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Welcome to the July 2022 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

You can subscribe to this monthly newsletter here:

Subscribe

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):

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

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:
Goodreads

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 erotic paranormal romance “Calling Back Love,” in defunct-publisher-limbo for ten years, was republished in June. The heroine, Kirsten, uses magic to twist time in order to get one last weekend with her fiancé, missing and presumed dead in battle. There’s an excerpt below. You can find the story here (or on Amazon):

Calling Back Love

Another “orphaned” erotic paranormal romance novella, “Merry Twinness,” set on Christmas Eve and featuring telepathic twins with a twist, has a release date of November 2.

In this issue, I’m interviewing urban fantasy author Mark Rosendorf, who works as a guidance counselor and has performed magic onstage.

*****

Interview with Mark Rosendorf:

What inspired you to begin writing? What genres do you work in?

Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed since middle school. Since then, I always knew I’d eventually become a writer. Interesting note, however, this is actually my second time as a writer.

Between 2009 and 2013, I had written four books and a short story. At that time, I had a limited knowledge of the industry, and by the time I fully did understand how to navigate the industry, my books felt somewhat outdated. I was burnt out, both on creativity and promoting, so I decided to quit writing.

I was sure writing was in my rearview mirror. I still had ideas for great stories, but I was no longer motivated to put pen to paper. Years had passed. Then, one night at around 2 a.m., a random thought hit me…about witches. As a magician myself, I asked “What if witches used their powers to put on a magic show?” Most people wouldn’t know the difference; the audience would just see it as amazing magic. For the witches, it would be a perfect way to hide in plain sight, because they could practice their powers without being discovered or persecuted.

I figured these witches would end up in Las Vegas because that’s the magic capital of the world. They’d amaze their audience. Plus, they wouldn’t incur the cost of the typical magic show since they’re using their powers to create the performance. But how would this affect the rest of the Las Vegas magic community? They’d never be able to keep up; what would happen to them? The first two characters formed in my head, two teenagers, one is Isis Rivera, the teenage member of the witches. The other is Zack Galloway, a teenage magician’s assistant who has watched his family suffer because of The Witches’ superior performance.

Before I knew it, I had written a new story, in a new genre, and for a new audience. It’s not a continuation of my writing career, I restarted and became an author all over again. That’s why I call myself a “born again writer”.

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

My ideas are like lightning, meaning one bright flash, then it’s gone. That is why I keep note pads everywhere. They’re next to my bed with a flashlight, they’re taped to wall outside of my shower, I have one in the car. Whenever an idea hits me, I write it on one of these pads. Then, I use these notes when writing a chapter in a notebook. At this stage, I’m not worried about grammar or sentence structure, I just want to get the idea on paper.

Next, I type out the chapter. That’s when I’m focused on the writing part. Thanks to this process, the first time I’m typing the chapter, it feels like I’m on my second draft. Once the book is complete, the edits, insertions, deletions and rewrites take place. It’s a long process, but well worth it in the end.

But before any of that happens, the first part of any writing process is coming up with a concept. In the past, my first part of the writing process was mapping out what was going to happen in the story from beginning to end. That’s where The Witches of Vegas is unique in that the story actually came to me as if it were shot into my brain, from beginning to end. For this story, the process involved a lot less mapping out and more writing up the details so I could commit them to memory.

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

Working both as a guidance counselor and a magician have certainly influenced The Witches of Vegas. I also read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies and TV shows, particularly in the sci-fi and fantasy genres.

How has your work with students affected your writing?

The biggest advantage of working in a school is that the day ends by 3:00 which leaves me plenty of time to write. Also, as a high school guidance counselor, I work intimately with my students, discussing behaviors and feelings. I’ve worked with students with special needs—many of which are emotional—for many years. Through this experience, I’ve come to understand the teenage mind regarding outlook and motivations. I believe that years of working with my students has helped in making my teenage literary characters feel real to readers.

The ironic part was that most of the criticism I received about my writing prior to “The Witches of Vegas” was that even though I was writing for adults, the language was better for a young adult audience. That’s probably because of all the time I spend talking to teenagers, analyzing them, and helping them work through daily drama. At the time, I never thought I would end up writing young adult books, but it turned out the criticism was right; it is a great fit.

You’ve performed stage magic—sounds like fun. Please tell us a bit about that.

My interest in magic started for me when I was in high school. In my junior year, I was required to take a class on public speaking where we had to make speeches. With the first speech we had to present an area of interest to the class. This was a concern for me because I wasn’t popular among my peers, I had a slight stutter, and I didn’t really have an interest that my classmates would find impressive. I certainly couldn’t go up in front of the class and talk about my comic book collection. What could I do?

My Grandmother lived in Long Island and there happened to be a magic shop in her neighborhood. I went there and told the magician behind the counter about my situation. He showed me some “dummy-proof tricks” (meaning they require little to no skill) that would look impressive to an audience. I performed them for my class and wowed them. From the front, I watched kids who constantly bullied me with stunned looks on their faces and jaws hanging down. More importantly, throughout the entire ten-minute presentation, I did not stutter once.

The next weekend, I went back to the magic shop and told the man behind the counter (Herb) all about the reaction. He proceeded to teach me, and sell me, more magic tricks which included a video on card tricks. Soon, I went there every weekend and Herb had me speaking with, and learning from, magicians who frequented the shop. I took all I learned to college where I performed in the talent shows, and then campus’ nightclub. So, to say magic changed my life is a literal truth.

After college I performed at birthday parties and bar-mitzvahs. Although I no longer perform, as a guidance counselor in my school, I also run the performing arts program and I teach magic to my students. I teach it to build their confidence and self-esteem just as magic did for me when I was their age. Our performing arts team have had opportunities to perform at other schools (mostly before Covid although that program is starting up again) which helps create the momentum for them to succeed in their studies and their job training. This leads to them all overcoming their special needs and being successful in their career paths after they leave our school.

