Author Archive

Welcome to the March 2019 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

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. These items include some of the short stories that used to be on Fictionwise:
Barnes and Noble

Go here and scroll down to “Available Short Fiction” for a list of those stories with their Amazon links:
Kindle Works

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

In March, The Romance Reviews website is celebrating its eighth anniversary with contests and giveaways. I’m participating, and my featured day will be March 19. I’m giving away a PDF of my vampire novel DARK CHANGELING:

The Romance Reviews

The excerpt below comprises the opening scene of “Cracked Portal,” one of the fantasy stories reprinted in my collection HARVEST OF MAGIC:

Harvest of Magic

This month I’m interviewing mystery, suspense, and paranormal author Julie M. Howard.

*****

Interview with Julie M. Howard:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I started reading very early and just absolutely, completely and fanatically fell in love with stories of all types. At first, it was fairy tales and Dr. Seuss, then the Brothers Grimm, and then onto all genres, from memoir to horror to historical fiction. I was jealous from the start that people created these stories, and knew I wanted to do this too. I became a reporter and editor for a career, and so wrote lots of non-fiction per se, but my first love has always been fiction. I feel so incredibly lucky I get to spend my time writing books now. It’s the best job in the world!

What genres do you work in?

Primarily mystery, but I do have an unpublished historical fiction manuscript in my desk drawer. My first two books are mystery/suspense and the most recent book, Spirited Quest, is a paranormal mystery.

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

I start with a good outline, so I have the general plot and story arc in place. I’ll jot down some key scenes I want to cover. From there, I basically wing it. My outline changes and stretches in places, but I don’t stress out about that. Once the characters come alive on the pages, I let them direct the story.

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

One of my favorite authors is John Steinbeck. I love how he could take a serious subject and create interesting characters to teach readers about it. Good and evil. The haves and have-nots. Human frailties. In the back of my mind, I’m always wondering “What is it I’m trying to say with my story?”

You’ve ghost-written a nonfiction book—what was that process like?

Ghost-writing “Making my Own Luck,” a memoir by a Hewlett-Packard executive, was amazing for a couple of reasons. First, I was able to spend time with Ray Smelek, who knew both Bill Hewlett and David Packard. He was one of the early employees with HP and later started HP’s printing business. So, from a historical perspective, the project was fascinating. I also had a great time learning how to build a story over the course of a book – quite different than writing a newspaper article. I learned a book is not just a longer story – there’s a story arc to be developed. That’s when I decided to take a couple of classes to hone my book-writing skills.

Please tell us about your Wild Crime series. Your website mentions “domestic suspense”; how would you define that subgenre?

Ah, aren’t all relationships a story of domestic suspense? Love me, don’t love me? Who’s making dinner? Will we make it to twenty years?
All kidding aside, my books take on the marriage of a woman who comes to realize she’s in an abusive relationship. Not all abuse is violent or overt. Her abuse creeps up so slowly until, one day, she starts fantasizing about killing her husband. Things get worse from there.
The series picks at the scab of a wounded marriage, and brings healing to my main character.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the last book in the Wild Crime series. This one is simply called “Wild Crime.” I hope to send it to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, sometime this spring. I’ve also started developing a new mystery series that I’ll start just as soon as my current project is finished.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never give up. And never stop believing in yourself. This is a competitive business, but that has nothing to do with your value and the value of the story you want to tell. Keep at it. Expect rejection. And write some more.

What’s the URL of your website? Your blog? Where else can we find you on the web?

