http://med4treat.top

Author Archive

A midsummer sailboat race is coming to Annapolis, and Celia Rossi’s 1950s-themed ice cream parlor will have a booth at the waterfront celebration. To keep her business flourishing, she needs to impress both locals and tourists on the festive day. But how? She receives unexpected help when she hires a part-time worker who pops up out of nowhere. Suzie Conroy proves to have an almost magical gift for the craft of artisanal ice cream, yet she acts clueless about some ordinary details of everyday life. And why is she so determined to churn up the perfect batch of tutti frutti?

Welcome to the May 2020 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, now that the Yahoo group is useless for that purpose, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):

Newsletters

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store:
Barnes and Noble

Here’s the list of my Kindle books on Amazon. (The final page, however, includes some Ellora’s Cave anthologies in which I don’t have stories):
Carter Kindle Books

Here’s a shortcut URL to my author page on Amazon:
Amazon

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

I’ve started releasing some of my self-published e-books through Draft2Digital, so readers can buy them from outlets other than Amazon. First, DEMON’S FALL, a steamy paranormal romance novella in which a rebel angel, assigned to tempt the heroine away from her destiny as a force for good, falls in love with her instead. The Universal Book Link (UBL) leads to a page listing all the retail sites where the work is sold.

Universal Book Link for DEMON’S FALL:

Demon’s Fall

Also VAMPIRE’S TRIBUTE: TWO ROMANTIC TALES, featuring a vampire hero in a novella and a short story set in the same location about a thousand years apart. UBL for VAMPIRE’S TRIBUTE:

Vampire’s Tribute

My lighthearted ghost story “Spooky Tutti Frutti” releases May 25! It features an ice cream parlor in the Annapolis historic district and unfinished business from the 1950s. Here’s the Amazon page:

Spooky Tutti Frutti

Part of the opening scene appears below.

No original interview this month, but here’s a link to “Monstrous Voices,” a LOCUS magazine interview with Theodora Goss about the background and writing of her delightful historical dark fantasy / Victorian SF “Athena Club” trilogy, starring the daughters of the major nineteenth-century fictional mad scientists:

Monstrous Voices

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

THE PURSUIT OF THE PANKERA, by Robert A. Heinlein. This posthumous novel constitutes the original, previously unpublished version of Heinlein’s 1980 NUMBER OF THE BEAST. That universe-hopping adventure introduced the concept of “multipersonal solipsism” and postulated a total number of alternate dimensions so great that any imaginable world actually exists somewhere in the multiverse, including fictional worlds. According to the “Publisher’s Note,” the entire text of POTP, aside from standard editing touch-up work, is Heinlein’s, pieced together from recently discovered fragments. The Note doesn’t mention when this version is assumed to have been written. The book also includes an introduction by David Weber, a general appreciation of Heinlein’s work rather than a commentary on POTP. “Pankera” (collectively “Panki”) turns out to be the official name of the “Black Hats,” the alien invaders. Approximately the first third of the book virtually duplicates the opening of NOTB, aside from minor dialogue variations. Zebadiah John Carter meets Dejah Thoris (Deety) and her father, mad scientist Jacob Burroughs, at a party given by Hilda “Sharpie” Corners. After a mysterious attack, the four of them flee in Zeb’s ground-and-air car and promptly get married, Jake to Hilda (a lifelong friend of Jake’s late wife) and Zeb to Deety (even though they’ve just met, but, after all, John Carter and Dejah Thoris are already married). These typical super-intelligent, highly articulate, resourceful Heinlein characters end up at Jake and Deety’s high-tech mountain hideaway. After Jake installs his dimension-hopping invention in Zeb’s car, they clash with another “Black Hat,” whom they kill (after which Hilda dissects it, a scene I found fascinating, and I wish we were told more about the aliens’ anatomy and physiology). They then commence their multi-universe odyssey. The point of divergence from the 1980 book, on page 152, is helpfully marked. I definitely like this version better. NOTB is a clever romp, but it abandons the initial premise—the alien invasion—midway through and never resolves it. I found that lapse quite disappointing, despite the excursions to other universes. In addition to the foursome’s quest for a safe world wherein to settle down and hide while Hilda and Deety have their babies, POTP does follow up the war against the aliens rather than simply forgetting about it. Its conclusion feels much more like vintage Heinlein than that of NOTB. To my delight, this version includes the stops in Oz and Wonderland that also appear in the 1980 publication. The longest sections cover visits to Barsoom and the Lensman universe, and for my taste they feel just long enough. I see the absence of the Lazarus Long subplot as a decided improvement. His presence in NOTB sucks the whole rest of the story into the black hole of his dominant personality. He appears at the end of POTP under an alias, but only devoted Heinlein fans are likely to notice. That subset of readers will definitely want this book. While it’s certainly not a novel with which to introduce a new reader to the whole science fiction field, it would also be fun for most SF fans.