Now magic has helped my writing as I have used my experience both on stage and behind the scenes in The Witches of Vegas. I consider this my best writing because my passion for magic and all it has done for me shines through. Some of the secrets of magic are revealed in those pages…so if you have a curious mind when it comes to magic, you may pick up on a few secrets from the magician characters that I am able to share.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

The Witches of Vegas series has certainly made an impact. The first book, The Witches of Vegas, won the 2021 RONE award in the YA category. As of this printing, the sequel, Journey To New Salem, is a 2022 finalist in both the Young Adult and Audiobook categories. The third book which just recently came out, Witch’s Gamble, is perhaps my favorite of the series as it presents a unique take on a time travel story within the world of The Witches of Vegas and brings all three books together.

I’m happy to announce the fourth book, Portal to Vegas, is on its way as I have recently submitted the manuscript to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. Now, I am working on the rough draft of book number five. The funny thing is that originally, the entire series was supposed to be a trilogy. Apparently, Isis Rivera, Zack Galloway, and The Witches of Vegas had more adventures to share.

What are you working on now?

Okay, huge news to share…I am currently working with a scriptwriter on adapting the first book, The Witches of Vegas, into a script. I’ve also been in touch with the head of a production company who connected with a few studios (such as universal and Netflix) and is interested in funding the movie. Granted, it’s early in the process, which means anything can happen, but hopefully this leads to good things.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My advice is to get ready for a long, frustrating, and exhausting process, and that’s after the book is written. Whether you’re looking for a traditional publisher or you want to self-publish, you have a lot of work ahead of you. But, remember, nothing in life worth doing is easy. When you finally see your book in print, when you look at your cover for the first time, all that hard work is well worth it.

One thing to keep in mind: when your book finally becomes real, understand that’s not the goal…that’s the starting line. It doesn’t mean you won your race, it means you are now entering the race, a race that never ends because there are always people out there that haven’t read your book yet and you want them to know about it.

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

My website is Mark Rosendorf. I am also on Twitter and Facebook. As well, I have video trailers on youtube, each under the titles of the books (The Witches of Vegas, Journey To New Salem, and Witch’s Gamble), each are 90 seconds long.

You can also hear an exclusive interview with teen witch, Isis Rivera, about being a member of The Witches of Vegas. Check it out at:
Witches of Vegas Interview

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

DEATH AND HARD CIDER, by Barbara Hambly. I’ve enjoyed every novel in the Benjamin January historical mystery series, set in and around antebellum New Orleans, from the beginning, A FREE MAN OF COLOR. All except this newest volume I’ve read at least twice, many of them several times. DEATH AND HARD CIDER brings us, with musician and trained surgeon January, to the presidential election of 1840. Although they can’t vote, he and his Black friends, both free and enslaved, are naturally interested in the outcome. He’s well-informed about the issues despite his belief that no matter who wins, nothing substantive will be done about slavery or the plight of the Black population. Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser,” plays a prominent role in this novel. January admires him, as much as he could any politician, but suffers a disillusioning blow after learning about ostensibly anti-slavery Clay’s treatment of one of his own slaves. Clay supports William Henry Harrison, of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” fame. Throughout the book people keep asking, “Who the hell is Tyler?” even though John Tyler had a career of government service as extensive as if not more than Harrison’s, whose main claim to fame consisted of his military record, especially in combat against Native Americans (notably, of course, the battle of Tippecanoe). The election of 1840 provides an early example of flamboyant political campaigning in the modern style, whereas previously it had been assumed that a gentleman seeking public office, especially the presidency, shouldn’t “toot his own horn.” Despite his cynicism about the whole process, January welcomes the political rallies (lubricated by free cider), parties, and balls for the money he and his musician friends will earn playing at them. He listens with obligatory courtesy to the opinions of white men on both sides of the contest, while privately thinking the giant rawhide ball covered with signatures in support of Harrison is the stupidest idea he’s ever heard. He becomes personally involved in the whites’ problems when a flirtatious, much-courted young woman is murdered. By one of her rejected suitors? By another woman out for revenge? A close friend of his, a free Black woman, gets arrested for the crime, being the most plausible suspect who’s not well-to-do and white. In his attempt to solve the murder, January becomes personally acquainted with Clay, who treats him with respect despite the unbridgeable distance between them. January, like most fictional amateur detectives, gets injured at least once per book, and this mystery is no exception. We have the pleasure of re-encountering his brilliant wife, Rose, who runs a school for free girls of mixed-race parentage, his voodoo-healer sister, his Irish musician friend and recovering alcoholic, Hannibal, and homespun but incisively intelligent policeman Abishag Shaw, along with other recurring characters. As always, one entertaining aspect of the novel is the exposure to free and enslaved Black viewpoints on the foibles of white folks. They take a particularly caustic attitude toward the ”colonization” scheme Henry Clay advocates. How many people born in America, regardless of ethnicity and ancestry, would really want to be shipped to Africa to farm marginal land while battling unfamiliar diseases and unwelcoming natives? Reading those passages of dialogue, one wonders how the “return to Africa” movement ever gained enough recruits to found the nation of Liberia. January, of course, helps to expose the true murderer and, as a bonus, saves Clay’s life in a climactic scene.

THE SCIENCE OF STAR TREK, by Mark Brake. This book uses STAR TREK (the entire fictional universe, not just the original series) as a gateway to exploration of various scientific concepts, particularly but not exclusively those related to space travel. As the author states in the introduction, he doesn’t devote a lot of wordage to the hardware but deals mostly with big-picture issues. The body of the book is divided into four sections, titled Space, Time, Machine, and Monster. The beginning of the Space section intriguingly compares interstellar exploration to the diffusion of human settlers across the Pacific Ocean and proposes a plausible solution to the Fermi Paradox. Other topics in this part include the probability of intelligent life and alien civilizations, the practicality of terraforming, how STAR TREK has influenced real-life space culture, and the portrayal of aliens in the series. The rest of the book touches upon alternate history (e.g., the pitfalls of stepping through the Guardian of Forever), panspermia, evolution and extinctions, language, replicators, the holodeck, interstellar communication, machine intelligence, and the series’ speculations about politics and war. There’s a whole chapter on how much it would cost in today’s dollars to build the Enterprise. Another presents “a history of STAR TREK in seven objects,” defining “object” broadly to include such things as the groundbreaking interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura. The Machine section includes the one chapter explicitly focused on the question of which STAR TREK technology has come true so far. These examples represent only a few of the many topics on which the author speculates. I was surprised and a little disappointed, however, to find no discussion of Vulcan telepathic powers or the feasibility of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. The final chapter, “Are We Borg?”, tries too earnestly and specifically, in my opinion, to connect the themes of STAR TREK with recent cultural trends and geopolitical crises. The book redeems itself from this brief lapse, though, by concluding with allusions to Gene Roddenberry’s hope of a brighter future for humanity as envisioned in the STAR TREK universe.

