Author Archive

Welcome to the May 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

As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, my lighthearted story “Therapy for a Vampire” appears as a two-part serial in NIGHT TO DAWN magazine. Part One was published in issue 35, and the second half will appear in issue 36 this fall. You can find out about the magazine here:

Night to Dawn

In this story, psychiatrists Roger Darvell (vampire) and Britt Loren (human) attempt to cure a young vampire of his neuroses, including a phobia of religious objects. In the excerpt below, they try to desensitize him enough to spend time in a church so he can attend a concert there.

The publisher of DARK CHANGELING (my first vampire novel, where Roger and Britt are introduced) and CHILD OF TWILIGHT, its direct sequel, has closed. Therefore, I’ve self-published both novels together in a Kindle two-book omnibus, TWILIGHT’S CHANGELINGS. I’ve made some minor changes and corrections, but nothing substantive, so you may not want to buy this edition if you’ve already read the books. (The little alterations do improve them, though, I think.) If you haven’t, here’s your chance to get the new, improved versions at a modest price:

Twilight’s Changelings

This month I’ve interviewed multi-genre author Laura Strickland.

*****

Interview with Laura Strickland:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I began writing because I loved reading so much. I have a wonderful elder sister who took me to our tiny branch library in Buffalo, New York every week, when I was young. Limited as the choices there were, it always felt like being admitted to a treasure trove, one from which I was allowed to choose whatever I wanted. I encountered some of my favorite children’s books there. But after I finished reading them, I always wanted more of the story. And it occurred to me that if I wrote the stories, I could make them as lengthy as I liked.

What genres do you work in?

I’m what I like to call a “genre-hopper”, which means I jump around between different styles of fiction quite a bit. My first love, and my first big break-through with The Wild Rose Press, was a Scottish Historical Romance, Devil Black. But the gods have blessed me with a fabulous editor who’s willing to take a look at whatever my fevered brain produces. I’ve written and published Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy, Historical Sagas, and most recently a series of Faery Tale Rewrites. The second book in that series, Rum Paul Stillskin, will release on May 27.

Very dear to my heart are my Steampunk Romances, set in my native city of Buffalo, New York in the 1880s. Both ground-breaking and addictive, they show no signs of stopping. I’m up to book number seven in the series, which includes gritty heroes and heroines, monstrous villains, and hybrid automatons seeking their rights.

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

I’m definitely a pantser. When I get an idea for a new story, it usually shows up as a small glimmer of light. When I give some attention to it, it expands on its own. I’m not the woman to mess with that, and in fact if I try to make an outline, or sometimes just share what’s come to me, it dies an early death. It’s as if expressing the idea removes the need to tell the story. While in the thick of writing a book, I sometimes jot down notes and possible directions the story wants to go, just so I won’t forget them later. But all too often, I can’t read the notes, when I return to them.

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

I think for a writer, a little of everything he or she experiences winds up in the writing. Life shapes us, and we shape the words on the page accordingly. As for writing influences, they have been many. Patricia Finney’s ancient Irish tales inspired my first Celtic sagas, and the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s body of work, mainly the books of his Discworld Series, showed me just what Fantasy can be. Music always inspires me greatly. I have a favorite artist for every genre. (Jethro Tull is excellent for writing Steampunk!)

What attracted you to the particular historical periods you write about?

I like the dark side, a truth that’s apparent to anyone who reads my books. The periods toward which I’ve gravitated seem to contain that glint of dark, and lend themselves well to the inclusion of black humor. To be truthful, I’m never sure what era in history may grab me next.

What kinds of research do you use in writing historical fiction?

I favor immersion. When I get interested in a period, or a story that requires research occurs to me, I read and study everything I can get my hands or eyes on. I let it all percolate a bit and imagine what it would be like to live in that time. I think what I’d need to exist, and how things would feel, day-to-day. Then when I write, the details flow naturally, and it tends to eliminate preachiness or info-dumps.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with animal rescue?