Julie M. Howard Website,
Blog

I’m also on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter

Goodreads

Facebook: @JulieMHowardAuthor

Twitter: @_JulieMHoward

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

MISTRESS OF THE WIND, by E. Rose Sabin. Book One of the Arucadi series. Kyla, a windspeaker, serves her fellow townsfolk by communing with the wind to predict weather and warn of dangers that might threaten the village. The most dire of those are mindstealers, quasi-humanoid monsters that leave their victims mindless or dead. At the age of twelve, Kyla lost her parents to these creatures. Now, as a young woman, she receives only grudging respect from her neighbors, who often express doubts that the service she performs justifies the material support they give her. Her life changes when she rescues a man who has been attacked by mindstealers and left mindless. With the coerced help of a mindstealer she captures, she restores the victim to his senses. The magnetically attractive young man identifies himself as a famous mage, Alair. He seems strangely ungrateful for his rescue and impatient to find someone called Claid. Claid turns out to be his capricious familiar, in the form of a preteen boy. As a “reward” for Kyla’s help, Alair gives Claid to her. Her troubles begin when she takes the boy home with her. Misfortunes befall her neighbors, for which they blame Kyla. It doesn’t help that Claid seems to think she’s a mage, although she insists the windspeaking gift is not magic. He keeps referring to a “chain” that binds him to Alair and expects Kyla to free him. His only redeeming trait seems to be his reverence for the books she has inherited from her father. When Kyla and Claid are driven out of the village, they go to Alair’s home. At first Kyla thinks of the mage as a cruel master mistreating Claid, although Alair repeatedly tells her the boy is not what he seems. Unwillingly fascinated by Alair, despite the fact that (according to the tradition she has been taught) a windspeaker should have no lover but the wind, she wavers back and forth between distrust of Alair and uncertainty about Claid. When she eventually leaves the valley with Claid, she discovers the outside world to be radically different from her home. They find themselves in a sort of Victorian-level, nonmagical steampunk world. Kyla gets picked up as a vagabond and sent to a Dickensian workhouse, with Claid (now shapeshifted into the form of a baby) consigned to an orphanage. Kyla makes a friend at the workhouse and eventually learns secrets of her world, her own heritage, Claid’s true nature, and the value of her father’s books. Other than a feeling that the people outside the valley are overly quick to condemn Kyla on little evidence, I found the story engaging and satisfying. The author skillfully keeps the reader uncertain, for most of the book, whether to trust Alair or Claid and which one (if either) is more or less telling the truth. While this story reaches a conclusion with no frustrating cliffhanger elements, it has a strong sequel hook.

ORIGINS OF THE SPECIOUS, by Patricia O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman. An exploration and debunking of “myths and misconceptions” about the English language, published in 2009. The first chapter begins the book with an overview of some ways British and American English differ, the reasons for the divergences, and evidence that American English may legitimately be considered the “purer” of the two. Chapter Two, “Grammar Moses,” deconstructs “rules” that are no longer valid, many of which never were, such as the taboo on splitting infinitives. Other sections expose allegedly French-based words that aren’t and tackle the supposed origins of various proverbial expressions such as “the whole nine yards.” The authors discuss changes in pronunciation and the furor over words that have been condemned as ugly innovations (even some that have been around for centuries). The text unfolds the history of “ain’t,” which fills a need with a contraction that, unfortunately, has no grammatically “correct” equivalent. Widely believed linguistic “facts” are disproved (e.g., the vulgar term for excrement isn’t an abbreviation of “Ship High in Transit”). Chapter Eight, “Sense and Sensitivity,” delves into politically correct and incorrect vocabulary. The chapter on “Sex Education: Cleaning Up Dirty Words” debunks many erroneous beliefs about words that used to be designated as unprintable. No, the F-word, actually of venerable antiquity, does not derive from “Fornication Under Consent of the King” or any other farfetched acronym. O’Conner and Kellerman advance reasons why some fights should continue to be fought, such as reserving “unique” to mean “one of a kind” (no “quite unique” or “most unique” allowed). The book supports its points with exhaustive footnotes and includes a two-and-a-half-page bibliography. Very entertaining and informative.

SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT, by Theodora Goss. A collection of thirty-one stories and poems based on or inspired by fairy tales, some reprints, most original to this volume. All these works question “What if. . .?” or “What comes next. . .?” They make the familiar tales new and strange by switching viewpoints from “hero” to “villain” or changing time and/or place to a different milieu. To mention only a few: The poem “The Ogress Queen” offers the perspective of the prince’s cannibalistic mother from the second part of “Sleeping Beauty,” the follow-up that never seems to get into children’s books and movies. “The Rose in Twelve Petals” explores “Sleeping Beauty” from a variety of viewpoints, including that of the witch who casts the “curse”; beginning in what appears to be a nineteenth-century setting, it concludes a century later, when the “prince” breaks through the thorn hedge on a bulldozer instead of a horse. The poem “The Clever Serving Maid” reflects on the exchange of identities between the princess / goose girl and her maid from the viewpoint of the maid, who doesn’t want to marry a prince anyway. In “The Other Thea,” the heroine has to visit the castle of Mother Night in the Other Country to reunite with her lost shadow. The poem “Goldilocks and the Bear” portrays Goldilocks and the young bear as childhood friends who grow up to get married, while “Sleeping with Bears,” a comedy-of-manners story, features a wedding between a human girl and the scion of a wealthy bear family. In the poem “The Gold-Spinner,” the miller’s daughter, who actually spun straw into gold on her own, makes up the tale of a strange little man to get out of marrying the king. In the story “Red as Blood and White as Bone,” set in an imaginary central European country in the first half of the twentieth century, the narrator, an orphaned kitchen-maid in a nobleman’s castle, befriends a strange woman she believes—under the influence of fairy tales—to be a princess in disguise. The “princess” turns out to be something quite different but equally mysterious, on a mission that doesn’t involve marrying the prince. A witch tells the heroine of “Seven Shoes” that she will get what she wants after wearing through seven pairs of shoes; the poem follows her through successive stages of her life to the point where, having worn out many types of shoes, she attains her dream of becoming a writer. A must-read for fans of re-imagined fairy tales.

*****

Excerpt from “Cracked Portal”:

A pale glow from no visible source etched the silhouettes of gnarled, leafless trees against a silver and steel-blue landscape. Glenys trudged through an earthbound cloud of gray mist that swirled around her bare feet and ankles. What she glimpsed of the dark sky showed neither moon nor stars. Something shrieked in the distance.

From above, a winged creature with a barbed tail swooped at her. She crouched, covering her head. The flying thing’s talons clawed her arms, and its tail whipped her in passing. Rolling away from the attack, she cast a lightning bolt at the flyer. With a shrill cry, it veered skyward. Glenys scrambled to her feet and staggered toward an oval of violet light she could barely see between the trees. Vines looped around her legs and scratched her with their thorns.

The same as the night before, she reached the violet beacon just as a hot blast of wind with an odor of charred meat hit her from behind. A high-pitched whine drilled into her skull. She glanced back to catch sight of a smoke-hued, serpentine form as big around as her own body and so long she couldn’t see its other end. It charged toward her. She plunged through the portal…

#
Glenys slammed onto the workroom floor. Sitting up, she saw by the moonlight shining through the window that she’d again landed inside the ritual circle painted on the polished wood. She brushed at her dust-streaked night shift and rubbed the fresh bruises on her knees.

I never sleepwalk, and these are definitely not dreams. I’ve been…elsewhere.

She shoved herself upright and limped into the bedroom where she’d lain down to sleep a few hours earlier. After washing her scrapes and cuts, she spread healing salve on them, augmented by a murmured spell. If nothing else, the wounds proved the reality of her experience. She stretched out on the bed, drawing slow, deep breaths to force herself to relax.

No wonder the town council of Willowford had offered her the old wizard’s vacant house during her visit. Doubtless nobody else would want to spend a night here. Why would he have cast a portal spell and left it running wild? Something must have gone wrong with his magic. Whatever it was, she’d have to fix it or cut her stay short. She’d come here to treat injuries and ailments beyond the scope of the village healer, scry for lost trinkets or wandering livestock, and predict the chances of success for harried business-folk or desperate lovers. She hadn’t counted on getting repeatedly dragged into a pocket dimension infested with monsters.