LINKED, by E. Rose Sabin. A fantasy romance in a secondary world not connected to other series by the author, with an unusual premise. One of the co-protagonists, Aradal, is a Cutter. Cutters are immortals who serve the Guardians (who have jurisdiction over the spirits of the dead) by severing links between the dead and the living to enable the souls of the deceased to move on to their destined afterlives. Aradal has the assignment of severing the too-strong link between twin girls, one dead and the other alive. Nine-year-old Yralle, granddaughter of the queen of Lapala, is the only person who knows what happened to her twin, Ellary, who went missing and presumed dead as a small child. The dead girl fell down an abandoned, forgotten well accessible only by a crevice too small for an adult. Yralle can sense Ellary’s presence anywhere in the palace complex, but they can converse only at the site of Ellary’s remains. Lapala is always ruled by women, so the marriage prospects of Yralle’s mother (the crown princess) and two aunts hold vital importance. Trey, one of the two younger princesses, enjoys gardening more than diplomacy and courtly gatherings, and, like the shy, bookish middle sister, she receives scant approval from her mother and older sister. When Aradal appears in the garden on his search for the link he’s been sent to sever, Trey is suspicious of this strange man who gives no satisfactory account of himself, yet they’re immediately attracted to each other. Aradal has the ability to become unnoticeable or literally invisible, and he can revert to his immaterial spirit form at will, although it’s wise to avoid doing so very often. He’s not supposed to get involved with human affairs, much less become infatuated with a human woman, yet he can’t suppress his attraction to Trey. He comes to care for her and, indirectly, the royal household so that the distractions jeopardize his mission. Trey becomes progressively more torn between her unwilling feelings for him and misgivings about whether whatever he’s up to endangers her family. Yralle, sensing that Aradal means to separate her from her twin, tries her childish best to thwart him. Meanwhile, tensions with a neighboring kingdom break into open hostility. And who is the newborn boy whose skeleton turns up in the garden, and why doesn’t anyone seem to know of his existence and origin? The royal family’s problems and the fraught relationship between Trey and Aradal become more and more dire, while he faces the prospect of punishment for failing his duty. Although we know Aradal and Trey will somehow find happiness, at the darkest moments that outcome seems impossible. The solution comes as credible but not predictable. The book begins and ends with chapters in Yralle’s voice in present tense, and she speaks at intervals throughout the story. Aradal’s chapters are also in first person and present tense (the latter device for no obvious reason). Trey’s viewpoint scenes appear in third person, past tense. My only reservation about the story’s development concerns the infatuation at first sight between Trey and Aradal. It seems inadequately justified, driven by plot necessity rather than organic character interaction. Their relationship grows believably close later, though. The author skillfully plays with variations on the concept of “links,” between the various living characters as well as between the living and the dead, and the forbidden bond that grows between Trey and Aradal.

FORESTBORN, by Elayne Audrey Becker. Another fantasy set in an imaginary world, this one shadowed by conflict between humans and the magical inhabitants of the Vale. Again, for no apparent reason, young adult shapeshifter Rora narrates in present tense. (What is with this entirely too widespread fad, anyway?) Nevertheless, I quickly became immersed in her story. She and her brother, Helos, belong to one of the magical species viewed with suspicion and fear by inhabitants of the human realms. The powers and limitations of shapeshifters are clearly specified, so that when these features become critical to the plot, the reader is prepared. Rora and Helos can assume the likeness of any person they’ve met, but their particularly useful gift, taking animal form, allows them to become a maximum of three different animals. The latter power develops gradually as a shapeshifter grows, with each new shape manifesting at a moment of crisis. As children, Rora and Helos saw their home destroyed and their father killed. Their mother disappeared. When they’re taken under the protection of the king of Telyan, Rora grows up to spy for him, while Helos becomes a healer. Despite the king’s patronage, a supernatural Prediction read in public every year threatens their security, for it seems to portend deadly danger from two shifters. Since the queen died at the same time the brother and sister were found, many people see them as harbingers of doom. They’ve become close friends with the king’s younger, misfit son, Finley, while the crown princess has little contact with them and the older prince, Weslyn, seems to barely tolerate them. As the book opens, a deadly disease of magical origin, the Fallow Throes, is ravaging the human lands. They discover Finley, who’s secretly in love with Helos and vice versa, has fallen ill with the sickness. With madness and death inevitable unless a cure can be found, the king sends Weslyn, Rora, and Helos incognito into the Vale to seek the magical substance called “stardust.” As they encounter giants and other nonhuman creatures, dangers beset them at every turn. The author creates a perilous, enchanted region where the terrain can change unpredictably in an instant. Worse still are the human villains who want to wipe out all the “Forestborn.” The narrative maintains a well-paced balance between suspenseful action and character interaction. The relationship between Rora and Weslyn develops believably from the coolness of reluctant alliance to a deep bond that delivers an emotional punch when it’s strained by Rora’s desperate choices. The love between brother and sister also suffers a severe test. Toward the end of the novel, at moments all seems irreparably lost. To my dismay, this book turns out to be the first part of a duology, which I hadn’t realized when I started it. The second half, WILDBOUND, won’t be out until August.

*****

Excerpt from “Calling Back Love”:

“No magic can call back the dead. And even if it could, you know that never ends well. You’ve read ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ and that book about the cursed pet cemetery.”

“But I can’t leave it like this. When we talked on Skype the night before his last patrol, we had another fight about his career. I came this close to making him choose between the Army and me. We didn’t have a real goodbye. If there’s any way magic can give me one more chance, I’ll take it.” In the two months since the report of Shawn’s presumed death in Afghanistan, the memory of that argument had been eating her alive.