THE IMMORTAL CONQUISTADOR, by Carrie Vaughn. This spin-off from Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, about a werewolf who hosts a late-night radio talk program, surveys the life, or unlife, of good guy vampire Ricardo de Avila (Rick). You don’t need prior acquaintance with Kitty’s world to appreciate this collection, although knowing about Rick and Kitty would enhance your enjoyment. It’s a mix of reprints and original tales, only one of which I’d read before. The frame story brings Rick back to Europe for the first time in five centuries, to report to the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows, “a holy order of vampires,” about the death of a vampire priest. The opening scene, in the present, is followed by “Conquistador de la Noche,” introducing Ricardo as a nineteen-year-old soldier under the command of Coronado. Ten years later, jaded and weary of violence in pursuit of nonexistent gold, he encounters an old comrade who lures him to an isolated village where easy wealth can allegedly be gained. Instead, a vampire attack transforms Rick into one of the undead. When he learns what he has become, he rejects his new companions and the evil deeds they want him to participate in. He refuses to reject God, even though he can no longer touch holy things. Instead, he exterminates the other vampires and takes over the estate and its village to rule them benevolently. Many years later, in “El Hidalgo de la Noche,” for the first time since his transformation he meets other vampires, who fill some of the many gaps in his knowledge of their kind and the workings of their society. They’re shocked to find him leading a solitary existence with no master and no desire to become one himself. In “Dead Men in Central City,” he meets Doc Holliday. The final story, “El Conquistador del Tiempo,” picks up with Rick’s visit to the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows in the present, where he’s initiated into further complications of undead society and clashes with a powerful, legendary vampire. Vaughn concludes the book with an Author’s Note in which she explains a bit about how she developed Rick’s backstory. Fans of Kitty, the radio-hostess werewolf, will definitely want this collection, and most vampire fans should enjoy it.

SUMMERWOOD / WINTERWOOD, by E. L. Chen. This pair of YA fantasy novels, bound in trade paperback format back-to-back and upside down relative to each other like the vintage mass market Ace Doubles, comprises an anti-Narnia saga with some heart-wrenching moments. Asian-Canadian teenager Rosalind Hero (who likes to be called by her middle name) and her older sister Juliet are dropped off to spend a few weeks at their grandfather’s house in Toronto while their parents ostensibly deal with their father’s forthcoming art show. In fact, the true purpose of the trip is a last-ditch effort to patch up their marriage. Hero can hardly wait to explore her grandfather’s house, because he wrote books about the magical land of Summerwood. Convinced the Summerwood is real (the child protagonists have the same names as her grandfather and his siblings), she’s determined to find her way into it. Juliet, at the age where she has no patience with her annoying younger sister, scorns the idea. Their mother cautions Hero that she shouldn’t want to find the Summerwood, because it “tears families apart.” Staying with her grandfather doesn’t live up to her expectations. His disapproval of her parents’ marriage hasn’t softened over the years, and far from welcoming Hero as the logical heiress to his adventures, he wants nothing to do with the girls. In fact, they seldom even see him. The housekeeper, who serves unappetizing vegetarian meals, doesn’t seem to like them either. Still, Hero is determined to find her way to Summerwood and perhaps become the heroine who saves that world as her grandfather’s generation did. Her exhaustive search through the house doesn’t uncover the door into Summerwood until she has almost given up. Finally, of course (or there wouldn’t be a story), she walks into a broom closet and emerges in a country where animals talk. She promises aid to the family of her new rabbit friend, Thaddeus, but first wants to go home and bring her sister to Summerwood. Naturally, as any reader of the Narnia series would expect, the portal has vanished when she tries to return with Juliet. When both of them later stumble through a portal together, Hero becomes aware of the darkness at the heart of Summerwood. The Lady who rules the country isn’t the benevolent monarch she first appears; she forces the animals to wear clothes, live in houses, and walk upright like humans, all to fulfill her concept of what a magical land should be. In a reversal of the plight of Narnia in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, the balance of nature in this world is out of joint because it’s perpetually summer. Who is the Lady, really, and what happened to the immortal evil queen the previous heroes allegedly defeated? When Julie gets either captured or enticed by the Lady, Hero must try to save her. Setting forth through the forest with Thaddeus as her guide, she finds her image of herself as a heroine relentlessly eroded and finally destroyed. In the sequel, WINTERWOOD, when, several years later, she’s a damaged young adult calling herself “Lindy” instead of “Hero,” she’s drawn back into Summerwood. In a world now shrouded in endless winter, she must undo the damage she unwittingly inflicted during her original quest. Any fan of portal fantasies should find this duology an enthralling read, provided you’re prepared for tragedy along the way. Hero/Lindy grows into her role, though, and the power of story triumphs in a satisfying conclusion.