-end of excerpt-

My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
Hard Shell Word Factory: Hard Shell
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 February 2019 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

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. These items include some of the short stories that used to be on Fictionwise:
Barnes and Noble

Go here and scroll down to “Available Short Fiction” for a list of those stories with their Amazon links:
Kindle Works

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 annual vampire fiction bibliography update is now available. If you’d like to receive a copy of the file, you can request it by e-mail: MLCVamp@aol.com

Below is another short excerpt from my new paranormal romance novella “Yokai Magic,” which you can find here:

Yokai Magic

The current scene occurs immediately after Val’s cat, Toby, chases a barely-glimpsed, unidentified creature out of the living room.

This month I’m interviewing Australian thriller writer Stephen B. King.

*****

Interview with Stephen B. King:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve written all my life, starting with poems and short stories in my youth, then I left school and got involved with the music business as a guitarist and had a ball writing songs. But then real life popped its head up, so along came marriage and children, and working for a living – a guy can’t have fun all his life, can he?

I spoke about writing a book for so long, it drove my wife nuts. Then out of the blue I heard a song, “Nevermind,” by Leonard Cohen (theme song for True Detective 2) and suddenly inspiration hit me like a lightning bolt. My wife, to shut me up, bought me a laptop, and told me no more excuses write the damn book. Now as I approach book number 10, I think maybe she regrets that.

Inspiration for stories comes in many ways. Coming up with ideas isn’t my problem, It’s finding the time to write them, then re-write them five times (my minimum) then the editing rounds……..

What genres do you work in?

Call me morbid, by all means, but the world of serial killers has always fascinated me. It must run in my family because my daughter is in her last year of university studying criminal psychology. A good friend is also a psychologist, and his wife is a renowned sport psychologist, and they have all been a good source of research.
When I write a story about a killer, I like to ‘get inside’ their head and show the reader how and why they became that way. Let’s face it, it doesn’t just happen that a ‘normal’ person wakes up one day and decides to kill people. While I don’t like to glamorize it, I do like to show the human side, and get the reader to invest in the character. If I can do that – watch out, we’re going on a roller coaster ride.
I’ve also written Thirty-Three Days, a romantic thriller using time travel. When inspiration hits, I will write anything. I’m also working up some ideas for a series of comedy stories involving a large car dealership (I work in one myself) An author, I believe, should be able to write anything, rather than get stuck in one genre – says he as he begins yet another thriller……..

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

Mostly my stories come from a spark of an idea, and for me to explore that I write it. I then write chronologically from that point on and see where it leads. Once I start I do not plan the ending, I work my way towards it, and I find that often I’m surprised myself at what I write. I also think it makes it fresher if I don’t know what’s coming.
For me, writing is all about bringing to life characters, getting the reader to invest in them, and even care for them. And, if I achieve that, then I can put those ordinary characters into extraordinary situations. My new release Glimpse Series, at its core is about desire. The effect that sexual desire can have on the marriages of the protagonists, it’s also about Pat’s desire to use her abilities on the front line of a major police investigation to catch a murderer. Also, of course it’s about the skewed desire that a serial killer has, to murder his victims.

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

Authors, there are a few: my famous namesake is right up there for putting characters you love in harm’s way. Of recent times I’ve fallen in literary love with Scandinavian writers and two are the finest authors I’ve ever read; both now deceased, unfortunately. Stieg Larsen and Henning Mankell. The former penned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and the latter the brilliant Wallander series. Two TV shows made me sit up and take notice and realize how good TV can be, a British one called Wire in the Blood, and the second was American: True Detective. A really good thriller/police procedural I think is the best there is, so I try to emulate what I like to read and see.

Your website includes an essay on why people are fascinated with murder. Could you give us a brief summary of your answer to that question?