“When I promised your grandmother I’d mentor you in the Craft, I accepted certain responsibilities, one of which is to stop you from making reckless choices.”

Kirsten rubbed her eyes, sore from yet another crying fit just before she’d come here, and stared at her mentor with wild hope. “You wouldn’t talk about stopping me if it weren’t possible in the first place. Okay, witchcraft can’t bring the dead back to life. How about calling up his spirit so we can have one last conversation?”

“Have you ever seen me conduct a séance? Me or any other responsible witch? It’s against nature to disturb the peace of the dead.” Estelle strolled to the counter to pour two mugs of coffee. The window over the sink framed her silhouette against a serene background of sun-dappled trees, in ironic contrast to the turmoil that racked Kirsten. Her teacher’s spacious kitchen with its granite floor, exposed oak beams and aromas of drying herbs usually welcomed her with its warmth. Today it felt as bleak as the rest of the world.

“I don’t believe he’s at peace. He was blown to bits on a mountainside with nothing left to bring home.” Survivors of the platoon had reported two explosions, the second of which had obliterated Shawn. No remains had been found, not even a minute fragment, hence the “missing and presumed dead” conclusion that left him in official limbo. “We were supposed to get married after he finished this tour. The IED stole that from us. I’m not at peace with that so how can he be, wherever he is?” She shoved aside the mug Estelle set in front of her.

The older woman clasped her hand across the table. “When the gift for magic skipped your mother, your grandmother entrusted your training to me. She’d find a way to rise up and haunt me if I let you risk yourself with any such dark working.”

“There you go again, hinting at something you’re hiding from me. Well, maybe I don’t need your help. There’s got to be somebody on the left-hand path who’ll teach me what I need to know.”

Estelle’s thin face hardened, as stern as an avenging angel’s, her blue eyes turning icy. “Don’t even think that. Do you imagine for one minute the Goddess would shelter you from the consequences?”

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
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 2022 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

You can subscribe to this monthly newsletter here:

Subscribe

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):

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

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:
Goodreads

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!

NetGalley reviewer Jeremy F. gave AGAINST THE DARK DEVOURER four stars! He says:

“Against the Dark Devourer was the best combination of Charmed and Lovecraftian Horror that I didn’t know I needed. Margaret Carter’s Dark Devourer world continues to be great in this story following Deborah and Victor as they take on a new evil that feels all too familiar. One of the best things about this book is that you don’t have to read the first book to understand the world but it definitely enhances the read!”

Reviewer Barbara Custer (editor of NIGHT TO DAWN) gives the novel five stars on Amazon and says, “If you enjoy paranormal romances, you’ll love Against the Dark Devourer.”

You can find AGAINST THE DARK DEVOURER here:

Against the Dark Devourer

The Wild Rose Press will release the new edition of my erotic paranormal romance novella “Calling Back Love” on June 13. Lovecraftian erotic paranormal romance novella “Crossing the Border” (an excerpt from which was included in last month’s newsletter) will be published on August 1. A third re-release, erotic ghost romance novella “Heart Diamond,” has also been contracted, to appear on September 14. The heroine receives a ring with a gemstone made from her late fiancé’s ashes (which is a thing that really exists, by the way) and finds herself confronted by his ghost. An excerpt appears below.

June’s interview features women’s fiction author Shirley Goldberg.

*****

Interview with Shirley Goldberg:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I never planned to write a book. Never planned to start over, either.

I’d split up with my husband and moved back from Crete where we’d lived for eleven years. Went back to school for a teaching certification, moved in with my mom and started internet dating.

It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, other than writing my master’s thesis.

I began keeping a diary, although it wasn’t a real diary. More like scribbles in a small, old calendar book with a ribbon to mark the page.

I took notes, sometimes during a date. Yup. Excused myself and went to the restroom to jot down funny or ridiculous details about the guys I met. Some of them couldn’t stop talking about themselves. Others complained about their ex-wives. Quite a few didn’t resemble their photos on the dating site. I wrote it all down. Then I fictionalized some of it and changed the names. That was my first book, Middle Ageish.

What genres do you work in?

I write romantic women’s fiction. Women’s friendships are important to me and my books wouldn’t exist without friendship stories.

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

In between, but I need to know a lot about my characters before I write. I live with them in my head for several days or weeks before I put anything down on the page.

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

I’ve lived and worked in London, Paris, Casablanca, and lived in Greece, so that’s influenced me. My friends of long standing still influence me and we keep in touch, no matter where we are in the world. Author-wise, here are a few favorites: Ed McBain, Nora Ephron, and Helen Gurley Brown. Not kidding. And many many more.

How have your teaching experience and living in different parts of the world affected your fiction?

I’m now working on a book that takes place in Heraklion, Crete, where I used to live. I haven’t been there in a few years, so I still need to research and ask my friends what’s changed downtown, and in the villages where we used to hang out for lunch. Luckily, beaches don’t change and I have my favorite beach, Lygaria, as my screensaver. My teaching background is reflected in my characters. Many of them are teachers and some of the humorous classroom scenes came out of my own experiences.

Please tell us about your Midage Dating website.

My website, Midage Dating, grew out of my dating stories a year before I published my first book. It’s also a place to feature other authors and books I’ve read and loved.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

My new book, A Little Bit of Lust, is with my editor in production. Here’s a teaser: What happens when your best friend is suddenly the sexiest option around—do you risk your friendship for a happy-ever-after? Three middle-aged friends share a bond that is tested by careers, loss, and love. A heartwarming story of forgiveness and starting over.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the book I mentioned that’s set in Crete, Greece. A widow and her best friend take a vacation to Crete, where the widow honeymooned with her husband over twenty years earlier. She’s so not looking for a man, and her impulsive friend is the opposite, always on the lookout. Guess what?

Two men and two best friends. But things might not work out the way you think they should. Except for the happy-ever-after ending, of course.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never give up! Read great books of all kinds. Write as often as you can, even if it’s fifteen minutes a day. That way you’ll keep in touch with your work-in-progress. I’m going to follow my own advice when I finish writing this. Not kidding.