Ah, now there’s a subject dear to my heart. It seems as if I came into this world wanting a canine companion. I love felines too—in fact, I value all animals highly and will fight for them—but a dog is a requirement for me. I’ve had so many wonderful canine companions during my life. The last four have all been rescues, one adopted from an animal shelter and the other three from rescue organizations. Two of those were senior rescues, when my husband and I adopted girls who’d lost their owners very late in life. We were privileged to guide both those sweet darlings through a number of happy years and to their end-of-life experiences, with us at their sides. They’re so easy to love, and so hard to lose.

Lacy, our latest adoptee, came to us from Kentucky via a local rescue. She was picked up as a stray with one puppy, who was also adopted into a wonderful home. We got lucky, again. She’s a little angel without wings.

What are you working on now?

I’m working two projects at the same time, half way through transcribing and editing my next Steampunk, and writing a Historical Young Adult novel set in Victorian London. I enjoy both the creating and the editing.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Love what you write and write what you love. Your readers will be able to tell, and if you don’t love your story, they won’t either.

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

Web site: Laura Strickland Books
Facebook
Twitter

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE GRAVES ARE WALKING, by John Kelly. If you’re interested in the Irish potato famine of the 1840s and want to read an exhaustive, in-depth account of it, this is the book to get. It’s fairly recent (2012) and very comprehensive. From the onset of the potato blight to the aftermath of the “great hunger,” with historical background information to set the scene, Kelly covers the period from every angle in a highly readable style. Broad political and social issues as well as the human suffering on the ground receive equally thorough treatment. Narratives of individual experiences personalize the multi-year catastrophe, and quotations from numerous contemporary sources reveal the opinions and positions of people, of both exalted and modest status, involved in the complicated process of trying to mitigate the disastrous effects of repeated potato crop failures. Irish land policy as well as reliance on the potato as the only staple food crop for small farmers made Ireland far more vulnerable to those failures than other nations. Kelly emphasizes how relief efforts were hampered by the British philosophy that “dependence on government” was one of Ireland’s most serious problems. The English attempts to help the starving population while avoiding both such “dependence” and damage to British commercial interests (through provision of cheap imported food) led to ever more complex problems. Furthermore, the English view of the Irish as ignorant peasants and barbarians (plus the religious dimension of most poor Irish being Catholic and therefore suspect in the eyes of British Protestants) undermined their sympathy for the hungry masses. Two chapters explore the impact of emigration upon both Ireland and North America. Kelly concludes that although English policies did not deliberately inflict genocide upon the Irish, the ultimate result was largely the same as if they had.

POPPIES AND ROSES, by Allison Norfolk. A retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” during World War I. Unlike PHOENIX AND ASHES, Mercedes Lackey’s fantastic World-War-I reframing of “Cinderella,” POPPIES AND ROSES mostly translates the fairy-tale plot into naturalistic terms, keeping the magical elements low-key. The hero, Lord David Montgomery, sent home with mysteriously unhealing wounds, has been cursed by a German hedgewitch (a woman who uses herbs and other plants in her magic spells). In a twist on the usual tale, the curse is ultimately intended for his good. The witch, whose son David killed in battle, has seen too much death and hatred to want gratuitous revenge. She sets up the curse so that David must learn to open his heart to love in order to be healed. His wounds continue to bleed but never endanger his life or even become infected. His hired nurse, Clara Prescott, temporarily removed from battlefield duty while recovering from a leg injury, is also a hedgewitch. Therefore, she believes the truth about David’s condition when he reveals it to her, and she has a chance of curing him with her specialized skills. She grew up in the village where he lives, a source of unhappy memories. After her mother’s death, Clara’s alcoholic father paid no attention to her. She “ran wild” and gained a completely undeserved reputation as the town bad girl (in the sexual sense). After straightening out her life and becoming a nurse, she hasn’t returned home or had contact with her father. David and Clara, although both scarred by their ordeals, have to learn to trust each other and regain faith in the goodness of life in general, in the context of wartime trauma and, at the climax of the novel, the postwar influenza epidemic. The magic weaves smoothly through the mundane elements of the story to lead these two strong characters into an emotionally satisfying relationship against a believable historical background.