As I alluded to in that article, I think it’s because we yearn to know why. Why would someone do hideous things to other human beings yet appear outwardly normal? In my latest trilogy, I explored that extensively with three different killers, with three different motivations and each are radically different to the other. Of course in my case, it’s fiction, but I try to get the psychology aspect as close as I can to factual because I think its important to try to show the answer to that question: Why?

What kind of research have you done for your fiction about serial killers?

I’ve read extensively, and talked to people in the field of mental health, in my attempts to try to portray sufferers in the right light. We must remember that often they don’t think they have a problem; it’s us ‘normal’ people who do. Some ailments are born from physical causes; electrical impulses short circuiting from a blow on the head as a child etc. Other problems are often caused by a series of events and the psyche has created personas to protect the sufferer – these are the most tragic of all. I read an article that said we only use 10% of our brain consciously, which begs the question: What’s the other 90% for? The human brain is capable of great good – think Einstein, Stephen Hawkins, but also great evil- Jack the Ripper, Son of Sam. Most of us thankfully live in the middle ground.

Please tell us a bit about your experience in having your work adapted to audiobook format.

So far only 1, called Thirty-Three Days. But Glimpse, Memoir of a Serial Killer is in production now. I can only say it is an incredible experience and one I would recommend to any author if you get the chance. To hear my words performed by an actor was one of the highlights of my life, which still gives me goosebumps when I think of it now. When it was finished and released, I bought a copy, and listened to it without trying to edit or find fault, and it was amazing.

What are you working on now?

There is an urban myth that the ACDC song called Highway to Hell, was written by Bon Scott (RIP) about the highway which runs between Perth (where I live) and our port city of Fremantle (where we defended the America’s cup from the first time it left America). It’s a, to use an Aussie slang term, a mongrel of a road at any time, but in rush hour, it’s dreadful. So, I’m working on a thriller called Breakdown on the Highway to Hell, about three women who go missing after breaking down in rush hour traffic…….

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I have two pieces of advice: 1….. Never give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it – you can. Rejections will come by the bucket full, but treat each one as a stepping stone to success. 2…. Write from your heart, and edit with your head.

What’s the URL of your website? Your blog? Where else can we find you on the web?

All my books are available via Amazon, Goodreads, itunes etc And I always respond to comments and reviews – email me, tell me what you think of any of my books.

Stephen B King
Stephen B. King
twitter: @stephenBKing1
Facebook: @stephenbkingauthor

Thank you for hosting me, and letting me ramble on

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

IN AN ABSENT DREAM, by Seanan McGuire. The fourth book in the “Wayward Children” series, which began with EVERY HEART A DOORWAY. That novel takes place in a boarding school for children and teenagers who have returned to our reality after time spent in another world accessed through a magic portal. Each of the following books deals with the individual experiences of various characters. IN AN ABSENT DREAM stands perfectly well on its own. In fact, it’s almost better not to have read the original novel first, because that one reveals the ultimate fate of this newest story’s protagonist. Katherine Lundy is “ordinary enough to have become remarkable entirely without noticing it.” A quiet child who follows the rules and keeps her thoughts to herself, she prefers to spend most of her time reading. In 1964, at the age of eight, she stumbles upon a door in a tree. On the door are the words “Be sure.” When she enters, the door vanishes, leaving her in a long, curved hallway. Signs on the walls proclaim five rules: Ask for nothing. Names have power. Always give fair value. Take what is offered and be grateful. Remember the curfew. At last she emerges into the Goblin Market, a combination of a carnival, a farmer’s market, and a craft fair, thronged by people many of whom don’t look human. Lundy (as she decides to call herself to avoid giving away the power of her first name) quickly finds a friend in Moon, an owl-eyed girl with feathers in her hair. Moon introduces her to a woman called the Archivist, a mentor figure who impresses on Lundy the importance of giving fair value and not accumulating debts. Feathers like Moon’s symbolize what happens to people who fall too deeply into debt; if they don’t balance accounts, they eventually lose their humanity altogether. Unlike most worlds where magic portals lead, the Goblin Market allows multiple visits. Lundy goes back and forth, torn between the faerie realm she considers her true home and mundane life with her family. She loves her parents and sister but can’t imagine being content with this life. Her father, having visited the Goblin Market in his own childhood, sympathizes but of course wants her to stay in the “real” world. The “curfew” looms, her eighteenth birthday, by which she must choose to live permanently in one world or the other. This anguished dilemma remains in the foreground. Dramatic events such as her heroic battle against the Wasp Queen and the death of a friend happen offstage. IN AN ABSENT DREAM is a story of inexorable choice, with no unambiguously “happy ending” possible.