BECOMING C. S. LEWIS, by Harry Lee Poe. This in-depth work on C. S. Lewis’s early life, from 1898 through 1918—with occasional brief passages glancing ahead at future developments—is best suited for hardcore Lewis fans. I hesitated on whether to buy the book, wondering whether it would mostly duplicate information found in Lewis’s spiritual autobiography, SURPRISED BY JOY. On the contrary, Poe seems to presuppose the reader’s familiarity with SURPRISED BY JOY and touches only lightly upon many incidents and conversations narrated in detail by Lewis. Poe maintains that Lewis’s childhood and youth haven’t received adequate coverage in earlier biographies. That period deserves deeper exploration because of the groundwork it laid for CSL’s later intellectual and spiritual growth. According to Poe, virtually every important facet of Lewis’s mature career and beliefs is foreshadowed in his early years. Poe often defends this claim by connecting poets, philosophers, and novelists young CSL read and studied to the adult Lewis’s writings. Sometimes this procedure stretches a little too far, in my opinion, as when Poe speculates that the sacrifice of Iphigenia at the start of the Trojan War inspired the sacrifice of Psyche in TILL WE HAVE FACES. Doesn’t he know that incident comes straight from the original myth of Cupid and Psyche? BECOMING C. S. LEWIS, drawing extensively upon letters and diaries, goes into background details about people and events that Lewis as a child wouldn’t have known and therefore didn’t include in SURPRISED BY JOY. Other elements appear in Poe’s biography that didn’t interest Lewis or didn’t fit into his plan for SURPRISED BY JOY; for instance, we learn a bit about his father’s political viewpoints (CSL detested politics). Lewis’s essential Irishness comes out more clearly than I’ve seen it revealed anywhere else. I was disappointed to find not a single mention of the 1916 Easter Rising; regardless of how apolitical young Lewis tried to remain, surely he must have had some reaction to that pivotal event. One thing that struck me was how unlikeable Lewis must have been in his early teens. He himself acknowledges that fact in SURPRISED BY JOY, but it shows up much clearer from the perspective of a biographer. By the end of the book, he has survived wartime service and begun to transform into the adult we meet in his mature writings. In short, the devoted Lewis fan will find BECOMING C. S. LEWIS highly illuminating. The author hopes to produce two more volumes covering the rest of the subject’s life.

*****

Excerpt from “Spooky Tutti Frutti”:

Just as Celia Rossi turned the placard on the door of Sugar and Ice from “Open” to “Closed,” Blair O’Neill strolled up the brick-paved sidewalk. She held the door ajar to let him in.

After a light kiss on the cheek, a gesture still new enough to make her pulse flutter, he asked, “What’s with the Temporary Help Wanted sign in the window?”

She sighed. “Tanya had her baby early. Oh, they’ll be fine, but I was hoping she’d be around until after the sailboat race. I could manage without her on any normal weekend, but on race day I’ll need enough people to hold down the fort here and help at our booth.” Tanya’s absence left the shop with only two part-time employees instead of three. Having owned the ice cream parlor for less than a year, Celia counted on strong sales at the climax of the coming weekend’s race to augment her fledgling reputation as well as her bank account. Contestants would sail from Delaware down the Chesapeake Bay to the Severn River, then up Spa Creek into the Annapolis harbor. After taking off her apron and hanging it behind the counter, she locked the door and followed Blair onto the brick-paved sidewalk. “I can break for dinner the way we planned, but I have to come back right afterward to finish cleaning up and prepping for tomorrow.”

Blair shook his head in commiseration. “Okay, but at least stop and take a breath. I’m glad I decided to be a vet, not a retail businessperson. Except for random emergencies, when the clinic closes we go home on time every day.”

At seven p.m. in late June, the sun hadn’t set, and the downtown historic district was still thronged with tourists. The two of them strolled from the dead-end side street where Sugar and Ice was located to the foot of Main Street, also surfaced with red brick. Walking past the traffic circle adjacent to City Dock, Celia noticed a young mother and her two small children tossing bread crusts to the seagulls and mallard ducks, despite the sign sternly admonishing people not to feed the birds. Cars crawled around the circle trying to push their way into the stream heading one way on the narrow, half-mile Main Street. In other words, a totally normal summer evening.

A gentle breeze off the water relieved the humid heat and ruffled Blair’s thick shock of sandy hair. “Crabs okay with you?”

“Sure.” Celia absently replied, her mind on the upcoming event rather than dinner. She lifted the French-twist braid off the back of her neck to cool her damp skin. “We’ve got less than a week until the celebration. I have the permits, and I’ve rented the booth and equipment for the day, but I’m still trying to come up with a new flavor to make us stand out from the other downtown ice cream parlors.” Her store’s location away from the principal tourist magnets of Main Street and Maryland Avenue allowed her to pay less exorbitant rent, but with the drawback of less foot traffic. Well, the former owner, her employer for almost a decade, had warned her of the pitfalls, so she just had to deal with them.