MOCKINGBIRD, by Sean Stewart. This novel in the first-person voice of a female protagonist might legitimately be labeled magical realism rather than fantasy. The heroine, Toni, and her sister, Candy, take the supernatural legacy of their mother for granted as an inescapable part of life; the story might develop almost the same if Toni had inherited mental illness rather than unwanted magic. The book begins with her mother Elena’s funeral. We meet a cast of quirky characters and learn that Elena could see the future. Her fraught relationship with Toni is encapsulated in her epitaph: “There are some gifts which cannot be refused.” For as long as Elena’s daughters can remember, she was periodically possessed by her “Riders,” spirits embodied in a collection of puppets, dolls, etc. stored on the shelves of a cabinet in Elena’s house. In addition to the six Riders, the family is haunted by tales of an enigmatic figure they know as the Lost Little Girl. Candy has prophetic dreams that show only happy futures, while Toni gets stuck with her mother’s affinity for the Riders. After Elena’s death, leaving nothing much besides the house, the Riders, and a pile of debt, Toni decides to make a fresh start in life by becoming pregnant. She gets herself artificially inseminated, then sets out to find a father for her forthcoming child. Despite her attempted refusal of the Riders, we aren’t surprised to see her getting possessed at the worst possible moments. Meanwhile, she loses her job and discovers a previously unknown half-sister from a short prior marriage Elena had never mentioned. Toni is an actuary by profession, and her brilliant grasp of numbers and finance combine with her magical legacy to make her a unique character. Her highly individual narrative voice makes the story darkly funny where it might otherwise be painful to read. The Houston setting, in geography, climate, and culture, is vividly realized. The story reaches its climax in the midst of a hurricane, a fitting outward reflection of Toni’s inner turmoil. I’ve never read a fantasy novel quite like this and found it fascinating.

*****

Excerpt from “Therapy for a Vampire”:

Accordingly, on the following night, a breezy, pleasantly cool September evening, the two of them strolled from Britt’s condo apartment near the Naval Academy to Church Circle at the top of the half-mile, brick-paved Main Street in the heart of the historic district. They found Franz waiting outside the wrought-iron gates opening onto the grounds of Saint Anne’s, which occupied the entire circle. At least he showed up, Roger thought. That’s hopeful. “Shall we proceed?” He held the gate ajar. The nave of the church would be open, even if the rest of the building was locked. He strode up the walk to the three steps leading to the double doors of the red-brick, nineteenth-century structure. Franz, with Britt falling in behind him, had little choice but to follow.

The young man stepped inside the foyer and froze, clutching the door frame. Roger paused halfway to the inner door and cast an annoyed glance over his shoulder. “Come, now, do I have to pry your fingers loose and pull you along like a dog on a leash? You’ve touched a crucifix. Simply entering a room should be easy by now.”

“Suppose I hold your hand?” Britt said. “This building is open to the public, so you don’t need an invitation. If your unconscious mind insists you do, I’m a member here, and I invite you.”

“Okay.” Despite the strain in his voice, he managed to take a step forward and accept her offered hand. Together they walked across the foyer.

Roger opened the door to the main worship space, dim, cool, and smelling faintly dusty. The only light came from low-wattage lamps above the altar. “Gaze into my eyes and believe what I tell you. Nothing here will harm you. It’s safe and peaceful.”

Franz’s breathing and pulse slowed. “Yes, Doctor.”

“You’ll take one step inside, then return to this spot. I have confidence you can do that.”

Clasping Britt’s hand, the young vampire did as commanded.

“Well done,” she said. “Next, try two paces.”

They worked their way up, advancing and retreating step by step, until the three of them stood in the back of the church behind the last row of pews. Roger blocked Franz’s path when the patient would have withdrawn again. “Enough of that. We’ve demonstrated you can come inside with no problem. Now we’re going to walk all the way to the front.”

Franz took one more pace and froze. “What do you think is going to happen?” Roger asked, struggling to rein in his impatience. “Do you expect to crumble into a pile of ashes?”

“Of course not.” With a tremulous laugh, Franz stepped forward again, then halted. His head whipped from side to side as he took in his surroundings. His heartbeat thundered in Roger’s ears. Sounding half strangled, he whispered, “But they’re everywhere.”

“What?” Britt said.

