’s discussion of how he came to write these stories. While some readers may skip this kind of thing, I’m always disappointed if it’s omitted.

THE MOMENT OF TENDERNESS, by Madeleine L’Engle. The stories in this collection were unearthed and compiled by L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis. She freely acknowledges that readers expecting “vintage L’Engle” won’t find that kind of fiction in most of these pieces, almost all written from L’Engle’s college years through the 1950s. Only the last four (as far as I recall)—The Fact of the Matter,” “Poor Little Saturday,” “That Which Is Left,” and “A Sign for a Sparrow”—constitute fantasy or science fiction. Some of the stories are early versions of material that later appeared in L’Engle’s volumes of autobiographical memoirs. Others, dealing with the inner lives of lonely, sensitive children, teenagers, and young adults (mostly female), reflect the author’s own youthful experiences. There are also slice-of-life glimpses into mature marriages, often troubled. Although these stories are, of course, exquisitely written, if I’d encountered this volume before L’Engle’s novels I wouldn’t have felt motivated to seek any more of her work (and she wouldn’t have become one of my favorite authors). I must regretfully confess that I find several of the early pieces downright depressing, when they leave their young protagonists in solitary unhappiness with no immediate prospect of change. For a longtime fan of the author, however, all the contents are worth reading for the insights they provide into her early career, her creative processes, and some aspects of her own life.

THE GOOD BROTHER, by E. L. Chen, author of SUMMERWOOD / WINTERWOOD (reviewed in last month’s newsletter). Like SUMMERWOOD / WINTERWOOD, this novel has an Asian-Canadian protagonist. Tori Wong has dropped out of college and moved out of her parents’ house, where she felt suffocated by their traditional Chinese attitudes. The death of her overachieving older brother, Seymour, made her life more difficult, for now she’s being judged against an idealized figure. Tori herself is a bit of an underachiever, happy with her low-paid job at a bookstore, where she takes justified pride in being able to find whatever a customer needs. Barely scraping by financially, she rents a room in the house of a male acquaintance. As the story opens, the Festival of Hungry Ghosts is beginning. During Ghost Month, neglected spirits supposedly roam the Earth. Families burn ceremonial paper money and paper images of other things spirits might need in the afterlife. Tori’s mother expects her to perform this service for her late brother, a duty Tori wants nothing to do with. The apparition of Seymour appears to her in the bookstore, and her right arm instantly becomes numb and paralyzed. Although the effect wears off, then comes and goes erratically, she discovers Seymour can take control of her arm at will. He also has some ability to affect the physical environment, poltergeist-like. He doesn’t speak but still finds ways to make demands of her. She tries with limited success to figure out exactly what he wants so he’ll leave her alone. The ghost is a Good Brother in the sense that fairies have often been called the Good People—to avoid offending dangerous supernatural entities. Then two more ghosts arrive, not spirits of the dead, but something more intimately related to Tori. To avoid spoilers, I won’t be more specific. The ghosts are literally hungry; when Tori provides them with food, they eat it, sometimes right off her plate without permission. Because of their erratic behavior, especially Seymour’s, Tori gets into trouble at work and in her already shaky relationships. Her life, far from perfect to begin with, starts to disintegrate. The climactic blow falls when she realizes the full truth about her brother’s death. Since she narrates the story in first person, we discover layers of truth about herself and her family at the same time she does. Chen pulls off the difficult task of writing about a depressed protagonist without being depressing, although at times I did get exasperated with Tori for figuratively shooting herself in the foot even without the interference of ghosts. Like the protagonist of SUMMERWOOD / WINTERWOOD, however, she eventually grows into self-awareness and finds a measure of peace.

*****

Excerpt from “Spooky Tutti Frutti”:

Celia started at a rapid clicking behind her. Turning toward the entrance, she came face-to-face with the source of the noise. A huge, black, hairy dog—a Newfoundland. He panted and wagged his tail at the sight of her.

“What the heck are you doing in here?” She glanced at the door—securely shut, of course.

The dog sat in the middle of the floor and stared up at her with a goofy, tongue-lolling expression. When she offered her hand, he sniffed it. “Wherever you came from, you can’t stay.”

As she leaned over to look at his collar, a feminine voice said, “Oh, neat, you found Nigel.”

Again Celia flinched in surprise. She whirled around to discover a girl who looked no more than twenty, at least fifteen years younger than Celia herself, leaning against the counter.

Where did she come from? Again Celia checked the door, which was still definitely closed and locked. “How did you get in?”

“I saw your sign about needing help.” Which wasn’t an answer. The intruder, petite and lightly freckled, had flame-red hair in a pixie cut with fringed bangs. Dressed in white capri pants, a loose, white, V-necked blouse trimmed in red and blue, and canvas deck shoes, she looked as if she’d just come from a boating excursion.

“Is this your dog?” Celia frowned down at the girl, whose delicate frame made her feel even taller than she normally did. “He can’t stay in here. It’s against health regulations.”

“Oh, sorry.” The girl opened the front door and shooed the dog outside. “Go on, Nigel.” A second later, the door closed again, and the dog was gone.

I didn’t see her turn the deadbolt or the knob either time. I must be falling asleep on my feet. “Wait, will he be okay? You can’t just let him wander the streets.”

“It’s cool. My boyfriend will take care of him.”

Celia marched to the entrance and peeked through the glass. She didn’t see any sign of the animal by the glow of the nearby street lamp. The alleged boyfriend must have whisked him away instantly.

She turned back to the visitor. “You’re interested in the temporary job? I’d rather you’d have come during regular hours, but since you’re already here…” She gestured for the girl to take a seat at the nearest table. “I’m Celia Rossi, the owner.”

“I’m Suzie Conroy. Making ice cream is my hobby, so I’d love to work however long you need me.” She scanned the room. “It’s so different from before.” She spoke softly, as if to herself.

“Oh, you used to come here when the previous owner had the place?”

“Longer ago than that.”

-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

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?