She and Blair reached the entrance of the crab restaurant across from the traffic circle, and he held the door for her. “How about Rossi’s Rocky Road? Rossi’s Regatta Raspberry Sherbet?”

She laughed. “We already have a rocky road, I don’t do sherbet, and anyway I have no intention of tacking my name onto a product. That sounds a little too egocentric.” Like most ice cream shops, Sugar and Ice mainly stocked varieties of a national brand, aside from four flavors of her own creation. She wanted to add another in honor of the occasion, but so far inspiration hadn’t struck. The few ideas she’d tried hadn’t worked out.

On a Monday evening, she and Blair had no trouble getting seated in the restaurant’s second-floor dining room. Their window-side table gave them a panoramic view of the inlet known as Ego Alley, crowded with sailboats and motor craft. That coming Saturday, at the culmination of the race from Delaware to Maryland, the dockside parking lot would be roped off for speeches, awards, food stalls, and a local band. Sharing a platter of steamed crabs, Celia and Blair continued their conversation about her part in the event. “Summer’s make or break time for this kind of business,” she fretted. “If it doesn’t turn out make, I’ll be letting down Dan, not just myself.” Her cousin Dan, an accountant who served as silent partner in charge of the partnership’s finances, had pooled his share of their late grandmother’s legacy with Celia’s to buy out the retiring previous owner of Sugar and Ice.

“Not to mention your parents,” Blair said.

She’d discussed the situation with him multiple times, grateful for his continued patience in listening to her worries. “Yeah. They think Dan and I were crazy to pour our inheritance into what they call a black hole, and they say so every chance they get.” She pounded a claw with her wooden mallet for emphasis.

“You’ll prove them wrong. I have faith in you.” He raised his beer glass in salute.

-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 2020 issue of my newsletter, “News from the Crypt,” and please visit Carter’s Crypt, devoted to my horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance work, especially focusing on vampires and shapeshifting beasties. If you have a particular fondness for vampires, check out the chronology of my series in the link labeled “Vanishing Breed Vampire Universe.” For my recommendations of “must read” classic and modern vampire fiction, explore the Realm of the Vampires:
Realm of the Vampires

Also, check out the multi-author Alien Romances Blog

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

Vampire’s Crypt

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

Complete Works

For anyone who would like to read previous issues of this newsletter, now that the Yahoo group is useless for that purpose, they’re posted on my website here (starting from January 2018):

Newsletters

This is my Facebook author page. Please visit!
Facebook

Here’s my page in Barnes and Noble’s Nook store:
Barnes and Noble

Here’s the list of my Kindle books on Amazon. (The final page, however, includes some Ellora’s Cave anthologies in which I don’t have stories):
Carter Kindle Books

Here’s a shortcut URL to my author page on Amazon:
Amazon

My Goodreads page:
Goodreads

The Wild Rose Press has accepted my lighthearted contemporary ghost story “Spooky Tutti Frutti” for a summer e-book series called “One Scoop or Two.” All stories or novellas must involve ice cream as a major plot element, take place in a waterfront tourist setting, and have an ice cream flavor in the title. It will be published on May 25. Here’s the colorful, upbeat cover:

Facebook Cover Image

The opening scene is below.

This month’s interviewee is mystery and paranormal romance author Tena Stetler.

*****

Interview with Tena Stetler:

What inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve written stories since I learned to read and write. I have an overactive imagination and putting it on paper or computer quiets the voices in my head for a short while.

What genres do you work in?

Paranormal Romance/mystery, Cozy Mystery,

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

I’m a panster, I wing it. I tried doing an outline and after the first bullet point, my characters took off in an entirely different direction. Waste of time outlining in my world with my characters. LOL.

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

Authors: Molly Harper, Nancy Atherton, Deborah Harkness, Nora Roberts (JD Robb), J K Rowling, and Linda Howard
Life experiences, camping and relaxing away from the hub bub of daily life revitalizes my muse.
As I stated above, I have an over-active imagination so that influences my writing and sometimes gives me nightmares, so I’m not allowed to watch scary movies less I leave every light on in the house all night. LOL

Please tell us about your “Demon’s Witch” series.