“The pictures. Staring at me.” He squeezed her hand.

She winced. Sensing her pain, Roger said, “Relax. You’re hurting her. Remember your strength.”

Franz released a shuddering breath and obeyed.

Roger faced him to snare his gaze. “You mean the windows?”

A shaky nod.

“They’re inanimate works of art, completely harmless, as you know perfectly well on a conscious level. Don’t you?”

Another nod.

“You will come with us to the altar rail, and nothing will go wrong. Understand?”

The young vampire’s tension visibly eased under the pressure of Roger’s hypnotic stare. He took a pace forward as if heading for his execution. Roger and Britt flanked him on each side. They proceeded up the aisle past an array of stained-glass windows depicting figures such as Christ the Good Shepherd, an angel proclaiming the Resurrection, Saint Anne with her daughter, the Virgin Mary, as a young girl, and many others. In the deep shadows, they were plainly visible to the two vampires’ night vision, but not to Britt’s human eyes. Thoroughly familiar with the layout of the sanctuary, though, she pointed out a Tiffany window as they passed it. “Don’t worry, the saints won’t leap out of the frame and pounce on you. If they try, I’ll protect you.”

Franz’s surge of indignation at the idea of being “protected” by an ephemeral kept him moving. She then drew his attention to the pipe organ in the choir loft. “Eyes on the prize. Think of the music you’re going to hear.” Finally they halted at the top of the aisle, facing the altar and its cross.

-end of excerpt-

*****

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

Welcome to the April 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

I’m thrilled to report the re-release of my nonfiction book DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN. It’s been slightly updated, with discussions of several more recent books added.

Different Blood

Below you can read a few paragraphs of the introduction, to give you an idea of the flavor of the text.

This month’s interviewee is romance author Debby Grahl.

*****

Interview with Debby Grahl:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I have a disease of the retina called Retinitis Pigmentosa which causes gradual vision loss. I lost the ability to read in my early twenties, but even when I had sight, seeing the printed word was always difficult for me. Reading a book would take me twice as long as a person with normal sight. I became frustrated with this and began to make up my own stories. It wasn’t until the invention of computers and screen reading software that I was able to put my stories into words. Everything I type is read back to me aloud. This enables me to do research and post on social media. This incredible advancement in technology has truly opened a new window of opportunity for me.

What genres do you work in?

I write both contemporary and paranormal romance. I’ve always liked reading books with ghosts and witches. I like using them because they’re so versatile. You can have nice or mean ghosts. You can have those who can be seen or not. I also enjoy using ghosts of historical characters. My witches are normal people with different stages of power.
With contemporary books, I like to set them in intriguing and interesting places.

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

I begin with a general outline of the location, characters, and plot, but mostly I wing it.

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

As a small child I enjoyed having books read to me. Mysteries were always my favorite beginning with Nancy Drew, and to this day I still love the classics: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L Sayers. I’m also a romance junky, from historical to paranormal to contemporary and suspense. I love them all. Books have always been such a part of my life, that being able to write my own and have people enjoy reading them is more thrilling to me than I can ever express.

What kinds of background research do you do concerning the locations where you set your novels?

Two of my books, Rue Toulouse and His Magic Touch, are set in New Orleans. This is one of my favorite cities not only to visit, but to write about as well. I have an opportunity each year to attend a conference in New Orleans, so I’m able to do my research. If I can’t actually go to the location, I find Google Earth to be extremely helpful.

What are you working on now?

I have a couple of projects in the works. A Touch of Magic is the second in my Magic in New Orleans series, and Mountain Fire is the first in my Carolina Heat series.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My advice for new writers is take online writing classes. A number of writing groups provide these, and they’re usually not expensive. My first mistake in writing was thinking you just wrote the book, sent it to a publisher or agent, and away you go. Not! I sent the first twenty-five pages to a publisher who was offering a free critique. She wrote back and said I had a good idea for a story if I could write it. She said she marked all my writing mistakes in red. Well, most of the page was in red. There’re a lot of unknown writing mistakes beginners make that they’re unaware of. Such as the use of tag lines, POV changes, information dump, and grammar and punctuation. A critique group is also a good idea. It’s amazing how different your story sounds when you hear someone else read it. My last bit of advice is stick with it. If you want to write, don’t give up. Remember even the well-known authors received rejection letters.