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

Shirley’s SOCIALS

Facebook Personal Page
Facebook Midage Dating Page
Twitter
Instagram
BookBub Profile

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

SPEAR, by Nicola Griffith. A gender-flipped retelling of the Arthurian legend of Sir Percival (aka Parsifal, Perceval, Peredur, and several other names), who, in the most familiar version of the tale, grew up with his mother deep in a forest, sheltered from the outside world that she feared would destroy him if he learned of and embraced his knightly heritage. The first time the boy encountered knights, however, he was naturally fascinated and wanted to become one of them. The Author’s Note to this novel discusses the legend’s history and its many variants. Griffith’s heroine, Peretur, who lives alone with her mother in a cave in the wilderness, at first doesn’t even have a name. Her mother calls her by nicknames but refuses to divulge her true name or the identity of the girl’s father. The girl becomes an expert with spear and bow, hunting for food while coping with her mother’s mood swings and descents into outright derangement. Magic plays a part in the girl’s life in the form of an antique bowl, a spear she finds near the body of a dead warrior, and a mystical vision of a lake that sometimes appears to her. Covertly watching a band of knights in the forest, she hears about King Artos and his court at Caer Leon. With her spear, she chances to defend the knights (who mistake her for a boy) from deadly peril. Her heart set on joining the King’s company, she suffers a violent reaction from her mother, who finally gives her the name of Peretur but rejects her and revokes her ability to penetrate the magical sphere of protection that surrounds their cave home. At the court, posing as a boy, Peretur enters the royal service but is flatly refused the opportunity to become a knight because “he” won’t reveal “his” past or lineage—ignorant herself of the latter and magically prevented from talking about the former. The masculine disguise, by the way, remains just that; she never stops thinking of herself as a girl. As her adventures unfold, the reader won’t be surprised to learn of the significance of the spear and the bowl. A sword and a stone also figure in the tale, all rooted in Celtic myth. The truth about Peretur’s ancestry and background, however, will probably come as a surprise (it did to me). Her journey of self-discovery and quest for acceptance by the order of knighthood, the twists on the familiar Arthurian mythos, and the numinous magical elements of the story captivated me.

NETTLE & BONE [sic], by T. Kingfisher. Starting with my discovery of this author by way of THE TWISTED ONES, nothing I’ve read by her has disappointed me. This fantasy novel opens with a familiar fairy-tale scenario, a heroine assigned three impossible tasks. When we meet Marra, youngest of three princesses in her minor kingdom’s royal family, she’s deep into the arduous process of wiring bones together to construct a skeletal dog. That painful task and the two others, weaving a nettle shirt and gathering a jar of moonlight, however, mark only the beginning of her quest. When she meets the conditions, the dust-wife—the witch she consulted for advice—will give her the means to kill the prince who’s married to her older sister, Kania. With the second chapter, the narrative backtracks to show how Marra reached this point. For protection against powerful neighbors, their small realm allied with a neighboring kingdom by marrying the oldest princess to the prince. After that sister’s sudden death, Kania, next in age, became the prince’s new bride. Grateful to be spared the role of a pawn in such arrangements, Marra retired to a convent, where (without taking vows) she trained as a midwife. Attending Kania in childbirth, she learns the prince—soon to be king—has been abusing Kania and probably killed their elder sister. Although the two younger princesses have never gotten along well, Marra can’t abandon Kania to a similar fate. Moreover, if the sadistic ruler kills his current wife, Marra will be in line to become his next queen. Therefore, she must eliminate him in some way that won’t plunge her homeland into war. Guided by the dust-wife, she risks a foray into the goblin market to exchange a tooth for what she needs. That turns out to be Fenris, a dishonored knight recently delivered from enchanted sleep in a fairy fort. Since the story is narrated in third person, we eventually get scenes in his viewpoint as well as Marra’s. With Fenris, the dust-wife, the witch’s chicken familiar, and the Bonedog, Marra sets out to rescue her sister and eliminate the evil king. Her mission involves learning the truth about Fenris’s shameful past, venturing into a royal tomb, and confronting ghosts and a fairy godmother, among other ordeals. The story develops with unexpected yet wholly credible twists, suffering and near-tragedies, sacrifices and anguished interpersonal ruptures, and ultimate reconciliations. Marra impresses me as a strong, compelling character, an intelligent, single woman in early middle age with no illusions about her deviation from the image of the ideal princess.

WEREWOLVES, DOGMEN, AND OTHER SHAPESHIFTERS STALKING NORTH AMERICA, by Pamela K. Kinney. Written in an accessible, conversational style, this nonfiction book clearly announces its content in its title. It surveys a broad range of folklore, traditional and contemporary, under the wide umbrella of its subject matter. After the Introduction, the text is divided, in accordance with the title, into three major parts—Werewolves, Dogmen, and Other Shapeshifters. The word “other,” however, seems a little misleading, since there’s no indication of shapeshifting by most of the dogmen. I was surprised at how widespread are encounters with alleged dogmen, bipedal creatures with canine heads and sometimes other animal features. Readers might want to consume this section in small bites rather than all in one sitting, since the dogmen anecdotes tend to have a lot of similarities. Legends and sightings of werewolves and other shapeshifters, such as coyotes, ravens, badgers, and owl witches among others, display more variation over locations and time periods. The book visits many different states as well as parts of Canada and Latin America, hopping around in a thematic rather than geographic mode of organization. The longest single parts cover Alaska and the American southwest. The book deals in extensive detail with skinwalkers, both legendary and contemporary. There’s also a long section on the wendigo. Many of the shapeshifting creatures were new to me. The author straightforwardly reports anecdotes of weird encounters without passing judgment on their truth or falsehood. The narrative mode tends more toward questions than answers. Anyone curious about traditional creatures and modern urban legends in the general category of beast-human hybrids will find plenty of material in this book. Although there’s a three-page bibliography, the main body includes no footnotes to indicate what particular sources contain information about which incidents, in keeping with the generally informal approach (though some sources are identified in the texts of individual narratives). The evocative titles of many of the listed books, however, will surely whet the appetites of readers wishing to pursue certain types of cryptids and mythical beings in greater depth.