What started out as a series of three has grown to five published and I’m working on the sixth.
A Demon’s Witch, the first novel in the series, was born in a hair salon from a song. What if the hairdresser is really a ruggedly handsome demon overlord. What if a powerful witch breezed into his salon and the attraction was undeniable? What if the salon is multi-species catering to mortals and paranormal creatures alike is located in Washington DC? Adds a new dimension to our concept of DC, doesn’t it? Bruce’s world spins out of control when Angelique, a pint size, gorgeous witch, with an attitude breezes through the doors of his salon. She is the younger sister of Tristian, Bruce’s long time trusted enforcer, whose professional skills are second to none. Tristian is furious at the relationship between Bruce and Angelique, a dangerous situation, but something darker awaits them all.
A Warlocks Secrets, Years ago, a sacred ceremony at the Dragon’s Moon Coven turned deadly. Son of the high priestess, Tristian Shandie’s life changed forever. With a price on his head and revenge in his heart, he has no choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps to a profession shrouded in secrets. Now his skills as an enforcer for the Demon Overlord are second to none. But dangerous secrets he harbors are a liability he can no longer afford.
A chance meeting with a woman he finds irresistible flips Tristian’s world upside down. Hannah is a cyber security specialist with secrets of her own.
A Vampire’s Unlikely Alliance -Join Stefan and Brandy on an exciting romantic fantasy adventure where vampires and gryphons, warlocks and demons, witches and faeries walk among us. Some creatures are willing to put aside their differences to work together for the good of man and magic kind, other’s will stand in the way. Is a trip to Ireland the key to unraveling secrets and returning the magic?
An Angel’s Unintentional Entanglement – Where Warrior Angel, Caden goes, trouble follows until he discovers a badly beaten woman barely clinging to life. Unprepared for the entanglement she brings to his doorstep, will he move heaven and earth to save her?
A Magic Redemption – Synn, a demon, carries extraordinary magic and power, but there is more within her than she dreams. Gavin Shaughnessy is the publican at his family’s Irish pub. When her past comes calling for revenge, will their love survive the raging inferno she brings down upon them? Or will the searing path of destruction destroy all they hold dear?
Sixth book in A Demon’s Witch Series no title yet.( 2021) Secrets abound in this book. It will take powerful magic to unravel the mysteries of a Scottish Law Firm owned by witches.

What are Eclectus Parrots, and how did you become involved with them?

Eclectus Parrots are a species from the Solomon Islands. They are a fairly large bird with a grand talking ability. They have a specialized diet of mostly fruits and veggies. The female is Red and Blue, the male is green. I’ had small parrots most of my life, and decided to adopt a larger parrot due to their life span and companionship. Check out my website for heartwarming stories about our eclectus Taco. (https://www.tenastetler.com/eclectus-articles/)

What is your Authors’ Secrets Blog about?

I host fellow authors with new releases, interviews, character interviews and basically talk about books.

What is your latest-released or soon-forthcoming work?

I’ve just turned in two manuscripts to my editor and am awaiting edits. One is the third book in my Witch’s Journey Series, the other a novella for the One Scoop or Two Series coming this spring. My latest release was December 2019, Charm Me Again, sequel to Charm Me (2016) – Two families long divided brought together through love, understanding and an adventure of a life time. Braking the curse is only the first step to forever.

What are you working on now?

I am now working on the sixth book in A Demon’s Witch Series. This one revolves around a couple from A Magic Redemption – Gale, a powerful Irish witch/Fae and a Warlock from a powerful family of lawyers in Scotland. But he’s not that enamored with the practice of law and especially at his family’s law firm. Quite a magical adventure they enjoy.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write from the heart. Never give up. Attend conferences and workshops to better your craft.

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

Tena Stetler Website
Authors’ Secrets
My Say What Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tenastetler
Newsletter Signup: https://www.tenastetler.com/newsletter-signup/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tenastetler
Tribber – http://triberr.com/TenaStetler
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tena-stetler
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tenastetler/
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/tenajean2014
BookGorilla – https://www.bookgorilla.com/author/B014E0PEPM/tena-stetler

Tena Stetler

*****

Some Books I’ve Read Lately:

BEHOLD THE UNDEAD OF DRACULA, edited by Jonathan Raab. This anthology, subtitled “Lurid Tales of Cinematic Gothic Horror,” consists of stories inspired by the vintage Hammer horror films. There’s no introduction, to my disappointment, but each story is followed by a few paragraphs about the author’s memories of enjoying Hammer movies and what inspired the particular tale. Despite the title, the volume includes only two vampire stories. I suspect authors may have assumed everybody would think of vampires first and wanted to do something different. Several of them created metafictional pieces about the making of horror movies with ghastly outcomes for actors and other participants. Of the two vampire tales, I prefer “Vengeance of the Blood Princess,” by Dominique Lamssies, which inserts a new installment into the Carmilla Karnstein film trilogy and allows the vampires to triumph for a change. In “Mina’s Castle,” by Sean M. Thompson, the reader immediately knows Mina and her lustful female companions are vampires. Waiting for the clueless, unlikable narrator to catch on takes too long for my taste; there is, however, a mildly entertaining twist at the end. Other stories feature such elements as demon-summoning, cults, witches, dark family secrets, and numerous scary women. No mummies, no werewolves—I was really hoping for werewolves. I consider “The Filthy Creation of Frankenstein,” by Gemma Files, one of the highlights of the volume. This proposed addition to the Hammer Frankenstein cycle is told from the viewpoint of Elizabeth Frankenstein and presents her as a coolly intelligent behind-the-scenes manipulator of events rather than a naïve damsel in distress. While I don’t think any of these tales will become classics, the anthology would make a fun read for any fan of those delightfully bloody and sensual productions starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