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

Debby Grahl
Facebook
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD, by Rena Rossner. This fantasy novel set in the village of Dubossary on the border of Ukraine and Moldova under Russian rule, around 1900, was inspired by actual events in the history of the author’s own family. The story combines legends of swan maidens and bear shapeshifters with the plot of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.” The family of teenage sisters Liba and Laya isn’t completely accepted by the Jewish community because their mother converted from Christianity rather than being born Jewish. Soon after the book opens, their parents inform the sisters of a family secret that sets them apart from their neighbors in a more profound way: Their father is a bear shifter, their mother a swan, and both of their families disapproved of the union. Liba, the older sister, takes after her father and Laya after their mother. When their father receives news of his own father’s death, the parents have to leave the sisters alone, with Liba in charge of watching out for swans that may try to seduce Laya to join them. Liba fears and resists the possibility of changing into a bear, while Laya yearns to become a swan and enjoy the freedom of flight. While Liba grapples with the growing attraction between her and Dovid, the butcher’s son, Laya succumbs to the allure of a mysterious, rakish family of outsiders who sell irresistibly appetizing fruit (as in “Goblin Market”). She becomes increasingly more rebellious and secretive, despite Liba’s warnings, and eventually falls ill. Meanwhile, murder victims turn up drained of blood. At first the townspeople attribute the deaths to bear attacks, but soon they begin to cast suspicious eyes upon the Jewish community. Bears in human form approach Liba, and Laya catches glimpses of swans, while each of them finds herself on the verge of transformation in moments of stress. Torn between the human world and the supernatural realm, the sisters ultimately learn the dark secret of the fruit-sellers. The two of them tell the story alternately in first person (and present tense). Liba’s sections are in standard prose narrative, while Laya’s are formatted like free verse. A review I read criticized the novel on the ground that the sisters are too obsessed with boys and romance. Good grief, why wouldn’t they be? They’re teenage girls from a culture in which virtually all women were expected to marry, and marriage constituted the most important decision of their lives—what else would you expect? The book ends with an Author’s Note on the historical and folkloric background, followed by a glossary of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ukrainian words used in the text.

DAMSEL, by Elana K. Arnold. A mind-blowingly unique version of the “prince rescues maiden from dragon” trope, this fantasy novel begins in the viewpoint of Prince Emory, about to fulfill the quest every heir to his kingdom has to undertake. Upon the death of his father, the prince has to slay a dragon and bring the dragon’s captive damsel home to become his wife. Only then can the prince be acknowledged as the new ruler. When Prince Emory reaches the dragon’s lair, at the end of the book’s short Part One, the narrative breaks off. Part Two begins in the viewpoint of the rescued maiden, as the prince is carrying her away from the dragon’s cave, and we stay in her perspective for the rest of the story. She can’t remember anything before this moment, not even her name. Prince Emory names her “Ama.” He refuses to discuss his battle with the dragon, preferring to focus on the forthcoming coronation and marriage. On the journey back to the castle, the first hint of friction arises between him and the maiden when Emory kills a lynx, and Ama insists on adopting the orphaned cub. Nevertheless, Ama initially finds a welcome at the castle, including from the queen mother (the previous damsel, like all the queens before her), and the prince honors her as his destined bride. Ama never regains any memory of her life before her rescue, and she learns that all the damsels arrived in the same condition, effectively without a past. It’s better that way, she’s soothingly informed. As she struggles with the often uncomfortable and disorienting task of learning to be a lady and a proper prospective queen, the lynx cub becomes a symbol of the hopelessness of her truly fitting in and her sense of being trapped rather than sheltered. Gradually, Prince Emory’s true character begins to show—domineering, sexually aggressive, sometimes cruel. His hatred for the lynx and impatience to possess Ama become steadily clearer. He also resents Ama’s obsession with learning the craft of the royal glassblower and creating her own art. Although I guessed the truth of her past well before the devastating climax, the revelation of the exact method by which the prince conquered the dragon and freed the damsel still came as a harrowing shock. As several of the Amazon reviews mention, this book is definitely a fairy tale for adults—and not fainthearted ones.