*****

Excerpt from “Heart Diamond”:

The door buzzer cut through the bleakness of yet another Saturday evening. Too late for a door-to-door solicitor. Who would visit at this hour without calling first? Roseanne switched off the black-and-white movie she’d been half watching and trudged to the door. Pausing with her hand on the chain, she said, “Who is it?”

“Just me.”

Ted, her late fiancé’s brother. She sighed. I should have guessed. He was her only friend who never bothered to phone before dropping in. As little as she wanted to deal with him on a weekend night, she didn’t have the heart to tell him to get lost. “Yeah, what’s up?” she asked, unfastening the chain. Through the door, she heard the patter of a steady rain.

“I’ve got something important to tell you. Okay if I come in?” His voice sounded enough like his brother’s to give her a fresh twinge of sorrow, though they weren’t completely alike. Ted’s was pitched a little higher.

“You might as well, just for a minute. I was thinking about getting ready for bed.” Lucky she hadn’t changed into her nightgown yet. The way Ted’s eyes roamed over her even in a ratty T-shirt made her vaguely uncomfortable, though he’d never overtly hit on her.

His face always gave her an unwelcome shock. She hoped he didn’t notice the wince of pain she tried to suppress. It wasn’t his fault that he’d been in the car when his brother died or that the two of them looked so much alike. Strangers had often mistaken them for twins, despite the seventeen-month difference in their ages. They had the same honey-gold hair, which Tim had worn a bit longer and shaggier than Ted’s. The same height—six feet two—and they shared a trim, broad-shouldered but not muscle-bound build. Their eyes were different shades of blue—Tim’s closer to gray—and Ted’s profile was a little sharper. Still, any unexpected glimpse of him pierced her breast with a pang of longing and sometimes ignited a flare of need, chased by a shadow of guilt. She never considered pursuing that illusion. She knew the inner differences between the brothers too well. Friends with them since high school, she’d dated Ted only a few times before she’d discovered reasons to prefer Tim.

“Mom and Dad asked me to bring you this.” He strolled into the living room, lounged on the couch and took a small box out of his pocket. His hair and shirt were damp from the rain.

Roseanne sat down, careful to keep space between them. “What is it?”

“Something Tim left for you.” Ted opened the box. It held a silver ring with a blue-tinted, oval-cut diamond flanked by a pair of diamond chips.

She took it from him, her hand trembling and tears misting her eyes. “How—?”

“While the folks were visiting Tim in the ICU, he was conscious for a little while. He asked them to have this ring made for you if he didn’t survive. He said you’d talked about it once. Sounded kind of creepy to me.”

“Why?” Roseanne’s tears made a sparkling halo around the gems. During Tim’s lifetime, they hadn’t gotten around to buying an engagement ring. “What’s creepy about it?”

Ted visibly swallowed, as if working up the nerve to answer. “Because it’s made from his ashes. I tried to talk Mom and Dad out of it, but they said that was his last wish and he’d been in his right mind when he made it. Personally, I wasn’t so sure.”

“He did show me the website when he happened to stumble on it. We thought it was cute and sentimental in a weird way. Heartdiamonds.com, it’s called.” After touching a fingernail to the central stone, she set the box on the coffee table.

“Morbid, if you ask me. Frankly, if I hadn’t known our parents would follow up on it with you, I wouldn’t have given you this thing. I’d have returned it for a refund and snuck the money back into their account.”

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

Writers Exchange E-Publishing: Writers Exchange
Harlequin: Harlequin
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 May 2022 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

You can subscribe to this monthly newsletter here:

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The long-time distributor of THE VAMPIRE’S CRYPT has closed its website. If you would like to read any issue of this fanzine, which contains fiction, interviews, and a detailed book review column, e-mail me to request the desired issue, and I’ll send you a free PDF of it. My e-mail address is at the end of this newsletter. Find information about the contents of each issue on this page of my website:

Vampire’s Crypt

A complete list of my available works, arranged roughly by genre, with purchase links (gradually being updated as the Amber Quill and Ellora’s Cave works are being republished):

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For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):

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Carter Kindle Books

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Goodreads

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The Wild Rose Press has contracted to republish “Crossing the Border,” an erotic dark paranormal romance novella with Lovecraftian elements. I’m delighted that it’s going to be back on the market after several years of being unavailable. A deceased novelist’s widow and his literary agent discover why he warned against publishing his final book—because the realm of eldritch horrors in the author’s fiction is real. A teaser from the beginning of the story appears below.

In honor of reaching the milestone of 200 issues of this monthly newsletter, on Friday, May 6, I’ll randomly choose one subscriber to receive a $20 Amazon gift card. To subscribe, go here:

News from the Crypt

This month I’m interviewing multi-genre romance author Anna M. Taylor.

*****

Interview with Anna M. Taylor:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. However what inspired me to write professionally was a challenge from my mother-in-law. At the time I was writing X-Files fan fiction and she asked me why I wasn’t writing about my own characters. It revived in me an old desire to do just that so I joined Romance Writers of America to get me started.

What genres do you work in?

I write inspirational romance as Anna Taylor, erotic/steamy romance as Michal Scott and gothic/ghost story romances as Anna M. Taylor.

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

I outline. You could call me a plotter on steroids. I’ve been using a series of templates created by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love from their book Break Into Fiction that make sure I build my story correctly.

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

Hands down Mary Buckham has been the major influence on my writing. Many years ago I took my first class with her on writing synopses and query letters. Talk about learning what I didn’t know. Then while I was still unpublished she asked me to be part of a panel she was proposing for a Romance Writers of America. When I said, “But I’m not published,” her response was, “You’re an author whether you’re published or not.” She challenged me to think of myself in asset-terms not deficit ones. I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

How did your first career as a minister affect your fiction writing (if it did)?

Because I see the longest running unrequited love story being played out in the two testaments of the Christian Bible, I believe being a minister has attracted me to the second chance romance trope. The messages of my sermons centered around God’s love for us and how God continually seeks us out despite all the times we reject that love or think we’re unworthy of love. However, the biggest influence being a minister had on my fiction happened in seminary when I was introduced to the love mystics of Begijn. Their prayers inspired me to try my hand at Christian erotica and Christian erotic romance. When you read translations of those prayers you’ll understand why. When someone asks how I as a minister can write erotic romance, I point them to the ecstatic prayers of these mystics. I say if there can be Christian erotic non-fiction, there can be Christian erotic fiction, too.