STRANGE LOVE, by Ann Aguirre. A clever, suspenseful, sensual, and sometimes humorous alien abduction romance. On Zylar’s world, overpopulation has led to stringent restrictions on mating and reproduction. Adults seeking mates have to participate in the Choosing, a rigorous series of trials. Having failed in four Choosings, Zylar has one more chance, or he’ll be sentenced to life as a drone, neutered and relegated to menial tasks. (That last detail struck me as unrealistic. Surely this technologically advanced society has robots for such functions. And being disqualified from reproducing doesn’t reflect on the candidate’s intelligence or skills in areas unrelated to the Choosing trials.) As the novel begins, he is traveling to a distant planet to meet the potential mate with whom he has been corresponding. It’s not unusual for members of his species to mate with aliens, since actual production of offspring occurs by high-tech gene manipulation. However, a solar flare storm damages his ship’s AI; as a result, he unwittingly ends up on Earth. He finds the female he thinks is his prospective mate in the middle of a devastated landscape, actually the aftermath of a battlefield reenactment. He scoops up Beryl Bowman and her dog, Snaps. Zylar applies a language comprehension treatment to both woman and dog, not realizing Snaps belongs to a lesser species, so for the rest of the story the dog can talk, contributing an additional layer of fun and humor. Zylar’s people, as far as I can tell from the descriptions, resemble human-size insects. Beryl, though, makes a surprisingly fast adjustment to her strange new circumstances. Zylar, for his part, considers her a highly desirable mate because of her vocation, working in a day care facility; she’ll make a wonderful nest guardian for their offspring. Also, since he mistakes her smile for a threat display at first, he considers her a tough fighter, another important trait for a nest guardian, should a situation arise in which her duties might become more than ceremonial. Although Zylar belongs to a high-status family, they look down upon him as barely worthy of his place among them, especially an older, higher-ranking sibling who displays an unaccountable detestation for Zylar. A further complication arises when the technicians repairing the ship’s sentient AI report that they won’t be able to recover the data about the location of Earth. Beryl, therefore, is stranded. As she and Zylar confront the multiple physical and mental challenges of the Choosing, they make friends with another prospective couple, and Beryl begins to fall in love with Zylar. While the narrative doesn’t go into great depth about the alien world’s science and technology, what’s there seems ingenious and believable. Genuine suspense develops as Zylar and Beryl strive to win the right to become mates against not only the difficulties of the various contests but the underhanded tactics of Zylar’s malicious brother. Of course, as romance readers we know the hero and heroine will wind up together, but how will they manage to attain that goal? The dog Snaps makes a delightful secondary character, and the AI Helix, when it/he becomes fully functional, introduces an unexpected twist. The erotic scenes between Zylar and Beryl are amazingly sensual, considering the differences between their biology. Moreover, because of those differences, they have to achieve an emotional bond before they advance to sexual interaction. The author’s note hints that she may write a sequel starring Helix. One odd glitch: She refers to an article from which she derived her research for alien sexuality, but somehow the title and location of the article got omitted. Frustrating! Fortunately, googling “gynosomes” brings up information on that real-life, decidedly strange reproductive technique.