ENCHANTED, by Alethea Kontis. This novel combines the Frog Prince with Cinderella and clever incidental allusions to many other fairy tales. The heroine, Sunday Woodcutter, is the youngest of seven sisters named after the days of the week. In this magical world, each one grows up to fulfill the traits prescribed in the rhyme beginning, “Monday’s child is fair of face.” All except Sunday, that is, who may be “bonnie” and “good” but not exactly “blithe” and “gay”; she spends a lot of time alone with her journal to assuage her discontent at her status as the boring youngest sister. The family has not led a trouble-free life. In this world, many people have fairy godmothers, and magic is accepted with no particular surprise. The sisters’ oldest brother, Jack, was turned into a dog by the prince’s fairy godmother, as punishment for killing the prince’s favorite pup. Jack’s fairy godmother, in retaliation, condemned the prince to become a frog for a year upon reaching adulthood. Graceful Tuesday was danced to death by enchanted shoes. Thursday, having “far to go,” enjoys her life as a pirate queen, but the family’s only contact with her comes through her letters and gifts. Monday married a king and has grown distant from her kin. The young foster brother, Trix, has fairy blood. As the story begins, Sunday meets a talking frog, Grumble, who becomes her best friend. With no memory of his former life, he is at risk of losing his humanity; Sunday’s friendship anchors him. She kisses him several times in an attempt to break his curse, but when the kiss finally works, she doesn’t witness the transformation and thinks her beloved friend has vanished, possibly died. Meanwhile, the newly human Prince Rumbold returns home earlier than expected. Unlike in the typical fairy tale, his re-transformation doesn’t instantaneously restore him to wholeness. He has to regain his health gradually and learn to be a man again. Determined to find Sunday, he decides to hold three lavish balls in a row. Unlike Cinderella’s stepmother, Sunday’s mother actively wants her to attend the balls, a plan Sunday resists. To her, the missing and now recovered prince is simply the reason she lost her brother. She’s surprised and somewhat dismayed to find herself attracted to Rumbold. When he finally reveals his identity as Grumble, she reacts realistically; rather than thrilled at the reunion, she’s angry and grieved that he deceived her for so long. The story unfolds with fresh twists on many different tales, with suspense, sorrow, joy (not to mention a pair of fairy godmothers actually named Sorrow and Joy), revelations of a web of previously unknown relationships, and a happy yet bittersweet ending. I was delighted with this book. The author has published several additional novels and a collection of short stories set in this world.

CONVERSATIONS WITH MADELEINE L’ENGLE, edited by Jackie C. Horne. A compilation of interviews with Madeleine L’Engle arranged in chronological order, from 1967 to 2006 (the year before her death). The editor begins with a thoughtful introduction, not glossing over the fact that L’Engle’s autobiographical statements weren’t necessarily always accurate. The book includes a chronology of her life and an index (a very nice feature). The thirteen well-chosen interviews go into great depth and detail about L’Engle’s opinions on wide-ranging topics such as theology, literature, science, love, the use and abuse of technology, the value of fantasy and imagination, and of course the art and craft of writing. Several of the “conversations” are quite long. The book necessarily includes some repetition, since inevitably some of the same questions keep getting asked, and L’Engle has favorite anecdotes, allusions, and statements of belief that crop up in a variety of contexts. There’s less repetition than I expected, however. No hard-core fan of her work should pass up this handsome, reasonably priced trade paperback.

*****

Excerpt from DIFFERENT BLOOD: THE VAMPIRE AS ALIEN:

Vampires in science fiction, like other alien races, often function as a distorted reflection of ourselves, illuminating the human predicament by contrast. When Ransom, the hero of C. S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, visits Mars, he encounters three sentient species rather than one. A Martian sage expresses surprise upon learning that Earth harbors only one intelligent species. He concludes, “Your thought must be at the mercy of your blood… For you cannot compare it with thought that floats on a different blood” (103). Lewis’ aliens place a high value upon communion between members of different species.