What kind of research did you do for your historical romances?

I research geography first. I need to be sure that how things look today don’t interfere with how my characters interact with their setting back then. I then look up what significant events took place in the year my story takes place to see if it can have an impact or should have an impact on the events in my story. This last is particularly important since I write about Black history and settings which don’t usually get attention from mainstream historical sources.

What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?

My next-forthcoming book is the third story in my Haunted Harlem series. It’s called Always the Dead Between and combines my normal ghost elements and second chance romance trope with time travel.

What are you working on now?

I have two works in progress: an inspirational historical called A Pearl of Great Price where the hero and heroine have given each other thirty days to prove they deserve to be the other’s spouse. The other is a steamy historical set in an alternate universe 1800’s African American New York City and Brooklyn called Or What’s A Heaven For? It’s my attempt to tell Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold from the point of view of the women in that opera.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Find a supportive community. There are times your internal editor will try to convince you you’re no good. You need others to remind you that’s not so.

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

My Michal Scott erotic romance website is Michal Scott and my gothic/ghost story romance website is Anna M. Taylor.

On Twitter I’m @revannable and @mscottauthor1 where I share aspirational songs to keep us hopeful as well as promos and recommendations for other authors’ work. On Facebook I’m annamtaylorAuthor. There I share aspirational music and updates on my gothic/ghost story works in progress.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

Anna T.S.

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

PETER DARLING, by Austin Chant. By far the most unusual re-imagining of PETER PAN I’ve ever read. Since the title hints at Peter’s secret and it’s revealed fairly early in the book, mentioning it here isn’t too much of a spoiler: Peter is Wendy, or vice versa. From the first time Wendy invented tales of Peter Pan to entertain her younger brothers, she has always insisted on playing the role of Peter in their games. Her father takes a dim view of her obsession with the Peter persona, while her mother gently suggests she’s treating the “game” a little too seriously. When Tinkerbell transports the protagonist to Neverland, he gains a male body as well as the power (albeit unconscious) to shape the magical island according to his fantasies of freedom and adventure. This version of Neverland doesn’t include “Indians,” but it does contain fairies, mermaids, and pirates. The story is narrated in achronic order, with some of the flashbacks told before events that happen earlier in the timeline, a slightly confusing technique, but I managed to catch on. We gradually learn Peter’s backstory, how he returned to the mundane world after a month in Neverland, tried to tell his family where he’d been and become, and, under the threat of confinement in an asylum, resumed the role of Wendy. Ten years later, on the verge of suicide, he summons Tinkerbell, who transports him back to Neverland. Unlike the island in Barrie’s original story, here Neverland doesn’t confer immortality or eternal youth, even upon Peter. He has grown ten years older, and so have the Lost Boys. Furthermore, meanwhile a new Lost Boy has arrived, a young man named Ernest who has taken over leadership of the small band. He cares for a weak little boy, provoking scorn from Peter, who promptly forgets his mundane past and reverts to the “innocent and heartless” lad of Barrie’s fiction. The perpetual war between the Lost Boys and the pirates becomes more than a game. People (and fairies) die. Suppressed memories break through. The rivalry between Peter and Captain Hook evolves into a mixture of bitter enmity and irresistible fascination. When they are thrown together in a crisis where they depend on each other for survival, the dark truth about Neverland comes out, along with the revelation of what Peter, Hook, and Ernest have in common. While the concept of love between Peter Pan and Captain Hook may sound farfetched, the author makes it heart-wrenchingly believable. I did, however, notice what appears to be one plot hole: Given the nature of Neverland as eventually revealed, Tinkerbell shouldn’t be able to visit Peter in London. The novel’s bittersweet conclusion, although not anything I expected, struck me as completely satisfying.

LITTLE (GRRL) LOST, by Charles De Lint. A 2007 YA novel set in De Lint’s invented Canadian city, Newford. This story, having no direct connection to the events of the main series, can be read on its own. Fourteen-year-old T.J.’s family, forced by financial reverses to give up the farm where she was happy, has moved to Newford. In addition to missing her home and friends, she’s had to give up her beloved horse. She feels that her parents have little sympathy for her teenage misery. Her self-absorbed unhappiness is realistically rendered without making her seem unappealingly whiny. As the novel begins, she thinks she hears mice inside the walls, a guess supported by her cat’s behavior. Instead, that space is inhabited by Littles, six-inch-tall people living in the interstices of the world of the Bigs (us), like the diminutive characters in THE BORROWERS and MISTRESS MASHAM’S REPOSE (both mentioned in the novel). The book also brings to mind De Lint’s own much earlier novel THE LITTLE COUNTRY, which uses similar tropes. T.J. meets Elizabeth, a sixteen-year-old Little running away from her parents’ overly strict rules (as she sees them) about never letting Bigs know their kind exist. After a prickly start, T.J. and Elizabeth become friends. Unfortunately, when Elizabeth has second thoughts and decides to return home, she discovers her parents have moved away, in an excess of caution over their presence having been discovered. T.J. proposes seeking help from an author who has written children’s books about Littles, in case she might actually know them and have secret information about them. Luckily, she happens to have a book signing scheduled in Newford. The two girls’ plan to smuggle Elizabeth into the bookstore, naturally, doesn’t go smoothly. Instead, an attack by a gang of bullies separates them; from that point, the narrative alternately follows T.J. and Elizabeth. T.J.’s scenes continue to be told in third person, past tense, with Elizabeth’s in first person, present tense. As T.J. desperately searches for her missing friend, helped and hindered by two very different boys she meets along the way, Elizabeth encounters a “feral” Little, though he prefers the term “ranger.” With his help, as well as learning where her parents went, she tries to uncover the truth about a legend that some Littles can change into birds. Lots of adventure and suspense—at first I wasn’t sure what to make of the author’s reaction when T.J. finally gets to meet her. Through their separate and shared explorations and dangers, both girls grow in adaptability and emotional maturity without losing their sharp edges.