WAKENHYRST, by Michelle Paver. This outstanding novel of Gothic horror has no supernatural elements—probably. A fleeting hint that actual demonic forces may lurk in the background isn’t developed or confirmed. This atmospheric story has a wild setting in the fen country of East Anglia, an ancient manor house, and dark family secrets. The framing materials set in 1966 consist of newspaper articles and letters centered upon 69-year-old, reclusive spinster Maud Stearne, whose father, Edward, committed a violent, apparently unmotivated murder in 1913. Nobody except Maud knows exactly what happened that night. Edward Stearne spent the rest of his life in an asylum for the insane, painting bizarre pictures. The main body of the narrative tells the story through Maud’s viewpoint, skillfully developing her personality and her perception of events from childhood to young adulthood. Maud’s father, an antiquarian scholar who subjects his household to rigid dominance, is more of a Victorian than Edwardian character. He disdains newfangled theories such as those of Darwin. Although a man of stern morality (pun probably intended by the author), who considers “self-pollution” sinful, Edward justifies his illicit relations with a housemaid as necessary for his health. His wife remains almost constantly pregnant, sometimes having more than one miscarriage or stillbirth in a single year. Only Maud and a younger brother survive. It becomes clear that her father has little interest in his wife except as a sexual object and the potential incubator of additional sons. Meanwhile, Maud rescues a magpie (although her father detests birds), sneaks away to run wild in the fens, and otherwise subverts her father’s rigid rules whenever possible. In her teens, she develops an infatuation with the under-gardener. When her intelligence becomes obvious, Edward trains her to help with his research and writing. She imagines becoming his trusted colleague and sharing in the credit for his work, an ambition bitterly crushed when she realizes he’s only using her and doesn’t even like her. Throughout her youth, she secretly reads his journals, excerpts from which reveal his goals and obsessions. Thereby the reader learns along with her that Edward has become fixated on an antique painting of the final judgment that’s been unearthed from a rubbish heap, restored, and displayed in the village church. He comes to believe that a demon depicted in the mural is persecuting him. His abhorrence of vegetation in general escalates to the point of having all the trees and shrubbery around the house cut down, to Maud’s distress. He also plans to drain the fen, a plan she thwarts by taking advantage of her role as manager of his correspondence. The story climaxes with the murder mentioned at the beginning. The denouement returns to the 1960s and Maud’s decision about whether to reveal her story to the public after fifty years of silence. The gradual revelations of her family’s past, her father’s delving into the medieval background of the grotesque church painting, and the wild landscape surrounding the old house combine to create a highly effective Gothic atmosphere. One Amazon reviewer dislikes the character of Maud. I found her interesting, sympathetic, and no more warped than one would expect from her odd upbringing.

SHADOWS OF ANNIHILATION, by S. M. Stirling. Third novel in the “Black Chamber” series, an alternate history with a departure point of Theodore Roosevelt’s return to the White House after the 1912 election. Secret agent Luz O’Malley and her lover and professional partner, Ciara Whelan, are assigned to Mexico this time. While they check on an American factory duplicating the German “horror-gas” and subtly feel out members of the local population, they’re guests in the home of Luz’s old friend and sometime lover, Julie, local Black Chamber station head. Meanwhile, German officer Horst von Duckler, obsessed with vengeance on Luz because she shot out one of his eyes and almost killed him, has come to the same area to sabotage the American gas plant in a particularly horrific manner. For most of the novel, they remain unaware of each other’s proximity, but of course they clash in the climactic battle. To my satisfaction (not being much of an “action” fan), however, the combat scenes take up a relatively small percentage of the book. Most of the story (to borrow a word from the LOCUS review) is “domestic.” I delighted in the witty dialogue, the exploration of Luz and Ciara’s relationship, and the scenes that showcase Ciara’s self-taught scientific and technical brilliance. Horst, although unquestionably the bad guy, has a three-dimensional personality; he isn’t a mustache-twirling melodrama villain and even elicits our reluctant sympathy at some moments. As always, Stirling’s lively descriptions of setting, architecture, cultural nuances, clothing, and (of course) food fascinated me. Readers who wish for more fight scenes will doubtless appreciate the minutiae of weapons and other engines of war. I enjoyed learning more about North America as reshaped by the dominance of Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive program. Somewhat chilling, from a post-World-War-II vantage point, is the universal enthusiasm for eugenics and the duty of superior individuals to pass on their “germ plasm.” Although this isn’t the final volume in the series (yay!), it comes to a conclusion that would be appropriate for such a book, a sort of resting place. I want to see more of Luz, Ciara, and their brave new world, not to mention learning the ultimate outcome of this world’s Great War.

*****

Excerpt from “Spooky Tutti Frutti”:

Just as Celia Rossi turned the placard on the door of Sugar and Ice from “Open” to “Closed,” Blair O’Neill strolled up the brick-paved sidewalk. She held the door ajar to let him in.

After a light kiss on the cheek, a gesture still new enough to make her pulse flutter, he asked, “What’s with the Temporary Help Wanted sign in the window?”

She sighed. “Tanya had her baby early. Oh, they’ll be fine, but I was hoping she’d be around until after the sailboat race. I could manage without her on any normal weekend, but on race day I’ll need enough people to hold down the fort here and help at our booth.” Tanya’s absence left the shop with only two part-time employees instead of three. Having owned the ice cream parlor for less than a year, Celia counted on strong sales at the climax of the coming weekend’s race to augment her fledgling reputation as well as her bank account. Contestants would sail from Delaware down the Chesapeake Bay to the Severn River, then up Spa Creek into the Annapolis harbor. After taking off her apron and hanging it behind the counter, she locked the door and followed Blair onto the brick-paved sidewalk. “I can break for dinner the way we planned, but I have to come back right afterward to finish cleaning up and prepping for tomorrow.”

Blair shook his head in commiseration. “Okay, but at least stop and take a breath. I’m glad I decided to be a vet, not a retail businessperson. Except for random emergencies, when the clinic closes we go home on time every day.”