THE WICKED KING, by Holly Black. Sequel to THE CRUEL PRINCE. The prince of the first book (who wasn’t quite so cruel as he appeared) has become the king of the present novel. Whether he’s truly “wicked” remains an open question. Jude, the mortal girl brought up in Elfhame as a foster daughter by the elven warrior who murdered her parents, again narrates the story (in present tense, annoyingly). The new king, Cardan, has bound himself to obey her commands for a year and a day. He resents this obligation, of course, and she tries to exercise her power only when absolutely unavoidable. She also carefully prevents anyone else from knowing she holds this control over the king. She has enemies, one of whom tries to poison her. Meanwhile, her secret role as a spy complicates her life. Court intrigue makes every choice open to her hazardous. When the Queen of Undersea demands that the King of Elfhame marry her daughter, Jude strives to save Cardan and his realm despite her ambivalent relationship with him. Like the previous novel, THE WICKED KING highlights the perilous existence of a mortal in the elven world. The unexpected conclusion could be the end of Jude’s story, but I suspect there’s more to come.

THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS, by Laura E. Weymouth. This portal fantasy, like EVERY HEART A DOORWAY but with a very different approach, explores how the protagonists cope with the aftermath of returning to our world from a sojourn in a magical realm. Incidents from their life in the other world and the six years between their return and the story’s present are framed as flashbacks. (The first-person accounts, both now and then, are narrated in present tense, and, still more annoyingly, all the flashbacks appear in italics.) During a bombing raid in World-War-II London, siblings James, Philippa, and Evelyn disappear from their backyard shelter and appear in a place called the Woodlands. The lordly stag Corvus, Guardian of the Woodlands, in response to Evelyn’s desperate plea to be “anywhere but here,” has transported them between universes. Evelyn longs to stay, but Philippa wants to go home and agrees to remain for a while only when Corvus promises that no time will pass back in London. Their parents will be safe and never know the children were gone. James, eager to play a significant role in this world that he can’t in Earth’s war, gladly accepts Corvus’s invitation. Beautiful and peaceful though this country is, it’s threatened by invasion from the Empire, whose ruler demands submission and tribute from the Woodlanders, including freedom to cut down sentient trees for the Empire’s war resources. Corvus, although magical, doesn’t have the godlike power of Aslan in Narnia. The war wreaks devastation on the Woodlands before victory is finally achieved. Even so, Evelyn is happy there. When Corvus keeps his promise to send the three children (now young adults) home, James and Philippa welcome the return, while Evelyn is essentially dragged along against her will. In one important factor glossed over by Lewis in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, Evelyn suffers wrenching dislocation at suddenly being thirteen again after having grown into a young woman in the Woodlands. She has to live through the ages between thirteen and eighteen twice. (That DOES sound to me like a fate almost worse than death.) As the novel begins in the story’s present day, she’s at a boarding school as the British equivalent of an American high school senior. James attends Oxford, and Philippa has gone away to Harvard. Although Evelyn tries to fit in as her family and schoolmates expect her to, she yearns for “home” and continues to feel disconnected from her mundane life. Philippa, on the other hand, embracing normality, armors herself in “powder and pumps,” the conventional persona of a bright, attractive young woman. In Narnian terms, Evelyn corresponds to Lucy and Philippa to Susan, except that Philippa never denies the reality of the Woodlands. After almost six years back in the “real” world, Evelyn becomes close to a boy her own age and begins to feel almost at home in this universe. This change, however, feels to her like a betrayal of her true home, the Woodlands. The second half of the book, narrated by Philippa, begins with Evelyn’s disappearance. Philippa goes back to England, struggling with guilt over having, as she sees it, abandoned her sister. Her anguish over not knowing what has happened to Evelyn is vividly rendered. Is Evelyn dead, possibly by suicide, as generally assumed, or has she found her way back to the Woodlands? The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but it’s bittersweet, not an unequivocally “happy” ending.