PROMISES TO KEEP, by Charles De Lint. Also set mainly in Newford, this novel, which takes place in 1972, reveals the backstory of De Lint’s major recurring character Jilly Coppercorn. At the beginning of this book, Jilly (born Jillian Carter) hasn’t yet become aware of the supernatural realm she knows so well in the other volumes in the series. As we learn from her first-person account, she has a happy, productive life as a budding artist, after a rough childhood followed by years spent mostly as a teenage homeless drug addict. A voice from the past calls her by her old name. Donna, whom Jilly hasn’t seen in many years, was her best friend in the Home for Wayward Girls and later on the street. Now Donna, who’s also become clean, belongs to a band. She invites Jilly to watch them perform at a nightclub that, as far as any of Jilly’s friends know, doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, Jilly manages to find it and has a wonderful evening. Afterward, Donna leads her out a back door—into a different place. They’ve passed through a portal into an apparently ideal city, Donna’s new home. The residents work at fulfilling vocations and somehow have all their needs supplied. A bank account in Jilly’s name appears out of nowhere, and she lucks into an apartment as well as a group studio where she can paint. All the people she meets seem unfailingly cheerful, friendly, and helpful. Well, all except one. When she encounters a grouchy man who warns her against taking the city at face value, she gets her first inkling that it may have a dark side. As the true nature of the place gradually becomes clear, Jilly faces the decision of whether to stay there or return to the flawed real world. If she chooses the former, her friends will probably think she disappeared for no reason and abandoned them, maybe to fall back into the pit of addiction. Her choice will be irrevocable, for there’s no free travel between the paradisial city and the mundane realm. Moreover, she’s warned she’ll also forget the entire experience if she returns home. De Lint renders the balance between the genuine joys of the city and the darkness at the margins with subtly disturbing effect. Jilly is a believable, engaging character, and she comes across as authentically torn by her dilemma. Even though readers of De Lint’s other work know how she’ll end up, we feel the suspense of her choice. She narrates the flashbacks that reveal her painful backstory in past tense, with the current action told in present tense. In this case, that narrative choice seems justified in order to maintain the suspense while staying in Jilly’s first-person viewpoint.

TALES FROM THE SEA. This lovely hardback compilation of fairy tales and legends from a variety of different countries doesn’t list an editor, only an illustrator (Maggie Chiang). While a few of the contents slightly stretch the definition of “sea stories,” all are entertaining, especially for readers intrigued by different styles of storytelling in different regions of the world. All the selections are in the public domain, with their original publications listed in the back of the book. Stories come from China, Japan, Norway, Iceland, Hawaii, New Zealand, Armenia, Russia, Ghana, Korea, and the Philippines, among others. The cautionary narrative of the fisherman and his greedy wife will be familiar to most readers from the Grimm brothers’ tales. The only other piece already known to me was the Japanese legend of the fisher lad Urashima Taro, whose sojourn under the ocean seems like a few days to him but spans centuries in the real world, as in many tales of human beings spirited away to faerie realms. Anyone interested in folklore from multicultural sources would enjoy this book.

*****

Excerpt from “Crossing the Border”:

“Why haven’t you answered any of my messages? I’m not lying, crazy, or putting you on. The stars are coming right soon. The danger’s real, and I can help. My number is—”

Paula deleted the voice mail without bothering to listen to the rest. Why wouldn’t that nutcase take the hint and leave her alone? It’s time to call Doug. I’ve put this off too long already.

She shook her head in irritation at the way her hand trembled as she picked up the phone. Her pulse accelerated when she punched the speed-dial number for Douglas MacNair, her late husband’s agent. Why would the prospect of talking to Doug make her breath quicken and her stomach flutter? She’d seen and spoken to him often enough in the year since Kyle’s death. Doug is just a friend. Always was, always will be. A close enough friend that he wouldn’t mind getting a call at home at nine in the evening.

When he answered, his bass voice flowed through her like molten honey. She’d often thought he should have become a singer or actor instead of a literary agent, with that voice. “It’s always great to hear from you, Paula, but what’s wrong?”

Damn, do I sound that shaken up? She swallowed and drew a deep breath to steady herself. “What makes you think anything’s wrong?”

“Come on, as if I didn’t know you well enough to hear it in your voice.” She imagined him lounging in the overstuffed chair by the window in the living room of his New York high-rise condo, doodling on a notepad the way he always did during conversations. “Besides, if this were some routine thing, you’d call in the daytime or send an email.”

“I’ve decided it’s time to go through Kyle’s unpublished stuff. How soon can you make it down here?”

“And this was too urgent for email? Let’s hear it—what brought on this decision all of a sudden, after I’ve been trying to talk you into it for the past six months?”

She twisted a lock of hair around an index finger the way Kyle had found so annoying. She almost stopped, then mentally snapped at herself, Kyle isn’t here. “There’s a guy who’s been bugging me with emails and phone messages. He’s got some kind of bat in his belfry about that unpublished novel Kyle posted excerpts from.”

Tension hardened Doug’s tone. “How long has this been going on?”

“Well…since the week after Kyle died.”

“And you didn’t say a word to me about it.” He sounded halfway between angry and hurt. “What am I here for anyway, if not to help with problems like that?”

“It wasn’t worth bothering you with. Not until he started phoning instead of just emailing. I decided the message he left a minute ago was the last straw. He keeps babbling about some kind of danger.”

A long sigh gusted over the phone. “Okay, who is this person?”

“Somebody named Gary Furness. He edits a webzine called Scribes of Darkness.”

“Sure, I know it. Won a couple of awards. He interviewed Kyle once. He didn’t seem crazier than anybody else in the field.”

“Yeah, that’s him. He must have tipped over the edge after that. We met him at a horror con the month before Kyle died. Furness trailed us around the hotel, harassing Kyle with his obsession over that unpubbed novel.” She had a vivid mental image of a weedy young man with rapid-fire speech, who wore his brown hair tied back in a ponytail.

“You can tell me all about it when I get down there.” After a brief silence, Doug went on, “Okay, I’m logged onto the ticket site. Looks like I can get a flight day after tomorrow. I’ll clear my schedule and stay as long as it takes.”

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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