At seven p.m. in late June, the sun hadn’t set, and the downtown historic district was still thronged with tourists. The two of them strolled from the dead-end side street where Sugar and Ice was located to the foot of Main Street, also surfaced with red brick. Walking past the traffic circle adjacent to City Dock, Celia noticed a young mother and her two small children tossing bread crusts to the seagulls and mallard ducks, despite the sign sternly admonishing people not to feed the birds. Cars crawled around the circle trying to push their way into the stream heading one way on the narrow, half-mile Main Street. In other words, a totally normal summer evening.

A gentle breeze off the water relieved the humid heat and ruffled Blair’s thick shock of sandy hair. “Crabs okay with you?”

“Sure.” Celia absently replied, her mind on the upcoming event rather than dinner. She lifted the French-twist braid off the back of her neck to cool her damp skin. “We’ve got less than a week until the celebration. I have the permits, and I’ve rented the booth and equipment for the day, but I’m still trying to come up with a new flavor to make us stand out from the other downtown ice cream parlors.” Her store’s location away from the principal tourist magnets of Main Street and Maryland Avenue allowed her to pay less exorbitant rent, but with the drawback of less foot traffic. Well, the former owner, her employer for almost a decade, had warned her of the pitfalls, so she just had to deal with them.

She and Blair reached the entrance of the crab restaurant across from the traffic circle, and he held the door for her. “How about Rossi’s Rocky Road? Rossi’s Regatta Raspberry Sherbet?”

She laughed. “We already have a rocky road, I don’t do sherbet, and anyway I have no intention of tacking my name onto a product. That sounds a little too egocentric.” Like most ice cream shops, Sugar and Ice mainly stocked varieties of a national brand, aside from four flavors of her own creation. She wanted to add another in honor of the occasion, but so far inspiration hadn’t struck. The few ideas she’d tried hadn’t worked out.

On a Monday evening, she and Blair had no trouble getting seated in the restaurant’s second-floor dining room. Their window-side table gave them a panoramic view of the inlet known as Ego Alley, crowded with sailboats and motor craft. That coming Saturday, at the culmination of the race from Delaware to Maryland, the dockside parking lot would be roped off for speeches, awards, food stalls, and a local band. Sharing a platter of steamed crabs, Celia and Blair continued their conversation about her part in the event. “Summer’s make or break time for this kind of business,” she fretted. “If it doesn’t turn out make, I’ll be letting down Dan, not just myself.” Her cousin Dan, an accountant who served as silent partner in charge of the partnership’s finances, had pooled his share of their late grandmother’s legacy with Celia’s to buy out the retiring previous owner of Sugar and Ice.

“Not to mention your parents,” Blair said.

She’d discussed the situation with him multiple times, grateful for his continued patience in listening to her worries. “Yeah. They think Dan and I were crazy to pour our inheritance into what they call a black hole, and they say so every chance they get.” She pounded a claw with her wooden mallet for emphasis.

“You’ll prove them wrong. I have faith in you.” He raised his beer glass in salute.

After dinner, he walked her back to her shop. At the door, they shared a hug and lingering kiss that made her tingle all over. Before leaving, he patted the brick façade of the building. “Take good care of my ancestral estate.” The joke had become a ritual between them. The century-old house had belonged to his great-grandparents before being sold and converted to commercial space, long before Blair’s birth. Now offices occupied the top floor, while the ice cream parlor shared the street level with a greeting card shop. The previous summer, Blair had dropped by on impulse to check out the new owner of Sugar and Ice. He’d kept visiting after he and Celia had immediately connected.

Inside, the chill of the air conditioner sent a delightful shiver over her bare arms. She surveyed the interior with satisfaction despite her worries. She’d lavished money on redecorating in a vintage 1950s style dominated by chrome and fire-engine red. Linoleum in a black-and-white checkerboard pattern covered the floor. Six high stools at the counter and four small, round tables provided seating for customers who didn’t want their cones or cups to go. She sold bottled soft drinks from a refrigerated case next to the cash register. Posters of singers and movie stars from the period adorned the walls. To coordinate with the décor, Celia wore bright red slacks and a red-and-white blouse on the job. Fortunately, the color scheme vividly set off her dark hair and olive complexion. Tying on her apron, she waved up at the iconic photo of a blonde star’s skirt billowing in the draft from a sidewalk grate. “Time to get back to work.”

She laughed at herself as she headed for the kitchen. Maybe Blair has a point that I’m working too hard. I’m talking to movie posters. Humming a rock ballad stuck in her head from the fifties playlist she ran on a continuous loop all day, she loaded and switched on the dishwasher. After cleaning the ice-cream makers and doing other routine chores in the kitchen, she began scrubbing the counter and tables in the front room.

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

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

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

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

-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