*****

Excerpt from “Yokai Magic”:

“Way to go,” she said to the cat. “You flushed out some kind of creepy-crawly and then lost it. Now I have to spend all night worrying if it’s loose in the house.” He sat down and licked his front paws, each in turn, with his ears twitching as if he acknowledged her scolding but couldn’t bother with a response. “Best case, it was just a big, white moth. I could live with that.”

After one more scan of the kitchen and a survey of the dining room, just in case, she succumbed to second thoughts and checked the den and laundry room as well. Nothing. In the den, she did notice that the high-backed, rattan papasan chair, another souvenir her grandfather had picked up in Japan, sat in the middle of the floor instead of where it belonged. She’d taken photos of it the evening before to compare with online images of furniture of similar origin and age, in case it might be valuable enough to bother selling. Probably she’d repositioned it for better lighting and absentmindedly neglected to move it back. She shrugged at her own flakiness and tugged the chair into its usual corner.

After pouring herself a glass of Riesling, she settled on the living-room couch to watch a nature program she’d recorded earlier in the week. Toby curled up next to her with his plumed tail over his nose. She stroked him to calm herself.

Halfway through the life cycle of dolphins, she glimpsed movement from the corner of her eye. Is it back? She glanced up and located the disturbance above the fireplace. The two ivory figurines on the mantel, which her grandfather had bought in Japan, the ones she’d been seeking documentation for, twitched their limbs. The dragon spread its lacy batwings and glided to the edge of the hearth. The octopus stretched its tentacles and crept down the fire-guard screen. Toby uncurled his long, fluffy body, flexed his claws, and hissed.

Val slowly pulled herself to her feet, clutching the wing-backed end of the couch. “You see that?” she whispered. Maybe that’s what happened to the cat statuette. It got up and walked away, too.

The dragon and octopus scrabbled onto the carpet, their respective legs and tentacles clicking like a handful of dice. The cat lashed his tail and hissed again. Her breath caught in her throat. This is not happening. She flapped both hands at the animated figurines. They halted, the dragon’s wings vibrating and four of the octopus’s limbs suspended off the floor. Toby sprang at them. They both skittered up the screen to their places on the mantel.

Val collapsed onto the couch, trembling, with her face in her hands.

When her pulse slowed, she peeked between her fingers. The dragon and octopus sat in the positions they’d occupied ever since her family had bought the house. Toby jumped onto the cushion beside her and licked his tail. “That didn’t happen, right?” she asked him. He blinked at her. “I dozed off and had a really weird dream.” After her hands stopped shaking, she gulped the rest of her wine, turned off the TV, and went up to bed.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
Hard Shell Word Factory: Hard Shell
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

When Val unearths a Japanese scroll and a cat figurine inherited from her grandfather, magic invades her world. The statuette, actually a cat spirit named Yuki—a yokai—enchanted into that form for her own protection, comes to life. Over a century ago, an evil magician cast a curse on her, and a wolf-like demon conjured by the curse still hunts her. Because Val is the one who broke the protective spell, that dark magic endangers her, too. She must turn for help to the last person she wants to get involved with, her former high-school boyfriend, now an officer in the Navy. Together they search for a way to vanquish the threat from the spirit realm, while facing the attraction they thought they’d long since put behind them.