The natives of Lewis’ Mars are not vampires, yet his works do cast light upon the literary motif of the vampire as alien. Out of the Silent Planet offers a deliberate contrast to the older image of extraterrestrials (specifically Martians) embodied in such creatures as the vampiric aliens of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. As Lewis remarks in the dialogue “Unreal Estates”, “most of the earlier [science fiction] stories start from the…assumption that we, the human race, are in the right, and everything else is ogres” (147). Wells’ novel of Martian hostile invaders who consume the blood of human captives falls into this category (though Wells’ characterization of his Martians is a bit more ambiguous than the term “ogres” implies). In Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis offers a more benign model of the first-contact situation. The antagonist in this novel, influenced by Wellsian science fiction, kidnaps Ransom and brings him to Mars as a human sacrifice, under the misapprehension that “the eldil [angelic spirit] drinks blood” (121). Explaining his predicament to the ruling eldil of Mars, Ransom says, “I was in terrible fear. The tellers of tales in our world make us think that if there is any life beyond our own air it is evil” (121). Through his interaction with the natives, he learns the error of this belief. His initial fear of the Martians yields to a desire to communicate with them, leading to friendship. Significantly for the theme of rapport between human minds and “thought that floats on a different blood”, Ransom is a philologist, a specialist in communication. The tension between fear of (and consequent hostility to) the alien Other and the drive toward inter-species understanding dominates “vampire as alien” fiction.

In “Unreal Estates” Lewis himself cites an instance of friendly contact between a human protagonist and a quasi-vampiric extraterrestrial, from Zenna Henderson’s short story “Food to All Flesh”. Henderson’s character, Padre Manuel, finding a spaceship in his pasture, tries to aid the hungry alien, a huge, sleek, fanged female accompanied by a litter of cubs. The visitor tests every available source of nourishment, including a variety of foods provided by Manuel, without finding anything her kind can digest. One of the starving cubs bites Manuel, and immediately, “Its little silver tongue came out and licked around happily and it went to sleep” (81). In the face of the knowledge that human flesh and blood can feed the alien cubs, Manuel neither fights nor flees when the mother seizes him. She, in turn, releases him, gathers up her young, and departs in her ship. Lacking any common language, human and alien nevertheless attain a rapport that supersedes their differences. Despite their “different blood”, they share a common ethic grounded in reverence for life. Henderson’s story and The War of the Worlds represent two extremes in fictional treatment of aliens (vampires as well as other types). A tone of hostility and paranoia prevails in earlier literature but also survives alongside the more sympathetic rendering of nonhuman characters in contemporary works.

These two contrasting attitudes–fear/hostility and the desire to understand the Other–as applied to vampire fiction are analyzed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg in an essay entitled “Vampire with Muddy Boots”. She classifies the two ways of dealing with “monsters” as the horror approach and the science fiction approach. In horror “the Unknown is a menace which is a menace because it’s a menace. In sf [science fiction], the Unknown is a menace because we don’t understand it yet… In sf, understanding, either intellectual or emotion [sic], or maybe both, is the key to the solution of the problem” (4). Not only does a natural (science fiction) rather than supernatural (horror) rationale for the “monster” provide the opportunity for human characters to understand rather than fear him, this approach also allows the nonhuman character free will and the possibility of moral choice, bounded by the limitations of flesh and blood. “A true supernatural force,” Lichtenberg points out, “doesn’t suffer the inconvenience of slogging through cold wet mud. And as a result, such an entity doesn’t grow spiritually, in character or relationships” (5). Her own fictional vampires, in contrast, deal with moral quandaries and strive for emotional connection both among themselves and with human companions. She envisions “a world in which each and every individual has a fighting chance provided they’re willing to…step outside their cultural straight jackets [sic] to deal with the Unknown on a friendly basis” (5). Lichtenberg declares her goal as a novelist to be “to step sideways into another universe and become another person for awhile” (5). In general, “vampire as alien” fiction typically invites the reader to “step sideways” into the consciousness of a not-quite-human being, who offers a fresh perspective on the human condition.

-end of excerpt-

My Publishers:

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

You can contact me at: MLCVamp@aol.com

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

Welcome to the 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